But What Do I Know? . . . Tyler O’Neill, Cal Quantrill, Justin Morneau, Terry Puhl

By Kevin Glew

Cooperstowners in Canada

My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:

– Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C.) belted his 30th home run of the season for the St. Louis Cardinals in the first game of their doubleheader against the Chicago Cubs on Friday. With that, for the first time in major league history, three players born in Canada have hit 30 or more home runs in a season. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Montreal, Que.) has 46 home runs for the Toronto Blue Jays and Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) has socked 33 for the Cincinnati Reds. Prior to this, the closest a trio of Canucks had come to accomplishing this was in 2009 when (as Jon Morosi pointed out on Twitter on Monday) Jason Bay (Trail, B.C.) smacked 36 homers, Justin Morneau (New Westminster, B.C.) clubbed 30 and Votto had 25.

-Scott Crawford, of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, tweeted out on Friday night that O’Neill is the seventh Canadian to belt 30 home runs in a major league season. A complete list can be found in the tweet below. For the record, O’Neill, a Langley Blaze and Junior National Team alum, has since hit two more and now has 32.

– Right-hander Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) continued his dominant second-half by allowing just one run in 6 2/3 innings to Kansas City Royals in his start on Tuesday to pick up his seventh win of the season in Cleveland’s 4-1 victory. This performance lowered his season ERA to 2.82. Even more impressive, since the All-Star break, the Ontario Terriers and Junior National Team alum is 6-1 with a 1.76 ERA in 82 innings with 73 strikeouts in 13 starts. Quantrill started the season in Cleveland’s bullpen, but he has become the team’s top starter in the second half. His ERAs for the past three months (July, August and September) are 2.86, 1.42 and 2.33 respectively.

– Congratulations to Justin Morneau (New Westminster, B.C.) who was inducted into the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame in a pre-game ceremony last night. It seemed fitting that the ceremony came at Target Field prior to a game against the Blue Jays. Morneau followed the Blue Jays as a kid and one of his favourite players was John Olerud. In his speech, Morneau thanked many of his teammates – including fellow Canuck Corey Koskie (Anola, Man.) – individually. He also expressed his gratitude to Greg Hamilton and Baseball Canada. Morneau played parts of 11 seasons with the Twins and during that time he became the first – and still only – Canadian to capture the American League Most Valuable Player Award (2006). He was also selected to four All-Star games and belted 221 home runs for the club, which ranks him fourth on the team’s all-time list. Morneau also ranks fifth in Twins’ history in slugging percentage (.485), 10th in doubles (289) and RBIs (860). Morneau was also elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in February 2020. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Hall has yet to be able to hold an in-person ceremony. They hope to induct Morneau in-person on June 18, 2022. He will be honoured alongside Olerud, Toronto Blue Jays former all-star reliever Duane Ward and legendary Montreal Expos broadcaster Jacques Doucet.

-Meanwhile at Coors Field in Denver, Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) had his number No. 33 retired by the Colorado Rockies last night. After six seasons with the Montreal Expos to start his career, Walker was signed as a free agent by the Rockies after the 1994 season. He proceeded to play parts of 10 campaigns with them and bat .334 with 1,361 hits – including 258 home runs – in 1,170 games. While with the Rockies, Walker won three batting titles, was a four-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove award winner. In 1997, he became the first Canadian to win the National League MVP Award and earlier this month, he became the first Rockie (and second Canuck) to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. “Nestled here in the mountains, Denver reminded me of where I grew up in Maple Ridge, British Columbia,” Walker told the Coors Field crowd during his speech last night. “And soon Denver became my home.”

-It was 40 years ago today that Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Terry Puhl saved Nolan Ryan’s fifth no-hitter. Playing right field for the Houston Astros, the Melville, Sask., native took off after a deep fly ball that Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Mike Scioscia clubbed to right-centre off Ryan in the top of the seventh inning at the Astrodome. In full sprint, Puhl managed to snag the ball on his backhand just above his shoe tops. (Video of the catch below). That was the closest the Dodgers would come to registering a hit off of the Ryan Express that day. The legendary right-hander finished with 11 strikeouts in the Astros’ 5-0 win. “After the game, Nolan came over and said to me, ‘I just wanted to say, ‘Good catch.’ That meant a lot to me,” recalled Puhl in a 2004 interview.

– Happy 44th Birthday to former big league pitcher and current Women’s National Team manager Aaron Myette (New Westminster, B.C.)! Selected 43rd overall by the Chicago White Sox in the 1997 MLB draft, the 6-foot-4 right-hander would pitch 10 seasons in the pro ranks, including parts of six in the big leagues with the White Sox, Texas Rangers, Cleveland and Cincinnati Reds. He also pitched for Canada at the 2004 Olympics and at the 2006 World Baseball Classic. In 2016, he joined the Women’s National Team as a pitching coach prior to being promoted to manager in 2018.

– There has been good news and bad news for right-hander Rowan Wick (North Vancouver, B.C.) since he was activated from the 60-day injured list on August 10 by the Cubs after being sidelined by an oblique injury since last September. The good news is that the Vancouver Cannons and Junior National Team alum has 27 strikeouts in 20 innings (a rate of 12.2 per nine innings) in 18 appearances and his fastball velocity is about the same (between 94 and 95 mph) as it was in 2020. The bad news is that he has walked 12 batters and his ERA is 4.50. The Cubs, however, have been impressed enough to give him a shot at the closer’s job and Wick has responded with four saves since August 31.

-It was 45 years ago today that the Montreal Expos played their final two games at Jarry Park before moving to Olympic Stadium for the 1977 season. The Expos lost both games to the Philadelphia Phillies by scores of 4-1 and 2-1. Who was the last player to hit a home run in Jarry Park? That was Phillies slugger Greg Luzinski who smacked a three-run shot off Expos lefty Dan Warthen in the sixth inning of the first game. Who was the last Expos player to score a run in the stadium? The answer is Ellis Valentine who crossed the plate in the bottom of the second inning in the second game on a single by Pepe Frias.

–On Wednesday, I wrote about how well right-hander Juan Guzman pitched in the postseason for the Blue Jays from 1991 to 1993. In five American League Championship Series starts, he went 5-0 with a 2.27 ERA. What I didn’t include in the article was that Guzman’s stats in the ALCS in 1992 and 1993 are identical. In both of those series, he went 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA in two starts and pitched 13 innings.

-Friday was Hubie Brooks’ 65th birthday. Most of us remember him as the key player the Expos received when they dealt Gary Carter to the New York Mets on December 10, 1984. Expos fans will also probably remember him for his 100-RBI season in 1985 and for his .340 batting average in 1986. But did you know that Brooks was originally drafted by the Expos in the 19th round in 1974? I didn’t. Of course, according to his profile on Baseball Reference, Brooks was drafted by a number of teams before he was finally drafted and signed by the Mets in 1978. Here is his draft summary from Baseball Reference:

– My trivia question for this week: Who was the first Canadian pitcher to record a save for the Toronto Blue Jays? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section.

–The answer to last week’s trivia question (Dave McKay (Vancouver, B.C.) was the first Canadian to hit a home run for the Blue Jays in a regular season game and Paul Hodgson (Marysville, N.B.) was the second. Who was the third Canuck to go deep for the Blue Jays in a regular season game?) was Rob Ducey (Cambridge, Ont.) who clubbed his first home run for the Blue Jays on September 14, 1987.

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