Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Canadian HOF

Sunday was a great day at Cooperstown with two, count them, two notable Jays taking the spotlight. "Stand Pat" Gillick and Robbie Alomar were given the highest tribute in baseball by being inducted to the Hall Of fame. The speeches were great and the reception by the assembled crowd was loud and satisfying. I was working with Rick during the time that Pat Gillick made the biggest trade in baseball history (I think so anyway).

But Cooperstown is not what I want to share with you today. There is another baseball Hall of Fame, the Canadian one in St Mary’s, Ontario. On June 18 three new members were inducted: Tom Henke, Allan Simpson and George Wood. Their stories are interesting and make one very proud to have a Hall of Fame Canada.

Allan Simpson is originally from Kelowna. He was founder and editor of the now famous Baseball America magazine, which has in depth information about baseball at all levels including collegiate ball. For now over thirty years it has been a leader and source for fans players and scouts. Simpson started as a manager of pioneer leagues, the Lethbridge Expos and the Alaska Goldpanners. “I had the good fortune to watch Dave Winfield break in as a full-time position player in Fairbanks in 1972, and Andre Dawson make his professional debut in Lethbridge three years later,” recalled Simpson from his home in Durham, North Carolina. He realized that The Sporting News was reducing coverage of the minor winter and summer leagues. He decided, without the proper financing and publishing expertise, to start and baseball magazine from Canada no less. Lots of guts there.

The magazine was sent through the state of Washington so that it appeared to come from the US. American fans probably would not have paid attention to a Canadian telling the baseball story to the US. Baseball America started with a subscription of 1500 and now has over 250,000. It is very big success which. Congratulations to Allan Simpson.

George "Dandy" Wood is and old era player. He was born in 1858 in Pownal, PEI. and died in 1924. He played outfield, batted left and threw right and was active from 1880 through 1892. In his pro years he played for Detroit, Philadelphia (both the Quakers and the Athletics), Baltimore and Cincinnati. He was home run leader in 1882 with a lifetime BA of .273, 1,467 hits and 228 doubles, 138 triples, 601 RBI and 113 stolen bases. He is famous for having (in his first week in the majors) initiated the 11th triple play in history. Even more interesting is that he played left field for the major leagues first perfect game on June 12, 1880, pitched by Lee Richmond of the Worcester Ruby Legs.

Tom Henke is not Canadian, however he played for the Jays from 1982-1992. He was a thrill to watch especially with his usual offering of a first pitch down the pipe for a home run for the opposition. But then they could hit nothing at all.

Henke was an imposing man on the mound being 6'5" and wearing large glasses. During his time with the Jays he had 217 saves, most of any Jay to date. Henke collected 311 career saves, a 2.48 earned run average and struck out an average of 9.8 hitters per nine innings over his career. In 1992, he took a pair of saves and pitched in three of the Blue Jays four one-run victories over the Atlanta Braves during the World Series. Thanks again Tom.

I am very glad the Canadian Hall of Fame has honored these players and publisher. They had impressive careers. As with Cooperstown, St Mary’s is the spot for Canadian baseball lore and legend. The player’s records speak for themselves but the recognition of Allan Simpson is especially important because of his vision and huge impact on the game for both countries through his magazine. Again a good year in baseball.


Rick Blechta said...

Apparently, Henke gave a barn burner of a speech, too. I've heard that from more than one source. He was really to be inducted into the CBHOF. Half his hometown showed up to see it, too.

Henke always was a class act and he's become even moreso over the years.

Great post, John! Thanks.

Rick Blechta said...

I should have typed "honoured" after really in my previous comment. Darned computers...