There was no illustrious fanfare back in 1960. No captivating picture layouts graced the pages of the community newspapers to announce Erindale's first attempt to form an organized minor baseball system. Little, if anything, was mumbled over the area radio outlets and certainly no television stations rushed to the sand lots to film the opening toss. But that was over 35 years ago and the small dream kicked around by a handful of enthusiastic parents has since blossomed into an enviable success culminated by the hosting of the 1974 Canadian Little League Championships. Although historic accounts of the Erindale Little League foundation is somewhat moulded from the day-to-day preoccupation of managing such a vast organization, league veterans have produced a sketchy outline having recently pitted their minds to the premier test. In fact, it wasn't until the actual drawing up of the presentation to Little League superiors, in a bid to secure the Canadian Championships, that Erindale people truly reflected for the first time and realized their tremendous accomplishments. John McColl and Hyl Chapple were two gentlemen most remembered for their initial efforts of nurturing a baseball organization from the embryonic stages. Through their guidance, registrations were held for neighbourhood kids who wanted to pick up a bat and ball and be graded for their talents through the watchful eyes of umpires and coaches. By 1963, the fledgling loop was expanded proportionally in teams, players, diamonds, and most importantly, dedicated volunteers. The local Lions chapter, realizing the merits of such an organization, created a total community involvement by offering several team sponsorships. Headed by the active members Ed Frawley, John Bower, Ron Sprang and Arch Brodie, the Lions became practically obsessed with the idea of allowing young people an opportunity to play baseball. It wasn't long before Lions club members were spending endless hours assuming such unfamiliar roles as coaches, managers, league officials, and even umpires! On June 30th, 1965, formal documentation was implemented and Jack Gorill was elected the first president of the Erindale Lions Little League Baseball Association. However, it wasn't until two years had passed that the league actually received official word from Williamsport, PA., that it had been accepted as a chartered member of the Little League Association. That was the added incentive Erindale people patiently strived for in their short seven year stint. Now, proudly flying the banner Erindale Lions Little League Baseball Association created an even larger aura of enthusiasm toward construction of the best facilities for their boys . In a final act as president, Jack Gorill, along with Crawford Wells, and Ken Evans, verbally laid out plans for the building of yet another dream - a major little league stadium! Despite the lack of monetary direction from town council, league officials pursued the harsh realities of funding such a vast project and the newly elected executive introduced hockey pools and other self-help programs to raise the necessary funds. The following year saw Don Blair take over the presidential duties and a continued effort was made to follow the fund raising trend set by the previous executives. The welcoming of a new decade coincided with several additions which indicated an image bolstering of not only the Erindale Association but also the entire Little League baseball program throughout the country. Along with the introduction of T-Ball by Chuck Brown, which resulted in considerable expansion of Erindale's already extensive baseball agenda, reveries became a reality with the official opening of the $40,000 stadium project by June 18th, 1971. This time, fanfare and celebration attracted all facets of the media and the bubbling pride displayed by the dedicated workers responsible for realizing the dream at the time has not lost any of its effervescence even many years later. And rightfully so, when one considers the manner in which the project was achieved. Players, coaches, managers and parents toiled in shifts along side construction workers to complete the complex. Combined with the hard earned $17,000 by the Erindale Lions Little League, area companies and individuals offered generous donations both in cash and materials. According to Jack Garbig, who was formerly the league's secretary, treasurer, head umpire, publicity director and co-chairman of the stadium building committee along with Ken Evans (whew! Gives you an idea of the dedication of these people) there is secret formula to building a major little league stadium. It's a matter of finding the suitable site considering the aesthetic value.... and then finding people who are willing to devote about ten hours per day, seven days per week! Jack Garbig's quote delves into the philosophy to Little League baseball the Erindale folks have managed to foster since casually discussing the prospects of forming a minor loop. Little League ball in Erindale has certainly meant more than just a night out at the ballpark. The 650 boys and girls, countless parents, tireless officials and conscientious executive members have been thrown together by a common bond - the athletic and characteristic development of young people. That particular Erindale Lions Little League Baseball family has grown stronger with each successive year and with Chuck Brown head of the clan in 1972 and ‘73, groundwork was laid for the culmination of all the sacrifices and long hours of work - the hosting of the Canadian championships. It took the competent leadership of Erindale's 1974 president, Earl Foster, to fulfill all the obligations and shift the working forces into full throttle for the August tournament. Erindale was honoured by the city of Mississauga for hosting the most outstanding sports event in 1974. In 1977, Erindale realized that with the growth of the community they must reduce their boundaries to conform with the population within the Little League rules of charter. The executive, with the guidance of District Administrator Jack Gorill, reduced the boundaries to exclude the very fast growing area of Erin Mills. In order for the children of Erin Mills to continue to enjoy baseball, Erindale assisted the new area to obtain a Little League charter and helped them to form a league. This league became Erin Mills Little League Baseball Association in 1978. In the summer of 1977, a fire destroyed the stadium clubhouse, which housed the press box, equipment room, and concession stand. Once again the community rallied and had a new building for the opening day of 1978. By 1982, a great number of children had graduated from the Little League and Senior League programs, plus a midget team in the Mississauga League, and wished to continue to play baseball. Interest in the Toronto Blue Jays also contributed greatly to the popularity of the game. The Erindale Association realized their responsibility to provide a program for boys above the age of 15. In 1982, another midget team was formed and participated in the Ontario Baseball Association (OBA) league. By 1986, juvenile, junior and senior teams evolved and a new full sized facility was required to accommodate the increased number of teams. After many meetings and negotiations with the city of Mississauga, a new facility was built on the Ninth Line with the understanding that the Erindale Association would participate with the upkeep and maintenance. This was achieved with the help of boys who had come through the little league system and continue to coach, organize, and operate the program. This facility, due in part to maintenance performed by volunteers, is considered as the premier diamond for amateur baseball within the Golden Horseshoe. Erindale has always had a softball program for girls, mainly participating in house league, with some very successful bantam and midget teams. The success of Little League was very obvious, so it was decided to form a girls Little League softball program. In 1995, Erindale hosted the Girls Major Softball Eastern Canadian Championships. The Erindale Association had witnessed the growth of Challenger baseball in the United States and other parts of Canada. The Challenger division is a program designed by Little League headquarters to allow physically handicapping children to play the sport. With the assistance of Erinoak Treatment Centre for the Physically Disabled, Erindale participated in the formation of a Challenger division, giving handicapped children many hours of fun and self esteem. This is indeed, a very gratifying and essential accomplishment. Administrating and maintaining the facilities is a new job performed by many dedicated volunteers, twelve months a year. Success is due to total community commitment. It is essential that young people graduating from the programs be encouraged to stay involved. After more than 35 years of baseball in Erindale, Little League continues to be an integral part of the social fabric within the community. The Lions Club continues to be a major supporter.
Written by: Earl Foster in 1996. Earl passed away in January 2007, taking with him a piece of our history.
It all started when I enrolled Ken & Doug in Erindale Lions Little League.
I met Don Blair and said if I could help in any way give me a call. He nominated me as a coach and put my name up for a vote as treasurer which I became! Each month the executive of E.L.L.L. met at Erindale Town Hall. The November 1969 meeting featured Ken Evans, the person in charge of building a new ballpark suitable for tournament play.
A Catholic church had been built to our north, Erindale L.L. asked the builder to stockpile the top soil as our field had numerous low spots. The top soil had laid beside the church for a number of months and the priest said if we didn’t move it now they would have it hauled away. Ken Evans had talked with some contractors but had yet to get one to move the soil. I spoke up saying I could get a contractor right away. I was given the OK to go ahead. I contracted a good friend and customer of Marathon Equipment where I was employed. Joe DiMarco of Dufferin Construction and I met on the frozen field of Erindale Park and surveyed the situation. I agreed to let Joe tear down the wire backstop so that his equipment had clear access to the Ball Diamonds. Dufferin Construction is a concrete Highway builder and their season had come to an end. So Joe came with bulldozers and graders and moved the soil covering the entire field. It was rough graded. In March Joe came back and fine graded the field to 1/8” tolerance.
Now it was time to sod the ballpark. I called Ontario Sod Growers Association and got the name and phone number of the President Mr. Mil Smilskey. I told him who we were and what we wanted. He interrupted me saying, “I am the outgoing president. We are having our annual meeting tomorrow at 8 am at the Holiday Inn. I’ll give you 20 minutes to make your sales pitch to all of our members”. I thanked him then called Chuck Brown our president with the good news. Chuck said he would like to attend the presentation. So I let Chuck be our spokesperson. We were then led to an adjoining room and asked to await the decision of the members. Mil Smilskey gave us the bad news 20 minutes later. The members were afraid of setting a precedent for future “handouts”. I went home and wrote a thank you letter to Mr. Smilskey and asked him to quote a price for enough sod to cover a Little League Ball Park. This was in December, 1969.
I never heard from Smilskey until April 1970. I was conducting an umpire school at Erindale Town Hall when the custodian interrupted saying there was a phone call for Mr. Garbig. It was my wife, Helen. She had a phone call from Mr. Smilskey saying he wanted donate sod to Erindale L.L., she thought it important enough to interrupt the meeting. So on the last Saturday of May, 20 volunteers were gathered to lay sod and 11 truck loads were needed to apply enough sod. At the end of the day, Rob Lee invited everyone to his home for lobster and beer. Earl Foster worked for Fisher Food Company. He had a phone call to go to Toronto International Airport and intercept a shipment of lobster tails that were destined for Edmonton, Alberta. The company felt that the lobster would become unfit for human consumption if they went further than Toronto, so we all enjoyed a huge lobster fest! Afterward we all fell asleep, exhausted from the sun and backbreaking adventure of the day.
Now for the fencing. An acquaintance from the Toronto Board of Trade Golf Club was General Manager of Frost Fence Company. I asked him for 800 feet of 4 foot, 11 gauge fencing. He didn’t have 4 foot fencing but had a lot of 6 feet used fencing which he could give to us. Little League required a fence no higher than 4 feet. He said it would be an easy task to cut 2 feet off. So the fencing was delivered to Marathon Equipment and a number of volunteers laid out the fencing in long lengths in the aisles in the warehouse. The 4 feet fence was sent to Dominion Foundries and Steel for re-galvanizing. Frost Fence installed the like new fence with two large gates.
One Saturday afternoon in June Ken Evans came to my house to discuss the erection of the Clubhouse. Would we use wood, steel, concrete block? We were watching a ball game from Wrigley Field in Chicago. Red brick walls enclose Wrigley Field. Brick is eye appealing. Yes, we would use brick for the club house and two dugouts and two walls to connect the building and the dugouts. I went to Canada Brick Company with architects drawings and plans. The general manager said he had an excess of Jumbo Brick and he looked at the plans and said we would need about 10 thousand brick, “let him know when and where it was to be delivered.” I asked the Erindale Lions if they had a member who was a builder. Yes they said and we were introduced. We did not have blueprints but he thought the drawings and plans would be ok. I went to the Town of Mississauga to get a builders permit. I found if more difficult than I anticipated. We eventually got the permit and construction was underway.
The Mississauga Times wanted to donate a scoreboard. I told them a group of technicians for the Bell Telegraph volunteered to build an electronic scoreboard, but for $500. 00 we would install a bronze plaque on the wall of the first base dugout. They gave me a cheque for $500.00. I then went to see the manager of Sheridan Mall. I showed him drawings of the clubhouse etc. He looked at a drawing of a dugout. “What’s that?” I explained its use and said for $500.00 we would install a plaque of appreciation to the merchants of Sheridan Mall. I walked out with a $500.00 cheque.
The Clubhouse had an equipment storage area, two washrooms, a press box where volunteer teenagers worked the levers and knobs of the electronic scoreboard. On the east side was the concession area where you could enjoy hot dogs, sodas and popcorn.
Through the efforts of Chuck Brown, we were awarded to be hosts for the 1974 Canadian Little League Championships. The City of Mississauga voted Erindale Lions L.L. the 1974 sporting event of the year tied with Mississauga Golf Club who hosted the 1974 Canadian Open. Later a sprinkler system was installed. Ron Nolan, an Erindale volunteer was responsible for the installation of Field lighting allowing us to play ball until 10 pm.
Last Chapter! About 6 months upon the completion of the clubhouse, the contractor pressed us hard for payment. Although 99% of the materials were donated, labour was not. Bricklayers, carpenters, plumbers and electricians cost us $19,000.00. We did not have the money. We knew the town of Mississauga had worked in favour of supplying and installing lighting equipment at the ball park at the sum of $20,000.00 allotted for this project. So that evening I called the mayor of Mississauga with a proposal. He invited me to his office the next morning. We wanted Mississauga to give us $20,000 in exchange for a promissory note which stated that Erindale Lions L.L. would supply and install lighting equipment. That after 24 months, it had not done so, Mississauga could hold liable any and all persons whose signature was laid out on the bottom of the note for repayment. He thought the request rather unusual but it could be worked out. The General Manager was called in and asked to prepare cheques payable to our creditors and bring them to his office next morning. The cheques were totaled and a cheque from the town of Mississauga payable to Erindale LLL was made out in the same amount. He held the cheques and said they would be mailed from his office this day.
There it is… a $250,000.00 enterprise cost Erindale Lions LL not one red cent.
My apologies for not remembering the names of so many donors. The writer does remember making a list of the names and if Ken Evans could remember where the list is, it would be attached to this narrative to make it complete.
President Erindale Little League 1976-1977