A Look at Otto Lopez


As a result of breaking the bank on Vladimir Guerrero Jr, the Blue Jays were limited in the bonus money they could offer during the 2016 signing period.  While they could not offer a bonus of more than $300K, they actually found some value in the international free agent pool in the form of Pitchers Elixon Caballero, Eliezer Medrano, Naswell Paulino, and Jeison Contreras.  The jury is still out on top signings Joseph Reyes and Hugo Cardona, but they may have found a position player gem in the form of Dominican SS Otto Lopez.

A late sign at 18 in 2016, Lopez did not make his pro debut until 2017, but he broke out in a big way this season in short season play.

Sent to Bluefield to start the season this year, Lopez fell a Homer short of the cycle in a five-hit night ten days into the season.  Two days later, Lopez was on a plane to Vancouver.  The Blue Jays continued to transition to Lopez to a utility player, giving him time at all three Outfield spots, 2nd Base, Short Stop, and 3rd Base.  Lopez faded over the last ten games of the season, falling just below .300, and posting a line of .297/.390/.434 for Vancouver.

Lopez is a prototypical scrappy, put the ball in play (5.5% whiff rate) type of hitter.  He mostly hit 2nd for Vancouver, leading off when OF Tanner Kirwer needed a rest day.  The right-handed hitting Lopez works the count well, walking (12.6%) more than he struck out (10.2%).  On the base paths, Lopez is not a burner (14 out of 20 in stolen base attempts for Vancouver), but he has plus speed and is a smart runner, often taking the extra base, and taking advantage of opposition defensive mistakes.  In the field, while he may not necessarily be a plus defender, he has the quick-twitch athleticism and baseball IQ to play a multiple of positions.

Despite this breakout, Lopez was nowhere to be found on Baseball America‘s Top 20 Northwest League prospects list.  Why?

Good question.  While not as prospect-laden as other short season leagues, this year the NWL had a fairly deep pool.  And as a league that is stocked with numerous college players from the June draft, the talent level tends to be advanced.  At 19, Lopez was a full two years younger than the league’s average age.  His versatility, in a way, may have also limited Lopez’ prospect stock.  The players on the Top 20 were almost exclusively one-position guys; the Managers who were polled may not have seen enough of Lopez at one spot to rank him ahead of someone else.  At 5’10″/160, there’s not a lot of projection left on Lopez’ frame, and he will definitely have to get stronger in order to deal with the higher velos in full season ball.  Given the depth of middle infield talent in the Blue Jays system, he may have been a bit lost in the shuffle, too.  He was superior offensively to the players who received the bulk of the time at SS/2B, but not necessarily defensively. Finally, while Lopez gets on base, he has more of a line drive/ground ball swing, and the game is headed more towards players who put the ball in the air – the Blue Jays are no exception.  Lopez has a bit of pop in his bat with 3 round trippers at Vancouver, but his power is his lowest-graded tool.

Lopez will begin his 2019 season with Lansing.  It will be interesting to see if the Blue Jays continue to move him around the diamond, how his game plays at a higher level, and if he can adjust his swing to add some loft.

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A Look at Josh Winckowski

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Photo Credit: Mark Steffens

“(I’m) still not on any top prospects lists.”  -Josh Winckowski

Lost in the shadow of Nate Pearson and Eric Pardinho this year was the performance of Vancvouer’s Josh Winckowski.  Lightly recruited out of high school, Winckowski turned down an offer from Southwest State Florida to sign for a $125K bonus after the Blue Jays drafted him in the 15th round in 2016.  The Northwest League Pitcher of the Year did not draw a lot of attention from publications like Baseball America this year, other than a passing comment in their Northwest League top prospects chat:

Winckowski drew interest from one of the opposing managers I talked to; what he liked about him was his competitiveness on the mound.

The 2016 15th rounder from Estero FL High School was simply dominant this season, his third in pro ball, particularly in the 2nd half.  Over the course of his last six starts, Winckowski allowed just 7 earned runs, totalling 35.1 innings, fanning 40, while walking only 5.  For the season, Winckowski led NWL qualifiers in FIP (2.77), GB rate (54.4%), K-BB rate (19.4%), and had the lowest FB rate (26.9%).  He posted the 2nd-lowest ERA (2.78), and next-to-highest whiff rate (12.6%).  Winckowski allowed only 2 Home Runs on the year, and all of the above suggests he’s a Pitcher who’s very tough to barrel up.  By his own admission, he was not at his sharpest during his only milb.tv streamed start this year at Hillsboro on August 4th, but he demonstrated that bat-dodging ability.

Staked to a 1-0 lead before he took the mound in the bottom of the first, Winckowski retired the side in order on 12 pitches, sandwiching a backwards K between a pair of ground outs.  The strikeout came on a 93 mph two-seamer that had some arm-side run and broke back in over the inside corner for the called third strike.

Winckowsk’s command faltered a bit in the 2nd inning, a frame that required 17 pitches to get out of.  He had trouble with his usually dependable slider (and may have been squeezed a bit with it), recording a flyout and a swinging K before giving up a two-out walk.  Winckowski retired the side on a comebacker.

In the third, Winckowski gave up what appeared to be a single up the middle on the second pitch of the inning.  Truth be told, I had it marked as a hit in my notebook, but Vancouver SS Jesus Severino made a fantastic play, taking the ball on one hop and firing from the outfield grass behind 2nd base to get the out at first.  It sounded like a hit; Severino took it away.  Winckowski got his 3rd K on another called strike three before giving up a single.  He finished the inning with another caught looking, needing 14 pitches to get Hillsboro out.

Winckowski’s longest inning proved to be the 4th.  He gave up another base hit, and struggled to throw first pitch strikes.  Still, he recorded yet another backward K to start the inning.  He needed 16 pitches to retire the side.

The 5th was easily Winckowski’s best frame of the night, a tidy 10-pitch, three up/three down inning that featured a pair of flyball outs to LF, and a popout to SS.

At 69 pitches, Winckowski was tiring a bit in the 7th, another 16-pitch inning.  After recording his 7th K on a lovely FB that broke in over the inside corner to Hillsboro leadoff hitter Jake McCarthy, Winckowski gave up a bloop single to RF.  Catcher Chris Bec made a great play a few pitches later.  Blocking a Winckowski pitch in the dirt, Bec kept the pitch in front of him, pounced on the ball, and threw out the runner on 1st who broke late for 2nd.  Winckowski followed that with a four-pitch walk, which drew a visit from C’s Pitching Coach Jim Czajkowski.  He retired the side with no further damage with a swinging punch out, his 7th of the night, before giving way to the bullpen to start the 7th.

Even without his best command, Winckowski tossed six innings of three-hit, shutout ball, giving the C’s a chance to get their offence together.  He threw 86 pitches, 49 for strikes – 7 of those were of the swing-and-miss variety.  5 of his 7 Ks were called 3rd strikes, and he recorded 5 ground ball vs 3 fly ball outs.  Winckowski threw first-pitch strikes to 11 of the 22 hitters he faced.

The key to Winckowski’s success was his ability to miss off the plate – his mistakes don’t tend to be in barrel country.  Even with this command issues, he was consistently around the strike zone.  He did try on several occasions to get a hitter to chase by elevating with two strikes, but he missed by a fair amount, causing Bec to leap out of his crouch to snag the wayward fastball.

After a difficult year at Bluefield last year, Winckowski found success at Vancouver this year.  He told the Naples FL Daily News, this year was different:

“My first half of the season was decent, I flashed having my good slider at times and my good change-up at times while locating my fastball, but I didn’t have as many games where I had all three working at once,” Winckowski said. “I don’t know if it was coming back from the all-star break and re-focusing or something physically, but during the second half I had all three pitches working most games.”

  What made the difference for Winckowski this year?  For starters, consistency and confidence in all three of his pitches:
I think I finally threw my slider how I knew I could for more than a few batters like in Bluefield. And felt like I never gave the hitter something to hit, I always missed off the plate never in the middle. My change-up can be as good as any of my pitches just a matter of consistency.
   In addition, Winckowski made an adjustment in his approach to pitching.  The Blue Jays have worked extensively with their prospects on mindfulness and the ability to re-focus during stressful situations.  Known in the past for having trouble controlling his emotions on the mound, he credits a pre-season talk with Czajkowski for helping change his perspective:

“We talked about having a better mental approach and staying relaxed on the mound,” he said. “Even during games where I was struggling, I was able to stay calm. And during that second half, I went on a really good run. My fastball command was good and I kept my slider and change-up down. I wasn’t giving the hitters anything good to hit.”

Finally, Winckowski worked on getting more extension in his delivery in an attempt to add some deception to his delivery and late life to his fastball.  He has spent time in the weight room trying to add lower body strength.  “Maybe it’s all in the hips,” he joked to the Daily News.  

 

Despite his success this year, you won’t find any Winckowski on any top prospects list just yet.  At 6’3″/185, he has a starter’s frame, one that suggests he can handle a good-sized workload.  At 20, he had the fifth-highest innings total in a league dominated by college players.  With his size, Winckowski gets a good downward plane on his pitches, and works consistently in the bottom half with his two-seamer, which touched 97 this year, and sits 93-94.  With its movement and Winckowski’s delivery, it’s a pitch with some potential.

What does Winckowski still have to work on?  Consistency and command for starters, but he made huge strides in his development with the former this year.  Left handed hitters hit .322 against him this year, suggesting his change-up may still need some refinement.  Continuing to get stronger will be a challenge for him, as well.  Winckowski told the Daily News that his eyes were open in Extended when injured players came from Lansing for rehab:

“We were two or three weeks into our season (which started in late June), and guys from Lansing were coming down with injuries and you begin to realize these guys have been playing since early April,” Winckowski said. “We were playing games in extended spring training, but it’s not the same. I know I need to make sure my arm is ready for a full season.”

The Blue Jays have been very conservative in their promotion of Winckowski, moving him up one step at a time.  He should start next season in Lansing, but it’s reasonable to see them challenging him with a bump to Dunedin if he continues to dominate hitters in Low A.  Originally from Ohio, Winckowski moved to Florida to attend high school, and may need to re-familiarize himself with the cool midwestern springs.

While Winckowski is a little disappointed that his name has not made it onto any top prospect lists, but he knows he’s still under the radar just yet:

I do get it. I wasn’t a big name out of high school, and didn’t pitch well in Bluefield.

If he pitches at Lansing like he did in Vancouver, that will change fairly quickly.  He’s a legitimate breakout prospect.

My Favourite Minor Leaguer

This post originally appeared at Clutchlings, the predecessor to this blog. 

Sometimes, your life can change in an instant – if you can recognize the signs.
In the case of Gord Dyment, it was a sign that someone else saw, but it changed his life just the same.

Dyment was born in Toronto in 1931.  He grew up playing in the sand lots of the city, and gained a reputation as a hard-throwing righthander. A number of major league teams showed some interest in Dyment, and he signed with the Phillies, and headed off to Bradford, PA, to play in the PONY (now New York-Penn League – the O was for Ontario) League in the late spring of 1950.

   Dyment pitched reasonably well in the then-Class D league, posting a 2-5 4.84 record, but the Phils let him go at the end of the season. The minors were at their absolute peak in terms of teams and leagues in those heady post-war years. Philadelphia had 12 affiliates, spread across 5 levels. And while Dyment’s numbers were respectable, there was so much competition for roster spots at even the lowest levels of the minors, mediocre didn’t cut it. There was someone else to take your job if you didn’t measure up. Minor leagues were less about development, and more about culling in those days.
   So Dyment prepared himself to start a life out of baseball, and took a job with Canadian Pacific as a railway policeman in the spring of 1951.

   At the same time, Jack Beauchamp was on vacation with his family in Florida.  The 19-year-old lefthander from Midland, Ontario, was travelling in the family car in the Sunshine State when he noticed a sign advertising a New York Giants open tryout camp. Beauchamp’s father Herb, who played ball as youngster growing up in Michigan, had coached a number of hockey and baseball teams in the Midland area, and was on the executive of the Midland Indians, an entry in the Ontario Baseball Association Intermediate ranks since the 1920s. Jack begged his dad to take the next interchange in order to try out for the Giants.  The defending World Series champs, as it turned out, had their quota of recruits for the day.  Undeterred, Beauchamp Sr talked the Giants into giving his son a look.  Not only did they relent and let Jack show his stuff, they offered him a contract, and sent him off to their Class D team at Hickory, NC.  On top of that, not wanting to miss out on any sources of talent, the Giants made Herb a bird dog scout for all of Southern Ontario.

So, while the younger Beauchamp was heading to North Carolina as spring training broke that year, Dyment was heading to his first assignment at Port McNicoll, a village just outside of Midland.  Dyment didn’t even know that Midland had a ball team as he set out for the Southern Georgian Bay area, but Indians officials knew all about Dyment.

  Herb Beauchamp convinced Dyment to play for the Indians.  There was a lot of competition for his services, however.  In the Sudbury region, there was a highly competitive league sponsored by the mining companies, and the Copper Cliff team had offered the “amateur” Dyment considerable “expense” money to come north and pitch for them. The clincher for Midland was Beauchamp’s New York connections.  As part of his offer to lure Dyment’s services, he had a pair of Giants scouts come to Midland, and Dyment threw for them at the Town Park in 1954.  They offered him a contract on the spot, and Dyment was off to Olean of the PONY league for another shot at pro ball.  His job with the railway would be waiting for him when he came home, and so would a spot with the Indians.
  Dyment came under the tutelage of the legendary Hall of Famer Carl Hubbell during his stint with the Giants. Dyment rose as far as the Class B Carolina League before deciding to give up his major league dream in 1956.  He returned to Ontario, and pitched for Copper Cliff  for several seasons, before returning to Midland in 1958.  The southern Georgian Bay town had a lengthy sporting history (the original Midland Arena, built in 1932, was the only artificial ice surface between Toronto and Winnipeg at the time), and it was now home to Dyment.
  He may have fallen short of the major leagues, but Dyment got a rare second shot at pro ball – all because Jack Beauchamp saw that sign on that fateful Florida day.
   Dyment’s return to Midland helped to bring about a dynasty in Ontario Intermediate A Ball play for the Indians.  In the next 12 years, the Indians appeared in the provincial final 10 times, bringing home the title on six of those occasions.

    In the final game of the 1958 OBA championship against Simcoe, Dyment tossed a 10-inning, two-hit shutout, fanning 17. It was the first title for Midland in three decades.  The jubilant players piled into convertibles, and held an impromptu victory parade down the town’s main street.

1958 Midland Indians’ Impromptu Victory Parade

Dyment continued to be a dominant pitcher for more than a decade.  In 1969, in his late 30s, he struck out 12 in the deciding OBA Finals game against Thorold, and knocked in both Midland runs in a 2-1 Indians victory.

   My memories of Dyment started at about this time. My family had moved to Midland in 1967, when my dad was hired by RCA to work in the accounting department of their new picture tube manufacturing facility on the eastern edge of town.
In the late 60s, there was only one televised major league game per week.  When the Montreal Expos were born in 1969, there was an added Wednesday night game.  And that was it.  No sports networks, and little in the way of televised highlights.  The Indians home games on Thursday nights were a huge event in town.  Showing some great foresight, the town fathers of Midland had set aside a huge area of parkland in the centre of town.  The jewel of the park was Little Lake, which became a mecca for campers, boaters, and fishermen from the 20s to the 60s.  Little Lake Park was also home of the Midland Arena, Curling Club, and ball park, in the east end of the park, just off the main street.  Towering mature oaks and maples ringed the sports facilities, giving the ball park in particular a stadium-like feel.  There was a small, octagaonal-shaped concession stand behind home plate, and John Deakos, who ran a successful hamburger stand down near Little Lake, would lug his pails of home-cut fries to fry up during the games.  The aroma of the fries cooking was irresistible.  John charged 5 cents for packages of ketchup, so those of us who only had a quarter for a medium-sized box of fries would go without. And the crisp, salty fries were good enough to stand on their own.
As game time approached, a steady crowd of seniors set up their lawn chairs behind the home plate screen.  Younger fans filled the first base bleachers behind the Indians bench, while the third base stands were sparsely populated mostly by a handful of fans of the visiting team.  Some fans parked their cars just beyond the centerfield fence to watch. Tom Shields of CKMP, the low-wattage radio station in town, would set up his broadcasting equipment on a swing-up shelf attached to the screen directly behind home plate.
   So, by the time I started attending Indians games, Dyment was in his late 30s.  He had a sizable belly, but was still the Indians’ ace.  A big (6’3″) man, he cut an imposing figure on the mound, with long, frizzy sideburns poking out from under his cap.  By the third or fourth inning, he would be drenched in sweat.  When he threw his curveball, he was able to put so much spin on the ball that you could hear it all over the park. In those rare games when he got into some trouble, neither his catcher nor his manager would come out to visit him.  There wasn’t much point – he knew what he was doing.
We all knew that he had spent time in the Giants organization.  We didn’t know many details about his minor league career, but it lent him an almost mythical status. Gord spent a fair amount of time helping out at the practices of the Midland minor baseball teams, including mine, and he mentored most of the young pitchers in the organization, like my older brother. When he told you how to grip the ball or swing the bat, you listened.  It didn’t dawn on me until I was older, but I had a guy pitching BP to me who was coached by the guy who struck out five future Hall of Famers (Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons, and Joe Cronin) with his nasty screwball in the 1934 All Star game.
By the 1970s, most of the core of the Indians dynasty from the 60s had retired, but Gord kept on pitching.  He was even loaned to cross-county rival Orillia Majors for the national championships in 1972, where Dyment threw a no-hitter at the age of 40. Gord hung on with the Indians as younger players (including my brother) filled the roster, but while they were competitive, the Indians were no longer a powerhouse.  He retired from the game in 1975, the year his son Bob, a hard-throwing righthander like his Dad, was signed by the Mets.  A fire at the Arena, which was directly behind the left field fence, spelled the end of the Indians in 1976.  The subsequent demolition of the old building and construction of the new one meant the field was unplayable, and truth be told, the team was having trouble attracting players.  Sadly, I was only about a year or two away from being old enough to patrol the outfield for the Indians, but never got the chance.  The field was reconfigured for fastball, which was gaining in popularity in the area, the following year, and renamed Herb Beuachamp Field, in honour of the man behind the Indians glory years.

Herb Beauchamp

Jack Beauchamp played for the Indians himself after a couple of years in the Giants minor league system, then retired to focus on the family’s TV and Radio business.  The Beauchamp family was a musical one, and Jack played in many jazz bands for almost a half a century.  A scholarship in his name and memory now helps to further the education of promising young musicians in the Midland area.

   When passenger rail service to Midland ended in the early 70s, Gord found employment with Ogilvie Flour Mills, which received prairie grain via lake freighter.  He retired in 1992, and continued to play in a seniors slow-pitch leagues.  Gord passed away from cancer in 2003.  With Herb Beauchamp field closed by the expansion of the new Rec Centre in 2004, the town redeveloped the baseball field on the east side of town, overlooking Georgian Bay, and renamed it Gord Dyment Field.  The Midland Mariners of the North Dufferin Baseball League continue the tradition of amateur men’s baseball in the town.

1897 Maple Leafs Brought Base Ball Back to Toronto to Stay

Second in a series…..

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Buck Freeman

In our last post on this topic, we saw the burgeoning city of Toronto burst onto the professional base ball scene by clinching the International Association title on the last day of the 1887 season.

Toronto’s success was to be short-lived, however, as many of their stars were scooped up by teams in higher leagues the following season.  Jumping teams and leagues from one season to another – and sometimes in mid-season – was not uncommon in the early days of the game.  In response, the National League had quietly established a Reserve Clause in 1879, which bound players to one team until the team decided their services were no longer necessary.  The owners felt the rule created more stability in allowing teams to keep much the same roster from year to year.  At first, the players appreciated the stability and security of a contract as well, but they chafed when the Reserve Clause was used to restrict salaries.

Despite its attempts to corner the market on players, the National League did not have a monopoly on the top players in the game.  The rival American Association began play in 1882, offering fans Sunday baseball, beer, and cheaper ticket prices.  When the rebelling players formed their own league in 1890, the rosters of minor league teams like Toronto’s were decimated, with three major leagues now bidding for the services of players.  Faced with escalating player salaries, Toronto ceased operations as an International Association franchise on July 9th, 1890.  It would be five years before base ball returned to Toronto.

A large town of 81 000 at the beginning of the previous decade, Toronto’s population had more than doubled a decade later, as the city became a major centre for railways, manufacturing, and finance.  The skyline of Toronto continued to change as capital poured in from all directions.  Churches were still the dominant structures, but impressive new buildings sprung up in the 1890s, including the Flatiron Building, Queen’s Park, and City Hall.  The former sleepy government and military town was becoming a bustling city in every way.  And with a booming economy, the city’s inhabitants had the means and the desire to seek amusements in their leisure time.  One of the places where many flocked on weekends was the Toronto Islands.

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Queen’s Park

To the east of the downtown Toronto waterfront lies the Scarborough Bluffs, an impressive height of land that stretches for several miles along the Lake Ontario shoreline.  Sediment from the erosion of the Bluffs found its way into the Lake, where currents carried it westward, and deposited it in the form of sandbars across Toronto harbour.  By the early 1800s, the longest of these bars stretched almost 9 kilometers, forming a peninsula that featured a carriage road from town.  A severe storm in 1858 washed away a major section of the peninsula toward the eastern end.  The resulting islands that were formed became popular with the wealthy and working class alike, with the former building grand summer homes on the islands, and the latter flocking to the new hotels and amusement park that were built.  A ferry service from the docks at the foot of Yonge Street, the main street of the city dating back to its founding, brought passengers the short distance to the islands.

As baseball was changing off the field in the 1890s, its development on the field continued, as it more and more came to resemble the game we know today.  In the 80s, a series of adjustments had turned the game over to the Pitchers: restrictions on the delivery of the ball, as well as a gradual reduction in the number of balls needed for a walk had meant a decrease in hits.  Runs were still abundant because of the number of errors committed by both teams per game, but with the introduction and improvement of gloves, offence declined by the start of the decade.  Moving the pitcher’s mound from 50′ to its current distance of 60’6″ evened the tables for the hitter, and the game had all but finished its evolution from its early years.  Rosters had expanded, as teams could no longer rely on one or two Pitchers to sustain them through the year.

The Players League lasted only the 1890 season, and the American Association ceased to exist after the following year, bringing some stability back to both the Major and Minor Leagues.  Toronto returned to the International Association, now known as the Eastern League, in 1895.  But after a lengthy absence, the team had some distance to travel in order to win back fans who had found other diversions.  The team had to share the field at Sunlight Park, their former Queen Street haunt.  Cannonball Crane, who had almost single-handedly pitched and hit Toronto to the 1887 title, was brought back, but he was a shadow of his former self.  A guy who liked a good time, Crane had all but eaten and drank his way out of the National League, and Toronto released him in July.  Crane tried to return to the NL as an Umpire the following season, but he was fired after only several games due to concerns about his game-calling and drunkenness.  The 1896 team showed some promise, bringing in future big leaguers Buck Freeman and Bill Dinneen, but had trouble drawing fans, and played their July home games in Albany, NY.

It would not be until 1897 that Toronto’s baseball fortunes turned around.  Toronto entrepreneur Lol Solman, proprietor of a hotel/restaurant and the amusement park on Centre Island, also owned the ferry company that brought fans over from the mainland, bought the team, and renamed them the Maple Leafs (four decades before Conn Smythe took the name for his hockey team).  Solman moved the team over to the island to play at newly built Hanlan’s Point stadium, and Toronto was about to embark on over a half century of minor league success.  For 50 cents, fans could get a ride on the ferry and a seat at the ballpark to watch either the Maple Leafs, or the lacrosse team Solman also owned.  Spectators flocked to the new ballpark to see the new and improved Maple Leafs in droves – at one point, as many as twelve ferries were needed to shuttle fans back and forth.

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Game at Hanlan’s Point – 1897

Toronto won only five of its first twenty-five games, but new Manager Foxy Irwin’s club caught fire, and went 70-24 to finish 2nd behind Syracuse.  Freeman took aim at Hanlan Point’s short right field fence, hitting 20 HRs to go with a .357 average, both tops in the league.  Dinneen was the ace, winning 21 games, including 17 of 18 decisions at one point.  1st Baseman Dan McGann set a league record with 22 triples.  All three would go on to successful MLB careers – Freeman drove in 100+ runs 9 times with the Senators and Red Sox, while Dinneen threw the first shutout in World Series history, and went on to a long and distinguished career as an American League umpire after is playing career.  McGann collected over 1400 hits in a 12 year MLB career.

  A Syracuse brewery had offered a cup to go to a playoff between the first and second place finishers in the league a year earlier, and Toronto made short work of Syracuse in the 1897 final, taking the first three games on the south side of Lake Ontario before returning home to finish the Stars off in the fourth and final game.

Unlike Toronto’s previous championship team, the 1897 outfit was to prove that the pro game was here for the long run.