But What Do I Know? . . . Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Jack Graney, Paul Beeston, Dave Stieb

July 22, 2022

By Kevin Glew

Cooperstowners in Canada

You are receiving my weekly column of Canadian baseball news and notes on Friday this week because I have a commitment on Sunday. Hope you have a great weekend!

-For me, the best moment of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game on Tuesday was when Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Montreal, Que.) held up an “I Stand For Cancer” sign with the names of Blue Jays broadcasters Buck Martinez and Jamie Campbell on it after the fifth inning during the broadcast. Martinez has taken a leave from the Blue Jays to receive cancer treatments, while Campbell has continued on Blue Jays Central while receiving treatments and bravely battling leukemia. It was a thoughtful and touching gesture by Guerrero Jr.

Photo: Toronto Blue Jays/Twitter

– St. Thomas, Ont., native and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Jack Graney will be honoured posthumously with the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s 2022 Ford C. Frick Award in a ceremony tomorrow in Cooperstown. The award, which is handed out annually for major contributions to broadcasting, will be presented as part of the Hall of Fame Awards Presentation. With the honour, Graney becomes the first winner of the award to have been born in Canada. Graney’s big league resume boasts a number of firsts. When Graney walked to the plate in a game against the Boston Red Sox on July 11, 1914, he became the first batter to face Babe Ruth. Almost two years later, on June 26, 1916, he would be the first major leaguer to bat wearing a number on his uniform. After parts of 14 major league seasons, mostly as an outfielder and scrappy leadoff hitter, Graney became the first ex-player to make the transition to the broadcast booth, performing radio play-by-play for Cleveland from 1932 to 1953. The St. Thomas, Ont., native called the World Series for a national audience in 1935 and also broadcast that year’s All-Star Game in Cleveland. Graney passed away on April 20, 1978. He was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame six years later. The Canadian ball shrine now presents an annual award named in his honour to a media member who has made a significant contribution to the game of baseball in Canada through their life’s work.

-It was 25 years ago today that longtime Toronto Blue Jays executive Paul Beeston (Welland, Ont.) was named the first chief operating officer (COO) of Major League Baseball. He would work in this position for five years. Prior to this role, Beeston was, of course, a legendary executive with the Blue Jays. Hired by the Blue Jays on May 10, 1976, he was initially the club’s vice-president of administration before being promoted to vice-president of business operations the following year. His rise through the Blue Jays’ ranks continued when he was named executive vice-president of business in 1984 and president and chief operating officer in 1989. On December 13, 1991, he was appointed the chief executive officer of the franchise, overseeing the Blue Jays’ two World Series-winning teams. For his efforts, he was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002 and his name was added to the Blue Jays’ Level of Excellence at Rogers Centre in 2008.

-Want to feel old? Longtime Blue Jays ace Dave Stieb turns 65 today. An All-American outfielder when the Blue Jays selected him in the 1978 amateur draft, Stieb evolved into the most successful pitcher in franchise history. With his focus solely on the mound, Stieb rocketed through the Blue Jays’ system and made his big league debut on June 29, 1979. After winning 17 games and setting club records by tossing 288 1/3 innings, 19 complete games and five shutouts, Stieb was named The Sporting News Pitcher of the Year in 1982. The intense righty would top the American League in innings (267) again in 1984, en route to a 16-8 season. Embracing his role as ace on the Blue Jays’ first division-winning squad in 1985, Stieb topped the American League with a 2.48 ERA and started three games in the American League Championship Series. He followed that up with three more seasons of 15 or more wins. In all, Stieb was selected to seven All-Star games and was named the Blue Jays Pitcher of the Year five times. After several near misses, the workhorse hurler tossed the only no-hitter in Blue Jays’ history on September 2, 1990. Stieb is also the Blue Jays’ all-time leader in numerous pitching categories, including wins (175), innings pitched (2,873), strikeouts (1,658), complete games (103) and shutouts (30). For his efforts, he was added to the Blue Jays Level of Excellence in 1996 and elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005.

-Longtime Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown on Sunday. If it felt like he hit a lot of home runs against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, that’s because he did. In fact, no opposing player has clubbed more than his 41 round-trippers at the Blue Jays’ home stadium.

-One of my favourite tweets (See below) this year was from former Blue Jays pitching prospect Shane Dawson (Drayton Valley, Alta.). After being selected in the 17th round of the MLB draft by the Blue Jays in 2012, Dawson spent parts of six seasons in the organization. The young lefty had the opportunity to face Big Papi in a pre-season exhibition game at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on April 2, 2016. Click on the tweet below to see footage of what happened.

-It was on this date in 1880 that Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee George “Mooney” Gibson was born in London, Ont. Gibson was a standout catcher on his hometown London squad in the 1901 Canadian League before he inked a deal with the Eastern League’s Montreal Royals in 1904. In the middle of the 1905 campaign, the Pittsburgh Pirates purchased the rights to Gibson from the Royals. The rifle-armed catcher would play 12 seasons in Steel Town and evolve into one of baseball’s most reliable defensive backstops. In 1909, he caught 133 consecutive games (then a major league record) and led the league in fielding percentage and putouts. Gibson also limited Ty Cobb to two stolen bases in his team’s World Series upset of the Detroit Tigers that season. In 1914, Gibson hit a career-high .285 for the Pirates. He would play two more seasons in Pittsburgh before being claimed on waivers by the New York Giants in 1916. In all, the gritty Canadian catcher played 1,213 games in parts of 14 major league seasons. After retiring as a player, he managed the Pirates from 1920 to 1923 and again from 1932 to 1934. In between, he served as the skipper of the Chicago Cubs in 1925. Until Rob Thomson (Corunna, Ont.) was named manager of the Philadelphia Phillies this season, Gibson had been the last Canadian to be a full-time big league manager. Whenever I write about Gibson, my first instinct is still to copy my fellow Canadian baseball junkie Marty Healy on it. He, along with Richard Armstrong, wrote a fantastic book about Gibson that was published in 2020. Unfortunately, Marty passed away that same year. I still miss him.

-Marquis Grissom Jr. was selected by the Washington Nationals in the 13th round (381st overall) in the MLB draft. Although it’s still difficult to acknowledge this, the Montreal Expos became the Nationals in 2005. So Grissom Jr. was drafted by the same team as his father, who was chosen by the Expos in the third round in 1988. Unlike his father, however, who was a fleet-footed, five-tool outfielder, Grissom Jr. is a right-handed pitcher who posted a 4-5 record with a 5.75 ERA in 18 appearances, including 14 starts at Georgia Tech this season. He had 57 strikeouts in 61 innings.

-Please take a moment to remember former Expos pitcher Scott Sanderson who would’ve turned 66 today. He passed away after a long battle with larynx cancer in 2019. After being selected in the third round of the 1977 MLB amateur draft by the Expos, Sanderson would pitch the first six seasons of his MLB career with the club. His finest season was 1980 when he posted a 16-11 record with a 3.11 ERA and tossed seven complete games in 211 1/3 innings in 33 starts. The 6-foot-5 right-hander was also a key member of the Expos’ rotation the following year when the club advanced to the postseason, registering a 2.95 ERA in 22 regular season starts. After the 1983 campaign, the Expos dealt Sanderson to the Chicago Cubs and he spent six seasons at Wrigley before closing out his career with stops with the Oakland A’s, New York Yankees, California Angels, San Francisco Giants and Chicago White Sox. In all, he won 163 games in 19 big league seasons. After he hung up his playing spikes, he became a widely respected player agent.

-My Canadian baseball trivia question will return next week.

–The answer to last week’s trivia question (What is the name of the player born in Canada that has been selected the highest in the MLB draft over the years? ) was Adam Loewen (Surrey, B.C), who was selected fourth overall in 2002.

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