May 17 – Today in Canadian baseball history

May 17, 2023

By Kevin Glew

Cooperstowners in Canada

Here are some significant Canadian baseball events and accomplishments that happened on May 17 over the years:

1944 – Legendary Canadian baseball coach and scout Orv Franchuk was born in Amesbury, Alta. Franchuk has spent close to 50 years in the amateur and professional baseball ranks and is considered one of Canada’s most respected coaches and scouts. After playing college ball at Pepperdine University, Franchuk served as a scout for the Cincinnati Reds from 1977 to 1984. During that period, he doubled as a coach for the Canadian national team. By 1988, Franchuk had transitioned to the California Angels organization where he served as a scout and as a minor league hitting coach before returning to his home province in 1995 to work as the hitting coach for the Oakland A’s triple-A Edmonton Trappers. After a stretch as a roving hitting coach in the A’s organization, he came back to Canada again in 2002 when he was hired to manage the A’s class-A Short-Season Vancouver Canadians. Following that campaign, he moved to the Boston Red Sox organization, where he’d work as a minor league hitting instructor and earn a World Series ring with the club in 2004. He’d later have tenures as a hitting coach in the Houston Astros and San Diego Padres organizations prior to returning home again to manage the independent Northern League’s Edmonton Cracker-Cats to a North American League championship. For his efforts at the local, national and professional levels, he was inducted into the Edmonton Sports Hall of Fame in 2007.

1957 – Unforgettable Montreal Expos right-hander Pascual Perez was born in San Cristobal, D.R. He died in 2012. What we tend to forget about Perez is that beyond his enthusiasm, energy and antics on the field, he was an excellent pitcher for the Expos. In 10 starts for the club in 1987, he went 7-0 with a 2.30 ERA. He followed that up with 12 wins and a 2.44 ERA in 27 starts in 1988 and a 3.31 ERA in 33 appearances in 1989. You can watch some fun highlights of him in the following video.

1976 – The Montreal Expos traded right-hander Steve Renko and outfielder Larry Biittner to the Chicago Cubs for first baseman Andre Thornton.

1986 – Fred McGriff made his MLB debut with the Toronto Blue Jays. With the Blue Jays leading Cleveland 11-4 at Exhibition Stadium, McGriff entered the game as a defensive replacement for Willie Upshaw at first base. He did not get an at bat. The Blue Jays eventually won 11-5.

1992 – Back with the Montreal Expos for his final MLB season, Gary Carter caught his 2,000th MLB game. He became the third MLB catcher to reach that milestone, joining Bob Boone and Carlton Fisk.

1999 – Left-hander Jordan Zimmerman (Kelowna, B.C.) made his MLB debut with the Seattle Mariners. He entered the game in the eighth inning and retired both of the Minnesota Twins batters he faced in the Mariners’ 15-5 win at the Kingdome.

1999 – Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) hit his first MLB inside-the-park home run off Cincinnati Reds starter Pete Harnisch to lead off the ninth inning in the Colorado Rockies’ 7-2 loss at Coors Field.

2001 – Right-hander Eric Gagne (Mascouche, Que.) started at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium for the first time in his MLB career. The Dodgers righty allowed just two runs in six innings and struck out seven, but got a tough-luck loss in the Expos’ 3-1 win.

2011 – Hall of Famer and legendary Minnesota Twins slugger Harmon Killebrew passed away 12 years ago today at the age of 74. As a Canadian baseball history buff, when I think of Killebrew, I think of the influence he had on 2020 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee and fellow Twins legend Justin Morneau (New Westminster, B.C.). Morneau used to talk hitting with Killebrew, but Killebrew is also responsible for Morneau’s very neat signature. You can hear the story in the following video.

8 thoughts on “May 17 – Today in Canadian baseball history

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  1. A great read. Also in 1946, Jackie Robinson had 2 hits at 4 at bats for the Montreal Royals as they defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-4 in Toronto.

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