Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise this evening. First, I would like to recognize a former Huron—Bruce resident and former classmate of mine in high school, Shauna Hemingway. She is Canada's ambassador to the Dominican Republic and has been a tremendous public servant for many years.
October is the month that would be designated. In the areas I hang out, and for baseball fans around the world, October has always been known as the month of the fall classic. I am going to take a little lighter look at the bill tonight and look at the Latin American contribution to Canadian culture and its impact from a baseball perspective.
First, we will start back in 1954 in Montreal with the Montreal Royals. Who played for the 1954 Montreal Royals? It was not Jackie Robinson. It was a young Puerto Rican player by the name of Roberto Clemente, who would go on to play for the Pittsburgh Pirates, with 3,000 hits, a .300 batting average, and many illustrious years in the major leagues, until his untimely death in the seventies. That was really a great beginning for the Latin American impact on Canada and sports. I should also mention Roberto Clemente was the first Latin American World Series champion.
After that, a few years passed and we had the Expos in Montreal in the late sixties. Of course everyone loves the Expos now. Who was perhaps one of the most famous Montreal Expos pitchers of all time? It was El Presidente, El Perfecto, Dennis Martinez. Dennis played for the Expos. Dennis is from Nicaragua. He was the first Nicaraguan to play in the major leagues. He played for the Expos from 1986 to 1993. Dennis Martinez had 245 wins. He had a 13th perfect game in 1991. His nickname out of that was El Presidente, El Perfecto. In 2016, he was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ontario, which is, of course, in the riding of seatmate here from Perth—Wellington.
Years later, who came along? Vladimir Guerrero from Dominican Republic. He played for the Expos from 1996 to 2003. He probably had the best outfield arm of all time. Sorry, Jesse Barfield. Expos fans will remember a throw that Vladimir Guerrero made against the Blue Jays in 2001, where he picked the ball right out of the air, threw it home, approximately 300 feet, and got Alberto Castillo out at home plate. It was probably one of the best outfield throws of all time. Vladimir Guerrero went on to have a .318 batting average, 449 career home runs, 2,590 hits, and was inducted into the hall of fame in Cooperstown, unfortunately with the L.A. Angels, but of course some of his best years were with the Expos, obviously.
Another famous Expo who was there for a short period of time was Pedro Martinez. He played from 1994 to 1997. He was the 1997 Cy Young Award winner. Of course, he is a hall of famer as well.
Then there is the Big Cat, Andrés Galarraga, the big first baseman from Venezuela, maybe a precursor to Melky Cabrera. He played from 1985 to 1991 and had a couple of great seasons at the Olympic stadium.
A couple of other well-received and well-thought-of Dominican Republic players were Moisés Alou. He had a great swing, and was a right-hander. There was also Felipe Alou. A lot of people do not know this, but Moisés actually played for the Montreal Expos and was a coach in the Montreal Expos system for many years. He was likely their best coach. From 1992 to 2001, he had over 1,000 career wins. That was a great era. Moisés is still alive today in Dominican Republic.
A couple of other Latin American Expos I should mention are Javier Vázquez and, because it is after nine o'clock I think we can say this, Big Sexy, Bartolo Colón. He is a five-foot 10-inch, 280-pound pitcher, and he is still throwing, at 45 years of age, for the Texas Rangers.
In the 1970s, in Toronto, that was really the epicentre of where Latin American influence came in Canadian baseball, and probably in North American baseball. There was the expansion. We had the Toronto Blue Jays. There was a new GM, from the New York Yankees, Pat Gillick, and an exceptional scout, Epy Guerrero. It was really he and another scout, from the Los Angeles Dodgers, who started the first Dominican Republic baseball academy, which really put the Dominican on the map.
The Blue Jays first team had three Latin Americans: Pedro Garcia, Hector Torres, and Otto Velez, two from Puerto Rico and one from Mexico. Does anyone remember the 1979 co-rookie of the year? It was Alfredo Griffin. This will be trivia some day.
Damaso Garcia was a second baseman for the Blue Jays from 1980 to 1986.
We then get into the glory years, with Jorge Bell, later to be known as George Bell, who was a little crusty, but a great player. He was plucked from the Philadelphia Phillies. He played in 1981 and from 1983 to 1990. He was the 1987 MVP, had 47 home runs in 1987, with a 308 batting average and 134 RBIs that year. It is the only reason a guy from Clinton knows where San Pedro de Macoris is in the Dominican Republic. He is in the Level of Excellence for the Blue Jays.
A sweet fielding shortstop came along around the same time from the Dominican Republic, Tony Fernández. He threw sidearm from shortstop, was a leader in hits, played two times. He is in the Level of Excellence and a great guy.
Probably the best Blue Jay of all time to ever play was Robbie Alomar, from Puerto Rico. He was a hall of famer from 1991 to 1995, had 10 Gold Gloves, 12 All-Stars. He is in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. He is in Cooperstown. He hit 300 for a career, with over 27 hits and almost 500 stolen bases.
Does anyone remember Bam Bam, Carlos Delgato, from Puerto Rico? He was Level of Excellence. He should have been in the Hall of Fame as well. He had over 400 homers and 1,500 RBIs.
The latest two or three were José Bautista and Edwin Encarnación. Who can forget those two? Honourable mention: does anyone remember Juan Guzman, Manny Lee, Alex Rios, and Junior Felix?
Today's excellent Latin American Blue Jays include Teoscar Hernández, Marco Estrada, when he can get the change-up over, and Jaimie García, when he remembers to throw strikes. Who is the crown jewel of Latin American baseball today? It is Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. Who can forget the walk-off home run in Montreal in April, one of the most memorable home runs in Canadian history? Maybe it was not quite as much as Joe Carter's, but Joe was not born in Latin America.
I think back to some of the journalists who have covered the Jays through the years: Stephen Brunt, Jeff Blair, Richard Griffin, and Bob Elliott. I would love to hear all their thoughts.
Some of the all-time greats from the Dominican Republic are David “Big Papi” Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Adrian Beltre, and Julio Franco.
From Colombia are Edgar Renteria and Orlando Cabrera.
From Panama is Mariano Rivera.
From Mexico, does anyone remember “El Toro”, Fernando Valenzuela, who is 60 years old, and Fernandomania, from the 1980s?
I want to go through a few more.
From Venezuela there is José Altuve, Elvis Andrus, Félix Hernández, Victor Martinez, Bobby Abreu, Andres Galarraga, Miguel Cabrera, and Adrián Beltré.
From Cuba, because they are able to come across now and play, there is Jose Abreu, Aroldis Chapman, and his 106-mile-an-hour fastball, Yoenis Céspedes, and Yasiel Puig. How is my pronunciation in Spanish?
I should also mention that I played a couple of years of collegiate baseball in Tennessee, and many of my teammates were from Puerto Rico. There was Alex Colon and Ramon Lopez. I forget some of them now, it has been so many years. This haircut is a dead giveaway. There was Danny Alvarez and Enrique Lazu. I have so many great memories.
Let us make no mistake, some of these were the greats of all time. They put Canadian baseball on the map. God bless Latin America.