By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
– Happy Valentine’s Day to you! Former Montreal Expos outfielder Ellis Valentine is the most talented player with the last name “Valentine” to suit up in the big leagues. This five-tool talent, who grew up in South Central, Los Angeles, was part of the Expos’ vaunted late-’70s outfield that also included Andre Dawson and Warren Cromartie. Valentine enjoyed three consecutive 20-home run campaigns from 1977 to 1979 and recorded a whopping 24 outfield assists in 1978. He was dealt to the New York Mets for Jeff Reardon on May 29, 1981. He later enjoyed short big league stints with the California Angels and Texas Rangers. Following his big league career, Valentine worked as a drug/alcohol counsellor in Lancaster, Calif. He has also regularly returned to Montreal for charitable functions. Here’s a list of the some of the other players with the last name “Valentine” that have competed in the majors.
-Here’s more proof that there’s a Yoga Berra quote for everything, including Valentine’s Day:
– Great Lake Canadians and Junior National Team alum Adam Hall (London, Ont.) has been invited to the Baltimore Orioles big league camp that will begin for position players one week from today. The announcement was made on Friday. Hall, a 21-year-old infielder, was a standout in London, Ont., before being selected in the second round (60th overall) in the 2017 MLB draft by fellow Canuck Chris Reitsma (Calgary, Alta.) and the Orioles. He has played parts of three seasons in the Orioles’ organization and he rocketed up the club’s prospect ranks after he posted a .385 on-base percentage and swiped 33 bases for the O’s class-A Delmarva Shorebirds in 2019. For his efforts, he was named a South Atlantic League All-Star.
–The thousands of Canadians who were planning to head to Cooperstown for Larry Walker’s National Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony will have to watch it on TV instead. The Cooperstown shrine announced on Friday that they will be moving the event indoors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “We had hoped to be in a position to welcome loyal baseball fans back to Cooperstown for Induction Weekend, but with the continuing uncertainties created by COVID-19, the Board of Directors has decided not to hold Induction Weekend ceremonies at the traditional Clark Sports Center location,” said board chair Jane Forbes Clark in a statement. “We have prepared alternative plans to conduct our annual Awards Presentation and Induction Ceremony as television events taking place indoors and adhering to all of the required New York State guidelines.” The decision is understandable given the unpredictability of the virus. Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) was elected by the baseball writers along with New York Yankees legendary shortstop Derek Jeter in January 2020. They were originally set to be inducted last summer, but the ceremony was postponed due to the pandemic. Marvin Miller and Ted Simmons, elected by the Hall’s Modern Baseball Era Committee in December 2019, will also be honoured.
– As first reported by Sportsnet 650’s Chad Dey, and confirmed by ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the Seattle Mariners have signed left-hander James Paxton (Ladner, B.C.) to a one-year, $8.5-million deal. Passan reports that the contract includes “reachable” performance bonuses that could make it worth $10 million. Paxton spent the first six seasons of his MLB career with the Mariners, recording 41 wins and a 3.42 ERA in 102 starts for them before being dealt to the Yankees on November 19, 2018. The 32-year-old southpaw, who underwent back surgery last February, made just five starts for the Yankees in 2020, going 1-1 with a 6.64 ERA prior to being sidelined with a flexor strain in his throwing arm on August 20. In all, the Canuck lefty has pitched in parts of eight major league campaigns and had a career-best 15 wins with the Yankees in 2019.
–Happy 28th Birthday to Junior National Team alum and Boston Red Sox right-hander Nick Pivetta (Victoria, B.C.)! The hard-throwing right-hander will report to Red Sox camp this week with a good shot at cracking their starting rotation. Pivetta improved his chances for a rotation spot with two excellent starts for the Red Sox at the end of the 2020 season in which he went 2-0 and allowed just two runs and struck out 13 in 10 innings. The Canuck righty came to the Red Sox in a trade on August 21 after spending parts of four seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies. In all, in 94 career big league appearances, the Victoria Eagles grad is 21-30 and owns a 5.40 ERA, but has 434 strikeouts in 406 1/3 innings.
–Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Oscar Judd was born in Rebecca, Ont., (now considered part of London), on this date in 1908. 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. While in the St. Louis Cardinals’ system, Judd, who had hit as high as .416 in 1939, was asked by Branch Rickey to become a full-time outfielder, but the Canadian southpaw refused. Judd later made his big league debut with the Red Sox in 1941, but it wasn’t until 1942 that he became a regular starter. His breakout season came the following campaign when he posted an 11-6 record, a sparkling 2.90 ERA and was selected to play in the all-star game. Two years later, he was acquired by the Phillies and he registered 11 wins and tossed 12 complete games in 1946. When the Phillies released Judd in May 1948, he landed with the International League’s Toronto Maple Leafs and proceeded to win 14 games, hit .349 and pitch a no-hitter at the age of 40. For his efforts, he was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986. Nine years later, he passed away in Ingersoll, Ont.
– Please take a moment to remember former Blue Jays manager Jim Fregosi who passed away seven years ago today at the age of 71. After a successful 18-season playing career with the Angels, New York Mets, Texas Rangers and Pittsburgh Pirates that saw him selected to six all-star games, Fregosi began his second career as a charismatic big league manager. He served as the bench boss of the Angels (1978 to 1981) and the Chicago White Sox (1986 to 1988) before landing with the Phillies in 1991. In 1993, he led the Phils to an unlikely National League pennant before they lost to the Blue Jays in the World Series. When the Blue Jays fired manager Tim Johnson in the spring of 1999, Fregosi was hired to replace him. In his two seasons with the Blue Jays, his teams went 167-157. After he was let go by the Blue Jays, Fregosi remained a popular presence at ballparks as a special assistant to the general manager with the Atlanta Braves. “He [Fregosi] was 101 things – including a music lover, tax expert, raconteur and political junkie,” wrote Bob Elliott in a tribute to Fregosi in 2014. “Worldly as he was, he knew everybody at the park but the fill-in usher.” You can read Bob Elliott’s excellent article about Fregosi here.
– This week’s trivia question: Jim Fregosi led the Blue Jays to 167 wins while he was their manager. There have been five Blue Jays managers who recorded more wins with the club. Can you name three of them? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.
– The answer to last week’s trivia question (This 1979 Blue Jays’ draft pick earned a Super Bowl ring with the Washington football club in Super Bowl XXII. Can you you name him?) was quarterback Jay Schroeder, who was selected in the first round (third overall) by the Blue Jays in the 1979 MLB draft.