My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
-In a surprising move, the St. Louis Cardinals dismissed manager Mike Shildt on Thursday due to “philosophical differences.” The Cardinals won 17 games in a row in September to secure the final National League Wild Card spot before the club was defeated 3-1 in the Wild-Card game by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Windsor, Ont., native Stubby Clapp, who has served as Shildt’s first base coach for the past three seasons, is now considered a favourite to become the Cards’ new manager, according to BetOnline.ag. Clapp’s name has surfaced as a a big league managerial candidate in the past. Prior to being promoted to the Cards, Clapp managed the triple-A Memphis Redbirds to back-to-back Pacific Coast League championships in 2017 and 2018. He was also a key contributor to the Junior National Team that won gold at the World Youth Baseball Championships in Brandon, Man., in 1991 and he was later a coach on both of Canada’s Senior National Teams that captured gold at the Pan Am Games (2011, 2015). For the record, the last Canuck to be a full-time big league manager was Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee George Gibson (London, Ont.) with the Pittsburgh Pirates back in 1934.
-Nick Pivetta (Victoria, B.C.) is the only player born in Canada that’s still active in the postseason. The hard-throwing right-hander was arguably the Red Sox most valuable pitcher in their American League Division Series win over the Tampa Bay Rays. His 4 2/3 innings in relief in the first game of the ALDS established a new record for the longest relief appearance by a Canadian in the MLB postseason. The previous record was held by Ron Taylor (Toronto, Ont.) who tossed four scoreless innings in relief for the Cardinals against the New York Yankees in Game 4 of the 1964 World Series. Then when Pivetta pitched four innings in relief in Game 3 of the ALDS and picked up the win, he became the first Canadian to have two, four-inning relief appearances in a postseason series. This made his combined 8 2/3 innings in relief in the ALDS the most by a Canadian reliever in a postseason series.
-Congratulations to former big league pitcher, current Baseball Canada president and CEO and Miramichi, N.B., native Jason Dickson who has been elected to the Northeastern Oklahoma College (NEO) Athletic Hall of Fame. Prior to his four-season major league career that saw him named to the American League All-Star team in 1997, the Canuck right-hander honed his skills with the NEO baseball team in 1993 and 1994. He was a top-of-the-rotation starter for their 1993 squad that captured the Region II Championship and proceeded to finish third at the NJCAA World Series. Before heading off to NEO, Dickson was a member of the Canadian team that won gold at the World Youth Baseball Championships in Brandon, Man., in 1991.
-I have nothing but respect for classy and versatile broadcasting legend Rod Black who announced he was signing off from TSN after more than 30 years with them on Thursday. Black, who used to do the play-by-play on Blue Jays games for TSN, is best known for his work on Toronto Raptors and CFL games in recent years. He has also covered five Olympic Games. But his love for baseball has remained strong. He has served as the emcee of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s induction ceremony in St. Marys, Ont., on multiple occasions. One year he wrote an unforgettable and moving poem about baseball that he read passionately at the event. People still talk about this poem. You can listen to it in the video below (courtesy of Tom Valcke’s YouTube page). Black’s son, Tyler, a Toronto Mets grad, was selected 33rd overall by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2021 MLB draft.
– Earlier this month, another great stat about Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) was shared on Twitter by Sports in the North. On the road this season, the Blue Jays closer was 4-1 with a 0.95 ERA in 27 appearances, with 37 strikeouts in 28 1/3 innings. Yet, despite his outstanding 2021 campaign, collectors are still waiting for Romano’s first solo Topps card. He was pictured on a 2020 Topps Heritage card with T.J. Zeuch (below), but he hasn’t been featured on a solo Topps baseball card yet.
– If Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) is funnier in his interviews in recent years, it might be because of the improv and stand-up comedy classes he takes at Second City in the off-season. I found this out when I read this excellent and moving profile of Votto by Stephanie Apstein that was published on Sports Illustrated.com on September 22. Votto also opens up about how learning to let go of his perfectionism helped him enjoy an excellent 2021 season.
– For my latest, “How good was Cleveland right-hander Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) this season?'” fact, how about his? His 2.35 ERA at Cleveland’s Progressive Field in 2021 was the fifth-best home ERA by any pitcher in the majors. He ranked just behind Matt Scherzer (2.31 ERA) on that list. Last week, I noted that Quantrill’s 1.94 ERA in 14 starts after the All-Star break was the second-best in Major League Baseball for starting pitchers who tossed at least 55 innings, behind only Atlanta Braves left-hander Max Fried (1.74).
-The Houston Astros are the fifth team that Dusty Baker has managed to the postseason. He previously piloted the San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds and Washington Nationals into the playoffs. He is the first big league skipper to manage that many teams to the postseason. Unfortunately, he still does not have that elusive World Series ring as a manager. But even without that championship, there has been increased talk that he warrants a plaque in Cooperstown. I agree, but not before Cito Gaston, who managed the Blue Jays to two World Series titles in 1992 and 1993 and was the first African-American manager to lead a major league team to a championship. One of my favourite baseball cards from the 1993 Topps set pictures these two legends together (photo below). Here’s hoping that both Baker and Gaston will have a plaque in Cooperstown one day.
–Happy 56th Birthday to Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo! The Florida, Puerto Rico native just completed his third season as the Blue Jays’ bench boss after a long professional coaching and managerial tenure in the Rays’ organization. Prior to getting into coaching, Montoyo enjoyed a 10-year professional playing career in the Milwaukee Brewers, Montreal Expos and Philadelphia Phillies organizations. He played his only four major league games with the Expos in 1993 and went 2-for-5 – good for a .400 batting average. That same season, he posted a .411 on-base percentage in 99 games as a utility infielder with the triple-A Ottawa Lynx.
– My trivia question for this week: Prior to Nick Pivetta, who was the last Canadian to pitch for the Boston Red Sox in the postseason? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section.
–The answer to last week’s trivia question (This American League Cy Young Award led the 1977 Toronto Blue Jays in saves? Who am I referring to?) was Pete Vuckovich who saved eight games for the Blue Jays in 1977 and won the Cy Young Award as a starter for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1982.