By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
– In case you missed it, the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame announced on Friday that it will not be electing a 2021 class due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s the statement from their board of directors:
– In an article published on Wednesday, David O’Brien, of The Athletic, discussed how the universal DH rule could impact the timeline of when Canadian right-hander Mike Soroka (Calgary, Alta.) returns to the Atlanta Braves from his Achilles injury. MLB and the Players Association have not yet reached an agreement on whether both the American and National leagues will use designated hitters in 2021. Soroka recently told Sportsnet’s Good Show that his rehab from his Achilles injury is “going really, really well” and that barring any setbacks, he expects to be on the Braves’ roster on Opening Day. But the Braves could push his return back if Soroka has to hit and then run the bases. Braves pitching coach Rick Kranitz is particularly concerned about this. Soroka ruptured his Achilles in a start on August 3 and underwent surgery four days later. It generally takes nine-to-12 months to recover from this type of injury. The Junior National Team alum, who made his MLB debut on May 1, 2018, only made three starts for the Braves in 2020. In his rookie campaign in 2019, Soroka went 13-4 with a 2.68 ERA in 29 starts and finished second in the National League Rookie of the Year voting.
–The Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will face off in Super Bowl LV later today, and as Samuel Riches wrote in this National Post article, both starting quarterbacks have Canadian links. Bucs’ QB Tom Brady was a 17-year-old high school catcher when he was selected by the Montreal Expos in the 18th round of the 1995 MLB draft (He, of course, never signed with them). Meanwhile, the father of Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes, also named Pat, started the 2004 season in the Expos’ organization with the triple-A Edmonton Trappers. He posted a 4.88 ERA in 20 relief appearances with them. Edmonton native and former Expos pitcher Mike Johnson shared some of his memories of the elder Mahomes in the article. “He was ridiculous,” Johnson told Riches. “He was really talented. He was a little bit older than I was, and I was one of the older guys on the team, but he looked like he was 25 still. He was in great shape, and very, very athletic.” For the record, the senior Mahomes also toed the rubber in the Toronto Blue Jays’ organization in 2007, registering a 7.04 ERA in three starts for the triple-A Syracuse Chiefs.
–It was 42 years ago Friday that the Blue Jays hired Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee and Toronto native Ron Taylor to be their team doctor. I stumbled across the newspaper clipping below in the Windsor Star while doing some research. Following his 11-season major league career that saw him post a 3.93 ERA in 491 appearances and earn two World Series rings (with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1964 and the New York Mets in 1969), Taylor went to med school at the University of Toronto. He’d earn two more rings as a doctor with the Blue Jays in 1992 and 1993.
–Congratulations to Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team alum Bo Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) who has been invited to Cleveland’s big league camp this spring. Selected in the first round (29th overall) by Cleveland in the 2018 MLB draft, the soon-to-be 21-year-old catcher has spent parts of three seasons in their organization. He batted .243 with 11 home runs and 65 RBIs in 107 games with the class-A Lake County Captains in 2019 before spending last season at the club’s alternate site.
–Given that Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) has more career major league walks (1,217) than any other Canadian and has led the National League in on-base percentage seven times, it was surprising to see the graphic below on Twitter from High Heat Stats. Votto has 34 first-pitch home runs since 2015.
– I guess it’s the 11-year-old fan in me, but many of my favourite baseball photos picture players signing autographs for the fans. Here’s one of my favourites of the late great Hank Aaron, who would’ve turned 87 on Friday. He passed away on January 22.
– And if you’re looking for a photo of a legendary Canadian player signing autographs, here’s a great one of Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) at Wrigley Field.
-It’s always important to remember Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, who passed away two years ago today at the age of 83. But it’s especially important that we remember him this month – which is Black History Month. Not only was Robinson a 14-time all-star, two-time MVP and a member of the exclusive 500-home run club as a player, but in 1975, he became the first black manager in MLB history when he was hired by Cleveland. And Canadian baseball fans were fortunate to be able to watch him manage the Montreal Expos in their final three seasons, from 2002 to 2004.
-Save February 16 on your calendar so you can attend the Child Witness Centre’s annual Pancake Lunch virtual fundraiser. David Morneau, a longtime supporter of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and the director of the centre, has organized the event, which will feature former Cy Young Award winner and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Pat Hentgen and longtime Toronto Star sports columnist and Jack Graney Award winner Richard Griffin as guest speakers. Based in Kitchener, Ont., the Child Witness Centre provides advocacy and support to children and youth who are or may become victims of or witnesses to violence, crime and abuse. Tickets are $30 and you can purchase them here.
– This week’s trivia question: This 1979 Toronto Blue Jays’ draft pick earned a Super Bowl ring with the Washington football club in Super Bowl XXII. Can you you name him? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.
– The answer to last week’s trivia question (Ernie Banks homered off two Canadian pitchers during his career. Can you name one of them?) was either Claude Raymond (St. Jean, Que.) or Ron Taylor (Toronto, Ont.).