The Northern Game: Baseball the Canadian Way
by Bob Elliott
Published by SportClassic Books
212 pages, 2005
Baseball Night in Canada
Reviewed by Ron Kaplan
For the second consecutive year, Maple Ridge's own Larry Walker helped his St. Louis Cardinals vie for the National League pennant. Although Walker is in the twilight of his career, his legacy as one of Canada's favorite baseball sons, having spent his salad days with the now-defunct Montreal Expos.
In fact, more than 200 Canadians have donned big league uniforms since 1876. In recent years, a handful -- like Walker, Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins (Chatham, Ontario), Eric Gagne (Montreal, Quebec), Terry Puhl (Melville, Saskatchewan) and Matt Stairs (St. John, New Brunswick) -- have had more than middling success. An exciting new batch, led by Jason Bay (Trail, British Columbia), Ryan Dempster (Sechelt, British Columbia) and the Toronto Blue Jay's Cory Koskie (Anola, Manitoba) are on the horizon.
Elliott, baseball columnist for the Toronto Sun and a member of the Veterans committee of the National baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, traces the colorful characters of the game, not only in the professional ranks, but on the amateur levels.
Among the more entertaining chapters are profiles on Dr. Ron Taylor, who won two World Series rings as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals before joining the New York Mets, which presumably drove him to medical school. He later became team physician for the Blue Jays.
Elliot also catches up with Jenkins, who has had more than his share of heartache.
For sheer poignancy, nothing beats Elliot's bittersweet account of the death of the Montreal Expos, seen primarily through the eyes of Claude Raymond, as they played the franchise's final games. Les Expos may not have been a marketing success, but to their loyal fans, they'll always be remembered as "Nos Amours."
Elliot closes with an appropriately sentimental chapter on baseball's popularity among Canadians, despite the reputation of hockey and lacrosse as the national game.
"That's the magic of the game," Elliott concludes, "These days it is clearly spreading, taking more Canadians to the forefront of the sport than ever before. The northern game is entering a new, golden era."
In keeping with its friendly and all-encompassing spirit, The Northern Game includes a roster of major league players (already out of date), as well as a list of all the players who have played for Team Canada; the nation's all-time major league leaders; Canada's all-stars by province and various honors and awards. | October 2005
Ron Kaplan is a freelance writer from Montclair, New Jersey and a contributing editor to January Magazine.