By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
– Congratulations to former Montreal Expos and Colorado Rockies slugger Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) who has been named the “Most Influential Canadian” on Bob Elliott’s annual top 100 list of the most influential Canadians in baseball. It’s the second consecutive year Walker has received the nod. The remainder of the list will be published on the Canadian Baseball Network in the coming weeks.
– So how challenging and mind-testing was 2020? Well, as you know, I live and breath Canadian baseball history and pushed for Walker’s induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame for years. On Friday, I had to actually double-check that it was 2020 that Walker was elected. His election seems like a lifetime ago to me.
–Thank you to David Kaufman, of The Kaufman Show in Montreal, for sharing this beautiful photo (above) of Montreal’s Olympic Stadium lit up in Expos colours as a tribute to Derek Aucoin, who passed away on Boxing Day at the age of 50 after a valiant battle with brain cancer. To know Derek Aucoin was to love him. He was everything that I aspire to be: brave, relentlessly positive, a proud and loving husband and father and a selfless friend. He was the only Quebecer signed and developed by the Expos to have pitched with them at the big league level. And following his 10-year professional pitching career, he became a renowned baseball clinic coordinator, a highly regarded broadcaster, a board member with the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and an important ambassador for the return of Major League Baseball to Montreal. I’m sending much love to his wife, Isabelle, and son, Dawson.
– It was a great way to end a challenging year for the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. Just before year’s end, they received one of Port Hope, Ont., native Cal Quantrill’s game-worn San Diego Padres jerseys and a pair of the young right-hander’s spikes (pictured below) to add to their collection. Quantrill started the 2020 campaign by posting a 2-0 record and a 2.60 ERA in 10 contests (one start) with the Padres before he was traded with slugger Josh Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) to Cleveland on August 31. He continued to be a versatile and effective pitcher for his new club, registering a 1.84 ERA in eight appearances, including two starts. In all, he combined to make 18 appearances and finished with a 2.25 ERA and topped all Canadian big league pitchers in innings pitched (32) and strikeouts (31) and tied with Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) for most wins (2). He also made his postseason debut in the ninth inning of Game 2 of the Indians’ Wild Card series against the New York Yankees. He struck out Yankees’ outfielder Aaron Hicks to close out that frame.
– As noted, the Padres traded Canucks Quantrill and Naylor to Cleveland on August 31. Also at the trade deadline, they swapped right-handed pitching prospect Matt Brash (Kingston, Ont.) to the Seattle Mariners for reliever Taylor Williams. And this week, the Padres sent 2020 second-round pick and power-hitting outfielder Owen Caissie (Burlington, Ont.) to the Chicago Cubs as part of the package for right-hander Yu Darvish. The Padres began the season with six Canadians in the minor league system and then added Caissie in the draft. Now they are down to three: right-hander Carter Loewen (Abbotsford, B.C.), left-hander Erik Sabrowski (Edmonton, Alta.) and right-hander Jake Sims (Guelph, Ont.).
– I was going to write a blog entry about all of the former Montreal Expos players and coaches that passed away in 2020, but I can’t do any better than this video tribute (click on the link below) that Expos blog put together.
– This photo (below) is from the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s first induction ceremony in Toronto in 1983. It was recently shared by the family of inductee Phil Marchildon (Penetanguishene, Ont.). It pictures former New York Yankees great and fellow inductee George Selkirk (Huntsville, Ont.) with Marchildon, a war hero and the Philadelphia A’s ace during the 1940s.
– Happy 80th Birthday to former Toronto Blue Jays coach John Sullivan! After spending parts of five big league seasons as a catcher with the Detroit Tigers, New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies, Sullivan became a successful manager in the Kansas City Royals organization before he was added to the Atlanta Braves coaching staff by manager Bobby Cox in 1980. Sullivan then followed Cox to the Blue Jays where he became the club’s beloved bullpen coach. Sullivan was like a second father to many of the Blue Jays’ key relievers – including Tom Henke – during the most successful stretch in the club’s history. And it was Sullivan who retrieved the ball that Joe Carter hit into the Blue Jays’ bullpen at SkyDome for his World Series-winning home run in 1993. Rather than keep the ball for himself (and it would be worth tens of thousands of dollars today), Sullivan gave the ball to Carter in the clubhouse after the game.
– Please take a moment to remember legendary sportswriter Milt Dunnell who passed away 12 years ago at the age of 102. Born near St. Marys, Ont., the highly respected scribe was best known for his work for the Toronto Star from 1949 to 1994. He also wrote for Sports Illustrated in 1988. He was the second winner of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s Jack Graney Award, which is presented annually to a member of the media who has made significant contributions to baseball in Canada through their life’s work.
– This week’s trivia question: I noted above that Phil Marchildon and George Selkirk were part of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s first induction class in 1983. There were four other inductees that year. Can you name one of the other inductees? 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 (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?.) was any two of Kelly Gruber (1990), Ed Sprague (1996), Tony Batista (2000) or Josh Donaldson (2015-17).
Great work, Mike. You are correct! Happy New Year!
Milt Dunnell was a contemporary of my Dad, Harry Simmons. One of my Dad’s functions at the International league was to handle the information to the press and he also was head of the Writers Association of the IL. He would thus have had a lot of contact with Milt. In 2006, Milt had just turned 100 years old and he was still lucid and occasionally went to the Blue Heron Casino in Port Perry, Ontario with his son to play Black Jack. One day, I was there with 2 friends and I was quite surprised to find that there at the table that I was playing was Milt Dunnell! He remembered my Dad quite well and we had a nice chat about him. He had some wonderful things to say about Dad and I cherish the memory of running into Milt in Port Perry!
Thanks for sharing this, David. What a wonderful story about the connection between two legends. Happy New Year to you!
Thanks for all the great columns in 2020, Kevin. Looking forward to reading your informative and entertaining pieces in 2021! All the best to you and your family.
Thanks for your kind words and support, Eric. All the best to you in 2021 as well.
Thanks for all the great Sunday Baseball blogs you produced during 2020. Looking forward to more in 2021
Thanks for your kind words and support.
33 thank yous Kevin, for remaining one of very few “constants” throughout 2020. You bring a positive light to all of us on a weekly basis, and it will be forever remembered!
Loved the Marchildon-Selkirk photo!
I began with #33, so I’ll end with #33. How cool was it that he was the 333rd inductee to Cooperstown! The following tweet is my favorite Walker quote. I’ve posted it next to our line-up cards on too many dugout walls to count!
Thanks for your kind words and for sharing that Walker quote, Tom. Happy New Year!
Such a great honour the City of Montreal did for Derek Aucoin. Thank you.!
I remember Sullivan here at the HoF a few years ago. It was great to meet him. THanks for all this great info Kevin
Thanks, Scott. Yes, Sullivan gave a very touching speech before Tom Henke was inducted.