boxing day, contrary to popular belief, is neither a celebration of pugilism nor of the mound of cardboard boxes left behind from christmas gifts. boxing day is a latter-day celebration of st. stephen's day - as in, "good king wencelas looked out on the feast of stephen." various theories have been proposed relating to the giving or use of boxes on this date.
today, the day is celebrated in the UK and Canada and throughout the many former British colonies comprising the Commonwealth. when it falls on a saturday (as today) the next monday is sometimes taken off as a holiday. if you are like me, you have forever been perplexed when you look at your calendar and see on december 26th: "Boxing Day (Can.)."
so it seems like today would be an appropriate day to take stock of the canadians among us. especially in cardinal baseball.
there is one real, live, hockey-watching, "eh"-saying canadian player on the cardinals team: blake hawksworth. blake hails from british columbia, also home to rich harden and wolverine. he was born in north vancouver; "vancouver" is canadian for "seattle but with free health care."
another current member of the cards staff with a maple leaf flag hidden in his closet is dave mckay. dave mckay was born in vancouver and is a member of the canadian baseball hall of fame, which is like the american baseball hall of fame, except the canadian baseball hall of fame is full of people you have never heard of except for a few americans who happened to play for canadian teams, like gary carter and andre dawson.
even stranger, a few other americans are in the canadian baseball hall of fame simply because they are famous and have marginal contacts with canadian baseball. tommy lasorda, for instance, who is as canadian as pork lo mein, made the canadian baseball hall of fame for pitching for the montreal royals in the 50's and 60's in the international league. sparky anderson is also in the canadian baseball hall of fame, for pitching for the toronto maple leafs, which sure confused the hell out of all the guys in skates.
one recent canadian cardinal with which you may be familiar is larry walker - also from british columbia. he was first drafted by the expos - a former baseball team, sited in montreal. in french, expo means "badly-managed ball club in a place where people don't really like baseball." the montreal expos later moved to washington, d.c. where they continued their long tradition of being the worst team in the national league. walker's career with the cards was brief but stellar. he is regularly mentioned as a possible future coach. he was the first canadian to win an mvp (followed by justin morneau). he was the home run champ in 1997, then led the league in batting average in 1998, 1999, and 2001.
winner of the greatest 21st century baseball name that sounds like it comes from 1905 is stubby clapp, also a canadian. clapp played for one season with the big club in 2001, but is maybe more fondly remembered by the folks in memphis. his was the first jersey ever retired by the memphis redbirds, which is a concept that really confuses the heck out of me. being in the hall of fame of a AAA club but playing minimally at the major league level seems like being inducted into the great losing gubernatorial candidates club.
rheal cormier pitched for the cards in the early 90's and was born in moncton, new brunswick. he spent a couple of years as a starter for the cards and the red sox and wasn't terribly good at it. he finished out the 2000's as a reliever with an middling record but for a 2003 campaign with a 234 ERA+ and a 1.70 ERA. for a pitcher with an undistinguished career, he stuck it out in the majors for 16 seasons to the age of 40.
while not a cardinal, a significant canadian baseball player had a st. louis tie. tip o'neill was born in springfield, ontario in 1858 (simply because vancouver had not yet been founded) and played for the st. louis browns in the 19th century. he was the first canadian to win a batting title - a claim made by no other person until larry walker achieved the feat again in 1998. he would later serve as speaker of the u.s. house from 1977 to 1987 before dying at the age of 136.
lots of non-cardinals currently playing were born in canada. justin morneau, jason bay, and ryan dempster were born in small towns in british columbia. jeff francis and rj swindle are from vancouver. ryan braun was born in ontario; well, not that ryan braun. this ryan braun pitches for the white sox in the minors, so we can't blame canada for the other ryan braun. russell martin is from ontario, as is paul quantrill. joey votto is from the toronto area. Érik Joseph Bédard was born in a suburb of ottawa, though not on the quebec side. eric serge gagne is quebecois, however, born in montreal. matt stairs is from new brunswick.
last, battling larry walker for the greatest canadian ballplayer of all time is the only canadian in the american hall of fame, fergie jenkins. a pitcher for the cubs, the rangers, the red sox, and the phillies, he won the first cy young awarded to a canadian in 1971 while pitching for the cubs. a control master, he rarely had a high strikeout rate, but led the league several times in lowest walk rate. he finished with a lifetime record of 284-222 and a lifetime ERA of 3.34. he comes in #20 on the lifetime WAR page with a total of 81.3 WAR amassed over his career.
i hope you have enjoyed our tribute to canadians in baseball. once something happens actually involving the cardinals club other than "matt holliday watch: day 67" we will return to our regularly scheduled webcasting.
* * *
just think, given the number of readers at home for the holidays, we may have unparalleled numbers of readers actually currently in their mother's basements. i wish we could find out so that we could call guiness or something.