By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
– Jon Morosi, of Fox Sports and the MLB Network, reported on Tuesday that free agent left-hander James Paxton (Ladner, B.C.) recently threw at a showcase in front of scouts from “as many as 20” major league teams. Morosi reported that the Canuck southpaw’s velocity reached 94 mph at the session, which is right around his career average. Paxton, who underwent back surgery in February, made just five starts for the New York Yankees in 2020, going 1-1 with a 6.64 ERA before he was sidelined with a flexor strain in his throwing arm on August 20. In all, the 32-year-old southpaw has pitched in parts of eight major league campaigns and had a career-best 15 wins with the Yankees in 2019.
– I thought I knew everything there was to know about Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee and legendary Montreal Expos outfielder Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.), but a Facebook site called “Retro Baseball” has once again proved me wrong. On December 15, the author of that Facebook page posted that in Walker’s National League MVP Award-winning 1997 season, he stole 33 bases and had a slugging percentage of .720. This made Walker the first – and still only – player to swipe more than 30 bases and post a slugging percentage higher than .700 in a single season.
–Please take a moment to remember Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Oscar “Lefty” Judd who passed away on this date 25 years ago in Ingersoll, Ont., at the age of 87. After leading Ingersoll and Guelph to Ontario championships, Judd played in seven different pro and semi-pro leagues prior to his major league debut in 1941 with the Boston Red Sox. But it wasn’t until 1942, at age 34, that he became a regular starter, posting eight wins and a 3.89 ERA. The following season was Judd’s finest, when he finished with an 11-6 record and a 2.90 ERA and earned himself a trip to the All-Star game. By 1946, he was the ace of a dismal Philadelphia Phillies’ staff. With 11 wins, 12 complete games and 3.53 ERA that season, Judd was declared the Phillies “one-man pitching staff” by the Associated Press. When the Phillies released Judd in May 1948, he landed with the International League’s Toronto Maple Leafs, where he would win 14 games, hit .349 and pitch a no-hitter at the age of 40. In all, the Canuck southpaw recorded 40 big league wins – including 20 in the American League and 20 in the National League.
– It was 15 years ago today that the Toronto Blue Jays acquired third baseman Troy Glaus and then shortstop (later relief pitcher) Sergio Santos from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for second baseman Orlando Hudson and pitcher Miguel Batista. Glaus proceeded to belt 38 home runs, while posting a .513 slugging percentage for the Blue Jays in 2006. For his efforts, he was selected to the American League All-Star team. He followed that up with an injury-shortened 20-home run campaign in 2007 before he was dealt to the St. Louis Cardinals for third baseman Scott Rolen. Hudson enjoyed his three best major league seasons with the D-Backs, posting on-base percentages of .354, .376 and .367 from 2006 to 2008. The sure-handed second baseman also won two Gold Gloves during that span and was named to the National League All-Star team in 2007. Batista spent one season with the D-Backs after the trade, going 11-8 with a 4.58 ERA in 34 appearances, including 33 starts.
– Here’s another interesting nugget of Canadian baseball trivia I learned this week: the first ESPN Sunday Night Baseball broadcast was a game between the Montreal Expos and New York Mets at Olympic Stadium on April 15, 1990. Left-hander Zane Smith allowed just one unearned run on five hits in eight innings to record the win in the Expos’ 3-1 victory. Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) started in right field and batted sixth for the Expos. He went 0-for-4.
– In the 1980s and early-to-mid 1990s, London, Ont.-based trading card manufacturer O-Pee-Chee often used the same photos on their baseball cards as Topps. But O-Pee-Chee produced their cards after Topps, so they often included trade notations on their cards that were not on the Topps cards. This has resulted in some of the saddest Montreal Expos cards ever produced, including the two below.
– Baseball America does a superb job of recording minor league transactions that are not widely reported. I check this list frequently and this week I learned that the following former Blue Jays have signed minor league deals with other clubs: Conner Greene (Baltimore Orioles), Dwight Smith Jr. (Cincinnati Reds), Thomas Pannone (Los Angeles Angels), Rob Refsnyder (Minnesota Twins) and Dominic Leone (San Francisco Giants). Former Blue Jays reliever Matt Dermody has also inked a minor league deal with the Chicago Cubs.
– Please take a moment to remember former Montreal Expos outfielder Ivan Calderon who died 17 years ago today after he was shot at a bar in Loiza, Puerto Rico. He was only 41 years old. Calderon was the key player the Expos acquired from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for Tim Raines on December 23, 1990. He batted .300 and recorded 19 home runs and 31 stolen bases and was an All-Star for the Expos in 1991. In all, in his 10-season big league career, which also included tenures with the Seattle Mariners and Boston Red Sox, he batted .272 with 104 home runs.
– This week’s trivia question: Third baseman Troy Glaus hit 38 home runs for the Blue Jays in 2006. The Blue Jays have had four other third baseman hit 30 or more home runs in a season for them. Can you name two of them? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. Please note: I’m going to hold off awarding prizes until after the COVID-19 pandemic. Hope you understand.
– The answer to last week’s trivia question (Lloyd Moseby wore No. 15 with the Blue Jays and was selected to participate in the 1986 All-Star Game. Two other Blue Jays outfielders who wore No. 15 were also selected to represent the club in the MLB All-Star Game. Name one of them.) was either Shawn Green (1999) or Alex Rios (2006-07).