October 29, 2023
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Some Canadian baseball news and notes from the past week:
-The legendary Mark Hebscher asked a very good trivia question on Twitter this week: Who was the first switch-hitter in Toronto Blue Jays’ history? The answer is Arizona Diamondbacks first base coach Dave McKay (Vancouver, B.C.). He batted eighth and started at third base for the Blue Jays in their first game on April 7, 1977 at Exhibition Stadium. McKay was 2-for-4 with an RBI in the Blue Jays’ 9-5 win over the Chicago White Sox.
-Speaking of McKay, he made Canadian baseball history on Tuesday when the Diamondbacks defeated the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series. With that D-Backs’ win, McKay became the first Canadian on-the-field coach to be part of three different teams that have advanced to the World Series. McKay was the first base coach for the Oakland A’s when they competed in the Fall Classic for three straight years from 1988 to 1990. He had the same role with the St. Louis Cardinals’ pennant-winning squads in 2004, 2006 and 2011. And he’s in his familiar first base coaching box for the Diamondbacks this year as they battle the Texas Rangers in the Fall Classic.
-Yes, that was Canadian baseball legend Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) you saw catching the ceremonial first pitch from future Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre prior to Game 2 of the World Series at Globe Life Park in Arlington last night. I tend to think of Jenkins as a Chicago Cub, but the durable right-hander put up some impressive numbers in his two tenures with the Rangers (1974-75, 1978-81). In 1974, Jenkins registered career-highs in wins (25) and innings pitched (328 1/3). And the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame also shared this week that Jenkins ranks first all-time among Rangers’ pitchers in shutouts (17), second in complete games (90) and third in WAR (21.9).
-My condolences go out to the loved ones of Friends star Matthew Perry, who died yesterday from an apparent drowning at age 54. The Ottawa-raised actor was a hardcore Blue Jays fan, as noted in this tweet:
-On Wednesday, I wrote about Justin Morneau (New Westminster, B.C.) being elected to the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame. Morneau spoke with Steve Ewen, of the Vancouver Province, after the honour was announced. I’ve interviewed Morneau several times and followed his career religiously, so I thought I knew almost everything there is to know about him. Obviously, I was wrong, because I didn’t know that the Montreal Expos had such strong interest in him heading into the 1999 MLB Draft. He was eventually selected in the third round by the Minnesota Twins. “It’s one of the days that’s cemented in my mind,” Morneau told Ewen about draft day. “The pre-draft estimates were somewhere between the fifth and the eighth rounds. I thought maybe the Expos. I talked to them and the Blue Jays as much as anyone. I wasn’t really sure about the Twins. They flew under the radar. It ended up being a good fit for me.”
-Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Terry Puhl (Melville, Sask.) has been named the executive director of the newly formed Houston Astros Alumni Association. The announcement was made on Thursday. You can read more about it here. Puhl suited up for 14 of his 15 major league seasons with the Astros. The only two players to play more seasons with the Astros are Craig Biggio (20) and Jeff Bagwell (15). Puhl ranks in the club’s all-time top 10 in numerous statistical categories, including fourth in triples (56), sixth in games (1,516), sixth in stolen bases (217), eighth in hits (1,357) and runs (676), and ninth in doubles (226). Defensively, Puhl, who has lived in the Houston area since the end of his playing career, was one of the most reliable outfielders of his era. His career .993 fielding percentage is the best by an Astros outfielder. For his efforts, he was inducted into the Astros Hall of Fame in 2022.
-Happy 64th Birthday to legendary Toronto Blue Jays outfielder and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Jesse Barfield! Starting in 1982, Barfield saw regular action in right field for the Blue Jays and he not only showcased power at the plate, but one of the greatest throwing arms in big league history. In 1985, he helped lead the Blue Jays to their first American League East title when he had 27 home runs, 22 stolen bases and 22 outfield assists. This made him just the second player (Willie Mays was the first in 1955) in big league history to have at least 20 home runs, 20 stolen bases and 20 outfield assists in the same campaign. His 22 outfield assists remain a Blue Jays’ single-season record. Barfield followed that up by setting a then-franchise-record with 40 home runs in 1986 which led the American League. He also topped the circuit in outfield assists with 20. In the 37 seasons since that campaign, no player in the American or National League has topped their circuit in those two categories in the same season. For his outstanding defence in right field, Barfield earned two Gold Glove Awards. In total, in his parts of nine campaigns with the Blue Jays, Barfield played 1,032 games and ranks in the club’s all-time top 10 in several statistical categories, including fourth in WAR (29.5), seventh in home runs (179) and ninth in total bases (1,672) and RBIs (527).
-I was speaking with Bob Elliott this week and he mentioned that legendary general manager and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Pat Gillick had at one point in his career hired three of the managers on the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Contemporary Baseball Era Committee ballot that was announced on October 20: Cito Gaston (Blue Jays), Lou Piniella (Seattle Mariners) and Davey Johnson (Baltimore Orioles). Also on the ballot are manager Jim Leyland, ex-umpires Ed Montague and Joe West and longtime executives Hank Peters and Bill White. On December 3, a 16-member Hall of Fame Board-appointed voting committee will review the candidates at baseball’s Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn. Candidates will require 75 percent support (or 12 of 16 votes) to be elected.
-So what Canadian has played the most regular season games for the Texas Rangers? According to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, it is outfielder Kevin Reimer (Enderby, B.C.) who suited up for 363 contests with them. How about the Arizona Diamondbacks? The Canadian ball hall shared on Twitter that infielder Danny Klassen (Leamington, Ont.) is the Canuck who played the most games for them. He played in 63.
-Until someone reminded me on Twitter, I had forgotten that Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo was the Blue Jays first base coach in 2011 and 2012 during John Farrell’s reign as manager. Lovullo also made three triple-A stops in Canada during his playing career with the Calgary Cannons (1994), Edmonton Trappers (1996) and Ottawa Lynx (1997).
-Speaking of former Blue Jays on the D-Backs, much has rightfully been made about catcher Gabriel Moreno and outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who were acquired prior to the season for Dalton Varsho. They have both been starters and key contributors to the D-Backs. But can you remember the beginning of the 2015 season, when the Blue Jays started the campaign with a 6-foot-7, 20-year-old named Miguel Castro as their closer? That’s the same Castro that’s pitching out of the D-Backs’ pen. Castro led the National League with 75 pitching appearances this season.
-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 email@example.com.
-This week’s trivia question: Who is the only Canadian to have pitched in a regular season big league game for the Arizona Diamondbacks? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.
-The answer to last week’s trivia question (Outside of Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.), who is the only other Canadian to win a National League Gold Glove Award at the outfield position?) was Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C.) who won Gold Gloves with the Cardinals in 2020 and 2021.