New Canadian hall inductees recall their tenures north of the border

Former Montreal Expos superstar Pedro Martinez is part of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame's 2018 inductee class that was announced on Thursday.

Former Montreal Expos superstar Pedro Martinez is part of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame's 2018 inductee class that was announced on Thursday.

By Danny Gallagher

Canadian Baseball Network

When Pedro Martinez found out he was traded to the Expos by the Dodgers in the fall of 1993, he was "really intimidated'' by the thought.

When Lloyd Moseby found out he was drafted by the Blue Jays in 1978, he was lost on who they were because he grew up in Oakland.

But in the end, when it mattered, Martinez and Moseby found their way and became household names in Canada, good enough that they were elected Thursday along with historian Bill Humber into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont.

This is Martinez's second time entering a major Hall of Fame, the first one being Cooperstown in 2016. The town of St. Marys should be a-buzzing June 16, the day of the induction ceremony. The strategy by voters was spot on. It's always good to see a big name from the Expos and Blue Jays elected because you know there will be a large crowd on hand for induction day.

"When I got traded to Montreal, I didn't have a good feedback about things there. I was raised by my brother Ramon,'' Martinez said on a conference call with reporters. "I was taken under my brother's wings with the Dodgers but when I heard Felipe Alou was the manager in Montreal, I felt better. I figured I would find some Dominican friends.

"When I got to spring training in West Palm Beach, before I made my seat on the ground, Felipe pulled me into his office and he said, 'You're my fourth starter from now on.' I told him it was going to take me awhile to get adjusted because I was in the bullpen the year before.''

Martinez spent four seasons with the Expos before being traded to the Boston Red Sox following the 1997 season but clearly by the way he was talking, he dearly loved his time with the 1994 squad that was denied a berth in post-season play by a players' strike and the eventual cancellation of the season. His adjustment to being a starter over a bullpen spot took some time but he earned his wings, going 11-5.

"I thought we were going to win it all in 1994,'' Martinez said. "We were a complete team, we knew how to win and play the game right. We had speed, we had heart. Felipe was a master at developing people's strengths. We were young, we were talented, we had a helluva bullpen with guys like John Wetteland, Mel Rojas and Jeff Shaw.

"The one defining moment? Atlanta teams were always the ones to beat. Cliff Floyd hit the home run against Greg Maddux. We passed Atlanta in the standings. Right before the strike happened, we beat Atlanta in two series. We were able to believe in our talent.''

As an aside, Martinez said of the 1994 team, "We looked like the smallest team but we could fight, too.''

Yes, we remember Martinez had a famous 1994 battle with Cincinnati's Reggie Sanders, who surprisingly charged the mound when Martinez somehow drilled him with a pitch in the eighth inning, thus ending his perfect game. Martinez revealed that the two eventually patched up their differences.

"Reggie and I had an opportunity to talk about it and I asked him what he was thinking. He said he wasn't thinking,'' Martinez recalled. "I remember him apologizing. Later on, I pitched a great game and he came over and he said he didn't realize how special I was.''

It was during that season and in 1995-96 that Martinez admitted he was gaining a reputation as a "headhunter'' and when he had to spend the first few days of the 1997 season under suspension, he had to make a point, especially to umpires, who were out to get him.

"I was a little frustrated,'' Martinez said. "I felt like I was being persecuted. I missed three or four starts there at the beginning in 1997 but I proved I was not just a headhunter. I struck out over 300, I was 17-8 and my ERA was 1.90.''

Despite that brilliance in 1997 on a lacklustre Expos' team, Martinez knew his time in Montreal was coming to an end and suggested to general manager Jim Beattie that he be traded to a contender. He was dealt to Boston, the last team to whom he thought he would be dealt.

Martinez recalled Alou telling him this: "I know you have to go. They can't afford you.''

While he was a pre-arbitration eligible player under club control, Martinez said he got "renewed three times'' at contract time so he was getting an inkling of how tight the Expos were with money.

"Once I was eligible for arbitration, my time was limited,'' he said. "I said I'd like to be traded to the Yankees, Cleveland, Baltimore or San Francisco. Those were the four teams. Then all of a sudden, I was traded to Boston and they were like the Expos, near last place.''

Yes, Martinez was right. And the Red Sox had the same record as the Expos, 78-84. Imagine. But Martinez hung around Boston long enough to help the Red Sox to a World Series win in 2004, thus ending a drought of 86 years. In the ensuing clubhouse bedlam, Martinez alluded to the great time he enjoyed with the Expos and lamented their departure to Washington.

"I would like to share this with the people in Montreal that are not going to have a team anymore. My heart and my ring is with them, too,'' Martinez said at the time as he was doused by champagne.

"Montreal made me grow as a man,'' Martinez told reporters today. "Montreal means the world to me. I knew how to walk the streets there. I was intimidated at first by the French but I loved it after that. I got to understand it more than I could speak it. After four years in Montreal, I realized it was the perfect marriage. I owe my career to Felipe. Going into any Hall of Fame, Felipe is one of the main reasons.''

As for Moseby, he had check up on who the Blue Jays were when he was drafted. He felt a bit like Martinez did when he got traded to Montreal. Moseby was a reluctant taker on his new organization. When he ended up in Medicine Hat, Alta. with a Jays' farm team, Moseby was thrown for a loop one day when he heard some noise and looked out the window from his room at the Assinboia Inn to see "cows and horses down on the street.'' Then he got things squared away and he spent 10 seasons in the blue and white.

Lloyd Moseby is part of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame's class of 2018. Photo Credit: Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame

Lloyd Moseby is part of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame's class of 2018. Photo Credit: Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame

"When I got drafted by Toronto out of high school, I had zero knowledge of the Toronto Blue Jays. I didn't know who they were,'' Moseby said. "I grew up in Oakland where the A's had guys like Reggie Jackson and Blue Moon Odom. I said I have no choice but to embrace it with Toronto.''

Moseby's breakout season with the Jays came in 1983 when he batted .315, socked 18 home runs, 31 doubles, seven triples, drove in 81 runs and swiped 27 bases. He also topped American League centre fielders with 11 assists. For his efforts, he became the first Jays' outfielder to win a Silver Slugger Award and was named the team’s Player of the Year. He was also selected to The Sporting News and Baseball America All-Star teams.

As for the highlight of his career with the Jays, Moseby pondered the question and said, "Oh, gosh. 1985 was a special year. We made the playoffs. Bobby Cox was the manager and at spring training that year, he said we were a great team and you have to start believing that. That was the defining moment for me. That was tops. We were digging deep to figure out how to win. We grew up. We had that chip on our shoulders. We became somebodies, rather than nobodies. Teams didn't want to come and play us.''

Moseby, Jesse Barfield and George Bell formed one of the top outfields in the AL for years and now only Barfield is left to join his buddies in St. Marys.

"It would be tremendous,'' Moseby said about the possibility/likelihood of Barfield being selected to the Canadian hall.  "Barfield's arm? Oh, my goodness. Jesse had the Ellis Valentine arm.'' 

Humber, a Toronto native who lives in Bowmanville, Ont., is widely regarded as Canada's foremost baseball historian, has made numerous baseball presentations throughout North America and has written a number of books.

Humber was a dominant force behind the formation of the Toronto Hanlan’s Point chapter of the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR) and he played a central role in the organization of Toronto’s first SABR convention in 1981. He is also the lone Canadian to have served on SABR's U.S.-based board of directors, doing so on three occasions.

Baseball historian Bill Humber is part of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame's class of 2018. Photo Credit: Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame

Baseball historian Bill Humber is part of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame's class of 2018. Photo Credit: Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame

In 1979, Humber founded a popular course called 'Baseball Spring Training for Fans' at Toronto's Seneca College. He has taught the course since its inception and it continues to this day. Amazing. In 1989, he was the main cog behind the 'Let’s Play Ball: Inside the Perfect Game' exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum, which celebrated 150 years of Canadian baseball history.

Humber's exemplary work has not gone unnoticed. He was made an honorary inductee into the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame in 2004 and is a recipient of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal, which is awarded to Canadians who have made outstanding and exemplary contributions to their communities or to Canada as a whole.

Before today's conference call was about to start, Humber joked to Hall of Fame director of operations Scott Crawford and others, "I'm getting calls and emails from people I haven't heard from in 20 years. I'm trying to figure out which logo I'm going to put on my plaque.''

If there was anything that Humber found most memorable out of his storied career, he related the yarn about dealing with American historians when he attended an international conference years ago.

"One of the cool things about baseball history in Canada is that it's a much smaller field in Canada,'' Humber was saying. "The American history people couldn't figure out where Clifton was. They desperately concluded that it was in Erie, Pennsylvania, which made no sense. Clifton was the predecessor of Niagara Falls, Ont. That's a story I like to tell.''

As for that spring-training class, Humber pointed out that this is the 40th year of its existence. In the middle of winter, it is a concept that has worked. Wonderful.

"The idea was pretty simple,'' Humber noted. "Players go to Florida and Arizona for spring training but what do the poor fans do? I had an idea. Why not do a non-credit course in a college setting. The phones exploded. That's when people had to use phones. There was a pent-up demand from people wanting to talk baseball.''