Elliott: Ross and Dundon half of Mississauga's HOF Select Four
By Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Network
The final of the Mississauga Southwest peewee tournament was all set to begin.
The two teams -- the North York Blues and the Mississauga North Tigers -- were awaiting only one thing: the two umps.
Out walked Nikki Ross from the clubhouse as a parent said, “Oh no ... a woman umpire.”
Ross didn’t break stride as she turned and said, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”
Next came Shanna Kook, a former McGill University student, who left school to attend umpire’s school and became the first Canadian woman to umpire in pro ball, working two seasons in the Pioneer League in minor league ball.
We’d done a lot of emailing in attempt to find out the other two women but we failed. Our umpiring experts say Jen Golding was there too. Either Marg Hart or Lynda Archibald was the fourth.
The four women umps had things under control from start to finish as Mississauga North beat North York 5-1 in the final as Michael Kim picked up the win while William Bargel and Zac Jones each had a pair of hits.
These few words are not about the peewee championship game but rather Ross, who was as quick with an ad lib as she was with her right arm signalling strikes. As a person Nikki was respected. As an umpire Nikki carried a “Don’t Mess With Her,” swagger. And I never saw anyone who dared.
Nikki served as a Mississauga North volunteer for more than 25 years and was accomplished on the national level.
Nikki will be among four women inducted into the Mississauga Sports Hall of Fame on Wednesday at the 45th annual Sports Dinner Capitol Banquet Centre. Her husband, Ian, and son, Matt, will be there to accept. Sadly Nikki passed in 2013.
The other builder to be inducted will be Anne Dundon of Erindale Lions Little League, a person who has done as much to keep the Erindale name flourishing on diamonds as Erindale Cardinals coach Greg Cranker. Anne served as president from 2002 to 2017 and as District 1 District Administrator on the National Board for Little League Canada.
Athletes who will be inducted are Carrie Lightbound, who competed in kayak and was a two-time Olympian in 2000 and 2004 and soccer star Carmelina Moscato, an Olympic Bronze Medallist in 2012. They’ll have a display at the Hershey Centre as well.
Like that night at Tom Chater when four women walked out in black shirts and grey pants, it will be the Hall’s first class of four who were all women.
It all began on the diamonds when Nikki Ross began coaching house league from T-ball to midget in the Mississauga North Association.
Then, since baseball was in her blood, Nikki umpired from house league to triple-A from T-Ball to junior for 16 years, as well as high school for six years.
Nikki was also the umpire in chief for Mississauga North for six years and the head ump for the Mississauga Baseball Association for just as long. Plus umpire-in-chief for the Central Ontario Baseball Association for 18 years. Eventually Nikki was the Mississauga North president as well.
Nikki was an instructor/clinician for Baseball Ontario for 18 years, as well as operating winter clinics for young umpires (Level 1-to-3). Nikki ventured further than Rivergrove and Q Park and other Mississauga North diamonds as she looked after Ontario Summer Games assignments, Baseball Canada national crew assignments and was a supervisor/clinician for the Florida-based Female Umpires of America.
Besides that night at Tom Chater, Nikki was part of an all-female crew to work a Baseball Canada event at SkyDome. In 2010 Nikki won the Dick Willis Senior Umpire of the year award.
On my off days I’d help coach in Georgetown and I’ll bet for four of our first five opening exhibition games at the historic Fairgrounds, Nikki was there seated in a chair behind the backstop evaluating umpires. Umps would work one inning and she would debrief and another crew would come on ... of course it was a fun time for me.
“C’mon bear down ump ... it’s your first call all day and you flub it, he was out by 10 feet,” I’d say, when he was actually safe. At the end of the inning Nikki would call me over and say, “You know he got that call right?” And I’d say “Oh, I know, that’s our second baseman’s father.”
Or I’d yell on the very pitch of the game “We drove all the way here for that! Don’t start on the very first pitch.” The pitch had been called a ball -- when it should have been. Nikki would call me over at the end of the inning and quietly say, “Bob that was not a strike.”
And I’d say, “Oh I know that Nikki, the guy used to play for us.”
Luckily there was a backstop between us.
Her pal Pam Johnstone called her spunky, humorous, a born leader, a person who “always took the clean end of the stick,” a teacher and a consensus builder.
Pam painted an accurate picture, more accurate than I could have.
Well deserved to Nikki.