Thursday, June 3, 2010

Canada's All-Time Baseball Team

In honor -- or, perhaps, I should say "honour" -- of the Yankees' roadtrip to Toronto this weekend to play the Blue Jays (unlike previous trips in August 2005 and September 2006, I will not be joining them), I present the all-time Canada baseball team.

1B Justin Morneau of New Westminster, British Columbia, 2003-present Minnesota Twins.

2B Frank O’Rourke, Hamilton, Ontario, 1912 Boston Braves, 1917-18 Brooklyn Dodgers, 1920-21 Washington Senators, 1922 Boston Red Sox, 1924-26 Detroit Tigers, 1927-31 St. Louis Browns.

SS Arthur Irwin of Toronto, Ontario, 1880-82 Worcester Ruby Legs (the franchise that became the Phillies), 1883-85 Providence Grays, 1886-89 Philadelphia Phillies, 1890-91 Boston Reds (Players League, then American Association), 1 more game in 1894 with Phillies. Slim pickings for Canadian shortstops, but he was a productive hitter for a time and a good baserunner.

3B Corey Koskie of Anola, Manitoba, 1998-2004 Minnesota Twins, 2005 Toronto Blue Jays, 2006 Milwaukee Brewers. Ahead of Pete Ward, mainly due to a back injury that short-circuited the Anglophone Montrealer and White Sock in 1965.

LF Jeff Heath of Fort William, Ontario, 1936-45 Cleveland Indians, 1946 Washington Senators, 1946-47 St. Louis Browns, 1948-49 Boston Braves. Jason Bay has a long way to go to catch him.

CF Terry Puhl of Melville, Saskatchewan, 1977-90 Houston Astros, 1991 Kansas City Royals. Actually played more RF (and, along with Jimmy Wynn, a candidate as their all-timer at the position), but CF was a bit of a weak position for Canadians. I considered moving 1930s Yankee All-Star George “Twinkletoes” Selkirk or Matt Stairs over from RF, but decided Puhl was a better choice, as I’ve never seen footage of Selkirk in the field, and Stairs has never been all that mobile. So Selkirk and Stairs will have to be backups in RF to…

RF Larry Walker of Maple Ridge, British Columbia, 1989-94 Montreal Expos, 1995-2004 Colorado Rockies, 2004-05 St. Louis Cardinals. Will be eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011, but despite a .313 lifetime batting average, a 140 OPS+, and 383 home runs (a lot hit in the thin air of Denver, though), I think he falls a little short.

C Russell Martin of East York, Ontario, 2006-present Los Angeles Dodgers. Ahead of George Gibson of London, Ontario, who helped the Pittsburgh Pirates win the 1909 World Series.

P A rotation of…

Ferguson Jenkins of Chatham, Ontario, 1965-66 Philadelphia Phillies, 1966-73 and 1982-83 Chicago Cubs, 1974-75 and 1978-81 Texas Ranger,s 1976-77 Boston Red Sox. The only Canadian in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Russ Ford of Brandon, Manitoba, 1909-13 New York Highlanders/Yankees, 1914-15 Buffalo Federals of the Federal League.

Reggie Cleveland of Swift Current, Saskatchewan, 1969-73 St. Louis Cardinals, 1974-78 Boston Red Sox, 1978 Texas Rangers, 1979-81 Milwaukee Brewers.

Kirk McCaskill of Kapuskasing, Ontario (though grew up in Pawling, New York), 1985-91 California Angels, 1992-96 Chicago White Sox.

Erik Bedard of Navan, Ontario, 2002-07 Baltimore Orioles, 2008-present Seattle Mariners.

With a bullpen of…

Claude Raymond of St. Jean, Quebec, 1959 Chicago White Sox, 1961-63 Milwaukee Braves, 1964-67 Houston Colt .45s/Astros, 1967-69 Atlanta Braves, 1969-71 Montreal Expos.

John Hiller of Toronto, Ontario, 1965-80 Detroit Tigers. In 1973, collected 38 saves, a record until 1985.

Rheal Cormier of Moncton, New Brunswick. 1991-94 St. Louis Cardinals, 1995 and 1999-2000 Boston Red Sox, 1996-97 Montreal Expos, 2001-06 Philadelphia Phillies, 2006-07 Cincinnati Reds.

Paul Quantrill of London, Ontario, although grew up in Okemos, Michigan, 1992-94 Boston Red Sox, 1994-95 Philadelphia Phillies, 1996-2001 Toronto Blue Jays, 2002-03 Los Angeles Dodgers, 2004-05 New York Yankees, 2005 San Diego Padres, 2005 Florida Marlins. (Remember the ’04 setup of Quantrill, then Tom Gordon, to Mariano Rivera? “QuanGorMo”? Yeah, that didn’t work out too well in the ALCS, did it… )

Ryan Dempster of Sechelt, British Columbia, 1998-2002 Florida Marlins, 2002-03 Cincinnati Reds, 2004-present Chicago Cubs.

MGR: George Gibson, almost by default. (No, De Fault is not a village in Quebec.)

Broadcasters: Jack Graney of St. Thomas, Ontario; and Claude Raymond, the first Canadian (French or otherwise) to play for the Expos, and the voice of their French broadcasts from 1972 until their “death” in 2004. Graney, a left fielder with the Cleveland Indians from 1908 to 1922, he became the first former player to become a broadcaster.


Best players from each Province, going West to East:

British Columbia: Larry Walker of Maple Ridge.

Alberta: Mike Johnson of Edmonton, pitcher, 1997 Baltimore, 1997-2001 Montreal.

Saskatchewan: Terry Puhl of Melville.

Manitoba: Corey Koskie of Anola.

Ontario: Ferguson Jenkins of Chatham. After all, he’s the only Hoser in Cooperstown.

Quebec: Claude Raymond of St. Jean. Now, you might be asking about Eric Gagne. No. He cheated, and he got caught. As such, he was much closer to Sammy Sosa, who never would have amounted to anything if he’d cheated, than to Barry Bonds or Alex Rodriguez, who didn’t need to cheat but did anyway.

New Brunswick: Matt Stairs of Fredericton.

Nova Scotia: Charles “Pop” Smith of Digby, infielder, 1880 to 1891 for several teams, mostly for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Prince Edward Island: Vern Handrahan of Charlottetown, pitcher, 1964-1966 Kansas City Athletics. One of just 3 from PEI to make it to the majors.

Newfoundland and Labrador: Gene Ford of Milton is the only one, Gene Ford 7 games with 1905 Detroit Tigers.

No player born in Canada’s Territories (Yukon, Northwest, Nunavut) has ever reached the major leagues.


The Toronto Blue Jays have never reached the postseason via the Wild Card, but have won American League Eastern Division titles in 1985, 1989, 1991, 1992 and 1993, and won the Pennant and the World Series in 1992 and 1993. Their predecessors, the Triple-A Toronto Maple Leafs, for whom the legendary hockey team was named, won Pennants in 1897, 1902, 1912, 1917, 1918, 1926, 1934, 1960, 1965 and 1966, the last 2 of these helping to produce some of the Boston Red Sox players who won the 1967 “Impossible Dream” Pennant.

The Montreal Expos only reached the postseason once, as second-half champions in 1981, winning the NLDS against the Phillies, before losing the NLCS to the Dodgers on Rick Monday’s deciding-game 9th-inning homer. They had the best record in baseball when the Strike of ’94 hit, and while it’s not fair to say they never recovered (they did finish 2nd in 1996), financial difficulties (the decline of the Canadian dollar and being stuck in the Olympic Stadium) did them in. R.I.P, 1969-2004. Their predecessors, the Triple-A Montreal Royals, won Pennants in 1898, 1935, 1945, 1946, 1948, 1951, 1952, 1955 and 1958, all but the first 2 as the top farm team of the Dodgers.

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