Canadian HOF has successful induction weekend despite adversity

Despite a number of challenges, the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame still had a near capacity crowd for its induction ceremony on Saturday. Photo Credit: Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame

Despite a number of challenges, the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame still had a near capacity crowd for its induction ceremony on Saturday. Photo Credit: Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame

By Danny Gallagher

Canadian Baseball Network

ST. MARYS, Ont. --- Despite some unwanted publicity, the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame enjoyed another successful week of induction activities.

Toronto Blue Jays legend Lloyd Moseby and revered historian Bill Humber were on hand to be personally inducted into the hall Saturday while Expos superstar Pedro Martinez was unable to attend due to a medical ailment.

In an audio recording played Saturday, Martinez apologized for not being able to come but also praised Montrealers, Canadians and former Expos manager Felipe Alou for helping to make his stay in Montreal and with the Expos so enjoyable.

To the applause from the crowd, Moseby said, "I was born in Arkansas, I was raised in Oakland but my home is in Canada.''

Moseby came to St. Marys reluctantly because he said he didn't think he deserved the honour. He relented when his daughter convinced him to come. He revealed that he lives in downtown Toronto and his girlfriend is from London, Ont. He put a lot of time into his induction speech and the fans in attendance gave him a standing ovation.

Humber has been a noteworthy figure in Canada for his work in researching and publicizing various aspects of Canadian baseball history, his time with the Society for American Baseball Research and his Spring Training Class of 40 years at Toronto's Seneca College. After his heartfelt induction speech, Humber, like Moseby, was greeted with a standing ovation.

On the first day of induction week on Thursday, two events shook hall of fame officials. First, Martinez let the hall's director of operations Scott Crawford know he couldn't come. Martinez said he was advised by his medical staff that he shouldn't travel. 

Then that night, there was the Kelly Gruber fiasco. The former Blue Jays' fan favourite did not conduct himself accordingly at the Pitch Talks fundraiser for the hall at the Rec Room near the Rogers Centre. Gruber's performance prompted Pitch Talks to shorten tbe event and hall officials deleted him from appearances Friday and Saturday in St. Marys.

The hall also missed Ferguson Jenkins, the celebrated pitching legend and philanthropist, who is a strong supporter of the hall of fame. He was absent because he had matters to deal with back home in Arizona.

The absence of Martinez was tough to swallow. He would have made a minimum five, major appearances as part of induction weekend: the Pitch Talks event, the golf tournament, the banquet, the induction ceremony and the autograph session to follow the induction.

Martinez's absence meant 100s of people from different parts of Canada and the U.S. decided not to come here when they knew Martinez wouldn't be attending. Let's face it: how often does one get a chance to get Martinez's autograph? Despite Martinez's absence, Phil Leerar and Mike Lefebvre of Hudsonville, Mich. were among those who travelled to get autographs from the likes of Steve Rogers, Bill Lee, Murray Cook, Bill Atkinson, Willie Upshaw, Moseby and Humber.

The loss of Martinez meant the Hall of Fame and the tourist industry in and around St. Marys took a hit. Less money spent at the only Tim Horton's venue in town, less money spend in dining and accommodations, less people buying souvenirs, food and drinks on the induction grounds.

Gary Davidson, a seasoned autograph aficionado from Toronto, will have to wait a while longer to get a Martinez autograph, something he doesn't boast in his impressive, 20-year collection of 40,000 signatures of entertainers and athletes.

"I don't have Pedro's autograph,'' Davidson said. "I was very disappointed to hear Pedro was not going to make it. I was looking forward to getting his autograph. During his playing days, he was a hard autograph to get. I hope to get his autograph some other time, maybe when the Expos come back to the majors. 

"But it is nice to see old Expos players getting put into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. The Expos played a big part in Canada until the Blue Jays showed up,'' Davidson added. 

"There would have been a lot of people who would have made the long journey to come here to see Pedro,'' admitted Adam Stephens, chairman of the hall of fame's board of directors. 

Stephens, though, was happy that many people still took the time to travel to St. Marys to partake in induction-related festivities and to honour the other inductees. Kudos to Crawford, Stephens and other hall folks for facing the fallout from the Gruber brouhaha and Martinez's absence. The Patience of Job was needed to prevail.

As we look into the future of the hall, Stephens said the renovations and additions are running smoothly and that a grand opening is planned sometime in 2019, likely in conjunction with the traditional opening of the museum to visitors in May. That would be a great time for Martinez to show up and be there at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The construction work will cost about $1.2-million and is shutting down the museum for all of 2018.  Stephens said he's excited about the work being done to improve the visitor experience and he also praised the work being furnished on the hall's grounds and diamonds.

"The new space, the new opportunities and the upgrades will be exciting,'' Stephens said. "We will have a large archival library devoted to a treasure trove of books, articles and papers. We will also have an expanded exhibit space to showcase our possessions.''

Stephens said the improvements will allow hall officials to bring more items out of storage and make them available to visitors for viewing. The hall teamed up with Marklevitz Architects Inc. from Stratford, Ont. and BaAM Productions from Toronto to develop a 2,500-square-foot expansion to the current museum, in addition to a renovation to the inside of the existing structure.

This project is made possible by private donations and funding through the Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program. Elgin Contracting & Restoration Ltd. from St. Thomas, Ont. was awarded the contract for the expansion.