MILWAUKEE -- Fergie Jenkins' success with the Chicago Cubs in the late 1960s convinced a fellow Chatham, Ontario, native named Doug Melvin to hang up his hockey skates. The kindness shown later on by legendary executive Pat Gillick convinced Melvin to continue his baseball career in the front office.Now, Melvin has a spot alongside those two mentors in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, a tribute announced on Tuesday that left the Brewers' general manager feeling "humbled" and "honoured" -- to preserve the north-of-the-border spelling. Melvin will be inducted on June 23 with former Expos star Rusty Staub -- "Le Grande Orange" -- plus longtime big-league left-hander Rheal Cormier and members of Team Canada's gold medal-winning entry to the 2011 Pan Am Games. While the Brewers play an Interleague Series against the White Sox, Melvin will travel to St. Marys, Ontario for the ceremony. "It was quite an honor," Melvin said. "I thought if I was recognized, it might be later on, once you're retired. ... But I feel very humbled and honored to be recognized at this point."
He's best known as the Rangers GM from 1994-2001 and Brewers GM since September 2002, but Melvin's initial aspiration was to pitch. He was released by the Pirates after two Minor League seasons, missed 1974 with an injury and drove down to '75 Spring Training figuring he'd give it one last shot with the Yankees.That's where he met Gillick, a fellow Canuck who was New York's scouting director. "I threw for them on the side, and Pat offered me a contract to pitch that year in the Florida State League, and I played four more years in the Minor Leagues," Melvin said. "I might not have been in baseball had Pat not taken 10-15 minutes to look at me throw on the sidelines. I owe a whole lot to Pat Gillick just from that one tryout." While Gillick moved on to be GM of the Blue Jays, where he promoted Gord Ash to be his assistant and eventual successor, Melvin took scouting jobs with the Yankees and Orioles before serving as Baltimore's assistant GM and scouting director. That led to the top job with the Rangers, who dismissed Melvin after the 2001 season. A year later, the Brewers hired Melvin amid a 106-loss season and he brought in Ash as assistant GM. They have been together since, and with principal owner Mark Attanasio, have restored the Brewers to respectability. The team snapped a 26-year postseason drought by winning the 2008 National League Wild Card, and in 2011, bolstered by Melvin's offseason trades for starters Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, and midseason deals for Francisco Rodriguez and Jerry Hairston Jr., set a franchise record with 96 regular-season wins. The Brewers defeated the D-backs in the NL Division Series before falling in a six-game NL Championship Series to the eventual world champion Cardinals. "Prior to the start of the season and then leading up to the deadline, any need they had, he addressed them," said Reds GM Walt Jocketty, a longtime friend. "He had to start by hiring a manager and then a coaching staff, plus plug the holes of his team. He went out and got some quality guys. Great deals." The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame became the third organization to give Melvin a major honor this winter. He was also named executive of the year by Baseball America and co-executive of the year (along with the Tigers' Dave Dombrowski) by the Sporting News. The latter honor was particular special because it was decided by a vote of fellow GMs and presented during the General Managers Meetings in November. Melvin called it a credit to Brewers manager Ron Roenicke, his coaches and the team's players. Many of those players share Melvin's nationality. Closer John Axford is the team's most prominent Canadian and one of four on the current 40-man roster (with catcher George Kottaras, infielder Taylor Green and first baseman/outfielder Brock Kjeldgaard). Kjeldgaard, incidentally, was part of the Team Canada squad that earned induction alongside Melvin, with fellow Brewers Minor Leaguers Nick Bucci and Jim Henderson. Over the years, Melvin has fielded a number of other Canadian players, from Corey Koskie in 2006 to closer Eric Gagne in '08. The team's most prominent Canadian Draft pick during Melvin's tenure was '08 first-rounder Brett Lawrie, a top prospect whom Melvin shipped last winter to Toronto for Marcum. "I think they're always a bit of an underdog," Melvin said of Canadian-born players. "I'm trying to take care of as many Canadians as I can as a general manager. There's no doubt that they're done a great job in Canada of [growing baseball]. You look back to the great Blue Jays teams, the great Expos teams, to Rusty Staub, that's what helps the game grow." Staub was affectionately known as "Le Grande Orange" to Expos fans because of his red hair. He wore an Expos uniform in three All-Star Games, and his uniform number (10) was the first jersey retired by the Expos. Cormier pitched 16 years in the Major Leagues, trailing among Canadian-born players only Jenkins and Matt Stairs (tied with 19 seasons apiece), and Larry Walker (17 seasons). The 2011 Team Canada Senior National Team, managed by Canadian Hall of Famer Ernie Whitt, had a storybook year in taking their first gold medal at the 2011 Pan Am Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. Canada now is ranked sixth in the world by the International Baseball Federation, its highest ranking ever. They'll all be on the stage in St. Marys -- Canada's answer to Cooperstown, N.Y. -- in June.
"This is a meaningful and richly deserved honor for Doug, and everyone at the Milwaukee Brewers congratulates him on this special occasion," Attanasio wrote in an email. "His impressive record of bringing two franchises, each its first playoff teams in twenty-five years, has earned him recognition as one of the great General Managers in Major League Baseball. Doug is hard-working, fair, patient, and family- and community-oriented. He is a true role model and a good friend from whom I have learned a lot and with whom I have shared a lot. I was very happy to learn of his election today, especially since I know how proud Doug is of his Canadian heritage."