October 3, 2023
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Justin Morneau was 10 when the Minnesota Twins last played the Toronto Blue Jays in the playoffs.
That was 1991 when the Twins defeated the Blue Jays in five games in the American League Championship Series and proceeded to capture their second World Series title in five seasons.
Back then, Morneau was an aspiring NHL goalie and big league slugger who spent time in his backyard imitating John Olerud’s swing and cheering on the Blue Jays.
Morneau won’t be cheering for the Blue Jays today when they battle the Twins in the first game of their Wild-Card series at Target Field.
After an outstanding 11-season tenure with the Twins that earned him induction into the team’s Hall of Fame, Morneau is now a special assistant to baseball operations and TV analyst with the club.
The 2006 American League MVP played in the American League Division Series with the Twins in 2004 and 2006 against the New York Yankees and Oakland A’s respectively, going a combined 9-for-29 (.310 batting average) with two home runs in seven games.
Morneau will throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Game 2 on Wednesday.
Canadian content in series
The Blue Jays have two prominent Canadian-born players on their postseason roster. Blue Jays fans will be able to cheer on Montreal-born slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and flame-throwing closer Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.).
Meanwhile, the Twins will counter with Edouard Julien (Quebec City, Que.) who has been excellent for the Twins this season. No Canadian has batted leadoff for a major league team in the post-season since Terry Puhl (Melville, Sask.) did it for the Houston Astros against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1981 National League Division Series. This will change on Tuesday afternoon when Julien will be the first batter to walk to the plate for the Twins.
After an outstanding performance hitting atop Canada’s lineup at the World Baseball Classic, Julien earned his first big league call-up and set a record for most home runs by a Canadian second baseman in a major league season with 16. He also led Twins’ regulars in on-base percentage (.381) and was second in OPS (.839).
For a complete list of Canadians (including players, coaches, scouts, front office staff) on all 12 major league teams competing in this year’s post-season, you can read this article I wrote for the Canadian Baseball Network (subscription required).
-Perhaps it’s a good omen for the Blue Jays that this Wild-Card series will be played in Minnesota. The Blue Jays lost all three home games at SkyDome to the Twins in the 1991 American League Championship Series.
-Twins reliever Kody Funderburk is not Canadian, but he did play for the Western Canadian Baseball League’s Okotoks Dawgs during the summer of 2017. The left-handed throwing Funderburk is 2-0 with an 0.75 ERA in 11 appearances with the Twins since joining them in late August.
-Dave McKay (Vancouver, B.C.) was the first Canadian to play for both the Twins and Blue Jays. The switch-hitting infielder started his career with the Twins in 1975 but was selected by the Blue Jays in the 1976 expansion draft. He was the Blue Jays’ starting third baseman in their first regular season game (April 7, 1977). McKay will be coaching first base for the Arizona Diamondbacks this post-season.
-Other Canadians to have played for the Twins and Blue Jays include Corey Koskie (Anola, Man.), Andrew Albers (North Battleford, Sask.), Scott Diamond (Guelph, Ont.) and Vince Horsman (Halifax, N.S.). Note: Rene Tosoni (Port Coquitlam, B.C.) played for the Twins and is now a scout for the Blue Jays.
-McKay and Koskie have been inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame — McKay in 2001 and Koskie in 2015.
-Who was the last Canadian to pitch for the Twins in the post-season? Reliever Jesse Crain (Toronto, Ont.) in Game 1 of the 2010 ALDS against the New York Yankees.
-Prior to Morneau, who was last Canadian to homer for the Twins in the postseason? Third baseman Corey Koskie (Anola, Man.) who went deep in Game 1 of the 2002 ALDS against the A’s.
Blue Jays Birthdays Today
1952 – Dave Winfield
1966 – Darrin Fletcher
1967 (?) – Junior Felix
1975 – Scott Cassidy
Remembering John Cerutti
Please take a moment to remember former Blue Jays left-hander and broadcaster John Cerutti who passed away 19 years ago today at the age of 43.
To read my tribute to him, click here.