February 1, 2023
Official Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame News Release
St. Marys, Ont. – Two former big league pitchers, a legendary Toronto Blue Jays outfielder and a grassroots coach and executive who has devoted seven decades to baseball have been elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
Former Montreal Expos left-hander Denis Boucher (Montreal, Que.), ex-Oakland A’s right-hander Rich Harden (Victoria, B.C.) and rifle-armed ex-Blue Jays right fielder Jesse Barfield will be inducted in a ceremony at the Hall of Fame grounds in St. Marys, Ont., on June 17. Longtime Manitoba baseball coach and executive Joe Wiwchar will also be inducted.
“Each of this year’s inductees has had a significant impact on the game of baseball in Canada in their own distinct way,” said Jeremy Diamond, chair of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s board of directors. “We’re proud and excited to celebrate their outstanding careers in St. Marys this June.”
The four new inductees will be honoured alongside former Blue Jays first baseman John Olerud and legendary Montreal Expos broadcaster Jacques Doucet who were elected in 2020 but have not been able to attend the ceremony.
2023 Inductee Bios
After being selected in the ninth round of the major league draft by the Blue Jays in 1977, Jesse Barfield would spend parts of five seasons in the minors before making his major league debut on September 3, 1981. Just three days later, he’d belt his first big league home run – a two-run shot off Chicago White Sox left-hander Britt Burns in the fifth inning of a Blue Jays’ 3-2 win at Comiskey Park.
Starting in 1982, Barfield became the club’s regular right fielder and he not only showcased power at the plate, but one of the greatest throwing arms in big league history from right field. On April 24, 1982, he became the first Blue Jay to hit a pinch-hit grand slam when he did so in the bottom of the eighth inning at Exhibition Stadium off Boston Red Sox left-hander Tom Burgmeier. It was one of his 18 home runs that season, which helped him earn Blue Jays Rookie of the Year honours.
For an encore, Barfield clubbed 27 home runs in 1983, his first of six 20-home run seasons. Two years later, the right-handed hitting slugger helped lead the Blue Jays to their first American League East title when he had 27 home runs, 22 stolen bases and 22 outfield assists. This made him just the second player (Willie Mays was the first in 1955) in big league history to have at least 20 home runs, 20 stolen bases and 20 outfield assists in the same campaign. His 22 outfield assists remain a Blue Jays’ single-season record. For his efforts, he was voted Blue Jays Player of the Year.
Barfield followed that up by setting a then-franchise-record with 40 home runs in 1986. That season, he also became the first Blue Jay to lead the American League in home runs. He also finished second in slugging percentage (.559) and extra-base hits (77) and third in OPS (.927). His performance earned him his first All-Star selection and a Silver Slugger Award. For his outstanding defence in right field, he also received his first of two consecutive Gold Glove awards and for the second straight year, he was voted Blue Jays Player of the Year.
As mentioned, Barfield’s throwing arm is widely recognized as one of the greatest in major league history. In his nine seasons with the Blue Jays, he topped American League outfielders in assists four times (1985 to 1987, 1989) and right fielders in putouts three times (1985 to 1987).
In total, in his parts of nine seasons with the Blue Jays, Barfield played 1,032 games and ranks in the club’s all-time top 10 in several statistical categories, including fourth in WAR (29.5), seventh in home runs (179) and ninth in total bases (1,672) and RBIs (527).
On April 30, 1989, Barfield was traded to the New York Yankees for left-hander Al Leiter. He’d play parts of four more seasons with the Bronx Bombers and again lead AL outfielders in assists in 1990. He completed his big league career with 241 home runs, an .802 OPS, a 39.4 WAR and 162 outfield assists.
“I’m still in disbelief with the news of being voted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame,” said Barfield. “Being drafted by and then playing for the Blue Jays has always meant so much to me and my family. I’m truly honoured, humbled and speechless right now.”
Born in Montreal in 1968, Denis Boucher honed his skills with the Junior National Team and at the National Baseball Institute in Vancouver prior to toeing the rubber for Canada at the 1987 Pan Am Games. On August 18 of that same year, he was signed as an amateur free agent by Blue Jays director of Canadian scouting Bob Prentice.
After parts of four seasons in the minors, the Canadian left-hander made his major league debut for the Blue Jays on April 12, 1991 at SkyDome (currently Rogers Centre). He was given the start against the Milwaukee Brewers and the first three hitters he faced were Paul Molitor, Robin Yount and Gary Sheffield. Boucher held the Brewers to three earned runs in 5 1/3 innings and the Blue Jays eventually won 5-4. He’d make six more starts for the Blue Jays before he was dealt to Cleveland on June 27 as part of a package for knuckleballer Tom Candiotti and outfielder Turner Ward.
On July 20 that season, Boucher picked up his first major league win when he allowed just one run in 7 2/3 innings to the California Angels to propel Cleveland to a 4-1 victory. Boucher returned to Cleveland in 1992 but was selected by the Colorado Rockies in the National League Expansion draft after the season. The Rockies traded him to the San Diego Padres in March 1993 and he spent three months in Triple-A before he was dealt to his hometown Montreal Expos.
After going 6-0 with a 2.72 ERA in 11 appearances (six starts) for the triple-A Ottawa Lynx, Boucher was recalled by the Expos. His highly anticipated first game came on September 6, 1993 in front of more than 40,000 boisterous fans at Olympic Stadium. With Windsor, Ont., native Joe Siddall catching and Maple Ridge, B.C., native Larry Walker in right field, the contest represented the first time in modern baseball history that three Canucks have been in the starting lineup for the same team. Boucher held the Colorado Rockies to one run in six innings and the Expos prevailed 4-3. With that start, Boucher also became the first Canadian to have played for both the Blue Jays and Expos. In all, the young southpaw would go 3-1 with a 1.91 ERA in five starts down the stretch for the Expos.
Boucher returned to make 10 appearances for the Expos in 1994 and would play three additional seasons in the Expos’ organization. In total, he pitched 10 professional seasons and accumulated 87 wins, while posting a 3.99 ERA, in 263 games.
Following his playing career, Boucher joined the national team as a pitching coach in 2003. Among the tournaments he has coached for Canada at are the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, all four World Baseball Classics and the 2011 and 2015 Pan Am Games when Canada captured gold medals.
He has also developed into a highly respected scout, first with the Washington Nationals from 2004 to 2009 and with the New York Yankees, from 2009 to present.
On a grassroots level, Boucher has also helped develop youth baseball programs in his hometown of Lachine and has served as president of the Lachine Amateur Baseball Association since 2007.
For his efforts, he was elected to the Quebec Sports Hall of Fame in 2011 and the Quebec Baseball Hall of Fame the following year. In 2017, a baseball field in Lachine, Que., was renamed in his honour.
“It’s an incredible honour to be elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame,” said Boucher. “I’m very humbled and proud to have my name amongst the best baseball players in the country.”
Born in Victoria, B.C. in 1981, Rich Harden honed his pitching skills in the Layritz Little League and with the Victoria Mariners of the B.C. Premier Baseball League.
Out of high school, the young right-hander was selected by the Seattle Mariners in the 38th round of the 1999 MLB draft, but he declined to sign. He re-entered the draft in 2000 and was chosen in the 17th round by the Oakland A’s. However, before signing with the A’s on May 18, 2001, he dominated for a season with Central Arizona College, going 11-2 with a 2.14 ERA in 18 games, striking out 127 batters in 96 2/3 innings
Harden began his professional career close to home with the Class-A Short-Season Vancouver Canadians, posting a 3.39 ERA in 18 games in 2001. But he’d enjoy a breakout campaign the ensuing year when he went a combined 12-6 with a 2.94 ERA, while striking out 187 batters in 153 innings in 28 starts between High-A and Double-A. His efforts earned him the A’s Minor League Player of the Year award and helped him land the starting nod for the World Team in the Futures Game the following year.
He’d make his major league debut on July 21, 2003 and permit just one run on four hits in seven innings against the Kansas City Royals in a 6-1 A’s victory. From there, Harden became a mainstay in the A’s rotation for the next two seasons. After setting career-highs with 31 starts and 189 2/3 innings in 2004, he went 10-5 with a 2.53 ERA and struck out 121 batters in 128 innings in 2005.
Following two injury shortened campaigns, a rejuvenated Harden put up ace-like numbers with the A’s in 2008, going 5-1 with a 2.34 ERA in 13 starts. He even threw an immaculate inning in the first inning of his start against the Los Angeles Angels on June 8.
One month later, he was dealt to the Chicago Cubs where he continued his dominance, going 5-1 with a 1.77 ERA, allowing just 39 hits and striking out 89 batters in 71 innings, in 12 starts down the stretch. He completed that season with a combined 10-2 record and a 2.07 ERA with 181 strikeouts in 148 innings in 25 starts.
Harden returned to the Cubs in 2009 and fanned 171 batters in 141 innings in 26 starts prior to finishing his major league career with single seasons with the Texas Rangers (2010) and the A’s (2011).
In all, in parts of nine major league campaigns, Harden had a 59-38 record and a 3.76 ERA in 170 appearances. His 949 strikeouts and 17.9 WAR rank sixth all-time among Canadian big league pitchers, while his 160 starts ranked 10th among Canucks. He also retired as one of four Canadian major league pitchers to have averaged more than a strikeout per inning (minimum 100 innings).
For his efforts, he was inducted into the Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame in 2018.
“When I received the news that I was being inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, I was at a loss for words,” said Harden. “I am proud and honoured to have my name added to a list that includes so many great people who have had such a positive impact on baseball in Canada. I’m so grateful to all the people who helped and supported me along the way, and I’m looking forward to the induction weekend in St. Marys this summer.”
Born in 1935 in Winnipeg, Man., Joe Wiwchar has devoted seven decades to baseball in his home province, as a player, coach, volunteer, executive and administrator. Best known for his long and successful coaching career, which spanned from 1953 to 2013, the tireless Manitoban regularly coached two or more teams in a season.
One of his most successful years was 1971 when he coached the South Central Beavers Peewee squad to a provincial title and a silver medal at the Western Canada Championship. That same year, he started a 28-year tenure as head coach of the Morden Mohawks of the Border League, a senior baseball circuit. During one stretch with the Mohawks, he piloted the club to 12 league championships in 18 years.
Along the way, he helped lead Team Manitoba to a silver medal at the 1977 Canada Summer Games as an assistant coach and he was the head coach of the provincial Bison (Juvenile) team that captured the 1977 Western Canada championship.
As an executive, Wiwchar was a member of the committee that formed the Manitoba Baseball Association in 1968. Since that time, he has served in many key capacities for the organization, including as president in 1976 and 1977.
On a national level, Wiwchar served on the Baseball Canada executive and planning committee in 1974 and 1975. In 2004, he was recognized for his more than 50 years in baseball, with Baseball Canada’s Volunteer of the Year Award.
Wiwchar has also helped on the international scene. He served as a chaperone for five Canadian kids at the World Children’s Baseball Fair in Japan in 1994 and in the following year, he worked as the head coach for four children’s teams in La Rochelle, France.
In 1998, he became the first administrative manager of the Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame, a position he held until 2022. Thanks to his leadership, the Hall is considered one of the finest sports museums in the country.
For his efforts, Wiwchar was inducted into the Manitoba Baseball Association Honour Society in 1989 and was named a Life Member by the Western Canada Baseball Association. He was also inducted into the Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999 and won the Sport Manitoba Order of Sports Excellence Volunteer Service Award seven years later. In 2011, he was inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame and in that same year, the Town of Morden renamed a baseball field in his honour.
“When I was received the call from Scott Crawford letting me know that I was being inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, I had to sit down,” said Wiwchar. “I was speechless. I was both surprised and elated. I’m still in disbelief, but I am very grateful for this honour.”
Tom Burgmeier was a left-hander.
Yes, sorry. I made the edit. Thanks.
Thanks for the info.
Thank you for reading and your support.
Thanks for the info, I saw Denis Boucher pitch just down the end of my street in laSalle Quebec. Who knew?
That’s amazing, Bob. Thanks for sharing that and for your support.
Wonderful Kevin. Great article. Thank you for all the support.