Baseball is a game that has had a long history in Canada and has made great impact on the lives of baseball players, their families as well as their countries of origin.
In the 19th century, European settlers of Southwestern Ontario played a version of rounders, a game the English played. The game was popular throughout the region and was called townball and in many instances baseball. The rules of the game varied from town to town and reflected the preferences of the region where the game was played. A letter by Dr. Adam E. Ford of Denver, Colorado was published in 1886 by the Sporting Life Magazine and mentioned of a baseball game played 48 years prior, in the year 1838 in Beachville, Ontario. Although there were no evidences mentioned in the letter that the rules of the said game were adopted by other regions in the country, many Canadians along with the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame consider this to be the first documented baseball game.
The Canadian Game is another baseball variant and was widely played in Ontario. The game also resembled the British game of rounders and cricket. It had five bases, used a bat that was similar to that used in cricket, and had eleven players per team. The whole team had their players take bat per inning. The inning would only be over when all eleven payers were retired by the pitcher of the opposing team. This game was very similar to the modern game of baseball. In the modern game of baseball though, there are nine players instead of eleven, only three players need to be retired to finish an inning and four bases were used instead of five.
Canada’s organized baseball history was associated closely with Southwestern Ontario where the first team, the Young Canadians of Hamilton, was formed in 1854 through the help of William Shuttleworth. Other baseball teams were soon formed, with Burlingtons, also from Hamilton in 1855; London in 1856 and St. Thomas in 1858. They followed the Massachusetts game rules during the early days of baseball’s development in Canada before the introduction of the New York rules to Hamilton in 1859, where only nine men were used and Canadian teams began to compete at the international level.
From 1863, Canadian baseball teams have competed among other teams in the country as well as in the United States. Financiers and sponsors began to come up with high financial rewards to the winners, inducing other teams to have a semi-professional status. The Guelph Maple Leafs was the first Canadian team to import American players and eventually won the championship in 1874 in New York. The first Canadian League was formed in 1876 by the Harry Gorman and the president of Guelph, George Sleeman. The London Tecumsehs became Canadian champions, beating Guelph Maple Leafs.
The London Tecumsehs of Ontario won its first International Association championship in 1877 when they beat the Pittsburgh Alleghenies. During that time, the Canadians competed with the Americans just south of the border instead of their fellow countrymen. Bill Phillips of St. John, New Brunswick was the first Canadian to play in the Major League, and was part of the Cleveland team. He went hitless in his first game on the 1st of May in 1879, but rebounded during the following game and had three hits for his team. The next season, Phillips scored a homerun, thus recording the first for a Canadian player in the Major League.
In 1913, baseball spread throughout Canada. They had 24 minor league teams at the time and have never been equaled until the present time. In 1914, Hall of Famer Babe Ruth hit his first professional homerun in Canada. The slugger performed the feat at the former Hanlan’s Point Stadium in Toronto, Canada. Ruth was playing for the Providence Grays versus the home team, Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League. The feat was honored in 1985 when the city of Toronto built a plaque to commemorate the event.
Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson was assigned to the Montreal Royals in 1946. The team was a Triple-A farm league for Brooklyn. During his stint with the Royals, he led the team to a Governor’s Cup, the International League championship, and became a celebrated athlete in Montreal. The following year, Robinson famously went on to break the color barrier in Major League Baseball.
In 1957, Glen Gorbous of Drumheller, Alberta set the world record for the longest throw at 135.89 meters (445 feet, 10 inches). The outfielder of the Omaha Cardinals recorded the feat as part of the home team in Omaha, Nebraska. The record remains to be broken until this day.
In 1977, the Toronto Blue Jays team was formed and became the lone Major League Baseball team from Canada today. In 1985, the team notched their first American League East Division title. The feat was very commendable since the Blue Jays was a very young team, being less than 10 years with the MLB. They went on to win another four ALED titles. The team’s high point was winning the World Series back-to-back in 1992 and 1993. The 1992 championship was Canada’s first World Series title.
Since 1871 there had been 230 professional Canadian baseball players who have played in Major League Baseball. Some of them had major playing feats, putting Canada in the baseball map; contributed to their team winning major team and individual awards and made it to All Star selections.
John Geoffrey Heath was born in Fort William, Ontario Canada on April 1, 1915. He was a right-handed left fielder and batted left-handed. He was the most promising slugger in the 30s and 40s. He led the American League in triples and batted at least a .340 twice during that period and garnered over 100 RBIs each time. Heath was the lead hitter among all MLB players born outside of the United States from 1945 to 1955.
He played for the Cleveland Indians from 1936 to 1945. He played for just 32 games over the course of the first two years of his MLB career. On his third year with the Indians, Heath played his first full season and batted a .343 and led the league with 18 triples. The same year, Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx edged Heath’s batting average by just six points (.349). The same year saw Heath record 21 home runs, 58 hits and 112 RBIs in just a period of one month. Heath was not able to keep the momentum going as he struggled at the plate for the next couple of years. He came back strong in the 1941 MLB season in which he led the AL again with 20 triples. He also had a batting average of .340, good for fourth in the league, and came in with an honorable mention in slugging just behind Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams. He also finished second behind DiMaggio in hits, total bases, and RBIs. With these numbers, Heath was voted in his first All-Star team and notched 8th place for the MVP honors.
Heath continued to be an offensive force for the Indians as he hung alongside league leaders in HRs for the 1943 and 1945 campaigns. In the former year, he became the second non-US born player to hit the 100 HR mark, and surpassed fellow countryman, George Selkirk with 109 HRs in the latter. Heath was voted in his second All-Star team in 1943.
Heath was known to be a trouble maker and some journalists attributed this to his large physique, suggesting that he was somewhat slow in the head. In December of 1945, Heath was traded by the Indians to the Washington Senators for the extremely quick George Case. In the middle of the season, Heath was traded by the Senators to play for the St. Louis Browns because of his troublesome nature. Heath bullied fellow team member and countryman, Sherry Robertson and appalled him as he thought the only reason Robertson was on the team was because he was the team owner’s nephew. The trade was a bad move for the Senators as Heath recorded a career high 27 HRs for the Browns. Despite the performance, the Brown’s management opted to trade him to the Boston Braves because of financial reasons.
The move favored the Braves as they surprised everyone by winning the 1948 National League, but ultimately losing in the World Series. During the season with the Braves, Heath had another good season as he batted .319 and hit 20 HRs for the team. On the last week of the season, Heath broke his ankle as he was sliding towards home plate, twisting it 90 degrees in the wrong direction and caused permanent damage. Heath played his final season with the MLB in 1949 after playing only 36 games. Despite this, he still managed to bat a .306, hit 19 HRs and 23 RBIs.
In his 14-year stint with the MLB, Heath amassed a .293 batting average, a .509 slugging average, 1447 hits, 194 HRs, 887 RBIs, 777 runs, 102 triples, 279 doubles and 56 SBs during 1,383 games played.
Heath died of a heart attack at the age of 60 in Seattle, Washington on December 9, 1975.
Ferguson Arthur Jenkins was born in Chatham, Ontario, Canada on December 13, 1942. Jenkins is a right-handed pitcher who played the majority of his career with the Chicago Cubs. A natural athlete, Jenkins excelled in other sports such as basketball and hockey. He played in the highest amateur hockey league in Canada and also played basketball as a member of the famed Harlem Globetrotters. To date, he is the lone Canadian member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Jenkins signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1962 and played for the team in 1965. Jenkins was a relief pitcher for the Phillies and had his MLB debut on September 10, 1965. The following year, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs as part of a five-man trade that also sent Adolfo Phillips and John Herrnstein to the Cubs in exchange for Bob Buhl and Larry Jackson. Jenkins was promoted to starting pitcher during his first year with the Cubs. During that time, he recorded a phenomenal 2.80 ERA. He also compiled 236 strikeouts and finished second in the Cy Young Award voting as the league’s best pitcher, behind the San Francisco Giants’ Mike McCormick. He was also voted in his first All-Star team that same year.
At the age of 23, he appeared at Anaheim Stadium for the 1967 All-Star game. Jenkins threw well that night with 93-94 mph accurate pitches that led to striking out six of the best sluggers in baseball history. He retired Harmon Killebrew who has 44 HRs that season; Mickey Mantle who just hit his 500th HR on May 14th of that year; Tony Conigliaro who had .297 batting average that season; 1967 American league Rookie of the Year Rod Carew; American League leader for that year with 34 doubles, Tony Oliva and Jim Fregosi, who was the American League Rookie of the Year for 1966. The feat was done over the course of 3 innings, which is the maximum number of times that pitchers can have during All-Star games. The feat also put Jenkins in the MLB record book as having the most number of strikeouts during an All-Star game. Only three other people join him in this accomplishment, Johnny Vander Meer, Larry Jansen and Carl Hubbell. Jenkins went on to be selected in the All-Star team two more times in 1971 and in 1972.
Jenkins improved the following year in 1968 when he managed to increase his strikeout to 260 by dropping his ERA to just 2.64. Despite this, he lost five of his starts in close 1-0 games.
Jenkins recorded his best season in 1971 when he won the NL Cy Young Award. He was the first Chicago Cub player to win the award. He won the award regardless of the fact that Tom Seaver of the New York Mets recorded better numbers than him. It was a general understanding that the award was given to Jenkins in recognition of his past accomplishments the previous four seasons. During that period, Jenkins averaged 305 innings, struck out at least 200 batters and won 20 or more games in each season. He also finished 87 complete games, 16 of which were shutouts. He also went to bat 115 times and posted a .478 slugging percentage with six HRs to complement his pitching game. A game that showcased this was against the Montreal Expos on September 1, 1971 where Jenkins threw a complete game while hitting two HRs for his team. They won the ball game 5-2. Jenkins was amazing in completing 30 of the 39 complete starts for a 24-13 winning record. He struck out 263 batters and managed to walk just 37 in 325 innings. He also place 7th in the MVP voting in the same year.
Jenkins was traded to the Texas Rangers before the 1974 season. He achieved a career best 25 wins for the Rangers in his debut. He was edged by Catfish Hunter for the American League Cy Young Award which would have been the second of his career (though the first was a Northern League award). This feat is still the franchise record for the Rangers. He was traded again after a two-year stint with the club, which sent him to Boston to play for the Red Sox. After a couple of seasons with the Red Sox, he was sent back to Texas to again play for the Rangers for four more years. He posted his 250th win while playing for the Rangers against the Oakland Athletics on May 23, 1980. That same year saw some controversy for the Canadian pitcher as he was caught with possession of illegal drugs. He was suspended by the commission but it only lasted two weeks. The incident was widely considered as the reason for the delay of his induction to the Hall of Fame.
In his last year with the Rangers, Jenkins was traded back to the Chicago Cubs where he played for two more years and ended his MLB career. He could not stay away from baseball as he pitched two more seasons for the London Majors in the Inter-county Major Baseball League of Ontario, Canada.
His career achievements in the MLB included most wins in the league twice; fewest batters walked per nine innings five times; games completed nine times and HRs allowed seven times. He also performed 20 or more wins in six straight seasons from 1967-1972. The streak was the longest during that period. Jenkins belonged to a prestigious group of pitchers who recorded over 3,000 strikeouts with under 1,000 walks. The group included Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez and fellow Cub, Greg Maddux. Only two other pitchers allowed fewer HRs over a career, Jamie Moyer and Robin Roberts.
He was inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991 and had his investiture into the Order of Canada, the second highest Canadian award on May 4, 2007. His achievements with the Cubs were honored with the retirement of his number 31 jersey on May 3, 2009. He was also inducted to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987 and into the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame in 2004 and had his honorary stamp issued in Canada in 2011. At age 69, Jenkins is still active in his foundation, the Fergie Jenkins Foundation.
Terry Stephen Puhl was born in Melville, Saskatchewan, Canada on July 8, 1956. He is a right-handed outfielder and left-handed batter. Puhl played 14 years of his 15-year MLB career with the Houston Astros, with the lone and last season for the Kansas City Royals. He is currently the manager of the Canada National Baseball Team and head coach of the University of Houston-Victoria’s baseball team.
Puhl started his career in the minors. He was signed as a free agent by the Houston Astros in 1973 and sent to the minors to play for the Covington Astros where he batted an average of .284 in his sophomore season. He ripened through the Astros’s farm system, playing in 1975 for the single-A Dubuque Packers. He then moved on in 1976, splitting between Memphis Blues in triple-A and Columbus Astros in the double-A. By 1977 he was playing for the triple-A Charleston Charlies.
Puhl was then promoted to the MLB in July of 1977. He was used as the Astros’ left fielder after he replaced Jim Fuller. His first MLB hit came a day off of Elias Sosa after the instalment in a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The season ended with Puhl batting a .301 in 60 games.
He was selected to be a part of the National League All-Star team in 1978. He was the only Astro selected to play for the team that year. Puhl played in the 1980 National League championship Series opposite the Philadelphia Phillies. He played an excellent series batting a .526 average in a losing effort. During that time, Puhl’s effort was the best performance by a hitter. Puhl was chosen as the Canadian Baseball Player of the Year the following season.
Puhl was plagued by injuries in 1985 and 1986 when he pulled his hamstring and broke his ankle. He came back strong in 1987 when he was designated as the team’s pinch hitter. He recorded a career-high .303 batting average during the 1988 season. Puhl became a free agent after the 1990 season. He signed with the New York Mets on December 13 of the same year but was released by the Mets in April 1, 1991 during spring training. He was then picked up by the Kansas City Royals before the month ended on April 25, 1991. He played his last MLB game with the Royals on May 29, 1991.
He finished his career after playing 1,531 games. During the period he racked up 1,361 hits, 62 HRs, 435 RBIs, 217 SBs and a .280 batting average. He also placed ninth-best in outfield fielding percentage with a .993 success rate. His postseason batting average of .372 in 13 games over three series is a testament to his effectiveness as a post-season player. He was inducted to the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame in 1994; to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1995 and into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.
Puhl remained in the sport as a coach. He was named coach of the Canadian Baseball Team in 2006. In a brilliant display of coaching the team against Panama, Puhl had Reed Eastley replace David Corrente in the 8th inning even though Corrente had four hits at four at bats. The move paid off as Eastley hit a 3-run homer. In his second at bat in the 9th inning, Puhl replaced Eastley with pinch hitter Jeremy Ware. The bases were loaded and Ware hit the grand slam game-winning homerun for Canada. The final score was 15-12.
Terry Puhl was also hired as the first Head Coach for the University of Houston-Victoria Jaguars in 2007 and still holds the spot to this day. As a coach, he had a winning record of 29-5 in 2008, 34-17 in 2009 and 33-22 in 2010. His overall coaching record with the Jaguars stands at 96-44 as of 2010.
Paul John Quantrill was born in London, Ontario, Canada on November 3, 1968. He is a right-handed pitcher and left-handed batter. He played for seven different teams during his 13-year stint in the MLB. Quantrill was originally a starting pitcher but found his niche as a relief pitcher. Because of his durability, commentators often jested that he has a rubber throwing arm.
He was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1986 but failed to suit up for the team until he came back for the 2002-2003 season. He was re-drafted by the Boston Red Sox and debuted on July 20, 1992. He played for them from 1992-1994. He then joined the Philadelphia Phillies for the 1994-1995 season.
Quantrill next played for the Toronto Blue Jays from 1996-2001. He played well with the Blue Jays which is located in his home province of Ontario. On his last year with the team, Quantrill made the All-Star selection.
The New York Yankees signed him up for two years with a contract worth $6.8 million after the 2003 season. He played poorly during the latter part of the 2004 season and was not able to recover during the early goings of the 2005 season. He was traded to the San Diego Padres on July 1, 2005 for Darrell May and Tim Redding. He was then sent by the Padres to play for the Florida Marlins where he capped off his career.
Quantrill finished his career with a 3.83 ERA, 841 games pitched and 725 strikeouts. He also led the league in games played from 2001-2003. His 86 games with the Yankees is a franchise record for most games pitched for a single season. Quantrill was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame on June 19, 2010. He was one of the Team Canada’s coaches for the World Baseball Classic in 2009.
Larry Kenneth Robert Walker was born in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Canada on December 1, 1966. Walker was a right fielder throughout his 17-year MLB Career. During that time he played for the Montreal Expos from 1989 to1994, and was with the Colorado Rockies from 1995 to 2004 before he joined the St. Louis Cardinals in 2004 until 2005.
Walker aspired to play professional hockey while growing up. He made a career shift to baseball at the age of 16 after he got cut from trying out with two different Junior A hockey teams, the Kelowna, BC and the Regina, SK in 1982. In 1984, Walker was selected to be a part of the Canadian Baseball team at the World Youth Championship. He was scouted by Jim Fanning of the Montreal Expos and signed for $1,500, despite the youngster’s lack of experience in organized play.
He was sent to the Expos farm system and played his first professional season with the Utica Blue Sox. Walker struggled with pitches other than fastballs and ended up the season with very poor numbers. He finished with only 2 HRs and a .223 batting average. Walker avoided the cut when Ralph Rowe, the Expos’ hitting coach insisted he be sent to the Florida Instructional League. There, he overcame a serious knee injury and trained to become one of the best prospects for the Expos.
Walker was called up to the majors and played his first MLB game on August 16, 1989. He recorded a single in his first trip at bat and was subsequently walked twice. He was an above average player in his first years in the MLB and compiled a good slugging average, 20-30 bases stolen per season and almost a .300 batting average. With these numbers, he became a role model for young Canadian baseball players.
In 1992, he won the Golden Glove Award, Silver Slugger Award and was selected as a member of the All-Star team. He was again given the Golden Glove Award the following year. Walker almost had his first 100-RBI year in 1994 until the players’ strike occurred. He signed with the Colorado Rockies for the 1995 season and helped the team to reach the playoffs with his performance. He had a .306 batting average with 36 HRs and 101 RBI.
Walker was named National League MVP in the 1997 season and became the first Canadian to win the award. He had a .366 batting average with 49 HRs, 130 RBIs, 409 TBs and 33 S’s. He currently is the only MLB player to hit at least a .700 slugging percentage with 25 or more stolen bases. The 409 total bases Walker recorded were the most in the NL since the 1948 season and was only surpassed in 2001 by Barry Bonds’ 411 TBs.
His numbers along with 12 outfield assists remain one of the most impressive all-around performances in recent years. The performance is more impressive considering that Walker was injured the previous year, limiting him to only 272 at-bats in only 83 games played.
Walker was given the Lou Marsh Trophy for his 1997 performance. The award is given to Canada’s top athlete. He won the award over F1 champion racer Jacques Villenueve, who bested him for the same award the previous year.
Walker was plagued with injuries in the latter years of his career. He never surpassed 500 at-bats in a season after his 1997 MVP performance. Despite this, Walker still gave good numbers. In limited action in 1998, Walker had a .363 batting average which was followed by a .379 batting average, 37 HRs and 115 RBIs in only 438 at-bats in 1999. He also hit a .309 batting average in limited action in the 2000 season, while spending most of the season on the DL (disabled list). He returned better in the 2001 and 2002 season, hitting a .350 and .338 with at least 100 RBIs during each year.
Despite being injured in 2004, Walker still had a .324 batting average. Walker vetoed a trade that would have sent him to play for the Texas Rangers, and asked to be traded to a contender team. He was sent to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for three minor league players in August of that year. The Cardinals went on to win the NL and play for their first World Series title since 1987, but eventually lost the World Series when the Boston Red Sox swept them 4-0. The win broke the Red Sox’s 86 year drought for a World Series title, also known as the Curse of the Bambino.
In a rematch of the 2004 NLCS, the Houston Astros won over the favored Cardinals, 4-2. Shortly after, Walker retired from the MLB. He ended his career with 383 HRs and placed 50th on the all-time home run list.
During his MLB career, Walker was named All-Star 5 times – in 1992, 1997 to 1999 and in 2001. He was also a 7-time NL Golden Glove awardee in1992 and1993, 1997up to 1999 and in 2001and 2002. He also became a 9-time Tip O’Neill awardee as the top Canadian baseball player of the year for 1987, 1990, 1992, 1994 to 1995, 1997 and 1998 as well as in 2001and 2002. Walker likewise was a 3-time Silver Slugger awardee, in 1992, 1997 and likewise in 1999.
As of 2008, Walker is still a part of the Cardinals as an instructor on the Cardinals’ spring training staff. He was also Team Canada’s hitting instructor in 2009 at the World Baseball Classic and was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in the same year.
Éric Serge Gagné was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada on January 7, 1976. He was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 30th round draft in 1994 as 845th overall pick but signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers as a free agent in 1995. His MLB career spanned almost a decade from September 7, 1999 with the Dodgers until September 25, 2008 which he spent with the Milwaukee Brewers. In between he also had stints with the Texas Rangers and the Boston Red Sox, although he’s widely remembered as a Los Angeles Dodger player where he stayed for eight years.
Gagné made his MLB debut as a starting pitcher against the Florida Marlins. He pitched six shutout innings. Gagné struggled later in the season as he appeared in only five starts throughout the year. He posted an 11-14 record with 38 starts in 48 games over the course of his first three years as a pro.
He was converted into a relief pitcher in 2002. The move served the team well and jumpstarted Gagné’s career as he became the NL’s lead relief pitcher. He started with a save on April 7 opposite the Colorado Rockies and followed it up with 10 consecutive saves until he blew a save on May 7 versus the Atlanta Braves. Gagné finished the season with 52 saves using an arsenal of pitches that baffled batters. Gagné made his first All-Star selection in the same year.
Gagné became the closer for the Dodgers the following year. He was called to save a game 55 times and obliged on all of them as he converted all 55 games for a 100% save rate in 2003. The feat tied him with John Smoltz for the NL record. He was the first pitcher to record over 50 saves in more than one season. He also became the fastest pitcher to reach more than 100 saves. He recorded 84 consecutive saves between 2002 and 2004 which is an MLB record.
Along with the 55 saves, Gagné finished the 2003 season with a 1.20 ERA, 137 strikeouts and 20 walks in 82 innings. He averaged an astounding 1.66 strikeouts per inning pitched. The amazing performance gave him his second All-Star selection, National League Cy Young Award, TSN Pitcher of the Year and NL Rolaids Relief Man of the Year. Gagné and Ferguson Jenkins are the only Canadian pitchers to win the prestigious Cy Young Award. He was also the first relief pitcher to receive the award in 11 years. With the performance, Gagné asked for arbitration for a 14-fold raise in his salary that would give him $8 million. He lost the case and settled for $5 million instead.
Gagné collected his 130th career save in July 15, 2004, just 10 days after he snapped his 84 consecutive save streak. The save came against the Arizona Diamondbacks with a final score of 4-2. The feat allowed Gagné to surpass Jeff Shaw as the franchise record holder for most games saved.
Injuries hounded Gagné in 2005 and 2006. He was only able to pitch in 14 games in 2005 but still earned a 2.70 ERA and 8 for 8 saved games. It was announced on July 21, 2005 that Gagné would undergo his second ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction surgery that forced him out for the rest of the season. Gagné wanted to play in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, but ultimately opted against it to focus on his return for the 2006 regular season. During spring training, pain in his elbow forced another surgery. He was able to return on June 3, 2006. He appeared in two games and pitched two scoreless innings with one save. The return was brief as he returned to the DL on June 12. Doctors discovered two herniated discs in his back after Gagné complained of intense back pains. Surgery was done on July 8 and left Gagné out for the rest of the season.
The Dodgers refused to extend Gagné his $12 million contract. Gagné was picked up by the Texas Rangers as a free agent on December 12, 2006 for $6 million and up to $5 million in performance bonuses. Gagné was placed on the DL for the third consecutive year to continue the healing process of his previous surgeries. He was activated back into the Rangers line-up on April 13 2007. He earned one save but complained of leg pain in the middle of his second save opportunity. Gagné told the Rangers management that he would be able to play after a week’s rest but the Rangers did not want to risk him getting injured and placed him back on the DL. Gagné returned on May 8 as a closer and went on to compile 16 saves for the Rangers with just a 2.16 ERA and a .192 batting average for opposing hitters. Gagné was traded to the Boston Red Sox for pitcher Kason Gabbard and two minor league outfielders. Gagné struggled as a setup man for the team. He allowed 14 ERA in 14 innings in his first 15 appearances, which contributed to three blown saves. Despite this, Gagné seemed to improve as the season wore on. He was eventually added to the playoff roster and helped the Red Sox secure the 2007 World Series against the Colorado Rockies with a 4-0 score.
In his final playing season, Gagné secured a one year, $10 million dollar base salary deal with the Milwaukee Brewers. Gagné lost his closer spot to Salomon Torres and was relegated as a set-up pitcher which he also lost to Guillermo Mota. He was then assigned as a relief pitcher but still struggled. He recorded the worst full season of his career as he managed only 38 strikeouts, converting only 10 saves in 17 opportunities. He also allowed a 5.41 ERA and was not able to convert a save after he lost his closer role to Torres. His high salary along with his poor performance led him to being dubbed a “ten million dollar mistake” by Brewers fans. Gagné re-signed with the Brewers to a minor league deal but was released in the middle of spring training due to a shoulder injury.
Gagné signed with the Québec Capitales to play/coach in the Can-Am League. Gagné helped the team win the League Championship on July 26, 2009 as he pitched 6 no-hit innings against the New Jersey Jackals.
After a successful stint in the Can-Am League, Gagné attempted to get back in the MLB to play with his former team, the Los Angeles Dodgers and agreed to a minor league deal. The deal also included an invite into spring training. During three spring training appearances, Gagné performed poorly as he gave up six runs on eight hits in just less than three innings of play. Gagné was reassigned to the minors where he played just a single intrasquad game. Gagné was released by the the Dodgers on March 21, 2010 upon his request. He retired on April 18, 2010.
Jason Raymond Bay was born in Trail, British Columbia on September 20, 1978. Bay is a ten-year MLB veteran currently playing for the New York Mets. He started young in the sport and achieved success as a member of a Trail team that played the 1990 Little League World Series.
The Montreal Expos drafted Bay in the 2000 MLB Draft. He was assigned to play with the Vermont Expos. He was then assigned to the Jupiter Hammerheads in Florida where he started the year very slowly. By May, he was moved to play for the Clinton LumberKings in the Midwest League. He finished the year with the LumberKings with a .362 batting average which was enough to bag the league’s batting title. Bay batted a .315 average with 14 HRs and 75 RBIs for the year.
Bay was traded to the New York Mets on March 24, 2002. The Mets traded Bay, Josh Reynolds and Bobby Jones to the San Diego Padres for Jason Middlebrook. He debuted with his new team on May 23, 2003. Bay recorded his first hit, a homerun, in the ninth inning of his Padres debut. He suffered a broken wrist when he was hit by a pitch two days later.
The Padres opted to trade Bay and two more team members on August 26, 2003 to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Brian Giles. Bay recorded a .287 batting average, four HRs and 14 RBIs in 30 games.
Bay started the 2004 season on the DL after an offseason surgery. Despite this, he still had a .282 batting average over 120 games. He accompanied it with 26 HRs and 82 RBIs to lead all National League rookies in both departments. He also led other NL rookies with a .550 slugging percentage, 54 extra base hits and 226 total bases. The 26 homeruns Bay hit became a franchise record for the Pirates for most HRs by a rookie. He capped a very good year by winning the 2004 Rookie of the Year award and became the first Canadian to do so.
He improved his numbers the following year by finishing with a .306 batting average, 32 HRs and 101 RBIs and lead the Pirates in all the major hitting categories. Bay was selected to his first All-Star game as a reserve outfielder but was the only player on both teams to not play in the game. Bay signed an $18.5 million four-year contract extension after the 2005 season.
In May of 2006, Bay had a .321 batting average and hit 12 HRs with 35 RBIs. He had six consecutive games where he hit at least one homerun. He was short of two games to tie the MLB record. He had 10 HRs in 10 games but failed to hit one in one of the games, and hit two the following day.
Bay led the National League outfielders in the 2006’s All-Star voting after an aggressive campaign by the Pirates. He became the first Pirate All-Star game starter ever since Andy Van Slyke. Bay recorded a single with 1 out of 3 batting (.333) during the game.
As Bay battled injuries, his numbers dropped significantly in 2007. He finished the year with a .247 batting average, 21 HRs and 84 RBIs despite having a solid start. He improved his numbers the following year with a .282 batting average, 22 HRs and 64 RBIs by the All-Star break. Bay also recorded the first three walk-off hits of his career. The first two came in May in a series opposite the Chicago Cubs and the third came a month later in the 13th inning versus the Tampa Bay Rays.
Bay got traded on the 31st of July 2008. The trade included three teams and seven players and sent Bay to the Boston Red Sox. In his debut with the Red Sox, the team won 2-1 with both runs coming from him. Bay then hit his first homerun with the team the following day against the Oakland Athletics. The season ended with Bay hitting a .293 batting average and compiling 9 HRs and 37 RBIs for the Red Sox.
In the 2008 American League Division Series versus the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Bay hit two HRs in the series’ first two games. He finished his first playoff series with a .412 batting average with 2 doubles, 5 RBIs and 2 HRs. Despite the valiant effort, the Red Sox lost the series 4-3.
Bay was back in the All-Star selection in 2009. He finished the season with a career-high 36 HRs and 119 RBIs. He was also part of Sporting News’ 50 greatest active players in baseball. The Red Sox were not able to reach a deal with him at the end of the season as Bay filed for free agency.
Bay signed-up with the New York Mets for a $66 million, four-year deal. He played only 95 games in his first year with the Mets as he suffered from a concussion after running into the wall during a game with the Dodgers. The season ended with Bay hitting a .295 batting average with only 6 HRs and 47 RBIs.
In 2011, Bay started on the DL with a rib injury. He returned to action on April 21 versus the Houston Astros. In a game on June 28, 2011 against the Detroit Tigers, Bay hit a grand slam homerun versus pitcher Daniel Schlereth. This was the team’s first grand slam since Angel Pagan’s in 2009. Bay hit his 200th career HR on August 8 opposite the San Diego Padres and became only the third Canadian in MLB history to do so.
Joseph Daniel Votto hails from Etobicoke, Ontario where he was born on September 10, 1983. He is one of the multi-awarded baseball players from Canada, when he played with the minor leagues, with the trend continuing while he’s with the major league. He currently plays as first baseman for the Cincinnati Reds. Among his most recent awards for 2010 include the Lou Marsh Trophy for being the athlete of the year in Canada, the National League Hank Aaron Award and the National League MVP Award.
Votto was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in 2002 while he was still in high school. His rookie years playing with the Reds affiliates were quite uneventful. However, he came into the limelight in 2004 when he had 14 HRs, 26 doubles and had a .302 batting average while playing for the Class A Dayton Dragons of Dayton, Ohio, which is also a Reds affiliate. His performance earned him a promotion to the Class A Advanced Potomac in the minor league. This time he had 19 HRs in 20 games.
While playing with the Sarasota Reds, Votto’s consistency dropped. Although he still managed to have 19 HRs, he struck out 122 times and only has a .256 batting average. His best is yet to come though, and in 2006, while with the Class AA Chattanooga Lookouts of Tennessee, an affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Votto improved his stats, hitting 46 doubles, 22 HRs and raised to .319 his previous low batting average. He was the leader in total bases and batting average for the Southern League and earned a selection in the 2006 Futures Game for the World Team and likewise played on the Northern League All-Star teams for the mid-season and post season games. He was named a minor league all-star by Baseball America and later won the MVP Award of the Northern League.
Votto started the 2007 season playing for the AAA Louisville Bats, a Cincinnati Reds affiliate in Kentucky before making his MLB debut on September 7, 2007, making his first major league career home run in the second game. Votto’s game statistics continued to improve as he earned more game time, and was allowed to be a starting first baseman by 2008. He finished the season second to Geovany Soto of Chicago Cubs in the National League Rookie of the Year voting. His 2008 statistics made him a leader of the NL rookies with a .297 batting average, 24 HRs, 156 hits, 266 TBs, a .506 slugging percentage and an on-base percentage of .368 with 42 multi-hit games. His 2009 season was equally impressive, and he was even named the Player of the Week of the National League on the 21st until the 27th of September after hitting 10 doubles in five games, a feat that was last seen after 77 years when Paul Waner, playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates achieved it in 1932.
His star as an MLB player continues to rise as the years go on, and he gained thousands of fans. Although he was not selected for the All-Star game in Anaheim in 2010, his fans voted for him, earning him over half of 26 million submitted ballots, and ended up victors in the National League. He has his first walk-off home run of his career off Justin Thomas, the relief pitcher of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Reds eventually lost to the Phillies in the National League Divisional Series, with Votto struggling in the games. He did manage to end the season still being the MLB leader in on-base percentage with .424; a slugging percentage of .600 to be the National League leaders and a 1.024 in on-base plus slugging. He won the National League’s Hank Aaron Award in 2010 as well as the 2010 National League MVP Award, making him the third Canadian baseball player to achieve the feat and the first Reds player to win the award since 1995 when Reds shortstop Barry Larkin won it. Votto likewise won the Golden Glove Award, his first, on November 2010.
Votto has set his sights to greater MLB heights with his contract extended to 10 years on April 12, 2012, that will see him playing with the Cincinnati Reds until 2024. With the last two years of his previous contract added to the new one, the deal ultimately amounts to US$251.5 million for a total of 12 years. It is the fourth largest deal in MLB history; the longest active deal in the sport and the longest guaranteed contract in the history of Major League Baseball.
He just made another milestone very recently when on May 13, 2012, playing against the Washington National, Votto had three home runs, a walk-off grand slam and 6 RBIs. This was the first time in the history of the MLB that a player achieved in a single game a walk-off grand slam and three home runs.