SUMMERSIDE – It was a perfect setting as Summerside’s baseball past and present came together on a sun-drenched diamond.
As two midget teams looked on from their respective dugouts during a break in a weekend tournament in Summerside, five individuals were honoured by having their names added to the Legends Field Honour Roll at Queen Elizabeth Park on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Grant Grady, the late Maurice Cannon, the late Bennie Grady and the late Frank Oatway were inducted in the playing category, and the late Paul D. Gallant was recognized as a builder.
A concrete monument, located on the first-base side of Legends Field, features the names of all inductees.
“This is a great honour for a lot of us who played sports,” said Grant Grady.
Late Maurice Cannon
Master of ceremony and chairperson of the City of Summerside Legends Field inductee/honoree committee Paul H. Schurman described Cannon as a “happy-go-lucky starry first baseman.”
Schurman went on to say Cannon was “admired by all, with a brilliant glove hand, a long stretch to gather in the thrown ball to make the out and always one to make first base with a solid single or, more than often, electrify his teammates and the crowd in the bleachers with a booming home run.”
Maurice’s sister, Lillian Keller of Halifax, N.S., accepted his citation.
“I’m very happy, but I’m sad,” she said in an interview with the Journal Pioneer following the ceremony. “He adored it.
“I used to come to the games, and when he hit the ball it was mostly a home run. He lived to play ball with Coke (Grady), the Gradys and it was wonderful.”
When asked if Maurice ever shared any memories of playing baseball in Summerside, Keller answered: “All the time. I looked after him for eight months and his wife had died three months before him. He talked all the time about ball, and he had every sport channel on the TV. He adored sports.”
Late Paul Gallant
Schurman praised Gallant’s “years of involvement as a valued staff member” with the City of Summerside.
“His attention to the needs of all ball fields here at Queen Elizabeth Park had praise from all quarters,” said Schurman, who noted as a Level 5 umpire Gallant also officiated in no less than five national championships.
Alyre Gallant accepted the honour on behalf of his son, who was the programming and scheduling co-ordinator at the time of his sudden passing in the fall of 2017.
“We are quite proud of Paul,” said Alyre. “He was very devoted to his work. You know he never turned off his (work) phone on his days off.”
Schurman noted it was Gallant who came up with the name Legends Field.
“He was quite proud that they accepted his suggestion of Legends Field,” said Alyre. “I remember that very well.”
Despite significant contributions over the years, which included chairing national championships, Gallant was quite content to stay in the background while deflecting praise to other individuals.
“Paul wasn’t much of a talker,” said Alyre. “He would be pretty proud of Paul (H.) and the show they put on for him. I’m sure he’s up there enjoying it.”
Late Bennie Grady
Bennie Grady was a member of the Curran and Briggs intermediate and junior teams that won Maritime championships in 1950.
“He was an exceptional third baseman,” noted Schurman. “Not many ground balls got by him at the so-called ‘Hot Corner.’
“When he came up with the ball, he waited a step or two, then rifled a snap throw to first base to nip the runner for the out.”
Chuck Grady accepted the citation.
“My dad wasn't really up front about accolades and things like that,” said Chuck. “I joked out on the field that if he was here he probably wouldn’t have shown up. He doesn’t like to be talked about it.
“It is really nice for my sister (Barb Arsenault), my wife (Heather) and our families to honour Dad for what he’s done for baseball in Summerside.”
Chuck acknowledged his father’s passion for baseball.
“He loved to play, and so did his whole family,” said Chuck. “They would all get together in the summer at the ballpark, and they had some great teams over the years.
“They won their fair share of games and championships, but sports in general, especially baseball, was a real high point in Dad’s life.”
Grant Grady left his mark as both player and coach.
“When his team needed a runner on base, or a clean single to score a runner from second or third, they could pretty well count on Grant Grady to find a hole in the infield or outfield, and slap that pitched ball towards those openings,” said Schurman.
Grant, who helped develop players as a coach following his playing career, began playing junior baseball at a young age.
“I was 14 when I started to play junior here,” he offered. “I played with my brother (Bennie) and he played third base, and whenever he was done I took over. I played with my uncle Coke (Grady), and there were a lot of good memories here for me.”
Including some classic battles against Charlottetown.
“Everything was against Charlottetown,” recalled Grant. “Forbie (Kennedy) was catching, Kip Ready was playing first and there was that wanting to play, and wanting to play against them.
“Back then we had 2,500 people here for those games against them. It was the only game in town, and in Charlottetown there would be 3,000 (fans) down there.”
Another highlight included a Brooklyn Dodgers scout attending games and offering tips.
Late Frank Oatway
A native of Borden, Oatway played with the Maritime finalists Summerside Kinsmen Juniors of 1948. He played first base, and continued in that position with the Maritime-champion Summerside All-Stars, also in 1948. Oatway also was the Summerside Town League’s batting champion in 1948.
George Dalton, a member of the selection committee, accepted the award on his behalf.
“He came in and stayed with Hank Landry (a 2013 Honour Roll inductee) when he was about 17,” explained Dalton. “He started playing baseball with the Curran and Briggs Seniors and in ’49 they won the Maritime championship. The neat thing is at age 18 or so, Frankie Oatway won the batting championship. He outhit all the stars.”
Dalton added that as good of an athlete as Oatway was, he was an even better person.
“He was kind of a gentle giant,” Dalton went on to say. “People always called him a Jean Béliveau, he was a classy individual and a great sports fan.
“In his latter years of life he came back to Summerside, and I often sat at the Little League games, and he would be at all those games with Hank Landry reminiscing about the good old days of sport.”
Legends Field Honour Roll honorees:
Henry (Hank) Landry
Intermediate All-Star Teams of 1947 and 1948
John K. Curran.
Lester (Les) Gaudet
James H. Grady
Michael (Mike) Cameron
Colin (Coke) Grady
P.E.I. Islanders’ 1977 team
Gerard (Joe) Bernard
Donald (Dee) Lefurgey
John W. McNeill
J. Charles Hogan
Curran and Briggs Intermediates 1950
Curran and Briggs Juniors 1950
Junior Legionnaires 1964
Little League All-Stars 1967