Sarah Jane Williams Heritage Centre contains hidden baseball gem

By: Danny Gallagher

Canadian Baseball Network

For weeks, I had walked by the building in my new hometown of Bowmanville, curious about what was inside.

One day, I decided to poke my head in the door. I knew it was a museum of some sort. It’s called the Sarah Jane Williams Heritage Centre on Temperance St. near the Bowmanville Public Library in Ontario’s Durham region.

Initially, its origins were the Bowmanville Museum and Clark Museum and then they amalgamated in 2002 to form Clarington Museums and Archives. The Sarah Jane Williams centre is part of this fine group of museums.

As I looked to the back of the big display room, I noticed a huge sign saying Baseball. It immediately caught my attention, all of which reminds me of the vast number of full-length adult baseball fields complete with home-run fences I see in Bowmanville.

I checked in with receptionist Marina Witvoet, who told me a bit about the place. Later, I conversed with executive director Michael Adams and curator Heather Ridge.

What was quite fascinating was the Lou Gehrig bat from 1937 that was donated to the museum by the Bert Colwell clan in Bowmanville.

There is an exhibit talking about the Sixth Line Girls Baseball Team from 1915. The Newcastle Village team had an enviable reputation throughout 1870s baseball. There is a photo of the Orono County Baseball Trophy from 1926. On display is a child’s example of a Spalding glove from 1920. And there is more.

“What we have in here is on loan and there are some donations,’’ Adams said.

Walking around the museum, it would be remiss not to mention the exhibit honouring the great Pete Landers, who lives in nearby Orono. The lefty-firing flamethrower tossed over 75 no-hitters in his splendid fastball career.

And I didn‘t know that former Peterborough Petes junior coach and famed NHL coach Mike Keenan was born in Bowmanville until I visited the museum.

What is spell binding, too, is the travelling Avro Arrow exhibition which pays tribute to the fascinating Canadian aircraft that was doomed by the Diefenbaker government in 1959. So much to see in this fine museum.

You can make a donation for touring the museum but admissions are covered by Hydro One. Additional high-level sponsors are Ontario Power Generation, St. Marys Cement, the Municipality of Clarington and there is $250,000 in funding from local businesses.

Come and have a tour.

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Danny Gallagher

Danny was born in Ted Lindsay's hometown of Renfrew, Ont. but his roots are in nearby Douglas. He played 27 consecutive seasons of top-level amateur baseball in the senior ranks in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Quebec and thrived on organizing events himself, the major one being the highly successful 1983 Canadian senior men's tournament in Sudbury. He began covering the Montreal Expos in 1988 when he joined the Montreal Daily News. Later, he was the Expos beat writer for the Ottawa Sun and Associated Press. He has written four baseball books, including Remembering the Montreal Expos, which he co-authored with Bill Young of Hudson, Que. Gallagher and Young are currently working on a book about the ill-fated 1994 Expos squad. Gallagher can be reached here: dannogallagher@rogers.com