Almost 3 years ago, an all-Canadian class was inducted in beautiful St. Marys, Ontario. Ryan Dempster, Jason Bay, current Philadelphia Phillies Manager Rob Thompson and former Toronto Blue Jays General Manager Gord Ash were all inducted that year. After an extensive renovation, the Museum just reopened a few months prior to that ceremony. Things were looking up for the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
Then COVID-19 happened.
The 2020 inductees were announced in February of that year. Two of them included legendary closer Duane Ward and John “ I flirted with 400 for most of 1993” Olerud. The two former Blue Jays won two World Series together. They were a very key part of the 1993 Championship campaign after a lot of players from the 1992 club either underperformed or elected free agency. Olerud finished the 1993 season with a .363 average, and Ward replacing Henke as the closer saved a record 45 games for the club.
Olerud would be drafted in 1989 out of Washington State. He made it directly to the big leagues with no stops in the Minor Leagues whatsoever. After opening up the front office’s eyes through his play in college, the Blue Jays made room for him by trading away superstar first basemen Fred Mcgriff along with Tony Fernandez to the San Diego Padres in exchange for Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter.
Blue Jays legends Duane Ward and John Olerud along with Jeff Francis will finally be inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
After the Blue Jays won their back-to-back championships, they struggled and Olerud would be moved in December of 1996 for future closer Robert Person. Olerud would retire in 2005 with a career .398 on-base percentage. Due to the delay for the ceremonies, Olerud is actually an inductee from back in 2020, and it sounds like the plan is for him to accept the honour next year.
Duane Ward would be acquired from the Atlanta Braves in exchange for Doyle Alexander. After starting a few games, Ward would eventually settle into a bullpen role and become to go-to guy setting up Tom Henke. Through the 1988-1993 seasons, he would be on a pair of Cy Young ballots. In 1992, he finished with an ERA of 1.95 in 79 appearances.
Unfortunately, the 1994 and 1995 seasons weren’t kind to Ward. His injuries held him back and ultimately forced him to retire. Ward is still remembered as one of the Blue Jays’ greatest relievers.
Jeff Francis is one of the most decorated pitchers in Canadian Baseball history. After competing with Canada at a ton of levels Francis went on to have a fantastic Major League Career. After being a mainstay in the rotation for the Colorado Rockies, Francis would go on to pitch for the Kansas City Royals, the Oakland Athletics, and the Toronto Blue Jays. He finishes his career with a 4.97 ERA through 254 appearances spanning 11 seasons.
If you can get out to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, it’s an amazing experience. You’ll never know who you will see or chat with. The induction finally takes place on June 18th and the Hall of Fame just announced the 2018 Inductee Pedro Martinez will be there to accept his induction, so don’t miss it!