Elliott: R. I. P. Ken Campbell - updated

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Ken Campbell (Ottawa, Ont.) wearing his Maple Leafs blue and white.

By Bob Elliott

Canadian Baseball Network

If you have wandered near a ball diamond in Ottawa in the past 40 years you were probably were in his presence.

And you now what ... most of you would not have even known he was there.

Ken Campbell was an inquisitive, supportive and informed ball fan. He was also a beloved husband, beloved father and beloved grandpa who would have turned 82 on April 28.

One son, Donald Campbell, has been a part of the Ottawa-Nepean Canadians since 1977 and is still involved, from GM, coach or as an Ottawa-Nepean Sports Club director. Son, while Murray Campbell, played for the Nepean Knights as a youngster.

Now he catches for a Nationall Capital Baseball Leaggue Division IV teaam where he has had the pleasure of catching all three Kusiewicz brother. Mike pitched 10 seasons in the minors, Brian was a veteran with the Ottawa-Nepean Canadians and Jamey the eldest.

“I always thought Jamey had the best make up,” Murray said.

Ken would go to games and watch. But he was from an era when people believed parents should not coach their children, although he did coach Murray in one season of Little League.

As a youngster his nickname was “Ezinicki,” after William “Wild Bill” Ezinicki, who skated for the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Boston Bruins and the New York Rangers, winning three Stanley Cups with the Leafs in 1947, 1948 and 1949.

Ken always had a 6-foot-6 line mate Ronnie MacDonald to protect him. MacDonald was a friend until Ken passed peacefully after a nine-month at 6:54 Friday morn at the Ottawa Civic Hospital

Ken grew up in of Scotstown, Que. (Pop. 547 in 2011) in the Eastern Townships. Even then he was a Leafs fan. The town was too small to have a funeral home so when someone died a wreath was placed on the door of the house and people knew it was time to visit, bring food and mourn.

He loved his Maple Leafs and lived long enough to see them win every Cup from 1937 to 1967, which believe it or not comes out to 10 Stanley Cup championships ... not counting this season.

One season in the 1940, Ken’s Leafs beat Habs for the Cup. So, Ken and his pal decided to celebrate. Mr. Gooden, a trucker and devout Montreal fan, lived across the street. Ken and his pal put a wreath on the man’s door.

People started to visit and bring food. Just an early glimpse of the Campbell family sense of humour. The Gooden family was one that never used the front door and wondered what was up with all the food and visitors.

Finally, someone told them about the wreath on the front door. Neighbourhood Watch and the crack Crime Fighters unit followed the trail of evidence which of course led to Ken. His parents were not impressed and some of the glitter of the Cup quickly wore off.

Murray Campbell, left, with his brother Donald Campbell saluting their father Ken Campbell

Murray Campbell, left, with his brother Donald Campbell saluting their father Ken Campbell

Ken loved his Montreal Expos and one night saw Hall of Famers Willie Mays and McCovey go deep back-to-back at Parc Jarry. He also loved the Blue Jays and especially manager John Gibbons and his style. He also appreciated fine classical music: like Ottawa Valley country legend Wilf Arsenault. He used to enjoy the odd O’Keefe Ale, but in later years would stop by the “club” for an Export many Saturday afternoons.

But No. 1 were his Leafs. Men like Davey Keon, Johnny Bower and Red Kelly. Ken appreciated talent ... not just guys wearing blue and white. He loved Bobby Orr but insisted Doug Harvey was the best ever.

One Saturday morning in 1964 Ken brought home a large Westinghouse black and white TV to Connaught Street in Montreal West. He plugged it in, hooked up the little satellite in time for the NBC Saturday Game of the Week with announcers Curt Gowdy and Pee Wee Reese.

Son Donald was there to watch the guys from the TV league on the black and white. His friends came calling to go to the park and play ball. The son replied “No dad and I are going to watch the game” and then he headed to the park after the game.

During the summer of 1968, after Ken’s father passed Donald spent a month with grandma in August. The great uncle who lived nearby had a better TV and they watched the Detroit Tigers down the stretch.

The next summer Donald followed the New York Mets every day.

Moving to Ottawa he was with the McKellar Park Phillies, a team which balked early and often. He moved on to Carlingwood coaching the likes of Boston Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, former Edmonton Oilers and Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli and Tom Langford, Queen’s University football Hall of Famer at linebacker. Then, Campbell joined the Canadians, although he did not barge onto the scene. Cassidy sent a text expressing his sympathies.

Ken spent an afternoon earlier this week watching the Masters par three event from Augusta with his son Donald. That night he collapsed.

Donald had to deliver a phone message from his daughter Sara, an engineer in Red Deer, Alta. to Ken, her grandfather.

Deepest sympathies are extended to Ken’s wife Patsy, Murray and his children Katie and Const. Andrew Campbell of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; Donald Campbell and his wife Jo-Anne Polak, his daughters Sara (husband Matt Sherris) and Krista.

Also to brother of Norman, brother-in-laws Frank, Brian, Peter and the late Jim and Stewart as well as the many beloved nephews and nieces and their children.

Visitation is Wednesday at Tubman Funeral Home (403 Richmond Road at Roosevelt in Westboro) from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m.. The funeral is at 11 a.m. Thursday with a reception to follow at the Westboro Legion (Branch 480, 391 Richmond Road).

SandlotsBob Elliott