But What Do I Know? … Joey Votto, Fergie Jenkins, Bob Elliott, Steve Wilson, Roy Howell, Bill Gullickson

September 10, 2023

By Kevin Glew

Cooperstowners in Canada

*Please note that a prize will be awarded to this week’s trivia question winner.*

Some Canadian baseball news and notes from the past week:

-Happy unofficial Canadian Baseball Day! For several years now, I’ve been writing that September 10th should be celebrated on baseball diamonds across the country. Why? Well, today is Cincinnati Reds slugger and Etobicoke, Ont., native Joey Votto’s 40th birthday. It’s also Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer, National Baseball Hall of Fame BBWAA Career Excellence Award winner and Canadian Baseball Network founder Bob Elliott’s birthday. And it was on this date 58 years that Chatham, Ont., native Fergie Jenkins, the greatest Canadian ever to play in the majors, made his big league debut.

-One of Votto’s gifts for his 40th birthday will be a return to the Cincinnati Reds’ lineup. The left-handed hitting slugger will reportedly be activated from the 10-day injured list today after being sidelined with left shoulder discomfort since August 25. That’s the same shoulder he had surgery on last August that forced him to miss the first 72 games of the 2023 season. Votto had 13 home runs and a .459 slugging percentage in 51 games for the Reds this season prior to the injury. His 34 hits in 2023 give him 2,127 for his career. That’s 33 behind Maple Ridge, B.C. native Larry Walker’s Canadian big league record.

-Happy Birthday to the great Bob Elliott (Kingston, Ont.)! Without Bob, there would be no Cooperstowners in Canada. He’s been an inspiration, a mentor and a very good friend. I’m fortunate to know him and work with him at the Canadian Baseball Network. My go-to line about Bob: “He’s a Hall of Fame writer and an even better person.”

Fergie Jenkins. Photo: Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame

-As noted earlier, it was 58 years ago today that a 22-year-old Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) made his MLB debut with the Philadelphia Phillies. The 6-foot-5 right-hander pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings in relief for the Phillies against the St. Louis Cardinals at Connie Mack Stadium to pick up his first major league win in the Phils’ 5-4, 12-inning victory. Jenkins relieved fellow Cooperstowner Jim Bunning in the eighth inning and struck out Dick Groat, the first batter he faced. The Canadian righty allowed just two hits and didn’t walk a batter.

-It was also on this date 34 years ago that Victoria, B.C., native Steve Wilson struck out a career-high 10 batters in five innings in his rookie season to help the Chicago Cubs defeat the Cardinals 4-1 at Wrigley Field. The Canadian southpaw would strike out 10 batters again the following July 15 in a Cubs’ 5-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

-There was good news and bad news for Atlanta Braves right-hander Michael Soroka (Calgary, Alta.) this week after he exited his start on Tuesday with numbness in his fingers. The good news is that doctors have diagnosed him with forearm inflammation, but he will not require surgery. The bad news is he has been shut down for the season. Soroka’s return to the Braves was one of the most inspiring Canadian baseball stories this year. After initially tearing his right Achilles tendon on August 3, 2020, the Junior National Team alum then re-tore it the following June. After two years of recovery and rehabilitation, he spent the bulk of this season with the triple-A Gwinnett Stripers, posting a 4-4 record and a 3.41 ERA in 17 starts, but he also made seven appearances (six starts) for the Braves, going 2-2 with a 6.40 ERA with 29 strikeouts in 32 1/3 innings.

-On this day in Toronto Blue Jays history: 46 years ago, the last-place Blue Jays, in their inaugural season, routed the New York Yankees 19-3 at Yankee Stadium. In that game, Blue Jays third baseman Roy Howell had five hits – including two home runs, two doubles and a single – and a team-record nine RBIs. Alvis Woods and Ron Fairly each had four hits for the Blue Jays. The starting pitcher for the Yankees that day was Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter, who allowed six runs in 3 1/3 innings. Just over a month later, the Yankees won the World Series.

-Right-hander Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) was outstanding in his second start since being activated by the Cleveland Guardians on September 1. On Thursday, he permitted just three hits and struck out six batters in six scoreless innings against the Los Angeles Angels. The Ontario Terriers and Junior National Team alum has allowed just two runs in 12 innings since returning to the Guardians at the start of the month. The 6-foot-3 right-hander was placed on the 15-day injured list by the Guardians for the second time this season on July 6. He had just returned from nearly a month on the injured list with right shoulder inflammation. With his strong start on Thursday, the 28-year-old Canuck is now 2-6 with a 5.70 ERA in 15 major league starts this season.

-On this day in Montreal Expos history: 43 years ago, right-hander Bill Gullickson set a major league rookie record when he struck out 18 Cubs batters to lead the Expos to a 4-2 win at Olympic Stadium (Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood broke this record in 1998 when he struck out 20 in a game in his rookie season). Gullickson tossed a complete game for his eighth win of his freshman season. He’d complete that campaign with 10 wins and a 3.00 ERA in 24 games, good for a second-place finish in the National League Rookie of the Year voting (Dodgers lefty Steve Howe won it).

-Seattle Mariners right-hander Matt Brash (Kingston, Ont.) is four strikeouts away from 100 for the season. This would make him just the third Canadian to pitch entirely in relief during a major league season to record 100 strikeouts in a season. The other two are John Hiller (Toronto, Ont.) with the Detroit Tigers in 1973 and 1974 and Eric Gagne (Mascouche, Que.) with the Los Angeles Dodgers from 2002 to 2004. The most strikeouts by a Canadian reliever in a season is 137 by Gagne in 2003.

-Happy 60th Birthday to Hall of Famer Randy Johnson, who some forget was selected by the Montreal Expos in the second round of the 1985 MLB draft. Sackville, N.B., native and Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Murray Cook was the Expos general manager when the club chose the 6-foot-8 lefty. “As the general manager, you’re minimally involved in the scouting, Jim Fanning was the [scouting director] at the time and I have to give him credit for Randy Johnson,” said Cook, back in 2014. “But I do have to say this, when he [Johnson] first reported, he was awful. He couldn’t throw hard. He was in Jamestown [Low-A] and he was not doing well and I called the scout that signed him and I said, ‘Bobby (Fontaine), what’s with this guy?’ And he said, ‘It’s there. You just have to be patient and it will be there at some point in time.’ And it took him a year or two before he finally figured out what it [pitching] was all about and what he had to do to be in shape and all that kind of thing.” Johnson spent parts of four seasons in the minors in the Expos organization before making his big league debut with the club in 1988. He’d go 3-0 with a 2.42 ERA in four late-season starts. His wildness returned the following campaign, and after he posted a 6.67 ERA with 26 walks in 29 2/3 innings, he was shipped to the Seattle Mariners on May 25, 1989 as part of a package for ace left-hander Mark Langston. Johnson, of course, went on to win more than 300 games and five Cy Young Awards in 22 major league seasons with the Mariners, Houston Astros, Arizona Diamondbacks, Yankees and San Francisco Giants.

-Cleveland Guardians catcher Bo Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) smacked his eighth home run of the season on Tuesday. The record for most home runs by a Canadian catcher in their rookie big league campaign is 10 by Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.) for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2006. The Guardians have 19 more games on their schedule for Naylor to break the record.

-Forty-one years ago today, Tom Henke made his MLB debut for the Texas Rangers. He entered the game in relief of starter Frank Tanana in the seventh inning and tossed 2 2/3 scoreless innings against the Mariners at Arlington Stadium in the Rangers’ 5-2 loss. Henke would make seven more appearances for the Rangers in 1982 and post a 1.15 ERA in 15 2/3 total innings.

-This week’s trivia question: I mentioned that 34 years ago today left-hander Steve Wilson (Victoria, B.C.) struck out 10 batters in a game for the Cubs. What lefty holds the record for most strikeouts in a major league game by a Canadian? Please share your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first to answer this correctly will win a copy of Tim Raines’ 2017 biography, Rock Solid: My Life in Baseball’s Fast Lane.

-The answer to last week’s trivia question (Who was the first Toronto Blue Jays player to record 100 RBIs in a season?) was Willie Upshaw who had 104 RBIs in 1983.

13 thoughts on “But What Do I Know? … Joey Votto, Fergie Jenkins, Bob Elliott, Steve Wilson, Roy Howell, Bill Gullickson

Add yours

  1. I found myself thinking decades back for lefty starters, but now that I think of it, I’m gonna go with someone who has been right in front of us the last few years, Big Maple? I know he had a no-no, and I can’t recall how many K’s he had that day, but something tells me he had another game where he struck out a bunch??? I never Google for answers, so I don’t know if I’m correct, but if I am, I will donate the prize to whoever the second person is to get it right.

  2. Great details today Kevin! I was, in my mind, going back decades trying to come up with Canuck lefty starters, but now that I think of it, I’m going to choose someone pretty current … Big Maple! I don’t recall how many K’s he had in his no-no, but it seems to me he had about 15 in another game? I don’t Google to get answers to your questions, so I don’t know if I’m correct. But if I am, I will gladly donate the prize to the second person who gets it.

    1. Thank you for your response and your support. You are correct. The answer is James Paxton, who struck out 16 batters on May 2, 2018. Thanks again. As per your note, I’ll award the prize to the second person who also guessed Paxton. Thank you again.

  3. Another interesting Sunday morning read, Kevin.
    BTW!!! I was at the game when Gully struck out 18 Cubs. A cold and damp night as I recall..

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