* RP John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.) is the latest in a long-line of Canadians to play for the Cleveland Indians. ....
By Bob Elliott
Closer John Axford earns the sixth most amongst the Cleveland Indians earners this season.
Yet come the ninth inning, with the Indians leading and three outs to go, what Axford does is more important than anything Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Asdrubal Cabrera, Justin Masterson or David Murphy accomplishes.
Axford is earning $4.5 million US.
The Top 5 Canucks ever to play for Cleveland as we overlook
Bill Phillips, Saint John, N.B. (1879-88, 1,038 games, the first six seasons with Cleveland)
Pop Smith, Digby, N.S. (1880-1891, one season with Cleveland)
Jerry Moore, Windsor, Ont. (1884-85, one season with Cleveland)
Spud Johnson, unknown (1889-91, one season with Cleveland)
Pat Lyons, Belleville, Ont. (1890)
Jay Clarke, Amherstburg, Ont. (1905-11, 1919-20 1,711 games, six seasons with Cleveland)
Tom Daly, Saint John, N.B. (1913-16, 1918-21, one season with Cleveland)
Paul Calvert, Montreal (1942-1945)
Bunk Congalton, Guelph, Ont. (1905-1907)
Joe Krakauskas, Montreal (1941-42, 1946)
Ralph McCabe, Napanee, Ont. (1946)
Bob Hooper, Leamington, Ont. (1953-1654)
Bob Alexander, Vancouver (1957)
Ted Bowsfield, Vernon, BC (1958-64, one season with Cleveland)
Jim Lawrence, Hamilton (1963)
Ron Law, Hamilton (1969)
Mike Kilkenny, Bradford, Ont. (1972-1973)
Doug Frobel, Ottawa (1987)
Denis Boucher, Montreal (1991-1992)
Nigel Wilson, Ajax, Ont. (1996)
Aaron Myette, New Westminster, BC (2003)
Luke Carlin, Gatineau, Que. (2010, 2012).
5. The Only Nolan, unknown
Edward Nolan pitched for 1881 Cleveland Blues. Imagine the look on Nolan Ryan’s face when he found out that a 5-foot-8 Canadian from parts unknown had pitched in the majors with the nickname The Only Nolan.
4. Ron Taylor, Toronto.
Taylor only pitched the 1962 season for the Indians going 2-2 with a 5.32 ERA. His first loss came at Fenway Park when he pitched 11 scoreless innings against Boston Red Sox’s Bill Monbouquette. Carl Yastrzemski led off the bottom of the 12th with a triple. Two intentional walks later, Carroll Hardy hit a grand slam walk off. Taylor pitched 11 seasons winning World Series rings with the 1964 St. Louis Cardinals and the 1969 New York Mets.
3. Jeff Heath, Fort William, Ont.
All those hitting records Larry Walker broke on his way to becoming the best position player Canada ever developed. Most of them belonged to Heath. He played from 1936-49, including 10 seasons with the Indians collecting 1,447 hits in 1,383 games while hitting 194 homers. He earned all-star honours in 1941 and 1943.
2. John Axford, Port Dover.
Axford is a wonderful made-in-Canada story from small town Ontario. Drafted by the Seattle Mariners he went to Notre Dame and was a stud as a sophomore, then injured his elbow his junior year, had surgery, transferred to Canisius College in Buffalo (99 walks, 99 strikeouts) signed with the New York Yankees and was released in 2007. Milwaukee Brewers scout Jay Lapp drove from London through a snow storm to The Baseball Zone in Mississauga, signed him. Axford made his big-league debut in 2009, he took over from Trevor Hoffman, led the NL with 45 saves in 2011 and last year pitched in the World Series with St. Louis Cardinals,
This season he’s 5-for-6 in save opportunities (83%).
1. Jack Graney, St. Thomas.
Graney played 14 years with Cleveland (1908, 1910-1922) and was part of the 1920 World Series team which beat the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Graney takes on import because of what he did after his final at-bat June 28, 1922 when he pinch hit and walked in a 9-0 loss to the St. Louis Browns.
He was a trend setter. Graney did not retire to St. Thomas, but instead headed upstairs to the broadcast booth. While it may have happened eventually Graney opened the door for ex-players leading to all the good broadcasters -- and the bad ex-players too.
He was also the first to wear a uniform number on June 26, 1916, when the Indians used numbers on their sleeves against the White Sox. The lead-off hitter, who played 1,402 games and hit .250 with 79 triples and 148 steals, was also the first to face Babe Ruth. He was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys.