The 1958 Midland Indians

1958 Ontario Baseball Association Intermediate ‘A’ Champions

In the autumn of 1958, a 12-year reign began for the Midland Indians baseball club. That season they defeated the Simcoe Meteors 1-0 to win the Ontario Baseball Association Intermediate A championship. Was it the first time for Midland? Newspaper accounts varied. The Midland Free Press Herald of September 24 declared it was, indeed, the town’s first Ontario baseball title in more than 30 years; but two days earlier, the Toronto Star reported Midland had captured its first provincial crown ever. What is certain is this: after the final win, the Midland players, still wearing their uniforms and spikes, climbed into open convertibles and rode down King Street in an impromptu victory parade. There were further victories, and similar celebrations, to come over the next 12 years. Midland’s baseball Indians, from 1958 to 1969, were the most prolific intermediate team in Ontario. OBA champions six times during this era, they would finish as finclists in the province four other times in that span. The 1958 Indians started it all. Their clinching game in the championship series against Simcoe was played at Midland’s Town Park, and it was an extra-inning thriller. “I never slept a wink before that last game,” says Harold Jackson, the team’s veteran second baseman. “That game turned out to be a real nail-biter.” After nine innings the two pitchers, Gord Dyment for Midland, and Simcoe’s Bob White, hadn’t given up a run. Dyment tossed a two-hitter that day, striking out 17 Simcoe batters and walking none. In the top of the 10th, Simcoe still couldn’t score and when the Indians came to bat in the bottom half of the frame, it set up one of the most exciting moments in Midland sports history. Buck Rogers led off for the Indians and flied – loudly – to deep centre field. Joe Faragher, who went two-for-four, singled through the right side of the infield. Jim Lemieux followed him by looping a safety over first base, chasing Faragher to third. By now the Midland fans hoped for the best. They had filled the bleachers and lined the ball park from baseline to baseline, stretching farther still along the outfield fence, while others squeezed three to four deep behind the home plate screen. The next batter was Buzz Deschamps, hitless to that point. With the winning run 90 feet away, and another Midland runner on base as well, Simcoe decided to intentionally walk the Indians’ shortstop. This was good baseball strategy. Having already recorded an out Simcoe, by issuing the free pass, could set up a force at any base, including home plate, and possibly get out of the inning by executing a double-play. Bob White, still pitching for the Meteors, instructed his catcher to set up outside, away from Deschamps. The sideanner delivered for ball one. White threw again. Instead of accepting a walk, Deschamps reached wide across the plate and stroked the pitch onto the right field grass. The hit brought Joe Faragher home and into the arms of a delirious Murray Yorke, and it gave the town the OBA title. “Everybody just went crazy,” Jackson recalls of the crowd. Members of the 1958-champi-on Indians were: Harold Jackson, Vic Valentine, Jack Hendrickson, Buzz Deschamps, Albert Stainton, Jim Wilcox, Larry Greene, Bob Hendrickson, Jim Lemieux, Buck Rogers, Murray Yorke, Joe Faragher. Gord Dyment, and bat boy Fred Jackson. They were coached by Bunn Deschamps. Fred Rutherford was the club’s trainer. Of those, Larry Greene, Albert Stainton, Buck Rogers and Bunn Deschamps are deceased. “Bunn kept us together,” Jackson says. “He knew his baseball. And if you didn’t come to practice, you didn’t play.” “We were like the Blue Jays in ’92 when they won the World Series. We couldn’t be denied,” says catcher Murray Yorke. “We won hard and we lost hard. “There was always somebody there to get you off your back. We had a great mix of veteran guys and younger players. We had a lot of timely hitting. We’d win big most of the time, but many times we had to scratch.” The Indians had traveled to Port Dover for the opening game of the best of-three final, where they beat Simcoe 2-1 to set up the home-field game and the title. In the first game, Greene hit a two-run homer for the Indians. Midland saved the lead in the eighth inning when Yorke tagged out Simcoe’s Bill Pond inches away from the plate. In the bottom of the ninth, Midland still leading 2-1, the Indians committed two errors to put Simcoe runners on second and third. With two men on, none out, and the tying and go-ahead runs on second and third Dyment, then a 29-year-old former professional, struck out the side to end the game. “It was very important when we got Gordie (Dyment),” Jackson says. “He was pitching up in Copper Cliff and he came back to Midland in July. We were good, but with Gordie, he made our chances better. He carried us through.” Earlier, in the OBA semi-fmals, the Indians defeated the Bowmanville Harvesters, 2-0 and 7-0 in the best of three series. They qualified by coming out of the Bruce League. The 1958 players remember how much their provincial title meant to the town. “It was a big deal then, and it still is,” says Yorke. “People relate back and talk about it. I was on the Midland Red Wings Junior C hockey team that won the Ontario championship in 1954. “The Indians winning in 1958 was on a par with that, for what it meant in the town. People today still care, and they still remember.”