By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Some Canadian baseball news and notes:
-On Wednesday, Global News ran a wonderful tribute to Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) as part of their celebration of Black History Month. I couldn’t help but notice that the tribute includes footage of Jenkins pitching at Toronto’s Exhibition Stadium (which starts at the 20-second mark of the video). I had not seen this before. Fittingly, Jenkins was the first pitcher ever to throw a shutout at Exhibition Stadium when he did so for the Boston Red Sox on April 24, 1977. You can watch the tribute below or here:
-Today would’ve been Manitoba and Canadian baseball legend Gerry MacKay’s 92nd birthday. He passed away on January 22 in Brandon, Man. After a five-year professional career that saw him play in the Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Yankees systems from 1952 to 1956, the Kenton, Man., native returned to Canada to become a highly respected coach. He was the field manager of the first Canadian national team that participated in the Pan Am Games in 1967 and was the director of the Canadian Federation of Amateur Baseball from 1967 to 1974. He later coached the national team at the World Baseball Championships in Cuba in 1971 and in Nicaragua in 1972. For his efforts, he was inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame in 1990.
-By now, you’ve probably read that it was Canadian George Selkirk (Huntsville, Ont.) that replaced Babe Ruth in right field for the New York Yankees. Not only did Selkirk take over for Ruth in right field in 1934, he also wore Ruth’s No. 3 before it was retired. “I was just cocky enough to say, ‘Wearing Babe’s number won’t make me nervous. If I’m going to take his place, I’ll take his number too,’” explained Selkirk in a 1936 interview, reported in Jim Shearon’s book, Canada’s Baseball Legends. I’ve been doing research on Selkirk for many years and it wasn’t until this week, when I stumbled upon the tweet below, that I’ve seen a photo of Selkirk with the No. 3 showing on the back of his uniform. You can see Selkirk congratulating Joe DiMaggio in this photo:
-Please take a moment to remember legendary trainer and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Doc Younker who passed away six years ago today at the age of 94. Younker served as a trainer in amateur and professional baseball for more than 50 years. Born in Auburn, Wash., Younker became a U.S. army private and later landed his first job as a trainer with the Western International League’s Vancouver Capilanos in 1954. He served in a similar capacity with the Seattle Rainiers the following year, before returning to Vancouver to work with the Pacific Coast League Mounties in 1956. He landed his first big league gig as a relief trainer with the expansion Los Angeles Angels in 1961 and later served as the head trainer with the San Diego Padres from 1976 to 1985. At the amateur level, Younker devoted countless hours to Canada’s national teams, tending to athletes at the Olympics, Pan Am Games, Commonwealth Games, World Championships and Intercontinental Cups. He also served as a multi-sport trainer at various Arizona high schools, teaching classes in first aid and physiotherapy. Many of his students are now practicing physiotherapists. Younker resided in Langley, B.C.
-So who were the two major league hitters who showed the greatest improvement in hard hit balls in 2021? Well, according to Mike Kurland, a baseball writer for RotoBaller, they were both Canadians. See his tweet below:
-Here’s a great trivia question for you: Who is the only non-Canadian to wear No. 33 for the Colorado Rockies? The answer is in the tweet below. Canadian slugger Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) wore it from 1995 to 2004 and then Justin Morneau (New Westminster, B.C.) received Walker’s approval to wear it in 2014 and 2015. Walker’s No. 33 was officially retired by the Rockies on September 25, 2021.
-Thirty-seven years ago today, the Toronto Blue Jays signed George Bell to a one-year contract. The terms were not released but one report pegged its value at $335,000 and another had it at $400,000. The settlement came two days before a scheduled arbitration hearing. Bell went on to hit .275 with a team-leading 28 home runs and 95 RBIs while also stealing 21 bases to help the Blue Jays to their first American League East title that season. He also went 9-for-28 (.321 average) with three doubles in the American League Championship Series, which the Blue Jays lost in seven games to the Kansas City Royals.
-It was 17 years ago today that Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin announced his retirement. The Cincinnati Reds star infielder finished his 19-year major league career with a .295 batting average and 2,340 hits. In 65 games against the Montreal Expos at Olympic Stadium, Larkin batted .279 with two homers and 28 RBIs. His first round-tripper in Montreal was clubbed off right-hander Randy St. Claire in the seventh inning in a Reds’ 12-6 win on May 13, 1987. Larkin also had four Canadian teammates during his MLB career: Nigel Wilson (1995), Chris Reitsma (2001 to 2003), Ryan Dempster (2002, 2003) and Aaron Myette (2004).
-Shi Davidi, of Sportsnet, tracked down recently retired ex-Jay Travis Snider and wrote this excellent feature article. From the article, it’s clear that the 34-year-old Snider has gained a lot of wisdom during his parts of 15 seasons in the pro ranks. “With all the ups and downs and the injuries and the trades and the designations, I’m thankful because it’s what’s preparing me for these next 30, 50, 70 years, however long I’ve got,” Snider told Davidi. “These last seven years [in the minors], especially, have humbled me in a way that spending 10 years in the big-leagues and making $100 million never would have. And that’s what I thought I was going to do. I’m grateful now looking back on this. I feel like I have a better chance at life after baseball because of what I experienced and those failures that I had to grind through.”
-This week’s trivia question: Who was the first Montreal Expos player to steal 50 bases in a season for the club? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.
-The answer to last 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.) was Sam Ewing.