BWDIK: Freeman, Gretzky, Loria, McKean, Raines

 Photo: Kris Krug

Photo: Kris Krug

By: Kevin Glew

Canadian Baseball Network

My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:

•    On the Dan Patrick Show on Thursday, Wayne Gretzky shared that baseball was his favourite sport when he was growing up. The Brantford, Ont., native, who’s the NHL’s all-time leading scorer, said that if he had been given the choice of playing professional hockey or professional baseball, he would’ve selected baseball. “I would’ve loved to have been the shortstop for the Detroit Tigers. I grew up such a big Tiger fan,” he told Patrick.

After learning of Gretzky’s comment, the Tigers created a customized jersey for The Great One. “We have a No. 99 jersey with your name on it,” the Tigers tweeted to Gretzky, along with a photo of the jersey. If you visit the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont., you’ll find more evidence of Gretzky’s skills on the diamond. The ball shrine has a photo of the national champion 1973 Chatham Kinsmen Pee-Wee squad that Gretzky was on. Why was the Brantford native part of the Chatham squad? The story is that Chatham was permitted to add four out-of-town players to their roster for the national tournament and one of the players they picked up was Gretzky.  

•    I learned this week that it was Montreal native and 2004 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Jim McKean who was calling the ball and strikes behind the plate for 2017 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Roy Halladay’s near no-hitter in his second major league start. Thanks to Scott Crawford, the Canadian ball hall’s director of operations, for sharing this.

On September 27, 1998, Halladay carried a no-hitter into the bottom of the ninth inning and had two outs when Detroit Tigers pinch-hitter Bobby Higginson belted a solo home run. Halladay finished with a complete-game one-hitter in the Blue Jays’ 2-1 win.

•    In a late-January interview on Holden Kushner’s MLB on TuneIn Radio show, 2017 National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee and Montreal Expos great Tim Raines revealed that the Washington Nationals have contacted him about potentially appearing at Nationals Park this summer. It’s about time that the franchise honoured Raines in some fashion.

•    Happy 37th Birthday to London, Ont., native Adam Stern! He played parts of four seasons in the big leagues with the Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles and Milwaukee Brewers between 2005 and 2010, but he became a national hero for his outstanding performance in Canada’s 8-6 upset victory over the United States on March 8, 2006, in the first World Baseball Classic played in Phoenix, Ariz. In that contest, Stern recorded three hits – including a triple and an inside-the-park homer.

He also made a key defensive play in the eighth inning when he made a leaping catch against the centre field wall to rob Chase Utley of an extra-base hit. Since hanging up his professional playing spikes, Stern has returned to London and is the owner of Centrefield Sports, a successful baseball training complex in the city.

•    Fifteen years ago today, one day after Major League Baseball purchased the Montreal Expos from Jeffrey Loria, Hall of Famer Frank Robinson was appointed the club’s new manager. MLB also announced that Tony Tavares would be the team president, and Omar Minaya would serve as general manager, which made him the first Hispanic GM in major league history.

•    Much has been written about Atlanta Braves slugger Freddie Freeman’s decision to play for Canada in this year’s World Baseball Classic, and rightfully so. The all-star first baseman was born and raised in California, but both his mother (Toronto, Ont.) and his father (Windsor, Ont.) were born in Canada.

His mother passed away from skin cancer when he was 10 years old and he’s playing for Canada to honour her memory. Another name that stood out to me on the Canadian roster was Kevin Chapman. The left-handed reliever, who was born in Coral Springs, Fla., has pitched parts of four seasons with the Houston Astros. He’s reportedly eligible to play for Canada because his father was born in Toronto.

•    I was sad to learn that former Vancouver Capilanos pitcher Red Adams passed away on January 18 at age 95. The Parlier, Calif., native posted a 6-15 record and a 4.95 ERA in 32 games for the Class-B Western International League Capilanos in 1941. In all, the durable right-hander won 193 games in 19 minor league seasons.

His only taste of the big leagues as a pitcher came in 1946 when he made eight relief appearances for the Chicago Cubs. Adams later became a highly respected pitching coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1969 to 1980, serving under Hall of Fame managers Walter Alston and Tommy Lasorda.