A Fall Classic for the Greatest Canadian
Jim Turner - October 24, 2004

The 2004 playoffs have been about the richest in memory for drama, firsts and memorable moments. Already we've had the Astros winning their first post-season series, the first comeback from 3 games down, the sportsmanship between the Dodgers and Cardinals, Lima-time in LA, ARod's glove slap, a litany of walk-off homers, Carlos Beltran going nuts, Curt Schilling literally bleeding Red Sox red, a pair of game 7s and even some riot police thrown in for good measure. All leading up to the grandest stage of them all, the World Series.

For Canadians, the 2004 Series offers something unprecedented, the chance for the country's best player to shine in the sport's brightest spotlight. 203 Canadians have appeared in the major leagues, the majority of them for brief stints, but there have been several Canadians who have been quality regulars and even All-Stars. The World Series has generally eluded them. Ferguson Jenkins, Canada's only Hall of Famer, starred for 19 seasons, winning 284 games and Canada's first Cy Young Award. He never got even a taste of the post season. Jeff Heath, Canada's best position player before Walker, a slugging outfielder for the Cleveland Indians, belted 194 home runs, but never had a chance to hit one in the post-season. Other solid players like Terry Puhl, Pete Ward, Kirk McCaskill and Russ Ford were similarly denied October glory.

There has never been more Canadian talent in the majors than there is right now, with a mix of solid veterans in Corey Koskie, Matt Stairs 6 homers away from becoming the second Canadian with 200 - Rheal Cormier and Paul Quantrill, and exciting young stars such as Justin Morneau, Rich Harden, Eric Gagne and Jason Bay. None have yet appeared in a World Series. In fact, only 12 Canadians have ever participated in the World Series or its equivalent. Walker is the first since 1993.

Here's a quick history of Canucks in October:

The Top 5:

#5 Larry McLean Fredericton, New Brunswick
McLean was the starting catcher for the 1913 New York Giants, and led the Series in hitting with six singles in 12 trips and a pair of runs driven in. It wasn't enough, as Connie Mack's Philadelphia A's topped the Giants in five games.

#4 Ron Taylor Toronto, Ontario
The good doctor claimed a pair of rings one with St. Louis in 1964 and another with the Miracle Mets. He saved a game in each series, and posted 7 innings of scoreless, hitless, World Series relief.

#3 James "Tip" O'Neill Woodstock, Ontario
Canada's first big-time baseball star, O'Neill is the only player in history to hit .400 and win a triple crown who isn't in the Hall of Fame, due to the brevity of his career. O'Neill played in four "World Series" between 1885 and 1889. These weren't really World Series as we know them today, but rather exhibitions played between the American Association and National League Champions, with the players claiming gate receipts instead of rings. One of them ended in a tie, another went 15 games over ten cities, and you can be certain that nobody sewed ugly World Series patches all over the uniforms.

In the one Series that O'Neill's St. Louis Browns managed to win, in 1886, O'Neill led the team with a .400 average and became the first man in post-season history to hit two homers in a single game. O'Neill is also the first man to homer in multiple series, as he would go deep in the 1887 series, won by the Detroit Wolverines 10 games to 5.

#2 George Gibson London, Ontario
Babe Adams was the star of the 1909 World Series, winning three games to pace the Pittsburgh Pirates to a seven-game win over the Detroit Tigers. The man that caught Adams was Gibson, who backstopped all seven games, hit a respectable .240 and held Ty Cobb to just two stolen bases.

#1 George Selkirk Huntsville, Ontario
The undisputed King of the Post Season for Canadians, "Twinkletoes" played in 6 World Series between 1936 and 1942, winning 5 titles with the Yankees. Selkirk was a force in his first two series. He belted two homers in 1936, both in games the Yankees lost, and slugged a team-high .667 while batting .333. He hit a more modest .263 in 1937, but led the team in runs scored and RBIs. Selkirk saw his playing time diminish over the next few years as stars like Charlie Keller and Tommy Henrich established themselves, but was still around for Yankee wins in '38, '39 and '41. His record of 5 championships will be a hard one to top.

The Rest

Rob Butler East York, Ontario
Possibly the most famous Canadian to appear in a World Series, Butler had a hit and a run for the Jays in 1993, and is of course the only Canadian to taste champagne for a Canadian team.

Reggie Cleveland Swift Current, Saskatchewan
The only Canadian to register a decision in a World Series game, Cleveland was the losing pitcher of Game 5 of the 1975 World Series. Cleveland made three appearances in total for the Red Sox, compiling a 6.75 ERA

Jack Graney St.Thomas, Ontario
A league average outfielder over his 14 major league seasons, Graney batted 3 times for Cleveland in the 1920 World Series, going hitless and striking out twice, as the Indians beat the Brooklyn Robins 5 games to 2.

John Hiller Toronto, Ontario
The relief ace who would save 38 games for Detroit in 1973, after recovering from a heart attack (!), pitched just two innings in the 1968 Series, and got rocked, giving up 6 hits and 3 runs, for a 13.50 ERA. But he got a ring.

Arthur Irwin Toronto, Ontario
Irwin was the shortstop for the Providence Grays as they swept the New York Metropolitans in 3 straight games way back in 1884. Irwin batted .222 with 3 runs and a pair of RBIs. Attendance for the 3 games was 3800.

Bill O'Neill St. John, New Brunswick
O'Neill played just 206 major league games, but squeaked in another in the 1906 World Series, and scored a run as the White Sox upset the favoured 116-win Cubs.

Johnny Rutherford Belleville, Ontario
He pitched in career 22 games, all for the 1952 Brooklyn Dodgers, topping off the season with a World Series appearance, allowing a run in one inning of work as the Dodgers lost to the Yankees in 7 games. By comparison Fergie Jenkins won 22 or more games three times in his career. Baseball can be a cruel game.

And now Larry Walker, the pride of Maple Ridge, BC becomes the latest Canadian to try his hand at World Series play. A win would cap off a spectacular career, while a World Series MVP award would cement what is already a strong Hall of Fame resume. So while the Blue Jays aren't within shouting distance of contention and the Expos are now merely a memory, there's still plenty of reason for Canadian baseball fans to get excited about this year's Fall Classic.