But What Do I Know? . . . Rob Thomson, Jack Graney Award, Matt Brash, Mike Johnson

The winner of the 2022 Jack Graney Award will be announced on Thursday. Photo: Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame

November 27, 2022

By Kevin Glew

Cooperstowners in Canada

My weekly Canadian baseball news and notes:

-Rob Thomson (Corunna, Ont.), who managed the Philadelphia Phillies to a National League pennant this season, is back in Sebringville, Ont., his off-season home. He visited the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame on Thursday and donated a hat and one of the sweatshirts he wore in the 2022 World Series. A great article about Thomson written by Matt Gelb was published on The Athletic this week. The article shares that Thomson, the Phils bench coach at the time, told manager Joe Girardi and Phillies assistant GM Ned Rice after the 2021 season that he planned to retire following the 2022 campaign. Believing it would be his final season, Thomson asked for the lineup card from the Phillies’ final spring training game. But as we know, there was a dramatic change of plans. When the Phillies slumped to a 22-29 start, they fired Girardi and replaced him with Thomson on June 3. The Canuck skipper proceeded to lead the Phillies to a 65-46 regular season record and a Fall Classic berth. Thomson signed a two-year contract extension during the postseason.

-Speaking of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, the 2022 Jack Graney Award winner will be announced on Thursday. This award is presented annually to a member of the media who has made significant contributions to the game of baseball in Canada through their life’s work. Last year’s winner was John Lott, longtime baseball writer for The National Post and The Athletic. Previous winners include Tom Cheek, Jerry Howarth, Bob Elliott, Alison Gordon and Dan Shulman. For a complete list of the past winners, click here.

Spikes that Matt Brash (Kingston, Ont.) has donated to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. Photo: Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame

-The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame has added a pair of spikes that right-hander Matt Brash (Kingston, Ont.) wore for the Seattle Mariners during the 2022 season to their collection. After beginning the campaign in the Mariners’ rotation, Brash was successfully converted into a reliever. During one 16-game stretch from August 17 to September 24, the Canuck right-hander did not allow a run. In total, after joining the M’s bullpen on July 9, the 24-year-old righty registered a 2.35 ERA in 34 appearances and struck out 43 batters in 30 2/3 innings. In a combined 39 appearances (including five starts), he posted a 4-4 record with a 4.44 ERA and struck out 62 batters in 50 2/3 innings. He also tossed 3 1/3 scoreless innings in the postseason.

-The National Baseball Hall of Fame unveiled its 2023 Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot on Monday. Two former players who suited up for the Blue Jays – R.A. Dickey and Jayson Werth – are new to the ballot. Meanwhile, ex-Jays Scott Rolen, Jeff Kent, Omar Vizquel and Mark Buehrle are returnees. Rolen, whose name was checked on 63.2 per cent of the writers’ ballots (75 per cent is required for election) last year, figures to have the best chance of being elected. This will be Kent’s 10th and final year on the ballot. He garnered 32.7 per cent support last year.

-Congratulations to former big league pitcher, national team alum and longtime coach and instructor Mike Johnson (Edmonton, Alta.) who has been elected to the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame. Selected in the 17th round of the 1993 MLB draft by the Blue Jays, the 6-foot-2 right-hander pitched parts of four minor league seasons in the Blue Jays’ organization before he was chosen in the Rule 5 draft in 1996 by the San Francisco Giants who then sold his contract to the Baltimore Orioles. He made his big league debut with the O’s in 1997 before being dealt to the Montreal Expos at the trade deadline. He proceeded to pitch parts of five seasons with the Expos. He continued to toe the rubber in the professional ranks until 2010. His best season came with the La New Bears of the Chinese Professional Baseball League in 2008 when he went 20-2 with a 2.45 ERA in 27 appearances (26 starts) spanning 183 2/3 innings. Johnson was also a member of the Canadian national team that won gold at the 2011 Pan Am Games. Since hanging up his playing spikes, he has become a highly respected coach in his home province and is the director of the Parkland Baseball Academy.

-Please take a moment to remember former Kansas City A’s pitcher, Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee and Charlottetown, P.E.I. native Vern Handrahan (photo above) who would’ve turned 86 today. He passed away in 2016. Handrahan was the third player from P.E.I. to reach the majors. In total, the 6-foot-2 right-hander played 12 seasons of professional baseball from 1959 to 1970, including eight in triple-A and in the major leagues for the Kansas City A’s in 1964 and 1966. He finished his pro career with a 3.81 ERA in 1,447 innings in 399 appearances. Handrahan continued to coach baseball at various levels after his retirement.

-Fifty-nine years ago today, Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Pete Ward (Montreal, Que.) finished second in the American League Rookie of the Year voting to his Chicago White Sox teammate Gary Peters. In 157 games in 1963, Ward batted .295 with 22 home runs and 84 RBIs and finished second in the American League in hits (177) and total bases (289). But that still wasn’t enough to top Peters, a left-hander who went 19-8 with a 2.33 ERA in 41 appearances (33 starts) for the Sox. That was as close as a Canadian would come to winning a top rookie award in the majors until 2004 when Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Jason Bay (Trail, B.C.) captured the National League honours.

-On this date 52 years ago, Expos right-hander Carl Morton was named National League Rookie of the Year. He became the first Expo to win the award. In his first full major league season, Morton went 18-11 with a 3.60 ERA and pitched a whopping 284 2/3 innings in 43 appearances (37 starts). He also tossed 10 complete games and four shutouts. Cincinnati Reds outfielder Bernie Carbo finished second in the voting, while Phillies shortstop Larry Bowa and Houston Astros outfielder Cesar Cedeno finished third and fourth respectively.

-The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame is holding their annual Holiday Silent Auction. There are dozens of exciting items up for bids, including autographed bats and balls from current Blue Jays and Canadian stars. You can also bid on an opportunity to have dinner with ex-Blue Jays GM Gord Ash or to get pitching lessons from former Colorado Rockies left-hander Jeff Francis. You can view the items and bid here.

-This week’s trivia question: As noted earlier Carl Morton was the first Expos player to win the National League Rookie of the Year award. Who was the second Expos player to win it? Please provide your answer in the Comments section below.

– The answer to last week’s trivia question (Matt Stairs played for both the Montreal Expos and Toronto Blue Jays during his major league career. He also played for two Canadian triple-A affiliated minor league teams. Can you name one of them?) was either the Edmonton Trappers or the Ottawa Lynx.

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