May 15, 2024

By Kevin Glew

Cooperstowners in Canada

Several significant events in Canadian baseball history have taken place on May 15 over the years.

Here’s a summary:

1860 – Tip O’Neill was born in Springfield, Ont.  With the American Association’s St. Louis Browns in 1887, O’Neill set then big league records in hits, doubles, slugging percentage and total bases, while compiling a .492 batting average. Walks were counted as hits in 1887, but if O’Neill’s average was calculated by today’s standards, it would be .435, the second-highest in big league history to Hugh Duffy who hit .440 in 1894. O’Neill, who helped the Browns capture four consecutive American Association championships from 1885 to 1888, finished his 10-year big league career with a .326 batting average. Each year in his honour, the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame presents the Tip O’Neill Award to the player judged to have excelled in individual achievement and team contribution while adhering to baseball’s highest ideals. O’Neill passed away on December 31, 1915 in Montreal at the age of 55.

1926 – Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Jimmy Williams (two m’s in his first name) was born in Toronto. As a teen, he was a multi-sport star at Toronto’s De La Salle College School, excelling in hockey, football, lacrosse and baseball. He was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers and played in their minor league system for 18 seasons from 1947 to 1964. Though he never received a big league call-up, Williams was a highly-regarded minor league hitter. In his first season in the Dodgers’ organization, the Canadian outfielder suited up for three different teams and recorded a .367 batting average and knocked in 121 runs. In all, Williams hit .288 and clubbed 126 home runs during his minor league career. When his playing days were over, Williams managed in the minors for 17 seasons for the Dodgers, A’s, Astros and Orioles. He also coached in the majors with Baltimore from 1981 to 1987, where he was the first base coach on the 1983 World Series-winning squad. He passed away on June 6, 2016 in Baltimore at the age of 90.

1971 – Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) tossed a complete game and belted a two-run home run to lead the Chicago Cubs to a 6-4 win over the San Diego Padres at Wrigley Field.

1981 – Cleveland right-hander Len Barker tossed a perfect game (see video above) against the Blue Jays at Cleveland Stadium. Unfortunately, there were just 7,290 fans on hand in the cavernous ballpark to watch him make history. Barker had 11 strikeouts – including fanning Lloyd Moseby, George Bell, John Mayberry and Damaso Garcia twice each. He got Ernie Whitt to fly out to centre field for the final out. Cleveland won the game 3-0.

1981 – Justin Morneau was born in New Westminster, B.C. Morneau was selected by the Minnesota Twins in the third round of the 1999 MLB draft. The left-handed hitting Canuck began his minor league career as a catcher but was converted into a first baseman in 2000. He was called up to make his major league debut with the Twins on June 10, 2003 and would spend the next decade with the Twins, evolving into one of the American League’s most feared sluggers. Between 2003 and 2013, he was a four-time All-Star, won two Silver Slugger awards, had four 100-RBI seasons and became the first – and still only – Canadian to be named American League MVP (2006). After a short tenure with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2013, Morneau signed with the Colorado Rockies and proceeded to bat .319 and win the National League batting title to become just the second Canadian (along with Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.)) to accomplish that feat. In all, Morneau played in parts of 14 big league seasons and he ranks in the top five among Canadian major leaguers in many all-time offensive statistical categories, including third in hits (1,603), RBIs (985), doubles (349) and total bases (2,739) and fourth in home runs (247). He was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2020.

1985 – Jim Adduci was born in Burnaby, B.C. The left-handed hitting outfielder/first baseman played parts of 16 professional seasons. He enjoyed his longest tenure in the big leagues in 2018 with the Detroit Tigers when he batted .267 in 59 games. The 6-foot-2 slugger previously suited up for parts of two seasons with the Texas Rangers in 2013 and 2014. He also played two games with the Cubs in 2019. Selected by the Florida Marlins in the 42nd round of the 2003 MLB draft, Adduci enjoyed his greatest success with the Lotte Giants of the Korea Baseball Organization in 2015 when he hit .314 with 28 home runs and 106 RBIs in 132 games.

1989 – The Blue Jays fired manager Jimy Williams after the club got off to a 12-24 start. He was replaced on an interim basis by hitting coach Cito Gaston. That interim tag was lifted after Gaston managed the Blue Jays to a 77-49 record down the stretch and to their second American League East title. Gaston, of course, went on to manage the Blue Jays to three more division titles and two World Series championships in 1992 and 1993.

1993 – The Montreal Expos retired Rusty Staub‘s No. 10 in a pre-game ceremony at Olympic Stadium (See photo above).

2007 – Jesse Litsch made his MLB debut with the Blue Jays. He started and pitched 8 2/3 innings against the Baltimore Orioles to set a record for most innings by a Blue Jays’ pitcher in their major league debut. He allowed just one run on four hits in the Blue Jays’ 3-1 win.

2011 – Jose Bautista belted three home runs to propel the Blue Jays to an 11-3 win over the Twins at Target Field (Highlights below).

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