But What Do I Know? . . . Dave McKay, Edouard Julien, Stu Scheurwater, Al Widmar

The Blue Jay in this photo is none other than Arizona Diamondbacks first base coach Dave McKay (Vancouver, B.C.)

October 15, 2023

By Kevin Glew

Cooperstowners in Canada

Some Canadian baseball news and notes from the past week:

-Last week, I mentioned that Arizona Diamondbacks first base coach Dave McKay (Vancouver, B.C.) is the only Canadian to have coached on three different major league teams in the post-season. McKay was a coach with the Oakland A’s (1986 to 1996) and St. Louis Cardinals (1996 to 2011) before joining the D-Backs in 2014. With the Diamondbacks’ sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers in their National League Division Series, McKay is one step closer to becoming the first Canadian coach to have World Series rings with three different major league teams. The D-Backs will have to win two more series for that to happen. First, they will have to conquer the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Championship Series, which begins on Monday, and then the American League pennant winners in the World Series. McKay already has three World Series rings: A’s (1989) and Cardinals (2006, 2011). The only Canadian I can think of that has World Series rings with three different teams is Ron Taylor, who won them as a pitcher with the Cardinals (1964) and New York Mets (1969) and as a doctor with the Blue Jays (1992-93).

-McKay will be up against Rob Thomson (Corunna, Ont.) and the Phillies in the National League Championship Series. According to the MLB Network, Thomson is only the second big league manager (to Mike Matheny with the Cardinals in 2012-13) to have guided a team to a League Championship Series in each of their first two seasons. Thomson’s Phillies ousted the heavily favored Atlanta Braves in four games in their National League Division Series on Thursday night.

-The post-season is over for Edouard Julien (Quebec City, Que.) and the Minnesota Twins, but it didn’t end before the young infielder made some more Canadian baseball history on Wednesday. When Julien hit a solo home run in the sixth inning of Game 4 of the American League Division Series against the Houston Astros, he became the first Canadian rookie to homer in the post-season. It was just another on a long list of impressive big league accomplishments for the Junior National Team alum in 2023. During the regular season, Julien 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).

-Congratulations to umpire Stu Scheurwater (Regina, Sask.) who will not only work his first League Championship Series but he has also been chosen to call balls and strikes in the first game of the ALCS between the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers. Earlier this year, Scheurwater umpired third base in the All-Star Game. It was the first time that Scheurwater has worked the Midsummer Classic. The 40-year-old Canuck umpired his first big league contest on April 25, 2014 and had 253 games of major league experience under his belt before he was hired full-time in 2018. This is the third post-season he has umpired in (2020, 2022-23). Prior to his pro career, Scheurwater honed his skills through Baseball Canada’s national umpiring program.

-I wanted to express my condolences to the family and friends of Toronto Blue Jays super fan Liz Holmes, who passed away suddenly on October 7 at the age of 60. Everyone at Rogers Centre, in Dunedin and at the Baseball Canada banquet knew Liz. She was one of the Blue Jays’ most loyal fans. I didn’t know her well but judging by the outpouring of love towards her on social media, she touched many lives and will be deeply missed. You can express your condolences here.

-On this date 42 years ago, the Blue Jays named Bobby Cox as their new manager. At that point, the Blue Jays had finished in last place in the American League East division in each of their first five seasons. Under Cox, the Blue Jays improved to 78-84 in 1982, then had back-to-back 89-73 campaigns before he led them to a franchise record 99 wins in 1985. He departed following that season to become the general manager of the Atlanta Braves. “Playing for Bobby Cox was a real pleasure,” Rance Mulliniks told me in an interview in September. “He was great to play for. All that Bobby ever asked was that you be prepared and that you give your best effort . . . He taught me how to really play to win at the major league level and how to be not just a major league baseball player, but how to be a professional in your approach.” 

Cleats worn by Owen Caissie (Burlington, Ont.) while playing for Canada in the World Baseball Classic. Photo: Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame

-The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame has added a pair of cleats worn by Chicago Cubs outfield prospect Owen Caissie (Burlington, Ont.) in this year’s World Baseball Classic to their collection. The left-handed hitting slugger had three hits – including a home run – and four RBIs in three games at the tournament and proceeded to have a breakout season with the Cubs’ double-A Tennessee Smokies. In 120 games, he batted .289 with 22 home runs and 84 RBIs. Chosen by the San Diego Padres in the second round of the 2020 MLB draft, Caissie never played a game in the Pads’ organization before he was dealt to the Cubs as part of the package for right-hander Yu Darvish in December 2020. Since then, the Fieldhouse Pirates and Junior National Team alum, who is still only 21, has played three seasons in the Cubs’ organization.

-Please take a moment to remember former Blue Jays pitching coach Al Widmar who passed away on this date 18 years ago at the age of 80. Prior to his role with the Blue Jays, Widmar pitched in parts of five major league seasons between 1947 and 1952, making 114 appearances (42 starts) with the Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Browns and Chicago White Sox. Following his playing career, he became a minor league manager and then a big league pitching coach with the Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers before joining the Blue Jays following the 1979 season. In his decade as Blue Jays’ pitching coach, he helped hone the skills of Dave Stieb, Jimmy Key and Jim Clancy among others.

-If you’re a Canadian baseball history buff (like me), mark November 4th and 5th on your calendar. Longtime Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame volunteer and co-founder of the Centre for Canadian Baseball Research Andrew North has announced that the sixth annual Canadian Baseball History Conference will take place in Toronto on those dates. This year’s event, which will again be organized by Andrew, will include two days of interesting presentations on Canadian baseball history. For more information and for a complete list of the presentations, you can click on this link. The registration fee is $50. To register, please email Andrew at mavrix247@gmail.com.

-This week’s trivia question: Prior to Dave McKay with the D-Backs this season, who is the last Canadian to be an on-the-field coach for a team that has advanced to the National League Championship Series? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.

-The answer to last week’s trivia question (Over the years, two Canadians – outside of Edouard Julien – have hit home runs for the Minnesota Twins in the major league post-season. Name one of them.) was either Corey Koskie (Anola, Man.) or Justin Morneau (New Westminster, B.C.).

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