Sunday, August 21, 2016

Canadians in the Majors: Jeff Heath

Today I'm going to cover a guy I've wanted to for a while. I know as of right now getting a card of him will be next to impossible, so I'm using images from the Trading Card Database again.
(I really hate to do that)

Explanations out of the way, I'm excited to write about Jeff Heath.

Jeff Heath was born on April 1, 1915 in Fort William, Ontario.

I had to find a map that showed Fort William and Port Arthur to illustrate. 

Of course, now Fort William is part of Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Jeff Heath was born in Fort William but moved to Vancouver, British Columbia before settling in Seattle, Washington. 

In 1935, he signed with the Yakima Bears of the Northwest League. After touring Japan with the team, he had issues re-entering the United States (some things never change) so he became a US citizen.

He was signed by the Cleveland Indians. The scout who signed him reportedly said "If this kid isn't a big leaguer, I don't know baseball."

He joined Cleveland in 1936 and 1937 for a few games, then was given the opportunity to start in 1938. 

He ended up batting .343 with 31 doubles, a league leading 18 triples, 21 home runs and 112 runs batted in. 

He had a drop off the next year and a further decline in 1940, ending with a .219 average 16 doubles, 3 triples, 14 home runs and 50 runs batted in. 
Part of the decline was due to clashes with the manager at the time to go along with him trying too hard to replicate his first full season.

In 1941 he was given a vote of confidence by the new manager and proceeded to hit:
.340 32 doubles, 20 triples, 24 home runs and 123 runs batted in. 
In the 1941 season, he made the All Star team, and made the 20-20-20 club (2B-3B-HR)

In 1943, he made the All Star team again and hit:
.274 22 doubles, 6 triples, 18 home runs 79 runs batted in.

In 1944 he was rejected for service in the War due to a knee problem. During the season, he was used primarily as a pinch-hitter. 

In the offseason, he had knee surgery then got into a contract dispute with the Indians. He returned in June of 1945 and made the All Star team again, though the game was not played due to travel restrictions. 

In 1943, he became the Second Canadian Born player to hit 100 Home Runs. The first was George Selkirk.

After the 1945 season, he was traded to the Washington Senators. He played part of the 1945 season with the Senators before being traded to the St. Louis Browns. 

In 1947, attitude issues that plagued him in Cleveland surfaced again in St. Louis. On the last day of the season, he was showering when his final at bat of the season came up. After the season, seeking to overhaul the roster, the Browns looked to the National League to trade Heath. 

Enter the Boston Braves.

In 1948, Heath hit:
.319 26 Doubles, 5 Triples. 20 Home Runs, 76 Runs Batted In.
At the end of the 1948 season, however, Heath had a major injury come up. 

This photo is from the book Canada's Baseball Legends.
He missed the remainder of the season and the Braves ended up losing the World Series to the Indians.

He spent part of 1949 in the minor leagues, playing 36 games with the Braves.
The Braves put him on waivers after the season and offered him a managerial position, but he declined. 

Before his retirement, he played 57 games for the Seattle Rainiers of the Pacific Coast League.

For his career, he ended with the following numbers:

.293 1447 Hits, 279 2B, 102 3B, 194 HR. 887 RBI.

He also had the distinction of having the most Home Runs by a foreign born player until Bobby Thomson passed him.

He passed away in 1975 at the age of 60 from a Heart Attack.

He is buried at Lakeview Cemetery in Seattle.

So there you have it. A major league player from the city I was born in. I hope you enjoy reading this 



  1. Thanks for including the location of the cemetary where he is buried. It's not too far from where I live (depending on traffic) so I might have to see if I can find his spot. He's buried at the same place where Bruce Lee is buried.

    1. No problem.. I figured it was easy enough to do :)

  2. As a young baseball enthusiast, historian, researcher, biographer, I was given his phone number so called and interviewed him about being born in Canada and what that meant to him all those many years later, in early 1960s, where he was most kind to and pleasant with a 15-year-old although he admitted he had not given it much thought over time but felt there were some very good Canadian-born players who never made the big leagues amogst those he knew who did and if he had lived a full life would have appreciated all those who have come to the fore since Blue Jays franchise began in 1976.


    1. The first time I found he was from my neck of the woods was looking through Baseball Encyclopedia in high school doing a project.. Hockey is much more prevalent. Around his time, the most famous Canadians were either Tip O'Neill or George Selkirk.