“It was a nice event,” said Richie Van Allen, who helped spearhead the Cardinal’s nomination effort. “It was very well organized and they treated us very well.”
About a dozen former Cardinal players – along with almost two dozen other guests affiliated with the local contingent – were on hand for the occasion.
In total, more than 400 people attended the ceremony held at the Alex Dillabough Centre.
This year’s list of inductees into the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame includes players, teams and a family, hailing mostly from Saskatchewan and Alberta.
It marked the museum’s 30th annual induction ceremony, enshrining 16 new people, places and teams into the annals of Saskatchewan baseball history.
The Cardinals were inducted in the team category, along with the 1932-36 Regina Nationals.
The Climax induction included a team picture of a squad from the 1970s – because it represented a good cross section of teams over the years – but it is the Cardinal’s entire program that was being honoured with the Hall of Fame recognition. In many ways, it is the community itself that is really being recognized for eight decades of baseball excellence.
“It’s not just a team, it’s really the history of Climax that is being inducted – we were just there to receive it,” said Van Allen.
Climax has a long and distinguished history in the sport that dates back to the establishment of the village in 1923 with the arrival of the railroad. In fact, the first improvement to the village was the building of a ball diamond that same year.
From 1925 until the late 1930s, the Climax Cardinals were unbeatable. Teams from the cities, like Regina, Moose Jaw, Weyburn and others were no match for the formidable Cardinals.
Cash tournaments and weekend small-town “Sports Days” were common events throughout the summer months.
It was a golden age for baseball in the province more than half a century ago. Every community had a ball team and games generated all kinds of excitement for local fans. Even hockey didn’t enjoy that sort of popularity or widespread participation.
The Climax Cardinals were a powerhouse throughout that era. They captured a number of league titles and drew huge crowds.
The team was well known across the whole province.
In the 1940s, several Negro league touring squads from the U.S. graced the Climax ball diamond. Two of the teams were the St. Louis Black Cardinals. It was not uncommon to see between 500 and 1000 fans in the grandstands during the games.
The community continued to produce championship calibre teams right up until about a decade ago.
Baseball, unfortunately, has been on a decline in recent years across the province, although it remains a popular sport in some areas.
Many small towns no longer have senior baseball teams, including Climax. The last official Cardinals appearance occurred in 2005 with an alumni game.
But the Hall of Fame helps honour the sport’s important legacy. It houses items that not just tell a baseball story, but the history of small town Saskatchewan.
“It’s really preserving history – and they do it by calling it the Hall of Fame,” said Van Allen.
The museum has an outstanding display of memorabilia including uniforms, photographs, baseball bats, baseballs, equipment, trophies and more.
The institution was organized in 1983, with the initial set of inductees in 1985. Dave Shury was a driving force behind the museum’s creation and he remained a tireless volunteer worker with the organization until his death in 2008. Since then, his wife Jane Shury has taken over the reins of the musuem and she remains its most dedicated supporter and administrator.
The Hall of Fame induction ceremony last week featured guest speaker Bill Humber of Bowmanville, Ont., one of Canada’s foremost sports historians.
The event also included a special ceremony earlier in the day when a crowd gathered in front of the museum for the unveiling of the biggest bat in Canada.
Progressive Yard Works in Saskatoon produced the bat, measuring 55 feet long with a five-foot diameter. The bat is six feet longer than the previous biggest bat in Canada located in Edmonton.
This year’s induction of the Climax Cardinals wasn’t the first time the team has made a contribution to the Hall of Fame.
In 2012, the Mything brothers – Ken, Orvil and Allan – all great pitchers and played for almost five decades starting in the 1940s, were all inducted into the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame. Orvil was among those who attended last week’s ceremony. Horace CoMartin, another Cardinal great, was inducted into the Hall in 1989.
There are also several other items at the museum with Climax connections.
The Hall also welcomed a dozen individuals in the player’s category, including Frederick Cardwell from Kelowna, B.C., the late Stan Green from Kamsack, the late Bob Herron who played with the North Battleford Beavers from 1952-53, White Rock, B.C.’s Brian Keegan, Dean Mathison from Leader, Charlie Meacher from Moose Jaw, Ross Morrison from Medicine Hat, Alta., Harvey Nybo from Lac Pelletier, Kevin Ritchie from Wilcox, Edwin Rolheiser from Rosetown, Bob Silzer from Saskatoon and the late Lloyd Woolley from Regina.
Other inductees included the town of Muenester (in the Community Category) and the Varjassy family of Kipling (in the Family category.)
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