Longtime ally Canada deserves World Series title

John Steadman

October 21, 1992|By John Steadman

Sorry, we can't be nationalistic about this, but the best thing that could happen to America's greatest game, baseball, is for the Toronto Blue Jays to win the World Series. The sport would be elevated to a higher level of prestige and acceptability. And, with it, too, would come an enormous element of goodwill.

Baseball aside, Canada has been our country's closest friend. Diplomatically, socially, politically and economically. There's equal access, going and coming, to what is an almost invisible border between the two nations. Mutual trust, friendship and respect have created a momentous relationship.

If all other members of the world order, new and old, enjoyed the same fondness and cooperation, there would be no reason to maintain armies. Together, Canada and the United States have made North America the ideal continent. So it's in the best interest of both parties and baseball at large for Toronto, representing Canada, to defeat the Atlanta Braves, representing the United States.

Should this be interpreted as some act of disloyalty or treason, then we plead guilty. A Toronto victory means Canada wins and for the first time since the World Series was conceived, going back to 1903, a team other than one from the United States would be the champion. It gives baseball a more far-reaching distinction in that another international barrier is eliminated.

We Americans, at least some of us, suffer from an uncomfortable malady known as tunnel vision. Stop to check the records and you'll discover Canada has produced more major-league baseball players than any countries except the U.S. and the Dominican Republic. The total Canadian contribution is an imposing 160, surpassing Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela, Ireland, Japan or any other place you care to name.

One Canadian is in baseball's Hall of Fame, pitcher Ferguson Jenkins. But there have been others of importance. In 1884, which wasn't exactly yesterday, the Baltimore Orioles had Robert Emslie, a Canadian who won 32 and lost 17 during that season.

In fact, if you desire to research when Atlanta and Toronto first had organized professional baseball teams, you'll find the Canadian city preceded Atlanta by nine years. It was first in the Canadian Association and joined the International League in 1886. Atlanta didn't have an affiliation until 1885 in what was the original Southern League.

Let it be emphasized that Toronto hasn't belatedly discovered baseball. To the contrary. The Blue Jays and their Canadian team predecessors have every right to be proud of what is more than a century-old association with America's national pastime. As for Canadian products who distinguished themselves in the majors, let's offer a passel of names:

* Jeff Heath, a Cleveland Indians outfielder who batted .340 in 1941, when he became the first American League player to hit 20 or more doubles, triples and home runs in a season, plus batting in a robust 123.

* Gordon "Goody" Rosen, who played for the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers. In 1945, he batted .325, third best in the National League.

* George "Twinkletoes" Selkirk, the man who ultimately took over right field for the New York Yankees when Babe Ruth was traded in 1935. Selkirk was on nine Yankees teams and five of them won the World Series.

* Jay "Nig" Clarke, a catcher with the Cleveland Indians and Pittsburgh Pirates in the early 1900s. A momentous occasion for Clarke occurred in 1902 before he came to the majors. While playing for Corsicanna of the Texas League, he hit eight straight home runs in a celebrated rout of Texarkana, 51-3.

* Phil Marchildon, who won 19 games for the fifth-place Philadelphia A's in 1947.

* Dick Fowler, of the A's, was the first Canadian to pitch a no-hit, no-run game in 1945. Another Canadian citizen, but American-born, Bill Stoneman produced two no-hit, no-run performances.

For additional Canadians with major-league backgrounds we randomly list Pete Ward, American League Rookie of the Year in 1963; John Hiller, Russ Ford, Jack Graney, who became a longtime Indians broadcaster; Bill Phillips, Jim "Tip" O'Neill, brothers Arthur and John Irwin, Reggie Cleveland, Ron Taylor, Frank "Blackie" O'Rourke, Claude Raymond, George Gibson and Paul Calvert, among more than 100 others.

Canada has imported its share of athletes to America. Not all have been hockey players, as witness the foregoing. It would be fitting, therefore, if Toronto wins the World Series for Canada. A relatively small country, referring to population and not its physical dimensions, could boast of having baseball's best team.

The World Series, since it denotes the champion of baseball, is more important than names which in themselves are somewhat nebulous but dear to the hearts of America. For instance, the Super Bowl and Stanley Cup pale by comparison. The World Series stands alone and Canada deserves it.

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