Letters of Intent
But What Do I Know? … George Kottaras, Justin Morneau, Frank Torre
By Kevin Glew
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
— When Scarborough, Ont., native George Kottaras replaced Josh Thole in the seventh inning in Wednesday’s game, he became the second Canadian to catch for the Toronto Blue Jays. The first was Vancouver-born Mike Nickeas who saw action in one game last season.
– Last week, three of the most important men in Montreal Expos history – Jim Fanning, Tim Raines and Tim Wallach – celebrated birthdays. Today would’ve been the 93rd birthday of John McHale, who was arguably the most important man in Expos history. Born on this date in 1921, McHale was the architect of the club and its first president. He spent 23 seasons with the Expos, including seven (1978 to 1984) as the general manager. Like the three Expos legends who celebrated birthdays last week, McHale has also been inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame (1997). McHale passed away on January 17, 2008 at the age of 86.
– New Westminster, B.C., native Justin Morneau drove in six runs for the Colorado Rockies in their 16-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday. In case you’re wondering, this was not a Canadian record for RBIs in a game. Three Canadians – George Selkirk (Huntsville, Ont., Aug. 10, 1935 and Aug. 12, 1938), Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, BC, April 28, 1999) and Jason Bay (Trail, BC, Sept. 19, 2003 and July 2, 2004) – have had eight-RBI games.
– If you’re looking for Canadian content in the post-season, the best-case scenario would be a Seattle Mariners vs. Pittsburgh Pirates World Series. That would pit the two Canucks on the Mariners (Michael Saunders, Victoria, B.C. and James Paxton, Ladner, B.C.) against Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.) and John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.) on the Bucs.
– Blue Jays second baseman Kelly Johnson has now played for all five American League East teams in the past three seasons. The Wall Street Journal recently caught up to the well-traveled infielder, who was acquired by the Baltimore Orioles on August 30, to assemble a visitors’ guide to the AL East cities. Johnson ranked Toronto as the best for restaurants and the worst for traffic. You can read the full article here.
– Frank Torre, who hit .307 in 132 games with the Pacific Coast League’s Vancouver Mounties in 1961, passed away on September 13 at the age of 82 in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., after battling a number of health issues. Born in Brooklyn, the 6-foot-4 first baseman, and brother of Hall of Famer Joe Torre, batted .273 in parts of seven big league seasons with the Milwaukee Braves and Philadelphia Phillies. Following his playing career, Torre, who underwent a heart transplant in 1996 and a kidney transplant in 2007, worked with the Baseball Assistance Team (BAT) to help former players with their financial and medical needs.
– Canadian big leaguers sure know how to get on base. For the past four seasons, Etobicoke, Ont., native Joey Votto has topped the National League in on-base percentage (OBP). This year, Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.) owns a .409 OBP. That would lead the circuit if Martin hadn’t missed close to a month (April 26 to May 22) with a hamstring injury. Unfortunately, it will be almost impossible for Martin to reach the 502 plate appearances needed to qualify for the OBP title.
– Follow Kevin Glew on Twitter @coopincanada