James Paxton (Ladner, B.C.) earned his seventh win of the season on Monday. Photo: MLB.com

June 23, 2024

By Kevin Glew

Cooperstowners in Canada

Some Canadian baseball news and notes from the past week:

-On Monday, Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander James Paxton (Ladner, B.C.) emerged victorious in the latest major league game that featured two Canadian starting pitchers facing off against each other. Paxton allowed just one run on two hits, while striking out eight, in seven innings to outduel Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) and the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Quantrill permitted three runs on seven hits in five innings. The Dodgers eventually won 9-5. Paxton picked up his seventh win of the season which moved him past Quantrill for the most by a Canadian pitcher.

-According to baseball historian David Matchett, Canadian baseball history was made at Rogers Centre on June 14 when the Toronto Blue Jays battled the Cleveland Guardians. With Josh and Bo Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) in the Guardians’ starting lineup and Cade Smith (Abbotsford, B.C.) appearing in relief and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Montreal, Que.) and Zach Pop (Brampton, Ont.) competing in the contest for the Blue Jays, it marked the first time in major league history that five players born in Canada have played in the same game. The Blue Jays recently sent the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame an official lineup card (See below) from that game for their collection.

Photo: Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame

-Speaking of Josh Naylor, he belted two home runs for the Guardians in their 8-0 win over the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday at Progressive Field. It was the fourth, two-home run game of Naylor’s big league career and second this season. On May 28, he went deep twice in a Guardians’ 13-7 win over the Rockies at Coors Field. The Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team grad has 19 home runs this season to lead all Canadian major leaguers.

-As we approach the midpoint of the MLB season, Guardians reliever Cade Smith (Abbotsford, B.C.) continues to be one of his club’s best relievers. In 34 appearances, spanning 35 2/3 innings, the 6-foot-5 right-hander owns a 3-1 record and a 1.77 ERA and has 48 strikeouts. Signed by the Guardians as a free agent in 2020 out of the University of Hawaii, the Junior National Team and Abbotsford Cardinals grad has been one of the top rookies in the American League this season. He is also an early contender for the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s Tip O’Neill Award.

-Boston Red Sox slugger Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C.) entered the series against the Blue Jays on Monday having gone 0-for-9 in his career at Rogers Centre. He quickly put an end to that slump when he belted two home runs in the series’ first game. He then homered and singled on Tuesday. O’Neill has 15 home runs this season, which is the 10th most in the American League and is four behind Josh Naylor for the most by a Canadian.

-It was a good week for Canadians in the Milwaukee Brewers’ system: infielder Tyler Black (Stouffville, Ont.) was called up by the Brewers on Wednesday, while infielder Dylan O’Rae (Sarnia, Ont.) was promoted to the double-A Biloxi Shuckers from the High-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers on Tuesday. After being activated on June 13, INF/OF Adam Hall (London, Ont.), who started the season with the independent American Association’s Winnipeg Goldeyes, is now playing regularly in a utility role alongside O’Rae with the Shuckers.

-With the Philadelphia Phillies leading the National League with a 50-26 record and Rob Thomson’s success in his previous two seasons as Phillies manager, I was curious about the Corunna, Ont., native’s winning percentage as a big league skipper. So I decided to Google “Rob Thomson winning percentage.” This is the result I got (below). This stat is from June 2. His winning percentage has since dropped to .587 but it’s still the best by a Phillies manager.

-Junior National Team alum Kevin Nicholson (Vancouver, B.C.) made his MLB debut with the San Diego Padres on this date 24 years ago. Batting eighth and playing shortstop, he went 0-for-3 in the Padres’ 10-7 win over the Cincinnati Reds at Cinergy Field. In total, Nicholson batted .216 in 37 games with the Padres that season.

-Along with countless baseball fans, I’m still processing the death of Willie Mays on Tuesday at the age of 93. He lived a good long life, but it feels like baseball will never be the same. He was last living superstar from that golden era of baseball that my dad grew up watching. I wrote about some of his Canadian connections on Wednesday and several people have shared their memories of him with me. Frank Fanning, the son of legendary Montreal Expos manager and executive Jim Fanning, reached out and shared a great story that his father used to tell him about Mays. Prior to becoming a manager and executive, Jim was a catcher for parts of four seasons with the Chicago Cubs. On July 14, 1957, there was a game that was tied 6-6 between the Cubs and the Giants at the Polo Grounds that was in extra innings when it had to be suspended due to darkness. Fanning had been on the bench that day, but the following day when the suspended game resumed, Cubs manager Bob Scheffing inserted Jim at catcher. The Giants had a runner on first with one out in the 12th inning. “My dad used to joke that he was the only catcher never to catch a pitch in a game,” recalled Frank. “Willie Mays was the first hitter in the suspended game that resumed the next day and on the first pitch, he hit a home run . . . and won the game.” Jim, who was always good with the one-liners, later joked with his son about it. “My dad’s line about that game was he called it a ‘leadoff, walk-off,’” recalled Frank. “My dad used to talk about Willie Mays hitting a leadoff, walk-off.”

Right-hander Landen Bourassa (Lethbridge, Alta.) has been outstanding for the Winnipeg Goldeyes this season. Photo: Winnipeg Goldeyes

-Right-hander Landen Bourassa (Lethbridge, Alta.) has pitched 26 innings in his last three starts for the Winnipeg Goldeyes and has dominated. His pitching stats in those three games is below. I’m not a scout and I know he’s 27 but the Blue Jays are starved for starting pitching depth in their minors. Why not take a flier on Bourassa? I feel like he could be the Scott Richmond (Vancouver, B.C.) story of 2024.

-Rest in peace, Donald Sutherland who passed away on Thursday at the age of 88. Not only was he one of the most accomplished and respected Canadian actors, but he was a huge Montreal Expos fan and a regular at Olympic Stadium during the club’s glory years in the 1980s. Marie Fanning, Jim’s wife, became friends with Sutherland. “I knew Donald very well. He was a wonderful Expos fan. He actually had it in his contract that whenever he was in Canada and the Expos were playing, he would have to be flown to Olympic Stadium to watch the game,” Marie shared with me. “He was very friendly with Jim. I very often sat with Donald at the games. He was given three-to-four seats, so there was no one right next to him. And that’s the way he wanted it. But he always called me down to go sit with him. And we had some great conversations together. I am very saddened by his passing. Would like to think that he and Jim are sitting together chatting about old times.”

-On this date 52 years ago, 17 days after he was drafted in the third round by the Expos, Gary Carter signed his first professional contract with the club. The signing bonus was reportedly $35,000 — a large amount at the time but a bargain in the long run.

-Thirty-nine years ago today, the Blue Jays beat the Red Sox 8-1 at Exhibition Stadium. But the game is most famously remembered for George Bell‘s karate kick of Sox righty Bruce Kison after Bell was hit by a pitch in the fourth inning. Bell was ejected, Kison was not. Ernie Whitt later hit a grand slam off Kison. You can watch Bell’s actions here:

-This week’s trivia question: Who is the player in the photo below? Hint #1: He once hit three home runs in a National League Championship Series game. Hint #2: He can count Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell as two of his ex-teammates. Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.

-The answer to last week’s trivia question (There have been two Canadian father and son combinations that have played in the major leagues. Name one of them.) was either Dave and Cody McKay (Vancouver, B.C.) or Paul and Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.).

The post But What Do I Know? . . . James Paxton, Josh Naylor, Cade Smith, Willie Mays appeared first on Cooperstowners in Canada.