With warnings of snow squalls and frigid weather heading towards Southern Ontario, Baseball fans were treated to a taste of summer Thursday morning as the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame announced its induction class for 2013.
Ironically, each of the inductees have distinct ties to the Blue Jays organization having either played, coached, broadcasted or had an affiliate’s home field named after them.
Headlining the new crop of Baseball immortals is long time Blue Jays broadcaster Tom Cheek who is joined by George Bell, Expo’s great – Tim Raines, Rob Ducey, and west coast Canadian Baseball icon – Nat Bailey.
Tom Cheek, who is also being honored by the National Baseball Hall of Fame this summer as 2013′s Ford C. Frick award recipient, broadcasted a total of 4,306 consecutive Blue Jays games between April 7th, 1977 and June 2nd, 2004.
Known for his trademark “Touch Em all, Joe” quote following the dramatic finale to the 1993 World Series, Cheek joins the rest of his Blue Jays Level of Excellence comrades as he is the last member to be enshrined in the Hall (aside from 2013 recipient, Carlos Delgado *hint*).
George Bell, a Rule 5 draft pick from the Phillies, went on to become one of the most potent outfielders in Blue Jays history. His dominance was topped off by an outstanding 1987 campaign that saw the then 27 year old hit .308 with 47 Home Runs and a career high 134 RBI’s en route to being named the AL MVP, Toronto’s only MVP to date.
Over 9 years with Toronto, Bell hit .286/.325/.486, clubbed 202 of his 265 career Home Runs and drove in 740 Runs while being a cornerstone on a Blue Jays team that was making strides towards the summit of 92 & 93.
Tim Raines put up some of the greatest numbers in Expos history setting franchise highs in Singles, Triples, Hits, Walks, and Runs Scored. Raines career slash line of .294/.385/.425 ranks the former Left Fielder among the best of his generation and one of the most effective lead off hitters of all time.
Following his 23 year playing career in the Bigs, Raines went on to coach in the Expos system prior to moving on to the White Sox in 2005 and is now a member of the Blue Jays instructional staff for 2013.
Rob Ducey grew up in Cambridge, Ontario cutting his teeth on local diamonds such as Riverside Park while taking full advantage of the 287 foot right field wall at Dickson Park.
Ducey’s strong play quickly earned the attention of local scouts as he was signed as a free agent by the Blue Jays in 1984 before making his MLB debut in 1987. Traded for Mark Eichhorn in 1992, Ducey went on to play for California, Texas, Seattle and Philledelphia before being traded back to Toronto on July 26th 2000. Ducey signed on as a Free Agent with Expos in 2001 hitting .239 over 27 games with Montreal before calling it a career.
Nat Bailey began working at Athletic Park as a teenager and quickly became a fan favorite around the Vancouver Baseball community before branching off in to the restaurant scene later in life.
Following a number of successful business ventures including opening Canada’s first Drive-In Theater in 1928, Bailey returned to baseball by purchasing the Vancouver Mounties. After his passing in 1978, the Mounties home park (Capilano Stadium) was renamed Nat Bailey Stadium in memory of Bailey who’s tireless efforts to promote and support baseball in Vancouver would be remembered for years to come.
Joining the inductees will be Blue Jays radio mainstay, Jerry Howarth as he accepts the Jack Graney Award for Media Excellence this summer. Howarth, who originally worked with Tom Cheek, has been a fix in the Blue Jays radio booth since 1981 and has broadcasted well over 4000 games to date.
The Induction Ceremony is set to take place at 11 o’clock, June 29th, at the Hall of Fame’s site in St. Marys. Arrive early to secure your spot under the shade of the tent as this year’s ceremony is sure to be one of the Hall’s best.
More information can be found at the Hall of Fames website – www.baseballhalloffame.ca