*This is my (Steve) Christmas card to you. It’s been a tough year, a really tough year. I hope you can find joy this holiday season despite the challenges being presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support of this blog. There were times in the past nine months when I felt like writing about Canadian baseball history was the only thing keeping me sane. I’m grateful that I have an audience to share my baseball “nerddom” with. So thank you again.
I wish you and your family all the best during the holidays, and here’s hoping 2021 is a better year.
P.S. More on Steve Christmas below.
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
The most disappointing thing about the only major league player to have the last name “Christmas” is that he was not born on December 25.
Former Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs catcher Steve Christmas entered the world 16 days prior to that magical date in 1957.
And almost as disappointing is the fact that he was born in balmy Orlando, Fla. I wasn’t expecting the North Pole, but I was hoping he had at least been raised in Michigan or Wisconsin.
But much like jolly old Saint Nick, Steve Christmas has become somewhat of a mysterious figure. I can’t seem to find definitive contact information for him on social media, although I suspect this LinkedIn profile (which would make him a Business Development Manager for Matthew Roberts Air Conditioning & Heating in Orlando) might be him.
Sports Card Forum, one of the best sites for former players’ addresses, lists him as living in Chuluota, Fla., (about 22 miles northwest of Orlando) but no autograph seeker has successfully received a reply from Christmas at that address.
A Google search of Christmas produces his baseball statistics and little else and almost nothing has been written about him since he played his final major league game on April 28, 1986.
In all, Christmas batted .162 in 24 big league games over parts of three seasons between 1983 and 1986.
Of course, on this blog, my goal is to uncover Canadian connections to a player, but for Christmas I’d be stretching it to say that there are any. He competed in two of his 24 major league contests against the Montreal Expos when he was with the Cubs, but both of those were played at Wrigley Field. In his second-last MLB game, on April 27, 1986, he pinch-hit for outfielder Bob Dernier in the eighth inning and hit a two-run double off Expos closer Jeff Reardon which sparked a five-run rally and a comeback 12-10 win for the Cubs.
The only other potential Canadian connection I could find is that he might have been a teammate of right-hander Gordie Pladson (New Westminster, B.C.) on the triple-A Tucson Toros in 1983. Christmas played 48 games for the Toros that season and Pladson made five appearances. But newspaper accounts seem to indicate that by the time Pladson began pitching with the Toros in mid-August, Christmas had moved on to the triple-A Indianapolis Indians.
But all is not lost. I’ve devoted a lot of time to researching Steve Christmas over the last couple of days and here are a few interesting tidbits that I found out about him:
– He made his MLB debut on September 1, 1983 with the Reds. Christmas was a catcher and 1983 was Hall of Famer Johnny Bench’s final MLB season. By this time, Bench was primarily playing third base, but it must have been a thrill to share a clubhouse with the legend.
-Christmas enjoyed his longest big league tenure (12 games) with the White Sox in 1984 where he briefly served as the backup to another Hall of Fame catcher — Carlton Fisk.
-He spent the bulk of the 1986 season with the triple-A Iowa Cubs where he would’ve caught a promising 20-year-old right-hander named Greg Maddux. In Iowa that season, Maddux went 10-1 with a 3.02 ERA in 18 starts before receiving his first big league call-up that September.
Some Canadian Baseball Christmas Trivia . . .
-Rickey Henderson is the most famous former Toronto Blue Jay born on Christmas Day. The Hall of Famer and all-time stolen base champ was born on December 25, 1958. The “Man of Steal” had a .356 on-base percentage and swiped 22 bases in 44 games after being acquired by the Blue Jays in their 1993 World Series-winning season. Former Blue Jays coaches, Bruce Walton and Marty Pevey, who both played briefly with the Expos, were born on Christmas Day in 1962.
-On top of Walton and Pevey, three other ex-Expos were also born on Christmas Day: Manny Trillo (1950), Charlie Lea (1956) and Wallace Johnson (1956).
-In case you’re wondering, the Blue Jays have never had a player with the first name “Jesus” suit up for them in a regular season game. Jesus Figueroa, however, has served as a batting practice pitcher with the club.
-Adopted Canadian Scott Bullett will turn 52 on Christmas Day. Born in Martinsburg, West Virginia in 1968, Bullett now lives in Welland, Ont., and operates the Bullett Proof Baseball Academy. He suited up for 247 games in parts of four major league seasons between 1991 and 1996 with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cubs.