My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
_ The official obituary for Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Jim Fanningappeared in Saturday’s London Free Press. The life of the legendary Montreal Expos executive and field manager, who passed away of heart failure on April 25 at the age of 87, will be celebrated in a memorial service in London, Ont., on May 24. For more details, read the obituary.
_ In wake of Fanning’s passing, it was with a heavy heart that the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont., opened its doors for its 18th season on Saturday. You can visit the museum on weekends in May and daily from June 1 to Aug. 31. For more details, including the Hall’s hours, check out their website.
_ Well, that was fun while it lasted. For one day, the Toronto Blue Jays had five Canadians on their active big league roster for the first time in franchise history. North Battleford, Sask., native Andrew Albers was called up on Friday to join Jeff Francis (North Delta, BC), Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.),Michael Saunders (Victoria, BC) and Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.) for the Jays contest against the Cleveland Indians. Albers relieved Blue Jays starterMark Buehrle in the fifth inning and allowed one earned run in 2 2/3 innings. Unfortunately, Albers was shipped back to triple-A Buffalo following the game along with Pompey. The Canadian duo was replaced on the roster by right-hander Scott Copeland and outfielder Ezequiel Carrera.
_ The Blue Jays pitching staff finished the month of April with a 4.78 ERA, the second worst in the American League. The Jays’ triple-A Buffalo Bisons completed the same month with a 2.11 ERA. This has led some fans to suggest (somewhat jokingly) that the Jays should flip-flop the staffs.
_ One interesting Blue Jays statistic from the month of April: the club led the American League in runs despite the fact that Jose Bautista hit .164, Russell Martin batted .197 and Edwin Encarnacion hit .205.
_ While the Jays struggle to win consistently this season, it’s nice to be able to reminisce about their glory years. That’s what fans were doing at the Sport Card & Memorabilia Expo at the International Centre in Mississauga, Ont., on Saturday when they had the opportunity to get 1993 World Series hero Joe Carter’s autograph. If you got Carter’s autograph in the ’90s, you should savor it, collectors were paying $75 a pop for his signature yesterday.
_ Speaking of autographs, Montreal Expos fans will remember second baseman Doug Flynn, who suited up with the club from 1982 to 1985. An exceptional fielder, but an ordinary hitter, Flynn signed numerous autographs over the course of his career, but he always refused to sign his 1986 Topps Baseball card – his final card – which pictures him with the Detroit Tigers. He says his refusal to sign this card was to create rarity so when he did finally sign some he could raise money for the children’s charities he supports in his home state of Kentucky. Flynn’s decision not to sign this card has left a gaping hole in many collections. For example, there are a number of collectors attempting to track down an autographed example of every card in the 1986 Topps set, while others simply want every Detroit Tigers card from that set signed. Collectors are completists and some have offered Flynn as much as $2,500 to sign the card. Well, at a charitable event in Lexington, Ky., in July 2010, he relented and signed five of these cards (Flynn talks about his decision to sign these cards in this YouTube video.) One of these cards recently surfaced on eBay with a “Buy It Now” price of $2,399.99.
_ You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone that picked the Houston Astros to win the American League West division this season. But heading into Sunday’s game, the Astros boast a 17-7 record and are six games ahead of the second-place Los Angeles Angels. One of the keys to their success has been former Blue Jays prospect Jake Marisnick, who’s leading the American League in batting average (.391) and stolen bases (9). The 24-year-old outfielder played parts of three seasons in the Jays organization before being shipped to the Miami Marlins on Nov. 19, 2012 as part of the blockbuster deal that saw the Blue Jays land Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson among others. Marisnick hit .178 in 54 games with the Marlins in 2013 and 2014, before being dealt to the Astros on July 31 last year.
_ While the Blue Jays continue to look for someone who can consistently get three outs in the ninth inning, their former closer, Casey Janssen, should be pitching for the Washington Nationals by the end of the month. The 33-year-old right-hander, who signed a one-year, $3.5-million deal with the Nats in February, has been sidelined with a shoulder injury, but he threw 16 pitches in an extended spring training game in Viera, Fla., on Thursday. He’s scheduled to take the mound in Viera again on Monday prior to starting a rehab assignment with class-A Advanced Potomac. Janssen pitched in parts of nine seasons with the Blue Jays, serving as the club’s closer from 2012 through 2014.