by Jim Coke and others
In the Spring of 1992, Bern White, who had played 60+ Slo-pitch softball for several winters in Florida, found that there was no such League in the Ottawa area. With the support of Al Moulton of Slo-Pitch National, he got the City of Ottawa Recreation and Culture Section to agree to help set up such a League by providing equipment and diamonds at Carlington Park, the only condition being that the League would be open to all over the age of 60. Bern arranged to have notices in Ottawa newspapers and Seniors’ Centres, and he had an organizing meeting with four of the first people who called (Paul Allard, George McCloskey, Ab Eckford, Jim Coke). This group agreed to work together to establish a League.
That first meeting determined that the League would be recreational, would provide for the maximum participation of all players, and that the membership fee would be $5. It was agreed that it would be slow pitch: each team to pitch to its own players. Basic rules were also established, i.e. 11 players on the field with all team members batting in turn, the normal three pitches for men but five pitches with three strikes for ladies, no metal cleats, no leading off, etc.
Players were contacted and the first of two practices was held in July at Carlington Park. Four teams were then made up from the 55 players available with the team Captains being the four players Bern asked to the first League meeting. At the Closing Breakfast at the end of September, a trophy donated by the “Ottawa Citizen” was awarded to the play-off winner. At a meeting on October 21, 1992, a formal management structure was adopted, with seven participants accepting responsibilities:
President – Bern White
Vice-President/Secretary – Jim Coke
Treasurer – Ron Mason
Publicity – Bern White/Basil Warren
Rules/Scheduling – Bill Mason
Membership – George McCloskey
Special Events – Paul Allard.
In 1993 financial challenges arose: the City wanted rent for the use of Carlington Park, and League management felt that team shirts and caps would help players identify with their teams. Sponsorships were explored, unsuccessfully. Fortunately, the Andersons, owners of “Today’s Seniors” newspaper, came to our rescue. Their enthusiastic support included the\ provision of shirts and caps for the entire League, helping us with business contacts, and publicity about the League in their newspaper. The League membership fee was increased to $20. The League expanded in 1993 to include 77 players divided among six teams. Three diamonds were rented at Carlington Park and Al Moulton provided 4 ½ dozen balls. The Opening Breakfast was held in early May and the Closing Breakfast at the end of September. League management was modified to consist of: President – Bern White, Vice-President/Administration – Bill Mason, Vice President/Operations – George McCloskey, Treasurer – Ron Mason, Secretary – Jim Coke. Pre-game exercises were undertaken by Frank Donnelly, team pictures taken by David Davis, a Rules Committee established, and umpires were used regularly. Thursday morning practices were introduced. Bill Patterson of CJOH provided TV coverage of a game day’s activities.
During 1994 the League increased to eight teams with 110 players. As Carlington Park has only three diamonds, it was necessary to utilize a diamond on an adjacent City Playground. This season saw the first League-sponsored free “after game” coffee and the initial steps taken to establish a Select Team. Ron Perkins became Vice-President of Operations.
In January 1995, thanks to Emery Cormier, League activity had an early start, with the introduction of weekly indoor throwing and catching practices at the Hintonburg Community Centre from January to April. The League remained at eight teams with 115 players and play continued to take place at Carlington Park. During the summer, the Churchill Seniors Centre received a donation for $100 for “Old Timers Softball”, which they donated to our League. This gift was used to purchase a trophy to be given to the winning team at the end of regular season play. The Closing Breakfast was held, for the first time, at the R.A. Centre.
In 1996, League activity moved to the R.A. as it offered a complete facility, with four quality diamonds, an emergency response team, first aid, coffee shop, lounge, wash rooms, etc. The Executive decided to limit the League to eight teams of 15 per team, i.e. 120 players. Roger Des Rivieres planned and organized a BBQ in July and a brunch before Christmas, and free monthly after-game coffee became a regular feature. Len Carr acted as Vice-President/Operations.
As the 1997 season began, there were more applications for membership than openings available. The Umpiring system became more stabilized with the appointment of Merv Montroy as Chief Umpire, and an effort was made, with the help of volunteer scorekeepers, to improve the accuracy and scope of scorekeeping. A new method of selecting teams was used in an attempt to create better balanced team competition. Based on final league standings, it achieved its goal. Once again, the mid-season BBQ was a great success and the Christmas lunch brought many members and friends together.
Thanks to the continuing support and generosity of our Sponsors throughout the 1993-1997 seasons, it was possible to hold the membership fees at $20 per member per season, but in 1998 rising costs required an increase to $30. The increase to the current level has enabled us to keep pace with increased field usage costs. One of the original Sponsors, Defalco Wine Cellar remains with us. Many sponsors have supported us over the years. The list includes Ganden Landscape, Bro-Sun Group of Companies, Inniss Pharmacy, Lorenzo’s Restaurants, Forever Young Newspaper, Central Park Lodges, Clark Equipment, Crete-Ryan Construction, KS on the Keys, Meadowlands Pub, John Cornwall Investors Group, Chances R Restaurant, Giant Tiger, Wallace Service Centre, Local Heroes Bar & Grill, St. Louis Bar & Grill, Carleton Tavern, The Burbs Restaurant, Hometown Sports Grill, CBRE Real Estate, Dunn’s Bank St., and LesLor Enterprises. We encourage members to patronize our Sponsors, old and new, whenever possible.
As the League evolved, an elected Executive was established, a Rules Committee formed, Umpires and Scorekeepers became mandatory. Opening and Closing Breakfasts were held, and for a while a 70+ group was formed. An annual exchange visit was established and ran for many years between the League’s Select Team and a Slo-Pitch team from Rochester, N.Y. Various social activities were introduced including after game coffee and muffins, an annual picnic, an occasional golf day, winter throwing and catching practices, and a curling night. An annual opinion survey ensures that Members’ suggestions are continually available for consideration by the Executive.
A special acknowledgement goes to Bern White, the League Founder, Organizer, first President of the 60+ Slo-Pitch League, player and umpire. He was the Commissioner of the Ottawa 60+ Slo-Pitch League and was inducted into the Ontario Slo-Pitch Hall of Fame in the Builder’s Category. Unfortunately, in November 2012, Bern passed away at the age of eighty-six but his legacy with the Ottawa 60+ Slo-Pitch League continues on.
In 2016, the League celebrated its 25th Anniversary.