Celebrating Latest Inductees Into Canadian Baseball Hall
ST. MARYS – Wayne Norton is one tough son of a gun.
He’s disabled by Lou Gehrig’s disease ALS but he’s still a fighter.
The former minor-league player from Winnipeg with some 1,206 games under his belt, he became a long-time scout, including a stint as a part-timer for the Expos.
Norton established Baseball Canada’s junior national team, managed Canada’s Pan Am Games team in 1975 prior to helping to get Baseball B.C. off the ground. He also helped launch the National Baseball Institute in 1986.
Norton was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame here Saturday along with Expos pitcher Dennis Martinez, long-ago executive William Shuttleworth and three Blue Jays’ celebrities: pitcher Pat Hentgen, broadcaster Tony Kubek and PR specialist Howard Starkman.
“I’d like to thank Pat Gillick for putting forth my name for nomination for the hall of fame,’’ Norton said during his induction speech.
Norton also thanked his fellow hall of fame inductee Gillick for hiring him as a scout for both the Orioles and Mariners. Norton thanked a lot of people and you could only think how wonderful a man he is.
Confined to a wheelchair and handicapped a little speech-wise, Norton was a hit with his induction words.
The classy Hentgen had a short speech, which attested to his humbleness, his humility and his lack of interest in saying much about himself. Braggadocia is not part of Hentgen’s brand. He sure cuts a handsome streak with that parted short hair and slim physique.
Martinez stepped up to the podium after a long ovation and said, “Whew.’’
He spoke from the heart without a prepared speech, although near the end he pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket and made mention of his parents. Like Hentgen, El Perfecto cuts a handsome figure and stylish hair. At 62, he runs numerous times a week in Miami, if not every day.
To this day, fellow Nicaraguans call him not only El Presidente but El Chirizo.
So I asked Martinez, a friend through phone calls, text messages, emails and the odd personal get-together since 1988, about that El Chirzio moniker.
“My hair, because it stood up,’’ Martinez said, chuckling. Even now, some of that shocking mop of beautiful, mestizo hair still stands up.
“At first, I didn’t like the name but now, I don’t care,’’ he said.
The ailing Kubek was unable to attend but he sure made an impact on Blue Jays’ broadcasts, enlightening Canadians to the nuances of the game after spending 25 years in the broadcast booth for NBC.
What struck me about Kubek’s résumé was not just he was a terrific analyst and former player with the Yankees but also the nugget that he often communicated with the director in the production truck during broadcasts in an attempt to suggest camera shots during the game, shots that would improve the game.
Starkman got his start with hockey’s Leafs years ago before landing a job as one of the original Blue Jays’ employees. He served as media relations officer for decades, helping me get passes complete with lanyards for games. He even arranged for prizes for baseball reunions I organized in my hometown of Douglas near Ottawa.
A friend to many in the media, Starkman was an unsung hero for the Jays and he still wanders into the team offices as a consultant. He’s been a pivotal machine involved in the orchestration of those highly successful exhibition games in recent years at Olympic Stadium in Montreal, meaning he’s a wheel that sends messages that Montreal can indeed support another franchise.
Not to be forgotten, Shuttleworth from Brantford, Ont. was recommended by astute Canadian baseball historian Bill Humber. It is through research by such exemplary individuals as Humber that little known people like Shuttleworth get exposed.
Shuttleworth spend a goodly amount of his life in Hamilton and he was known to have organized Canada’s first formal baseball team called the Young Canadians of Hamilton.
Beginning in 1854, Shuttelworth, a one-time umpire, catcher and lead-off hitter, promoted baseball in Canada so much, serving as vice-president of the first Canadian baseball organization in 1864. He was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.
Hats off to CBHOF director of operations Scott Crawford, David Morneau and all of the volunteers, who helped make the three-day induction festivities so successful. It’s always a hoot heading down here every year at induction time.
For every book Bill Young and I sell each year at our table at the street festival and at the picnic table during the induction ceremonies, we donate some money to the hall of fame. If you haven’t donated to the hall, do it now.
A great cause.