My father was a sports fanatic. Not because he watched it, because he was involved in it.
He was a speed walker, hope you know what that is. In 1929, when he was 19 years old, he won the Toronto to Guelph speed walking race. Yes, he walked all the way from Toronto to Guelph and did it in the fastest time.
Unfortunately later that year he was pole vaulting and had a bad accident, breaking his hip. He wore a body cast for months. He would never be a participant in sports again.
But that didn't stop him from being involved.
In his spare time, away from his regular job as a Sheet Metal Worker, he was a sports trainer, for numerous sports teams, both baseball and hockey. He was not a doctor but he was the next best thing to it if someone got hurt on the field or the ice. And he was loved by "his boys" as he called the athletes he worked with.
He was involved with The Toronto Maple Leafs of the old International Baseball League down at Maple Leaf Stadium which stood at the foot of Bathurst Street. They tore the stadium down years ago and there are town houses there now but the street is still called Stadium Row. He met all the great baseball players, coaches, scouts, etc. One of his best friends was Bob Prentice who was a scout for the Detroit Tigers and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
He was the trainer for The Toronto Maple Leafs Inter-county Baseball Team who play out of Christie Pits. When he died in 1971, they honoured him by awarding "The Forbes Walkey Memorial Trophy" which goes, each year, to the MVP of the team. Over 40 years later, they still award the trophy to "his boys".......the guys weren't even a twinkle in their mother's eye when he was with the team but they are honoured to receive it just as if they knew him. Every once in a while we go down to Christie Pits to watch a game and soak up the memories from yesteryear.
My Dad was also the trainer for several minor hockey teams over the years and would take Lynda and I along to some of the games. By the time she was 16, Lynda had a boyfriend she was smitten with so she told my Dad she didn't want to go to hockey games any more, but me being younger, I still went and loved it! I would even get to sit in the dressing room (after the players were dressed in their uniforms of course).....and can still remember the noise and smells and excitement in the air!
In the Summer of 1959, when I was 12, my Mom and Dad told me we were going on a trip to North Bay for a long weekend baseball tournament and that Dad would be the team trainer. We didn't have a car but we were going with the coach of the team. Mom, the coach's wife and I sat in the back seat while Dad and the coach sat up front. Such a long drive.....but I loved it and we would be staying in a motel which I had never done before!
What I didn't know but learned on the drive there, was that the team was called "The 7-Up All-Stars", the sponsor was 7-Up and the players were the All-Stars........THE N.H.L. ALL-STARS!!!!!
Hours later, we pulled into the Motel in North Bay and the entire Motel had been reserved for the team. We had full run of the place! It was late when we arrived, so I had to go to bed right away so I could get up early the next day to meet "the boys".......how I ever got to sleep is beyond me!
When morning came, the first thing we did was go to the motel restaurant for breakfast. This fellow was sitting by himself eating and asked Mom, Dad and I to join his table. Dad introduced him to me as Brian Cullen of The Toronto Maple Leafs! Wow!
Other guys started to come in......and as they did, they stopped at our table and introduced themselves to me and shook my hand (I of course, didn't know that this had all been pre-arranged the night before by my Dad)........Ed Chadwick, my favorite Leaf goalie, Carl Brewer and Bobby Baun! I couldn't believe my eyes! The next fellow's name was Cal Gardner, I didn't know the name but my Dad quickly told me that Mr. Gardner plays for the Boston Bruins.......What????
|Me and The Big "M"|
On Sunday morning, Dad asked me if I would like to go and watch some of the team play Golf. Cal Gardner had his two sons with him, and he would be looking after the three of us kids so Dad said it was okay to go while he and mom stayed back and rested at the motel.
I heard a loud voice say "hey kid, wanna ride in my convertible to the golf course?" I turned around and it was Bobby Baun in a beautiful, brand new red convertible. I picked my jaw up off the ground and walked over to the car and Bobby came around and opened the door for me as if I was his date! I know I was only 12 but I felt so much older being in this gorgeous car with this good looking guy, scars and all! Luckily my Dad was right there to get a picture of it!
|Me and Bobby Baun in the|
The rest of weekend was spent watching baseball, buying souvenirs, eating and sitting in one of the motel rooms with all the guys (and their girlfriends or wives). Whenever someone would start to tell an interesting story, my Dad, or one of the other guys, would send me to the store to buy something for them. I know now that they were most likely jokes not meant for my young ears.
Before we left on Monday afternoon, I made sure that Dad got a picture of me with all of my favourite players. 52 years later I still have most of those pictures, although they are pretty worn out from showing them around. That weekend meant the world to me and that's why I love the Original Six!
Happy Father's Day Dad and thanks for the memories!