Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Inaugurals: Dave McKay

Time to blog continues to be tough to find.  This hasn't stopped me from checking eBay regularly, which is good, because this week alone, I added 4 cards to my 1977 O-Pee-Chee Team set.  So with baseball cards on the brain, and some rare spare time on my hands, I figure the time is right for the next edition of The Inaugurals.

In 1977, if I counted correctly, there were 9 active Canadians in Major League Baseball.  Seriously, nine.  NINE!  Almost certainly my math is wrong.  I'm not double-checking but you can, if you want to.  But I digress.  This post isn't about my suspect math.  It's about the rarity that is a Canadian-born Major Leaguer.  That doesn't happen often, so they get noticed (in Canada).  Even if I miscounted by 10, I think my point still stands.  And even now, with an increase in the number of Canadians in the majors it recent years, it gets noticed.  The only thing that gets noticed more is when one of those Canadian-born players ends up on the Blue Jays (or had ended up on the now defunct Expos).  At least that's the case now.  Even the most casual Blue Jays fan knows of Brett Lawrie.  Or Matt Stairs.  Or Rob Ducey.  Or Dave McKay.

Okay, so there probably aren't as many that know Dave McKay as there are that know Brett Lawrie.  But there should be.  Why?  Because he was the first.  And because even if you discard his playing career, this guy has had one hell of a baseball career.  More on that later.

In the Blue Jays first ever regular season game, batting 8th and starting at 3B was Dave McKay.  The truth is that 1977 was before my time.  Nonetheless, I assume McKay's citizenship alone was enough to earn him a strong fan following.  Going 2-for-4 with an RBI in game one in franchise history probably didn't hurt his fan club membership either.

Oh, and speaking of firsts, it should be noted that while he didn't start his career with the Blue Jays, Dave McKay started off his major league career with a bang.  Yep, you guessed it.  First major league at bat, first major league home run; the first, and only, Canadian to perform such a feat.  That was August 22, 1975 while McKay was with the Twins, and on that day, facing the Detroit Tigers.

Dave McKay would remain with the Blue Jays through 1979, playing 287 games with the club, likely leaving with every Blue Jays record "... for a Canadian."  After being released by the Jays, McKay would play 3 years with the Oakland Athletics before moving into a coaching role with the A's.  And this is where I go back to what I said earlier -- if being the only Canadian to lead off his career with a homer isn't enough, and if being the first ever Canadian to take the field for the Blue Jays isn't enough, then being one hell of a successful coach should be enough of a reason to know who Dave McKay is.

2014 marks Dave McKay's 31st consecutive year in coaching.  What can I say about that?  Flat out, you have to be a phenomenal coach to have that kind of staying power.  And if you don't think so, Dave McKay has a little bit of World Series hardware (1989 Athletics, 2006 & 2011 Cardinals), not to mention 6 pennants and a son that played in the Majors that say you're wrong.  Sure you have to be around the right people to win that much, but you have to be the right people to be around them too.  And you are obviously one of the right people to be around for so long.

So here's to Dave McKay.  The first Canadian to suit up for the Toronto Blue Jays, and clearly a deserving member of Canada's Baseball Hall of Fame.

Thanks for reading!

Richard.

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