Baseball The Canadian Way
Foreword by Don Cherry
Elliott contends that Canadian baseball stands at the precipice of a Golden Age. The evidence is found in Major League Baseball -- where the likes of Larry Walker, Eric Gagne and Jason Bay have been winning individual awards, and where a record 17 Canadians opened the 2005 season on big league rosters -- but also in the minor leagues and colleges, where Canadians, in unprecedented numbers, are claiming roster spots once held by Americans. And it is also evident in international baseball, where Canada narrowly missed a spot in the gold-medal game at the 2004 Summer Olympics, and in amateur baseball, where enrollment in youth leagues is at an all-time high.
Long before the Fathers of Confederation created a nation, Canadians were playing baseball. The first pitch was thrown in 1838 (if not before) and by the 1880s Canada's first slugger, Tip O'Neill, was challenging the first Prime Minister, John A. Macdonald, as the nation's most famous figure. Today more Canadians than ever are participating in "America's pastime" and enjoying success at every level.
In The Northern Game, the rich past and riveting present is explored in a lively, anecdotal account that captures the uniqueness of the Canadian baseball experience, notably in its relationship with hockey. Bolstered by Don Cherry's foreword, Elliott asserts that Canada's "hockey mentality" has shaped its approach to baseball. With very few exceptions, Canada's top ballplayers have a hockey background. The values of team play, toughness and perseverance ingrained in hockey players have become coveted today by American baseball executives at all levels of the game. As one put it: "They have toughness and they love to compete…they all wanted to grow up to be Bobby Orr."
Through the voices of current and former Canadian-born stars such as Larry Walker, Eric Gagne, Corey Koskie, Ferguson Jenkins, Terry Puhl and Ron Taylor, The Northern Game seamlessly weaves together the stories of Canadians at the game's highest level. But it also celebrates less heralded players such as Danny Klassen and Stubby Clapp and in the process examines Canada's vastly improved youth and national-team programs-with a particular focus on the unheralded 2004 Olympic squad that narrowly missed a spot in the gold-medal game. A recurring theme, particularly in the stories of Gerry and Kevin Reimer and Jeff, Jordan and Bill Zimmerman, is the poignancy of the father-son bond that often begins with a simple back-yard game of catch.
The thread that connects all these themes is the story of Elliott's own, life-long infatuation with baseball, a childhood gift from his father that he has held dearly through the years.
For the record, also included are the career statistics of every Canadian -- all 218 of them -- who has played major league baseball since its inception in 1871, plus a list of each and every Canadian to wear the maple leaf in international competition. Canadian baseball experts have also compiled province-by-province all-time all star teams, as well as their selections for Canada's all-time team.
By turns informative, celebratory, revealing and heartfelt, The Northern Game stands as the ultimate tribute to baseball's distinct Canadian heritage.