By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
-It was 15 years ago today that Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau (New Westminster, B.C.) became the first – and still only – Canadian to win the American League Most Valuable Player award. In his 2006 season, Morneau batted .321 with 34 home runs and had 130 RBIs for the Twins. That RBI total is still tied with Maple Ridge, B.C., native Larry Walker (130 in 1997) for the most in a season by a Canadian. A 2020 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee, Morneau also had 37 doubles, 97 runs and captured his first Silver Slugger Award that season and helped the Twins to an American League Central division title. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who was born in Montreal, nearly became the second Canadian to win the American League MVP Award when he finished second in this year’s voting to Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani. Walker (1997) and Etobicoke, Ont.,native Joey Votto (2010) have won the National League MVP Award.
-The St. Louis Cardinals confirmed on Monday that Stubby Clapp (Windsor, Ont.) will return as the club’s first base coach in 2022. Clapp was a strong candidate to take over as the team’s manager after they dismissed Mike Shildt following the season, but it was 35-year-old Oliver Marmol who was ultimately named their new dugout boss. Marmol had been coaching in the Cardinals’ organization for 11 years, including serving as the club’s bench coach for that last three. Clapp has been the Cardinals first base coach for the past three seasons. The Cardinals also confirmed on Monday that Jamie Pogue (Guelph, Ont.) will return as the club’s bullpen catcher/catching instructor.
– The Detroit Tigers announced on Friday that outfielder Jacob Robson (Windsor, Ont.) had cleared waivers and has been outrighted to triple-A Toledo. When Robson made his major league debut with the Tigers on August 12, he became the 13th Canadian to play in the big leagues in 2021. The Canuck outfielder got in four games and scored his first big league run, before he was sent back to triple-A Toledo. Between double-A and triple-A this season, Robson batted .295 with a .417 on-base percentage (OBP) with seven home runs and 19 stolen bases in 96 games. Robson was also a standout for the Canadian national team in the late spring at the Americas Olympic Qualifier in Florida, going 8-for-19 (.421 batting average).
– Infielder Adam Hall (London, Ont.) was not added to the Baltimore Orioles’ 40-man roster by Friday’s deadline for teams to protect players prior to the Rule 5 draft that will take place on December 8. This means that any team can now claim the Great Lake Canadians and Junior National Team grad and pay the O’s $50,000 for his rights. The O’s have a surplus of young infielders that they have drafted in the past three years that seem to have passed Hall on the club’s depth chart. Hall was hampered by a quadriceps injury this season. He batted .248 with a .672 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) in 81 games with High-A Aberdeen. Hall did not play in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but he had two strong seasons prior to that after being selected in the second round of the 2017 draft by the O’s. You might remember that it was the O’s who left Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team grad Zach Pop (Brampton, Ont.) off their 40-man roster last December and he was selected in the Rule 5 draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks who promptly dealt him to the Miami Marlins. Pop posted a 4.12 ERA in 50 appearances for the Marlins in 2021.
– I’ve been involved with the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in some capacity for 25 years and in all my years with the organization, I’ve never seen a stronger crop of candidates for their Tip O’Neill Award, which honours the top Canadian player. This past season, Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Montreal, Que.) challenged for the American League Triple Crown, Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) belted 36 home runs for the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C.) won his second consecutive Gold Glove Award and clubbed 34 home runs. On the mound, Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.), Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) and Nick Pivetta (Victoria, B.C.) also shone. The Hall is looking for your input to decide the winner. They encourage you to vote for the players you think are worthy of this award by 5 p.m. E.T. on Tuesday, November 23. You can e-mail your top three choices (please be clear on your first, second and third selections) to firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan votes will be one of the criteria the Hall will take into account when selecting the winner, which will be announced on December 7. You can read more about the candidates here.
– Speaking of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, they held their 2021 induction ceremony virtually on Tuesday. This year, they inducted 16 individual pioneers and trailblazers who have made significant historical contributions to baseball in Canada, as well as the championship-winning 1877 London Tecumsehs team. The 2019 and 2020 Tip O’Neill Award and Jack Graney Award winners were also celebrated. If you missed it, you can watch it by clicking on the YouTube video below.
-Want to feel old? Ken Griffey Jr. turns 52 today. A few years ago, someone sent me this photo (below) of what they said was a young Ken Griffey Jr. wearing a Montreal Expos cap. Well, thanks to the detective work of Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame director of operations Scott Crawford and Seattle Mariners media relations contact Ian Kraft, in April 2020, it was confirmed that this is, in fact, Ken Griffey Jr., in the photo. Kraft reached out to Griffey Jr., himself, who confirmed the photo was of him. Griffey’s father played part of 1971 and the entire 1972 season with the Cincinnati Reds’ double-A Trois-Rivieres Aigles in Quebec. So the Expos hat was likely secured during that era.
–Happy 61st Birthday to former Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Mark Eichhorn! Most remember him as a sidearm reliever with the club, who posed a 3.03 ERA in 279 games over parts of six seasons with them. He was a reliever on both of the Blue Jays’ World Series-winning teams (1992 and 1993). But did you know that he was selected in the second round of the 1979 MLB draft as a shortstop by the Blue Jays? It’s true. See the newspaper clipping from a Watsonville, Calif., newspaper below.
– Bob Elliott’s grandson plays for the 13U AAA NB East Blues Pee-Wee hockey team and they’re trying to raise money so they can travel to an international tournament in Quebec in February. They are running an online fundraising auction that includes several great baseball items. You can visit the auction here. Please bid liberally.
– My trivia question for this week includes a photo (below). In high school, the player in the photo was a three-time All-State defenceman. After high school, he was drafted in the first round by the Toronto Blue Jays and later won a National League Cy Young Award. Who is he? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section.
–The answer to last week’s trivia question (Who was the first major league player to walk to the plate in a major league game at Montreal’s Jarry Park? Hint: He is in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. ) was Lou Brock.