El Presidente Heads Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame Class

by Douglas Fox | Posted on Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016
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Former Expos pitcher Dennis (El Presidente) Martinez heads a class of six inductees into  the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame for 2016.

Joining Martinez were pitcher Pat Hentgen, former player and Blue Jays broadcaster Tony Kubek, Blue Jays executive Howard Starkman, Canadian-based scout Wayne Norton, and Canadian baseball pioneer William Shuttleworth.

Nicaraguan-born Martinez broke in with Baltimore, and earned a World Series ring in 1983 with the Orioles, but his career became sidelined with alcohol abuse problems.  He resurrected his career with the Expos in 1986, and won 100 games over 8 seasons with the club, representing Montreal in three straight All Star games (1990-92), and he threw the only perfect game in Expos history against the Dodgers in 1991. Martinez finished his career with stints with the Indians, Mariners, and Braves, and retired in 1998 with 245 career wins.

Hentgen, a 5th round choice by Toronto in the 1986 draft, broke in with the Jays in 1992, and won 19 games for them in 1993, contributing to a pair of World Series titles.  He also became the first Cy Young winner in club history in 1996.  Hentgen won 105 games with the team before being dealt to St Louis following the 1999 season.  He finished his career with Toronto in 2004.

Kubek had a decent MLB career, hitting .266/.303/.364 over 9 seasons playing mostly short stop for the Yankees.  He played in six World Series before retiring in favour of the broacast booth in 1966. Kubek soon became NBC’s lead analyst, working with broadcasting legends like Curt Gowdy and Bob Costas, covering a dozen World Series for the network.  When MLB expanded to Canada, Kubek worked with long time Canadian broadcaster Don Chevrier to bring Blue Jays games into the living rooms of Canadian baseball fans.  Kubek was a font of baseball knowledge and wisdom on these telecasts before scaling his broadcasting commitments back in 1989.  According to the Toronto Star,  Kubek “educated a whole generation of Canadian baseball fans without being condescending or simplistic.”

Port Moody, BC native Norton played for the Athletics in a 10 year career that saw him peak at AAA, but he never got the call to the big time.  In 1967, with AA Birmingham, he was part of a prospect-laden roster that featured the likes of Reggie JacksonJoe RudiDave DuncanRollie Fingers, and a guy named Tony La Russa a time that he called the best two months of his baseball career.  Norton retired from the game in 1970, and started coaching youth teams in the Vancouver area.  By the mid-70s, he was coaching and managing the senior national team.  In the 1980s, he put together a program for top BC amateur prospects, which produced Larry Walker.  With the help of longtime friend Pat Gillick, Norton founded the National Baseball Institute, which attracted top Canadian teenage talent like Matt StairsCorey KoskieDenis Boucher, and Rob Butler.  He left the NBI in 1994 when Gillick took over as GM of the Orioles and scouted for Baltimore until leaving with Gillick for Seattle in 2000, helping to scout and sign players like Michael SaundersPhillippe Aumont, and Tyson Gillies.  He was named the M’s International Scout of the Year in 2007, and Canadian Scout of the Year by the Canadian Baseball Network in 1998 and 2013.  Norton is lauded for his vast network of contacts throughout baseball.

Howard Starkman was an original Jays employee, as Director of Public Relations.  He held that post until 1998, when he was promoted Vice President of Media Relations.  He was the mastermind behind the “name the team” contest before the team’s first season.  Starkman also did PR work for MLB for 15 World Series and 10 All Star games.  Legendary Toronto Sun reporter Bob Elliott said of Starkman, “He was without a doubt the most loyal employee in baseball, in newspapers or elsewhere in the sports world that I ever came across.”

Many Canadian baseball historians believe that the game has firm Canadian origins, and point to a record of a game which was played in Beachville, in Southern Ontario, in 1838.  The Canadian version had four bases and 11 players, and Shuttlesworth helped transition the northern game to the 9-man New York rules, and had a lengthy history in the game as a player and executive.  Canadian baseball author William Humber called Shuttlesworth the “Father of Canadian Baseball.”

The six will be inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in June in a ceremony at St Mary’s, ON.

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Douglas Fox
About the Author

Doug Fox has played, watched, studied, and generally obsessed about baseball for decades, and once played in the Toronto Star Pee-Wee Baseball tournament. He writes about Blue Jays prospects and minor league baseball at clutchlings.blogspot.ca Follow him on Twitter @Clutchlings77.

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