Feb. 2, 2010 By Bob Elliott
First time we ever heard the name Quantrill it was yelled across a diamond in Kendal in 1967.
“Quantrill’s in,” yelled the plate ump.
My ears was so bad, the name so unfamiliar, I wrote down “Quantro” in the score book.
It was John Quantrill entering for the Kendal Frank Realtors in a five-run eighth, a Kingston Ponies 11-1 win.
(Arty Leeman picked up the win, Ralph Kennedy took the loss, pitching down 2-1 in the eighth. Charlie Pester had four hits, while Ron Earl, Guy White and Brian Coffey had two hits apiece. Peter Maartense singled to lead off the game and score Kendal’s first run.)
The first time we remember the hearing of Paul Quantrill was in June of 1989 -- he was the top Canadian selected in the draft when he was chosen in the sixth round by the Boston Red Sox and scout Chuck Koney the University of Wisconsin Badgers. From 1985-90 only Canadians attending school in the U.S. were eligible for the draft. That changed in 1991 when high schoolers were allowed to be drafted.
Quantrill was born in London, Ont., but like the song, he’s lived everywhere.
Since his father John was a plant manager for General Motors, he was a travelling man living in London, Windsor, Port Hope, St. Theresa, Okemos, Mich., England and attending the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where he met his lovely wife Alyson.
When John Quantrill headed for England his son was in grade 12 and he allowed him to stay with friends in Detroit. He had been drafted in 1986 when he was attending high school in Okemos. by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 26th round. He was one of two Canucks selected in the June draft that year.
Who knew Quantrill would pitch in more games than any of the other 122 Canadians who pitched in the majors?
The workhorse was elected to the Canadian Hall of Fame last month and will be inducted June 19 in St. Marys, along with former Jays second baseman Robbie Alomar, stats guru Allan Roth (Montreal, Que.) and Calvin Griffith (Montreal, Que.) the former owner of the Washington Senators.
The first time we met Quantrill was at Winter Haven in the spring of 1992. Peter Hoy (Cardinal, Ont.) was the story, as he was closer to the majors than Quantrill, but Hoy did not talk as much a Quantrill.
Manager Butch Hobson who already had Mike Gardiner (Sarnia, Ont.) in his rotation predicted a day where he may soon have “three Ontario pitchers on his staff.” Hoy was coming off 20 saves at Double-A New Britain (4-4, 1.46) and Triple-A Pawtucket (1-2, 2.38) and Quantrill (2-1, 2.06 at New Britain, 10-7, 4.45 at Pawtucket) slated for Triple A were also in camp.
The first time Quantrill received the call to the majors was July 18, 1992. Years later he would call it his best day in baseball ... and he never even wore a uniform.
Quantrill was with Pawtucket and they were in Syracuse. His Mom drove in for the series.
“We’d gone lunch, walked around a shopping mall and mom dropped me at the team hotel. My roommate, Brian Conroy had packed all my things. First, I thought he was busting my chops. He told me I had to get out of there as quick as possible. The club had phoned and I’d been promoted -- I missed two flights. Missing a third meant spending the night.
“I had a layover in Pittsburgh, flew to Minneapolis, checked into the hotel and went to the park early the next day. I didn’t pitch. Next night I got the win in K.C.
“After a scoreless sixth I struck out Gregg Jefferies and George Brett and gave up a liner which almost killed Wade Boggs, nearly took his head off. I thought “this game’s easy.
“A week later Brett hit a home run off me at Fenway that would be still travelling if it hadn’t hit something.”
He appeared in 27 games in relief for the Red Sox.
The season in 1993, Quantrill made 14 starts and appeared in 49 games for the Sox.
In the winter of 1994, in the midst of the Jays’ hinter lands in Port Hope, they were rooting for Otis Nixon to steal a base, Mo Vaughn to ``move the crowd’’ (translation from Vaughn-ese: to hit a home run) and Danny Darwin to set down the Jays.
They were also looking for an early exit from a Sox starter or two so Quantrill could enter the in relief.
``Home is Port Hope. It didn’t matter where we were living, I’d always tell people I’m from Port Hope,’’ said Quantrill, last night.
All four grandparents, his parents John and Donna, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews live in the Port Hope area. When Quantrill was called up to Triple-A Pawtucket in ‘91 his family bought a satellite dish since a large portion of the International League’s games were on TV.
What kind of impression has Quantrill made?
``He’s a nice, good-looking, clean-cut, all-American boy,’’ said a Boston TV type.
Except he’s Canadian, proud of it and loves his country’s hockey heritage.
``Growing up, hockey was my favorite. Played left wing and left defence,’’ said the reliever who idolized Guy Lafleur and Ken Dryden. ``I liked the game because it was rough, but when we moved to Michigan it wasn’t the same.’’
Quantrill had the chance to rough it up when Mariners’ Eric Anthony charged the mound. Quantrill was given the decision on the judge’s cards but his hand was stepped on in the pile.
The old baseball saying goes if you can pitch in Fenway Park you can pitch anywhere.
And, as the new baseball saying goes: If you can pitch inside Quantrill Chev-Olds Cadillac dealership, you can pitch any place. Hoy, a good friend of former Maple Leaf defencemen Todd Gill, worked out with Quantrill every day inside pop’s car lot to get ready for spring. They’d haul out a mound and take turns putting on catcher’s equipment. Quantrill has done well. Hoy was released and is pitching for the Ottawa-Nepean Canadians, awaiting a call for a second chance.
``We’d wait until the mechanics left,’’ said Quantrill. ``We only broke one window.’’
Other springs, Dennis O’Brien, who played defence with the Bruins and North Stars, would catch Quantrill.
Quantrill played junior and senior against rival Bowmanville and Oshawa and says he’s impressed by the calibre of baseball.
``There is no difference between an eight-year-old at home and the eight-year-old in Florida,’’ he says. ``The difference is weather. What’s the difference between the weather in Port Hope and Michigan? Not much. It’s coaching.’’
At Wisconsin, Quantrill had a fastball and a pitch he called a spinner masquerading as a slider. So it was difficult to throw the ball past hitters with aluminum bats.
One spring at Winter Haven, he found his breaking ball, courtesy of Broadway Charlie Wagner, who used to room with Ted Williams.
``A lot of guys look at this 70-year-old guy (actually 82) and say: `What’s that old guy know?’ He called me over and in five minutes I’d learned more about a breaking ball than in three years at university.
``I went over as quick as I could and I’m glad I did. I still see him each spring.’’
Respecting his elders, how typically Canadian.
The first time of the four times Quantrill was dealt was May 31, 1994. The Sox dealt OF Billy Hatcher and Quantrill to the Philadelphia Phillies for Wes Chamberlain and minor-leaguer Mike Sullivan.
Quantrill pitched in 18 games with the Phillies in 1994, making one start and spending some time at triple-A.
The next season he was back and was a member of the Phillies rotation going 11-12 in 33 games, making 29 starts.
The first time we heard that Quantrill could be headed to the Jays was standing at the baggage carousel at the Cleveland airport, Oct 24, 1995 from a Phillies scout.
The Jays were seeking closer Heathcliff Slocumb and wanted Ed Sprague. The Jays would not move Sprague, so the talk moved to minor league prospect third baseman Howard Battle a day or so later.
And 43 days later Jays then GM Gord Ash sent reliever Ricardo Jordan and Battle to the Phillies for Quantrill.
Who knew it was likely Ash’s best trade ever: third baseman Battle (29 games in the majors, four starts) and reliever Jordan (69 games, 70 1/3 innings) for Quantrill, who pitched 380 games for the Jays.
The Jays played the Phillies every three days -- not counting B games -- during spring training in the 1990s.
Over the years we got to know Phillies coaches John Vukovich.
So, in the spring of 1996, starter Quantrill we asked why starter had struggled?
He had allowed 256 base runners working 179 1/3 innings in 33 games, 29 starts.
What were his warts?
“I’ll tell you what’s wrong with him, he’s too much of a hockey puck,” Vukovich said one day. “Our guys would get hit with a pitch last year and he’d bounce down to our end of the dugout and say ‘put me in, put me in, I’ll get even.’
“What’s wrong with that? Nothing, except our guy got hit in the foot ... with a breaking ball ... our it was our No. 8 hitter. He hadn’t been on in a month. We didn’t mind him getting hit.”
The first time Quantrill surpassed Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) to become the all-time leader in appearances by a Canadian pitcher was July 4, 2003.
From Bob Alexander (Vancouver, BC) and Wiman Andrus (Orono, Ont.) to Jeff and Jordan Zimmerman (Kelowna, BC), Quantrill moved past one after another until he passed Jenkins, the only Canadian elected to Cooperstown,
The game came with little fanfare. A 20-pitch eighth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium. Quantrill retired Shea Hillenbrand on a comebacker, Robby Hammock on a ground ball and Quinton McCracken on a comebacker, leaving with the game deadlocked 1-1. The Dodgers lost 3-1 in 10 innings.
Quantrill preferred working out of the bullpen to starting once every five days. While his totals -- 841 games, including 64 starts and 1,255 2/3 career innings pale when compared to Jenkins (664 games, 594 starts, 4,500 2/3 innings), he became an every day Eddie.
For four straight seasons Quantrill led the majors in appearances: a league-high 80 with the Jays in 2001, 86 with the Dodgers in 2002, 89 the next year with the Dodgers and 86 with the 2004 New York Yankees.
Selected to the 2001 all-star game by Yanks manager Joe Torre, Quantrill wrote a guest columns for the Toronto Sun, the type athletes often do for big events.
Quantrill was self-deprecating, funny and despite it being his 10th year told of his first trip to the all-star game through the eyes of a wide-eyed rookie. Esteemed editor Gary Loewen called it the best guest athlete column he’d ever read.
He spends his spare time coaching his son Cal with Clare Osborne and as pitching coach for Greg Hamilton with the Canadian National Junior Team.
Any other facilities across the country interested?
Jets will dine: Legendary Team Canada pitching coach Denis Boucher (Lachine, Que.) will be the guest speaker for the annual Vauxhall Academy banquet March 6. Boucher is in the running to be hired as the Yankees Canadian scout.
Vauxhall gives out $10,000.00 to current players in scholarships.