BWDIK: Christmas, Henderson, Stottlemyre, Raines, Walker

By: Kevin Glew

Canadian Baseball Network

My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:

•    Please send good vibes and strength to Mel Stottlemyre, the father of former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Todd Stottlemyre. In a Facebook post on Friday, the ex-Blue Jays hurler shared that his 75-year-old father is fighting for his life. “Calling all prayer warriors during this holiday season. My father is in the hospital fighting for his life,” wrote the former Jay. “He has battled cancer for 16 years. He is the greatest champion that I have ever met. I’m praying hard for you, Dad. I love you pops. Please lock arms with me and pray for all of our loved ones who are fighting.”

Mel Stottlemyre won 164 games for the New York Yankees from 1964 to 1974 before he became a highly respected pitching coach. He has been fighting a form of bone marrow cancer since 1999.

•    So far so good for Montreal Expos legend Tim Raines in the National Baseball Hall of Fame voting. Thanks to the hard-working Ryan Thibodaux, who documents baseball writers’ ballots that have been made public, we know that Raines has been named on 96 of 105 writers’ ballots to this point – that’s 91 per cent of ballots.

In his first year of eligibility, fellow Expos great Vladimir Guerrero’s name has been checked on 75 per cent of ballots, while Maple Ridge, B.C., native Larry Walker has received support on 23 per cent. A candidate needs to be named on 75 per cent of ballots to be inducted. Thibodaux has calculated that 435 total writers’ ballots will be cast.

•    On Thursday, Matt Kelly of Sports On Earth published a column that suggests that Larry Walker is worthy of a plaque in Cooperstown. In the article, Kelly downplays the fact that Walker’s offensive numbers were bolstered by playing at Coors Field in Colorado. He notes that several other Hall of Famers benefited more from their home park than Walker.

Five hundred home run club member, Mel Ott, for example, capitalized on the Polo Grounds’ dimensions – which included it being 257 feet down the right-field line – to belt 135 more home runs at his home park. Kelly also shares that three Boston Red Sox Hall of Famers – Bobby Doerr, Wade Boggs and Carl Yastrzemski – accumulated significantly more extra-base hits at Fenway Park (many of them clanking them off the Green Monster) than they did on the road. You can read the full article here. 

•    Speaking of Walker, Baseball Canada announced that the former slugger will be a coach on Canada’s World Baseball Classic squad in March. Former Blue Jays catcher Ernie Whitt will return to manage, while Paul Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.), Denis Boucher (Montreal, Que.), Blue Jays first base coach Tim Leiper and Baseball Canada national teams director Greg Hamilton will round out the coaching staff. Every member of the staff has been inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, either as a player or as a coach as part of a team.

•    It’s disappointing to me that former big leaguer Steve Christmas was not born on Christmas. The former Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs catcher/first baseman was born on December 9, 1957. He suited up for 24 big league games over parts of three seasons between 1983 and 1986.

Of those two dozen contests, two were against the Montreal Expos when he was with the Cubs. On April 27, 1986, Christmas pinch-hit for outfielder Bob Dernier in the eighth inning and socked a two-run double off Expos closer Jeff Reardon which sparked a five-run rally and a Cubs’ comeback 12-10 win.  

•    Rickey Henderson is the most famous former Blue Jay born on Christmas Day. The Hall of Famer and all-time stolen base champ was born on December 25, 1958. The “Man of Steal” had a .356 on-base percentage and swiped 22 bases in 44 games after being acquired by the Blue Jays in their 1993 World Series-winning season. Former Blue Jays coaches, Bruce Walton and Marty Pevey, who both played briefly with the Expos, were born on Christmas Day in 1962.

•    On top of Walton and Pevey, three other ex-Expos were also born on Christmas Day: Manny Trillo (1950), Charlie Lea (1956) and Wallace Johnson (1956).

•    In case you’re wondering, the Blue Jays have never had a player with the first name “Jesus” suit up for them in a regular season game. Jesus Figueroa, however, has been their batting practice pitcher since 1989.
•    Adopted Canadian Scott Bullett will turn 48 on Christmas Day. Born in Martinsburg, West Virginia in 1968, Bullett now lives in Welland, Ont., and operates the Bullett Proof Baseball Academy. He suited up for 247 games in parts of four major league seasons between 1991 and 1996 with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs.