May 22, 2022
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly Canadian baseball news and notes:
-My hope is that fans at the Rogers Centre will rise to their feet and give Joey Votto a standing ovation today in what could be his final major league at bat in his home city. The Cincinnati Reds first baseman, who will turn 39 in September, will be playing the final game of an interleague series, and there’s no guarantee there will another interleague series before the end of his big league career. With 2,038 hits and a .415 career on-base percentage (OBP) in parts of 16 major league seasons, Votto is by far the greatest baseball player ever born and raised in the Greater Toronto Area. So please, if you’re going to the game at Rogers Centre today, stand up and cheer for Joey Votto.
-A statue of Canadian baseball legend Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) was unveiled in a ceremony outside Wrigley Field on Friday. Jenkins is the first Canadian to be honoured with a statue outside a major league park. The durable right-hander pitched 10 seasons with the Cubs and holds franchise pitching records in WAR (53.1), starts (347) and strikeouts (2,038). While with the Cubs from 1967 to 1972, Jenkins registered six consecutive 20-win seasons and never tossed less than 20 complete games in any of those campaigns. Among those in attendance at the ceremony were Cubs legends Billy Williams, Ryne Sandberg, Andre Dawson and Lee Smith. Fellow Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, B.C.) was also there, as was the Canadian ball hall’s director of operations, Scott Crawford.
-On Wednesday, Boston Red Sox right-hander Nick Pivetta (Victoria, B.C.) threw the first complete game of any Boston Red Sox pitcher this season when he limited the Houston Astros to one run on two hits in the Sox 5-1 win. The 29-year-old Victoria Eagles and Junior National Team alum struck out eight batters without issuing a walk. Pivetta has now allowed just two earned runs in 22 innings over his last three starts and has lowered his ERA from 7.84 to 4.22 ERA.
–Alex Speier, of The Boston Globe, reports that left-hander James Paxton (Ladner, B.C.) has not resumed throwing since suffering a setback in his rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery in the first week of May. The Canuck southpaw is experiencing elbow soreness. Earlier this year, Paxton had said he hoped to be pitching for the Red Sox before the All-Star break, but that now seems unlikely. Signed by the Red Sox in December, Paxton threw just 24 pitches in one start for the Seattle Mariners last season before undergoing Tommy John surgery. It was the second Tommy John procedure of his career. A North Delta Blue Jays and Junior National Team alum, the 33-year-old southpaw has pitched in parts of nine major league campaigns and owns a 57-33 record and a 3.59 ERA in 137 starts.
-Prior to the Blue Jays game at the Rogers Centre on Wednesday, the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame presented its 2021 Tip O’Neill Award and 2021 Jack Graney Award to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Montreal, Que.) and longtime National Post scribe John Lott respectively (See photo below). More details about the award winners can be found here.
-It was 30 years ago today that the Montreal Expos hired Felipe Alou to replace Tom Runnells as the team’s manager. It proved to be one of the most astute moves the club would ever make. The highly respected Alou had joined the Expos as an instructor in 1976 following a successful 18-year playing career. Born in Bajos de Haina, San Cristobal, D.R., Alou finally got his shot as the club’s big league bench boss after several successful managerial and coaching stints in the organization. In accepting the position, he became the first Dominican manager in major league history. In parts of 10 seasons as Expos manager, he accumulated a franchise-record 691 wins and had the Expos sitting in first-place in 1994 when the season was cancelled due to a players’ strike. After leaving the Expos, Alou worked as a bench coach with the Detroit Tigers in 2002, before serving as manager of the San Francisco Giants from 2003 to 2006. In 2006, he became the first Latin American manager to win 1,000 games in the big leagues.
-Please take a moment to remember Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Dick Fowler (Toronto, Ont.) who passed away 50 years ago today at the age of 51. Fowler was a lanky, golden-armed 18-year-old when he dazzled the the International League’s Toronto Maple Leafs brass at training camp in 1939. He debuted for his hometown squad in 1940, and Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics would purchase his contract later that same year. The 6-foot-5 hurler made his major league debut on September 13, 1941 and followed that up by pitching in 31 games for the Athletics the following year, including one start where he tossed 16 innings in a 1-0 loss. After his first full season in the majors, he was called for military duty and served in the Canadian Army for three years. In his first start upon his return, Fowler would no-hit the St. Louis Browns on September 9, 1945 and was the first Canadian to accomplish that feat. On an A’s staff that also boasted fellow Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer, Phil Marchildon, Fowler pitched eight consecutive complete games between July 10 and August 27, 1947. Battling through bursitis, the workhorse hurler tossed at least 14 complete games in each season from 1946 to 1949. During his 10-year big league career, he won 15 games twice (1948, 1949) and finished in the top 10 in shutouts three times (1947, 1948, 1949).
-Josh Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) returned to the Cleveland Guardians roster on Friday after a week on the COVID-19 list. The Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team alum, who began the season on the injured list after sustaining multiple leg fractures in an on-field collision with a teammate last June, had been red hot at the plate, equaling a Canadian big league record with eight RBIs in a game on May 9. Unfortunately on May 13, he was placed on the COVID-19 list after an outbreak on the Guardians. Naylor is likely to start for the Guardians today against the Tigers. He heads into the game batting a lofty .347 with five home runs and 22 RBIs in 20 games this season.
-Please take a moment to remember Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Ron Piche (Verdun, Que.) who would’ve turned 87 today. He passed away in 2011. It was Quebec baseball legend Roland Gladu who signed Piche, a hard-throwing right-hander, to a contract with the Milwaukee Braves in 1955. After minor league stops in Lawton, Eau Claire, Evansville, Jacksonville and Louisville, Piche made his big league debut on May 30, 1960. The Canadian right-hander excelled in a relief role with the Braves in his rookie campaign. Suiting up alongside Hank Aaron, Warren Spahn and Eddie Mathews, Piche finished 27 games and notched nine saves that season. He continued to be an effective option out of the Braves’ pen for the next three seasons. His finest season was in 1963, when he pitched in 37 games and recorded a career-best 3.40 ERA. He would also pitch for the California Angels (1965) and St. Louis Cardinals (1966). In parts of 16 minor league seasons, Piche recorded 130 wins and a 2.96 ERA. After retiring as a player, he became the Montreal Expos director of Canadian scouting from 1977 to 1985.
-This week’s trivia question: On top of Dick Fowler, the Philadelphia A’s had two other pitchers that were born in Ontario, Canada that had 15-win seasons for them between the 1945 and 1950 seasons. Name one of them. Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.
-The answer to last week’s trivia question (Jimy Williams would manage two other major league teams after he was fired by the Blue Jays. Name one of them. ) was one of the Boston Red Sox or the Houston Astros.