Swinging into Canada’s Baseball Pantheon
On Tuesday, March 7, Adam Stern was a well-regarded prospect for the Boston Red Sox. On the disabled list in the middle of the 2005 season, he had a decent but far-from-certain shot at a permanent berth as a back-up outfielder in 2006.
By Thursday, March 9, Stern was Canadian national hero.
In between, the London, Ontario, native led Team Canada to “the biggest win in Canadian baseball history,” according to Tom Valcke, president and CEO of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. In Canada’s 8-6 shocker over vaunted Team USA in the inaugural World Baseball Classic, Stern went 3-for-4, including a rare inside-the-park home run and four RBIs. He also managed two spectacular catches in center field, including a leaping eighth-inning grab that helped Canada preserve its lead.
With that game, Stern, 26, leaped into the pantheon Canadian baseball greats, alongside the likes of pitching ace and Cooperstown Hall-of-Famer Ferguson Jenkins as well as current major league star Eric Gagne and National League Rookie of the Year Jason Bay.
He had already entered Jewish baseball history in 2005, when Boston fielded him along with Gabe Kapler and Kevin Youkilis during the ninth inning of an August 8 game against the Texas Rangers. It was the first time any team had put three Jewish players on the same field at once since the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1960s.
Stern is only the second Canadian Jew to play the major leagues. The first was Goody Rosen, “The Toronto Tidbit,” a center fielder for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1930s and ’40s. He injured his leg in 1939, then re-injured it later in the season when the Dodgers tried to rush him back for the pennant chase. He didn’t play in the majors again until 1944, but returned with a bang. He had the best season of his career in 1945. However, in 1946 the Dodgers traded him to the New York Giants — two days before a doubleheader against the crosstown rival.
What followed came to be known as “Goody’s Revenge.” Rosen went 5-for-8 in the double-header, including a game-winning three-run home run, and the Giants swept the Dodgers. Brooklyn ultimately lost the pennant in a playoff with the St. Louis Cardinals.
That same season, Rosen suffered a career-ending injury to his clavicle when he ran into an outfield fence. He was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984 in the same class as Charles Bronfman, the original majority owner of the Montreal Expos.
Stern still has a way to go before rising to the heights reached by Goody Rosen, but Valcke promised that the victory over the United States “will certainly be recognized as an exhibit. And Mr. Stern will certainly be featured.”
Good enough for now.