Russell Martin Inducted Into Canadian Baseball Hall Of Fame | The MLBbro Catcher Is Still Inspiring A New Generation

Russell Martin Inducted Into Canadian Baseball Hall Of Fame | The MLBbro Catcher Is Still Inspiring A New Generation

Few people have had as much of an impact on Canadian baseball history than MLBbro catcher Russell Martin.

 

Born in Toronto, Ontario’s East York district to Russell Martin Sr, a Black Canadian and Suzanne Jeanson, a Franco-Manitoban woman, Martin’s journey from a kid baseball fan to an All-Star player with a 14-year career in Major League Baseball started in 1983.

 

Martin’s journey has been nothing short of remarkable. As the newest member of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame is welcomed, the trailblazer’s achievements go well beyond the diamond.

Born To Play Baseball 

 

Early in life, Martin developed a strong love for baseball and like every kid from Canada at the time, he played hockey. It soon became clear that he was talented and dedicated. 

 

He eventually earned a junior college scholarship to play at Chipola College in Florida. This decision was the turning point in Martin’s life that would eventually allow him to advance through the professional baseball ranks as a player.

 

Martin’s MLB career officially began in 2006 when he signed a contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Throughout his remarkable career, he was a player for three teams, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the New York Yankees, and Toronto Blue Jays. Martin was a vital member of every club he played for because of his versatility as a catcher as well as his solid offensive and defensive abilities.

 

 

Russell Martin Was Elite MLB Catcher

 

The Dodgers drafted Martin in the 17th round in 2002 and hit the ground running once he made the majors. Martin made All-Star teams in 2007 and 2008 with Los Angeles, adding both a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger in 2007.

 

Martin had a unique combination of power and speed not often gained from the catcher’s position. He hit 19 home runs and stole 21 bases in his second year with the Dodgers. He finished his career with 191 home runs and 101 steals.

 

When he officially retired in 2022, he was one of only 21 players to total both 60 home runs and 60 stolen bases with the Dodgers, and he’s the only catcher of the group. Martin’s impact on the position and the strong respect he’s earned from his colleagues was a shining note on his resume. 

 

 

Martin’s influence extended beyond his own achievements. As a season catcher, he helped his clubs make repeated postseason trips and even get to the World Series as a player for the Yankees. Martin’s performance on the field cemented his place as one of the best Canadian players in baseball history.  He’s a four-time MLB All-Star and a Gold Glove winner. 

 

International Impact: Naylor Brothers 

Martin’s international impact is noteworthy. He’s helped inspire the next generation of Canadian baseball players. Major Leaguers like the Naylor Brothers; Josh, Bo and Myles, who are also from Ontario. Bo happens to be an athletic catcher in the mold of Martin. That next generation is already here. 

David Grubb

Cleveland Guardians star Josh Naylor is one of the elite first baseman/DH in the game and was selected 12th overall in the 2015 MLB Draft by the Marlins. His brother Bo Naylor, a catcher, was drafted 29th overall in the 2018 draft by Cleveland and made his debut in 2022.

Myles Naylor,18, is the baby of the bunch. The third baseman was drafted by the Oakland Athletics with the 39th overall pick in the 2023 MLB Draft. He’s currently another rising MLBbro in the Athletics’ Single-A affiliate.

 

On January 20, 2009, Martin signed a one-year, $3.9 million contract to avoid salary arbitration. The deal was the largest ever awarded to a catcher in his first year of arbitration. Martin was also chosen to participate in the 2009 World Baseball Classic for Canada. It was huge for that team to have an established Major Leaguer in the fold.  

 

Martin then made the commitment to compete for Team Canada as a shortstop in the World Baseball Classic in 2017. But knee surgery in the off-season prevented him from playing. In 2023, Martin was also a member of the coaching staff for Team Canada. He said “it’s like a brotherhood” representing his home country. 

 

 

Russell Martin Was Active In The Community 

 

Russell Martin has influenced many areas of society in addition to his on-field heroics. Martin has a charity poker tournament called “55 Poker Classic.” 

 

When working with the Jays Care Foundation, Martin was able to raise over $170,000. The funds will be used to continue building safe spaces and supporting organizations dedicated to improving the Canadian youth.

 

The honor of Martin’s election into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame is a testament to his outstanding career, which was marked by leadership, excellence, and community service. His journey to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame from the neighborhood baseball diamonds in Ontario, makes him a genuine icon and symbol of baseball pride in Canada.

 

 

The Fabulous Bankhead Brothers: Sam, Dan Joe, Garnett and Fred Were A Pioneering MLBbro Family

The Fabulous Bankhead Brothers: Sam, Dan Joe, Garnett and Fred Were A Pioneering MLBbro Family

In the world of Black baseball, there have been several royal families of the game. The Griffeys, Bonds, Aarons, and Hairstons are just a few of the many MLBbro siblings that have been a part of the game.

 

 

Dan Bankhead

One baseball family whose story hasn’t been told until now are the Bankheads of Eugene, Alabama. While brother Dan made his major league debut with the Dodgers, along with Jackie Robinson in 1947, his other four siblings were making a name for themselves in the Negro Leagues.

Dan Bankhead signed his first baseball contract with the Birmingham Black Barons in 1940. By 1947, he was a dominating pitcher for the Memphis Red Sox of the Negro American League often compared to fireballer Bob Feller. 

 

 

He also was an outstanding hitter boasting a .385 average that season.

 

Sportswriter Frank ‘Fay’ Young of the Chicago Defender said he was “among the top three hurlers in the Negro American League,” and noted that he was one of ten players being seriously considered by Major League scouts. 

 

Dan Bankhead Signs With Brooklyn Dodgers 

 

Just after the Negro Leagues’ East-West All-Star Game of that season, Bankhead was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers. GM Branch Rickey, in sore need of solid pitching, purchased Bankhead’s contract from the Memphis Red Sox in late August. 

 

On August 26, 1947, the right-hander took the mound in the second inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates and in the process became the first black pitcher in Major League Baseball history. Unfortunately, Bankhead was hit hard yielding 10 hits in three innings.

He salvaged some of his pride at the plate, though. Bankead smacked a home run in his first major league at bat off Fritz Ostermuelier, becoming the only NL pitcher ever to do so at the time.

 

He finished the season having pitched in four games for the Dodgers with an ERA of 7.20. Bankhead was shipped to the minor leagues for the 1948 and 1949 seasons. His best season came in 1948, he recorded 24 wins and six losses.

 

Dan Bankhead Returns To Majors In 1950

 

He returned to the Dodgers for the 1950 season, appearing in 41 games, and finished with nine wins, four losses, and a 5.50 ERA. In 1951, his final year in the majors, he appeared in seven games, losing his only decision, with an ERA of 15.43. 

 

After he played his final major league game, Bankhead spent time in the Mexican League, playing with various teams through 1966. However, Dan wasn’t the only talented baseball player in the family.

 

Sam Bankhead

 

The oldest Bankhead, Sammy, played with four teams (Pittsburgh Crawfords, Homestead Grays, Birmingham Black Barons, and Nashville Elite Giants) from 1931 to 1947.

 

A seven-time All Star who batted .346 during his playing career, Sammy scored the game-winning run for the Crawfords against the New York Cubans in the 7th game of the 1935 Negro League World Series.

 

Known as a hustling, all-around player with great speed, Sammy was versatile, starting at five different positions (2B, SS, LF, CF, RF) during his trips to the East-West All-Star Classic.

 

In 1952, the Pittsburgh Gazette selected him as a utility player on their all-time Negro League All Star team.

Joe, Garnett and Fred Bankhead Played Baseball Too

 

Two other brothers, Joe and Garnett, had brief careers with several Negro League squads as well. Garnett, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound righthander, began his career in 1947 with the Memphis Red Sox and was part of the Grays’ Negro League championship squad a year later.

 

Playing just one season, Joe was a part of the 1948 Black Barons squad that was defeated four games to one by the Grays in the Negro League World Series.

 

One other brother, Fred, was regarded by many as the most talented of the Bankheads. He began his career in 1938 for the Memphis Red Sox, first-half winners of the Negro American League.

 

Much like Sam, Fred was versatile as he played both second and third for Memphis during his career. From 1944-46, Fred was named to the East-West All-Star Classic while maintaining a .304 batting average.

 

Tragically, Fred was killed in a car accident in 1947. He was scheduled to attend Daniel Payne College in Selma, Alabama when his car skidded on an icy road enroute to picking up his parents during a Christmas visit. The Bankhead family and their contributions are just another part of the long legacy of great players that made up the history of Major League Baseball and the Negro Leagues.

 

NOTE: The Encyclopedia of Negro League Baseball, The Complete Book of Baseball’s Negro Leagues, and the Negro League Baseball Players Association contributed to this story.

 

Jackie Robinson Doesn’t Meet Branch Rickey If Not For Legendary Journalist Wendell Smith

Jackie Robinson Doesn’t Meet Branch Rickey If Not For Legendary Journalist Wendell Smith

As our founder and editor, Rob Parker reached an age milestone earlier in the month (Cue the Jeopardy music: It’s a number between 59 and 61, so you do the math!), I thought about some of the pioneering Black journalists that paved the way for all of us here at MLBbro.com.

 

As journalists, before social media turned everybody into stars, it was an unwritten rule stating that you report the story, not become part of it.

 

However, in some instances, there can be unusual circumstances. Those circumstances can sometimes lead to changes for the greater good, societal and otherwise.

Emergence of Wendell Smith: Player, Journalist, Activist

Wendell Smith was a sports journalist that made a career of being civic minded. That civic mindedness led to righting one of the greatest wrongs in all of professional sports.

 

Born on March 23, 1914, in Detroit, Smith’s father worked in Henry Ford’s household as a chef. He was the only African American student at Southeastern High School in the motor city. He played on that school’s baseball team and was one of the leading pitchers on an American Legion team that featured future Chicago White Sox catcher Mike Tresh.

 

Smith played baseball at West Virginia State College at Charleston, where he also became the sports editor of the school newspaper during his junior year. Smith began working at The Pittsburgh Courier immediately after graduating in 1937, first as a sportswriter and as the sports editor the following year.

 

He used his position to protest segregation in professional sports. Smith played a significant, if not central, role in the desegregation of professional baseball in 1946. He is best remembered for his efforts, which led to Jackie Robinson signing with the Dodgers in 1947.

 

Smith made his first direct inroad into desegregating major league baseball when he advised Boston politician Isadore Muchnick how to gain Boston’s African-American vote. 

 

At Smith’s suggestion, Muchnick declared that he would withhold support for the annual City Council vote allowing Sunday baseball in Boston unless the Red Sox and Braves agreed to allow Negro Leaguers to try out for the team.

 

These two teams agreed, and Smith selected three players to try out: Robinson, Marvin Williams and Sam Jethroe. He declined to select Satchel Paige because he was too old (a decision Smith would later regret) and Homestead Grays’ catcher Josh Gibson because of a protest from that club’s owners.

 

 

Duffy Lewis, a former player and the Red Sox’ traveling secretary, conducted the hour long try out. While some other sports writers were there, neither national publicity nor a contract offer from the Red Sox or the Braves came out of the tryout.

 

Ironically a few years later, the Red Sox would get another opportunity to sign a talented black ballplayer who would go on to similar heights as Robinson. 

 

The player’s name? A guy by the name of Willie Mays.

 

It wasn’t until July 21, 1959, that the Red Sox debuted Elijah Jerry Pumpsie Green, who became the first African American ever to play for the Red Sox, the last team in the major leagues to integrate. A reluctance to progress with the times has been a stigma that the Boston area has carried for some time.

Wendell Smith Recommends Jackie Robinson For Tryouts With Dodgers

 

Smith then recommended Robinson to Brooklyn Dodger president and GM Branch Rickey for the “great experiment,” and traveled and roomed with Robinson during the baseball player’s early Dodgers career.

 

“Mr. Rickey asked if I would live with Jackie, be his companion on the road” Smith said. ” That’s when he put me on the Brooklyn payroll, $50 a week, about the same amount I was getting as sports editor of the Courier. He hired me as a scout, to scout Negro ballplayers.”

“I had been a ballplayer, an all-city high school pitcher in Detroit; but I knew nothing of scouting. I was getting paid to help Jackie jump the hurdles.”

“I never socialized with the writers. In the South it was forbidden. If they wanted me to go to dinner with them, it was against the law. I’m sure they would have liked to have me join them.”

“They didn’t ask because they knew it was impossible. But I considered myself part of the press corps. I was writing daily stories. I was Jackie’s Boswell.”

Wendell Smith Was Jackie Robinson’s Guide

 

In the 2013 movie “42”, Robinson’s relationship with Smith was explored as actor Andre Holland portrayed Smith in the production. To this day, it’s the only movie that took an inside look at the Robinson-Smith collaboration.

 

“Wendell is mentioned in pretty much every biography about Jackie Robinson and also all of the books about the Negro Leagues,” Holland said back in a 2013 interview with AL.com

 

“So it really struck me the role that this man had played in the success of this ‘great experiment,’ as they called it.”

Andre Holland played Black sports journalist Wendell Smith in the Movie “42.”

Wendell Smith Gets Approved By Baseball Writer’s Association 

 

In 1948, Smith left the Courier and joined the staff of the Chicago American as a sportswriter covering primarily boxing. No longer working at an African-American newspaper, Smith’s application for membership in the Baseball Writers’ Association was ratified (after numerous attempts while at the Courier). While he wrote for the American, Smith continued to encourage the full integration of spring training sites.

 

Smith also felt that the inclusion of Robinson and other African-American players in the major leagues did not mean that the Negro Leagues should fold. He wrote repeatedly of the need for his readers to support the Negro Leagues and promoted the annual East-West game in his columns.

 

He stayed with that paper for nearly 14 years. In 1964, he became the sportscaster for Chicago’s television station WGN. At the time of his death in 1972, Smith was the president of the Chicago Press Club.

Smith Remembered For His Impact On Baseball and Journalism

In 1993, Smith was posthumously given the J.G. Taylor Spink Award by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, enshrining him in the “writers wing” of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

 

In the tradition of Sam Lacy, Mal Goode, and others, the career and struggles of Mr. Smith stands as an inspiration for every minority journalist everywhere. And most importantly, they paved the way for young journalists of color to aspire to be become as powerful with the pen as these titans were and continue to be. 

 

We all humbly continue to carry their torches of sacrifice with every magazine and or newspaper article, website, TV show, and podcast. Their impact and influence are still being felt today through MLBbro.com and beyond. The stories of men like Wendell Smith must be told and out in proper historical perspective. A true hero of the MLBbro community and an irreplaceable part of baseball history. 

NOTE: The National Baseball Hall of Fame and The African-American Registry contributed to this story.

 

Gone Too Soon: The Tragic Story of MLBbro Lyman Bostock

Gone Too Soon: The Tragic Story of MLBbro Lyman Bostock

We hear about Lyman Bostock. But not as much as we should. He deserves to be more than a footnote, more than a name on a morbid list of ‘Ballplayers Who Died During A Season’. He deserves better, because he might have been among the best”.– Chad Finn, Concord News.

He was born in the state of Alabama. A state that has given us such Hall of Famers as Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. Lyman Bostock Jr. could have been mentioned in the same breath.

 

The true tragedy of his short life is one of potential and promise. No one truly knows if Bostock would have become a Hall of Famer. The fact that he wasn’t given the chance to reach that level is a shame.

 

 

Born on November 22, 1950 in Birmingham, Bostock was the son of Lyman Bostock, Sr. Lyman Sr. began his career in 1938 as a first baseman with the Brooklyn Royal Giants, and joined the Birmingham Black Barons in 1940.

 

The one dream Lyman had all the years he played baseball, was a chance to play in the Major Leagues with the white players.

 

This dream happened not for him, but for his son, Lyman Bostock, Jr., when he was drafted in the 26th round by the Minnesota Twins in the 1972 Amateur Draft.

 

Lyman Bostock Jr. Bursts Onto MLB Scene: Lives Father’s Dream 

 

Lyman Jr. made his MLB debut with the Twins in 1975 playing along side Hall of Famer Rod Carew. In his initial game on April 8, He went 1-for-4 with two walks and three runs scored in an 11–4 Twins win over the Texas Rangers. 

 

In 98 games, Bostock hit a respectable .282 with 29 RBIs in limited play. In 1976, his first full season in the majors, Bostock finished fourth in the tight American League batting race (.323), just a few points behind his teammate Carew.

 

Kansas City’s George Brett won the AL batting crown that year with a .333 clip. Bostock also received the Calvin R. Griffith Award for the most improved Twin. One of his highlights was hitting for the cycle 

 

After finishing second in the AL in batting in 1977 (a .336 mark that was bested by Carew’s .388 BA), Bostock became one of baseball’s earliest big-money free agents, signing with the California Angels.

 

Bostock immediately donated $10,000 of his newfound wealth to a church in his native city of Birmingham to rebuild a local church’s Sunday school.

Bostock Donates Salary To Church After Slow Start 

However, things on the field didn’t start well for Bostock in 1978. After batting only .150 for the month of April, Bostock went to team owner Gene Autry and attempted to give back his April salary, saying he hadn’t earned it. Autry refused, so Bostock announced he would be donating his April salary to charity. Thousands of requests came in for the money, and Bostock went through each of them, trying to determine who needed it the most.

 

Bostock worked the rest of the season to get his batting average up over .300. On Sept. 23, 1978, with his batting average sitting at .296 after a game with the Chicago White Sox, Bostock visited his uncle in Gary, Indiana.

 

Sitting in the back seat of his uncle’s car at a stoplight, a man walked up to the car and fired a shotgun blast that killed Bostock. By some accounts, the gunman was aiming for the woman sitting next to Bostock in the car, and by other accounts, it was a case of mistaken identity.

 

Lynman Bostock Murdered In Act Of Senseless Violence 

 

Tragically, a promising baseball career was ended by a senseless act of violence. A man named Leonard Smith would serve just over 21 months in prison for Bostock’s death.

 

 

In fact, Smith was later acquitted of the crime by reason of insanity in June of 1980. He was released from Logansport State Hospital and allowed to return to his home in Gary because doctors said he was no longer mentally ill. After the shooter’s release, Indiana legislators introduced the guilty but mentally ill plea so that mentally ill people would serve prison time after being released from inpatient mental health treatment.

 

In a career that spanned four seasons and just over 500 games in the majors, Bostock’s career batting average was .311. The number is significant because it also matches the career BA of a man who made Bostock’s career possible.

 

That man’s name is Jackie Roosevelt Robinson.

 

NOTE: The Baseball Library and Baseball-Reference.com both contributed to this story.

Rob Parker Starts Historical and Unprecedented Baseball Writing Class At USC

Rob Parker Starts Historical and Unprecedented Baseball Writing Class At USC

Rob Parker is a pioneer when it comes to Black sports writers covering baseball. He has opened the door for a number of writers and continues to do so.

In fact, he’s Baseball Hall of Fame voter No.70 out of hundreds.

Recently, the founder of MLBbro.com has made history at the University of Southern California.

Parker, an adjunct professor at USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, developed a baseball writing class.

Rob Parker Starts First-Ever Baseball Writing Class 

This is believed to be the first ever such class offered in college and the first class will be held Monday, January 8th, 2024.

 

“This is something near and dear to my heart,” said Parker, who has been covering MLB since 1986. “The art of covering baseball on a daily basis isn’t easy – to say the least.”

 

My hope is to pass on my love of writing about the game to others who share my passion and also introduce the game to other young writers who are just learning the game,” he said.

 

A class of this magnitude further reinforces Parker’s commitment to preserving baseball culture and introducing a new generation of baseball writers to the game.

Rob Parker’s MLBbro.com Provides Young Journalists With A Platform 

Parker’s website, MLBbro.com, was a dream he had, which gives young and aspiring journalists a platform to cover baseball. 

 

He always looks for ways and opportunities to give journalists opportunities to hone their craft and make progress as journalists in a very competitive field.

What he’s doing, cannot go unnoticed.

 

“I’ve done a lot in my nearly 40-year journalism career, said Parker, a BBWAA member since 1990 and Hall of Fame voter. “But this top shelf for me. It’s a dream come true – passing on knowledge to students at USC.”

 

Parker deserves his flowers for what he’s done in the journalism world. He’s made an impact on so many lives and that’s something he’ll continue to do.




Righty Joe Ross Is Back In Business With Milwaukee Brewers | Two Tommy John Surgeries Can’t Knock His Hustle

Righty Joe Ross Is Back In Business With Milwaukee Brewers | Two Tommy John Surgeries Can’t Knock His Hustle

Joe Ross is back in business with the Milwaukee Brewers after finalizing a one-year deal on Tuesday following an exhaustive physical exam to test the health of his twice-surgically repaired right elbow.

Ross, 30, underwent Tommy John surgery in 2017 and again in June 2022 before returning to pitch in the San Francisco farm system late last season.

In between roadblocks he’s been a versatile arm with the ability to perform as a starter or middle reliever. He really stood out in 2021 at 28-years-old as the Nationals braced for the departure of arm to replace legend Max Scherzer, who was on his way out of the door.

 

 

The one-year, “Show Me” deal with no options will earn Ross $1.75 million.

 

The Brew Crew reportedly views Ross as a viable candidate to join the starting rotation. In any event, he’s an innings eater and every contending team needs such a role player.

 

 

 

 

He elected not to play during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, then returned in ‘21 and was 5-9 with a 4.17 ERA in 20 games (19 starts), last appearing on Aug. 10 of that season in relief at the Mets.

Ross has been a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as far as performance is concerned. He’s had flashes of brilliance and he’s never been able to get in a consistent groove for one reason or another. Reaching your maximum performance on the field is hard enough.

Dealing with two major arm surgeries, rehab AND trying to come back and solidify a place in MLB is the ultimate challenge for an athlete.

Joe Ross Can’t Control His Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde Mound Identity Crisis

After Ross’ second elbow reconstruction he signed a Minor League deal with the San Francisco Giants for 2023 and worked through the system, ending the season in Triple-A Sacramento. There’s another melanated mound marauder in the building and he’s looking to stay healthy and keep throwing heat.