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Ball community still benefiting from legacy of 1994 ISC world senior men’s fastpitch championship
It was 25 years ago this weekend that the 1994 International Softball Congress (ISC) world senior men's fastpitch championship got underway in Summerside.
It will be remembered as one of the proudest moments in the history of Summerside sports and – without doubt – one of the best tournaments the Prince County city has ever put on. A total of 48 teams gathered in Summerside for the event, including the defending world-champion Toronto Gators and their world-class pitcher, Darren Zack.
Teams from Canada, United States, New Zealand and all four Atlantic provinces were amongst the participating teams, including the host Summerside 94s and the Silliker’s-Greco Twins from Summerside. The opening ceremonies had over 5,000 fans fill the extra 4,000 portable seats that were brought in for the event.
From the time the tournament was awarded in Salt Lake City, Utah, in August 1992, chairman Bill Schurman and over 2,200 volunteers worked tirelessly to make the 1994 world championship a huge success. Many will remember the late nights and last-minute paint jobs on the stands and throughout Queen Elizabeth Park to get ready just in time for the opening pitch.
What is now called Legends Field was completely upgraded to what it is today, including the installation of lights. It became only the second baseball field on P.E.I. to have lights. It was made into a temporary softball field for the worlds and what we have now in Legends Field is a lasting legacy of the ’94 tournament.
It was a great tournament to watch and a team named All-Car from Green Bay, Wis., dethroned the Gators in the championship game by a 5-4 score. Twenty-three-year-old Portugal Cove, N.L., native Colin Abbott was named the most valuable player after driving in the winning run on a line drive to the centre-field fence.
It was a memorable 10 days that started 25 years ago this week.
The world softball championship in Summerside helped divert the attention of local ball fans, who, along with the rest of Canada, were tuned into what was happening in Major League Baseball (MLB). The day of the opening ceremonies in Summerside was the first day of the MLB players strike.
Fans of the Montreal Expos were disheartened as they were the best team in baseball that year, carrying a six-game lead on the Atlanta Braves in the National League’s East Division. The Expos’ 74-40 (won-lost) record at the time was the best in baseball and that well-rounded Montreal team was favoured to win the World Series.
Many say that the strike was the beginning of the end of the Expos in Montreal as fans were turned off by the strike and a probable World Series title for Montreal. It is the only time in the history of Major League Baseball that the World Series was not played. As luck would have it, it happened when the Expos were favoured to win it all.
It is great to see the UPEI Panthers will host the 2021 Canadian U Sports men’s hockey championship. It gives the Panther program a much-needed boost after years of mediocrity. UPEI last appeared at the nationals in 1991.
They now have something to shoot for and the added pressure of putting a championship-calibre team on the ice is just what the program needs.
UPEI athletic director Chris Huggan has a strong desire to have success in all sports, but one can bet the men's hockey team will get lots of attention leading up to the nationals in just two years. Huggan says he wants to fill Eastlink Centre, site of the tournament, and he will do just that with a contender.
The Panthers enjoyed great Island-wide support when they won three of four Atlantic titles from 1984-85 to 1987-88 and in the early 1990s. Hosting will help with recruiting and head coach Forbes MacPherson will need a bit of luck and the full support of the university to build a contender.
The Panthers have never won a national title and 2021 would be great year to win No. 1.
Old Home Week
Old Home Week is underway in Charlottetown and, as always, harness racing is a huge part of the event that attracts thousands to our capital city.
Harness racing has been a part of Old Home Week dating back to 1905. That is rather astonishing in itself.
Old Home Week continued on through two World Wars, the depression in the 1930s and on into the late 1950s, when at the conclusion of the 1959 season, fire destroyed the main grandstand at the racetrack.
Track owners, business owners and community leaders quickly jumped into action and had a new grandstand built in time for Old Home Week in 1960. Track co-owner and race secretary Frank (Duck) Acorn thought that they should have an invitational race to celebrate the opening. Together, with the City of Charlottetown and the Evening Patriot newspaper, the first-ever Gold Cup and Saucer race took place. Dees Boy was the winner of the inaugural race.
In 1961, the Gold Cup Parade started and that was the start of the Gold Cup and Saucer ambassadors dressed in racing silks parading in convertibles. What a great idea Mr. Acorn had at that time with the race and the parade, which together have helped make Old Home Week the great event that it is.
Over 15,000 fans will attend the race next Saturday while over 50,000 will line the streets of Charlottetown for Friday’s parade.
Have a great week!
Joe MacIntyre is a local life insurance broker. His column appears every Saturday. Comments and suggestions can be sent to email@example.com.