The “Field of Honor” game attracts hundreds of people; many people reconnect to honor a legendary team



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A game on the main field played on Saturday in honor of the provincial champion Chatham Colored All-Stars baseball team turned out to be a gathering of family and friends among the hundreds of spectators.


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Blake Harding, whose father Wilfred ‘Boomer’ Harding and Uncle Len Harding, played on the team, said more than 80 years later the team still brings the community together.

“That’s why they played and they loved the game,” he said.

Harding was among 30 descendants of the team’s players who donned replica jerseys at home and away to play in a Field of Honor match to raise awareness and help induct the team. into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.

The Chatham Colored All-Stars of 1934 were the first all-black team to make the Ontario Baseball Association playoffs and the first team from Chatham to win an OBA title by beating the Penetang Shipbuilders to win the Provincial Championship in intermediate division “B”.

The team excelled despite the prejudice and racism they suffered at times.

“Our parents and our grandparents and great uncles, they deserve this,” Harding said.

Earl and Horace Chase, their son’s former player, Earl ‘Flat’ Chase, hope Saturday’s event will help the team to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

“And if they come in, the other teams that have earned it should come in too,” said Horace Chase, 85.

“Everything takes time,” said Earl Chase, 86. “We appreciate the effort, the time spent trying to do it.”

The brothers say the honor would bring pride to the families of the players.

“We kind of hope to see it in our time,” Horace said.

Seeing players entering the field in jerseys bearing the names of all the players brought back fond memories for Harding and the Chase brothers.


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“It’s fun, just to review the names,” Harding said. “I grew up with these names living next door to Stirling Park.”

“It’s awesome,” said Earl Chase, adding that he loved seeing the people he played ball with 30 years ago.

“In our time there was no television or entertainment, playing ball was your entertainment,” he added.

Horace Chase remembers that 400 people would crowd the Stirling Park ball field to watch the All-Stars game.

The team disbanded in 1939, but many players joined other community teams.

Horace Chase remembers a day decades ago his father was at bat on the same field that Saturday’s game was played and watched him hit a home run that not only cleared the fence but landed from the other side of the athletic track at Kiwanis Stadium, more than 600 meters away.

He remembers those who witnessed it, saying, “Flat hit a bullet that day.”

Harding also has fond memories of his father.

“My father was my idol. He was not a saint, but he was my idol, ”he said with a smile.

There were special moments in Saturday’s game.

John Olbey, 99, received a jersey in honor of his brother Cliff Olbey, who played for the championship team.

“It’s more than I expected,” Olbey said of the fanfare surrounding Saturday’s game.

The Chatham Sports Hall of Fame also called on the Chase brothers to unveil a stone monument, located in a garden on the grounds of Fergie Jenkins Field, in honor of the Chatham Colored All-Stars team.

“I think it’s just great that the descendants and family members of this team are here to represent today and this team from this era,” said Tom Hardie, chairman of the Chatham Sports Hall of Fame.


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He spoke of the more than 20-year association with the team that began in 2000 when the team was inducted into the Chatham Hall of Fame, making them the second team to receive the honor.

“Shortly after the team was inducted, two of the top players were inducted into the Athlete-Legend category,” said Hardie.

The first was Flat Chase in 2001, whose “pitcher’s skills and especially hitting skills were legendary in southern Ontario in the 1930s,” he said.

In 2003, Boomer ‘Harding, “probably the best athlete on the team was inducted into the hall,” he added.

Noting that Harding excelled in many sports, including baseball and hockey, Hardie said, “Many who saw him play believe that if the timing had been right he could have competed at the major league level in the world. ‘one or the other sport. “

Brock Greenhalgh, a driving force behind the organization of Saturday’s game, said: “I’m really happy with the turnout.

“It’s a chance for people to reconnect, including families who may not have seen each other, especially coming out of COVID, it’s just a good thing to look forward to,” he said added.

Greenhalgh, who also lobbied for the team’s induction, said the game was filmed and that they will submit other documents to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.

“I think it’s important that we keep trying to get the word out,” he said.

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