St. Marys, Ont. – When Justin Morneau secured the National League batting title on the final day of the regular season, it topped off what has been an excellent year for Canadians in the big leagues.
The New Westminster, B.C., native’s .319 batting average cemented him a spot in Canadian baseball lore alongside Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) and Tip O’Neill (Woodstock, Ont.), the only other Canadians to win major league batting crowns. One of the bats that Morneau used this season will soon be displayed at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont.
“Winning a batting title is a tremendous accomplishment, but what makes it even more special is that Justin did it wearing No. 33 with the Colorado Rockies just like Larry Walker did,” said Scott Crawford, the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s director of operations. “We’re very happy for Justin. He has always been a great ambassador for baseball in our country and he’s been extremely generous to us over the years.”
Among the artifacts that Morneau has donated to the Canadian ball shrine are a bat from his first big league game, a bat from his 1,000th game and the ball that he hit to record his 130th RBI in 2006 to tie Walker’s single-season, Canadian record. The ball that Morneau slugged for his 1,467th career hit, which tied him with George Wood (Pownal, P.E.I.) for the second-most hits by a Canadian, as well as the cleats he wore when he tied and surpassed Wood, are also on their way to the museum.
The batting crown is yet another award for Morneau, who has previously captured the 2006 American League MVP Award, two Silver Slugger Awards (2006, 2008) and the 2008 State Farm Home Run Derby trophy. This honour is also the latest addition to a growing list of awards that Canadians have won in recent years (See list below).
But Morneau wasn’t the only Canadian to shine at the big league level in 2014. Montreal native Russell Martin posted a .402 on-base percentage and threw out 39 per cent of runners attempting to steal off of him. He also recorded his 1,000th career hit on August 13. The bat he used to register that historic hit is now on display at the Hall of Fame.
Mississauga, Ont., native Dalton Pompey rocketed through the Toronto Blue Jays’ minor league system to make his big league debut on September 2. And Jays fans won’t soon forget his performance on September 26, when he notched two triples and a double and made a highlight-reel catch in centre field. The spikes Pompey wore in his first major league game are being sent to the Hall of Fame.
One day prior to that, Pompey and Scarborough, Ont., George Kottaras, made history when they were both in the Blue Jays’ starting lineup, marking the first time that two players from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) were in the Jays lineup at the same time. The lineup card from that game is also en route to the Hall.
Ladner, B.C., native James Paxton also made a strong impression in 2014. In his first 14 big league starts – dating back to 2013 – the Canadian left-hander’s ERA sat at 1.73, which was the third-best ERA a starting pitcher has ever registered in their first 14 starts, behind only Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Steve Rogers (1.31 for the Expos in 1973) and Tony Bonham (1.67 for the Yankees in 1940 and 1941). Paxton finished the season with six wins and a 3.04 ERA in 13 starts. One of his game-worn gloves is being shipped to the Hall of Fame.
“It’s important that we recognize today’s big leaguers in our museum,” said Crawford. “When we can add a glove or a bat from a Canadian playing in the big leagues right now, it helps us increase the interest level in kids that visit our museum, which is one of the most important things that we can do.”
Here’s a list of some of the artifacts that the Hall has received or will be receiving from Canadians that played in the big leagues this season:
- Justin Morneau (New Westminster, B.C.) – Colorado Rockies – game-used bat from 2014 season, ball he hit to tie George Wood for second on all-time hit list for Canadians, game-worn cleats from game he tied and passed Wood on the all-time hit list
- Jeff Francis (North Delta, B.C) – Oakland A’s – game-worn jersey and spikes
- James Paxton (Ladner, B.C.) – Seattle Mariners – game used glove
- Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.) – Toronto Blue Jays – game-worn spikes
- George Kottaras (Scarborough, Ont.) – Toronto Blue Jays – game-worn batting gloves and locker plate from his stint with the Cleveland Indians
- John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.) – Cleveland Indians – game-worn jersey
- Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.) – Pittsburgh Pirates – game-used bat from 1,000th career hit
- Jamie Romak (London, Ont.) – Los Angeles Dodgers – warm-up shirt and hat from first game
*Note: The teams indicated are the teams the player was with when they were using the donated item.
All-Time Canadian Award Winners
Tip O’Neill (Woodstock, Ont.), American Association, 1887 (.435) and 1888 (.335)
Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C), National League, 1998 (.363), 1999 (.379) and 2001 (.350)
Justin Morneau (New Westminster, B.C.), National League, 2014 (.319)
Most Valuable Player
Larry Walker, National League, 1997
Justin Morneau, American League, 2006
Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.), National League, 2010
Tip O’Neill, American Association, 1887, .435, 14 home runs, 123 RBI
Gold Glove Award
Larry Walker, National League, 1992, 1993, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002
Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.), National League, 2007
Joey Votto, National League, 2011
Silver Slugger Award
Larry Walker, National League, 1992, 1997, 1999
Justin Morneau, American League, 2006, 2008
Russell Martin, National League, 2007
Jason Bay (Trail, B.C.), American League, 2009
Cy Young Award
Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.), National League, 1971
Eric Gagne (Montreal, Que.), National League, Los Angeles Dodgers, 2003
Rookie of the Year
Jason Bay, National League, 2004