He might have been one of the most prolific supporters of teams in London sports history. For several decades the words “Ontario champions” were synonymous with the name Chester Pegg Diamonds.
From junior and senior Intercounty baseball, to Junior B hockey, to curling, lawn bowling, softball, soccer, alley bowling, youth football and numerous other sporting activities it seemed as if there was always a competition of some description for a Chester Pegg trophy.
Sponsoring a team or organization was a practice started by Chester, whose Dundas Street jewellery business was, and remains, a staple of our downtown. Being involved in sports was Chester‟s way of supporting the community and the practice continued well after his death 27 years ago by son John and the Pegg family.
Perhaps the first major sponsorship happened in the late 1950s when Chester bailed out a sad-sack junior B hockey situation. The team played without much success on the cramped confines of the Ontario Arena at the Western Fairgrounds. Efforts to secure a financial backer, even a person to buy sweaters, were futile until Chester stepped up.
Chester realized the value in sponsoring athletics and the benefit of headlines pointing to the London Diamonds, win or lose.
Those early teams weren‟t the only time Chester ventured into junior B hockey. In 1976 the Peggs sponsored the Diamonds and the next year took over the ownership which lasted until 1988. During that period the Diamonds won Western Junior B titles in 1981, ‟83 and ‟84, reaching the Ontario semi-finals in 1983 and ’84, a far cry from their early days.
On the baseball field, the London Majors played as the Chester Pegg Diamonds in 1960 and 1961 and although the Brantford Red Sox won both the Intercounty pennant and playoff championship in both years, the Diamonds did have the league batting champ in the late Donnie Mayes in ’60 and Gabby Anderson in ’61.
In 1963, Chester switched to the junior ranks and watched the Diamonds defeat Oshawa Legion for the Ontario Junior A championship. Five years later they beat another Oshawa team for an encore.
When the Highland Curling Club opened in 1959 Chester was there to provide the women‟s division championship trophy. It remains in competition today and is the longest continuous running trophy at the club. The Pegg influence is also found in men‟s curling at Highland. And it was evident on the world stage when the Silver Broom was held here in 1979.
The London Minor Football Association was been the beneficiary of the Chester Pegg touch for many years. Many outstanding high school and university players, even some pros, received their development training on a Chester Pegg team.
Oddly, Chester and son John were never serious baseball or hockey players although Chester was heavily involved in organizing, playing and sponsoring lawn bowling.
Further examples of the Pegg family commitment to sports might be in the late summer of 1961 when John took Gay, his wife-to-be, to a closing banquet for an Irish soccer team that he and his father sponsored “because John said I was the only Irish girl he knew.” Two years later they were married but the sponsorship continued.
John and his wife boarded some of the players on the hockey teams during the 1980s. “One time Diamonds manager Fred Schell called and said he had signed a great kid and that we will love him,” Gay related. “It turned out to be quite prophetic because the kid was Joey Sadlowski and he is now our son-in-law.
“We cared about the kids and we got to know them individually and met many of their family members. It was good to see them mature and develop their talents and we enjoyed it thoroughly,” she said.
Somewhere, Chester Pegg is nodding in agreement. Appropriately, this London jeweler was a diamond in the rough. The London Sports Hall of Fame is pleased to include him in the builder/founder legend category.