*This is my (Steve) Christmas card to you. I wish you joy this holiday season and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support of this blog. I found out on Thursday that I was the winner of Baseball Canada’s Bob Elliott Media Recognition Award. You can read more about the award here. I was both completely surprised and deeply honoured when I learned I was the recipient. To receive an award named after Bob Elliott – someone whom I respect so deeply – is an absolute honour. Thank you so much to Baseball Canada. I have received many congratulatory messages and have tried to respond to each personally, but if somehow I missed you, I want to apologize and say thank you.
I wish you and your family all the best during the holidays.
P.S. More on Steve Christmas below.
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
The most disappointing thing about the only major league player to have the last name “Christmas” is that he was not born on December 25.
Former Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs catcher Steve Christmas entered the world 16 days prior to that magical date in 1957.
And almost as disappointing is the fact that he was born in balmy Orlando, Fla. I wasn’t expecting the North Pole, but I was hoping he had at least been raised in Michigan or Wisconsin.
But much like jolly old Saint Nick, Steve Christmas has become somewhat of a mysterious figure. I can’t seem to find definitive contact information for him on social media, although I suspect this LinkedIn profile (which would make him a Business Development Manager for Matthew Roberts Air Conditioning & Heating in Orlando) might be him.
Sports Card Forum, one of the best sites for former players’ addresses, lists him as living in Chuluota, Fla., (about 22 miles northwest of Orlando) but no autograph seeker has successfully received a reply from Christmas at that address.
A Google search of Christmas produces his baseball statistics and little else and almost nothing has been written about him since he played his final major league game on April 28, 1986.
In all, Christmas batted .162 in 24 big league games over parts of three seasons between 1983 and 1986.
Of course, on this blog, my goal is to uncover Canadian connections to a player, but for Christmas I’d be stretching it to say that there are any. He competed in two of his 24 major league contests against the Montreal Expos when he was with the Cubs, but both of those were played at Wrigley Field. In his second-last MLB game, on April 27, 1986, he pinch-hit for outfielder Bob Dernier in the eighth inning and hit a two-run double off Expos closer Jeff Reardon which sparked a five-run rally and a comeback 12-10 win for the Cubs.
The only other potential Canadian connection I could find is that he might have been a teammate of right-hander Gordie Pladson (New Westminster, B.C.) on the triple-A Tucson Toros in 1983. Christmas played 48 games for the Toros that season and Pladson made five appearances. But newspaper accounts seem to indicate that by the time Pladson began pitching with the Toros in mid-August, Christmas had moved on to the triple-A Indianapolis Indians.
But all is not lost. I’ve devoted a lot of time to researching Steve Christmas over the years and here are a few interesting tidbits that I found out about him:
– He made his MLB debut on September 1, 1983 with the Reds. Christmas was a catcher and 1983 was Hall of Famer Johnny Bench’s final MLB season. By this time, Bench was primarily playing third base, but it must have been a thrill to share a clubhouse with the legend.
-Christmas enjoyed his longest big league tenure (12 games) with the White Sox in 1984 where he briefly served as the backup to another Hall of Fame catcher — Carlton Fisk.
-He spent the bulk of the 1986 season with the triple-A Iowa Cubs where he would’ve caught a promising 20-year-old right-hander named Greg Maddux. In Iowa that season, Maddux went 10-1 with a 3.02 ERA in 18 starts before receiving his first big league call-up that September.
Some Canadian Baseball Christmas Trivia . . .
-Rickey Henderson is the most famous former Toronto Blue Jay born on Christmas Day. The Hall of Famer and all-time stolen base champ was born on December 25, 1958. The “Man of Steal” had a .356 on-base percentage and swiped 22 bases in 44 games after being acquired by the Blue Jays in their 1993 World Series-winning season. Former Blue Jays coaches, Bruce Walton and Marty Pevey, who both played briefly with the Expos, were born on Christmas Day in 1962.
-On top of Walton and Pevey, three other ex-Expos were also born on Christmas Day: Manny Trillo – whose full name is Jesus Manuel Marcano Trillo – (1950), Charlie Lea (1956) and Wallace Johnson (1956).
-Adopted Canadian Scott Bullett turn 54 on this Christmas Day. Born in Martinsburg, West Virginia in 1968, Bullett now lives in Welland, Ont., and operates the Bullett Proof Baseball Academy. He suited up for 247 games in parts of four major league seasons between 1991 and 1996 with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cubs.
Other Canadian baseball notes:
-Congratulations to Vauxhall Jets alum Damiano Palmegiani (Surrey, B.C.) and Ontario Blue Jays grad Dasan Brown (Oakville, Ont.) who were named to the Toronto Blue Jays Organization All-Star Team by MILB.com. Both are graduates of the Junior National Team program. Palmegiani was named third baseman on the Organization Team after he belted a combined 24 home runs and drove in 83 in 118 games between Low-A Dunedin and High-A Vancouver. The 21-year-old Brown also enjoyed a breakout season, posting a combined .383 on-base percentage and stealing 24 bases at three different levels: Rookie-Ball, Low-A Dunedin and High-A Vancouver. The speedy Canadian claimed one of the outfield positions on the Organization Team.
-Congratulations to Saskatoon Diamondbacks and Team Saskatchewan alum Nolan Machibroda (Saskatoon, Sask.) who signed a minor league contract with the Minnesota Twins this week. The 23-year-old first basemen enjoyed a monster 2022 season with the NAIA’s Cumberland Phoenix, hitting .460, while clubbing 17 home runs and driving in 83, in just 47 games. The 6-foot-4 prospect also won the Western Canadian Baseball League All-Star Game Home Run Derby at Seaman Stadium in Okotoks, Alta., in July. This summer, Machibroda starred with the WCBL’s Weyburn Beavers, hitting .287 with seven home runs and 44 RBIs in 55 games and was named team MVP for his efforts.
-All the best to Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame Jack Graney Award winner Richard Griffin who will not be returning to the Toronto Blue Jays media relations department this season. Born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1954, Griffin fell in love with baseball when he began listening to World Series games on the radio on the north shore of the island in the early ’60s. His parents moved to Montreal in 1963, where Griffin graduated with from Loyola High School before attending Concordia University. He secured his first job in Major League Baseball with the Expos while he was still a student at Concordia in 1973. He rose through the Expos’ ranks to become director of publicity in 1978 and he soon garnered a reputation as one of the best in the business at working with reporters, players and broadcasters. While employed by the Expos, he also volunteered in a public relations role for the commissioner’s office for 17 playoffs and World Series. For his efforts, he was named the recipient of the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Robert O. Fishel Award in 1992. This award is handed out annually to an individual who best exemplifies public relations excellence in Major League Baseball. When Expos radio play-by-play man Dave Van Horne shifted to the club’s TV telecasts, Griffin stepped into the radio booth and broadcast games for the club from 1985 to 1994. During the 1994 season, which saw the Expos leading the National League East by six games when a player strike wiped out the rest of the campaign, Griffin hosted a post-game radio show. After that devastating season, Griffin decided to take his career in another direction, and on February 13, 1995, he was hired to be the Toronto Star’s baseball columnist. He served in that capacity for 23 years prior to being named the Blue Jays’ director of media in January 2019.
-According to BetOnline (www.BetOnline.ag), the Canadian national team heads into the 2023 World Baseball Classic as 40-1 underdogs to win the tournament. The U.S. (5-2) and the Dominican Republic (11-4) are the favourites, while the Czech Republic and Nicaragua are the biggest longshots to win at 125-1 odds.
-Toronto Blue Jays’ newly acquired outfielder/catcher Daulton Varsho is, indeed, named after former Philadephia Phillies catcher Darren Daulton. Varsho’s father, Gary, played 576 big league games in parts of eight seasons, including the 1995 campaign with Daulton on the Philadelphia Phillies. “Kay and I really really adored Darren and (Darren’s wife at the time) Nicole, and we grew very close to them. It’s really special when and how people enter at certain times on your journey through life,” Gary Varsho told the Marshfield News Herald in 2017. A three-time All-Star catcher, Darren Daulton had 137 home runs in 1,161 games in 14 major league seasons. He passed away in 2017 at the age of 55 after a courageous battle with brain cancer.
-Answer to last week’s trivia question: (Two Canadians have played for Canada in all four World Baseball Classics that have taken place. Name one of them.) was was either Justin Morneau (New Westminster, B.C.) or Pete Orr (Newmarket, Ont.).