By: Kevin Glew
Canadian Baseball Network
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· Today would’ve been Jackie Robinson’s 97th birthday and it’s a day that Canadians should celebrate. Prior to breaking Major League Baseball’s colour barrier in 1947, Robinson starred at second base for the triple-A Montreal Royals, a Brooklyn Dodgers farm team, in 1946. It’s widely believed that Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey stationed Robinson in Montreal to ease Robinson into integrated baseball. Playing his home games in a city with a reputation for racial tolerance would provide Robinson with relative tranquility for half the schedule. On the field, Robinson excelled, leading the International League in batting average, walks and runs, and spurring the Royals to their first Junior World Series triumph.
When the Royals clinched the championship at Delorimier Stadium, the fans chanted Robinson’s name and hoisted him on their shoulders. Tears of jubilation spilled from the baseball pioneer’s eyes. He had endured a lot that season. Racism was palpable in International League cities like Syracuse and Baltimore, but the taunts had intensified in Louisville, the city Montreal opposed in the Junior World Series. After the celebration appeared over, Robinson emerged from the clubhouse, only to have adoring fans chase him down the street, wanting to touch their hero one last time.
The scene inspired Pittsburgh Courier correspondent Sam Maltin to write, “It was the first time that a white mob chased a black man down the street, not out of hate, but because of love.” Moved by the affection of Montrealers after the Junior World Series, Robinson remarked, “This is the city for me. This is paradise.” Robinson was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991.
· Speaking of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, the Hall will announce its 2016 inductee class on Tuesday at 9 a.m. ET.
· Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Toronto Blue Jays left-hander J.A. Happ is as good or will be as good as David Price, but check out these statistics for both pitchers after they were dealt to new clubs at last summer’s trade deadline: Price with the Blue Jays: 11 starts, 9-1 record, 2.30 ERA, 74-1/3 innings pitched, 2.4 WAR. Happ with the Pirates: 11 starts, 7-2 record, 1.85 ERA, 63-1/3 innings pitched, 2.4 WAR. Price will make $30 million in 2015, while Happ will rake in $10 million.
· Concord, Calif., native Clyde Mashore, who played parts of four seasons with the Montreal Expos, passed away on January 24 at the age of 70. Originally signed by the Cincinnati Reds as an amateur free agent in 1964, Mashore made his big league debut with the Reds in 1969 prior to being traded to the Expos for outfielder Ty Cline on June 15, 1970. The right-handed hitting outfielder batting a combined .208 in 241 games with the Expos between 1970 and 1973. Mashore also had two sons, Damon and Justin, that played professionally and are now serving as minor league coaches.
· Fun Canadian Baseball fact: The only time that Chatham, Ont., native Fergie Jenkins hit two home runs in a major league game was against the Montreal Expos on September 1, 1971 at Wrigley Field. The Cubs right-hander belted a two-run homer off of Bill Stoneman in the fifth inning and a solo home run off of Jim Britton in the seventh in the Cubs’ 5-2 win.
· Former Minnesota Twins and Toronto Blue Jays third baseman and 2015 Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Corey Koskie has penned a must-read article for The Players’ Tribune about the challenges that he faced in the business world after his playing career. You can read it here.
· Baseball Canada tweeted on Friday that right-hander Shawn Hill (Georgetown, Ont.) has joined the New York Yankees as a professional scout. The 6-foot-2 right-hander pitched for the independent Atlantic League’s York Revolution last season, his 14th in professional baseball. Hill pitched parts of seven seasons in the big leagues with the Montreal Expos, Washington Nationals, San Diego Padres and Blue Jays. He’s the only Canadian pitcher to have won a game for both the Expos and Blue Jays. He has also pitched for the national team on several occasions, including on the gold medal-winning 2011 and 2015 Pan Am Games squads.
· Self-deprecating former major league catcher and Milwaukee Brewers legendary broadcaster Bob Uecker turned 81 on Tuesday. In belated honour of his birthday, here’s one of my favourite Uecker quotes: “They said I was such a great prospect that they were sending me to a winter league to sharpen up,” Uecker said in 1972, of his time as a catcher in the Milwaukee Braves organization. “But when I stepped off the plane, I was in Greenland.”