1953 Br. 431 Legion Bantam Baseball Team

Sport: Baseball
Level: Bantam Minor Baseball
Year of Induction: 2003

Front Row: Chris Mitchell, Don Craven, Larry Babcock, Lloyd Howard, Danny Maruoka, Glenn Mills (batboy), Allan Hinnegan, George Montague, Ray Reaume, Tom Burke Back Row: Lloyd Miller (representing Br. 431 Legion), Alex Montague (assistant coach), Larry Mills, Jim Crawford, Lou Holly, Larry DeKoning, Jack Fairs (coach), John Israels, Eddie Kucera, Bill Everitt, Grant Dickie, Archie Harrogate, Ross Babcock (assistant coach)
1953 Bantam Baseball Team Induction into the Chatham Sports Hall of Fame, 2003
Front Row: Larry Babcock, Dan Maruoka, Glenn Mills (bat boy), Al Hinnegan, George Montague, Ray Reaume, Tom Burke Back Row: Larry Mills, Jim Crawford, Jack Fairs (coach), Ed Kucera, Bill Everitt, Grant Dickie, Archie Harrogate
Team Highlights

In 1951 the Chatham Minor Baseball Association was formed and in 1953 the Branch 431 Legion Bantams became the first CMBA team to win an Ontario Baseball Association championship. The team was coached by Jack Fairs from London who was assisted by Ross Babcock and Alex Montague. Fairs was hired jointly by the Chatham Memorial Community Centre Commission and CMBA on an experimental basis for the summer of 1953. He directed the minor baseball system, coached all travel teams, and operated schools for the coaches of the houseleague teams. During the winter, Fairs coached at the University of Western Ontario.

The team consisted of the best players from the Branch 431 Legion Bantam City League. During the regular season the team won 14 games and lost 4, but in order to be crowned Ontario champions, the bantams had to win five elimination series. In the Western Counties Baseball Association semi-finals, they defeated Sarnia in two straight games and then went on to face Windsor for the WCBA championship. They defeated Windsor 15-0 in game one but then lost game two 12-10 by falling behind 10-0 after four innings. Game three turned out to be no contest as Chatham won 25-4.

In the all-Ontario quarter-finals, Chatham played London, the Intercounty League champions, in a best of three series. The teams were evenly matched as Chatham lost game one 14-13 after leading 10-0, won game two 7-5 after leading 7-2, and won game three 9-8 after leading 9-2. In the semi-finals, the bantams played Hamilton in a sudden death game. The game, played in London in a steady downpour of rain, was won by Chatham 19-6. In the finals, Oshawa provided the opposition in a sudden death game played in Brantford. Chatham went ahead 5-0 after six innings but Oshawa scored four runs in the seventh to get close. The final score was 6-4 in favour of Chatham who, as a result, were Ontario champions.

The victory is even more significant when it is realized that it occurred prior to the OBA implementing a classification system in which teams played against cities of comparatively the same size. In these playdowns, the 1953 Bantams competed against cities much larger than Chatham and beat them all. As a result of the Bantam’s success, the Recreation Department decided to continue the practice of hiring a full-time coach and for many years after that, Chatham Minor Baseball teams had unprecedented success in winning OBA championships and developing players who went on to play baseball professionally.

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