BWDIK: Graney, Martin, O'Doul, Paxton, Romak

But What Do I Know? … Russell Martin, James Paxton, Jack Graney
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada

My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:

_ Toronto Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.) continues to showcase his tremendous throwing abilities. He has now nabbed 31 of 70 runners that have attempted to steal off of him this season. This gives him a major league-best 44% caught-stealing percentage. The 31 runners Martin has caught are the most by a Jays catcher since Darrin Fletcher threw out 32 in 1998 (Fletcher also had 133 stolen base attempts – or 63 more than Martin – against him that season). Alan Ashby holds the club’s record for most runners thrown out in a season. He tossed out 59 runners in the club’s inaugural campaign. Burly Charlie O’Brien owns the best single-season caught-stealing percentage by a Jays catcher. In 69 games in 1997, he gunned down 55% (31 of 56) of the runners trying to steal off of him.

_ On Friday, James Paxton (Ladner, BC) made his second start since returning from a finger injury that had sidelined him for close to three months. He held the AL West-leading Texas Rangers to one run in 4 1/3 innings, but didn’t last long enough to record the win in the Seattle Mariners’ 3-1 victory. Earlier in the week, the Mariners adjusted their rotation so that Paxton will get an extra start before the end of the season. “We want to get him out there as much as we possibly can,” manager Lloyd McClendon told the Bellingham Herald. The Mariners hope this increased workload will prepare the Canadian left-hander to pitch more innings in 2016.
  
_ Don’t forget to vote for St. Thomas, Ont., native Jack Graney for the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s 2016 Ford C. Frick Award. The Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer is one of more than 20 candidates from the “Broadcasting Dawn Era,” which encompasses those who could be heard on the airwaves during the early days of baseball to the 1950s, on the online ballot. 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. You can vote  for Graney once every 24 hours. The top three vote-getters from the fan balloting will then 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 19-member committee – which consists of the 15 living former recipients and four historians – votes in November. The winner will be announced at the Baseball Winter Meetings in December.

_ London, Ont., native Jamie Romak has donated his batting gloves, hat and a shirt from his first game with the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 8 to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont. After batting .284 with 27 home runs and 100 RBIs in 129 games with the triple-A Reno Aces this season, the Canadian slugger was called up by the D-Backs. So far, Romak has three hits in 13 at bats for the D-Backs. This is the 29-year-old’s second big league stint; he suited up in 15 games for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season.

_ When I was reading the backs of some 1932 baseball cards this week, I gained a greater appreciation for an old-time player and manager named Lefty O’Doul. O’Doul was the manager of the first Vancouver Mounties triple-A Pacific Coast League team in 1956, but prior to serving as a minor league manager for over two decades, he was an excellent big league hitter. In fact, O’Doul retired with a .349 batting average in 11 major league seasons between 1919 and 1934. That’s the fourth highest batting average in big league history. So why isn’t he in the Hall of Fame? His critics contend that he didn’t play long enough and that he excelled in the live ball era when offensive numbers were inflated. One of the highlights of O’Doul’s long and storied career came when he was the 59-year-old manager of the Mounties. On September 16, 1956, he inserted himself in a game to bat against the Sacramento Solons. According to O’Doul’s SABR bio, the opposing manager moved his outfielders in and the savvy veteran promptly socked the ball over the centre fielder’s head for a triple. 

_ Another of my favorite Yogi Berra stories: when Berra traveled with the Yankees, he packed his clothes in a ratty, old suitcase that was coming apart at the seams. His teammates would constantly rib him about the state of his suitcase. One day Berra grew tired of being mocked about his luggage. “Why buy good luggage?” he barked back to his teammates. “You only use it when you travel.”

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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