Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Edison Linked to Canadian Baseball

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By Cecil Scaglione    

 Mature Life Features

ST. MARY’S, Ontario —- You could say the chronicles of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame are crafted in concrete. The St. Mary’s Cement Co., founded in 1912, is to Canadian cement what Louisville is to baseball bats.

The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame was opened in 1983. It was housed in the American League Toronto Blue Jays’ original home in the Canadian National Exhibition stadium on the Lake Ontario waterfront.

It was dispossessed in 1989 because it was not included in the baseball team’s new home – the massive Skydome built in the lee of the CN Tower, the world’s tallest free-standing structure that looms over the lake.

That’s when the cement company came to the rescue by donating 32 acres of land for a museum-and-sports-field complex. We stopped by this hidden gem a couple of hours east of Toronto while on a mission to dip our toes in the three Great Lakes – Huron, Erie and Ontario — that lap the shores of Southern Ontario.

This bustling industrial town also produced Arthur Meighen, who was prime minister of Canada during the early 1920s, and Timothy Eaton, who launched a coast-to-coast department-store empire. It also was a brief stopover for Thomas Alva Edison, who worked as an itinerant junior telegrapher for Western Union in his teens.

A near-disaster vignettes his brief career in St. Mary’s first railway station, although other towns claim this bit of notoriety. As the story goes, he displayed his creative bent while serving as the local night telegraph operator. To prevent night operators from sleeping on the job, the company required them to tap out “six” every half hour. He invented a device that automatically sent out the code when a crank was turned and he slept while the night watchman turned the crank every 30 minutes.

One night a message came through to hold a train in a passing track. Edison failed to relay this message to the train crew. Fortunately, the engineers saw each other’s train in time to stop. And the young man slipped out of town before the subsequent inquiry was completed.

A new structure on the Hall of Fame site is a bleacher section erected at the recently built ball fields. The museum is a house that was built on a comfortable knoll in 1868 and rented to cement-company employees.

Among the more renowned of the mostly Canadian players memorialized here is Chicago Cub’s pitcher Ferguson Arthur Jenkins, who was born and raised in Chatham, Ontario. It’s about 50 miles east of Detroit and was a major terminal on the underground railway used by slaves fleeing the United States. He’s also inducted into the Cooperstown, N.Y., baseball Hall of Fame. His 1971 Cy Young award for National League pitcher of the year is on display here.

Also in this baseball circle is Jackie Robinson, who played for the Montreal Royals, a Brooklyn Dodgers farm club, before he broke the color barrier in the major leagues.

While hanging around to listen to the echoes dancing around the uniforms, mitts, bats, spikes, caps, and photographs was enthralling, it soon was time to return to our original mission – to dabble in the three Great Lakes.

We had left Goderich on the blue-water shores of Lake Huron a couple of hours earlier after a couple of days roaming around the rustic region along its eastern shore. We went antique gawking in such fanciful towns as Tobermory, Kincardine, and Southampton. Villages in this area boast stone-and-brick churches that look large enough to house all the remaining buildings in the community.

From St. Mary’s, we dropped down to the north shore of Lake Erie. The water there appears to reflect the tone of the earth around it. We took time in Port Stanley to sample the sweet and succulent Lake Erie perch, a lunch you’ll always remember once you’ve tried it.

Our next leg was east around the metropolitan Toronto complex to Prince Edward County, an island on the north shore of Lake Ontario. This lake serves as a weather monitor – angry black-and-white when it’s stormy, crisp and translucent blue when sailing is at its best, and steel-grey cold when the temperature plummets.

We devoted some time here to view the area picked by loyalists to the British cause during the War of 1812 as they scooted across Lake Ontario to this land of milk and honey that has become Canadian wine-and-cheese country.

Picton, about 90 minutes east of Toronto, is the major town that anchors the eastern end of the Ontario wine country, which winds westward through the Niagara peninsula and on to the junction of the Detroit River and Lake Erie about 300 miles away.

The pub in the Waring House Inn, a cozy 17-room hostel and cooking school, proclaims its heritage in the Barley Room. Barley from this little island was in demand throughout North America during the latter half of the 1800s.

All this is within a two-hour drive of Gananoque, on the U.S. border at the head of the Thousand Islands leading into the St. Lawrence River; Ottawa, the country’s capital, and Toronto, often cited as the most cosmopolitan city on the continent.

Mature Life Features Copyright 2003

Written by Cecil Scaglione

August 12, 2011 at 7:48 am

Posted in Canada, Travel

Tagged with , , , ,

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