But What Do I Know? . . . Terry Puhl, Rob Thomson, Scott Thorman, John Gibbons

October 30, 2022

By Kevin Glew

Cooperstowners in Canada

My weekly Canadian baseball news and notes:

-Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee and former Houston Astros outfielder Terry Puhl (Melville, Sask.) threw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Game 1 of the World Series at Minute Maid Park. I’m going to go out on a limb and say he’s the first Canadian ex-big leaguer to throw out the first pitch at Game 1 of the World Series. Forty-two years ago, Puhl set a then National League Championship Series record with 10 hits in 19 at bats (.526 batting average) in the Astros’ epic five-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies. That was the only other time the two teams have faced each other in the postseason. The Phillies ultimately prevailed, but four of the five games went into extra innings. Puhl was asked in an interview on Tuesday if the outcome of that 1980 NLCS still haunts him. “You bet it’s painful today,” responded Puhl. He says whenever they rerun that series on ESPN Classic he can’t watch it. “We lose every time,” he said. You can listen to him talk about that series here.

-Phillies Canadian manager Rob Thomson (Corunna, Ont.) has his underdog team within three victories of winning the World Series. I’ve written a lot about Thomson over the past few weeks. You can read more about his success as the Phillies manager here. But one thing I learned this week about Thomson, thanks to this article by Tara Jeffrey at the Sarnia Journal, is that you can go to Antonio’s Pizza in his hometown of Corunna during this World Series and order the “Rob Thomson Philly Special.” The restaurant is located on the site of Thomson’s childhood home, which was lost in a fire years ago. Also, the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont., has expanded its Thomson exhibit for the World Series (See below). They are open today if you want to see it in person.

A taste of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s expanded Rob Thomson exhibit. Photo: Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame

-With Thomson’s success and popularity with the Phillies, the debate now becomes which of the following Canadian Phillies t-shirts is better (See photo below)? The “Use Stairs in Case of Emergency” t-shirt paying tribute Phillies postseason hero Matt Stairs (Fredericton, N.B.) or the “I’m With Philly Rob” t-shirt that’s a nod to Thomson (See below). Stairs played parts of two of his 19 major league seasons with the Phils. He’ll never have to buy another beer in the city thanks to his clutch pinch-hit, two-run home run with two outs in the eighth inning off Dodgers Jonathan Broxton to break a 5-5 tie in Game 4 of the 2008 NLCS.

Anne Rogers, of MLB.com, reported on Tuesday that Scott Thorman (Cambridge, Ont.) was one of the candidates interviewed by the Kansas City Royals for their field manager position. Thorman managed the Royals’ triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers to a 71-78 record this season. But prior to that, he had guided Royals’ affiliates to three straight championships. In 2021, Thorman, who played parts of two major league seasons with the Atlanta Braves in 2006 and 2007, managed the Northwest Arkansas Naturals to a double-A Central championship. In 2018 and 2019, he piloted the class-A Lexington Legends and High-A Wilmington Blue Rocks to titles respectively. His minor league managerial resume is remarkably similar to that of current Blue Jays manager John Schneider. Rogers reports that Vance Wilson and Tampa Bay Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro have also interviewed for the Royals job. According to multiple reports, Dodgers first base coach and former Vancouver Canadians manager Clayton McCullough has also been interviewed.

-I’m surprised that Windsor, Ont., native Stubby Clapp isn’t in the mix for the Royals manager’s job (at least that I’ve heard). Kansas City is not far from St. Louis, where Clapp has served as the Cardinals’ first base coach for the past four seasons. Prior to that, he managed the triple-A Memphis Redbirds to back-to-back Pacific Coast League championships in 2017 and 2018. He was also a key contributor to the Junior National Team that won gold at the World Youth Baseball Championships in Brandon, Man., in 1991 and he was later a coach on both of Canada’s Senior National Teams that captured gold at the Pan Am Games (2011, 2015).  He was one of the favourites for the Cardinals’ field manager’s job before they hired Oliver Marmol prior to the 2022 season. Then again, with Cardinals’ bench coach Skip Schumaker leaving this week to become manager of the Miami Marlins, Clapp seems a perfect candidate to take over as the Cardinals bench coach.

-Speaking of the Marlins’ managerial job, Jon Morosi, of the MLB Network, reported on October 22 that John Gibbons was one of the candidates that the Marlins interviewed. Gibbons hasn’t managed in the big leagues since 2018 when he completed his second stint with the Blue Jays. In recent months, Gibbons has become a social media star, launching his Twitter and Instagram accounts, as well as his own podcast.

-Please take a moment to remember former Pittsburgh Pirates southpaw and Zealandia, Sask. native Lefty Wilkie who was born on this date in 1914. After honing his skills in the semipro ranks in Western Canada, he pitched parts of three big league seasons with the Pirates (1941-42 and 1946) and posted an 8-11 record and a 4.59 ERA in 68 games. He then toed the rubber in triple-A for three seasons before completing his career with one-year tenures with the class-B Victoria Athletics in 1950 and Salem Senators in 1951. For his efforts, he was one of the inaugural inductees of the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985. He passed away in 1992.

-Who is the only player to be an all-star for the Montreal Expos and the Toronto Blue Jays? The answer is Ron Fairly who passed away three years ago today at the age of 81. Born in Macon, Ga., but raised in Long Beach, Calif., the left-handed hitting Fairly was signed by the Dodgers in 1958. He would play parts of 12 seasons with the Dodgers and collect three World Series rings (1959, 1963, 1965). On June 11, 1969, Fairly was dealt to the Expos with Paul Popovich for Maury Wills and Manny Mota. The outfielder/first baseman proceeded to bat .289 and post a .358 on-base percentage (OBP) and belt 12 home runs in 70 games for the Expos in their inaugural season. Four years later, he enjoyed his best campaign with the Expos, batting .298, socking 17 home runs and recording a .422 OBP. That season he had 86 walks and struck out just 33 times and was named to the National League All-Star team. After parts of six seasons with the Expos, Fairly was swapped to the St. Louis Cardinals for minor league infielders Rudy Kinard and Ed Kurpiel. He hit .289 in 180 games with the Cardinals before his contract with purchased by the Oakland A’s on September 14, 1976. Fairly played just 15 games with the A’s prior to being dealt to the Blue Jays on February 24, 1977 for minor leaguer Mike Weathers. When the 39-year-old Fairly suited up for the Blue Jays in 1977, it made him the first – and only – big leaguer to play for both the Expos and the Blue Jays in their inaugural seasons. Hitting in the middle of the order for the Blue Jays, Fairly was one of the club’s only consistent offensive threats in their first season that saw them lose 107 games. In 132 contests for the Blue jays, he batted .279 and set a career-high with 19 home runs and became the first Blue Jay selected to the All-Star game. Following the 1977 campaign, the Blue Jays dealt Fairly to the California Angels, where he batted .217 in 89 contests to close out his playing career. In all, in 2,442 big league games spanning 21 seasons, Fairly batted .266 with 215 home runs.

-I’m not sure how many times I have come across this 1973 Topps Pat Corrales baseball card, but it wasn’t until recently that I noticed the player that had collided with Corrales was Canadian baseball legend Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.). So not only was Jenkins an outstanding right-hander and great hitting pitcher, he could also be an aggressive baserunner.

-If you’re a Canadian baseball history buff (like me), mark November 12th and 13th on your calendar. Longtime Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame volunteer and co-founder of the Centre for Canadian Baseball Research Andrew North has announced that the fifth annual Canadian Baseball History Conference will take place in Windsor, Ont., on those dates. This year’s event, which will again be organized by Andrew, will include two days of interesting presentations on Canadian baseball history. For more information and for a complete list of the presentations, you can click on this link. The registration fee is $90. To register, please email Andrew at mavrix247@gmail.com.

-This week’s trivia question: I’ve mentioned two Saskatchewan-born major leaguers in this column in Puhl and Wilkie. Name another former big league player that was born in Saskatchewan. Please provide your answer in the Comments section below.

– The answer to last week’s trivia question (Who holds the Toronto Blue Jays’ record for most triples in a season?) was Tony Fernandez with 17 in 1990.

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6 thoughts on “But What Do I Know? . . . Terry Puhl, Rob Thomson, Scott Thorman, John Gibbons

Add yours

  1. That is so great for Terry! First pitch at the first WS game! So cool.
    Thanks for the great info Kevin. Always a joy to read.

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