In a really old baseball sticker book I got from a book barn as a child there was a section for the original stars of the game. Since "professional" baseball was established in 1876, that section included legends such as Cap Anson, Buck Ewing, Wee Willie Keeler, and Tip O'Neill, aka a bunch of old baseball players you've never heard of. I, like everyone else, think of these players rarely if at all, which was why I was pleasantly surprised to come across a mention of Tip O'Neill yesterday while doing some research on good old Jason Bay. This doesn't make much sense; why would Jason Bay be linked to a baseball player who died a century ago? The answer, as always, is Canada.
Since 1984, the Canadian Baseball Hall Of Fame, which definitely exists, has given out an annual award to the best Canadian baseball player in MLB. Not coincidentally, this award is called the Tip O'Neill Award, because apparently James Edward "Tip" O'Neill aka "The Woodstock Wonder" was born in Springfield, Ontario and managed to make the Hall Of Fame as the first Canadian baseball star. Looking at his history is very strange, as he played for teams called the New York Gothams, St. Louis Browns, Cincinnati Reds (they exist!), and Chicago Pirates. He won the only Triple Crown in the American Association-the rival to the National League before the American League existed-by hitting .492 with 14 home runs and 123 RBI in 1887. Actually, he hit .435, but for some reason 1887 decided to fuck with some rules and count walks as hits, so his 50 walks to his batting average from awesome to crazy amazing.
Still, his true legacy today is that his name is on an obscure Canadian baseball award, which is pretty awesome. What's more awesome is that there have been some really good Canadian baseball players. While Larry Walker is an inexplicable outsider to Cooperstown, he took home the Tip nine times (splitting one each with Corey Koskie and Eric Gagne), and presumably made it to wherever the Canadian Baseball Hall Of Fame is on the first ballot. Jason Bay held the Tip three times, going back-to-back in 2004-2005 and adding one in 2009 for fun. Recently, Joey Votto has dominated the Tip, winning in each of the last four years (with 2011 somehow being split with John Axford, who was unceremoniously dumped from the closer role soon after in Milwaukee). Other holders of the Tip include Ryan Dempster, who I had no idea was Canadian, Russell Martin, and Justin Morneau twice.
Basically, Canada is pretty good at having approximately four good baseball players in MLB at the same time, Larry Walker was awesome, and Tip O'Neill spawned an award to reward a bunch of Canadians for their abilities to hit, throw, and catch a ball. Go Canada.