In the debut edition of Blast From the Past, I dedicated the column to Mike Maksudian, perhaps the most undeserving player to ever win a World Series ring. Today, Blast From the Past focuses on yet another Blue Jay from that 1993 team, who was also extremely undeserving of the ring – perhaps more so than Maksudian.
His name is Willie Canate.
Information about Willie before his lone season on Toronto’s roster is scarce. He was signed as an amateur free agent by Cleveland in 1989, went to Cincinnati in the Rule 5 draft in 1992, and finally came to rest in Toronto, purchased from Cincinnati in April of ’93. Except for a brief spell in the minors in ’93, Canate spent the entire season on the Blue Jays roster. Unfortunately for him, however, he spent most of the season sitting on the bench.
In 1993 Willie Canate played in a mere 38 games for the Blue Jays. He made only 10 starts, the rest of the time entering as either a pinch hitter, pinch runner, or defensive replacement. Judging by his stats, why he would be utilized as a pinch hitter is beyond me as he only managed 10 hits all season long. His baserunning stats aren’t much better for all the times he pinch ran – one stolen base, one caught stealing. He was a perfect fielder however – give credit where credit is due.
But throw out the regular season stats. There is much about Willie that we don’t know, and can’t possibly learn, from his statistics. Perhaps he was an excellent teammate who excelled at always keeping his mates loose and relaxed. Perhaps he had a knack for warming up outfielders arms. Maybe he had an over-the-top work ethic, a trait that the coaching staff admired and wanted to rub off on the other players. Whatever the reason, Willie did something right in the 1993 season. Despite his middling numbers he earned a spot on the Toronto Blue Jays 1993 playoff roster.
But unlike Mike Maksudian, he actually made an appearance in the World Series.
This is where the story of Willie Canate, in my eyes, turns sour.
Flashback to Game 5 of the World Series. After the thrilling 15-14 comeback win in Game 4, the Jays are one win away from repeating as champs. Curt Schilling was on the hill for the Phillies facing Juan Guzman, with Philadelphia’s season on the line.
After scoring a single run in each of the first two innings, the Phillies had a 2-0 lead. From there, it was all pitching – zero matching zero matching zero on the scoreboard. Heading into the eighth the Jays still trailed by two and were desperate for a rally. After a leadoff single by Pat Borders, Cito went to the bench: in came Willie to pinch run. Another single by Rob Butler put runners on the corners with nobody out. Toronto fans could sense the rally. Beers were being gripped tighter in bars all across the city. People were ready to erupt. One big swing and we had the lead, six more outs and we had the title. Yonge Street was going to explode.
Rickey Henderson grounded a ball straight back to Schilling, who took one look to our boy Canate…..and saw him caught off the bag! He was tagged out in the ensuing run down, which wasn’t long enough to allow Butler to take third. Rally over, game over.
After hitting .213 in the regular season, Canate had one appearance in the World Series, one chance to make an impression, and blew it. His base running blunder cost the Jays the game. Thankfully Joe Carter delivered in Game 6, saving Canate’s blushes.
I don’t know if it was due to his mistake or not, but that rundown was the last we ever saw of Willie Canate in the major leagues. He split 1994 between Knoxville and Syracuse, and spent the entire ’95 season with the Chiefs. After that he was gone, out of baseball for good. A sad, sad end.
But Willie can look proudly upon two things: his World Series ring, and the fact that he made such an impression on one young fan that he now blogs in his name – 500 Level Fan’s Ottawa Correspondent WCF (Willie Canate Fan).
Willie Canate: Career Major League Statistics
1 season (1993)
1 teams (TOR)
.213 average, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 12 R, 1 SB, .586 OPS
*Blast From the Past is a feature dedicated to bringing back the memory of classic Jays from days past – the lesser known the better. If you have any suggestions please contact 500 Level Fan.