By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
-At some point during the 2022 major league season (if or when it begins), the Boston Red Sox should have two Canadian pitchers in their starting rotation. After making 30 regular season starts for the Red Sox in 2021, right-hander Nick Pivetta (Victoria, B.C.) will return to the rotation and be eventually joined by left-hander James Paxton (Ladner, B.C.). Paxton has reportedly signed a one-year, $6-million contract with the club that also includes two team options that could make it worth as much as $35 million over three years. Paxton is recovering from Tommy John surgery that he underwent in April after throwing just 24 pitches in his sole start for the Seattle Mariners in 2021. If all goes as planned, and there is a major league season, Paxton should be ready to pitch for the Red Sox before the All-Star break. The last time two Canadians were in the Red Sox rotation was in 1977 when right-handers Reggie Cleveland (Swift Current, Sask.) and Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) were toeing the rubber for the club.
-Tonight we will find out if anyone on the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Golden Days Era ballot will be elected. The list of 10 finalists includes Dick Allen, Ken Boyer, Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Roger Maris, Minnie Miñoso, Danny Murtaugh, Tony Oliva, Billy Pierce and Maury Wills. The consensus among baseball pundits seems to be that Allen, who passed away on December 7, 2020, is the most likely to be elected. Allen belted five of his 351 big league home runs at Montreal’s Jarry Park. The intimidating slugger also played two games against the Toronto Blue Jays at Exhibition Stadium with the Oakland A’s in 1977, which was his final major league season. Allen didn’t record a hit in those two contests, but he did draw four walks.
-Stay tuned to this blog for the announcement of the winner of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s 2021 Tip O’Neill Award, which honours the top Canadian player, on Tuesday. 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 the award. This past season, 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 the aforementioned Pivetta also excelled.
– With the way major league managers employ their pitching staffs today, it’s astounding to think that Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) tossed 30 complete games in his 1971 National League Cy Young Award-winning season and 267 in his 19-year major league career. As this tweet (below) ascertains, it’s hard for others to fathom this as well and it’s always great to hear a response from Jenkins himself.
– Thirty-one years ago today, my mind as a then young Blue Jays fan was blown. It was on December 5, 1990 that Blue Jays general manager Pat Gillick and San Diego Padres general manager Joe McIlvaine completed one of the greatest two-for-two trades in major league history. Obliterating his “Stand Pat” nickname in one transaction, Gillick sent stars Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez to the Padres for Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar. Gillick initially felt the wrath of Blue Jays fans, but that was short-lived. Once fans saw what Carter and Alomar brought to the team, it quickly became one of the best trades in franchise history. It was a bold move that essentially transformed the perennially contending Blue Jays into World Series champions in 1992 and 1993.
-I discovered this tweet (below) from Adam Darowski, the head of user experience for Baseball Reference, which further enhances former Detroit Tigers second baseman Lou Whitaker’s case for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. It also illustrates how great of an all-around talent Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) was.
– Happy 51st Birthday to former Kansas City Royals catcher Andy Stewart (Oshawa, Ont.)! Signed by the Royals as an amateur free agent on September 1, 1989, Stewart proceeded to play nine seasons in the Royals’ organization, including a stretch with the big league squad in 1997. He also suited up for the Canadian national team on multiple occasions, including at the 1999 Pan Am Games, where he hit .452 and led all hitters at the tournament with four home runs and 15 RBIs to help Canada to a bronze medal. Since hanging up his playing spikes, he has become a highly respected coach with the Junior National Team and Ontario Prospects.
–On this date, nine years ago, Blue Jays legendary radio broadcaster Tom Cheek was named the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award winner for broadcasting excellence. Cheek called 4,306 consecutive Blue Jays games from April 7, 1977 to June 2, 2004. He was also in the booth for 41 Blue Jays’ post-season contests between 1985 and 1993, including Game 6 of the 1993 World Series, which inspired his most famous call. After Blue Jays slugger Joe Carter clubbed his World Series-winning homer in the bottom of the ninth, Cheek quipped, “Touch’em all, Joe. You’ll never hit a bigger home run in your life.” Prior to landing with the Blue Jays, Cheek served as a backup broadcaster for the Montreal Expos from 1974 to 1976. Cheek waged a courageous battle against brain cancer before he passed away on October 9, 2005 at the age of 66.
– 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 this week includes a photo (below). In his only season with the Blue Jays, the player in the photo recorded 14 outfield assists, which was the second-most in the American League. He also recorded the first ever put out by a Blue Jays player. Who is he? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section.
-The answer to last week’s trivia question ( The player in the photo (below) 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?) was Dan McGinn.