When Bill Phillips made his major league debut for the Cleveland Blues in 1879 he became the first Canadian professional baseball player. In August of 2019, Abraham Toro became the 255th Canuck to suit up in the Majors. Between Phillips and Toro there have been 2 Hall of Famers, 3 MVPs, 2 Cy Young winners, and a whole bunch of all stars. A Canadian has played for all of MLB’s current 30 teams.
In this article we will look at the best Canadian to suit up for all 30 teams throughout baseball history.
Some teams have only a few Canadians to chose from, others have plenty to choose from. Here is a list of the best Canadian in every team’s history.
Baltimore Orioles – Tip O’Neill is arguably the greatest Canadian hitter in baseball history. He was a career .326 hitter, with a .392 on base percentage between 1883-1892 and is the only Canadian to win the Triple Crown, when he hit .435/.490, with 14 home runs in 1887.
The man known as the “Canadian Babe Ruth” also went 16-16 with a 3.39 ERA in two seasons as a pitcher. The annual award given to Canada’s best baseball player is named in O’Neill’s honour.
He spent seven seasons as a member of the St. Louis Browns (the team that would eventually move to Baltimore).
Boston Red Sox – Fergie Jenkins will appear on this list a few times but his two years in Boston make him the best Canadian Red Sox. Between 1976-1977 he had a 22-21 record, with a 3.47 ERA and 247 strikeouts in 402 innings.
The Chatham, Ontario-native pitched a complete game shutout in the eighth game ever played at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto.
New York Yankees – George Selkirk spent his entire nine year career with the Yankees. He hit .290/.400/.483 between 1934-1942, with 108 home runs, made two all star appearances and won five World Series titles.
In 1943, Selkirk joined the US Navy and when he returned home he rejoined the Yankees, as a player/coach for their Triple-A Club in Newark.
Other Candidates: Russ Ford went 74-56, in five years in New York, including an AL record 26 wins in 1910.
Tampa Bay Rays – The Rays organization doesn’t have much success with Canadians. Erik Bedard went 4-6, with a 4.76 ERA in 17 games to end his career and likely tops this less than impressive list.
Other Candidates: Rich Butler hit .219/.274/.350 while playing 79 games for Tampa in 1998-99.
Toronto Blue Jays – Russell Martin signed a 5-year/$82-million deal with the Blue Jays in 2014 (a franchise record at the time). In four years in Toronto he hit .225/.336/.399, 66 home runs, had one all star appearance and was an integral part of Toronto’s 2015 and 2016 playoff teams.
Other Candidates: Paul Quantrill played parts of 6 seasons in Toronto and had a 3.67 ERA, to go with one all star appearance. Matt Stairs hit .270/.356/.476, with 32 home runs in two seasons with the Jays.
Chicago White Sox – Pete Ward played seven seasons for the White Sox between 1963-1969. He hit .254/.340/.407 with 97 home runs for Chicago, and has the tenth most home runs by a Canadian-born player.
Other Candidates: Reliever Jesse Crain played the last three seasons of his career with the White Sox and had a 2.10 ERA in 156 Games and made his lone all star appearance in 2013.
Cleveland Indians – Jeff Heath spent the first 10-years of his career in Cleveland and hit .298/.366/.506 and had 122 home runs. His 194 career home runs is the sixth most among Canadian-born hitters.
He made two all star appearances during his time with the Indians and finished in the top-25 in MVP voting four times.
Detroit Tigers: John Hiller had 87 wins and 125 saves as a member of the Tigers. The Toronto-native has the most career relief strikeouts by a Canadian and the sixth most wins.
In 1974 he made his only all star appearance after registering a 2.64 ERA in 59 games.
Kansas City Royals – Bud Black (a son of Canadians) played his best years in Kansas City (1982-87) and earned 56 wins, to go with a 3.73 ERA and 508 strikeouts.
He pitched six games in the post-season for the Royals, including three games against the Blue Jays in the 1985 ALCS.
Minnesota Twins – Justin Morneau suffered an injury when he was 29-years old (2010) after he was struck in the head sliding into second base. Although his career went on another six seasons, post-injury there was a noticeable drop in offensive production and games played.
But if you look at his stats prior to 2010 you can appreciate why Morneau is considered one of the greatest sluggers to have come out of Canada. In 11 seasons in Minnesota, he hit .278/.347/.485, with 221 home runs, had four all star campaigns, won two Silver Sluggers and won the 2007 AL MVP.
Other Candidates: The 2004 Twins were Canada’s unofficial second team as they featured veteran third baseman Corey Koskie, reliever Jesse Crain and Morneau. Koskie hit .280/.373/.463 between 1998-2004 and Crain had 33 wins, 4 saves and 264 strikeouts between 2004-2010.
Houston Astros – Terry Puhl spent nearly his entire MLB career in Houston, hitting .281/.349/.388, with 217 stolen bases in 14 seasons for the Astros between 1977-1990. He would have one all star appearance in 1978.
The Saskatchewanian outfielder hit a superb .372/.413/.442 in 13 career postseason games.
Other Candidates: Claude Raymond was an all star with Houston in 1966 and in four seasons had a 2.98 ERA and 26 saves.
LA Angels – Kirk McCaskill’s 106 wins is the third most by any Canadian and his 78 in Anaheim is the tenth most in Franchise history. He had a 3.86 ERA, with 714 strike outs in 192 games as a member of the the California Angels between 1985-1991.
Other Candidates: Ted Bowsfield had a 4.04 ERA and earned 20 wins in 75 games for the Angels in 1961-62.
Oakland Athletics – Matt Stairs played for 12 MLB organizations in his 19 year MLB career. He played his prime years in Oakland between 1996-2000. He had a .506 slugging percentage and hit 122 of his 265 career home runs with the A’s
His 38 home runs hit in 1999 is still the second most all time by a Canadian in a single season.
Other Candidates: Phil Marchildon pitched for the Philadelphia Athletics and earned 68 wins and had a 3.93 over eight seasons.
Seattle Mariners – James Paxton spent his first six MLB seasons in Seattle and although he had his fair share of injuries, when he was healthy he was an ace for the Mariners.
He earned 41 wins, with a 3.42 ERA and 617 strikeouts between 2013-18. In his last season in Seattle, Paxton threw a no-hitter in Toronto and set a career high in strikeouts (208), before being traded to the New York Yankees.
Other Candidates : Erik Bedard spent three injury riddled seasons in Seattle, but when healthy he managed a 3.31 ERA and a near strikeout/per-inning rate over 249 innings.
Texas Rangers – Fergie makes his second appearance on this list. The Hall of Famer earned 93 of his 284 wins as a Ranger, striking out 895 batters in six seasons in Texas.
Other Candidates: Jeff Zimmerman had a 3.27 ERA and 32 saves in Texas between 1999-2001 and was an all star in 1999.
Atlanta Braves – Freddie Freeman (whose parents were both Canadian) has become one of the most dominant offensive players in the National League. The slugging first baseman is just 30 but is already in the top-10 in most Braves offensive stats.
He is a 4-time all star and won the NL Silver Slugger in 2019.
Other Candidates: Jeff Heath played two seasons for the Boston Braves in 1948-49 and hit .316/.400/.589. Claude Raymond earned 32 saves and had a 3.96 ERA over 6 seasons with the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves.
Miami Marlins – Another American with Canadian-blood on this list – Josh Johnson was born and raised in Minnesota but his father was from Alberta.
In eight seasons in Miami, the big righty earned 56 wins, with a 3.15 ERA and 862 strikeouts. Johnson was part of the massive 2013 Marlins-Blue Jays trade that saw Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Emilio Bonafacio and John Buck go to Toronto as well.
In one season with Toronto he finished a disappointing 2-6, with a 6.20 ERA and this would be his last season in the MLB.
Other Candidates: Ryan Dempster had 42 wins, a 4.64 ERA and 628 strikeouts in five seasons with the Marlins.
Philadelphia Phillies – Rheal Cormier played seven seasons in Philadelphia and had a 3.63 ERA and a 6.8 strikeout/per-nine over 358.1 innings.
Other Candidates: Fergie Jenkins was great as a Phillie but only made eight appearances. Doc Miller hit .307/.349/.397 in two seasons in Philadelphia in 1912-13.
New York Mets – Ron Taylor (aka Dr. Baseball) was an integral part of the bullpen for the 1969 Miracle Mets. In five seasons with New York he had a 3.04 ERA and 50 saves over five years.
After his playing career the Toronto-native went to medical school and later become a Doctor for the Blue Jays.
Other Candidates: Jason Bay spent 3 seasons with the Mets and hit ..234/.318/.369, with 26 home runs.
Washington Nationals – Larry Walker spent six seasons with the Montreal Expos and hit .282/.373/.463, with 99 home runs and 98 stolen bases. He won two Gold Gloves, one Silver Slugger and had one all star appearance in Montreal. In the 1994 strike-shortened season he hit .322/.394/.587 with 19 home runs in 103 games.
Other Candidates: Claude Raymond would become the first Canadian to play for a Canadian team in 1969. Over three seasons in Montreal he had a 4.47 ERA, 24 saves and 108 strikeouts.
Chicago Cubs – Jenkins will make his third and final appearance on this list. Canada’s first Hall of Famer earned 167 wins, had a 3.20 ERA and 2,089 strikeouts as a member of the Cubs.
He is one of six Cubs to have his number retired by the Club and he is the all-time team leader in games started and strikeouts. He was the first Canadian inducted into Cooperstown.
Other Candidate: Ryan Dempster has to be the top-Canadian baseball player who didn’t make this list, mostly because he played his best days as a member of the Cubs. He had 67 wins and 87 saves in Chicago.
Cincinnati Reds – Joey Votto may end his career as the greatest Canadian hitter of all time. In 13 seasons in Cincinnati he has hit .306/.421/.519 and has led the National League in on base percentage six times. The Etobicoke-native is in the top-10 in almost every offensive stats for the Reds and is number one in OBP.
Votto is a 6-time all star, won the NL MVP in 2010 and has finished in the top-10 in MVP voting 6 times. He has five years left on his contract, so we will have to wait to see what his career totals are like when he retires. But it seems reasonable that Votto could be the third Canuck inducted into Cooperstown.
Other Candidates: In three seasons with the Cincinnati Red Stockings between 1883-85 Bill Mountjoy won 29 games, with a 3.00 ERA and 164 strikeouts. In one season with the Reds in 1904 Win Kellum went 15-10, with a 2.60 ERA and an impressive 22 complete games.
Pittsburgh Pirates – In 2003 the San Diego Padres traded Jason Bay to the Pittsburgh Pirates after he had played just three games for the Friars. The next season the Trail, BC-native become the first Canuck to win the Rookie of the Year.
Bay hit .281/.375/.515, with 139 home runs in six seasons in Pittsburgh, where he made two all star appearances.
Other Candidates: George Gibson spent 12 seasons as a player with the Pirates and hit .238/.296/.314 as a catcher and spent three season as the teams Manager between 1932-34.
Milwaukee Brewers – Between 2009-2013 John Axford was one of the NL’s most dominant closers. In 2011 he won the Tip O’Neill Award after he led the League with 46 saves. In total during his Brewers career he had a 3.35 ERA, a 10.1 strikeout/per-nine, with 106 saves.
Other Candidates: After Axford was traded to the Cardinals in 2013, Jim Henderson briefly took over as the Brewers closer. In three seasons in Milwaukee he had a 3.44 ERA, with a 12.1 strikeout/per-nine and 31 saves
St. Louis Cardinals – Reggie Cleveland spent the first five years of his career in St. Louis and earned 40 wins, with a 3.83 ERA and 448 strikeouts. His 105 career wins is the fourth most by a Canadian-born pitcher and his 930 strikeouts is the seventh most.
Other Candidates: Ron Taylor started his career with the Cardinals and had 19 wins, 20 saves and a 3.75 ERA, earning his first World Series title in 1964.
Arizona Diamondbacks – Since 1998 Arizona has only featured three Canadian players. Danny Klassen played 63 games between 1998-2002; Jamie Romak played 12 games in 2015 and Adam Loewen pitched eight games in 2016. Romak was the best of the three, hitting .333/.375/.467 – but again in a very small sample size.
Colorado Rockies – Walker was set to become the first player to have his number retired by the Colorado Rockies, on Opening Day 2020. It is easy to make that case that Walker is the greatest player in Rockies history and is definitely the best Canadian.
In 10 seasons in Denver he hit .334/.426/.618, with 258 home runs, had 4 all star appearances, earned 5 Gold Gloves and won the 1997 NL MVP.
Other Candidates: Jeff Francis is third all time in wins (64) and fourth in strikeouts (742) in Rockies history. Justin Morneau hit .316/.363/.487 in two seasons in Denver and won the NL batting title in 2014.
LA Dodgers – Russel Martin had his glory years with the Dodgers, batting .268/.362/.391 in six seasons in LA, with 60 home runs and 67 stolen bases. The Montreal-native is part of an exclusive club of MLB catchers that have stolen over 100 bases and hit over 100 home runs (Hall of Famers Carlton Fisk and Ivan Rodriguez are the other two).
While with the Dodgers, Martin earned one Silver Slugger, one Gold Glove and made two all star appearances.
Other Candidates: Goody Rosen hit .293/.362/.399 in parts of six seasons in Brooklyn between 1937-46. Eric Gagne was a dominant force for LA, earning 3 all star appearances, earning 161 saves and he won the 2003 NL Cy Young award.
San Diego Padres – In the Padres 50 year existence, there have been 13 Canadians – none of whom have played more than one season in San Diego. In 22 games in 2005, Paul Quantrill had a 3.41 ERA and may be the best of the bunch.
San Francisco Giants – The New York/San Francisco Giants organization also does not have a wealth of Canadians. Goody Roosen played the last 100 games of his career for the New York Giants in 1946 and batted a respectable .288/.377/.390.
Other Candidates: Canadian Baseball Hall of Famers George Gibson and Tip O’Neill both played for the Giants/Gothams organization – but neither had much success in New York.
Top Photo: Ron Vesely/Getty Images Fergie Jenkins