R.I.P. Jack Wilson, Norm Bryan
* Jack Wilson helped found the High Park Little League in 1951 and in doing so touched 1,000s of young man’s lives ….
By Bob Elliott
Belated sympathies are extended to the families and legions of friends of Norm Bryan of Toronto Greenwood Baseball and Jack Wilson of High Park Little League, two baseball men who loved the game.
Bryan began coaching in the 1940s and was involved starting of East York Baseball in 1952 and took a group of players to the Leaside midget league. He went to Pape Playground in 1957, coached peewee and bantam, started Norm’s Little League at Greenwood which became Toronto Greenwood. He ran the league for 50 years, coaching mosquito, peewee and bantam teams to championships.
Wilson started High Park in 1953 and for the next 60 years, coached and was heavily involved in moving the program to where it is today, providing amateur ball from T-ball through junior.
Friends of Jack Wilson remember … feel free to post
Jack had a “baseball heart.”
He started the High Park Little League program in 1953. For the next 60 years, he coached and was heavily involved in moving the program forward to where it is today, providing amateur baseball from Tball through Junior.
Jack loved baseball. His devotion and dedication to the game and his players was unconditional. He taught us to love and respect the game. It was never about Jack: he was a humble man. He influenced many young lives and the common bond shared by those who were coached by him transcends age differences and generation gaps.
It was only later in life that we realized the sacrifices he had made, both family and financial.
A gentleman and mentor, he was truly a unique individual. I have no doubt he is baseball heaven teaching the angels cutoffs and how to bunt.
Thanks Jack and God Bless
My history with High Park Baseball goes back to 1962 when I played for the Red Sox for Mr. Howard and Doug Sparrow.
In the 1984 I coached my son’s team, the Colonels to a championship.
The following year Jack asked me to coach the first ever (and last) Tyke team. It was conflict with the Little League in a small way and some of the coaches were opposed to having a Tyke team.
But that didn’t dissuade Jack and we put together a team. I asked Mel Sperling, Benny Skryzniak and Ray Fortner to coach as their boys played for the team.
Jack organized an exhibition game against the last years champs from Islington who were coached by some fathers who were ex-pro or semi-pro players. Well, they came to High Park and whipped our butts 25-3.
Being very discouraged we asked Jack if this was a good idea given the resentment by our Little League coaches and the whupping we just got. Jack just smiled and said not to worry and that the boys would come around and improve.
Improve they did. We went undefeated that year and beat Islington in the City Playoffs and then defeated Agincourt to win the City Championship game.
At the end of the game, the first person I wanted to call was Jack. He was really proud of us and he organized a dinner for the team. I remember Jack, Chester Dec and Ernie Keith were there.
There is something special when a person asks you to do something. Jack believed in me and entrusted me with the team. It’s an empowering thing to have someone do that. But that was Jack. He connected people and empowered them with responsibilities so they could shine. He brought out the best in people.
I will always remember Jack with the fondest memories.
THE ARTICLE TODAY SAID IT ALL. THANKS ROMAN. ONE MORE THING, CAROL WILSON WAS EVEN GREATER THAN JACK. WITHOUT CAROL`S SUPPORT OVER THE YEARS JACK WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN THE PERSON HE WAS.
It has been approximately 40+ years since I’ve written a fan letter. I believe the last one I wrote was to Brian MacFarlane in 1968 after reading book 50 Years of Hockey. I am now 57 years old and have taken to the keyboard to say that I have been a fan of your column for years and also to congratulate you on your Spink award this year from the Baseball Hall of Fame writers chapter.
It was while reading your accounting of the Hall of Fame weekend that brought back many wonderful memories for myself as it applied to baseball. It was after reading your Saturday August 25/12 column that got me off the deck and onto the keyboard.
It was in that column where you had noted that Jack Wilson had passed away. What struck me about that news, was that my first job, at 16, was umpiring little league baseball for Jack Wilson’s High Park baseball program. It paid $3 for t-ball, $4 for little league and in my second year I was able to umpire the bantam league for $5 a game.
My enjoyment of your work relates to how much baseball meant to me as a kid. It was, and remains a wonderful memory of my mother, when she would come home from work and treat with packs of baseball cards and telling me not to eat the gum because she did not think it was good for me.
I also remember her taking me to many Toronto Maple Leaf Baseball games at the old stadium by Tip Top Tailors, but one special one, was bat day and storming into to the offices somewhere in the bowels of the stadium, when after arriving and being told they were out of bats and insisting I get a bat.
I remember my parents taking me to my first major league game at Tiger Stadium in 1965. It was a doubleheader against the Yankees and me being disappointed that Mickey Mantle was not in the lineup. But for some reason, the one player I do remember that day, but do not know why, was Hector Lopez of the Yankees.
My favorite ball player from those days, was Mack Jones. I always took delight in looking at his baseball card and seeing that he had played in Toronto and was even happier when I saw him play for Expos. While Mack Jones was my favorite, I believe Willie Mays was the best who ever played the game.
What made baseball come alive for me, was my subscription to the Sporting News and Sport magazine. It was the writings of Dick Schapp, Bob Verdi, Furman Bisher, Dick Young, Bill Murray and Joe Falls that brought baseball to life for me.
What makes your columns so special for me, are the wonderful memories rekindled from those aforementioned names. To me, you are the Joe Falls of today.
Congratulations again on your most deserving award and thank you for indulging me in sharing my baseball memories with you.
I don’t know if I was able to record this on the CBN web site properly, but I did want to provide this commentary about my mentor in baseball Jack Wilson who recently passed away. I knew he was ill for some time and was not surprised when the inevitable happened.
I hope you will add this to your web site.
There is no doubt Jack Wilson “was” High Park Baseball. My playing career started in 1966 with Jack as my manager/coach in Little League and progressed through Midget & Junior with Jack calling the shots. If I could name two people in my life that influenced my baseball career, it would be Jack Wilson and Howie Birnie. I consider myself to be fortunate to know them both.
If he wasn’t managing or coaching baseball, he was watching baseball, talking baseball. Even his on field arguments with umpires didn’t seem like arguments … they were discussions … and to my last day of playing under his guidance, not once did I see him get ejected from a game that I participated in.
My fondest memory of the High Park Little League was the parade of teams for opening day. It started at the Bloor Street entrance and we walked down to the ball diamond in the middle of the park.
This was not your big band, baton twirling cheerleaders, floats Rose Parade event. Just a simple gathering of players and coaches with a sign representing their team name and sponsored by the local Lions Club in High Park. But it was big to everyone who played in the league and you felt like you were a celebrity.
There were six team s… Braves, Cardinals, Pirates (National League), Cardinals, Tigers & Orioles (American League). The gathering for tryouts had hundreds of kids participating and while many tried out, only a few of us were asked to play. We attracted crowds of people to watch, some who were in the park enjoying an evening out.
We felt like “big leaguers.” Jack was one who made baseball “fun!”
Sadly now as an umpire, I regret that I did not have the opportunity of umpiring a game for one of Jack’s teams.
Because of Jack we forged a bond not only as players and teammates but also grew up with the skills for playing the game, a genuine love for the game, respect for each other, our opponents and to the umpires.
To my knowledge, the people I played with became valued members of their respective communities in roles such as teachers, police officers, ambulance paramedics, senior managers & vice-presidents in large corporations and other important roles. Jack had patience and time for all of us either on or off the diamond. He will be missed tremendously.
To Carol and family, my sincere condolences and wish you the best for the future.