July 24, 2017

LETTERS FROM QUEBEC Induction Day at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame: Part One

July 17, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

How much baseball history is captured in this photograph of Babe Ruth’s granddaughter, Linda Ruth Tosetti; Clark Griffith, son of Calvin Griffith: and Michael Roth, son of legendary baseball statistician, Allan Roth? Photo taken at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on Induction Day, June 19, 2010

It was a month ago, on a sweltering June 19, that the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum introduced four new members to its ranks.

Joining such former inductees as Gary Carter; Joe Carter; Andre Dawson; Tony Fernandez; Ferguson Jenkins; Jim McKean; Tip O’Neil; Jackie Robinson; and Larry Walker were two recently retired ball players – Roberto Alomar and Paul Quantrill – and two men from Montreal whose contributions occurred some time ago, and away from the field – Calvin Griffith and Allan Roth. Both were enshrined posthumously.

The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum sits on a sweep of green space above the town of St. Marys (no apostrophe) Ontario. Barely a stone’s throw from better known Stratford, Ontario, and its world famous Shakespeare Festival, St. Marys is so charming that even the city fathers don’t hesitate to call it “one of Ontario’s best kept secrets.”

The town is sometimes referred to as “Stonetown” in recognition of its leading corporate citizen, the St. Marys Cement Company. That enterprise is a major patron of the Hall, having made available a 32-acre site whose grounds are large enough to accommodate three baseball diamonds as well as the Hall of Fame and Museum building.

The Hall’s stated mission is to “preserve and teach the vast history of baseball in Canada and the world through our museum and museum programs and promote the future of baseball with our Kids on Deck summer baseball camp…”

Established in Toronto, October 1983, the Hall first opened its St. Marys doors in 1998. When the decision was made to move out of Toronto, St. Marys was selected, in part because the origins of baseball in Canada can be traced back to a neighbouring community just down the road, Beachville. There, in 1838, on June 4, “a game closely resembling baseball in its current form” took place – anticipating the Abner Doubleday story by a year!

The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum struggles tirelessly, as do most non-profit, charitable organizations, to survive and develop. But even with all that, the Hall, under the dynamic leadership of its charismatic President/CEO Tom Valcke, and his equally indefatigable side-kick, Director of Operations Scott Crawford, has managed to make great strides forward.

Its grounds feature an outstanding triad of game-ready diamonds and training fields on the property, and every year they embrace an expanding degree of activity. There is always a spot on the diamond for everyone, from the tiniest tots to the Junior National Team, and beyond.

The Museum archives and artefacts offer a broad look into Canadian baseball history. At the moment only a portion of the holdings is on display as the heritage stone home which houses the collection is very small. Plans are afoot to move into a larger, renovated facility in the near future. Stay tuned!

The Hall of Fame’s first cohort of inductees, named in 1983, included legends such as Tip O’Neil, George Selkirk and Frank Shaughnessy. Since then, another 86 names have been added, all in celebration of their contribution to baseball in Canada, and/or as Canadians.

The highlight of the season is the annual Induction Weekend. Celebrity guests, baseball fans and towns’ people turn out for the Slo-Pitch Game, the Golf Tournament, and the banquets. It all culminates on Saturday morning with the Induction ceremony itself.

This year, the star attraction was Robbie Alomar, whose six year stint with the Blue Jays endeared him to Toronto fans forever. He, along with Paul Quantrill, a thoughtful Canadian pitcher from Port Hope Ontario who has the distinction of throwing more innings of major league baseball than any other Canadian pitcher, including Fergie Jenkins and Eric Gagne, headed the induction class.

Ian MacDonald, a veteran sports writer who once covered the Expos for the Montreal Gazette was presented with the Jack Grainey Award for excellence in baseball writing.

Charles Bronfman, the Expos’ first owner, was there to present a $500,000 cheque to the Hall’s capital campaign.

And there were the invited guests. Expos legends Jim Fanning and Steve Rogers were on hand, as were Linda Ruth Tosetti, granddaughter of Babe Ruth; Miss Canada International, the lovely and poised Bridget Nickerson; Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, Olympic and World champions in Ice Dance; Pat Gillick, these days with the Phillies; Ferguson Jenkins, and from the Blue Jays management family, president Paul Beeston and GM Alex Anthopoulos. Michael Burgess of Phantom of the Opera fame sang the National anthems of both the USA and Canada with verve. The Emcee was Rod Black of TSN, Canada’s answer to ESPN.

But for me the highlight was the recognition given to Calvin Griffith and Allan Roth. Montrealers of origin and now long deceased, both were honoured for the major contribution each made to the underpinnings of baseball.

Calvin Griffith, the Washington Senators owner who brought the club to Minnesota in 1961 and renamed it the Twins was represented by his son Clark. Allan Roth, the granddaddy of baseball statistics, was represented by his son Michael and other family members – including long-time friend Roger Kahn, probably the best baseball writer on the planet. More about them in the next edition of LETTERS FROM QUEBEC.

As an ensemble, these worthies not only reflect the depth of baseball talent and ingenuity present in this country, they also directly influenced the game on its larger stage. Without their immediate participation over the last 50 years and more, baseball today would be different – played differently; understood differently.

And, I would opine, not as well…

The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is located at 140 Queen St. (Office), 386 Church St. S. St. Marys, ON  N4X 1C2 CANADA, Box 1838;  Phone: 519-284-1838Toll-free: 877-250-2255;  begin_of_the_skype_highlightingFax: 519-284-1234   For more information visit http://www.baseballhalloffame.ca/

UPCOMING in the next installment of LETTERS FROM QUEBEC, more about Calvin Griffith and Allan Roth and their respective odysseys from Quebec into the deep country of baseball.

 

 

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