By Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Network
Seven or eight years ago myself and my date -- hard-working Canadian Baseball Network scribe George Farelli -- were at the same table at the annual Baseball Canada fund raiser.
We’d come from the cocktail session where stories of dusty diamonds and accompanying laughter from yesteryear flowed freely.
Yet, I had no idea of the walk through Toronto sandlot history we were about take.
Introductions were made and two seats over from Farelli was Brian Cowan. They were former teammates.
As the proceedings began Baseball Canada director of national teams Greg Hamilton stopped by to say hello to the man between Farelli and Cowan: Hamilton's former coach Harry McAloney.
McAloney had coached Hamilton as a young ‘un we were told.
“That’s kind of neat, the coach and former player staying in touch,” I said to Farelli, who keeps tabs on everything Canadian in the minors. It’s been said that if a Canadian minor leaguer at extended spring training in Arizona burps ... Farelli can hear it.
Only later did it come out that Farelli, a former second baseman, and Cowan, the ex shortstop, were not only double play partners but they too had played for McAloney.
McAloney also coached Rob Butler the East York outfielder who grew up to sign with the Toronto Blue Jays, make the majors, played in the World Series become a fixture in the Canada lineup on the international scene ... as well as teaching the game today.
And we're sure there were plenty of and "you forgot ..." and "didn't Harry once coach ...?" over and over.
Farelli and Cowan played at Earlscourt Park in 1950s for the Moose Athletic Club, the first-ever CNE peewee tournament, then midget and junior for Perth Boys Club for coach McAloney at Christie Pits. McAloney was the equipment manager of St. Michael's Buzzers junior hockey team.
“Harry kept hitting us grounders,” said Cowan, “we enjoyed the game so much. There are so many ballplayers and hockey players that he coached both on and off the field. A man that in the 50s carried the bats on buses and streetcars from Scarborough to the west-end. He pitched batting practice in the hot sun and then joined the team for milkshakes at the local ice-cream bar.
“He will be missed but the memories of the great times we had, will always remain."
Cowan earned the nicknamed “Cleats,” for shining his shoes we presume. He passed on his love of the game from Harry to his son Jeff Cowan played for Danny Thompson’s Team Ontario, Hamilton’s Canadian Junior National Team, the University of High Point Panthers and the Normal CornBelters in the independent Frontier League.
Each Monday morn the two middle infielders, Farelli and Cowan, would meet with their former coach McAloney for coffee at a Tim Horton’s south of 401 and east of Kennedy in Scarborough
"Brian and I still meet," said Farelli, "but it's not the same without Harry."
McAloney passed away after a long battle with cancer on April 29.
He coached for 50 years or more at the old West Toronto and Western City leagues, then Leaside and finally for many years at East York.
The legendary Carmen Bush once said of McAloney that he “looked 40 when he was 25 and still looked 40 when he was 65.”
Deepest sympathies are extended to the 100s of players who played for McAloney over the decades.
Harry Burton McAloney was born July 31, 1934 in New Salem, N.S. and he passed at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. He was predeceased by his parents Enos and Alice McAloney as well as his siblings Fred, Stan, Ann, Libby, Dot, Millie, Ab, Ardis, Vaughan and Thornton and survived by his sister Deanie and many nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held June 4, at 1 pm at Pine Hills Cemetery, 625 Birchmount Rd.