When the London Lou Ball juniors closed out the 1951 Ontario championship series against Hamilton, pitcher Al Robinson called it “lucky 13”.
“I will always remember it,” he said. “October 13 and 13 was my uniform number.”
Now, 62 years later, Al and his teammates are here tonight to accept congratulations from the London Sports Hall of Fame and the community at large for a job well done. Winning consecutive championships is no mean feat in any sport but the Lou Ball squad, perhaps the best junior baseball team to ever represent London, was equal to the task.
The team had defeated Hamilton Crafords to claim the 1951 title and set the stage for the back-to-back challenge from Oshawa Transporters. The Lou Ball squad, with the late Irv Hodgson at the helm, took on all comers and were the equal or better than many senior teams in Ontario. Had there been an Eastern Canada or a national junior championship it’s a good bet they would have won that too.
As it was they added the Intercounty Junior title in 1951 and the Southern Counties championship in 1952.
As a testament to their talent, nine Lou Ball players received professional invitations and many graduated to the Senior Intercounty with the Majors or St. Thomas Elgins. Of course, the grounding the city boys received in the old PUC playground system was instrumental in their early development.
The 1951 lineup included: manager Hodgson, assistant coach Norm Aldridge, Billy Dixon, Dale Creighton, Hugh Schomburg, Don Mayes, Jack Mayes, Les Thomas, Bill Slack, Stan Slack, Larry Dixon, Roy McKay, Don Newman, Don Goddard, Bob Sanders. Dave (Snipe) Mendham was the batboy for both teams.
The 1952 lineup had Hodge and Norm as coaches, Milt Gray was trainer and Duke and Alex Potter executive members. The players were Tedd Bogal, Ray Butler, Jim Scafe, John Sweeney, Bill Winegarden, Don Ryckman, Marv Liley , Don Newman and Walt McFadden. In addition there were holdovers Robinson, Thomas, Creighton, Sanders, Larry Dixon, and Donnie Mayes. Bobby Deakin was a midget callup.
And always in the background was London clothier Lou Ball , the sponsor with the big heart who was always ready to lend support.
We are honoured to have with us today Lou’s niece Beth Saylor representing his family.
The London Sports Hall of Fame is pleased to include the London Lou Ball junior teams among its inductees, truly two teams that made and deserved headlines then and now.