R.I.P. Berk Keaney, Sudbury sporting legend
* Berk Keaney was in the broadcast booth for Sudbury Wolves junior games, yet his real passion was baseball and the Sudbury Shamrocks. Deepest sympathies are extended to his family. ….
By Danny Gallagher
Sudbury sports legend’s passion was baseball
He was revered as the iconic voice of the Sudbury Wolves’ junior hockey team but his true love was baseball.
Berk Keaney, a friend of many including myself, went out on his own terms Oct. 10, dying at home as per his wishes at the ripe young age of 90. He had been dealing with COPD and heart issues for several years.
Keaney was born in Arnprior, near Ottawa in 1921 and moved with his family in 1935 to Sudbury, Ont., where he would call home for the rest of his life. His lifelong job took him to Inco’s Frood Mine, where he was employed for 43 years, a tenure that was interrupted by a three-year stint with the Royal Canadian Navy from 1942-45.
When he wasn’t underground, he would play hockey and baseball for years and later was a coach in both sports. He helped revive senior baseball in Sudbury in 1976 along with Gerry Wallace, Eldon McDonald and myself. Senior ball had been dormant since the 1950s and took on a new, 16-year span of success that would end with its second demise in 1992.
From 1976-80, Keaney was coach of the Nickel Region Senior League’s Sudbury Shamrocks and was skipper of the league’s all-star team that played against the Korean all-stars in a game played in Sudbury in 1979, the same year Sudbury hosted the Ontario eliminations.
Keaney regaled his friends of the many World Series he attended over the years, including the first one that saw him go to Yankee Stadium in 1947.
“We were staying in New York — West 49th,” Keaney told Sudbury journalist Randy Pascal two years ago. “You got up at 6:30 a.m. and got your butt on the subway by 7:10 a.m. By 7:30 a.m., you were up at 161st Street and got a spot in the bleacher lineup. So $1.10 later, here we were, sitting in the bleachers, watching Joe Dimaggio and some of the pitching greats of the time.’’
The following year, Berk and his wife Nora Bradshaw celebrated their honeymoon by attending the 1948 Series in Cleveland. In his home for years was a banner that included the names of Bob Feller, Lou Boudreau, Larry Doby, Bob Lemon and Satchel Paige, members of the Indians who won the World Series over the Boston Braves.
Keaney was also in attendance when Bobby Thomson hit his ‘Shot Heard Around the World’ in 1951 and witnessed the famous over-the-shoulder catch made by Willie Mays in the 1954 World Series.
Keaney enjoyed a fabulous second career as the public-address voice of the Wolves from 1953 until his retirement in 2011. Fans in attendance will always remember his booming call of a goal. For example: ‘Sudbury goal scored by M-i-k-e Fo-lig-no.’
Keaney was predeceased by Nora and a number of brothers and sisters. He leaves his sons Berk, Jr. and Dan and daughters Maureen and Kathy, 15 grand-children and four great-grand-children.
After I had to ditch my cool 1967 Ford Mustang in 1975 because the engine blew on it, I went without a car for several years and I will always remember Berk picking me up to take me to many of our Shamrocks’ games. I was his leadoff hitter for three seasons. He was a great coach but most of all, a wonderful person.
“Just wanted to make sure you knew how much you meant to Dad, Dan,’’ Maureen told me in an email Oct. 15. “He loved his “baseball boys” but there were a few of you who held a special place in his heart … you were one of them, Dan.’’