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Marion Clarke Knowles
Born: 1927
Died: 1978
Discipline: Basketball, Softball
Years Active: 1930s - 1940s
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She swam, she dove, she ran, she jumped. She could throw a softball further than a lot of the boys. She could catch too. And she was a natural with a basketball.
She was Marion Clarke Knowles a multi-sport athlete who grew up in East London where first, she was a playground champion and later an elite-class softball pitcher and basketball star.
In the late 1940s and throughout the next decade she made headlines as the leader on the London Shamrocks basketball squad that won the 1945 Eastern Canada women’s senior championship. Three years later she pitched the London Supremes to the Michigan-Ontario championship and a challenge series triumph over the Orange County Lionettes — the North American champions — down in California.
The late Bill Farquharson, then London’s recreation director, was manager- coach and mastermind of both teams although Cec Hill coached the Supremes during their championship season.
“Clarkie was just a natural,” recalled her childhood friend Helen (Gorman) Brulotte. “She was a very good all-around athlete. A standout in any sport. And boy how she could pitch!
“I was her catcher for several years and I would often come home with a bruised hand from her pitches. My mother would say “Why do you keep on doing that?
” Because Marion is my friend, I’d say. ”
The lineups of the Supremes and the Shamrocks were often interchangeable and their exploits led to long-lasting friendships. Right up to two years ago they would gather one summer day at Brulotte’s farm to reminisce and attempt to capture their fleeting youth. Inevitably Marion Clarke’s name would enter the conversation with anecdotes of her pitching and basketball talents.
Marion married Bill Knowles in 1949 and close friend and teammate Irene Widderburn Brownlie was her maid of honour. She too attested to Marion’s athletic prowess. “And swimming too,” Brownlie said. “She could swim like a fish.” Sadly Clarke Knowles died in May of 1978 at age 51.
The London Sports Hall of Fame is pleased to honour the memory of one of this city’s outstanding athletes as an inductee amongst our legends.