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International Ball: Baseball Players at Home While Far, Far Away

Updated on March 25, 2014
Joe Quinn, the first and most notable Australian-born MLB player
Joe Quinn, the first and most notable Australian-born MLB player | Source

Aussies in MLB

The two games played by the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks to open the 2014 season were the first regular-season games featuring major league teams in Australia.

The games were far from the first games featuring professionals in Australia. In 1888, Albert Spalding – yes, the guy who began Spalding sporting goods – took a team of top players around the world. They played both cricket and baseball while in Australia. I believe they even played in the same cricket grounds used for the recent series.

The nation’s own professional league began in 1989, but the game was played by Australians for many years before that. In fact, Joe Quinn, the most prominent Australian national to play in the majors, began his career in 1884, before Spalding’s tour. Quinn played 17 years, managing for two single-season stints. He finished his career as a member of the inaugural Washington Senators team in 1901. It wasn’t until 1986 that a second Australian broke in, Craig Shipley. Entering this year, 26 more followed.

The Dodgers have a very international flavor on their roster, as has often been the case over the past 30 years. There are three Dominicans, a player from the Dutch territories in the Caribbean, one from South Korea and two from Cuba. There are, however, no Aussies on the roster – or even the 40-man roster. The Diamondbacks have three Venezuelans, a Dutchman, a Panamanian and a Mexican. Again, no Aussies.

It’s too bad nobody got to play on their home turf for this series.

Games Played Outside the Continental U.S. and Canada

Monterrey, Mexico
Aug. 16-18, 1996
Estado Monterrey
Honolulu, Hawaii
Apr. 19-20, 1997
Aloha Stadium
Monterrey, Mexico
Apr. 4, 1999
Estado Monterrey
Tokyo, Japan
Mar. 29-30, 2000
Tokyo Dome
San Juan, P.R.
Apr. 1, 2001
Estadio Hiram Bithorn
San Juan, P.R.
Apr. 11-Sept. 11, 2003
Estadio Hiram Bithorn
Tokyo, Japan
Mar. 30-31, 2004
Tokyo Dome
San Juan, P.R.
Apr. 9-July 11, 2004
Estadio Hiram Bithorn
Tokyo, Japan
Mar. 25-26, 2008
Tokyo Dome
San Juan, P.R.
June 28-30, 2010
Estadio Hiram Bithorn
Tokyo, Japan
Mar. 28-29, 2012
Tokyo Dome
Sydney, Australia
Mar. 22, 2014
Sydney Cricket Ground

They Played Where?!

In addition to the numerous obvious cities that have hosted MLB games in the continental U.S., there were games in these places as well:

National Association only

Middletown, CT, 1872

Dover, DE, 1875

Keokuk, IA, 1875

Rockford, IL, 1871

Covington, KY, 1875

Ludlow, KY, 1875

Springfield, MA, 1872-3, 1875

19th Century only

Hartford, CT, 1874-6

New Haven, CT, 1875, 1877

Wilmington, DE, 1884

Louisville, KY, 1876-7, 1882-99

Worcester, MA, 1874, 1880-2, 1887

Gloucester City, NJ, 1888-90

Weehawken, NJ, 1887

West New York, NJ, 1898-9

Elmira, NY, 1885

Renssalaer (Greenbush), NY, 1880-2

Irondequoit, NY, 1890

Syracuse, NY, 1879, 1890

Clay (Three Rivers), NY, 1890

Troy, NY, 1871-2, 1879-81

Watervliet (West Troy), NY, 1882

Aurora (Geauga Lake), OH, 1888

Altoona, PA, 1884

Providence, RI, 1875, 1878-85

Richmond, VA, 1875, 1884

Wheeling, WV, 1890

Modern also-ran locations

Lake Buena Vista, FL, 2007-8

Fort Wayne, IN, 1871, 1902

Indianapolis, IN, 1878, 1884-5, 1887-1890, 1914

Grand Rapids, MI, 1903

Harrison, NJ, 1915

Jersey City, NJ, 1889, 1956-7

Newark (inc. Waverly), NJ, 1873, 1904

Las Vegas, NV, 1996

Buffalo, NY, 1879-85, 1890, 1914-5

Canton, OH, 1890, 1902-3

Columbus, OH, 1883-4, 1889-91, 1902-3, 1905

Dayton, OH, 1902

Toledo, OH, 1884, 1890, 1903

Warwick, RI, 1903

International Games

Prior to this series, regular-season games have played outside the continental U.S. in Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico and, of course, Canada.

Estadio Monterrey, in Monterrey, Mexico, hosted three games in 1996 and one in 1999. There were two natives of Mexico on the 1996 Padres, Fernando Valenzuela and Andres Berumen. Berumen played his final major league game a month before the series against the Mets.

Valenzuela started the first game, on Aug. 16, 1996. He picked up the win, his 10th of the season, allowing three runs and six hits in six innings. He struck out three and walked four. None of the runs scored until the seventh, when Valenzuela loaded the bases before being relieved with nobody out. All three runners scored, on a walk and two sacrifice flies. Valenzuela went 0-for-4 at the plate.

The Padres returned for a lone game on April 4, 1999 against the Rockies. Vinny Castilla was one of three Rockies born in Mexico to play for the 1999 team. He went 4-for-5 with a run and a double. Roberto Ramirez made his season debut two days later and Rigo Beltran would join the team in a late-season trade.

The Cubs and Mets played two games at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo in 2000, but neither team had a Japanese player. In 2004, the Yankees and Rays also played in Tokyo. This time, Hideki Matsui, born in Neagari-cho, played. On March 30, at the Tokyo Dome, Matsui went 1-for-4 with a run and double. On the 31st, Matsui went 2-for-5 with a run and three RBI, including a two-run home run.

Four years later, the A’s and Red Sox played two games at the Tokyo Dome. The Red Sox had two Japanese-born players on their roster, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima. Both played in the opener, on March 25, with Matsuzaka starting. In five innings, Matsuzaka struck out six, walked five and allowed two runs and two hits. Okajima, the fourth reliever, pitched the ninth and picked up the win. He pitched a scoreless inning with a strikeout and walk. Neither played on the 26th.

The most recent series in Japan was also at the Tokyo Dome. Oakland did not have any Japanese-born players in 2012. The Mariners had three: Ichiro Suzuki, Munenori Kawasaki and Hisashi Iwakuma. In the opener on March 28, Suzuki went 4-for-5 with an RBI. He went 0-for-4 in the second game. Kawasaki didn’t make his debut until April 7, and Iwakuma on the 20th.

Although Hawaii is a state, its location makes it an exotic locale for a major league game. The first three major league games in the Pacific were held in April 1997 between the Cardinals and Padres. There are 38 players from Hawaii, but neither of the two who were in the majors at the time were on the Cards or Pads.

Estadio HIram Bithorn, site of several MLB games, both as a neutral site and the temporary co-home park of the Montreal Expos.
Estadio HIram Bithorn, site of several MLB games, both as a neutral site and the temporary co-home park of the Montreal Expos. | Source

Games in Puerto Rico

While Puerto Rico is a part of the United States, it has a very strong nationalistic identity. In many instances, Puerto Rico is treated as its own nation in sporting events.

The island has a long history with the game, so it is no surprise that it has provided many major league players – or that the big leagues would find a way to get games in San Juan. The city’s stadium, named for its first major leaguer, Hiram Bithorn, is much smaller than MLB ballparks, but has hosted several games. It even served as a second home for the Montreal Expos in 2003 and 2004.

The Blue Jays and Rangers played the first game in San Juan on April 1, 2001. Three Puerto Ricans played for the Rangers that year, but only Ivan Rodriguez got into this game, going 0-for-4. It would not be his last game there. Two of the Blue Jays’ three Puerto Ricans in 2001 saw action. Carlos Delgado batted cleanup, going 1-for-4 with an RBI. Jose Cruz Jr. went 1-for-4 with a run.

The Marlins and Mets played three games at Bithorn in late June of 2010. Five Mets that year were from Puerto Rico. Jose Feliciano went 2-for-10 with a run, double, RBI and stolen base over the three games. Alex Cora went 1-for-5 with two runs and a double, also getting into all three games. Angel Pagan went 1-for-2 with a run, RBI and sac fly in his only appearance. Pedro Feliciano made one appearance, taking a walk-off loss in relief. He allowed one run and two hits in two-thirds of an inning, striking out two. Neither Marlins player in 2010 from Puerto Rico played in that series.

The Expos had a small contingent of Puerto Ricans during their two-year stint. Jose Videro was the only one who played both seasons. He went 33-for-119 (.277) with three homers, 16 RBI, two steals and 17 runs. Edwards Guzman, who played for the 2003 team, got into two games, going 1-for-7. Javier Vazquez, also on the 2003 team, pitched four games, going 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA, 36 strikeouts and five walks in 26 innings. As a batter, he went 2-for-8 with a run and an RBI.

Wil Cordero (9-for-47, 4 RBI, .191) played for and against the Expos at Bithorn.

Visitors from Puerto Rico included Bengie Molina (8-for-11, a home run, 3 RBI), Javy Lopez (3-for-14, two homers, 6 RBI), Felipe Lopez (3-for-14, a home run, 1 RBI), Mike Lowell (2-for-11, 2 RBI), Ivan Rodriguez (3-for-16, 1 RBI, counting the previous game), Juan Gonzalez (4-for-14, a homer, 4 RBI), Roberto Alomar (5-for-14, 1 RBI), Jose Molina (1-for-5), Ramon Castro (2-for-9, 1 HR), Rey Sanchez (1-for-8) and Roberto Hernandez (0-0, 6.00).

Larry Walker

Larry Walker had far more playing time in his home country than any other Canadian in MLB.
Larry Walker had far more playing time in his home country than any other Canadian in MLB. | Source

Oh Canada

At bats
Larry Walker
Brett Lawrie
Dave McKay
Matt Stairs
Corey Koskie
Rob Ducey
Terry Puhl

Canadian hitters' stats in Canadian ballparks, minimum of 100 AB.

Paul Quantrill
Rheal Cormier
153 2/3
Ferguson Jenkins
113 1/3
Paul Spoljaric
Scott Richmond

Canadian pitchers' stats in Canadian ballparks; top five in innings.

Canadians at Home

Major League Baseball first came to Canada in 1969 with the formation of an expansion team, the Montreal Expos. Sixteen Canadians played for the Expos, but very few played a significant amount. Several of the 18 Blue Jays from Canada saw real time.

Canadian players for both the Expos and Blue Jays included Rob Ducey (132 games, 44-for-223, .197, 19 runs, 2 homers, 21 RBI and 4 steals), Matt Stairs (161 games, 130-for-460, .283, 72 runs, 22 homers, 66 RBI and three steals), Denis Boucher (2-3, 13 games, 9 starts, 54 2/3 IP, 4.44 ERA, 34 strikeouts, 14 walks; 2-for-6 with a run and two doubles as a hitter) and Shawn Hill (3-3 in six games, five of them starts, 5.47 ERA in 24 2/3 IP, 17 strikeouts and 8 walks).

Larry Walker is the clear king of the Canadian Expos. He played 350 games in Montreal and six in Toronto. He went 352-for-1,211 (.291) with 206 runs, 58 homers, 215 RBI and 49 steals. Claude Raymond was the only other Canadian Expo with more than 100 games with the team. Raymond went 4-for-7 with a 3.93 ERA in 53 games in Canada, all in relief. He had eight saves, 60 strikeouts and 26 walks in 73 1/3 IP. Raymond went 0-for-5 as a hitter.

Bill Atkinson went 8-2 with 1.90 ERA and four saves in 51 games, all in relief. He struck out 57 and walked 34. He went 1-for-4 as a hitter. Mike Johnson went 4-5 with a 6.86 ERA in 34 games, 12 starts. He struck out 46 and walked 50 in 84 IP. He went 2-for-17 with a run and two RBI. Rheal Cormier, who pitched 43 games in Montreal and 10 in Toronto, went 10-12 with a 4.68 ERA. He started 22 games, pitched 153 2/3 innings, struck out 108 and walked 41. He went 6-for-33 (.182) with a run and 3 RBI.

Joe Siddall went 5-for-28 (.179) in 16 games, driving in two runs. Mike Gardiner went 2-4 with a 5.95 ERA in 16 games, four of them starts, striking out 20 and walking 21 in 36 1/3 IP. Doug Frobel went 9-for-53 (.170) in 19 games, three runs, three RBI and a steal.

Others, with a handful of appearances, include Larry Landreth, Derek Aucoin and Dave Wainhouse. Matt Maysey didn’t get into any games in Canada.

For the Blue Jays, Paul Quantrill got into the most games for his native team. With significant time for other AL East teams, he also made the trip up to Toronto many times in road grays. In 212 games, 11 of them starts, he went 16-18 with 8 saves and 4.17 ERA in 283 innings. He struck out 178 and walked 94. He also went 0-for-2 as a hitter.

Dave McKay got into the most games among Canadian Blue Jay hitters. In 153 games in Toronto, he went 124-for-503 (.247) with 62 runs, 6 homers, 45 RBI and 3 steals. Current Jay Brett Lawrie has played 141 games so far, going 149-for-521 (.286) with 71 runs, 16 homers, 68 RBI and 16 steals. Paul Spoljaric has 54 games pitched in Toronto, with one start and 89 IP. He is 2-3 with a 4.04 ERA, 82 strikeouts and 40 walks.

Corey Koskie played 70 games, going 70-for-253 (.277) with 39 runs, six homers, 31 RBI and three steals. Rob Butler played 34 games, going 9-for-53 (.170) with 10 runs and four RBI. Scott Richmond is 4-8 with a 4.86 ERA in 18 games, 14 of them starts, 71 strikeouts and 31 walks in 87 innings. Steve Sinclair was 0-1 in 16 games, all in relief, and a 6.23 ERA in 8 2/3 IP, two strikeouts and four walks.

Paul Hodgson went 1-for-11. Simon Pond went 4-for-23 with three RBI. Pitcher-turned-outfielder Adam Loewen is 3-for-13 with four runs, a home run and an RBI. As a pitcher for the Orioles, he lost his lone game in Toronto, going 5 2/3 innings and allowing seven runs, five earned. Rich Butler went 4-for-17 with three runs and two RBI.

Vince Horsman pitched just one inning and current Jay Mike Nickeas is 0-for-2.

Among Canadians since 1969 who have not played for the Expos or Blue Jays, there are several who have made numerous appearances in Canada.

Terry Puhl played 63 games in Canada. He went 47-for-213 (.221), with 26 runs, six doubles, two triples, five homers, 17 RBI and six steals. Justin Morneau has played 26 games, going 18-for-96 (.188) with 12 runs, six homers and 15 RBI. Jason Bay has played 17 games, going 14-for-62 (.226) with 10 runs, five homers and 7 RBI. Russell Martin has played 19 games, going 15-for-60 (.250) with seven runs, two homers and 8 RBI. Joey Votto has gone 6-for-23 in six games with two runs, a homer and four RBI.

Ryan Dempster is 6-0 in 10 starts with a 2.92 ERA in 67 2/3 IP with 43 strikeouts and 24 walks. Jesse Crain relieved in 14 games, going 2-0 in 11 1/3 IP with nine strikeouts and four walks. Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins went 7-5 with a 2.30 ERA in 15 games, 14 of them starts, and 113 1/3 IP. He struck out 68 and walked 32. He batted 6-for-28 with a run and four RBI. John Hiller went 2-2 with a 3.45 ERA and two saves in eight games. He struck out 15 and walked 11 in 15 2/3 IP.

In 16 games, Michael Saunders went 11-for-48 (.229) with five homers and 11 RBI. Reggie Cleveland went 5-4 with a 4.03 ERA in 16 games, 10 of them starts, and 73 2/3 IP. He struck out 38 and walked 25. He was 4-for-22 with a run as a hitter. Eric Gagne went 0-3 with three saves in eight games, one of them a start. He pitched 12 2/3 innings, striking out 14 and walking six with a 4.25 ERA (I was at one of these games; the Expos fans gave him quite an ovation).

Kirk McCaskill went 2-3 in 13 games, eight of them starts. He had a 4.74 ERA in 57 innings. He struck out 31 and walked 23. In 14 games, Aaron Guiel went 9-for-39 with a solo homer. Jeff Francis started two games, going 12 innings with a 1-1 record and 7.50 ERA, seven strikeouts and three walks. In five starts, Erik Bedard is 1-3 with a 3.69 ERA. In 31 2/3 IP, he struck out 24 and walked seven. Steve Wilson, in 10 relief appearances, is 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA. In 9 1/3 IP, he has five strikeouts and six walks.

Rich Harden is 1-2 in four starts, with a 9.00 ERA in 19 innings, 17 strikeouts and 16 walks. Ron Taylor had eight relief appearances, covering 12 innings. He had a 6.75 ERA, five strikeouts and a walk. Pete LaForest was 0-for-11 in four games. Jason Dickson started two games, going 11 2/3 IP, with a win and 5.40 ERA. Dickson struck out eight and walked three.

There are a handful of others with a handful of innings or at-bats. Most notable is Barry Cort, a Torontonian who pitched only seven games in his career and picked up his only win in a complete game in Toronto, allowing two runs, striking out five and walking one in his lone home country appearance.

Poor Pete Orr. Among all Canadian-born players active in the era of Canadian teams, he’s gone the longest without playing in his home country, 443 games. He has played his entire career in the National League, entering it just after the Expos moved.

As far as I can gather, Rob Ducey’s failed pinch-hit attempt in Game 3 of the 1991 ALCS was the only by a Canadian in their nation during the postseason.

Who's Next?

Where would you like to see an MLB regular-season game played?

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The Future

Although it likely will be many years before MLB puts a team outside of the continental U.S. and Canada, it will be interesting to see both how the balance of international players in the league changes.

Additionally, it would be no surprise to see more games played during the regular season outside of the “normal” sphere – whether in Latin America, east Asia, Europe or in the Pacific – and I highly suspect that the list of international players playing “home” games will be far, far greater 50 years from now.

Eleven major leaguers from Australia have played since 2010. If that’s enough to justify a series, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela deserve several series. And the Netherlands should be seriously considered as well, with nine players during that time from its Caribbean islands and three more from the homeland. Taiwan and Korea are also logical locations, and Brazil and Spain could be significant sources of players within the next 50 years.


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