Larry Stout, who wrote this piece to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the occasion, holds a photo of the 1957 South Central Border League Champions. Back row, left to right: Don Walker, John Murray (playing coach), Jim McIntosh, Raymond Ganske, Larry Stout, Charlie McCullough, Frank Arnett, Wayne Sylvester. Front row, left to right: Dennis Woods, Armin Gitzel, Ernie Woods, Bob Lees, Fred Vankoughnet, Bill Fuller, Dennis Hunter. Missing from photo: Phil Bottrel. (EMILY DISTEFANO)
Sixty years ago, the Carman Cardinals won the South Central Border League Senior Baseball Championship, defeating Plum Coulee in the finals.
It was a well-balanced, highly competitive league that Carman joined after the Manitoba-Dakota Pro League came to an end for Carman in 1955.
All of the players were from the area, with no imports.
The league consisted of teams from Carman, Miami, Morden, Winkler, Altona on the Canadian side and Neche, Cavalier and Walhalla on the U.S. side of the border.
It was exciting baseball to watch because there was good parity in the league.
There were some very good players in the league that had played pro ball.
The most notable was Almer McKerlie from Miami, who used to catch for Carman in the ManDak league. Carman also had players that had pitched a little for the Cardinals Pro team. They were Fred Vankoughnet and John Murray.
We can’t forget players like Pat Angers and Bobby Thomson from Miami, Jake Penner and Richard Clark from Plum Coulee and Weldon Ridley from Morden.
Regular league games would draw 300 to 400 fans and play-off games would draw upwards of 700 fans. (When baseball was ‘king’ in the summer and there were no computers.)
There were so many good players throughout Manitoba that we used to play against in weekend tournaments.
There was Gus Pantel from Notre Dame, the Seafoots from Riverside, Scotts from Hamiota, Blights from Oakville, Ed Mazur, Terry Brisson from Winnipeg, Gerry McKay from Brandon, just to name a few.
Every little community was loaded with talented players.
The ‘50s had more teams than you could imagine and baseball flourished throughout the province. Simply put - the ‘50s had many more teams and produced many more quality players.
When we played, the outfield was 415 feet to centre field, 365 to left and 345 to right field.
As years went on the outfield got smaller. I think centre field shrunk to about 365 or 375 feet. Our big hitters like Armin Gitzel and John Murray would have had a field day with an outfield like that.
We never hit as many homers as some of the later teams but outfield size made a big difference!
It was exciting ball for the fans because of the parity in the league. Carman‘s best teams were from 1957 to 1960.
After 1960 the league and teams were watered down with the departure of some of the older players.
I think the league was better ball than in the ‘70s and ‘80s, much like the ManDak league was much better ball than the league the Winnipeg Goldeyes now play in.
1957 was the only year that the Cardinals won the championship, but they had very good teams most years. 1960 was a very strong team also.
The 1957 team should have been inducted into the Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame but never was.
I think all of the teams in the ‘50s had many more talented players than in later years. I failed to mention many more players that I should have that could have played in any amateur league in the province, but that will have to come later!
There are many stories I could tell about these teams, but space does not permit. (For example, Denny Hunter going after the pitcher with a bat at a tournament at Long Plains.)
We had a very loyal fan base, with some people never missing a league or tournament game. Carm and Vera Colvin, the McIntoshes and many more following us all over the country!
When we played at home, it was under the lights on the best diamond in the province.
Abe Leopky was the announcer and he was as good as anyone you see on TV today, bar none! He made you feel like you were playing in the ‘bigs.’ He also wrote sports for the Valley Leader and they were second to none articles.
Baseball was never the same in Carman after the ‘50s and never will be the same as there are too many other things going on in people’s lives with social media and Internet. Not the healthiest lifestyle, but that is how people live nowadays.
Long gone are the good old days of the ‘50s.