Inductee Doug Melvin shows funny side
* Milwaukee Brewers Doug Melvin (Chatham, Ont.) explained the length of his speech induction day at St. Marys by saying “if you had put me in nine years ago I’d have 10 minutes less material to work with ….
By Bob Elliott
St. MARYS — When Milwaukee Brewers general manager Doug Melvin received the phone call in February he knew why.
“They’re inducting me because I traded Brett Lawrie to the Blue Jays,” Melvin told a crowd during Canadian Hall of Fame induction ceremonies Saturday. The joke elicited laughter from the crowd gathered under the tent.
“But seriously the Brewers minor-league development people teaches players to never throw a helmet — unless they are 50 feet from an umpire.”
Melvin sent Lawrie to the Jays for right-hander Shaun Marcum on Dec. 10, 2010 and the Brewers came within two wins of making the World Series a year ago. Earlier Lawrie was suspended four games for throwing his helmet which bounced up and hit home plate ump Bill Miller in the hip.
“My goal when I reached Milwaukee in 2002 was to make the team more popular than the Sausage Races,” Melvin said.
Growing up in Chatham, Ont. Melvin threw indoor bullpen sessions in the same high school as Fergie Jenkins in the winter.
“I wanted to be like Fergie,” Melvin said. “But how could I ever be like Fergie? He threw 95 MPH, my fastball was 89. He won 284 games in the majors, I won zero (29 wins in the minors). Fergie pitched 19 years in the majors, I pitched six seasons in the minors.
“Today … for the first time I am like Fergie,” said Melvin sporting his Canadian HOF blazer.
Melvin is one of five Canadian GMs: Huntsville’s George Selkirk of the Washington Senators, Murray Cook of Sackville, N.B., who ran the New York Yankees, Montreal Expos and Cincinnati Reds, Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos of Montreal and former Jays GM Gord Ash, from Toronto, now with the Brewers, who gave a wonderful introduction.
And Melvin has been the most successful reaching post-season play five times, three with the Texas Rangers and twice with the Brewers.
Melvin praised Pat Gillick, who helped him to get into player development with the Yankees, former Texas Rangers manager Johnny Oates, scouts Dick (The Legend) Groch and Jay Lapp, who signed John Axford, Ash and all the way back to his peewee coach Chirp Morris.
“One day I’m playing the field and make a heck of a play,” Melvin said. “The next day I show up five minutes late. Chirp got in my face and told me ‘I don’t care how good a play you made yesterday, you’re late today.’ I haven’t been late for an appointment, a meeting or a game ever since … unless I’m running errands for my wife Ellen.”
As Melvin moved deep into his speech he looked up, took a swig of water and said “you know had you guys inducted me nine years ago I wouldn’t have so much ground to cover.”
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Ernie Whitt was proud.
“Those times we stood down the row on the third place podium listening to Cuban anthem,” said the manager of Canada’s Pan Am win, inducted into the Hall in October as, “to watch the Canadian kids stand with Team USA and Cuba on each side as they played ‘Oh Canada’ was a memory I’ll never forget.”
In international competition coaches don’t get medals and are not allowed on the podium. So Whitt, coaches Denis Boucher, Tim Leiper and Greg Hamilton, plus trainer Dave Blatz, equipment manager Keith Sanford and business manager Bernie Soulliere all with a passion for the game did what any grown man would do.
“We stood in the dugout and cried,” said Whitt through tears. “We watched Chris Robinson cry, we watched Shawn Bowman cry. It was an emotional time.”
Only two players — retired Mike Johnson and injured Brock Kjeldgaard — attended as everyone else was with their minor-league teams.
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The 1987 class-A St. Petersburg Cardinals had players from Florida State, Arkansas, Florida, Cal-State Northridge and Florida International to name a few college programs.
And they had a wiry lefty from the Community College of Rhode Island.
“He must have weighed about 170 pounds and was from Canada! We didn’t know what to think,” said righty Rich Hoffman who attended Long Island University and was on hand to introduce his first roomie, lefty Rheal Cormier, induction day at the Canadian Hall of Fame Saturday.
“One night we’re in Winter Haven and Rheal knocks down this guy, the guy gets up and stares. The dugout was so close we could hear every word. Rheal said to him ‘either charge the mound or get back in the batter’s box … so I can strike you out.’”
The hitter was Jeff Bagwell who went on to possibly a Hall of Fame career with the Houston Astros.
Former Montreal Expo slugger Rusty Staub, was inducted along with Milwaukee GM Melvin, the 2011 Pan Am gold medallists and Cormier.
Cormier pitched 16 seasons — including an 8-0 mark with a 1.70 ERA with the 2003 Phillies — working 1,221 2/3 innings in 683 games.