All posts by Kirk Sorensen

ty-ty-ty

Vancouver’s 2016 World Series Connection

Each year when the World Series rolls around and the eventual disappointment of another losing season leaves us with no team to cheer for, we at Baseball in Vancouver have come up with a new way to pick a team to support in the World Series.

We cheer for Vancouver connections. Each and every year in the World Series there is usually at least one Vancouver connection –whether it is someone who once played for a team here, vacationed here or their great uncle’s best friend once knew a guy from Canada – and we love to find it.

Once you start to memorize the rosters of former Vancouver teams it really becomes quite an easy and fun game.  Don’t believe us?

The 2015 World Series featured quite a few Vancouver connections, the highlights being former Canadians player turned Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost as well as more recent Canadians player and Noah Syndergaard.

2014? Former C Tim Hudson battled Yost’s Royals in game 3 ending with a loss.

2013? The Red Sox were managed by former C’s Ace John Farrell and if that wasn’t enough Gibson BC native Ryan Dempster also took the mounds for the Red Sox.

Pick a year. If you work hard and can navigate Baseball Reference well enough the odds are you can find a Vancouver connection in the World Series. This year is no different.

Minus the fact that plenty of the Chicago Cubs have graced Nat Bailey’s hallowed grounds while playing for the Boise Hawks from Kris Bryant down to bullpen catcher Chad Noble, there’s a closer connection.

Tonight one former Vancouver Canadian hopes to earn himself a World Series ring but this time not as a player, but instead for his impact on players.

Ty Van Burkleo played for the Vancouver Canadians during the 1993 season. Vancouver was the AAA affiliate for the California Angels and was packed with future big league talent like Kelly Gruber and Jim Edmonds.  For many playing at the AAA level though, the big leagues might as well be as far away as Mars. Ty Van Burkleo only ever played 12 games in the show ending his career with 5 big league knocks but ended up playing 15 seasons of pro ball including 4 seasons in Japan.

After retiring in 1997 he began his coaching career immediately going to work with the Arizona Diamondbacks organization. As he moved up the ladder Van Burkleo’s career included stints as a hitting coach for the Oakland Athletics and was even the bench coach for the 2009 Seattle Mariners.

As of 2013 he has been the hitting coach for the Cleveland Indians, and although he only played one season in Vancouver that’s enough for us to elicit a “GO TRIBE GO”!

ty-ty-ty

UBC Baseball Cards

UBC has had a busy offseason building a brand new indoor baseball facility to the tune of 3.5 million. Terry McKaig also stepped down as head coach, becoming UBC’s Director of Baseball, hiring former Vancouver Canadians player and Major League player Chris Pritchett as the head coach.

We at Baseball in Vancouver are fans of all baseball in our province, professional or amateur and with the UBC Thunderbirds kicking off their season this week, that got us thinking about a very rare piece of UBC Baseball history.  We were lucky enough to come into possession of a very rare UBC baseball collectible (as not many UBC Baseball things have ever been created) and we wanted to share it with you.

A team set of the only UBC baseball cards ever made.

The cards were manufactured for the 2009-2010 UBC Team and only a small number were made, most given to players, coaches and other supporters of the team. We are lucky enough to have a set in our collection and wanted to show off the highlights – many of these cards are the only ones players would ever receive over their careers, but we wanted to share some of the players who went on to play professional baseball.

Sammie Starr

Sammie was drafted in the 34th round out of UBC and spent 5  IMG_20160205_0002seasons in the minors, including playing one game in AAA. Sammie is currently the assistant coach for UBC this year.

 

 

 

IMG_20160205_0001Connor Janes

Coaches were also included in this set. A UBC alumni Janes was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 27th round. After playing 2 seasons in the minors, Janes returned to UBC as a hitting coach for 2010.

 

 

Eric BrownIMG_20160205_0005

Brown was selected in the 50th round of the 2011 draft by the Blue Jays and went on to play 3 season in the minors, including 46 games for the Vancouver Canadians.

 

 

 

Sheldon McDonald IMG_20160205_0003

Taken by the Cubs in the 33rd round of the 2011 draft, McDonald also completed 3 seasons in the minors before calling it quits reaching high A ball.

 

 

 

 

Brandon KayeIMG_20160205_0004

The Langley native was taken in the 45th round by the Blue Jays and only spent 2 seasons in the minors, but did spend his first year with the Vancouver Canadians before being sent down to the Rookie League.

 

 

 

Greg DemsemIMG_20160205_0006

One of the most interesting players in the set in my mind, as he is still active in professional baseball, but not necessarily in the way that most people think. After playing for the Birds, Greg went out to the work for the Vancouver Canadians. as a video coordinator where he got to see the likes of Miguel Castro pitch. Last year he was called upon by the Toronto Blue Jays as a Bullpen Catcher where he spent a good part of the season warming of the Blue Jays staff.

 

The backs of the cards contained the basic information about the players such as their positions, height and weight, but also had one line for the players to have some fun with which was a nickname line. A lot of the players left that blank, but that best nickname goes to Delta native Mike Elias.

IMG_20160205_0003 (2)

Want to see any of the other cards and players from this set? Let us know in the comments below! 

The All Name Team

This year when the Vancouver Canadians started their season in mid-June, one player had already begun to rack up the awards. When Earl Burl III was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays on June 11th, he instantly started to be mentioned among the “best names of the 2015” drafts across the country. Dayn Perry of CBS Sports ranked him 1st out of 25, beating out players like Rock Rucker and Tucker Tubbs. That had us thinking here at Baseball in Vancouver – who is the best named player in professional baseball history in Vancouver?

We compiled 10 of our favorite names that range from the first year that Vancouver had a professional team, up to the current Vancouver Canadians.

Honourable Mentions:

 Ten Million
Although Ten Million never played in Vancouver, his season for the 170px-Ten_Million_baseball_card1911 Victoria Bees made him a legend, cemented by his 1911 T212 Obak Card – now one of the most valuable in the sets based on his name.  Forget Alex Rodriguez, Ten was the first player to regularly see “Ten Million” on his paycheck.

George High Pockets Kelly
Before he began his Hall of Fame career the 6’4 High Pockets, or Long George as he was often called, played for the 1914-15 Victoria Bees

 

 

 

The List (In no particular order)

Piggy Ward
Frank Piggy Ward made his major league debut at the age of 16 in 1883, but it wasn’t until 1905 that he brought his talent north to play for the 1905 Vancouver Veterans. Anyone who goes by Piggy automatically qualifies as having one of the best names in Vancouver baseball history

Kitty Brashear
Whether you like cats, or former Vancouver Canuck tough guys, Kitty Brashear is hands down one of the best names in Vancouver baseball history. Kitty pitched 8 innings in the bigs in 1899 and from 1911-12 called Vancouver home.

King Schmutz
Although his first name was Charlie, most of his teammates on the 1913 Vancouver Beavers referred to him as King – King Schmutz

Wimpy Quinn
We like to imagine his 44 errors while playing for the 1939 Capilanos helped him get the nickname of Wimpy – he did however end up as a pitcher for 5 innings for the 1941 Cubs so Wimpy has that going for him.

Spider Jorgensen
He was born as John, but after being given the nickname spider Spiderbecause of a pair of black basketball shorts with an orange stripe that reminded a teacher of a spider he killed, the name stuck. Spider played for the Mounties from 1956-59 but more notably on April 17th, 1947 as Jackie Robinson took the field as a rookie player and changed baseball forever, Spider also took the field as a rookie and even used Jackie Robinson’s glove as he didn’t have any equipment with him.

Sidney VanSinderen
Sidney only played 20 games for the 1946 Vancouver Capilanos but you can’t help but say his name over and over again once you hear it.

Dizzy Trout
After pitching 15 seasons in the Big Leagues, Trout retired and became a broadcaster and had an unsuccessful campaign as a sheriff. 5 years into retirement at the age of 42 he decided he had more left in the tank and returned to professional baseball, playing for the 1957 Vancouver Mounties before being called up to Baltimore for a final season.

Blue Moon Odom
Given the name by a classmate who thought his round face NICKNAMES-1972-BLUE-MOONresembled the moon, Odom played 13 seasons in the MLB, including winning 3 World Series Championships. Odom played on the 1967 Mounties posting a 2.25 ERA over 40 innings.

Carl Michael Yastrzemski Jr.
How do you tell a seasoned Boston Red Sox Fan from a casual fan? Ask them to spell Yastzemski and see what they come up with. The Hall of Famer’s son played for the Vancouver Canadians from 1986-88.

Earl Burl III
This newcomer took the baseball world by storm in 2015, and it’s a name that will go down in Vancouver history. EB3 finished his rookie campaign with a .216 BA and 9 stolen bases for the C’s.

Did we miss a great name? Disagree with our list? Let us know in the comments below! 

Homegrown: The Blue Jays First Canadian

This will be an ongoing series, with each BC born baseball player who has ever played in the bigs – whether a single at bat, or finishing their careers with MVP trophies and more – receiving a story. This is home grown.

rsz_davemckay

On April 7th, 1977 the Toronto Blue Jays became the second Canadian baseball team to join the MLB. The crowd of 44, 649 were not deterred by the snowstorm which had blown into town.

The Blue Jays starting lineup featured one Canadian, Dave McKay starting at 3rd base.  McKay would go 2 for 4 in the game and would spend parts of 3 season with the Blue Jays finishing with a line of .223/.252/.314.

McKay was born in Vancouver on March 14, 1950 and at the age of 11 got his first taste of organized baseball playing his Little League baseball for Little Mountain, the oldest Little League in Canada.  Although Vancouver has always been a hockey town, McKay grew up in the shadow of 29 future and past Major League Baseball players who played for the Vancouver Mounties in 1961 just across the street from Little Mountain at Capilano Stadium.

McKay attended Sir Charles Tupper for high school, but never played baseball there as there was no high school team.  A tall slender infielder, McKay worked hard and spent his college days playing at Columbia Basin Junior College and Creighton University. As the MLB draft at the time did not include Canadians, McKay signed a contract with the Twins in 1971 and his big league career began in 1975 with the Twins.  In his first at bat facing Detroit Tigers starter Verne Ruhle he did something no Canadian player has ever duplicated- he hit a home run in his first MLB at bat.

It is his post playing day career though that has made McKay one of the most respected names in baseball. McKay became close friends with Baseball Hall of Famer Tony La Russa (who also has a Vancouver connection as he played in  on the 1967 Vancouver Mounties). McKay would spent time with La Russa on the Athletics and Cardinals coaching staffs, winning 3 World Championships the first in 1989 with the Athletics, and the last two in 2006 and 2011 with the Cardinals. After La Russa retired, McKay has found work with the Chicago Cubs as a base coach, and currently with the Arizona Diamondbacks as their first base coach.

For all his years in baseball, McKay was inducted in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001. Dave McKay is home grown.

Which BC MLB player do you want to read about next? Let us know in the comments below! 

Connor Panas2

2015 Vancouver Canadians Baseball Cards

The Vancouver Canadians just released their 2015 Team Set of baseball cards which is available at the Team Store at Nat Bailey!

Baseball cards have been produced for teams in Vancouver for over 100 years, the first set being the 1910 T212 Obak Tobacco Cards, which featured the Vancouver Beavers.

Obak Tobacco Cards

Obak Tobacco Cards

After the Obaks, two of the other most well known sets for Vancouver Teams are the 1932-38 Peanut Cards which were given out in packs of peanuts at Athletic Park, and the Popcorn Cards of the Capilanos in the 1950s.

Popcorn Card of Gordy Brunswick

Popcorn Card of Gordy Brunswick

Peanut card of Norm Trasolini

Peanut card of Norm Trasolini

Aside from these three major sets, the only other major offering of cards for Vancouverites comes from the Canadians, who put out a yearly set (bonus points to the person who can list what year(s) the Canadians didn’t put out cards in the comments).

This year the 2015 set contains 50 cards, which is 10 more than last year. Another change as well, is that players who were selected to the All-Star gave this year have a “2015 All-Star” icon on their card. Local BC boys Tom Robson and Justin Atkinson both have a card in this years set which will offer many fans their first opportunity to get cards of both. Kevan (Side 1)0007 Kevan (Side 1)0006 Kevan (Side 1)0003

What do you think of this years cards? Are you going to buy a set? Let us know!

 

The Pocket Watch

As a lifelong collector, historian and lover of baseball history, people often ask me what my favorite Vancouver baseball artifact is. Trips to SafeCo Field, the home of the Seattle Mariners, have me drooling over the fantastic collection of Pacific Northwest baseball collector Dave Eskenazi, which includes everything from Ten Million’s bat to rare Senior Amateur League jerseys.

When I look through the Bud Kerr Museum at Nat Bailey Stadium, the home of the Vancouver Canadians, I love looking at the old remnants of the Vancouver Capilanos and the Mounties.

My favorite artifact though does not live in either of those places or the homes of the many other collections that I’ve been privileged to look through.

My favorite artifact resides in the BC Sports Hall of Fame at BC Place, and due to its fragile nature is not often on display or known by most.

Looking through the massive collections storage room, if you didn’t know exactly what you were looking for you would never find it. When you pull out the drawer in which it resides, at first glance you might assume it to be an old cigarette case but when you open it up, the battered and broken pieces hold one of the best baseball stories in Vancouver history.

The year was 1914 and the Vancouver Beavers were atop the Northwest League. The league itself was packed with past and future MLB stars, including greats like Joe McGinnity and Dutch Ruether.

Bob Brown, the Mr. Baseball of Vancouver did everything for the team that year, from building their home park the year before, to managing the team and playing for it.

The Beavers were playing a game against their rivals the Seattle Giants and Bob Brown go into an argument with umpire Pearl Casey.  This was not uncommon for Brown, who media often referred to as the “fiery redhead”. Casey having decided that Brown had been given more than his time to share his disgruntled feelings, gave Brown one minute to exit the field, and pulled out his pocket watch as a show of bravado. Brown never one to be shown up by umpires, snatched the pocket watch out of Casey’s hand and threw it with all his might against the backstop, shattering it into pieces.

“Let’s see that watch count my minute now!”

A stunned Casey, let Brown stay in the game.

Just as Brown’s minute has never ticked off, so too has his legacy and impact on baseball in Vancouver never faded.

Pearl Casey's Pocket Watch

Pearl Casey’s Pocket Watch

The broken pieces, after Brown smashed the watch

The broken pieces, after Brown smashed the watch