1950 - 1954

Melfort Juniors
CHAMPIONS

Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame

Inducted
Saturday, August 18, 2001

______________________________________

The Magic Years
1948 - 1954

 

A book is a collection of many pages.  A life is of many moments.  This is about some young men, and some great moments.  Not a day goes by without a reflection, action or utterance by these men, that was not influenced by what they did, learned and gave of themselves during the events of those early days.  As a book reaches the final pages, only then does the story truly unfold.  So to, the moments in a life lead from one event to another and when summed together, offer a story; a history of the individual.  The elements that made them Champions in Baseball must have been a contributing factor to their success in Life.  The binding that keeps them together, forever, is like the binding of a book.  From the opening of the first page to the folding of the last.  For these young men, that binding is the Team.  That Team was honored fifty years later and each and every one had another great moment.  Like all those other moments, they shared this one together also. 

The Inductees were honored by the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame and each member was presented with a document such as the one shown below.  A Plaque was presented to Jack Payne of the Melfort Juniors who was designated to receive all honors on our behalf.  That saved a lot of valuable time for the organizers and allowed a number of people from across the province to be acknowledged that evening.  From the very young to the very "little older guys"

All Members of the Team received this award
I didn't earn this the way the others in the Team did
however, I am very pleased to have received it.

It was a proud moment for all of us connected to the Melfort Juniors.
Our thanks to the men and women of the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame
for providing such a wonderful tribute.  We are truly honored.
                                                                .....................Melfort Juniors

 Introduction:

        Many years ago, I was, in a small way, a part of the finest Junior Baseball team in Saskatchewan.  I was a Mascot for the Melfort Juniors.  Now, that may not seem important to a lot of people.  However, I can honestly tell you that the experiences that I had at that time and the subsequent reruns of events that I heard from my parents over the many years following those early days, developed into a strong kinship with these players.  Today, every time I see a game on TV or drive by a Ball Diamond, I am thrown back into time to relive some of the best moments in my life. As soon as I think about them I rerun the lessons of sportsmanship, desire to win, and dignity with defeat.  The sum of the moments have risen to assist me throughout my entire life, even without my knowing it, the lessons learned then have assisted me in so many ways up to and including this very day.  Admittedly, I was so young then that I should not remember such events.  However, the glimpses of reality that stuck with me are reinforced by the stories of my parents, repeatedly.  I never once lost interest in those stories.  It was a fascinating time in life.  It was the glory of youth and all it had to offer.

        The realization for me never happened until exactly fifty years later when, on August 18, 2001, the team was inducted into the Hall of Fame.  I traveled back to Saskatchewan for the event.  Upon arriving, I met with many of the team members.  I was amazed at the acceptance they had for me.  I was thrilled.  I had lived their success as a backstop to my own life. As a child and later as a young ball player in my teens, I built my own image of what it must have been like to be part of that team.  It was not until August 18 of 2001 that I finally found out.  I sat next to my heroes.  I shook hands and embraced my "ideals" not just people.  These were the people I tried to grow up and be like.  Because they were loved by my Father and Mother and spoken of so highly, they felt like brothers to me.  My father told me over and over about the stories of the "heart" of these boys and their "spirit".  When I played ball I always wondered if I would have been good enough to have made their team.  Now, here I was.  As I sat and talked with them about the "old days" and learned how their own lives had turned out, I could not help feel how proud my own Mother and Father would have been of them on this Hall of Fame occasion.  They loved those boys and from what I learned at the Induction, they had the highest regard for my parents, also.  It was a fabulous moment for all and for me, it was finally a closure.  I made the team.


Ronnie retreiving the bat that brought in a runner
My Field of Dreams was very real
                         .....Ron (Ronnie) Blackwell

______________________________________

How the Team started............

The Idea:     

 One day a few of the boys were standing on a street corner in Melfort, in fact it was the corner that the Star Store was on and Ernie (Blackwell) had a Furniture store across the street.  Oddly enough, my Mother, Jessie, worked in the Star Store before she married my father.  Now she worked with him in their store and they were about to get a bunch of visitors.  "We heard about a team starting up in another town and we thought we should start one.  We talked about it and decided to go see Ernie Blackwell to get things going".  "His store was just across the street"
 
                                  ...........summarized from statements by Pete Melnechuk 2001

Opening Day in Melfort
Opening Day

______________________________________

Our thanks to Dave Shury and the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame for their wonderful information and photos

The following is from interviews with the players and from newspaper accounts

        If the success of a team can be measured by its number of championships, then Melfort baseball and softball teams were successful in the second half of the century.  League, provincial and national championships were brought back to the community by teams in both sports and the people of Melfort supported each team emotionally and financially.  The Melfort Legion Juniors, the Melfort Burns Shamrocks, the Purity 99's, the Melfort Frost 222's and the Cheyenne Chevy-Olds 222's are examples of teams that wore Melfort colors into battle and came away victorious.


Ernie Blackwell at the mic

______________________________________

1948

The first team to claim the title of champions was the Melfort Legion Junior Baseball Club.  This team was unquestionably the most successful baseball team that has ever represented the community, claiming unprecedented five consecutive provincial junior baseball championships between 1950 - 1954.  The team was founded in 1948 by a furniture store proprietor, Ernie Blackwell who envisioned an opportunity for a junior baseball team.  The formation of this junior program created a competitive venue for the teenaged baseball players who previously were either playing non-structured baseball on the playground lots or attempted to play on the senior team.  Blackwell, the son of a carpenter, grew up in Melfort and loved the game of baseball. (1)  His furniture store was located at the south end of Main Street and was quite successful.  This provided him with financial resources to not only coach the team but also sponsor the team.  During the first few years of existence the team expenses came "directly out of Blackwell's pocket and the team was comprised of strictly local ball players" (2)  The team's inaugural season consisted of playing exhibition games and entering senior tournaments in the district in which they won a few and placed in the money in others. (3)  It was a fine start for Blackwell and his team but the future held much more for this baseball club. 
                             1.Interview with Jim McPhee  2.McPhee 3. Melfort Journal Aug. 6/48  


Where did it go?

______________________________________

1949

The 1949 season for the juniors was a step towards a larger goal.  Slowly pieces to the puzzle were added.  A key player acquisition was Blackwell's recruitment of a hard-hitting third baseman from the small village of Meskanaw, Doug Sinclair.  Sinclair had been playing senior ball in his home area before Blackwell asked him if he would like to join the juniors in late July of the 1949 season. (4)  Sinclair was regarded as one of the best players on the team and with the addition of others like Pete Melenchuk and pitcher Jim Lynell, Melfort now had a ball team that was competitive on the provincial level.  (5)  It was decided that this team would enter the provincial play downs for the first time.  At that time the provincial play down format was a progressive sequence of best of three series that eventually identified a northern provincial winner and a southern provincial winner.  These two teams would then play off in a best of five series to decide the provincial championship. (6)  
                                                  4. Sinclair Int.   5. McPhee   6. Decouteau Int

The Juniors had a first round Northern Provincial Junior Play-off date with Prince Albert in August of 1949.  The series was a best of three affair with the winner advancing to the northern semi final against Bruno.  Melfort was victorious against the favored Prince Albert squad eliminating them with two straight wins. (7)  Asa Fennel of Melfort was an umpire for the series.  The team from Bruno was the next challenge for the locals and proved to be formidable.  The best of three playoff series was scheduled to play game one in Bruno with games two, and if necessary, game three played back in Melfort.  On the road the Juniors were able to win game one but fell victim to strong Bruno pitching and lost both games at home. (8)     The loss concluded the Junior's first attempt at winning the provincial title but the lessons learned would prove to be beneficial in the next years to come.  Bruno advanced to the provincial final but was beaten by a strong Gull Lake Legionnaires team. (9) 
     7. Melfort Journal Aug 19/49   8. Melfort Journal Aug 26/Sep 2 /49  9. Wheat Prov. Diamonds pg# 374  


Melfort Dugout

______________________________________

1950


1950 Champions

The opening of the 1950 baseball season was met with great anticipation and optimism by the team and baseball fans of Melfort.  The Juniors were preparing to field a competitive team that showed much promise.  With Ernie Blackwell still at the coaching controls, added sponsorship from the Legion Club of Melfort was welcomed to defer the teams operation expenses.  The Royal Canadian Legion was developing sponsorship of youth baseball programs all across the province and the country and with added sponsorship of the local Legion the Juniors were able to realize their goals.  The town was becoming excited at the prospect of having a strong baseball representative and this excitement transformed into the desire for a new ballpark.  The assistance of the community was sought by the Kinsmen Club to upgrade and renovate the Kinsmen Baseball Park.  Through small financial donations and many volunteer hours the park was reconstructed.
 (10) Kinsmen Park was the "jewel of ball parks" in the north east of the province and was considered by many the best ballpark to be found in any community the size of Melfort. (11) 
                                                {10} Melfort Journal  Jun 2/50  11. McPhee

The Juniors had a new sponsor, a beautiful ballpark to play in and some new faces on the team.  They were ready to begin the season.  A junior baseball league was set up that season that included Melfort, Tisdale, Kinistino, Ridgedale, Meskanaw and Pleasantdale. (12)   In order to compete with larger centers at the provincial level, Melfort pulled players from other teams in the league for the 1950 provincial play downs. (13)   The Juniors played well advancing through the early rounds of provincial play to face Wynyard in the northern final.  The best of three series opened at Kinsmen Park and games two and three were to be played back in Wynyard.  Game three was not necessary as Melfort won the series in two straight games and now found themselves in their first provincial final. (14)    The opposition for the final series came from the much larger city of Regina, who were heavily favored to win the Saskatchewan Kiwanis Junior Baseball Championship. (15)    The series was hard fought and entertaining for the fans and Melfort was able to defeat the Regina Dales in three games to take home their first of five consecutive provincial crowns. (16)    In an effort to prolong the season and promote his team Blackwell was able to schedule a best of five series between his squad and the Alberta Junior Champions from Edmonton.  The event was billed as the series to determine the Alberta - Saskatchewan junior baseball champion of 1950. (17)    An outstanding Edmonton team, loaded with talent, arrived at Melfort's Kinsmen Park with much anticipation.  Edmonton humbled Melfort with three straight lessons in baseball and proved to be too strong for the Melfort Juniors.  Five members of the Edmonton team went on to sign professional baseball contracts. (18)    The Juniors lost some pride during that series but Melfort remained the 'Home of the Saskatchewan Junior Baseball Champions'. (19)      
                  12. Melfort Journal Jun 16/50  13. Decouteau Int  14. Journal Sep 8/50 15. Sinclair Int 
                              16.& 17  Melfort Journal Sep 22/50   18. Decouteau Int.   19. Sinclair Int.


Know any of these Fans?

______________________________________

1951


1951 Champions

The 1951 season found the Juniors in an unfamiliar position as the defending champions.  The team again brought in some key players to strengthen the team and replace those players that had moved. (20)    The season went smoothly for the Juniors with little resistance on their way to a second provincial crown.  They defeated Prince Albert and Saskatoon in the north and disposed of Raymore in the provincial final. (21 22 23)  The Juniors had captured the baseball interest of  Melfort.  The community had a champion to rally around and these young men were putting Melfort on the baseball map.  The team had the right combination of strong promotion, successful play and direction of leadership from Ernie Blackwell.(24)  
                                  21,22,23, Melfort  Journal Aug 27/Sep 7/21,1951   24. McPhee

Ronnie gets the bats just right.  Next one up takes off the bottom
All that work

______________________________________

1952


1952 Champions

The 1952 campaign began with the same commitment to winning but a major contributor to the past success was gone.  Ernie Blackwell had moved to Moose Jaw and had left his dual role as manage and coach of the team.  Two men assumed these roles.  George Edworthy, the operator of the Winston Hotel in Melfort, took over the managerial duties of the team.  (25)  The coaching reigns were handed to John Moroniuk, a Prince Albert native who was one of the best pitchers this province had produced. (26)  With the team under new guidance the season ran its course of league play and tournament ball and at the end of August the juniors were prepared to defend their provincial championship with an impressive 47 wins and 9 loss record. (27)    Once again the provincial play off trial passed through Prince Albert and Saskatoon in the north on route to the provincial final against Swift Current. (28)    The best of five finals, to be played over three days, was scheduled to be played entirely at Kinsmen park giving Melfort the favor of home field advantage.  Melfort took the first two games with convincing 10 - 2 and 14 - 2 scores but game three was called due to darkness with the teams deadlocked at 10 runs each.  Rain then became a factor and the series could not be completed in the allotted three days.  Swift Current was forced to return home in hopes that Melfort would travel to the southern town to conclude the championships.  Melfort agreed, on the condition that Swift Current would reciprocate the paying of travel expenses that Melfort had previously agreed to pay Swift Current in order to have the entire final played in Melfort.  The amount given to Swift Current was $500.00 and Melfort agreed that they would travel for that amount.  However, Swift Current offered Melfort a fraction of that amount in the sum of $180.00.  Melfort refused this offer and the matter went before the newly established Saskatchewan Junior Baseball Association (SJBA) executive for arbitration.  The SJBA ruled in favor of Melfort and ordered Swift Current to pay the $500.00 sum in travel expenses or forfeit the final series.  Swift Current eventually forfeited and the Melfort Juniors were awarded their third provincial title without throwing another pitch. (29)  
         25. Decouteau Int.  26. Wheat Prov. Diamonds pg 359   27.28.29 Melfort Journal Aug 22/29, 1952   

______________________________________

1953


1953 Champions

Training camp for the 1953 edition of the Juniors opened in April of that year.  A pattern had developed over the years of bringing in highly talented import players to strengthen the team.  It started under Blackwell and the number of these imports increased steadily over time under the new management.  The 1953 training camp saw the highest number of import players to that point. (30)   Melfort had become know as the 'Home of Junior Baseball'  (31)  and young ball players from around the province wanted to be apart of this successful program. (32)    When the final roster was selected that would compete for the provincial title that season 10 of the 13 players were imports. (33)    Although the majority of these imports were from within a 60 mile radius of Melfort, there were concerns that there was an obvious lack of "Melfort Boys" on the team. (34 35 36)    
      30. Melfort Journal  May 1/53    31. locate   32. 33. Decouteau   34.Lyle   35. Decouteau  36. McPhee   

The 1953 Juniors were members of the North Central Baseball League, which consisted of mostly senior teams, and at mid-point found them in first place. (37)     The Juniors again were proving their dominance in the district by leading the standing in a senior league and by winning most of the money tournaments in which they entered. (38)  
                                              37. Melfort Journal July 13/53     38. Lyle Int.

Pitching is a major component in the building of a successful ball team and Melfort had strong pitching.  The ace of the staff was a young man from Saskatoon, Bob Holowaty.  Holowaty, like many of the import players flocked to Melfort in the early 1950's because of the reputation the team had of being a junior baseball powerhouse. (39 40)    Holowaty was considered the premier junior pitcher in Saskatchewan and in the opinion of some was only held back from a professional career from a lack of height. (41)    Holowaty lead the team throughout the provincial play downs that year which included a performance that registered the first no-hitter shut out in Melfort Juniors' history. (42)  
                                  39. Decouteau Int.   40. McPhee Int.   41. Decouteau 
                                  42. 43. 44. Melfort Journal July 10/53  Aug 7/53  Aug 21/53

The team began the play downs as obvious favorites having won the three previous provincial titles but the ease at which they went through the competition was awesome.  Melfort advanced to the provincial final with straight sweep victories over each of their opponents, requiring the bare minimum of six games before reaching the final. (43)    Nipawin, Prince Albert and Saskatoon all fell in order as Melfort marched to a date in the provincial final against Shaunavon.  Unfortunately for Shaunavon they had run into a "baseball juggernaut" in Melfort and what was once a highly anticipated match up ended in a three game sweep in the best of five final in Melfort's favor.  (44)    The Juniors had gone through provincial play without a loss.  Perhaps this instilled confidence is what lead to Melfort's issuing the second Alberta - Saskatchewan junior championship challenge.  Three years previously a talented team from Edmonton arrived at Kinsmen Park and humbled the Saskatchewan champions in their own back yard.  However, memories of past defeat are short when a team is on a winning streak and Melfort set up the challenge with the Alberta champions from Pincher Creek, inviting them to Melfort to do battle at Kinsmen Park.
                                   43. Melfort Journal Aug 7/53   44. Melfort Journal Aug 21/53

The Alberta - Saskatchewan championship was to be a best of three series with all of the games taking place at Kinsmen Park.  In game one the Alberta champs drew first blood and scored in the first inning, little did they know at the time that this run would account for half of the runs that they would score in the entire series.  Melfort countered with single runs in their half of the third and fifth innings to take the victory in game one by a score of 2 -1. (45)   In game two Melfort sent their ace Bob Holowaty to the mound.  Holowaty was spectacular pitching eight innings of hitless ball surrendering a bloop single in the ninth inning before striking out the side.  This combined with the explosion of the Melfort bats resulted in a one-sided ball game.  When the dust had settled Pincher Creek found themselves on the losing end of a 16 -0 score.  Melfort had won the series and were crowned Alberta - Saskatchewan Junior Baseball Champions for 1953. (46)    Game three was played out and for the interest of the fans a purse of $250.00 was placed on the line.  "The locals let it be known early that they were not going to let too much money get out of town and they ran up four runs in their half of the first. (47)    Melfort continued to hammer the Alberta pitching and the end result was a 13 - 1 victory for Melfort.  This brought to an end the most successful season of the Melfort Junior Baseball Club. (48)     
                                         45. 46. 47.  Melfort Journal Sep 18/53     48. Decouteau Int.

______________________________________

1954

Melfort Juniors
1954 Champions
Photo Not Available

The summer of 1954 marked the seventh season for the Juniors and ultimately it would be their last.  The season started like all of the others; a try out camp was held, the team was selected and import players were brought in to fill weak positions within the team.  The provincial play down began that year with the Prince Albert Rockets.  The games were broadcast over C.K.B.I. Radio in Prince Albert and gave the Melfort fans the opportunity to follow the Juniors when they were not playing at Kinsman park. (49)   The Melfort squad who, "who were not ranked as highly as their predecessors", (50) challenged the best the province had to offer.  After disposing of the representatives from Prince Albert, Melfort registered victories over Birch Hills, Saskatoon and North Battleford before facing Estevan in the provincial final.  Melfort was represented in the provincial final for the fifth consecutive year.  However, the result of this final would not be as satisfying as the previous four.  (51)    Due to relentless rainfall that caused the postponement of the series and ultimately the cancellation of the final, the provincial body determined that the title would be split between the two teams.  Victory was not sweet for the juniors but they were still considered the provincial champions. (52)  
             49. 50. Melfort Journal July 14/54  51. Decouteau Int.   52. Wheat Province Diamonds pg   

It was during this provincial final series that all of the rumors and accusations pertaining to Melfort's practice of recruiting import players came to the forefront of discussions.  Unlike other years, signs of dissention within the team were starting to surface. (53)     The policy of the club executive was to pay the room and board for all of the players that made the team, including the local boys.  Jobs were also sought out for the members of the team to provide the players with a source of income that would afford them the opportunity to fulfill their commitments. (54)    The jobs room and board were not a secret but rumors began to spread that certain players were receiving extra money beyond their employment salaries.  The team's executive reportedly were supplementing the incomes of 'chosen' import players in order to attain their services for the junior team. (55)    These accusations were not only festering around the team but others were accusing Melfort of being an amateur/professional team.  
                           53. Decouteau Int.   54. Melfort Journal Oct 1/54   55. Decouteau Int.

Prince Albert's daily newspaper, The Herald, carried an article in their September 25, 1954 issue in which accusations pertaining to the operational practices of the Juniors were criticized.  the author of this article was the Herald's sports columnist Lionel Wilson.  The entire matter was sparked by a protest that Estevan had launched against Melfort after the final series.  The protest was submitted on the grounds that Melfort had utilized the services of an ineligible player.  Jerry Knutson was the relief pitcher in game two that held Estevan in check and allowed Melfort to win the contest.  Knutson was also a pitcher for the Birch Hills team that had previously lost to Melfort in the second round of provincial play.  The question was raised how could the same pitcher play for two teams in the play down in the same year? (56)     Melfort claimed that they had received permission to use knutson from the president of the S.J.B.A., Gus Bell of Saskatoon via a phone conversation before the final series started but were unable to attain written permission before the first game.  The protest went before the regional representatives of the S.J.B.A. and they voted in favor of Estevan.  As a result Melfort was penalized and had the game two victory stripped. (57)    This was the first time that Melfort had received any type of reprimand from the governing body as to their importing of players and it fueled the fire for more allegations.  The Herald accused Melfort of attaining the services of players after the deadlines for the formation of provincial rosters, (58) claiming that, "outside players have a habit of dropping into Melfort around play off time after performing with some other club the first part of the season." (59)
               56. 57.  Prince Albert Herald  Sep 25/54      58. Prince Albert Herald  Sep 27/54   59. ibid

The Lionel Wilson article was met with strong opinions from the Melfort Journal.  Journal sports reporter Scotty Morrison called the accusations a "slur against the integrity of the men who did so much to get junior baseball on an organized footing" in the province. (60)    Morrison went on to say that Wilson and whom ever he was representing, "were jealous of a community that can gather together a group of boys, practically all from the north-eastern corner of the province and produce a baseball team that will rate with the best senior clubs in Saskatchewan, we can tell them better ways of getting a team that will win championships than writing columns slurring the efforts other others."  (61)
                                                      60. Melfort Journal  Oct 1/54       61.ibid

The article in the Melfort Journal did raise some emotional support defending the Juniors run on provincial titles but the Prince Albert Herald article raised two important points that could not possibly be overlooked by the Juniors executive and the baseball fans of Melfort.

"Melfort's hook or by crook methods of winning baseball games produces unfavorable effects in at least two ways.  Other junior clubs who try their best with strictly amateur lineups become discouraged and disgruntled at playing a club that plays on a play-for-pay basis.  Secondly, Melfort native kids would probably like a chance to catch a spot on their town's junior club but what hope have they against the much superior imports?  Their playing days would end on a corner lot or in the Little League or Pony League unless they have exceptional ability" (62) Prince Albert Herald Sep 25/54

The debate slowly fizzled away as the hockey season approached and despite the bad press and the internal disruption the Juniors were still the defending provincial champions, but the team would not recover from the turmoil of the 1954 season.

______________________________________

1955

The 1955 version of the Juniors was slow in getting started and this unusual lack of organization left people wondering if Melfort would or could field a junior team.  The reality of the situation was that the finance well had run dry. (63)   The executive lead by President Walter Schmidt called for the support of the community at a meeting on May 6th, 1955. (64)    In his address to the small group of people that had turned out for the organization meeting, Schmidt brought forward the major concerns of the executive; 
                                         63. Copeland Int.  64. Melfort Journal Apr 28/55

"the time has come when we should endeavor to form a team of local boys instead of bringing in players and paying their board and room and hoping to find them employment, although a winning team draws crowds, to possibly have a championship club it would require outside help (players) but the effort was to costly and the finding jobs for summer employment was next to impossible."
(65) Melfort Journal May 12/55

It was decided shortly after this meeting that for the first time in eight years Melfort would not have a representative in the Saskatchewan junior baseball play downs.  The club would attempt to field a team of locals and run the team as a juvenile team.  (66)   
                                                                   66.  Melfort Journal Jun 9/55

The disbanding of the Melfort juniors program could be described as an end of an era in Melfort ball history.  (67)    The club had been the most successful junior baseball team in the province for five consecutive years.  Provincial championships, league and tournament victories all were combined in these winning seasons.  The truth of the situation was that it was inevitably going to end.  Dynasties in sport are halted for various reasons.  The juniors causation was the lack of local talent on the team.  The team consisted of mostly imported players and the local players' abilities were not developed.  The team that was started in 1948 under Ernie Blackwell was comprised of players from town and surrounding centers within the district.  (68 69 70 71)    Then gradually the local talent dissipated in favor of highly talented import players that were brought in to help the club win.  The beginning of the end may have surfaced as early as 1950 after the first championship.  Melfort was beaten badly by Edmonton in the Alberta - Saskatchewan Challenge that placed an obvious importance on winning for the junior club.  Granted the championship seasons may have not occurred in such high numbers, if at all, with a team of strictly local players.  The players brought in were highly skilled and would have ended up on other teams making those teams stronger but money bought a winning team at the expense of the local players who were not given the opportunity to play for their home town team.  This may have affected the future of baseball in Melfort and contributed to the take over of softball in the late 1950's and early 1960's.  
    67. Copeland Int.   68. Melfort Journal Apr 14/55  69. Copeland Int.  70. McPhee Int.  71. Decouteau Int.

The demise of the Juniors left an obvious void in the Melfort ball scene in 1955.  No longer was there the annual anticipation and excitement that had surrounded the opening of the baseball season and the possibility of a provincial championship.  The baseball interest turned to a group of local men that had been playing in relative obscurity during the reign of the juniors.  The Melfort Senior baseball club had been continually organizing and playing during the early 1950's with little recognition.  The Seniors received little press and were, "just a bunch of guys having fun" (72)   playing the game that they loved.  The team played strictly exhibition and tournament ball.  (73) 
                                                                          72. Pat Copeland Int.  
 Pat was the president of the Melfort Seniors executive in 1955 and played on the team until 1958.  73.  Ibid

______________________________________

1956

In 1956 the Seniors had formed a better than average team and continued to travel and play along the tournament trail throughout the district.  (74)    Baseball enjoyed immense popularity in the smaller communities in the district.  Each town and village had their own team which competed faithfully in the various sports days and tournaments in the district. (75 76)     Pleasant Valley, Ethelton and Meskanaw were consistently fielding strong baseball teams year after year. (77) 
                     74. Melfort Journal Aug 1/56   75. Harry Lyle Int.  76. Pat Copeland Int.   77. Ibid 

Baseball was still the sport of choice in the minor ball system in Melfort in the late 1950's and early 1960's.  Local service clubs and businesses provided the financial support for the teams competing in the sandlot divisions. (78)    A group of slightly older Babe Ruth division players had a team formed by Claire Purdy. (79)    Claire was a cattleman who loved the game of baseball and saw a need for the organization of a team for this particular age group of players.  In 1958, acting as the coach a sponsor, Claire started the team under the name the Melfort Burns Shamrocks. (80)    Claire did it all.  He bought the equipment, uniforms, booked the games and tournaments and was the on - field coach.  He was a good man who loved the game and spending time with boys.  (81)    Claire, "did a lot for the young people of Melfort", and most importantly he gave the local boys the opportunities to play baseball in their hometown. (82)    "Claire had a heart as big as a house and he was a character.  He handled those boys very well and not with an iron hand .......  Those boys worked their guts out for that man" (83)     From a players' stand point Claire was a good man, that may have lacked coaching expertise, but made up for it with his endless time and dedication to the team. (84) 
78. Melfort Journal Apr 24/58   79. Wheat Province Diamonds pg 286   The age of Babe Ruth  Players is 13 - 15 years of age.  The Sask. Minor Baseball Association governs this division.  80. Gene McCrae Int.  Gene was a former Captain of the Shamrocks who later went on to become a key member of the Frost 222's softball team.
81. Pat Copeland Int.   82. Harry Lyle Int.  83. Pat Copeland Int.   84. Gene McCrae Int.

______________________________________

Ernie Blackwell

1913 - 1985

        
Ernie Blackwell              Ron & Ernie  
1950                        1948

COACH - MANAGER - FRIEND - FATHER


Click to Enlarge
Ernie - Jessie - Ron
Photo taken about 1968 in Moose Jaw
I have included this photo for those teammates that lost contact with
 Ernie & Jessie Blackwell after they left Melfort.  Ron was a mascot as seen on the 1950/1951 photos.
It is the only photo of the three of us that I could locate.
 


Click to Enlarge
The People of Moose Jaw built and named the Little League Diamond
in honour of Ernie Blackwell for all his hard work and dedication
to the sporting world in the community.  It is a great honour.

 


 

Merle Liepert  #4  Melfort Juniors
 
Merle Leipert
   Shortstop - Melfort Juniors  
4

We lost Merle in 1975.  He was a great ballplayer and was with the Melfort Juniors all the way.  He was Shortstop for the team.  He stole so many bases he should have been arrested.  A story was told to me by my parents that ties in with a vivid recall from my childhood.  It was during a game at the Kinsman Park in Melfort.  Merle was on second and I think is was Jack Payne that came to bat.  Holowaty was on deck, I think.  I am not really sure.  By the time my father got done telling the story he had been through the line up at least twice.   The first pitch went by but the second one was not so lucky.  Jack poked that thing into a safe zone and Merle was a blur.   Now, as Mascot, I ran out to gather Jack's bat that landed on the base line.  I did my duty.  I leaned over to pick it up and as I looked up towards third base to see my father standing in the coaches box with our family dog, Jiggs (also in the coaches box)  I noticed my Dad had his hat off and was waving Merle to continue to Home Plate.  Merle, at that moment was coming off of third and on the way home.  I looked at Merle, he looked at me and I knew I was in big trouble.  All of a sudden I was air lifted out of their by Bob Holowaty.  I think he grabbed me by my belt.  Now that was a real save.  This Mascot stuff can get dangerous when your with the Juniors.  I was reminded of this story many times during my growing up years.  It was also told to me, that after the game when we arrived home, my mother tried to explain to me the dangers of such stupidity.  My Dad was a little more "realistic".  He bent down and looked at me and said:  "Son, you could have cost me a run...."  Enough said.  I never made that error again.

    When I played ball I was the second baseman, and sometimes shortstop.  I did some pitching and my batting was usually good for a first base hit.  I did not have much power at the plate due to my size.  But my love was on the infield.  I remembered Merle, and how he stole the bases and could get in under the second baseman.  That taught me a lot about how to "stand" the base with a runner inbound. 

       I always remember Merle as joyful, almost mischievous.  He always seemed ready for anything.  That was just the kind of guy he was.  He certainly was devoted to the team.  Many years later I would see Merle from time to time as he visited Moose Jaw.  It was always great.  Naturally, He and my father would talk about the old days in Melfort and I enjoyed these conversations as I could now actually take part in them.  It was great reliving those days and stories.  Merle was kind to me and that mattered.  I know his parting was a dreadful loss to his family.  I must also say that I was very impressed to see all his family at the Induction Ceremonies.  They were there in full force and they all wore matching hats in the Melfort Junior Colours and on their hats was the big number 4.   It was great.  Merle would be proud.

..............Ron Blackwell (Mascot)

 

Melfort Juniors 1950 - 1954
Champions

Province of Saskatchewan

Comment: 
I started doing my genealogy website and when it came to the page for my father, it was natural to include the Team as it was such an important time for him that it stayed with him throughout his life as he contributed to baseball at all levels.  Then, the Team was inducted into the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame,  I knew at that time that a comment and a photo would not suffice, there had to be more to enter into the website.  Having attended the Induction Ceremonies, I was truly made aware of what those years "really" meant, not just to my parents, but others as well.  That is why this little website was created and why it is located on the Blackwell Genealogy website.  However, it is the real property of the Melfort Juniors.  I hope we can add to it someday.

To return to these Melfort Pages, go to www.blackwellgenealogy.com/melfort1.htm


 

Great Link

Baseball stats and information
This is an excellent Website that takes you back to the old days.  Click on the Logo.
Other years are offered but I have set it to go to 1953. 

____________________________________________________________


Top