Unbeknownst to a lot of people, idyllic Cooperstown, New York isn’t the only sleepy burg that celebrates a Baseball Hall of Fame induction weekend.
The small town of St. Marys, Ontario, (population 6,600) is situated southwest of Toronto, roughly halfway to Detroit. The first settlers arrived in St. Marys in the early 1840s, attracted by the area’s natural resources. At the new town site, the Thames River cascaded over a series of limestone ledges, providing the power to run the first pioneer mills and giving the community an early nickname: Little Falls. In the riverbed and along the banks, limestone was close to the surface and could be quarried for building materials. Many 19th century limestone structures survive: churches, commercial blocks, and private homes. They have given St. Marys its current nickname: Stonetown.
How does this relate to baseball, you ask? Well, in 1908, a handle and hockey stick company was founded by Solen Doolittle in the town of St. Marys, called the St. Marys Wood Specialty Company. During their time in St. Marys, the company made many such items as hammer handles, hockey sticks and baseball bats. Following many ownership changes over the years, the company (now called Cooper) saw their baseball bats finally gain Major League Baseball approval in 1986, and by 1988, they had captured 30% of the MLB market (trailing only Lousville Slugger). The bats gained popularity with such players as Tony Fernandez, Buck Martinez, Tim Raines, Paul Molitor, Kelly Gruber, Jesse Barfield, Cecil Fielder, Joe Carter, and Hubie Brooks, and were the first Canadian-made bats used in major league play.
This success subsequently inspired the town to bid for the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, which was being moved from Toronto in 1994. Dedicated to preserving Canada’s baseball heritage, the Hall has so far inducted 75 members (46 players, 23 builders, 2 honorary, 4 honorary teams). It includes professional ballplayers, amateurs, builders and honorary members who have helped popularize the sport in Canada.
Which brings us to this past weekend, when the 2016 class was inducted. Contrary to popular belief, the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame does not solely induct Canadian-born players, but players of any nationality who have made significant contributions to baseball in Canada.
And so, without further ado, (and with all due credit for the biographical info to the official Hall website at http://baseballhalloffame.ca/uncategorized/canadian-baseball-hall-of-fame-set-to-induct-diverse-2016-class), here are your 2016 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductees:
Born in 1968 in Detroit, Mich., Hentgen has been part of the Toronto Blue Jays organization as a player, coach, ambassador or special assistant for 26 years. The intense right-hander was selected by the Blue Jays in the fifth round of the 1986 MLB amateur draft and he saw his first regular big league action with the club in 1992 when he pitched 28 games, primarily out of the bullpen, for the franchise’s first World Series-winning squad.
In the ensuing season, he was inserted into the rotation and blossomed into an all-star, registering 19 regular season victories and winning Game 3 of the World Series to help the Blue Jays capture their second consecutive championship. From there, the 6-foot-2 righty evolved into the club’s ace. After being selected to his second all-star game in 1994, Hentgen won 20 games and topped the American League in innings pitched (265-2/3), complete games (10) and shutouts (3) in 1996 to become the first Blue Jay to win the American League Cy Young Award. For an encore, he led the American League in games started (35), innings pitched (264), complete games (9) and shutouts (3) in 1997.
In all, in 10 seasons with the Blue Jays, Hentgen registered 107 wins (fifth-most in franchise history). He also ranks fifth all-time among Blue Jays hurlers in games started (238), innings pitched (1,636), strikeouts (1,028) and shutouts (9).
Born in 1954 in Granada, Nicaragua, Martinez recorded 100 wins (second-most in franchise history) in parts of eight seasons with the Montreal Expos from 1986 to 1993. The durable right-hander also ranks second all-time among Expos pitchers in games started (233) and innings pitched (1,609) and third in strikeouts (973), complete games (41) and shutouts (13). Nicknamed “El Presidente,” Martinez was the first Nicaraguan to play in the major leagues, and when he tossed a perfect game on July 28, 1991 – the only one in Expos history – the club’s play-by-play man and 2014 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Dave Van Horne famously quipped “El Presidente, El Perfecto.”
During his tenure with the Expos, Martinez was selected to three all-star games (1990 to 1992) and in 1991, he topped the National League in ERA (2.39), complete games (9) and shutouts (5). In his eight seasons with Montreal, he posted a combined 3.06 ERA and won 10 or more games seven times and 15 or more four times.
Martinez was traded to Montreal on June 16, 1986 after accumulating 108 wins in his first 11 seasons with the Baltimore Orioles. In also registering 100 wins for the Expos, Martinez became one of only 10 pitchers to reach the century mark in wins in both the National League and American League. He also toed the rubber for the Cleveland Indians (1994 to 1996), Seattle Mariners (1997) and Atlanta Braves (1998) during his 23-year major league career and finished with 245 victories, which ranks 52nd all-time.
Martinez was also active in charitable endeavors, establishing the Dennis Martinez Foundation to aid underprivileged children around the world. In recent years, he has served as the manager of the Nicaraguan national team and as a pitching instructor in the Orioles and St. Louis Cardinals organizations. He was also the bullpen coach of the Houston Astros in 2013.
Born in 1942 in Winnipeg, Man., Norton played in 1,206 minor league games – including five seasons in Triple-A – primarily as a centre fielder, before becoming a trailblazing baseball executive and scout in Canada. In the mid-1970s, Norton founded and established Baseball Canada’s Junior National Team and he became a long-time coach and manager for the organization, while doubling as a part-time scout for the Montreal Expos. He also managed Canada’s Pan Am Games team in 1975, prior to helping to launch Baseball B.C. two years later. In the late 1970s, he was enlisted to create and write Baseball Canada’s first coaching manuals and many of the guidelines from those are still employed today.
In 1986, Norton established the National Baseball Institute (NBI) in Vancouver and hired 2007 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee John Haar to be the first coach. The NBI evolved into the best baseball academy ever created in Canada and is often cited as the standard for similar facilities. Among the NBI graduates to play in the big leagues are 2015 Canadian Baseball Hall of Famers Matt Stairs (Fredericton, NB) and Corey Koskie (Anola, MB).
After leaving the NBI in 1994, Norton evolved into one of Canada’s most respected baseball scouts. Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Pat Gillick hired Norton to scout for the Baltimore Orioles from 1996 to 1999 and when Gillick accepted the Seattle Mariners’ general manager position in 2000, he brought Norton with him. Norton has served as a scout for the Seattle Mariners since 2000 and has signed several Canadians, including Michael Saunders (Victoria, BC). For his excellence in scouting, Norton was named Mariners’ International Scout of the Year in 2007 and Canadian Scout of the Year by the Canadian Baseball Network in 1998 and 2013.
Born in Toronto in 1945, Starkman has spent four decades as an executive with the Toronto Blue Jays. He was initially hired as director of public relations on July 4, 1976 and he served in that capacity until 1998. In that role, he was in charge of media relations, broadcasting, travel and team publications. He was also responsible for the club’s “Name the team” contest prior to the inaugural season that resulted in the Blue Jays name.
Starkman also played key behind-the-scenes roles in the Blue Jays’ first games at Exhibition Stadium and the SkyDome and in their playoff and World Series appearances through 1993. He also doubled as a public relations official for Major League Baseball for 15 World Series and 10 All-Star games. For his efforts, he was presented with the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Robert O. Fishel Award in 1995, an honour that’s bestowed annually for excellence in public relations. Six years later, he was honoured with a 25-year service award from Major League Baseball.
In 1999, Starkman was elevated to vice-president of media relations with the Blue Jays, before transitioning to vice-president, special projects from 2002 to 2014. Widely respected by his colleagues and the media, Starkman has twice (1980, 1996) been honoured with the Good Guy Award by the Toronto chapter of baseball writers and in 2012, he received the President’s Award from Sports Media Canada for his career accomplishments.
In 2014, the Blue Jays established the Howard Starkman Award and named Starkman the first recipient. This award is handed out annually to the Blue Jays Employee of the Year “who best exemplifies the values of integrity, innovation, accountability, team work and a passion for winning.”
Born in Milwaukee, Wis., in 1935, Kubek won three World Series as a shortstop with the New York Yankees between 1957 and 1965 before becoming a popular broadcaster for NBC. He spent 25 seasons behind the mike for the network and called 11 World Series and 10 All-Star games, as well as the Saturday afternoon “Game of the Week.” Along the way, he teamed with legendary play-by-play men like Jim Simpson, Curt Gowdy and Bob Costas.
The Toronto Blue Jays were fortunate to land Kubek as an analyst on their TV broadcasts in 1977 and during his 13 seasons in the booth for the club, he educated tens of thousands of Canadian viewers on CTV and TSN about the sport. On top of the insights he could provide as a former player, Kubek’s no-nonsense style and quick and extensive analysis made him one of the best and most respected analysts of his era. While with the Blue Jays, aside from his analysis, he was one of the first broadcasters to ask to communicate with the director in the production truck to suggest camera shots during the game that would improve the broadcast.
For his efforts, Kubek was the first broadcaster to work exclusively as a TV analyst to win the National Baseball of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting excellence in 2009. He was also the first Ford C. Frick Award winner to have called games for a Canadian team. Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductees Tom Cheek (2013) and Dave Van Horne (2014) have also since been honoured.
After he left the Blue Jays, Kubek served as an analyst on New York Yankees games on the MSG Network for five seasons, prior to retiring in 1994.
Born in Brantford, Ont., in 1834, Shuttleworth has been called the “Father of Canadian Baseball.” His contributions to baseball in Canada have come to light in recent years thanks to research by noted Canadian historian Bill Humber.
When Shuttleworth was living in Hamilton, Ont., in 1854, he organized Canada’s first formal baseball team, which was called the Young Canadians of Hamilton. From 1854 through the 1870s, Shuttleworth was a driving force behind the sport in Canada and he served as vice-president of the first Canadian baseball organization in 1864.
As founder of the Young Canadians, he transitioned the team from the old Canadian rules – 11 players on each team, two-inning games – to the New York rules (which are essentially the rules of today’s game) in 1860. But Shuttleworth was not just an organizer, he was also a catcher and leadoff hitter who participated in the second-ever international baseball game in 1860 which took place a few weeks after the first game that featured a rival Hamilton team. While he was still active as a player, he doubled as the president of the Young Canadians (the team changed its name to Maple Leafs in 1862) from 1860 to 1871.
Shuttleworth was also a member of the Ontario team (Hamilton and Guelph players) that finished third in a major Detroit baseball tournament in 1867. Shuttleworth also umpired important games throughout the 1860s, including a Guelph-Woodstock championship match in 1868.
Shuttleworth eventually moved to Geneva, N.Y. in 1893 to live with his son. He passed away on March 31, 1903 and is buried in Hamilton, Ont. He was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.
In addition to the induction ceremony itself, which was yesterday and featured a street festival, the big weekend also included a home run derby (with Team Canada Baseball, Team Canada Fastball and Team Canada Slo-Pitch players taking part) and a celebrity Slo-Pitch game (Team Hentgen vs Team Martinez) on Thursday, as well as a celebrity golf tournament on Friday.
More information on the Hall can be found at http://baseballhalloffame.ca