But What Do I Know? . . . Justin Morneau, Fergie Jenkins, Brett Lawrie, B.J. Ryan

Justin Morneau. Photo: Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame

By Kevin Glew

Cooperstowners in Canada

My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:

-The National Baseball Hall of Fame unveiled its 2021 Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) ballot on Monday. Justin Morneau (New Westminster, B.C.) is one of 13 new players on the ballot. Morneau, who was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2020, spent more than a decade with the Minnesota Twins and evolved into one of the American League’s most feared sluggers. Between 2003 and 2013, the Canuck first baseman was a four-time All-Star (2007 to 2010), won two Silver Slugger awards (2006, 2008) and had four 100-RBI seasons – including tying Larry Walker’s single-season Canadian record with 130 RBIs in 2006. In that same season, he became the first – and still only – Canadian to be voted American League MVP. He later enjoyed short tenures with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Colorado Rockies. In 2014, he batted .319 to capture the National League batting title to become just the second Canadian (along with Walker) to accomplish that feat. He suited up for one more season with the Rockies before playing his final big league campaign with the Chicago White Sox in 2016. In all, Morneau played in parts of 14 big league seasons and he ranks in the top five among Canadian major leaguers in many all-time offensive statistical categories, including third in RBIs (985), third in hits (1,603), doubles (349) and total bases (2,739) and fourth in home runs (247). The Hall of Fame voting results will be announced on the MLB Network on January 25.

-Five former Toronto Blue Jays – Roger Clemens, Scott Rolen, Omar Vizquel, Jeff Kent and Mark Buehrle – return to the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot. Clemens, whose name has been linked to PEDs, is in his 10th and final year on the ballot. Rolen, a slugger and a defensive wizard at third base, has the most momentum of any ex-Jay on the ballot. His support rose from 35.3 per cent in 2020 to 52.9 per cent in 2021. A player’s name has to be selected on 75 per cent of writers’ ballots for them to be elected, so it’s unlikely Rolen will garner enough support this year, but his chances look promising for the future. Vizquel, Kent and Buehrle all had lower than 50 percent support in the 2021 voting.

-Canadian baseball legend Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) recently made a pit stop in Chicago to see how the sculpture of him is coming along (Click on link here.) that will be erected outside of Wrigley Field in 2022. Jenkins, who starred for 10 seasons with the Cubs and is the franchise leader in starts (347) and strikeouts (2,038), will be the fourth player the Cubs have honoured with a statue, joining Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Ron Santo.

– It was seven years ago today that the Toronto Blue Jays traded third baseman Brett Lawrie (Langley, B.C.), pitchers Kendall Graveman and Sean Nolin and infield prospect Franklin Barreto to the Oakland A’s for third baseman Josh Donaldson. Many Blue Jays fans were outraged that the Blue Jays would part with the popular Lawrie at the time. In hindsight, however, it was one of (then) Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos’s best moves. Donaldson proceeded to belt 41 home runs and drive in an American League-leading 123 runs for the Blue Jays in 2015 and win the American League MVP Award. In the process, he helped the Blue Jays to their first division title since 1993. Donaldson had another MVP calibre season in 2016. Lawrie, meanwhile, had one solid but unspectacular season for the A’s, before he was dealt to the White Sox. Graveman posted a 4.38 ERA in 78 starts with the A’s over parts of four seasons before eventually being converted into a reliever by the Seattle Mariners in 2021. Nolin recorded a 5.28 ERA in six starts for the A’s in 2015 before being released. Barreto hit just .180 over parts of four seasons with the A’s from 2017 to 2020.

– Here’s another tweet that illustrates just how great Hall of Famer Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) was. This one from trailblazing baseball statistician Bill James:

-The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s 2021 Jack Graney Award winner will be announced this Wednesday. The St. Marys, Ont.-based shrine presents this award annually to a member of the media who has made significant contributions to baseball in Canada through their life’s work. On November 16, Ken Fidlin (Toronto Sun) and Dan Shulman (ESPN, Sportsnet) were presented with their 2019 and 2020 Jack Graney awards respectively in the Hall’s virtual ceremony. Both delivered moving speeches. Born in St. Thomas, Ont., Graney was a scrappy leadoff hitter in the big leagues for Cleveland. His major league resume boasts a number of firsts. When he walked to the plate in a game against the Boston Red Sox on July 11, 1914, he became the first batter to face Babe Ruth. Almost two years later, on June 26, 1916, he was the first major leaguer to bat wearing a number on his uniform. After hanging up his spikes, Graney became the first ex-player to make the transition to the broadcast booth, performing radio play-by-play for Cleveland from 1932 to 1953.

Frank O’Rourke

– Speaking of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, 1996 inductee Frank O’Rourke (Hamilton, Ont.) was born on this date 130 years ago. A baseball lifer in the truest sense, O’Rourke spent more than 70 years around the diamond as a player, manager and scout. The Hamilton, Ont., native was the youngest player in the National League when he debuted as a 17-year-old shortstop with the Boston Braves on June 12, 1912. After 61 games with the Beantown squad, he returned to the minors for four seasons. He would resurface in the big leagues as a third baseman with the Brooklyn Robins in 1917. After major league stints with the Washington Senators and Boston Red Sox, and two standout seasons with the International League’s Toronto Maple Leafs, O’Rourke starred with the Detroit Tigers. His finest big league season was in 1925, when he hit .293 and racked up 141 hits – including 40 doubles (fifth best in the American League). He suited up for his final five major league seasons with the St. Louis Browns, where he would knock in 62 runs in both 1928 and 1929. Following his playing career, the scrappy Canuck would manage minor league clubs in Milwaukee, Charlotte, El Dorado and Cordele, but scouting seemed to be his true calling. Though first employed as a scout with the Cincinnati Reds, he’s best known for his more than 30 years evaluating talent for the New York Yankees. O’Rourke passed away on May 14, 1986 in Chatham, N.J.

–Sixteen years ago today, the Toronto Blue Jays signed reliever B.J. Ryan to a five-year, $47-million contract. At the time, it was the largest contract ever landed by a major league relief pitcher. Though the deal is largely frowned upon these days because the reliever spent much of its duration on the disabled list, Ryan’s first season as Blue Jays’ closer was absolutely dominating. In 2006, he posted a 1.37 ERA with 38 saves in 65 appearances, spanning 72 innings. He struck out 86 batters while walking just 20. For his efforts, he was selected to the All-Star Game.

– 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). The player in the photo hit the first home run in Montreal Expos’ history. It was off Tom Seaver and was also his only major league home run. Who is this player? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section.

–The answer to last week’s trivia question ( In high school, the player in the photo (below) 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?) was Chris Carpenter.

8 thoughts on “But What Do I Know? . . . Justin Morneau, Fergie Jenkins, Brett Lawrie, B.J. Ryan

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  1. Great read Kevin as usual. Thank you.
    Man, O’Rouke spent a long time with MLB….so great to see
    Never know with trades. Who knew Donaldson would win MVP and who knew Lawrie wouldn’t play much longer!

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