BWDIK: Aumont, Colabello, Graney, Henke, Lawrie, Martin, Osuna

Who recalls Tom Henke being nicknamed as The Canadian Goose ... a take off on Hall of Fame RP Goose Gossage?

Who recalls Tom Henke being nicknamed as The Canadian Goose ... a take off on Hall of Fame RP Goose Gossage?

But What Do I Know? … Russell Martin, Jack Graney, Tom Henke

By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada

My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:

_ For a major league team to make the postseason these days, they require their stars to be stars, but they also need to have one or two outstanding performers that come out of nowhere. The Toronto Blue Jays have five such players. Roberto Osuna, 20, has emerged as a dominant closer (1.98 ERA, 14 saves). Chris Colabello, a long shot to even play in the big leagues this season, is batting .330 with 12 home runs in 78 games. Marco Estrada, thought to be an inning-eating long man out of the bullpen out of spring training, has posted 11 wins and a 3.27 ERA, predominantly as a starter. And nobody would’ve predicted that right-handers Liam Hendriks (2.26 ERA in 42 games) and Bo Schultz (2.75 ERA in 24 games) would be go-to middle relievers.  

_ How hobbled Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.) is right now will likely factor into the club’s decision on whether to exercise their $12-million option on R.A. Dickey for next season. Aside from his last start, the knuckleballer has had an excellent second half, but his overall numbers this season (7-10, 4.14 ERA) are underwhelming. And the toll catching the knuckler has taken on Martin, whom the Jays have committed $82.5 million to over five years, is unmistakable. When healthy, Martin is one of baseball’s best all-around backstops, but right now Martin’s production is being hampered by a sore left hamstring, a bruised thumb on his catching hand and various other nicks and bruises. He has hit just .176 over the past month. 

_ The National Baseball Hall of Fame will unveil a list of eligible 2016 Ford C. Frick Award candidates in September. The next honoree will be from the “Broadcasting Dawn Era” which encompasses those who could be heard on the airwaves during the early days of baseball to the 1950s. Author Barbara Gregorich is hoping that Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Jack Graney (St. Thomas, Ont.) will be on that list. Gregorich, who wrote Jack and Larry – a children’s book about Graney and his loveable dog, recently made a case for Graney on her website. After manning the outfield for parts of 14 seasons with the Cleveland Indians between 1908 and 1922, Graney became the first ex-player to make the transition to the broadcast booth, performing radio play-by-play for the Indians from 1932 to 1953. After the list of eligible candidates is revealed next month, fans will have an opportunity to vote on the Hall’s Facebook page. The top three vote-getters will be part of a 10-name final ballot (The other seven finalists will be determined by a Hall of Fame research committee). The 2016 winner will ultimately be decided when the Frick Award’s official 20-member committee – which consists of the 16 living former recipients and four historians – votes in November. The winner will be announced at the Baseball Winter Meetings in December. 

_ On this day, 26 years ago, Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Rick Dempsey homered in the top half of the 22nd inning at Olympic Stadium to give his club a 1-0 victory over the Montreal Expos. Aside from its marathon length, the game was notable for a couple of other reasons. The Expos pitching staff set a record for most innings in a single game without allowing a walk. Also, in the 11th inning, Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda complained to the umpires about Expos mascot Youppi being atop the visitors’ dugout. The umpires ejected the mascot, but Youppi returned two innings later wearing pajamas and holding a pillow. He then formed a make-shift bed atop the Expos dugout.
 
_ Brett Lawrie (Langley, BC) has donated a pair of his game-worn spikes and a game-used bat from this season to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. The sparkplug infielder is in his first year with the Oakland A’s after he was acquired as part of a package for Josh Donaldson on Nov. 28. The Hall also has a game-used bat from Lawrie’s tenure with the Blue Jays on display.

_ A fascinating feature article in the August 17 issue of Sports Illustrated discusses the unlikely evolution of Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt into a five-tool player. Perhaps the most surprising statistic for Goldschmidt this season has been his 20 stolen bases (He had just nine in 2014). The article indicates that Goldschmidt’s newfound base-stealing prowess is largely due to his extra work with Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Dave McKay (Vancouver, BC), who’s the D-Backs baserunning coach.

_ With five Canadians on their roster, the Toronto Blue Jays triple-A Buffalo Bisons were the most Canadian team in affiliated pro ball. Phillippe Aumont (Gatineau, Que.) and George Kottaras (Scarborough, Ont.) recently joined Jeff Francis (North Delta, BC), Andrew Albers (North Battleford, Sask.) and Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.) on the club. Aumont was released this week after allowing four runs on two hits and six walks in two innings in a 6-0 loss to Syracuse. In five games -- four starts -- Aumont was 0-2 record with a 6.00 ERA, walking 22 batters in 18 innings.

_ We know Tom Henke as “The Terminator” but apparently at some point during his career, people started calling him the “Canadian Goose.” I didn’t know this until I discovered this inscription on a baseball autographed by him. Presumably this nickname was dreamed up because he was a fireball closer like Goose Gossage that was pitching north of the border. It’s actually pretty creative, but I still prefer “The Terminator.” 

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Kevin Glew

Regaled with stories about Mickey Mantle by his father, Ralph, when he was growing up, Kevin Glew developed a keen interest in baseball at a young age in Dorchester, Ont. playing against teams from Vienna, Straffordville, St. Thomas, Stratford, Harrietsville, Belmont, London and Sarnia. His interest blossomed into a full-blown fascination after enduring a bone-chilling wind on the bench seats down the right-field line at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto on Oct. 5, 1985 to witness the Blue Jays secure their first division title. Though Dale Murphy was his favourite player, the teenage Glew played more like a poor man's Spike Owen - another of his childhood heroes whom he later had the opportunity to interview. When he realized he had no shot at a big league career, Glew focussed his efforts on becoming a sportswriter. During his tenure in the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa from 1992 to 1996, he watched the Triple-A Ottawa Lynx in their glory years and vividly recalls a young Matt Stairs suiting up for the Lynx.With few jobs in sports journalism available upon graduation, Glew entered the financial services industry. But after eight years of writing about RRSPs, Glew decided it was time to write about RBIs again. Since leaving his position in the financial sector, he has had freelance articles published in Baseball Digest, Baseball America and the London Free Press. He has also contributed to CBC Sports, SLAM! Sports, Rogers Sportsnet and MLB.com. In June 2010, he started a Canadian baseball history blog called Cooperstowners in Canada. You can read his blog here. Glew is also a member of the Professional Writers Association of Canada. He is available for paid writing gigs and can be reached at kevin.glew@sympatico.ca