Stead, Campbelleville OBA HOFers

ron stead red sox

* The late Ron Stead, the first pitcher ever for Baseball Canada in 1967 at the Pan-Am Games in Winnipeg, was inducted into the Baseball Ontario Hall of Fame along with the Campbellville Marchants in the team category. ….

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By Dan Haugh
A highlight of the Baseball Ontario awards gala Saturday in Windsor was the induction into the Hall of Fame of left hander Ron Steadand the Campbellville Merchants Intermediate and Senior Team (1952-1967) in the team category.

Stead helped get Canada establish itself internationally. When the first ever Team Canada was formed by Baseball Canada Stead became the first pitcher to take the mound at the 1967 Pan-Am games in Winnipeg. Stead tied for the tournament lead with 23 strikeouts.ron stead canada

One of Stead’s teammates on that first-ever Team Canada was former Kitchener Panthers great Bob McKillop described Stead as a “tenacious competitor.”

“He didn’t throw hard, but he knew how to pitch and set batters up. He had an outstanding curve ball, and he had the best pick-off move I have ever seen‎.” said McKillop. “ I had the opportunity to catch him three times while preparing for and playing in the 1967 Pan Am games in Winnipeg. After pitching to a hitter once, he had a game plan in his mind for each batter, and he would discuss it with the catcher on the bench in every inning.”

Stead was born in London in 1936, grew up in Toronto and spent over 40 years of his life in Chatham. Other than the two years that he played pro ball (1956 and 1957), he spent his whole life dedicated to baseball in Ontario.

His love of the sport started with the Toronto Maple Leafs as he went from mascot, to bat-boy, to batting practice pitcher with the Maple Leafs as a teenager. For the 1956 and 1957 seasons, the Maple Leafs sent him to the Florida State League where he recorded 27 wins and a sparkling 2.74 ERA over 463 innings pitching for Orlando and Gainsville.

Stead came back to Ontario for the 1958 season, and he began to dominate amateur ball like no other before or since. He still holds the Intercounty Senior League records for wins, games started, innings pitched, complete games, shutouts, and strikeouts, as well as ranking second all-time in games pitched.

stead-plaque-300x225A four-time MVP in 1960, 1963, 1965, and 1967, Stead also compiled outstanding season ERAs of 1.33, 0.63, 0.35, and 1.16 during a 10-year span from 1961 to 1970. As a key member of the legendary Brantford Red Sox teams that won five Intercounty championships in a row and six in seven years from 1959 to 1965, plus the 1970 Guelph team.

After his playing days, Stead continued to give back to Chatham Minor Baseball by providing pitching clinics to the young players and assisting in handing out trophies to the players at the end of the season.

He was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in St. Marys in 2006 and is the first and only player enshrined in St. Marys solely on his amateur career. Stead passed away in Chatham on Dec. 5, 2011.

The Campbellville Merchants Intermediate and Senior Team was founded in 1952, and were managed by Len Andrews who would go on to become a president and life member of Baseball Ontario. Andrews authored the book The Village Nine, which chronicles the team’s success through a collection of newspaper clippings.

The Merchants represented a village with a population around the 300 mark, but they played consistently above their classification in compiling a remarkable record of 85 wins and 23 losses in OBA playoffs, with an overall record of 411 Wins, 122 Losses and 16 ties over the 26 seasons that they played.

The team captured first place in the Halton County League 12 times and were second twice. In their history, the Merchants won 12 OBA Championships. Two in Major A, one in A, three in B and six in C. In two other years the Merchants finished the championships as Finalists.

The ace of the team’s pitching staff was left-hander Jack Roberts who had a remarkable career record of 180-46, with an ERA of 1.89 in 15 seasons with the Merchants.

David Huctwith (Mississauga, Ont.) was elected Baseball Ontario president after serving patiently as vice-president from 1994-1999 and then from 2005 until Saturday afternoon.

A year ago the inaugural class included Vi Christopher from Belleville Amateur Baseball Association, the Quinte Baseball League, EOBA and the OBA; Carmen Bush, known as the “Godfather” of sandlot ball in Toronto; Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) the only player in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and the Windsor Chiefs senior team.

The Baseball Ontario Hall of Fame is a virtual facility located on the Baseball Ontario web site. With the creation of the Hall of Fame in 2013, Baseball Ontario is now able to institutionalize the legacies of those who have been involved in baseball in the Province of Ontario for the past 100 years.

Scott Harrigan
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