By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Some Canadian baseball news and notes from the past week:
-All of us in the Canadian baseball community owe Bob Elliott a big thank you for the tremendous amount of work he puts into his annual 100 Most Influential Canadians in baseball list. On New Year’s Eve, he released the names of those who rank No. 4 to 100 on the 2021 edition. You can read the list here. (Note: The site has a paywall, but it’s well worth the $2 a month to subscribe.). I’m honoured to be included at No. 97 on the list.
-Earlier this week, I stumbled across this well-researched article about Joey Votto by Cincinnati Reds writer Chad Dotson. The article makes a strong case that Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) should be an obvious selection for the National Baseball Hall of Fame following his playing career. Among the strongest evidence that Dotson offers for Votto’s Cooperstown case is that the Canuck slugger has led the National League in on-base percentage (OBP) seven times. The only others to top a major league circuit in OBP that many times are Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, Rogers Hornsby and Ty Cobb. Dotson also adds that Votto topped the NL in OBP in four consecutive seasons from 2010 to 2013. The only others to do that in a big league circuit are Hornsby, Williams and Wade Boggs.
-Somehow I missed mentioning this, but as Sportsnet Stats pointed out in the November 7 tweet below, when St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C.) won his second Gold Glove in November, he became just the second Canadian to win multiple Gold Gloves, joining fellow Maple Ridge native Larry Walker.
– O’Neill also landed on another impressive and exclusive list in 2021. He, along with fellow Canadian-born slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Montreal, Que.), were among the 2021 major league leaders for most home runs that travelled 440 feet or farther. See tweet below.
-One of the advantages of having a Twitter account that focuses almost exclusively on Canadian baseball content is that people share videos like the one below with me. This is footage (click on the link below) of New Westminster, B.C. native Justin Morneau belting his first major league home run. It was a solo shot off Kansas City Royals right-hander Albie Lopez in the top of the eighth inning in a Minnesota Twins’ 14-7 loss at Kauffman Stadium on June 17, 2003. The ball travelled well over 400 feet. Morneau was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2020.
–I know I’m repeating myself from last week, but one of the best books ever written about Canadian baseball players is Dan Turner’s “Heroes, Bums and Ordinary Men: Profiles in Canadian Baseball” that was published in 1988. For this book, Turner interviewed and shared the stories of several Canadian major league players. Last week, I mentioned the excellent chapter on Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee and then young Blue Jays outfielder Rob Ducey (Cambridge, Ont.). But Turner also penned a riveting chapter on a then 20-year-old Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) who was finding his game with the double-A Jacksonville Expos. The chapter contains this wonderful photo (below) of Walker and cigar-chomping Jacksonville team owner Peter Bragan that Turner snapped.
– Congratulations to Jamie Romak (London, Ont.) who has been hired as the Great Lake Canadians’ director of player performance. Romak recently retired from a successful 19-year playing career in the professional ranks in North America and Korea. The 36-year-old slugger played his final five pro seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) for the SSG Landers (formerly SK Wyverns) and batted .273 with 155 home runs, which are the third-most by a foreign player in KBO history. Prior to his tenure in Korea, the London, Ont., native played parts of 13 seasons in the affiliated minor league ranks after being drafted in the fourth round by the Atlanta Braves in 2003. He had major league stints with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2014 and the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2015. Romak has also suited up for the Canadian national team in multiple tournaments. The Great Lake Canadians, headed by ex-big leaguers Chris Robinson (Dorchester, Ont.) and Adam Stern (London, Ont.), are one of the top player development programs in Canada.
-Happy 59th Birthday to Edgar Martinez! The longtime Seattle Mariners DH, who batted .312 and recorded 2,247 hits in parts of 18 big league seasons, was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2019. But Calgary baseball fans were fortunate to have a sneak preview of what was to come for the legendary hitter more than 30 years before his Cooperstown induction. Martinez played parts of four memorable seasons with the triple-A Calgary Cannons and his numbers from those seasons were outstanding: 1985 – 20 games – .353 BA, .450 OBP; 1987 – 129 games – .329/.434; 1988 – 95 games – .363/.467; 1989 – 32 games – .345/.457.
– I was asked on Twitter to make one Major League Baseball prediction in 2021. I hate making these, but here I go: I predict Jose Berrios will throw a no-hitter for the Blue Jays in 2021. That would make him the first Blue Jay to toss a no-hitter since Dave Stieb on September 2, 1990.
-Toronto Star baseball columnist Mike Wilner continues to be a great supporter of Canadian baseball. Last week, I mentioned his excellent interview with widely respected Canadian baseball writer and 2021 Jack Graney Award winner John Lott. For this week’s episode, Wilner assembled a group of Canadian national team “lifers” – including Romak, Robinson, Jimmy Van Ostrand (Vancouver, B.C.) and Tim Leiper – and asked them to share some of their memories. You can listen to it here.
-I stumbled across this baseball card online on Thursday. I had totally forgotten that Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee and longtime big league pitcher Reggie Cleveland (Swift Current, Sask.) was a pitching coach for class-A Short-Season St. Catharines Blue Jays in 1992 and 1993.
-This week’s trivia question: Who is the Canadian left-hander in the following photo (taken by Dan Turner) under the watchful eye of Blue Jays’ longtime pitching coach Al Widmar? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.
-The answer to last week’s trivia question (Who is the player in the photo below? Hints: He was property of the Blue Jays for a little over a month one off-season, but they traded him before he ever donned a Blue Jays uniform. He was once the manager of the double-A London Tigers. He played for Cleveland, the New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves during his 15-year major league career). was Chris Chambliss.
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