In honour of those who came before…
Past owners, players, managers, coaches and their families defied the ongoing threat of rain to meet and reminisce over a display of memorabilia.
Remembering the good times.
The reunion was the brainchild of Barry “Bougie” Boughner, who played as a junior with the Majors from 1966-1969 and won the Ontario junior championship in 1968. Boughner won the Intercounty championship as part of the senior Intercounty London Pontiac team in 1969. He also won the Intercounty championship once more with the 1975 Majors.
Boughner decided to organize an alumni day after attending the funeral of local sports icon Norman Aldridge in July 2015. Aldridge is in the London Sports Hall of Fame four times: with the 1948 and 1975 London Majors, the London TV Cable national fastball champions, and two-time Ontario champion London Lou Ball junior baseball team.
Aldridge’s son, Scott, suggested that former Majors’ teammates and friends meet annually. Boughner jumped on the idea of inviting this group to celebrate past victories and remember the good times.
“Most of their childhood and mid-adult years were spent here at Labatt Park,” said Boughner of Saturday’s crowd. “I guarantee you that most of the guys meeting here are still friends today. It means a lot.”
A trip down memory lane…
Never-before-seen shoes, mitts, balls, bats, trophies, photos, newspaper clippings, jerseys, and various collectibles lined the walls of the Roy McKay clubhouse, built circa 1937.
But, most importantly, it was the people that came together to celebrate who were the stars of the show. Although everyone present held a significant place, there were some individuals particularly who stood out…
Our hometown heroes!
Five alumni were given special recognition as part of the pre-game ceremonies:
92-year-old Londoner Barry Moore, pitcher of the 1945 IBL-winning Majors team and 1945 OBA junior championships team.
Catcher Jack Fairs of the legendary 1948 Majors, winners of the IBL title, OBA championship, Canadian National Congress Baseball Championship and the North American Congress Sandlot Championship. Fairs is 92 years old and from Tillsonburg.
82-year-old infielder Bob Deakin of the London 1951-1954 London Majors. London-born Deakin was the winner of three age-level championships and an IBL title with the 1951 senior team. He signed with the New York Yankees in 1954 and played in the minor leagues until 1959 – a major feat for a Canadian athlete at that time.
Centre-Fielder/Team Owner/Manager Arden Eddie, a Wallaceburg native whose 36-year career includes 32 years as a player and 27 as an owner before selling the team to Scott Dart after the 2003 season. He holds numerous Intercounty records including most games played, most bases on balls, most hits, and most stolen bases.
Catcher Stan “Tubby” Jones, who played on the 1943 London Army Team and won the IBL Championship, Ontario Baseball League Championship, and the Canadian National Baseball Congress Championship. His teammates affectionately nicknamed him “Tubby” due to his round face. At 94-years-old, Jones was proudly accompanied by generations of his family (pictured below).
The gang’s all here! And what a day it was.
Coming home to roost…
Another highlight included an appearance of the San Diego Chicken during the London Majors’ game against the Brantford Red Sox.
Ted Giannoulas has donned the colourful chicken suit since the ’70’s. As a native Londoner, he spent his childhood watching baseball in Labatt Park. He grew up to gain international fame as one of the world’s best-loved sports mascots.
The start of a new tradition.
Boughner nodded enthusiastically when asked if the event will be taking place again. “We plan on being here every year to honour those that came before us,” he confirmed.
At its core, baseball is all about a player’s journey home. At their home of Labatt Park, the London Majors alumni are now waiting for each other with open arms.
Feature photo by Angela McInnes