Baseball Conference Hits Home Run










Canadian Baseball History Conference Hits Home Run

by Jeffrey Reed, Editor,

According to former London Free Press scribe turned baseball author Chip Martin, the fourth annual Canadian Baseball History Conference in London Nov. 9-10 will turn a double play for baseball junkies.

With a cornucopia of baseball history and folklore pitched by conference holder Centre for Canadian Baseball Research (CCBR), and a trip to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in St. Marys, anyone with a passion for baseball will tip their cap after taking in this year’s 15 presentations.

Chip Martin

“It’s so refreshing to see how much diversity of interest there is in baseball in Canada,” said Martin, one of four CCBR founders. “It’s great to sit around with a bunch of old baseball history nerds and just yak our faces off. It’s a lot of fun.”

You would be hard pressed to find anyone who brings a bigger bat to the plate for Canadian baseball history than Martin, 69, an eight-time author whose 2015-published book, The Tecumsehs of The International League, finally gave the legendary ballclub their due as Canada’s first major league baseball champions.

Martin recognizes that there’s no better place than Southwestern Ontario to play host to the upcoming conference, held in St. Marys in 2016 and ’17. He said with nearby Beachville having hosted the first recorded baseball game in Canada in 1838, and with the London Tecumsehs (est. 1868) winning the International Association championship in 1878, London and area is the epicentre of the Canadian game.

“There is no question that Southwestern Ontario is the hotbed of baseball in this country, historically and traditionally,” Martin said. “The earliest teams came from Hamilton, Woodstock, Ingersoll and London, while Toronto was still in diapers in terms of baseball. Detroit as well. Neither of those bigger cities that bracket Southwestern Ontario were much on the baseball horizon.”

Bonnie Baker. Photo: Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame.

In fact, Martin said baseball author and historian Bill Humber, a member of the Canadian ball hall and a CCBR founding director, has uncovered evidence that an early version of baseball was played as early as 1816 in Hamilton. And that’s what makes the game of baseball special, said Martin: it has evolved, and in doing so carries a special mystique stemming from its roots in farmers’ fields, urban alleys and the trenches of wars.

This year’s conference borrows a page from the Tinkers to Evers to Chance double play combination famously eulogized in the poem by Franklin Pierce Adams. Through the mandate of the CCBR, its role is two-fold: the conference educates attendees about Canada’s role in baseball history, while at the same time preserving it for future generations.

Journalist Nancy Payne hits lead off on Nov. 9 with a presentation on Regina’s Mary “Bonnie” Baker, an all-star catcher in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League which filmmaker Penny Marshall brought to the big screen with her movie, A League of Their Own.

Anne Chamberlain, whom the Brantford Expositor tagged as an Intercounty Baseball League “uber-fan,” will talk about the semi-pro league which this year celebrated its 100th anniversary. The IBL championship trophy, awarded from 1920-1956 and for years lost until discovered this year by the London Majors Alumni Association, will be on display.

As well, CCBR founding director and university professor Bob Barney, along with Western University doctorate student Riley Nowokowski, will deliver a Sunday presentation on Labatt Park, home to the world’s oldest continuous baseball grounds and site of the great floods of 1883 and 1937.

Labatt Park

For a complete list of conference speakers, click here.

According to Martin, we are only in the top of the first inning in terms of bringing Canadian baseball history out of the bullpen and onto the diamond. Just like the game itself, the task is more organic than structured. And to those who will attend the conference, that’s what makes baseball the greatest game in the world.

And if you need more proof that Martin goes to bat for baseball, you need not look any further than the cast on his left arm, a reminder of a hit ball stopped during a vintage baseball game in Beachville last month.

“We played to the rules of the 1860s,” said Martin, “and I took a line drive that was going to remove my face. It was well-earned for a good cause, all in the name of baseball research.”

If You Go:
4th Annual Canadian Baseball History Conference
15 presentations
November 9 from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m., November 10 from 8 a.m. to 12 noon
Museum London, 421 Ridout Street North, plus Saturday bus trip to Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in St. Marys at 4:15 p.m.
Registration $70, includes continental breakfast both days, catered lunch Saturday and St. Marys bus trip
Information at 


Jeffrey Reed has covered sports in Southwestern Ontario since 1980. He’s the author of, EBBA 40 Years of Baseball (1994), and that same year founded the Intercounty Baseball League media relations office before pitching and coaching with the London Majors Baseball Club. Contact Jeff at

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About jeffreyreed

A leading Canadian communications professional. Corporate office established 1989. Publisher/Editor of this website and

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