Elliott on baseball

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

On his way to Cooperstown, lefty Tom Glavine played with some slugging first basemen:

David Justice, Fred McGriff and Andres Galarraga with the Atlanta Braves, Mike Piazza with the New York Mets and now Carlos Delgado.

"What's so surprising is the ease with which he hits balls out to left field," Glavine said of the former Jays first baseman.

"He's much better defensively than what people give him credit for at first, he's made some nice plays at first for us, saved some runs.

Delgado put some runs up on the board as well for the Mets. New York acquired Delgado from the Florida Marlins, after he received assurance he would not be traded.

General manager Omar Minaya and Tony Bernazard had attempted to land Delgado after the Jays made their whopping two-year, $12-million US offer after the 2004 World Series.

The Mets offered Delgado more in January 2005 than the four-year, $52-million deal he signed with the Marlins.

"What do I like about him? His personality," pitching coach Rick Peterson said of Delgado. "He has a way of lifting people up, regardless of how he goes in a game.

"He has the true nature of a spiritual leader."

Peterson first saw Delgado in 1996-97 when Peterson was the Jays' minor-league pitching co-ordinator and the Jays made the mistake of letting him go.

Now, he sees the finished product in Delgado.

Delgado holds the Jays lead in career home runs (336), RBIs (1,058), doubles (343), extra-base hits (690) and runs scored (889).

In April, Delgado, who turns 34 today, got the Mets off to a fast start, with 16 wins in their first 24 games. He hit .391 with nine homers and 20 RBIs.

HAPPY HALLERS

Former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame at St. Marys yesterday, for pitching nine seasons with the triple-A Montreal Royals.

Our favorite Lasorda story was in 1997 when the veterans' committee elected him to Cooperstown, N.Y.

He won two World Series and sold the game better than anyone. Yet, there was some criticism in some quarters of his selection.

We asked Tim Harkness, who spent four seasons in the majors -- two apiece for the Dodgers and the Mets -- and was a teammate of Lasorda's with Montreal, whether he belonged.

The Royals were one of the first teams to visit Havana to play the Sugar Kings after Fidel Castro overthrew Fuelgencio Batista's government.

Montreal took a three-run lead into the bottom of the ninth, but the Kings loaded the bases and up came outfielder Tony Gonzalez, who later played for the Phillies.

"These guards, great big lugs, who had been in the jungle for three months, were in our dugout with automatic weapons," Harkness said.

Gonzalez hit a ball deep to left. It was home-run distance easy, but the ball curved foul. The crowd in the right field and down the first-base line at Latinamerico Stadium didn't have a good line and thought it was fair.

"The crowd cheered and the ump signalled a grand-slam homer, the fans intimidated him."

Royals manager Clay Bryant uncoiled his 6-foot-4 frame and jumped off the dugout bench in anger. Attempting to punch his fist in the air, he slugged a guard who had stuck his head around the dugout post.

Stunned, the guard jumped up. Screaming in Spanish, he aimed his gun at Bryant and the rest of the Montreal dugout.

"I was right beside the post," Harkness said. "His gun was right at me. Then suddenly from the other end of the dugout running comes Tommy talking in Spanish, telling the guy it was an accident, how Bryant was mad at the ump.

"Tommy was the only guy we had who spoke Spanish. Does Tommy belong in the Hall? Yes, he saved my life and a bunch of other guys, too."

LONGEST HOMER I'VE SEEN

"I saw Darryl Strawberry hit a ball off the concrete rim of Olympic Stadium on opening day 1988 facing Randy St. Claire. I told Tim McCarver, who was broadcasting the game, that the ball didn't even stop to clear customs. And in Philadelphia I saw Willie Stargell hit a ball into the second tier of the yellow seats of the 500 level. They painted a white 'S' on the seat so everyone can see how far he hit it." -- Hank King, Philadelphia Phillies scout.

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

People complained a lot about Alex Gonzalez and his strikeouts, but anyone remember complaints about a lack of arm strength? ... How palatial will the new clubhouse at the Rogers Centre be next season when the renovations are done? ... Worst thing about being in the press box in Atlanta? Not being able to hear the audio of the Braves broadcasts with Skip Caray, Don Sutton, Joe Simpson et al.

NORTHERN LIGHTS

Our minor-leaguer of the week is former Blue Jay Simon Pond, of North Vancouver, still hacking at double-A Altoona (Pirates) where he hit .454 (11-for-24) with seven RBIs for the week.

Runners-up are Cory Stuart of White Rock, B.C., who won two games in relief for class-A Charleston (Yankees), righties Blake Hawksworth of North Vancouver, B.C. with class-A Palm Beach (Cards) and Mississauga's Matt Kniginysky with class-A Burlington (Royals) who each won their seventh game.

With the short-season leagues opening stats for all 85 Canucks in the minors and another 53 in independent ball are listed under in the minors on our website (slam.canoe.ca/Slam/Baseball/Canada/home.html) by stats wizard George Farelli.

POLLING PUZZLE

Solutions Research Group president Kaan Yigit says baseball is "not even on the radar for Chinese and South Asian Canadians." Plus, immigrants embrace hockey, basketball and soccer over baseball.

Tell that to speedy Ben Chan of the Ontario Blue Jays, former national team member Hyung Cho, or Florida Tech outfielder Jonathan Baksh, whose mom, Indrani, came to Mississauga from Guyana. Baksh was the top college player selected in the June draft, going in the seventh round to the Jays.

Or Montreal lefty Medhi Djebbar, selected in the 20th round by the Milwaukee Brewers.

GOING UP

Stock continues to rise in Phillippe Aumont, the 6-foot-7 righty from Gatineau, Que. Aumont, who pitched for Les Ailes du Quebec and the Canadian national youth team, is the first Canadian to be invited to the 36-player Cape Cod High School Classic July 28 at Wareham, Mass.

The game, hosted by Team One scouting service, will be televised by ESPN. Aumont is eligible for the 2007 draft and could go as high as the second round.

THE LAW WON

Now that he is a must-read columnist for ESPN.com, we should look back at former Jays executive Keith Law's biggest contribution to the Jays during his four-plus years here.

Besides his imput on draft picks, our guess is suggesting that the Jays acquire Jayson Frasor when the Dodgers called looking for Jayson Werth.

As far back 2003 Arizona Fall League, Law was a Frasor backer. Frasor and Justin Speier have helped get the ball to B.J. Ryan, who picked up his 21st save yesterday.

ON THE WAY BACK

Toronto righty Clay Caufield, an Atlanta Braves draft pick the previous two Junes, had Tommy John surgery in March, pitching for Pensacola College.

At the time of the Caufield was rated seventh among junior college prospects in Florida by Perfect Game and was the 67th-best junior college player by Baseball America.

The surgery was performed by Dr. James Andrews. Caufield is recovering and is a month ahead of schedule. He'll attend College of Charleston this fall.

FIRST-TIME ADMIRER

From Chuck Woodling of the Lincoln (Neb.) Journal World, writing about the independent Northern League: As I watched the play of Edmonton shortstop Stubby Clapp, I was reminded just how unfair pro baseball can be. Clapp, now 33 and listed as a player-coach for the Cracker-Cats, languished for nine years in the minors, four at the Cards' triple-A team in Memphis.

In his first season with Edmonton in 2005, the 5-foot-8 Clapp made the all-star team and was named the Cats' MVP. Clapp went 4-for-6 and made three difficult fielding plays look routine.

After the game, as Clapp played catch in front of the dugout with a small boy I assume was his son, it struck me that for every millionaire in baseball there must be at least four or five Stubby Clapps.


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