By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Former Colorado Rockies ace Jeff Francis has been elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
The Vancouver-born left-hander, who’s the only Canadian to start Game 1 of a World Series, will be inducted in a ceremony at the Hall of Fame grounds in St. Marys, Ont., on June 18.
Francis will be honoured along with the Hall’s 2020 induction class, which consists of Canadian slugger Justin Morneau (New Westminster, B.C.), former Toronto Blue Jays first baseman John Olerud, ex-Blue Jays set-up man and later closer Duane Ward and longtime Montreal Expos broadcaster Jacques Doucet.
“Jeff Francis is one of the greatest left-handed pitchers to come from Canada,” said Jeremy Diamond, the chair of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s board of directors. “He was the ace of the Colorado Rockies on their National League pennant-winning team in 2007 and is considered one of the best pitchers in Rockies’ history. He has also answered the call to play for his country whenever he has been available and is a wonderful ambassador for baseball in our country.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has prohibited the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame from having an in-person induction ceremony since 2019.
The Hall’s 2021 class was comprised of 17 historical inductees. The group consisted of trailblazing players, executives, an umpire and an international championship winning team that were selected by a six-person Committee of Canadian baseball historians from across the country. The 2021 inductees were honoured posthumously in a virtual ceremony in November.
2022 Inductee Bio
Born in Vancouver in 1981, Jeff Francis grew up in North Delta, B.C. He honed his skills with the North Delta Blue Jays of the B.C. Premier Baseball League before starring on the mound for the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds from 1999 to 2002, where he was twice selected a NAIA First Team All-American.
After the 2001 collegiate season, the 6-foot-5 lefty went 7-1 in the highly competitive Alaskan Baseball League and captured the circuit’s Player of the Year honours. His performance convinced the Colorado Rockies to select him in the first round (ninth overall) in the 2002 MLB draft.
His third season in the Rockies’ organization was his true breakout campaign. That season, he combined to go 16-3 with 2.21 ERA with 196 strikeouts in 154 2/3 innings in 24 starts for Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Colorado Springs. His dominance earned him Minor League Player of the Year honours from Baseball America and USA Today, as well as a big league call-up at the end of the season.
In 2005, his first full MLB campaign, Francis won 14 games and struck out 128 batters in 183 2/3 innings in 33 starts and finished sixth in the National League Rookie of the Year voting. Two seasons later, he posted career-highs in wins (17), starts (34), innings pitched (215 1/3) and strikeouts (165) to help propel the Rockies to the National League pennant. He made three postseason starts and became the first Canadian pitcher to start Game 1 of a World Series. For his efforts, he finished ninth in the National League Cy Young Award voting.
In all, in an 11-season career that saw him toe the rubber for the Rockies, Kansas City Royals, Cincinnati Reds, Oakland A’s, New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays, Francis finished with 72 major league wins, which is the second-most by a Canuck left-hander. He also ranks second all-time among Canadian southpaws in games started (217) and innings pitched (1,291).
Among all Canadian major league pitchers (left-handers and right-handers), he ranks fifth in starts, seventh in wins and eighth in strikeouts (869) and innings pitched.
Francis has also competed for the Canadian national team on multiple occasions, including with the Junior National Team in 1999, the World Baseball Classic squad in 2006 and on the gold medal-winning team at the 2015 Pan Am Games. In 2016, he became the eighth person added to Baseball Canada’s Wall of Excellence.
Francis was also inducted into the University of British Columbia Sports Hall of Fame in 2008 and his number 16 was retired by the school 11 years later. In 2020, he was inducted into the British Columbia Sports Hall of Fame.
“I was so excited to get the news from the Hall of Fame of my induction,” said Francis. “When I see the list of people and players that I will be joining on the walls in St. Marys, I’m honoured and humbled to be considered to be on that level. This is not something that is ever in an athlete’s mind during his or her playing days, but in the time since my last days of playing, I’ve become proud of what I accomplished in baseball. I consider this not just a recognition of my achievements in the game, but of the coaching, mentorship, and support I’ve received from so many other people.”
2020 Inductee Bios
Born in New Westminster, B.C., in 1981, Justin Morneau honed his skills with the North Delta Blue Jays of the B.C. Premier Baseball League and the Canadian Junior National Team before being selected by the Minnesota Twins in the third round of the 1999 MLB draft.
The left-handed hitting Canuck began his minor league career as a catcher but was converted into a first baseman in 2000 in Rookie ball. Over parts of five minor league campaigns, he developed into a top prospect, earning invitations to two MLB Futures Games (2002, 2004) before he was called up to make his major league debut with the Twins on June 10, 2003.
Morneau would spend the next decade with the Twins and evolve into one of the American League’s most feared sluggers. Between 2003 and 2013, he was a four-time all-star (2007 to 2010), won two Silver Slugger awards (2006, 2008), had four 100-RBI seasons – including tying Larry Walker’s single-season Canadian record with 130 RBIs in 2006 – and in that same season, he became the first – and still only – Canadian to be named American League MVP. In 2008, he also became the first – and still only – Canadian to win the Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game. For his efforts, Morneau was named the Twins’ team MVP twice (2006, 2008).
On August 31, 2013, Morneau was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates where he helped lead the club to its first postseason appearance since 1992. Following that season, Morneau signed with the Colorado Rockies and proceeded to bat .319 and win the National League batting title to become just the second Canadian (along with Walker) to accomplish that feat. He suited up for part of one more season with the Rockies before playing his final big league campaign with the Chicago White Sox in 2016.
Throughout his career, Morneau also consistently answered the call for the Canadian national team. After suiting up for the Junior National Team in 1999, he competed for the senior squad at the IBAF Baseball World Cup in 2001, at an Olympic Qualifier in 2003 and in all four World Baseball Classics. His name was added to Baseball Canada’s Wall of Excellence in 2010.
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), hits (1,603), doubles (349) and total bases (2,739) and fourth in home runs (247). Over the course of his career, Morneau was also named the winner of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s Tip O’Neill Award, as top Canadian player, three times (2006, 2008, 2014).
In recent years, Morneau has served as a part-time analyst on Twins’ broadcasts for Fox Sports North and as an analyst on the Sportsnet Central panel for the network’s World Series coverage.
The New Westminster, B.C., native has also been very active in charitable endeavors. Each year in Minneapolis, he spearheads a winter coat drive for the Salvation Army. That coat drive has collected over 40,000 coats from generous donors. He has also helped organize fundraisers for juvenile arthritis to raise awareness about a disease his niece, Maddie, is fighting. As part of his efforts for that cause, he hosted an annual casino night that raised over a $1 million for the arthritis foundation and helped send kids to Camp Cambria, a camp for kids with arthritis. Morneau has also supported the United Heroes League, an organization that provides sports equipment and registration fees for children in military families. He is the host representative of an ice fishing tournament for United Heroes League on Mille Lacs Lake in Minnesota.
For his off-field efforts, he was named the Twins’ Carl R. Pohlad Award winner for outstanding community involvement in 2009 and he’s a four-time winner of the team’s Bob Allison Award (2008, 2012-13, 2015), which is handed out to a player who exemplifies determination, hustle, tenacity, competitive spirit and leadership on and off the field.
“When I heard the news that I would be enshrined in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame I was honoured,” said Morneau. “When I learned of fellow inductees, John Olerud, Duane Ward and Jacques Doucet, I was at a loss for words. To think that I would be joining these distinguished members that had such a lasting impact on baseball in Canada is truly humbling. I am looking forward to being in St. Marys this summer to celebrate with my fellow inductees in person. Thank you to the voters and the Hall for this incredible honour, and all that the Hall does for the game of baseball in Canada.”
After being selected in the third round of the 1989 MLB draft out of Washington State University, John Olerud signed with the Blue Jays and went directly to the big leagues. A standout pitcher/first baseman in college, Olerud made his major league debut on September 3, 1989 and singled in his first big league at bat. With that, he became just the second Blue Jays’ draft pick to make their organizational debut at the big league level (Catcher Brian Milner was the first in 1978).
After three hits in eight at bats that September, the sweet-swinging first baseman earned regular playing time, primarily as the team’s DH, in 1990 and he proceeded to belt 14 home runs and post a .364 on-base percentage in 111 games. For his efforts, he was named the team’s top rookie and he finished fourth in the American League Rookie of the Year voting.
Smooth in the field and at the plate, Olerud would become the Blue Jays’ regular first baseman beginning in the 1991 season. From 1991 to 1993, he was a key part of three consecutive division-winning squads and two World Series championship teams. His breakout campaign came in 1993, when he flirted with .400 for much of the season and ended up with a .363 batting average to become the first – and still only – Blue Jays’ player to win an American League batting title. In that historic season, he also topped the circuit in doubles (54), on-base percentage (OBP) (.473) and on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) (1.072), and finished third in the American League MVP voting.
In all, Olerud suited up for 920 regular season contests in parts of eight seasons with the Blue Jays and he ranks first all-time in franchise history in OBP (.395), second in intentional walks (87), fourth in walks (514) and sixth in batting average (.293). His .363 batting average, .473 OBP and 33 intentional walks in 1993 remain Blue Jays’ single-season records.
Olerud was dealt to the New York Mets for pitcher Robert Person on December 20, 1996. He starred for the Mets for three seasons prior to playing for his hometown Seattle Mariners for parts of five campaigns. He finished his career with stints with the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. In all, in his 17-year big league career, the two-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove Award winner finished with a .295 batting average, a .398 OBP (which ranks 70th in major league history) and 2,239 hits.
In 2007, Olerud was inducted into the National College Baseball Hall of Fame and nine years later, he was chosen as the Pac-12 Conference Player of the Century for his standout play as a hitter and on the mound.
For many, the soft-spoken first baseman was an inspiration. Prior to his junior college season, he suffered a life-threatening brain aneurysm. He worked diligently to get back on the field and recovered to enjoy a successful collegiate and pro career. His performance and perseverance earned him Major League Baseball’s Hutch Award in 1993. This honour is handed out annually to a player who best exemplifies the fighting spirit and competitive desire of Fred Hutchinson.
After hanging up his playing spikes, Olerud and his wife, Kelly, settled in his home state of Washington with their three children: Garrett, Jordan and Jessica. In 2003, they created the Jordan Fund to assist other parents with special needs children financially. Their daughter, Jordan, was born with a rare chromosome abnormality known as tri-some 2p, 5p-. Jordan passed away in March 2020 at the age of 19.
“When I heard that I was going to be inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, I was very surprised. It was so unexpected,” said Olerud. “I am very honoured to be selected.”
Selected in the first round (ninth overall) of the 1982 MLB draft by the Atlanta Braves, Duane Ward was dealt to the Blue Jays for Doyle Alexander on July 6, 1986. From 1988 to 1992, the hard-throwing right-hander established himself as one of the best shutdown set-up men in the game, combining with closer and 2011 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Tom Henke to form the most overpowering and beloved bullpen tandem in franchise history.
In his five seasons serving primarily in a set-up role, Ward never made less than 64 appearances or pitched less than 101 innings. In 1991, the workhorse righty topped American League pitchers with 81 appearances and struck out a career-best 132 batters in 107 1/3 innings and finished ninth in the American League Cy Young voting. He followed that up by registering a career-best 1.95 ERA in 79 appearances in 1992 to help the Blue Jays to their first World Series title.
After Henke departed via free agency following the 1992 season, Ward assumed the closer’s role and excelled, topping the American League with 45 saves and 70 games finished in 1993, while allowing just 49 hits and striking out 97 batters in 71 2/3 innings. For his efforts, he was selected to the American League All-Star team and finished fifth in AL Cy Young voting. His 45 saves and 70 games finished remain single-season franchise records. His performance helped propel the Blue Jays to their second consecutive World Series title.
In 1992 and 1993, Ward was at his best in the Fall Classic. In a combined eight World Series appearances, he posted a 3-0 record with a 1.13 ERA while striking out 13 batters in eight innings, and also registering two saves.
In total, in nine seasons with the Blue Jays, Ward appeared in 452 games, the second-most by a pitcher in franchise history. He is also second in saves (121) and games finished (266).
Since his retirement as a player, Ward has been an active member of the club’s alumni in many charitable efforts. In recent years, he has been one of the lead instructors at baseball clinics for the Toronto Blue Jays Academy and the Jays Care Foundation.
“When I was informed about my induction into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, the only thing I felt at the time was completely overwhelmed, a flood of feelings and emotions came after a few minutes of reflection and thought,” said Ward. “I can’t state enough how deeply honoured I am to be a part of the 2020 class of inductees to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
“I want to thank all of my teammates, coaches, and everyone who helped me through the years. And to my family and friends who supported me unconditionally, saying thank you will never be enough. To my fellow inductees, ‘Congratulations.’”
Born in Montreal in 1940, Jacques Doucet has been calling major league baseball games for more than four decades and many Quebec baseball fans credit him as the reason they fell in love with the sport.
Doucet served as a Montreal Expos beat reporter for La Presse from the time the franchise was awarded to the city in 1968 to 1971. He began performing play-by-play for the Expos’ French language radio broadcasts in 1972 and continued for 33 seasons. Along the way, he called virtually every meaningful game in the franchise’s history, including 2016 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Dennis Martinez’s perfect game on July 28, 1991. For many years, Doucet also broadcast major league playoff and World Series games in French.
After the Expos left for Washington following the 2004 season, Doucet continued his broadcast career in his home province, calling games for the independent Can-Am League’s Quebec Capitales from 2006 to 2011. In August 2011, he returned to the big leagues to broadcast select Blue Jays games in French for TVA Sports. He continued to broadcast Blue Jays games in 2021.
In total, Doucet has called more than 5,500 big league games during his storied career. For his efforts, he was inducted into the Quebec Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Montreal Expos Hall of Fame in 2003. The following year, he won the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s Jack Graney Award, which is handed out annually by the Hall of Fame to a member of the media who has made significant contributions to baseball in Canada through their life’s work.
In 2019, he was one of eight finalists for the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s 2020 Ford C. Frick Award.
Doucet has also been a strong supporter of baseball at the grassroots level in Quebec. As an ambassador for Baseball Quebec, he has been an active supporter of many fundraising activities for minor baseball teams in the province. He also served as an executive with the Quebec Junior Elite Baseball League from 2004 to 2010 and was involved in the Quebec Summer Games held in Longueuil in 2014.
“I am deeply honoured to be admitted into the Canadian Baseball Hall Fame,” said Doucet. “Although I had won the Jack Graney Award in 2004, I could not, in all honesty, say that I was a full-fledged member of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. This, along with the Medal of Honor of the National Assembly of the Province of Quebec, are the two highest honours I have received. I want to thank all the partners who I had the privilege to work with during all the years and who made this possible. I want to thank the members of the selection committee of the Hall of Fame for making this day possible.”