By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Some Canadian baseball news and notes:
-Congratulations again to former Colorado Rockies ace and London, Ont., resident Jeff Francis who was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday. The North Delta, B.C., native pitched parts of 11 major league seasons and ranks second all-time among Canuck left-handers in wins (72). One of my favourite stories out of the Canadian ball hall’s Zoom call on Wednesday was Francis talking about the thrill of being featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated for their October 15, 2007 issue (shown below). “When that came out, I cleaned out, I think, every Walgreens on the west side of Denver, and I couldn’t do it myself. So I had my wife go and buy just about every Sports Illustrated on the west side of Denver,” said Francis. He has a copy of that magazine on his office wall in his home.
-I wanted to share this shout-out to Canadian baseball legend Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) from Los Angeles Dodgers superstar Mookie Betts in celebration of Black History Month. Betts posted this on Twitter on Wednesday:
-So how good was Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) in the decade from 1991 to 2000? Well, as this tweet (below) from Baseball Cloud, a well-known advanced stats site, indicates, no major league right fielder had a better bWAR (Baseball Reference Wins Above Replacement) during that decade. You’ll see that Walker is in some elite company.
-If you spend time searching Canadian baseball players on YouTube (like I do), you can find some pretty amazing footage. For example, I recently stumbled upon highlights of the immaculate inning (nine pitches, nine strikes, three strikeouts) thrown by Oakland A’s right-hander Rich Harden (Victoria, B.C.) against the Los Angeles Angels on June 8, 2008. Click on the link below to watch it.
-Canadian outfielder Tristan Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.) has been suspended for 50 games without pay for a second positive test of a “drug of abuse” in violation of the minor league drug program. Selected in the third round of the 2018 MLB draft by the Miami Marlins, Pompey has played three seasons in the Marlins’ organization. In 2021, the 24-year-old Canuck batted a combined .195 in 56 games between double-A and triple-A. He is the brother of former Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Dalton Pompey. Pompey’s suspension will commence at the start of the minor league season. He was one of five players suspended on Friday. You can read the full MLB press release here.
-As reported last week, Canadian Terry Puhl (Melville, Sask.) has been elected to the Houston Astros Hall of Fame. He will be inducted in a pre-game ceremony on August 13 at Minute Maid Park. Victoria Advocate sports editor Mike Forman recently caught up with Puhl to ask him about what the honour meant to him (Click on the video below or on this link).
-On this date in 1895, Babe Ruth was born in Baltimore, Md. Prior to his legendary big league career, he clubbed his first and only minor league, regular season home run at Toronto’s Hanlan’s Point as a member of the Providence Grays (a top Boston Red Sox farm team) on September 5, 1914. Ruth also consistently said that a Canadian named Brother Matthias (Lingan, N.S.) was the “greatest man” he had ever known. Brian “Chip” Martin shone the spotlight on Brother Matthias in his superb 2020 book, The Man Who Made Babe Ruth: Brother Matthias of St. Mary’s School. In Martin’s book, we learn that not only did Matthias, the hulking 6-foot-6 prefect of discipline and director of all physical activity at St. Mary’s Industrial Training School in Baltimore, help shape Ruth mentally – instilling in him much-needed values and beliefs – but he was also responsible for introducing The Babe to baseball and for influencing Ruth’s home run swing. You can buy Martin’s fantastic book here.
-My condolences go out to Blue Jays broadcaster and Jack Graney Award winner Dan Shulman on the passing of his father, Arnie, on Friday. Shulman shared a touching tribute to his father on Twitter yesterday. I’m sending my thoughts and prayers to Dan. I’m sure his father was very proud of him, not only for his broadcasting excellence, but for the kind and selfless person he is.
-Who was the first player to hit a home run in a regular season major league game in Toronto? The answer is Richie Zisk, who turns 73 today. He belted a solo home run for the Chicago White Sox off Blue Jays pitcher Bill Singer with two outs in the top of the first inning in that snowy first game played at Exhibition Stadium on April 7, 1977. An outfielder and DH, Zisk batted .287 with 207 home runs in 1,453 games in a solid 13-season major league career.
-This week’s trivia question: Who is the player in the following photo? Three hints: He led the Blue Jays in pinch hits in their first season. He was the Expos’ first-round pick in the Secondary Phase of the June 1970 MLB draft. He also played for the White Sox. Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.
-The answer to last week’s trivia question: (Who holds the record for most wins in a major league season by a Canadian pitcher?) was Bob Emslie with 32 wins for the American Association’s Baltimore Orioles in 1884. Emslie was born in Guelph, Ont., but lived the bulk of his life in St. Thomas, Ont.