Weyburn to be inducted to Baseball Hall of Fame

The City of Weyburn will be inducted into the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame in August, in the Community category.

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The nomination was compiled and sent in by a nomination committee including Don Kraft, Jerry Ponto and Jim Nedelcov.

Weyburn is a community that has been deeply involved in the building of baseball teams, players and facilities since 1900.

The first recorded baseball game in Weyburn was in 1901, when citizens of Weyburn beat the railroad workers team. The second recorded baseball game was on July 1, 1902, when Robert C. Sutherland pitched the first of two games for Weyburn versus North Weyburn.

Some of the Weyburn players to note were George Beischel (he graded the city’s first streets and racetrack), Dr. R.M. Mitchell (Weyburn Hospital’s first physician in 1899 and was elected as mayor in 1904), Joe Mergens Sr. and Alf Woods. Unfortunately, rain forced withdrawal from the diamond, but it did not withdraw the future of baseball in Weyburn.

Jack (Rotary Club Executive in 1920) and Bill Mertz came to Weyburn by 1906 and with them, brought a large interest in baseball. A team was started and led by O.S. Mitchell (of O.S. Mitchell Drugs & Stationery and the father of author W.O. Mitchell) that brought in a battery from Toronto, which led them to capture the Soo Line League Championship. This moment was the foundation of many years of top calibre and exciting baseball in Weyburn.

In 1935, the Kansas City Monarchs with the Negro League played more games in Saskatchewan than Kansas City. With proof that their barnstorming led them to Saskatoon and Regina, it is believed they stopped through Weyburn area on their way north.

Providing some reprieve from the hard times of the depression and the Second World War, the Weyburn Beavers entered the Saskatchewan Southern League from 1937-1964. In 1948, Joe Warren of Warren Drugs donated a large scoreboard for Harvey Field, named after Pop Harvey (now named Tom Laing Park) and with much hard work by volunteers, it was made to be a first-class facility.

It was here where Les Wilder hit the first home run out of the new park. Other players to mention from the Weyburn Beavers team from this era (1945-1954) are Keith Covert, Ralph Hogg, Dave Hoff, Jim Burge, and Gayle Shupe and his brothers Blaine, Doug and Jack.

Baseball diamonds and parks are still popular places in Weyburn, being used by both recreational and semi-professional sport teams and would not be around without the help local associations and volunteers. Tom Laing Park (previously known as Harvey Park) is the current home of the WCBL’s Weyburn Beavers.

The park was built in 1987/1988 to host the Canadian Junior Baseball championships and was led by the host committee comprised of Bill Rudachyk (chairperson), Dale Renz (hospitality), Neal Keefe (Agriculture Society), Larry Balog (grounds), Mel Hoffman (publicity) and coaches Ray Belanger and Marvin Gisi. Notable dignitaries at the Opening Ceremonies were Premiere Grant Devine, city Mayor Bill Shields, MLA Lorne Hepworth and Sandra Benning (Bakken), who sang the national anthem.

Players for the host team were Jason Woodard (of the Woodard family who was inducted into the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame in 2017); Dean Nikolejsin (2017 recipient of the Golden Sheaf Award from Weyburn Chamber of Commerce); Wayde McMillan (went on to play in SJHL for Weyburn Red Wings); Dan “Coach Caz” Kasperski (selected as first team All Star Pitcher); Jerome Bechard (went on to play and coach SPHL team Columbus Cottonmouths); Cam Raison (went on to play in SJHL for Weyburn Red Wings); Geoff McMaster (went on to play in the SJHL for Battlefords North Stars); David Gisi (selected as second for Team All Star second baseman); Sean Brennan; Don Stewart; Drew Ellingson; Gregg Missal; Gregg Benneweis.

There have been many Baseball Saskatchewan award winners for Weyburn teams and citizens:

• 1961: Mel Beacock named a Life Member;

• 1966: Weyburn Beavers won the Canadian Baseball Championship;

• 1986: Dan Kasperski named Player of the Year

• 1986: Ray Belanger named Life Member

• 1988: Watson Distributors in Weyburn named Patron of the Year

• 1989: Larry Balog named Manager (Coach) of the Year

• 1990: Weyburn TS&M Midgets named Minor Team of the Year

• 1990: Glen Hoffman named Baseball Saskatchewan Player of the Year

• 1995: Weyburn Beavers named Senior Team of the Year

• 1995: Larry Balog named Builder of the Year

• 1996: Weyburn Beavers named Senior Team of the Year

• 1997: Dustin Emberley named Player of the Year

• 1999: Weyburn Young Fellows named Patron of the Year

• 2001: Weyburn Co-op Midget Beavers named Minor Team of the Year

• 2008: Ken King named Manager (Coach) of the Year

In addition, there have been many Baseball Saskatchewan provincial champions teams in Weyburn, including Mosquito AAA, 1985; Mosquito AA, 1998, 2000, 2001 (Pan Oilers) and 2002, 2004, 2007 (Encana Oilers); Peewee AAA, 1982 (Young Fellows); Peewee AA, 1987, 1989, 1996, 1999, 2002 (Young Fellows); Bantam AAA, 1998 (Royals); Bantam AA, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1991, 1992, 1993; 1995 (Legion Sox); 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006 (Royals); Bantam AA, 2014 (Beavers); Midget AAA, 2001 (Beavers); Midget AA, 1989, 1990; 1997 (Beavers); Junior AAA, 1996, 1997 (Indians); 2015 (Athletics); Junior (Bison League), 1973, 1974 (Sportsmen).