By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
– As you have already heard, legendary Los Angeles Dodgers manager and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Tommy Lasorda passed away on Thursday night at the age of 93 after suffering a heart attack at his home. I was volunteering at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont., in 2006 when Lasorda was inducted. Lasorda was elected to the Canadian ball shrine because of his nine seasons as a pitcher with the International League’s Montreal Royals between 1950 and 1960 in which he won a franchise record 107 games. Behind the scenes, Lasorda was both gruff and charming on induction day. But there was no question he cherished his fans. One woman was such a passionate fan that she had a stained glass window made in his likeness and wanted to give it to him. He politely declined, but he was so kind and enthusiastic with her that I knew she would never forget that interaction. And he didn’t disappoint with his speech. It was more comedy than sentimentality, but that worked just fine. The crowd loved it. He also wore a red tie (see photo above) that day. I never asked him if that was intentional, but in my mind, it made him look more Canadian. Rest in peace, Mr. Lasorda.
– At 93, Lasorda had been the oldest living Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee. That title now belongs to former Montreal Expos owner and 1984 inductee Charles Bronfman who will turn 90 this year. Longtime Manitoba coach and executive and 2008 inductee, Gladwyn Scott, will turn 89 on January 28.
–Speaking of Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductees and their birthdays: Happy 86th Birthday to former big league pitcher Ted Bowsfield! With no Little League program in his hometown of Penticton, B.C., Bowsfield played just six to eight games a year for much of his youth. His big break came at a Rotary tournament in Lethbridge, Alta., as a 17-year-old, when he pitched against a team of Cuban All-Stars and recorded 17 strikeouts to catch the eye of scouts. Bowsfield signed with the Boston Red Sox in 1954, and after minor league stints in San Jose, San Francisco, Oklahoma City and Minneapolis, the big league club called him up in July 1958. His debut – a relief appearance – was overshadowed by the performance of Jim Bunning, who tossed a no-hitter for the opposing Detroit Tigers that day, but the talented lefty delivered a number of solid performances of his own that season, including three wins against the arch rival New York Yankees. His mastery of the Bronx Bombers would earn him the Red Sox Rookie of the Year Award that year. In June 1960, Bowsfield was dealt to Cleveland, where he pitched for the remainder of the campaign before being selected by the Los Angeles Angels in the expansion draft. It was with the Angels in 1961 that he put together his finest season, compiling an 11-8 record and a 3.73 ERA. After the 1962 campaign, Bowsfield was dealt to the Kansas City A’s where he played his final two big league seasons. When his playing days were over, Bowsfield worked in stadium operations with the Angels, before holding a similar position with the Kingdome, home of the Seattle Mariners.
– MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo confirmed on Tuesday that the New York Mets were one of the teams that had a scout at Canadian James Paxton’s recent showcase. The free agent left-hander, who hails from Ladner, B.C., threw in front of scouts from around major league teams at the showcase and his velocity reportedly reached 94 mph, which is right around his career average. Paxton, who underwent back surgery in February, made just five starts for the 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.
– Right-hander Brock Dykxhoorn (Goderich, Ont.) visited the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont., on Monday. He donated his 2020 game-used spikes and his hat from Game 7 of the Taiwan Series that his Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions won against the CTBC Brothers in the Chinese Professional Baseball League. The 6-foot-8 right-hander was named the Outstanding Player of that series after he picked up a win and a save and allowed just one earned run in 17 innings. He also posted a 5-3 record and a 5.81 ERA in 13 regular season appearances – including 12 starts – for the Lions. Prior to his professional career, Dykxhoorn honed his skills with the Ontario Nationals and the Junior National Team. He was also a member of the national team that won gold at the Pan-Am Games in 2015. That team was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2017. Adam Morissette, of Baseball Canada, reported on Friday that the 26-year-old righty has re-signed with the Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions for the upcoming season.
– It was 25 years ago today that the Montreal Expos acquired left-hander Rheal Cormier (Cap-Pele, N.B.), along with first baseman Ryan McGuire and pitcher Shayne Bennett from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for shortstop Wil Cordero and pitcher Bryan Eversgerd. Cormier would go 7-10 and post a 4.17 ERA in 33 appearances, including 27 starts, for the Expos in 1996 but only made one start in 1997 before being forced to undergo Tommy John surgery. After missing the entire 1998 season, he signed with the Red Sox as a free agent in January 1999 and proceeded to pitch nine more big league seasons. In all, he toed the rubber in parts of 16 major league campaigns and his 683 appearances represent the second-most by a Canadian to Port Hope, Ont., native Paul Quantrill (841). His big league career also included stops with the Cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies and Cincinnati Reds. He was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2012.
– On this date 32 years ago, Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Paul Beeston (Welland, Ont.) was promoted to the role of president and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the Toronto Blue Jays. On May 10, 1976, Beeston became the first employee ever hired by the Blue Jays. He was initially the vice-president of administration, but was promoted to vice-president of business operations the following year. His rise through the Blue Jays’ ranks continued when he was named executive vice-president of business in 1984, before being elevated to the president and COO position. On December 13, 1991, he was appointed the chief executive officer (CEO) of the franchise and would oversee the Blue Jays’ two World Series-winning teams.
– Please take a moment to remember Hall of Famer Willie McCovey who would’ve turned 83 today. He belted his 521st and final major league home run at Olympic Stadium off Expos right-hander Scott Sanderson in the top of the fourth inning on May 3, 1980. That home run would tie McCovey with Ted Williams on the all-time home run list. Frank Thomas would also club 521 home runs. This trio of Hall of Famers is now tied for 20th on the all-time list. I also credit the back of McCovey’s 1980 O-Pee-Chee card (pictured below) for my love of baseball statistics. This was the first year my brother and I collected baseball cards and the volume of stats on the back of this card still blows me away.
– This week’s trivia question: Who is the only Canadian player to have played for the Los Angeles Dodgers during Tommy Lasorda’s 21-season tenure as manager of the club from 1976 to 1996? 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 (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?) was any one of Tip O’Neill, Frank Shaughnessy, John Ducey or Lester B. Pearson.