January 8, 2023
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
-It was 32 years ago today that Chatham, Ont., native Fergie Jenkins was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame to become the first Canadian player honoured by the Cooperstown shrine. The 6-foot-5 right-hander won 284 major league games during his 19-year career with the Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox that extended from 1965 to 1983. Jenkins posted six consecutive 20-win seasons from 1967 through 1972 and captured the National League Cy Young Award in 1971. He was also the first big league pitcher to finish their career with at least 3,000 strikeouts and fewer than 1,000 walks. He has since been joined in that exclusive club by Pedro Martinez, Greg Maddux and Curt Schilling. Jenkins was elected to the Hall of Fame in his third year of eligibility, along with mound contemporary Gaylord Perry and seven-time American League batting champion Rod Carew. In 2020, Canadian slugger Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) became the second Canadian elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
-Keeping with the Hall of Fame theme: It was 20 years ago today that Gary Carter was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his sixth year of eligibility. In 19 major league seasons – including 11 with the Montreal Expos – Carter was selected to play in 11 All-Star games, won three Gold Glove Awards, five Silver Slugger Awards and a World Series title with the New York Mets in 1986. He blasted 220 of his 324 big league home runs with the Expos. For his efforts, his No. 8 was retired by the club and he was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001. With his Cooperstown induction, he became the first honoree to be pictured in an Expos cap on their plaque. Andre Dawson (2010) and Tim Raines (2017) have since joined him.
-Cincinnati Reds slugger Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) told Tommy Thrall and Mark Sheldon on the Reds Hot Stove League radio show on Wednesday that he may not be ready for the beginning of spring training as he continues to recover from his left rotator cuff and bicep surgery that he had on August 19. “It’s going to take time, I’m realizing now,” Votto said. “I just started hitting off a machine a little bit, but it’s not quite there. I’ve been told by people that I’m doing very well in my rehab, but there is a difference between doing well and being ready for a major league game, if that makes sense.” The 39-year-old Votto underwent the surgery just four days after playing his 1,989th major league game which broke Walker’s record for most games played by a Canadian. Votto batted .205 with 11 home runs in 91 games in 2022. The 16-season veteran has one year left on his contract with the Reds (with a team option for 2024).
-Happy 42nd Birthday to North Delta, B.C., native and Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Jeff Francis! The 6-foot-5 left-hander registered 72 wins in his 11-year big league career that saw him toe the rubber for the Colorado Rockies, Kansas City Royals, Reds, Oakland A’s, New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays. He won at least 13 games in three consecutive seasons for the Rockies from 2005 to 2007 and he became the second Canadian pitcher to start a World Series game when he got the nod for the Rockies in Game 1 of the 2007 World Series. He was also a member of Canada’s gold medal-winning Pan Am Games team in 2015, became the eighth member of Baseball Canada’s Wall of Excellence in 2016 and was elected into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2022.
-Please take a moment to remember Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Reno Bertoia who would’ve turned 88 today. Born in Italy, Bertoia moved with his family to Windsor, Ont. when he was just 18 months old. With fellow Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer, Father Ronald Cullen, as his coach and mentor, Bertoia developed into a local baseball star and top big league prospect while playing at Assumption High School. On August 31, 1953, he inked a deal with the Detroit Tigers that included an $11,000 signing bonus. Bertoia was added to the Tigers’ roster almost immediately and would room with future Hall of Famer Al Kaline. Bertoia’s best season was in 1957 when thanks to a torrid early stretch, he was leading the American League with a .383 batting average on May 16. In 1959, after being dealt to the Washington Senators, Bertoia clubbed a career-high eight homers. He followed that up by recording seven triples (third in the American League) and 13 sacrifice hits (fifth in the league) in 1960. In all, the smooth-fielding Windsor native competed in parts of 10 major league seasons. After hanging up the spikes, he taught in Windsor and scouted for the Tigers and the Blue Jays. He was elected to the Windsor-Essex County Sports Hall of Fame in 1982 and the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1988. He passed away in 2011.
-Speaking of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, they have added a pair of cleats that Jared Young (Prince George, B.C.) wore in his first major league season with the Cubs. Young made his major league debut with the Cubs on September 16. Batting sixth and playing first base, he recorded his first big league hit when he doubled off Colorado Rockies reliever Justin Lawrence in the eighth inning of the Cubs’ 2-1 win at Wrigley Field. The 27-year-old Canuck proceeded to go 5-for-19 (.263 batting average) in six games for the Cubs. Young also batted .230 with 17 home runs in 109 games at triple-A Iowa in 2022.
-It caught many of us by surprise when the Miami Marlins designated Charles Leblanc (Laval, Que.) for assignment on Wednesday after they signed veteran infielder Jean Segura to a two-year contract. The Marlins will now have until this Wednesday to trade Leblanc or attempt to pass him through waivers. The 26-year-old Canuck has three minor league option years remaining. This means that any team that claims him and includes him on their 40-man roster can freely move him between the majors and triple-A for that three-season term. Leblanc received his first promotion to the big leagues on July 29 when he was called up by the Marlins. Prior to his call-up, he was batting .302 with 14 home runs and 45 RBIs in 87 games and was leading the triple-A Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp with 96 hits and a .381 on-base percentage (OBP). For his efforts, he was named team MVP following the season. With the Marlins, Leblanc played 26 games at second base, 13 at third base and eight at first base. In total, in 48 big league games, he batted .263 with four home runs, 10 doubles and 12 walks.
-Happy 56th Birthday to former Montreal Expos pitcher and Hamilton, Ont., native Matt Maysey! Maysey posted a combined 5.55 ERA in 25 appearances with the Expos and Milwaukee Brewers in 1992 and 1993. A fun fact about Maysey shared with me by Wisconsin sports writer David Schultz is that Maysey was the last Brewers pitcher to record a hit in a game while they were still an American League team when he singled in the 13th inning on August 24, 1993. The Brewers moved to the National League in 1998. I also recently learned, thanks to fellow Canadian baseball historian Tyler Partridge, that Maysey is the stepfather of Red Sox catcher Connor Wong. Wong batted .188 in 27 games for the Red Sox in 2022.
-Congratulations to former Blue Jays second baseman Homer Bush who has been named the manager of the Staten Island FerryHawks of the independent Atlantic League. A sure-handed second baseman, Bush played three of his seven major league seasons with the Blue Jays after coming over from the Yankees with David Wells and Graeme Lloyd in a trade for Roger Clemens on February 19, 1999. Bush proceeded to bat .320 and had 155 hits and 32 stolen bases in 128 games for the Blue Jays in 1999. He played parts of three other seasons with the Yankees and won a World Series ring with them in 1998. Since hanging up his playing spikes, Bush has embarked on a successful executive and coaching career. In 2014, he served as the hitting instructor for the class-A Eugene Emeralds in the San Diego Padres organization. Two years later, he worked as the Texas Rangers Director of Youth Baseball Programs. In 2021, Bush was the league coordinator for the Appalachian League, while doubling as a hitting coach for the USA Baseball Prospect Development Pipeline League. Last year, he managed the Mahoning Valley Scrappers of the MLB Draft League.
-This week’s trivia question: Who was the only Montreal Expos pitcher to win 20 games in a season? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.
-The answer to last week’s trivia question (There have been four Canadians that have played for both the Montreal Expos and Toronto Blue Jays. Name two of them.) was any two of Denis Boucher (Lachine, Que.), Rob Ducey (Cambridge, Ont.), Shawn Hill (Georgetown, Ont.) and Matt Stairs (Fredericton, N.B.).