Summer time in Brantford means getting outside and enjoying the all too brief time that allows us to stretch our legs, be surrounded by green, and play some sports that can really only be enjoyed when the season is right.
May signals the start of many of those activities, and in particular, baseball! The Brantford Red Sox, our city’s reps in the Intercounty Baseball League, have been enjoying the glory days of summer since 1911. Their inaugural year was as a member of the Canadian Baseball League, where they would play until WW1 forced the league to fold. By 1934, they had a permanent position in the Intercounty Baseball League, which is considered to be one of the longest running amateur sports leagues in Canada.
I remember going to games as a kid, but for the real deal I went to the person I knew would have the good stories, my dad. Born and raised in Brantford it seems as though he knows everyone, and many of his friendships have their foundation in the local sports he played growing up. He loved to spend as much time as he could playing and watching baseball in the summers of his youth, and when I told him about the story I was writing we had a great talk about those days.
From Jim Huff:
It was big- years ago Cockshutt park had covered stands- stands made of wood- with bleachers in the field that would be full. It was the atmosphere I remember- the smell of the park, the crowd. We didn’t have it on TV so we went to watch the games.
That was the place- I remember Mitch, a volunteer with the team would get the balls that went over the stands. You had to give him back the ball even if you found it. There was a ball hit into the parking lot when I was coming to a game- I found the ball, tucked it in behind a tire - I waited, then I went back and got the ball, put it in my pocket and walked into the game. It was like finding treasure to a kid like me.
We played a lot of baseball, we’d go all through the neighbourhoods to play- Holmedale, Terrace Hill. Red Sox tickets were hard to get, and the games were full. The Shriners game was always packed, just incredible. They would build teams from local guys, but also bring in players from other teams and the States The guys often stayed to work in town for the summer, places like Blue Bird, then head back to their homes for the winter. Jimmy Wilkes (centre fielder) stayed in town after he played and worked for the city- always had a smile on his face and the kids loved him. Shanty Clifford worked with my dad at the school board- those guys were legends. Spudd Bush (pitcher) played for Brantford when they went on a run of championships- oh yeah, they cleaned up! George Carruth and Ted Baker- boys from Brantford- were really good.
We went to a dinner with the Red Sox one night- they all showed up in shirts and ties. They signed autographs for us all, real nice guys. If your name was pulled you got an autographed baseball. That’s me in the picture on the end.
That’s just the way I remember it as a kid. We couldn't wait to get to Cockshutt to watch baseball.
Cockshutt Park was renamed Arnold Anderson Stadium in 1998 in recognition of Brantford’s voice of local sports. For over 50 years Anderson promoted local sports at every level on CKPC radio. During the hockey seasons of the early 1970s, he was a big supporter of a young player named Gretzky.
I remember listening to the radio in the morning before school, hoping to hear a name I recognized from a high school game the night previous, maybe even my own. Besides his work on the radio, Anderson was the play by play announcer of many Brantford Red Sox's baseball games and all of the Brantford Alexanders Major A hockey games. He was eager to lend his support to teams, organizations, parents and individual athletes, an effort that is continued in the Arnold Anderson Sports fund. It is dedicated to giving youngsters the oppourtunity to participate in sports through grants that help with registration fees. Their website also hosts the Sports Portal, an online tool to search and discover child and youth sporting opportunities in Brantford for all ages, genders, and sport as well as costs, how to register and maps to facilities. Such a great way to honour someone who saw the benefit that “participation in sport, and the inherent relationships with others, are key contributors to the enhancement of the “the quality of life” for young people.”