Too often I remember hearing someone on TV saying that Canadians aren’t good at sports, or that all we can play is hockey. As a Canadian, I can’t begin to tell you how much this sort of talk really ticked me off. It didn’t just hurt to hear this because I’m Canadian, but also because I knew it wasn’t true. Granted, Canada has yet to have much of an impact on the most global of sport scenes, soccer…but when it comes to other main stream sports like basketball, baseball, tennis, golf, and obviously hockey, we’ve most certainly made our mark. With the World Baseball Classic just around the corner, here’s our version of the All-time Canadian Baseball team. *Date in brackets represent big league service time.
1st base, Joey Votto (2007-Present) – Votto is arguably one of the greatest Canadian ball players ever and is the best Canadian in the game today. A 4-time All-Star, the face of the Cincinnati Reds, an MVP in 2010, and has finished in the Top 10 in MVP voting four times. He has a career .313 AVG and .425 OBP. The only difficult part about selecting Votto as Canada’s starting 1st baseman is that it meant another former league MVP, Justin Morneau, had to be left out of the starting line-up.
2nd base, Pete Orr (2005-2013) – Orr, along with players like Stubby Clapp have been for the longest time mainstays on the Canadian National team. Orr, more so than many players seems to cherish the opportunity to play for his country whenever possible. Orr has played 8 years in the big leagues, compiling 443 games and a respectable .257 AVG.
Shortstop, Frank O’Rourke (1912-1931) – More so than any other position, shortstop has been a difficult one for Canada. Canada just does not produce many top level shortstops…I blame all the snow. Frank O’Rourke may have only played 289 of his career 1,115 games at shortstop, but for a country like Canada that has produced so few players at that position, that should do just fine.
3rd base, Corey Koskie (1998-2006) – A mainstay at 3rd base for the Minnesota Twins, Koskie would play nine years in the big leagues and finish his career with a .275 AVG and .367 OBP. Koskie’s best season came in 2001 when he had 26 HR, 103 RBI, .276 AVG, and a .362 OBP.
Left Field, Jeff Heath (1936-1949) – Heath played in the big leagues for 14 seasons and was twice named an All-Star. With 1,447 career hits, he ranks 4th all-time amongst Canadians in that category. Heath could hit for both power and average as his 194 career home runs and lifetime batting average of .293 can attest to.
Centerfield, Tip O’Neill (1883-1892) – Tip O’Neill might just be the most fascinating ball player to ever come from Canada simply because of how long ago he played and how good he was. O’Neill had a lifetime batting average of .325, twice leading the league in hitting, including 1887 when he hit .435! Along with that remarkable .435 AVG in 1887, he also had 14 HR and 123 RBI, making him at the time just the second ever Triple Crown winner. His 1887 batting average is also the second highest ever recorded in a single season.
Right Field, Larry Walker (1989-2005) – Walker is arguably the greatest position player to ever come from Canada. When it comes to Canadians, he’s the all-time leader in hits, doubles, home runs, RBI, stolen bases, base on balls, and runs. Having won seven gold gloves (also a Canadian record), he’s one of the finer fielding right fielders to ever play. That he got his start in the big leagues playing in Canada with the Montreal Expos endears him even further with fans across the country.
Catcher, Russell Martin (2006-Present) – In 2006, as a 23-year old catcher with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Martin began his major league career and was an impact player from the get go. A four time All-Star, gold glove winner, Martin is the best in a long line of catchers that have come from Canada and played in the big leagues.
Designated Hitter, Matt Stairs (1992-2011) – To watch Stairs swing a bat, with that powerful yet smooth swing, one has to respect and admire his immense skills as a hitter. Stairs has played more games at DH than any other Canadian, making him an easy choice for Canada’s designated hitter. Along with Ferguson Jenkins, he’s played the most seasons (19) in the major leagues of any Canadian, and his 265 career home runs rank him second only to Walker.
Pitcher, Ferguson Jenkins (1965-1983) – Canada has had some wonderful pitchers over the years, including Ryan Dempster, Paul Quantrill, Russ Ford, John Hiller, Jeff Francis, and Erik Bedard…but none better than Ferguson Jenkins. Jenkins’ numbers speak for themself…284 wins, 267 complete games, 49 shutouts, 4500 innings pitched (good for 27th all-time), seven 20+ win seasons, four seasons in a row with 300+ innings pitched, and a Cy Young award in 1971. To top it all off, Jenkins was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991.