March 12, 2023
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Some Canadian baseball news and notes from the past week:
– When Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) starts for Canada against Great Britain in the World Baseball Classic this afternoon, he’ll make history. With his dad, Paul, having toed the rubber for the national squad in the 2006 tournament, Cal and Paul will become the first father and son to have pitched in the World Baseball Classic. Paul is Canada’s bullpen coach, so he will be at Chase Field in Phoenix, Ariz., today when history is made. “It’s pretty cool. He hasn’t coached me in a long time,” said Cal, when asked about what it means to him to share the WBC experience with his father, during a press conference on Friday. “He got to do this at the very end of his career. I feel grateful I’m getting to do it hopefully in the middle of mine. He’ll be out in the pen. I’m trying to avoid him the best I can. But it’s pretty cool. It’s pretty cool I get to have the whole family out here and share a baseball experience with him.”
-When Quantrill was asked if there was a young player on the Canadian squad that the fans should watch or pay attention to, he named 19-year-old left-hander Mitch Bratt (Newmarket, Ont.) who will start against the powerhouse U.S. squad on Monday night. Bratt, who posted a 2.45 ERA in 19 appearances (18 starts) for the Low-A Down East Wood Ducks in the Texas Rangers’ organization last season, spoke earlier in the week of how a pregame chat with Quantrill helped him prepare for his WBC exhibition game start against the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday. Bratt pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings in that contest. “I just think with all the younger players — and I don’t claim to have answers; I’m still figuring it out as I go — but you don’t change because the moment has changed,” the 28-year-old Quantrill said at Friday’s press conference, when asked about the advice he offered Bratt. “What you’ve done and what you’ve accomplished to get to the spot where you were invited to this team is enough. Just go out and be yourself. I think that he’s got great stuff. And I just encouraged him, don’t worry about what name’s on the back of their jerseys. It was the same way you were getting high school kids out last year; it’s the same way as you’re going to try to get these guys out . . . It’s go out, play the way you’ve always played the game and don’t worry too much about who that person is.”
-At Friday’s press conference, manager Ernie Whitt shared that the Canadian team did not play a road hockey game this year. This was something the players had done as a team building exercise at previous tournaments. “No, we went to a hockey game instead,” said Whitt, referring to the Arizona Coyotes game they went to on Tuesday night. Whitt and Cal Quantrill dropped the ceremonial puck (photo below) before the game that featured the Coyotes taking on the St. Louis Blues.
-When the Canadian squad played the Cubs in an exhibition game on Wednesday at Sloan Park in Mesa, Ariz., Canadian baseball legend Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) dropped by the clubhouse and a photo (below) was snapped of him with Canadian coach Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.). Jenkins and Walker are the only two Canadians with plaques in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
-Canada’s pitching coach Denis Boucher (Lachine, Que.) turned 55 on Tuesday. He will be inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont., on June 17. On his birthday, some of his personal memorabilia arrived at the Canadian ball shrine for his display. Among the items the Hall received from Boucher are Expos, Blue Jays and Baseball Canada jerseys, hats and a game-used glove (See below).
-Former Miami Marlins outfield prospect Tristan Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.) has signed with the Intercounty Baseball League’s Guelph Royals. His older brother and ex-Jay, Dalton, competed for the Royals in 2022 before announcing his retirement. A Toronto Mets and Junior National Team alum, Tristan was selected in the third round of the 2018 MLB draft by the Marlins out of the University of Kentucky. The switch-hitting outfielder would bat .234 in 151 games in parts of three seasons in the Marlins’ organization, rising as high as triple-A in 2021. The 25-year-old Canuck split last season between the independent American Association’s Winnipeg Goldeyes and the Frontier League’s Quebec Capitales. “I get to play with some of the guys that I used to play with and against when I was a kid,” said Pompey about signing with the Royals, in a release. “My brother played here, too, and had nothing but good things to say about the owner, coaching staff, and city of Guelph.”
-My condolences to former Montreal Expos manager Felipe Alou on the passing of his brother Jesus at the age of 80 on Friday. In parts of 15 major league seasons with the San Francisco Giants, Houston Astros, Oakland A’s and New York Mets, Alou hit .280 and had 1,216 hits. The right-handed hitting outfielder hit .290 or better in three big league seasons and earned World Series rings with the A’s in 1973 and 1974. He was also briefly a member of the Expos organization after the club selected him in the expansion draft on October 14, 1968, but three months later he was traded to the Astros as part of the package for Rusty Staub. He had been employed as a scout with the Boston Red Sox since 2002 and he was the director of their academy in the Dominican Republic. On top of Felipe, Jesus’s brother Matty also enjoyed a long major league career. Matty passed away in 2011.
-Happy 77th Birthday to legendary Blue Jays broadcaster Jerry Howarth! Born in York, Pa., Howarth grew up in San Francisco. He began broadcasting with the triple-A Tacoma Twins in 1974 before assuming radio play-by-play duties for the triple-A Salt Lake City Gulls in 1976. It was while with the Gulls that he first applied for a radio job with the Blue Jays in 1977. The Blue Jays opted to hire Tom Cheek and Hall of Fame pitcher Early Wynn, but they told Howarth to stay in touch. Howarth’s big break came when Gulls manager Jimy Williams was hired by the Blue Jays in 1980 and put in a good word for Howarth. With that endorsement, Howarth was brought in to work three radio broadcasts for the club in 1980 and 20 more the following campaign, before being hired full-time in 1982. For 23 seasons, Howarth teamed with Cheek on Blue Jays radio broadcasts. During that period, he watched the team evolve into an American League East powerhouse. Howarth was in the booth for all five of the Blue Jays’ division titles between 1985 and 1993, as well as the team’s two World Series triumphs in 1992 and 1993. Following Cheek’s passing in 2005, Howarth continued to be the voice of summer for Blue Jays fans on the radio. His broadcasts were sprinkled with trademark catch phrases like “The Blue Jays are in flight!” – a phrase he used when the club scored their first run in a game – and “And there she goes!” – his popular home run call. In 2012, he was honoured with the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s Jack Graney Award and he would continue in the booth for the Blue Jays’ post-season games in 2015 and 2016 before electing to retire in 2017 after 37 seasons.
– I was sad to learn that Don McGowan, a longtime broadcaster and son of legendary Montreal baseball writer Lloyd McGowan, passed away on February 27 at the age of 85. Don McGowan had a successful 41-year career as a broadcaster that included several stops, but he was best known as a witty weatherman on CFCF TV in Montreal. His father Lloyd covered the Montreal Royals for the Montreal Daily Star from 1928 to 1960 when players like Jackie Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Roy Campanella and Duke Snider passed through the team. “Don had a passion for baseball, mainly from spending the summers of his youth at Delorimier Stadium watching the Montreal Royals Triple-A team play while his father Lloyd wrote the game story,” reads part of Don’s obituary. “He attended the first Montreal Expos game at Jarry Park and, in 1973, he mesmerized his then eight-year-old son by predicting a home run by Henry Aaron.” Don is survived by his wife Rosemary Vautier; daughter, Andrea (Michael) of Kingston, Ont.; son, Donald (Christine) of Toronto; grandsons, Liam and Zane; nephew, Robert McGowan of Gabriola Island, B.C.; and niece, Lisa Moir of Prince Edward County, Ont.
-Happy 67th Birthday to Dale Murphy! As I’ve said many times in this blog, he was my favourite player growing up. Unfortunately, as a kid in the 1980s, I didn’t get to see many of his games on TV. Sure, I saw him the odd time on the Game of the Week, but to watch him on TV was special. When I was 12, my parents took my brother and I on a trip to Alberta. We were staying in the Banff Springs Hotel (much less fancy and expensive then) and were told that Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh, would be coming there on a royal visit. The hotel staff provided us with the time of his arrival and told us to stand outside the hotel if we wanted to catch a glimpse of him. My mother was quite excited and told us to get ready to go down for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the prince. The problem for me was that the hotel TV had TBS, who broadcast Braves games, and the Braves game was on and Dale Murphy was playing. So I told my mother I’d rather watch Murphy on TBS than see the prince. My exasperated mother tried to convince me to leave the room but she eventually relented and let me stay to watch Murphy while she and my dad went down and saw the prince. When I tell this story to my baseball friends today, they unanimously validate my actions. “You made the right decision, Kevin,” they say.
-This week’s trivia question: Who is the oldest living former Montreal Expos player? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.
-The answer to last week’s trivia question (Who is the oldest living former Toronto Blue Jays player?) was Rico Carty, who will turn 84 on September 1.