Bell, Raines, Ducey, Cheek, Bailey HOFers
* The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame class of 2013: Rob Ducey (Cambridge, Ont.), left, Tim Raines, centre, and George Bell sport their new HOF blazers. .... Canadians drafted in the top 200 Top Canucks drafted year by year Canuck$ with si$-figue bonu$
By Bob Elliott
St. MARYS _ If you were expecting Jimy Williams to introduce George Bell you were disappointed Saturday afternoon.
Bell, who had one of the worst-ever, player-management feuds the spring after his 1987 MVP honours, was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
Tom Henke often called Bell the best teammate he ever had, was there to see his pal. Of course, when a Jays charter would leave the gate Henke often yelled “George why does that plane have your picture on it?”
Alaska Airlines had an image of a smiling Eskimo in a parka as its logo.
The Jays asked Bell to DH after the 1987 season and he agreed -- if the dollar amount on the multi-year deal was enough. The Jays signed Bell at a lesser amount, three-year $5.8 million deal (point of reference: Colby Rasmus earns $4.675 million this year), so in Bell’s mind all bets were off.
It came to pass the man at Grant Field announced on St. Patrick’s Day: “now batting, No. 11 DH George Bell,” as Bell stood motionless against the tarp in left. Within seconds the announcer said “pinch hitting for Bell, No. 26 Willie Upshaw.”
Out of the dugout bounced Williams and into the clubhouse the two headed, as Bell was fined $500 the max under the Basic Agreement.
“I have nothing bad to say against Jimy,” Bell told the crowd, “but sometimes when people touch your territory you have to be a man. That’s what happened.”
Bell thanked Jays president Paul Beeston, who told Bell it was time to move on after the 1990 season, as well as the late Bobby Mattick, former managers Bobby Cox and Cito Gaston and general manager Pat Gillick.
“I’m a Blue Jay inside and out, so I consider myself a Canadian,” said Bell who spoke for 14 minutes. “I’m not going to say too much -- I’m running out of English.”
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Jeff Cheek accepted the honour on behalf of his late father, broadcaster Tom Cheek, who will be presented with the Ford C. Frick award later in July at Cooperstown.
Introduced by MC Rod Black, who did an excellent job with the fast-moving afternoon, Jeff spoke of his father’s versatility -- calling University of Vermont Catamounts hockey and Friday night bowling -- in a heartfelt speech which was part humour, part Kleenex required.
“I’d love to hear a tape of his first game, I’m sure a kid from Pensacola, Fla. had few opportunities to watch hockey in the 1950s,” said Jeff. “I asked ‘how in the world could you do league bowling?’”
The father looked his son and said “who in the world would listen?”
Jeff credited Montreal Expos broadcaster Dave Van Horne for getting his father started with the Expos, which led to the Jays job so the Cheeks -- mom Saint Shirley, brother Tommy and sister Lisa -- moved from Burlington, Vt. to Burlington, Ont.
“The streak did not define our dad,” said Jeff. “he was a Toronto Blue Jay 24/7.”
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Ducey had touched them all, as the saying goes. He thanked his sisters, his wife, his children, his former Cambridge teammates, child hood friends, Jays scout Walt Jefferies, who signed him, the Jays and his late mother Anita.
“My mother was the biggest patriot I know, a single parent raising five children,” said Ducey. “My mother was always guiding.”
Anita Ducey has likely bumped into Cheek on a cloud where there is a game every day, and the late Nat Bailey, the former owner Vancouver triple-A club also inducted, is likely there too.
Then, Ducey mentioned Ed Heather, a baseball lifer, who heard about of a speedy softball player, and mailed a letter asking him if he wanted to try baseball?
“We’d drive to Listowel and Ed would ask what do you do on a fly ball to your right with a man on second? I was like ‘what do I care?’ Little did I know the lessons he taught me would become my profession.
“Ed sent me the letter, I introduced him to my mother and now he’s my step father.”
Ducey looked Heather in the eye “Ed thank you for your support, you were my mentor, my teacher.”
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Usually at a Hall of Fame ceremonies there isn’t any heckling.
“Before I was a left fielder, I played second,” Raines told the crowd, which included a giggling Bell in the first row. “George saw me at second in winter ball in the Dominican. Let me ask you George who won? Your team or mine?”
Bell stopped teasing.
Raines explained how he was a fifth round choice of the Expos in 1977. “The first four were pitchers, nothing against pitchers, but I felt like I was Montreal’s No. 1 pick,” said Raines. “I used to see guys on TV say ‘Hi Mom.’ I get it now. Mothers are the backbone of the family for a lot of us athletes.”
He gave credit to ex-manager Jim Fanning, thanked Expos fans and apologized for not being able to speak more French the night the final game was played at Olympic Stadium Sept. 29, 2004.
“I spoke to the crowd but I’m from a small town (Sanford, Fla.) in the south, those words don’t roll of my tongue that easy,” said Raines, who said the only one who had more publicity than him in Montreal was Youppi.