By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
-The Boston Red Sox were eliminated from the postseason on Friday night after a 5-0 loss to the Houston Astros in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series. But this was a breakout postseason for Nick Pivetta (Victoria, B.C.), who was the Red Sox best pitcher in the playoffs. The hard-throwing right-hander hurled a combined 8 2/3 innings in two relief appearances in the American League Division Series against the Tampa Bay Rays, including four scoreless innings in Game 3 to pick up the win. With that, he became the first Canadian to have two, four-inning relief appearances in a postseason series. He then started Game 4 of the ALCS and held the Astros to one run in five innings, but settled for a no-decision in the Sox eventual 9-2 loss. In all, Pivetta pitched 13 2/3 innings during the postseason, which, according to the Scott Crawford at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, is the second-most innings pitched by a Canuck in the postseason. Left-hander Jeff Francis (North Delta, B.C.) threw 16 2/3 postseason innings for the Colorado Rockies in 2007. In all, Pivetta was 1-0 with a 2.63 ERA with 14 strikeouts this postseason.
– Congratulations to Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) who has been named a finalist for the National League’s Comeback Player of the Year award, presented by the Major League Baseball Players’ Association. He will compete against Giants catcher Buster Posey and Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford for the honour. After slumping to a .226 batting average and 11 home runs in 2020, Votto appeared to be in the twilight of his big league career. But he made some adjustments to his hitting approach and rebounded to belt 36 home runs in 2021, which was just one home run shy of his career-high that he established 11 years earlier. Votto also finished fourth in the NL with a .563 slugging percentage and reached two significant milestones this season, recording his 2,000th career hit and 300th home run. Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) is the only other Canuck to reach those numbers.
– Here’s another impressive stat about Toronto Blue Jays closer Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) that I somehow missed. According to Sportsnet Stats, Romano has converted saves in 23 consecutive opportunities, which is the third longest streak in Blue Jays’ history. Tom Henke registered 25 consecutive saves in 1991, while right-hander Casey Janssen notched saves in 24 straight opportunities during a stretch that began during the 2013 season and extended into 2014.
– So where were you 29 years ago today when the Atlanta Braves were trailing the Blue Jays 4-3 with two outs in bottom of the 11th inning in Game 6 of the World Series when Braves outfielder Otis Nixon tried to bunt his way on base? We know how it ended. Blue Jays reliever Mike Timlin fielded Nixon’s bunt and threw the ball to Joe Carter at first base for the final out to clinch the Blue Jays’ first championship. I was with a girl who I was dating at the time at her home in Tiner Estates in Dorchester, Ont., watching it with her and her family.
– Forty-nine years ago today, Jackie Robinson passed away at the age of 53. But what a legacy of courage and strength and positive change he left us with. Prior to breaking Major League Baseball’s colour barrier in 1947, Robinson starred at second base for the Montreal Royals, a Brooklyn Dodgers’ farm team, in 1946. On the field, Robinson excelled, leading the International League in batting average, walks and runs, and spurring the Royals to their first Junior World Series triumph. Moved by the affection of Montrealers after the Junior World Series win, Robinson remarked, “This is the city for me. This is paradise.” These words have been immortalized on a statue of Robinson that still stands outside of Montreal’s Olympic Stadium. Robinson, of course, went on to star for the Dodgers for 10 big league seasons, batting .311 with a .409 on-base percentage, while recording 1,563 hits in 1,416 games. For his efforts, he was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1962 and the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991.
-Left-hander Andrew Albers (North Battleford, Sask.) was outrighted to the triple-A St. Paul Saints by the Minnesota Twins on October 7. But rather than accept the assignment, the 36-year-old left-hander has opted to become a free agent. Albers made five appearances (three starts) for the Twins this season. His return to the big leagues was one of the Canadian feel-good baseball stories of 2021. After holding the New York Yankees to one run in four innings in relief on August 20 in his first big league appearance in almost four years, the 35-year-old lefty was rewarded with his first start since September 30, 2017 on August 27. And he didn’t disappoint. He hurled 5 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing just three hits, against the National League Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers in the Twins’ 2-0 win at Target Field. His performance earned him his first major league win since September 14, 2017. Before being called up, Albers had posted a 6-4 record and a 3.86 ERA, with 78 strikeouts in 91 innings, in 16 triple-A appearances. He also started and tossed seven no-hit innings in a combined no-hitter for Canada in the first game of the Americas Olympic Qualifier against Colombia on May 31.
–I love these little nuggets of baseball information, especially when they involve a Canadian. On Monday, the Seattle Mariners Public Relations department posted this piece of trivia about a grand slam hit by Abraham Toro (Longueuil, Que.) on August 31:
– Fergie Jenkins and baseball cards. In my mind, you can’t go wrong with that combination. In the video below, Jenkins reflects on his major league career and opens a pack of 1987 Topps cards which includes cards of a few prominent Blue Jays players from that era.
-For the second consecutive year, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be no Canadian Baseball History Conference. Andrew North, the event’s organizer made the announcement on Tuesday. He did, however, share the exciting news that he, along with several Canadian baseball historians, are working on a book called, Our Game, Too: The Development of Canadian Baseball, that will be published through SABR in the spring. “It consists of dozens of essays, the great majority of them written by Canadian SABR members, highlighting the influential figures and milestone events that shaped nearly 200 years of baseball in Canada,” reads a description of the book on the Centre for Canadian Baseball Research website. Andrew also shared that through a collaboration with the University of Windsor’s Leddy Library, the Centre for Canadian Baseball Research, will be launching an annual Journal of Canadian Baseball beginning in 2022. More information about it here.
– My trivia question for this week: What Blue Jays pitcher did Mike Timlin replace with two outs in the 11th inning of Game 6 of the 1992 World Series? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section.
–The answer to last week’s trivia question (Prior to Nick Pivetta, who was the last Canadian to pitch for the Boston Red Sox in the postseason?) was Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, B.C.) who toed the rubber for the Sox in 2013 when they won the World Series.