The Burlington Oldtimers Slo-Pitch League History
Founding of the League:
Contributed by Jerry Large, Ed Ashley-Smith and Andy Smith.
In the late 1970's there was interest in summer activities by some of the players in the BOHC. The idea of a baseball league soon emerged. A sign up sheet was posted in the BOHC lounge (Hectors) on Morris Drive. In 1980 the league was started by Gary Wright, a Stelco employee along with co-worker Andy Smith. According to Andy, 14 players making up two teams were the first members of the league in the summer of 1980. The season lasted a couple of weeks and was played on two diamonds in Burlington. The original season was played following Mushball rules (no glove and using a soft mush ball) but after several broken fingers it was decided to adopt traditional baseball play using a baseball glove for the following season.
Following the first season, interest picked up and it quickly grew to four teams and then to eight teams soon after. Two other members were involved in the organization during this early period; Norm McAlbeck and Wayne Dobbin. The original 8 teams as reported by Andy were:
- Original two teams from BOHC
- Navy Club
- Bell Telephone
- Sherwood Tavern
- Algo Transport - later became Coronation Tavern
The teams were set and there were no open drafts each year. To join the league it was a prerequisite that you bring a full team AND a ball diamond to play on. It was more difficult to organize the second condition than getting a team together. The league abolished the set teams format in 1990 and moved to an OPEN draft system. Since 1990 new players are able to join the Oldtimers League and not join a team; this has been a very important distinction of BOSL from others in Burlington.
Gary Wright founded the Ladies Slo-Pitch League shortly afterward with similar success.
The Early Years:
Contributed by Dave Langdon.
In 1981 with eight teams ready to go, Jerry Large told me - "Congratulations, you're the equipment manager". The equipment was purchased at Litzen Sports in Oakville. Besides the wooden bats, mushballs and bases, we tried a few "bright pink" balls. We thought it might help the "aged ones" see the ball better as it got dark on the diamonds. That was voted out not long after.
I was fortunate enough to win the very first championship. Of course it helped to have Lloyd Nicholson and Tom Chadwick on our team. The two towering giants hit many home runs over the fence helping our cause. I was the winning pitcher - unfortunately my ERA records were never kept.
Umpires (founding of our Mercy Rule):
Contributed by Ed Ashley-Smith.
In the early 1980s there were no umpires. Each team provided one player to umpire another game (not their own team) at another diamond. I was selected and made arrangements to meet up with my team after upiring my game at another park. The meeting place was not surprizingly as a pub. I went to the pub and had a beer and waited, had another beer and waited, and waited... Much later it was getting dark and I thought something must have gone wrong; injury, wrong pub or something. Finally some of the players showed up. The team had lost 64-6. "It takes a long time to score 64 runs" said one of my teammates.
The outcome was the founding of our 8 run mercy rule.
In the late 1980s, John Arris was responsible for organizing league umpires to replace the player volunteers. John encouraged the umpires to take the training courses and become carded umpires. The league paid for the training but not for the seeing eye dogs.
Contributed by Owen Durkin.
Someone forgot the liquor permits for a tournament in the 1980s. Owen Durkin went to the City and met with Rudy Goree (brother of Al Goree of Al's Sports) who said there was noithing the City could do. Rudy suggested renting an RV and parking it at the park like a mobile trailer home and using it for beer. Owen called an RV business in Burlington and rented 5 RVs for the tournament, one for each team and one extra. The one condition was that the potties not be used on any of the RVs. Of course the bushes at Sherwood were well-watered that weekend. The league had no funds to rent the RVs so Owen put the rental on his personal credit card. After the RVs were returned in perfect condition the charge was ripped up.
- The site for the year-end tournament was Brant Hills until the late 1990s
- The league held three tournaments each year; Mid-Season (June), Ladies League Mixed (August), and the Year-End (September)
- At one time there was an Ontario Open Tourney sponsored by the league. It was open to outside teams and was a qualifier for the Ontario Championships. No BOSL team ever won the tourney and it was dropped as the competitive element of the tournament was not in keeping with the league.
- Two times in the 1990's rain during the tournaments led to some innovation. Home plate and the infield were under water at Brant Hills. In desperation to play, the diamonds were reversed with the outfield set up with bases and outfields standing in the infield with water up to their ankles. Play did go on and champions were crowned.
Contributed by Dave Missons
The Trafalgar beer tourney in the mid-1990's - The executive tried something different by contracting with an Oakville craft brewery for the year end tourney. The brewery was Trafalgar Brewery. There was a beer tasting night for the executives held in advance at the brewery and everything tasted just great! Come the weekend there must have been a change in batch because the beer at the tourney was so bad that it caused a near riot among league members. Some went out and purchased their own cases of beer and peddled it to others, ignoring our league rules and City permits. Outcome was suspension to the members selling beer and a vow to never again mess with tried and proven beer at a year end tournament.
League Growth and Development:
The league grew from 8 to 12 to 14 to 16 to 18 teams at its peak in the mid 1990's for one season. The menegement of 18 teams for tournaments was very difficult and it went back to 16 teams after just one season at 18 teams.
In the mid 1980's the league became more formalized and voted an executive team to run its operations. The first President was Jerry Large for 5 years followed by John Lisson followed by Bill Goodwin in 1990 until 1993. Other executive members in the 1980's included Warner Thomas, Gary McCracken, Owen Durkin, and Larry Cockshutt. Other execs in the 1990's included Dave Little, John Robertson, Keith Dunlop, Dan McAllister, Paul Ritchie, Karl Pilatzke, Gary Marshall, Dave Missons, Jim Matz, Jim Moriarty, Gary Verdone, Rolly Charron, Bill Martin and Tom Braithwaite.
Executive Recruiting: Contibuted by Dave Little
The league forgot to obtain a liquor permit for a tournament up at Brant Hills Park. In desparation, Dave went to the LCBO to see if there was anything that could be done. At the LCBO, Dave was helped by a nice employee who seemed to know his stuff for liquor and permits. He was so helpful that he pulled a rabbit out of a hat and issued us a permit for the tournament.
Dave Little was so impressed with Dave Missons assistance he asked if he wanted to join the league and "LCBO" Dave said yes. Hence Dave Missons became a league member and official liquor permit organizer for the league.
A very sad sidebar note to the story; the league got the liquor permit but forgot to get the City permit for the park. All liquor sales were shut down even before the tourney started.
The Old Diamonds
Baseball diamonds used by the league over the years include Fuller Brush (now Home Depot), General Brock, Breckin School, Champlain School, Lowville (with its giant mosquitoes), Bayview (with model airplanes passing overhead), Leighland (with its always wet fields), Brant Hills, Holy Rosary School, Spruce Park, Sheldon Park, Frontenac, Iroquois and Clarksdale.
Uniforms: Contributed by Owen Durkin
Colourcraft was the league uniform supplier in the late 1980's. Colourcraft was operated by Guy Wellwood, brother of Bonar Wellwood, from a small office on Industrial Drive. Every year the uniforms were promised to be ready for the league opening and were actually ready sometime in late May or early June. The executive would drive around to diamonds in the early season to deliver uniforms to teams. The uniform dress code was put into effect usually by July 1st weekend due to the always late delivery.
In the late 1980's the league wore black pants for all players. One of the team captains offered to wash the pants prior to first wearing. Afterwards the pants came out brown due to the bleach. The rest of the league wore black pants that year as that one team wore brown.
In the mid 1990's, the shirts were so uncomfortable (nipple shirts) to wear they would chaffe your chest to the point where you had to wear an undershirt. Gary Marshall had an idea to raise money with league undershirts. He got a little excited and ordered 800 shirts. For about 5 years we did everything we could to get rid of these shirts - prizes in tourneys, etc to the point we were sick and tired of seeing them.
In the one year we had 18 teams, in order to pick 18 different colours, PINK was chosen. The condition was Owen and Danny McAllister were in charge of uniforms and since they picked it, their team wore it. Their team went on to be pretty in pink that year as the league champs.
It wasnt until the late 1990's that league uniforms were ready for the first day after switching suppliers (to Trimark)
In the early days, the league used only wooden bats.
Litzen's held an annual equipment show at the Collins Hotel in Dundas. The executive would go order the equipment and uniforms from the manufacturer's reps on a Sunday morning in early March.
In the late 1980's, Warner Thomas collected, inspected, cleaned and stored the league equipment at his place of work (Union Pump). Each Spring, Warner had all the equipment refurbished and ready to go for the "Play Ball" call. Inn the 1990's after Warner became ill, Dave Little took over storage duties at White Radio near Sherwood Park. After each season, the league executive would put the equipment in winter storage.
Achievements and Milestones
The Burlington Oldtimers Slo-Pitch League was incorporated in 1992. Legal work was provided by league member Bob Martin of Lakeshore Lawyers.
Over the years, the league has supported a charity every season. Some of these in the 1990's were:
- Halton Women's Place
- Joseph Brant Cancer Research Foundation
- Holy Rosary Breakfast Program
- The Carpenter Hospice
The Warner Thomas Pavilion
Contibuted by Dave Little
Sadly, as part of the City of Burlington’s decision to revitalize Sherwood Park, our 24-year old Pavilion was demolished in summer, 2018.
The new plan includes a brand new concrete slab Pavilion, that includes a roof with a designer hole in it. Not sure how successful that’s been at Haber Park, during the rainy days and/or while the guys are looking for cover from the sun, but we will find out next year. We do appreciate the efforts the City makes to upgrade our recreational areas in the City and there are many great benefits to their new plan. BOSL members were at every public meeting and involved as much as allowed.
The Burlington Oldtimers Slo-Pitch League www.bosl.ca takes a lot of pride in hosting three charity tournaments every year at Sherwood. The money we raise for the Burlington Food Bank helps them out during the slow summer months and the boys get to enjoy a busy weekend of slo-pitch outside at Sherwood.
We’ve always been proud to belong to BOSL – its much more than a baseball league – it’s a family that helps out the community in every way possible. So many great people before us got us all this far – almost 40 years strong! Here’s to the guys that paved the way and to their tremendous donation and efforts over the years.
Driving Factors behind building it
With the expansion of the league to 14 and then 16 teams and with a planned 1994 expansion to 18 teams - the logistics of holding a tournament at Brant Hills with only 3 playing fields was getting too difficult. Some games had to be held at lower quality fields like Champlain School, Clarksdale School, Leighland Park. Also all teams were not at the park at the same time, thereby reducing camaraderie and beer sales!
The League wanted to make a permanent improvement to the City's best baseball
facility at Sherwood Park; to leave its mark. to demonstrate good corporate citizenship, to give something back to the Community that all residents could enjoy. From a League only point of view, we hoped that our gift to the City would encourage the City to give us Sherwood permanently for all tournaments plus allow them to favorably consider our requests for playing privileges at better parks such as Nelson Central.
Once the decision was made to proceed we had to sell the City on the idea. This necessitated several trips to City Hall by Dave Little, Gary McCracken and Jim Matz. At City Hall we received strong support from Oldtimer league member, Jim Olmstead, who was City Works Manager at the time and Doug Pladsen who was responsible for Parks. Jim and Doug helped us through the red tape at City Hall and in the preparation of our proposal lo City Council.
At the same time as we were working with City Hall, we were getting tenders for the construction of the pavilion. Three tenders were submitted with the best bid coming from member Danny Mc/\llister.
Armed with the proposal that would be submitted to Council and the 3 tenders, a meeting of league members was held. The corporate by-laws required that any capital expenditure over a certain dollar amount be approved by a majority of members at a special meeting. Over 100 members attended this meeting and with only one dissenting
vote, approval was given to the resolution to spend a maximum amount of $25,000 on the construction of the pavilion at Sherwood.
The final hurdle was overcome when Dave and Gary attended a meeting of City Council, made the League's proposal and received unanimous approval for a 10 year interest free loan to fund the construction project.
Construction was not completed in time for the June tournament, which for the first time was held at Sherwood. As we all baked in the hot sun at treeless, wide open Sherwood, we knew that come September we'd have a roof over our heads!
Later in the summer, Warner Thomas, a longtime League and Executive member, and Sponsor, passed away after a long and courageous battle with cancer. The executive felt that there could be no better testimonial to Warner and what he had contributed to our League than to name the Pavilion in his memory. Jim Olmstead and his colleagues at the City wholeheartedly agreed.
In September, 1994 between games of the year end tournament, with Warner's family and City officials in attendance, the Warner Thomas Pavilion was formally named and donated to the City of Burlington by our League. It's an event we can all remember with great pride every time we play at Sherwood.
Warner Thomas Captain of the Year Award
contributed by Dave Little
The award was donated to the League by Bob Litzen of Litzen Sports. Warner served on the BOSL executive for many years from the late 1980's to the early 1990's. He had responsibility for uniforms and equipment while he was on the Executive and worked closely with Bob Litzen to make sure the League's equipment needs were met. Bob considered Warner a great friend and wanted memory of Warner to be a permanent part of the League.
Thus the Warner Thomas Award - presented annually to the Captain(s) who most exemplifies the Oldtimer spirit of fun, fellowship and good sportsmanship; exactly as Warner was seen to league members.
Willard Pilatzke Award -- Oldtimer of the Year Award
Willard was a true Oldtimer who played in the baseball and hockey leagues. On the occasion of his 70th birthday, in May 1992, the Oldtimers baseball game was halted to make a special presentation at home plate. Keith Grafam, captain of the team, made a
presentation to Willard on behalf of the players. Willard was very happy about the presentation but when he went to bat someone had misplaced his favourite bat and the game was halted a second time until it was located.
The next season Willard signed up to play and a month into the season took sick and died very quickly. The Oldtimers Newsletter of 1993 said "The Burlington Oldtimers Slo-Pitch League is greatly saddened by the passing of its most senior member, Willard Pilatzke. Willard played every game with a competitive spirit and enthusiasm that was a motivation and inspiration to all around him. Willard brought a joy and happiness to everyone he came in contact with. He was a leader in our League and an invaluable example of what our league stands for. We will miss him very much and will always have wonderful memories of this fine man who so exemplified the Oldtimers Spirit''.
Contributed by Karl Pilatzke
Willard Pilatzke joined the Burlington Old-timers Hockey league in 1975 at the urging of long time member Charlie Spurr. Charlie suggested he might be happier in his outlook if he got out and had some fun with the guys. Willard was 53 years old and a widower who had not been actively involved in sports for decades. Fortunately Willard was very physically fit and thought he would give it a try. It was probably the best decision he ever made. He thrived on spending time with and meeting all the fellows and as soon as the Slo-Pitch division became available he was hooked year round.
He was always very competitive. In baseball he played all the infield positions when he first started. He changed to pitcher in his post 60 years and played that position until right before his sudden passing in 1993. In the Hockey league he was nicknamed Mr.
Plus - Minus. He could tell you without prompting what his plus-minus record was for the year.
The Oldtimers leagues made Willard's last 18 years on this planet a lot of fun for him. He exemplilied the Oldtimer's philosophy of great fellowship as well as competition.
We also shared the distinction of the only Father and son Oldtimers in the league. In his
final year, Willard and I were on the same team together, a unique experience to last a lifetime. My family was honored when BOSL named the spirit award after my father. The award is presented annually to the Ball Player who demonstrates the spirit of the
league, what the Old-timers is all about. On behalf of my late Father and myself I thank the league for providing the opportunity for so many to have such a great time...
also see Mr. Willard Gerhart Pilatzke
25 Years of Memories
From Jim Nisbet (written 2005)
Jim Nisbet had been in the league from the beginning. Jim contributed these memories accumulated over 25 years.
I am proud to be one of the original 14 players in our league which began in 1980. In the first year we played our home games against a Girls team from Hamilton.
My first captain was Wayne Scarlett (a super guy) and he asked me to assist him. We played one game a week on Sunday mornings. After learning the ropes from Wayne for a year, I progressed to becoming a captain.
In the early years besides carrying bats, balls, gloves, bases, measuring tape and hammer, we lugged home plate which was a rubber mat. On one occasion I was rushing to Fuller Brush to set up the diamond when a wheel cover fell off my 1974 Buick LeSabre convertible. I decided to look for the spoked wheel cover after our game as the game time was getting close. Needless to say someone else found my wheel cover making this game an expensive experience!
In 1992, Dan McAllister's 4M Company sponsored the team. The other teams teased us about our PINK shirts. We had the last laugh when Captain Owen Durkin and Dan McAllister led us to the championship title. Only fitting, our winning prizes were nice
PINK Sports Shirts.
In 1999, our team was sponsored by Waymark Construction represented by Wayne Stoughton and Mark Kennedy. Under the outstanding leadership of Captains Jim Craig and Joe McGregor and Jessie O'Hagan our scorekeeper, our Waymark team captured the 99 championship. Our reward was an Ash City Pro-collection sports shirt. Thanks to President Tom Braithwaite and his executive for purchasing top quality. Our players were treated to a team party at Boston Manor by our sponsors, Wayne and Mark.
I used to enjoy the Co-Ed tournaments along with the social times back at the club with the ladies. The Snow Pitch tournament in January was another fun time and a challenge to the footing. Some players compensated for the cold by carrying a flask strictly for survival purposes. Chili and drinks back at the club climaxed a fun winter day.
I have been fortunate to have been on fun and friendly teams in every one of the 25 years in the league; win lose or draw. My thanks to the all the Presidents and Executive members who have put in so much time and effort to make the B.O.S.L. such a success
over a quarter of a century.