Three of them starred on the field for the Toronto Blue Jays, one of them was the longest-serving manager in Montreal Expos history and the other has covered both the Blue Jays and the Expos during his storied writing career.
Former Blue Jays Carlos Delgado, Corey Koskie (Anola, Man.) and Matt Stairs (Saint John, N.B.) will be inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, along with long-time Montreal Expos manager Felipe Alou and legendary scribe Bob Elliott (Kingston, Ont.) in a ceremony that will take place on June 13 in St. Marys, Ont.
“Each of our 2015 inductees has made significant contributions to the history of baseball in our country and they continue to be great ambassadors for the game,” said Scott Crawford, the hall’s director of operations. “We’re proud and excited to celebrate their careers in St. Marys this June.
The induction ceremony will be part of a festival of events that will also include a Downtown Family Baseball Street Festival, celebrity slo-pitch game and home run derby, a London Salutes Canadian Baseball breakfast and the Hall’s 19th annual celebrity golf tournament.
Born in 1972 in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, Delgado was signed as an amateur free agent by the Blue Jays in 1988. After beginning his professional career as a catcher followed by a short stint as an outfielder, he was moved to first base and evolved into the most productive offensive player in franchise history. On his way up to the big leagues, the left-handed-hitting slugger collected MVP Awards in the Class-A Florida State League (1992) and Double-A Southern League (1993), before receiving his first big league call-up at the end of the 1993 campaign.
Delgado became a regular with the Blue Jays in 1996 and would star with the club for the next nine seasons. During that stretch, he had eight consecutive, 30-home run campaigns, was selected to two all-star games (2000, 2003), won three Silver Slugger Awards (1999, 2000, 2003), a Hank Aaron Award (2000) and was named The Sporting News Major League Player of the Year (2000). He also finished second to Alex Rodriguez in the American League MVP voting in 2003. Not only did Delgado lead the Blue Jays in numerous offensive categories, he also topped the American League in doubles (57) and total bases (378) in 2000 and in RBI (145) and on-base plus slugging percentage (1.019) in 2003. On September 25 of that same year, he also became the first Blue Jay – and 15th player in major league history – to belt four home runs in a game.
While suiting up for the Blue Jays, Delgado rewrote much of the club’s record book and is the team’s all-time leader in several statistical categories, including home runs (336), RBI (1,058), doubles (343), runs (889), total bases (2,786), slugging percentage (.556), extra-base hits (690) and walks (827). He also ranks second all-time amongst Blue Jays in on-base percentage (.392) and games (1,423). For his efforts, he was added to the Blue Jays Level of Excellence in 2013.
After leaving the Jays following the 2004 season, Delgado extended his string of consecutive 30-home run seasons to 10 with the Florida Marlins and New York Mets. He finished his career with 473 home runs (31st all-time) and 1,512 RBI (52nd all-time) in 17 big league seasons.
Off the field, Delgado was very active in charitable endeavors. In 2001, he formed a non-profit organization called “Extra Bases” to assist youth and underfunded services in Puerto Rico. While in Toronto, he supported several charities, including the Special Olympics and Easter Seals. In 2006, he was honoured with Major League Baseball’s Roberto Clemente Award, which is given out annually to the player who best exemplifies humanitarianism and sportsmanship.
“I’m very honoured and humbled to be selected into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame,” said Delgado. “This is unbelievable news! I always say that you do not play the game for the awards, but if at the end of the day, you get that recognition from your fans and peers, it means a lot. And this is extra special to me because of the relationship that I have with the Toronto Blue Jays and their fans all across Canada.”
Born in Anola, Man., in 1973, Koskie was a multi-sport star in high school, excelling in baseball, hockey and volleyball. After choosing to focus on baseball, he honed his skills at the National Baseball Institute in Surrey, B.C., in 1993 before he was selected in the 26th round of the 1994 MLB amateur draft by the Minnesota Twins.
The 6-foot-3 slugger played parts of five seasons in the minors prior to making his big league debut on September 9, 1998. He became a regular with the Twins the following season when he hit .310 and belted 11 home runs in 117 games – a performance that earned him a spot on the Topps’s 1999 All-Star Rookie team.
But his true breakout season would come two years later, when he scored 100 runs, socked 26 homers, collected 103 RBI and swiped 27 bases to become the only third baseman in American League history to record at least 100 runs, 25 homers, 100 RBI and 25 stolen bases in the same season. For his efforts, he was named co-winner (with Larry Walker) of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s Tip O’Neill Award. In the ensuing three campaigns, he never hit less than 14 home runs in a season and he helped the Twins to three consecutive playoff berths.
On December 14, 2004, he signed with the Toronto Blue Jays and would slam 11 homers in 97 contests for the Canadian club in 2005, prior to being swapped to the Milwaukee Brewers in January 2006. He had 12 homers in 76 games for the Brewers in 2006 before sustaining a concussion on July 5 that eventually ended his career.
In all, in nine big league seasons, Koskie suited for 989 games – more than any other player from Manitoba – and ranks seventh all-time amongst Canadians in home runs (124) and on-base percentage (.367) and eighth in slugging percentage (.458). He also played more big league games at third base than any other Canadian and ranks first among Canuck third basemen in batting average, home runs, RBI and on-base percentage. He also competed for Canada in the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classics.
For his efforts, he was elected to the Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011 and the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame in 2013.
During his career, Koskie was also involved with numerous charities and he continues to support fundraising activities for the Twins Community Fund. In 2001, he was the recipient of the Twins’ Carl R. Pohlad Award, which is handed out by the club to a player, coach or manager for outstanding work in the community.
“Wow! I’m not sure what to say or think,” said Koskie when told of his upcoming induction. “I know the standard thing to say is, ‘What an honor,’ but that doesn’t communicate what I’m feeling right now. It’s much more than that.”
Born in Saint John, N.B., in 1968, Stairs was hoping to become a professional hockey player until he sustained a serious knee injury in high school. When he recovered, he decided to focus on baseball and he honed his skills at the National Baseball Institute in Surrey, B.C. and with Canada’s junior national team. In 1988, he competed for Canada in the Olympics and hit .362 at the Baseball World Cup and was named the tournament’s top shortstop.
His international success helped convince the Expos to sign him as a free agent in 1989. After parts of four seasons in the minors, the stocky Maritimer made his big league debut with the Expos on May 29, 1992. Over the next four seasons, he split time between Triple-A, the Expos, the Chunichi Dragons of the Japan Central League and the Boston Red Sox, before inking a deal with the Oakland A’s on December 1, 1995.
After belting 10 home runs in 61 games with the A’s in 1996, Stairs walloped 27 homers and posted a .386 on-base percentage the next campaign. He followed that up with 26 and 38 home runs in 1998 and 1999 respectively and drove in more than 100 runs in both of those seasons to become the first Canadian to register back-to-back 25-home run, 100-RBI campaigns.
The left-handed hitting slugger was traded to the Chicago Cubs after the 2000 season and over the next 11 seasons, he suited up for 10 different teams, including the Blue Jays in 2007 and 2008. During that time, Stairs developed into one of the best pinch-hitters in big league history. For his career, Stairs clubbed a major league record 23 regular season, pinch-hit home runs. His most famous pinch-hit home run, however, came in the post-season. With two out in the eighth inning of Game 4 of the 2008 National League Championship Series, Stairs blasted a two-run homer off of Los Angeles Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton that put the Phillies ahead in the game and shifted the momentum of the series. The Phillies later won the World Series.
In all, Stairs’ career spanned 19 big league seasons (the most by any Canadian position player) and he hit 265 homers, the second-most by a Canadian (Larry Walker hit 383). He also ranks second all-time amongst Canadians in games (1,895) and walks (717) and third in RBI (899) and doubles (294) and is just one of four Canadians (along with Shawn Hill, Denis Boucher and Rob Ducey) to play for both the Expos and Blue Jays. He also suited up for Canada at the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classics.
For his efforts, he was elected to the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame in 2012. Since retiring as a player, he has served as a studio analyst for the Boston Red Sox and is currently a TV analyst for the Philadelphia Phillies. He continues to be very active in charitable endeavors, including organizing an annual golf tournament that raises money for the Fredericton Minor Baseball Association and the Fredericton SPCA. He also volunteers his time as a baseball and hockey coach.
“I’m very proud and truly honoured to be in great company with the members of the Hall of Fame,” Stairs said of his upcoming induction.
Alou was part of the Expos organization as a player, instructor or manager for 27 of its 36 years of existence. The highly respected baseball man joined the Expos as an instructor following a successful 18-year playing career – that included a 19-game stint with Montreal in 1973 – in which he hit .286, collected 2,101 hits and was selected to three all-star games.
Born in 1935 in Bajos de Haina, San Cristobal, Dominican Republic, Alou developed into a star in the Expos’ coaching ranks shortly after he was hired in 1976. Following managerial stints with the Expos’ Class-A and Double-A affiliates in 1977 and 1978, he was promoted to Dick Williams’ big league staff in 1979 and 1980.
Alou returned to the minors in 1981 to manage the Expos’ Triple-A Denver Bears to a league title and when the Expos shifted their Triple-A affiliate to Wichita the following season, Alou moved with the team. After another coaching stint with the big club in 1984, Alou served as the dugout boss of the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians in 1985 and the Class-A West Palm Beach Expos from 1986 to 1991. After leading the latter club to a Florida State League championship and being named the league’s top manager in 1991, Alou was hired as the Expos big league manager on May 22, 1992.
In accepting the position, Alou became the first Dominican manager in major league history. In parts of 10 seasons as Expos manager, he accumulated a franchise-record 691 wins and led the budget-conscious club to three second-place finishes (1992, 1993, 1996) and had the Expos sitting in first-place in 1994 when the season was cancelled due to a players’ strike. For his efforts, Alou was named National League Manager of the Year in 1994 and the manager of the National League All-Star team in 1995.
After leaving the Expos, Alou worked as a bench coach with the Detroit Tigers in 2002, before serving as manager of the San Francisco Giants from 2003 to 2006. In 2006, he became the first Latin manager to win 1,000 games in the big leagues. Since 2007, he has worked as a special assistant to Giants general manager Brian Sabean. The 2015 season represents his 60th in professional baseball.
“I’m very honoured to be included in this great class,” said Alou on his induction.
Born in Kingston, Ont., in 1949, Elliott was introduced to baseball by his father, Bob, and grandfather, Chaucer, both of whom were superb athletes. A second baseman who discovered early in his teens that he couldn’t hit the curveball, Elliott turned his attention to baseball statistics. His career in journalism began when he started compiling box scores for Kingston’s senior team and submitting them to the Kingston Whig-Standard – a job that paid him $100 a week. When he was 17, he was offered a job as a sports reporter by the paper.
His mother burst into tears when he asked if he could accept the position. She wanted him to attend Queen’s University, but Elliott pleaded with his father who eventually brought his mother on side. His dad told him he could take the job on two conditions: one, that he finished Grade 12 and two, that he wouldn’t be like one of those Boston writers who didn’t vote for Ted Williams for the American League MVP in 1941 because they didn’t like him.
But it was until 12 years later, when he was writing for the Ottawa Citizen, that Elliott would receive his first major league assignment – the Montreal Expos’ 1978 home opener. The hard-working scribe quickly became a widely respected reporter and news breaker and a regular in the Expos press box until he joined the Toronto Sun as the Blue Jays beat writer in 1987.
Though he’s broken numerous stories about the Blue Jays and Expos, Elliott is best known in the Canadian baseball fraternity for shining the spotlight on homegrown talent. He is the founder of the Canadian Baseball Network website www.canadianbaseballnetwork.com which tracks the top Canadian draft candidates, college players and minor league players.
In his close to five decades in journalism, Elliott, now the Toronto Sun’s baseball columnist, has also penned three books, including the bestseller Hard Ball about George Bell in 1990, The Ultimate Blue Jays Trivia Book in 1993 and The Northern Game: Baseball The Canadian Way in 2005.
He has also served as a volunteer baseball coach and was on the staff of the Georgetown, Ont. squads that won Canadian championships at the Pee Wee and Bantam levels in 2007 and 2009 respectively.
In 2010, Elliott was honoured with the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s Jack Graney Award and he was the first Canadian recipient of the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s J.G. Taylor Spink Award in 2012. He has also been inducted into the Ottawa-Nepean Canadians Hall of Fame (2009), the Kingston Sports Hall of Fame (2013) and the Okotoks Dawgs/Seaman Stadium Hall of Fame (2014).
“I’ve had some very wonderful honours the previous few years,” said Elliott, when informed of his induction. “As a writer, I don’t think my uniform from the Kingscourt Little League Pirates in Kingston or myself belong with these guys – these guys could play. I saw all four play. I’m humbled. I feel like that one thing on Sesame Street that doesn’t belong with the others.”
ST. MARYS - 4 February 2015
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