Bob's Your Uncle ... from Cooperstown

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:05 AM ET

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Canada, eh?

Seems like some Canadians are always giving out extra letters here and they are at the end of sentences.

Well, in 1953 we took letters away.

When the Blijleven family left Holland landing in Montreal, it emerged from immigration on its way to rural Saskatchewan to work a farm.

"When we came to Canada they changed our last name, I think when the I and J are together in the Dutch alphabet, they are silent," said Rik Aalbert Blijleven, who was 2 at the time and had not really mastered his ABC's in either language.

Blyleven will be inducted into the Hall of Fame Sunday afternoon along with Robbie Alomar, former Blue Jays second baseman and ex-Jays general manager Pat Gillick, who became a Canadian citizen in 2005.

Blyleven arrived late to the media gathering Saturday afternoon.

"Sorry, I was golfing," he apologized.

Blyleven has been kept waiting for 14 years by voters and is the first starter inducted into the Hall of Fame since Nolan Ryan in 1999.

Blyleven sat on the back veranda of the Otesaga Resort in a rocking chair with his children and his mother Jenny talking about his late father Joe.

"We all told stories about him, he taught me a love of the game," Blyleven said, as Gillick's bottom lip began to quiver.

Bon Chance

On July 30, 2006, John Jordan (Buck) O'Neil had every reason to be angry.

A 12-person, selection committee attempting to right wrongs, inducted 17 Negro Leaguers, including five executives, that day.

But not the ever-so-popular O'Neil.

So, he stood on the stage and said: "People ask 'Buck, are you angry, do you hate people?' And I say no. I hate cancer. I hate AIDs.' "

Two years later Major League Baseball then came up with the Buck O'Neil Award for lifetime achievement.

"Who could ever win that award?" I remember asking at diner one night.

"Roland Hemond," my pal Tracy Ringolsby of FOX Sports answered quickly.

Hemond is one of baseball's few beautiful people.

And there was Hemond, 81, as the first winner of the Buck O'Neil award Saturday on a stage erected behind second base facing the old grandstand at Doubleday Field.

Former Montreal Expos broadcaster Dave Van Horne, now with the Florida Marlins and in his 43rd year, was presented the Ford C. Frick award as the all-Canadian trend continued.

Philadelphia writing legend Bill Conlin was presented the J.G. Taylor Spink award.

Who else but Hemond makes the rounds to training camps, as president of the Association of Pro Baseball Players of America, telling players to take on-line courses to prepare for life after the game? The association raises money and offers scholarships for those wishing to return to school.

Who else, with help from Dennis Gilbert and ex-Blue Jays scout Dave Yokum, would have come up with the idea of the Pro Baseball Scouts Foundation to raise money and help out-of-work scouts in the Money Ball era who lost the ability to make payments on their medical coverage for their families?

Hemond came up with the idea of the 30 teams to send six players per organization to the desert at the end of each season for the highly successful Arizona Fall League. An invite is the goal of every minor leaguer.

How many other bilingual (French and English) executives are there?

OK, besides Alex Anthopoulos.

Born in Central Falls, R.I., Hemond roots are French-Canadian and he's worked for French-language TV. When the White Sox signed Bert Roberge in 1984, Hemond said he did it "first because he's French, second, because he can pitch".

Make no mistake, Hemond is not some hanger-on with some good ideas.

Hemond was the GM of the Chicago White Sox (1970-85) and the Baltimore Orioles (1988-95), three times winning executive of the year. He has worked for the California Angels, the Milwaukee Braves, the Arizona Diamondbacks and another tour with the Diamondbacks.

Working for five teams, did Hemond ever find himself rooting for his former team?

"Yes, I do, sometimes," Hemond said. "Once you're attached to an organization, after you leave them there's nothing you can do about it as far as on the field but you still have an attachment to franchises you participated with and you still have allegiance to them."

Those Orioles that the Jays caught on the next-to-last day of the 1989 season in Cito Gaston's best year managing? They were Hemond's Orioles.

"We improved by 321/2 games off the year before and went into the last weekend against Toronto before losing two of three," Hemond recalled. "If we had won two of three, we would have won the division and we may have gone on to win a World Series."

In the 2006 World Series, Hemond didn't know who to cheer for ... in the St. Louis Cardinals dugout was Tony LaRussa, former White Sox manager, while the Cards GM was Walt Jocketty, former GM of the triple-A Iowa, a White Sox affiliate.

In the other dugout was Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland former Chicago coach and the GM was Dave Dombrowski, who calls Hemond his mentor.

Each year clubs are invited to attend. This year an above average number of teams -- 14 -- are represented.

No doubt due to Gillick and Hemond being honoured.

In 1989, 1,800 people attended a black tie Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame dinner at a downtown Toronto hotel. Honoured guests were Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Duke Snider and Whitey Ford. Another guest was Ed Stack, president of Cooperstown's Hall of Fame. A result of that banquet stands outside the library building in Cooperstown. There is a crimson red, king maple tree planted on behalf of the people of Canada in the summer of 1989, by Canadian Hall president Bruce Prentice and Stack. The plaque, imbedded in a rock, is inscribed in French and English, as being a gift from Canada and all the ball fans across the country. On the bottom of the plaque is engraved the name of Brian Mulroney, Prime Minister of Canada.

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The question wasn't asked.

Pat Gillick volunteered the info.

"If I had a cap on my plaque, it would have a Blue Jays logo on it," Gillick told reporters.

Gillick was GM of the Jays from 1978 to 1994, then went on to run the Baltimore Orioles, the Seattle Mariners and the Philadelphia Phillies, winning a World Series there. He's still with the Phillies as an assistant to president Dave Montgomery.

Robbie Alomar will be the first player inducted to have a Jays logo on his plaque.

In his final 20 seasons as GM, Gillick teams made post-season play 11 times.

Meanwhile the Jays, the Orioles and Mariners are a combined 0-for-36 in post-season appearances.

The city of Guelph doesn't have an Intercounty League senior team this summer.

Same for a junior franchise.

Yet there on the front page of the Guelph Mercury on Tuesday was an eight-column picture of a ball player.

Not any player ... lefty Scott Diamond.

Diamond, who pitched for Team Ontario and coach Danny Thompson, attended Binghamton University, went undrafted and impressed Atlanta Braves scouts in a college summer league in 2007, made his major-league debut Monday.

Diamond, a Rule V selection by the Minnesota Twins from the Braves this winter, pitched 6 1/3 innings allowing three earned runs on two hits and two walks. He took the loss in a 6-3 setback to the Cleveland Indians in the second game of a doubleheader.

Catcher Joe Mauer caught Diamond's first pitch, a strike, and rolled the ball into the Twins dugout. We don't think we've ever seen that before. First hit, sure. But first pitch. That's the always classy Twins.

Diamond allowed a solo homer to Lou Marson and struck out catching Jack Hannahan looking.

Diamond was returned to triple-A Rochester after activating outfielder Jason Kubel from the disabled list.

The last Guelph pitcher in the majors? Right-hander Bob Emslie, who went winless in four starts for the Philadelphia Athletics. A year before that Emslie was 32-17, logging 455 1/3 innings for the Baltimore Orioles. Wow!

Diamond is the 23rd Canadian to appear in the majors this season.

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Pat Gillick says he has not spoken to Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts.

"If something presented itself where I could (move up), if I had an opportunity to be a president, I would consider it," Gillick told reporters Saturday. "Any situation that was a lateral move, I wouldn't do it. I'm happy with the Phillies." The Cubs' Stanton Cook attempted to hire Gillick as GM in 1991 ... Raise your hand if you knew Lyle Overbay would wake up today in a race for first? ... I'm all for current Jays singing the praises of Robbie Alomar first Hall of Famer in franchise history, but how tough would have been for Rogers to find people who actually played with him, rather players who weren't in the majors see him play ... Lefty Justin Nicolino was Baseball America's prospect pitcher of the day after pitching five hitless innings for class-A Vancouver Friday. Nicolino, an Orlando high schooler selected in the second round in 2010 and given a $615,000 US signing bonus, struck out nine and walked one. He's now 5-1 with a 1.32 ERA in seven starts. He has struck out 47 in 34 innings, walking only 10 ... The Giants are the only team in the majors and in triple-A (including the Mexican League) that has no player with 10 or more home runs this season ... If Phillies ace Roy Halladay ends up leading the NL in complete games this year, he would join hall of famers Warren Spahn and Robin Roberts as the only pitchers to lead a league in complete games for at least five straight seasons.


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