Gray’s 25 Ks in 9 innings best ever by Canuck pitcher?
* RHP Brett Gray (Petrolia, Ont.) set independent-Frontier League history striking out 25 hitters against the Chillicothe Paints in 2000 ….
By Matt Dumouchelle
London, Ont. — If you were to pick one moment in your pro career that stood out farther than the rest, what would it be?
For many it’s a job promotion, for some it’s a presentation or project completed in the wee hours of the night that bordered on perfection.
But for Petrolia, Ontario’s Brett Gray, it lasted three hours on a warm June evening, 12 years ago.
Gray played pro ball for the London Werewolves during the 1999 and 2000 seasons.
Their first year, 1999, the Werewolves won the independent Frontier League championship, finishing 54-30 and sweeping both playoff series against Johnstown Johnnies and Chillicothe Paints.
The team disbanded in 2001 and left for Canton, Ohio, but not before Gray was able to provide a magical night.
On June 5, 2000, Gray was warming up for his first start of the season, against Chillicothe.
Little did he know it would be a historical performance that has not been matched since.
Gray struck out 25 Paints’ batters – a Frontier League record which still stands – in that game, earning a 9-1 victory.
It was his only start in the Frontier League that year and days later he signed an a free agent with the Cincinnati Reds, sight unseen by Reds scout Gary Hughes.
“How can you sign a kid you’ve never seen before,” asked Red general manager Jim Bowden.
“Have you ever seen anyone strike out 25 hitters in one game?” Hughes asked.
Gray came back to London this summer to throw out the first pitch at a London Rippers’ game.
It was an opportunity for Gray to toe the rubber of Labatt Park’s mound again and rekindle his love for baseball and the city of London.
“It was a pretty good feeling to be back.” Gray said, “Labatt Park is such a beautiful park and an awesome place to play.”
Gray caught up with old friends during his visit to the stadium and the fans on hand gave him a standing ovation, themselves remembering the stirring performance.
“I don’t regret a minute of it.” Gray says, reflecting on his time in London, “My most memorable baseball experience was winning the championship in 1999. To play a 100-game season with my teammates and to end up on top is an unbelievable feeling.”
Though he never made the major league club, Gray spent four years in the Reds’ farm system, ending his career with a 27-16 record, with a 2.83 ERA in 135 games.
He threw 356 innings and struck out 279 batters over that span, walking only 85 and giving up only 25 home runs.
Gray also had the privilege of pitching for Team Canada in the Baseball World Cup twice, in 2001 and 2005, where he did not allow an earned run in either tournament, tying the best mark by any pitcher who had thrown in multiple World Cups.
On the topic, Gray is still very quick to make a point about how baseball in Canada changed over his time in the game.
“It’s getting better and better.” Gray remarks, “When I first went to college there weren’t any Canadians over there. Now, it’s an expanding market and you’ll see more and more people getting that shot.”
Time has a way of marching on for everyone though.
Seven years ago, Gray moved to Wyoming, Ont.. He now coaches his son’s ball team and isn’t too worried about reflecting on that electric game.
“I don’t think about it much, but not for lack of appreciation”, Gray states, “It was kind of surreal. I’m coaching my little guy now so I’m more concentrated on him than myself”.
Some baseball pundits would argue it was the best pitching performance ever by a Canadian.
After all these years it remains an imposing line on baseball-reference:
Name Age Team League W-L ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO
2000 23 London FRON Ind 1-0 1.00 1 1 9.0 3 1 1 1 1 25
So, even though Gray doesn’t think about it much, there are many other people who remember it as a moment that stood out farther than the rest.