By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
-I was thrilled when Jack Graney was named the winner of the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award on Wednesday. The St. Thomas, Ont., native had been a finalist for the honour in previous years, so I had tempered my hopes prior to the announcement. Graney is the first broadcaster born in Canada to win the award, which is handed out annually for broadcasting excellence. “We are thrilled that Jack Graney is being honoured with the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s prestigious Ford C. Frick Award,” said Scott Crawford, director of operations at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, in a statement. “After an outstanding 14-season playing career with Cleveland, Jack blazed a trail for ex-major leaguers when he became the first to make the transition to the broadcast booth. He skillfully provided play-by-by on Cleveland games from 1932 to 1953 and set such a lofty standard that our annual award for media excellence is named in his honour. One of the best things about Jack was that despite his success south of the border, he never forgot his Canadian roots. He regularly returned to his hometown of St. Thomas, Ontario. He passed away in 1978, but we are happy that his granddaughter Perry and her family will be able to celebrate this great honour.” My only disappointment is that Graney’s daughter Margot Mudd is not alive to see her father be honoured by Cooperstown. She passed away in April 2020 at the age of 98. I was fortunate to talk to Margot a few times and the photo above is of me interviewing her in St. Thomas, Ont., in 2014, when her father was added to city’s Wall of Fame.
-I get the feeling that the Cleveland Guardians are on the same wavelength as the San Diego Padres when it comes to evaluating Canadian talent. In the latest transaction between the two clubs, Cleveland selected left-hander Erik Sabrowski (Edmonton, Alta.) from the Padres in Wednesday’s Minor League Rule 5 draft. Originally chosen in the 14th round of the 2018 MLB draft by the Padres, Sabrowski went 2-0 with a 1.86 ERA with 41 strikeouts in 29 innings in High-A in 2021. It was his first professional season. Sabrowski joins fellow Canucks and ex-Padres Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) and Josh Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.), who were acquired on August 31, 2020, in the Guardians’ organization.
-I was happy to see Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Minnie Minoso and Tony Oliva elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Golden Days Era Committee last Sunday. But I was surprised that slugger Dick Allen came up one vote short. Allen, who batted .292 with 351 home runs in 1,739 games in his 15-year MLB career, had been touted as the most likely to be elected. Canadian Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) was one of the players on the Committee who voted. He later expressed his disappointment that Allen was not elected. “I’m really sad because I think Dick deserves it,” Jenkins told the Chicago Tribune. “He was a one heck of an individual, one heck of a ballplayer.”
– I stumbled upon this Tweet from September 20, 2021 on Friday. It saves me some future research. I think it will be hard for Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) to pass Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) on this list.
– Earlier this week, right-hander Matt Brash (Kingston, Ont. ) was officially named the Canadian Baseball Network’s Wayne Norton Award winner, as minor league pitcher of the year (affiliated ranks). He went a combined 6-4 with a 2.31 ERA in 20 appearances (19 starts) between High-A and double-A in the Mariners’ organization this season. Most impressive, however, was his 142 strikeouts in 97 1/3 innings. His devastating slider was a major reason for his dominance and he recently explained how he throws it in this video from the Mariners below.
-Please take a moment to remember 2017 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Doug Hudlin who would’ve turned 99 today. Born in Victoria, B.C., Hudlin served as an umpire in his home province for more than 40 years. He started umpiring Little League Baseball in 1953 and three years later, he began working senior men’s contests. Known for his good humor and sense of fairness, Hudlin evolved into one of his province’s most respected umpires and he was elected president of the Victoria District Umpires Association in 1963 and served in that post until he became the first president of the B.C. Baseball Umpires Association in 1974. Along the way, he was chosen as the first non-American umpire to work the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., in 1967. Hudlin also worked the Canada Little League Championships five times, the Senior Little League World Series in Gary, Ind., twice and the B.C. Summer Games in 1988. He umpired his final Little League game in 1992. Six years later, he was elected to the Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame and in 2011, he was inducted into the B.C. Baseball Umpires Association Hall of Fame. Hudlin was also the founding director of the British Columbia Black History Awareness Society. He passed away on January 5, 2014 at the age of 91.
– Happy 44th Birthday to former Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Orlando Hudson! The Gold Glove Award-winning infielder batted .270 with 437 hits in 462 games over four seasons with the Blue Jays from 2002 to 2005 before he was dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks with Miguel Batista in exchange for third baseman Troy Glaus and infielder Sergio Santos. In all, Hudson, a two-time all-star, suited up for 11 big league campaigns with the Blue Jays, Diamondbacks, Minnesota Twins, San Diego Padres and Chicago White Sox, batting .273 with 1,319 hits in 1,345 games.
–December 12th definitely isn’t one of the best dates in Montreal Expos history. On this day in 1993, ace Dennis Martinez left to sign a two-year, $9-million deal with Cleveland. Three years later, all-star outfielder Moises Alou departed for a five-year, $25-million contract with the Marlins. And a year after that, the Expos dealt slugger Henry Rodriguez to the Cubs for right-hander Miguel Batista. All of this is a reminder of just how difficult it was to be an Expos fan in December in the mid-to-late 90s.
– The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s annual Holiday Silent Auction closes tomorrow at noon E.T. There are all kinds of great auction items to bid on, including (among other things) autographed sports memorabilia, tough to find bobbleheads, Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors tickets, a zoom call with Cliff Floyd and gift certificates to some great restaurants. Please bid liberally. on the auction items here.
– My trivia question this week: Who is in the photo below? Here are three hints: He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Tim Wallach credits him for helping him learn the nuances of playing third base (but he didn’t play third base himself). He hit one of the most famous walk-off home runs in MLB history. Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section.
-The answer to last week’s trivia question ( 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?) was Steve Bowling.