Updated London Majors All-Time Roster

 

 

 

 

 

 

London Majors All-Time Roster
by Jeffrey Reed, Editor, LondonOntarioSports.com

Whenever you name a team’s all-time greats, debate is sure to follow. This is certainly the case when ranking the all-time roster of the London Majors (est. 1925) of the Intercounty Baseball League (est. 1919). However, arguments are as big a part of baseball as is the seventh inning stretch, so why not initiate a brouhaha with the 10th edition of my all-time London Majors.

Prior to Sunday’s game at Labatt Park, this year’s edition of the Majors are tied atop the IBL standings with the defending-champion Barrie Baycats at 13-0. Without an IBL championship since 1975 – that’s 42 seasons, if you’re counting – fans at the corner of Wilson and Riverside have high hopes for the ballclub this year.

In fact, this is the 93rd edition of the ballclub, but the game has changed over the years. The calibre of the league has ranged from professional Rookie Ball to Class AAA baseball – it’s currently a semi-pro league. And consider the fact that aluminum bats were used from 1977 to 1994.

Editor Jeffrey Reed with teammates before opening day 2000. Photo: LondonOntarioSports.com.

I’ve followed and have been a part of the Majors ballclub since age 7. I’ve retrieved foul balls from the stands of the old wooden grandstands at Labatt Park and was paid handsomely with a hot dog and a Pepsi. I worked the old wooden scoreboard in the right field power alley. Playing in the Eager Beaver Baseball Association, I rushed to Labatt Park with my teammates after our own games in order to watch our heroes – Wayne “Doggie” Fenlon behind the plate, shortstop Dave Byers and IBL legend Arden Eddie, who would later be my Majors teammate.

As a high school student, I would bring a tape recorder to games and call play-by-play for an audience of one. Chris Mayberry, recently retired from the Canadian Press, was then working at CKSL Radio in London and would critique my work. As a print and broadcast reporter since 1980, I’ve covered the team in a number of capacities, including play-by-play with Rogers Television. I’ve been the team photographer, have gathered former players and coaches for special gatherings at the ballpark as alumni liaison, and have filled the role of media relations director. And in 1994, as part of the league’s reintroduction of the wooden bat, I established the very first media relations office for the IBL and operated it for three seasons 1995-97.

1975 London Majors

My biggest thrill, of course, was coaching third base during the 2000 and 2001 seasons, and in 2001 signing a player’s contract. Pitching a scoreless inning during the last game of the 2001 season at Bernie Arbour Stadium in Hamilton capped my career with club.

I’ve witnessed endless history at Labatt Park and around the IBL, and have picked the brains of many former players and coaches, including Ken Benjamin, a five-time IBL all-star manager. Benny and I recently chatted about my updated all-time roster, and agreed that while a handful of superstars have played for the club, they don’t deserve a spot on the all-time team, which should reflect longevity as well as excellence at their positions. If not, then Baseball Hall of Fame RHP Fergie Jenkins would be named to my team. However, Fergie only wore Majors pinstripes in 1984 and ’85. You can read that story here. By comparison, Tommy White won 108 IBL games, and Jon Owen threw for the Majors for 22 seasons.

Arden Eddie with Fergie Jenkins at Labatt Park. Photo: Jeffrey Reed/LondonOntarioSports.com.

And what about Mike Kilkenny, the former big-league LHP who was a perfect 9-0 during the club’s last championship season? “Killer” posted a 2.31 ERA with 129 strikeouts over 96 innings, then went 5-0 during the championship run. He also pitched for the club in 1983, but unlike Neil Ambrose, who pitched over 11 seasons, Kilkenny wasn’t a long-time Major.

You’ll notice there are glaring omissions from my list, including the legendary Frank Colman, who played big-league ball with the Pirates and Yankees and starred with the Class AAA International League Toronto Maple Leafs. But Colman’s best days with the Majors came for a few years in the mid-1930s.

In total, there are three editions to my ranking this time around – an honourable mention in the pitching department, a new all-time DH and a tie in the managerial department. I’m proud to say I was a teammate of three all-time Majors. Let the debate begin.

Right-Handed Pitcher: Tommy White

1948 London Majors, World Sandlot Championship winners.

White’s three victories for London in the 1948 World Sandlot Championship earned him Canada’s Outstanding Baseball Player of the Year award. He amassed a 108-57 lifetime Intercounty record. White’s top years: 1947 (11-1) and 1949 (13-3). New: honorable mention goes to Jon Owen, who threw 1008.2 innings over 22 seasons 1977-98, amassing a record of 67-45 with six saves, 771 Ks versus 295 BB and an ERA of 3.43, much of which stems from the aluminum bat era.

Left-Handed Pitcher: Neil Ambrose

Ambrose ranks among the Intercounty’s best with 132 appearances, 802.1 innings, 48 wins and 454 Ks. He played 11 years (1975-85), was an all-star in 1976 and ’77 and finished with a respectable 3.96 ERA during the aluminum bat era.

Catcher: Wayne Fenlon

“Doggie” was behind the dish for 22 years (1968-88). A member of three championship clubs, including his rookie year, Fenlon was a three-time all-star as a player, and an all-star manager in ’88. He played in 508 games, and collected 577 hits and 309 RBI, amongst the best in league history. Of any position on the Majors’ all-time list, this was the easiest choice.

First Base: Larry Haggitt

From 1974-84, Haggitt amassed 47 round trips – solid numbers during an era when home runs didn’t come cheap – and finished his career with a .320 BA. After an all-star campaign at third base in 1974, he made the transition to first base in 1975 – London’s last championship season – and was named a first-team all-star in both ’75 and ’76. He won the batting championship in ’75 with a .412 average, and was one of London’s all-time top defensive players.

Second Base: Barry Boughner

Although a talented utility player, and former all-star third baseman and DH, “Boogie” was an all-star at second base in 1974, and played the position during parts of almost every season during his 17-year career (1966-84). A former NHLer now heading the club’s latest alumni drive, Boughner played on three Majors championship ballclubs.

Third Base: Tie – Dave Lapthorne, Dan Mendham

Dan Mendham. Photo: Jeffrey Reed/LondonOntarioSports.com.

A well-rounded player, “Whitey” Lapthorne was an all-star at the hot corner in 1964 and ’65 during his 17-year career (1960-76). He was an all-star first baseman in 1967 and ’70, and was the Majors captain. When Dan “Timber” Mendham played for the Majors, he was the clubhouse leader. A hard-nosed player at the hot corner, Mendham’s keen batting eye also sees him gain a spot amongst the all-time Majors squad. His IBL career 1991-2007 includes a nine-year stint with the Majors 1992-2000 when he led the club in home runs and RBIs for three straight years 1996-98. He seamlessly made the transition from aluminum to wooden bats, and finished with a lifetime batting average of .306, plus was a three-time all-star.

Shortstop: Tie – Tom McKenzie, Dave Byers

Although this 14-time all-star shortstop played most of his 21-year career (1960-80) with Kitchener, McKenzie’s infield wizardry and clutch hitting didn’t go unnoticed during his days with the Majors (1960-65). Byers was a six-time all-star at shortstop, playing most of his 18-year career (1970-87) with London. He finished with 551 hits, 317 RBI, 69 HR and 105 doubles, plus he captured the batting crown in 1977 with a .453 average.

Outfield: Four-way tie – Arden Eddie, Russ Evon, Stan Anderson, Richard Thompson

Arden Eddie in front of Roy McKay Clubhouse. Photo: Jeffrey Reed/LondonOntarioSports.com.

Stan “Gabby” Anderson

Richard Thompson. Photo: Jeffrey Reed/LondonOntarioSports.com.

Eddie is the Wayne Gretzky of the IBL – he holds numerous league records (too many to list here) and was even an all-star DH at age 47. In his prime, he was a five-tool player. He was a player, coach, manager, general manager, owner and, without exaggeration, was the sole reason why the club was kept alive during the era mid-1970s to early-2000s. His league-record 647 walks will never be broken. Evon was arguably the best all-around athlete ever to don the Majors uniform. An 18-year Intercounty star, he posted a .345 career BA, and hit .355 in London’s 1948 World Sandlot Championship series. Both Stan and Richard were nicknamed “Gabby.” Stan was a six-time, first-team all-star 1958-65. Richard was a modern-day Evon and a five-tool player who, in my books, is the best player to have worn the pinstripes during the past four decades. He switched from aluminum to wood in 1995 and won the batting crown with .415 average.

DH: Cleveland Brownlee

Cleveland Brownlee. Photo: Facebook.

Ever since Chanderdat and co-owner Scott Dart purchased the ballclub prior to the 2004 season, the Majors have seen their recognition within the community skyrocket. That’s a testament to the hard work and financial investment from ownership. All-time greats including third baseman Dan Mendham and Richard Thompson were never recognized outside of the friendly confines of Labatt Park as local sports greats – that’s a reflection of the era during which they played, and the lack of off-field effort from Eddie to make star players recognizable. Eddie is to be credited with keeping the team alive, but he lacked in that department.

Since the Majors’ peak of popularity in the 1950s, no London Major has been as highly visible in the community as is DH-first baseman Cleveland Brownlee. But that’s not why he’s now ranked as the team’s all-time DH. Statistics don’t like, especially when you’ve put up numbers like Brownlee has since his rookie season in 2010. Prior to the Majors’ June 25 contest, Brownlee’s numbers rank amongst the best in team history: 266 games, .322 BA, 331 hits in 1,029 AB, 211 runs, 271 RBI, 69 home runs, 59 doubles, seven triples, 83 walks and 56 stolen bases. Brownlee announced his retirement after last season – I never bought it. He ranks 2nd in home runs and 3rd in RBI so far this season, and should continue to add to his totals for years to come, if he chooses to remain an active player. But already, he deserves his place on the all-time Majors roster, thanks to his booming bat and clutch hitting.

Manager: Tie – Roy McKay, Roop Chanderdat

Roy McKay

Editor Jeffrey Reed with Roop Chanderdat at Labatt Park. Photo: Browns Photos.

Oh, boy, this one will be sure to stir some debate. To compare current manager Roop Chanderdat’s baseball pedigree to Majors’ legendary skipper Roy McKay would be foolish. McKay was a talented pitcher and a born leader, and perhaps the most beloved member of the Majors during the team’s entire history. He managed the club for most of 15 seasons (1969-72, 1974-76, 1981-86, 1994-95) and compiled a record of 257-201 (.561), guiding the club to league titles in 1975, as well as in 1969 when the team was known as the Pontiacs.

In my 9th all-time list, I gave current manager Roop Chanderdat honourable mention. This time, he deserves to be ranked as an all-time great manager. This wasn’t an easy decision for me. I’ve been highly critical of Chanderdat’s decisions as bench boss, in specific his mishandling of the Majors pitching staff, namely the bullpen. But you can’t ignore what Chanderdat has done since he took the managerial reigns in 2006 – a 12-year reign that now ranks him as a top skipper.

Here are Chanderdat’s stats as bench boss: 255 wins, 160 losses (.614 winning percentage – best in Majors’ history), with nine 20-game win seasons (which will total 10 when this campaign is over). He captured the IBL pennant in 2008 and 2016, and finished second during four consecutive seasons 2011-14. Chanderdat was voted manager of the year three times 2006, ’08 and ’16, and went to the IBL championship three times in 2006, ’08 and ’14. With three more regular-season wins, Chanderdat becomes the Majors’ all-time winningest manager, but none of that matters to him. Only an IBL championship matters.

So, there’s some fodder for discussion when Majors alumni gather at the ballyard July 22.

Wish to comment on my picks? Email your bricks and bouquets to jeff@londonontariosports.com.

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About jeffreyreed

A leading Canadian communications professional. Corporate office http://www.JeffreyReedReporting.com established 1989. Publisher/Editor of this website and https://londonontariogolf.com.

2 Responses to “Updated London Majors All-Time Roster”

  1. Barry Boughner says:

    Great article Jeffrey and I feel honoured to have made your all time best London Majors list as the second baseman.Did you submit your list to the IBL for consideration.There will undoubtedly be persons picking or choosing the all time best 100 IBL players that never saw any of the best players from 1955 to 1990 play. Bougie