March 25, 2023
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
When longtime Toronto Blue Jays fans talk about Tom Glavine, the first game they’re likely to mention is Game 1 of the 1992 World Series.
With the Blue Jays competing in the Fall Classic for the first time, the excitement surrounding the team had reached unparalleled heights. However, Canadian baseball fans were temporarily subdued when Glavine tossed a four-hit, complete-game gem in that inaugural contest, leading the Atlanta Braves to a 3-1 victory.
What Blue Jays fans tend to forget, however, was that the soon-to-be Hall of Famer was almost equally effective in Game 4 at the Rogers Centre. In that match-up, Glavine again pitched a complete game, holding the Jays to two runs on six hits. Unfortunately for the Braves ace, the combination of Jimmy Key, Duane Ward and Tom Henke was a little bit better and the Blue Jays prevailed 2-1.
Glavine would not appear in that World Series again, which, of course, was won by the Blue Jays in six games.
But the 10-time all-star’s performance in that Fall Classic isn’t the only time he faced a Canadian team or pitched north of the border. In his 22-year big league career that saw him register 305 victories and garner two Cy Young Awards, Glavine, who was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014, faced off against Canadian players and teams on numerous occasions.
Glavine turns 57 today, so to celebrate his birthday, here’s a rundown of some of his most notable Canadian links and performances:
– Glavine was chosen in the second round, 47th overall in the 1984 MLB amateur draft. The Montreal Expos selected three players before Glavine was taken by the Braves: catcher Bob Caffrey (13th overall), pitcher Norm Charlton (28th overall) and pitcher Dave Graybill (41st overall).
– The Toronto Blue Jays did not have a first-round selection in 1984. Their first-rounder was awarded to the Chicago White Sox as compensation for signing free agent reliever Dennis Lamp. The White Sox used that pick (20th overall) to chose right-handed pitcher Tony Menendez. The Blue Jays used their first pick (second round, 48th overall, one pick after Atlanta selected Glavine) to take right-handed pitcher Dane Johnson.
– Baseball wasn’t Glavine’s only professional sports option. The 6-foot, 175-pound left-hander was also selected in the fourth round (69th overall) by the Los Angeles Kings in the 1984 NHL Entry draft. The Kings GM at that time was Canadian Rogie Vachon. Glavine, a promising forward out of Billerica High School in Massachusetts, ultimately chose to pursue a career in baseball, in part, because he was a left-handed thrower. It’s interesting to note, however, that Glavine was selected two rounds ahead of Brett Hull and five rounds ahead of Luc Robitaille – both Hall of Famers – in the 1984 NHL draft.
– After opting to pursue a baseball career and signing with the Braves, Glavine was tutored on the finer points of pitching by Petrolia, Ont., native Bill Slack, who had been hired as a minor league pitching instructor by the Braves in 1985. Slack, who was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002, also worked with John Smoltz and Steve Avery.
– Glavine made 28 starts at Olympic Stadium in Montreal and posted a 14-9 record and a 3.37 ERA. However, his best start against the Expos came at Turner Field in Atlanta on September 20, 1997 when he tossed a complete-game, two-hitter (one of seven two-hitters he threw in his career) to defeat the Expos 3-1. The Expos starter that day was Pedro Martinez, who also tossed a complete game and registered 12 strikeouts. Martinez won the National League Cy Young Award that season.
– Outside of his starts against the Blue Jays in the 1992 World Series, Glavine made five regular season starts against the Canadian club, compiling a 2-2 record and a 5.22 ERA. But one of his wins against the Blue Jays was also one of his best hitting performances. On June 28, 1998, Glavine recorded a single and a double and knocked in three runs off Chris Carpenter at Turner Field to help his club to 10-3 romp over the Blue Jays. His RBI total that game tied a career-best. On top of his heroics with the bat, Glavine limited the Jays to two runs on five hits over seven innings.
– Glavine was also the National League’s starting pitcher in the 1991 All-Star Game that was played at SkyDome in Toronto on July 9 that year. The crafty lefty pitched two scoreless innings, before handing the ball to Expos right-hander Dennis Martinez for the third and fourth inning. The American League eventually won 4-2. Fittingly, Blue Jays southpaw Jimmy Key was credited with the win.
– Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Ernie Whitt caught 10 of Glavine’s games as a member of the Braves during the 1990 season.
– By my count, six Canadians walked to the plate against Glavine in the big leagues. Maple Ridge, B.C., native Larry Walker (24-for-80 with four home runs) and Trail, B.C., native Jason Bay (7-for-21 with two home runs) were the most successful. Corey Koskie (Anola, Man.), Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.), Pete Orr (Newmarket, Ont.) and pitcher Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, B.C.) were considerably less successful, going a combined 2-for-21 off of the 2014 Cooperstowner.