This all-black team changed history—but the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame made it through again

The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame announced its newest member Wednesday, but the Chatham Colored All-Stars aren’t among the inductees, again, despite their place in history dating back to 1934.

It was then that the All-Stars defeated the Penetrating Shipbuilders in the Ontario Provincial Amateur Baseball Association championship, and are credited with becoming the first black team to win the title, 13 years before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in MLB.

Eighty-eight years later, the team is finally inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame, in 2022. But they are still waiting to be recognized by the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.

This year, the players who will be inducted in a ceremony at the Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont., on June 17, among others:

  • Denis Boucher, former left-hander for the Montreal Expos (Montreal).
  • Rich Harden (Victoria), former Oakland A left-hander
  • Jesse Barfield, former Blue Jays right winger.
  • Joe Wiwchar, longtime Manitoba baseball coach and executive.

Ferguson Jenkins Sr. played for the All-Stars as an outfielder in the years following their historic win in 1934. His son, Fergie Jenkins, was a retired MLB pitcher.

“Unfortunately, they have to fight against a lot of modern players who have played Canadian baseball, or have played in Toronto or Montreal, and they have the same voice,” Jenkins said on CBC Radio. Afternoon Drive.

And sadly, my father’s team didn’t have enough votes to enter.”

Ferguson “Fergie” Jenkins Jr. is a Canadian former professional baseball pitcher and coach. He played Major League Baseball from 1965 to 1983 for the Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox. (Nam Y. Huh/The Associated Press)

Jenkins, a Cy Young Award winner who became the first Canadian to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, in 1991, said he would be “incredibly proud” to see his father’s team honored.

“I know it’s been a while but some relatives and family still live in Chatham [Ont.] very proud of what their grandfathers did when they were playing in the 30s,” he said.

Blake Harding, now in his 70s, is also a relative of the All-Stars team who have lobbied for years to get them into the Hall of Fame.

Blake wasn’t born when his father, Wilfred (Boomer) Harding, was one of the Chatham team’s star players. But she grew up hearing stories about the challenges the team faced because of the color of their skin.

Harding said waiting for the team to get the Hall of Fame recognition they deserve is disappointing, but facing adversity is nothing new for All-Stars.

The Wilfred (Boomer) Harding family approached the University of Windsor professor about digitizing photos of Boomer and his team. (Photo provided)

“They raised their heads. They didn’t complain, they didn’t whine when they played rough in 1934 and 1935,” he said. “It was rough. They were spit on. Six year old kids would throw stones at them, pushed by their parents.

“Teams right now, getting into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, are probably going through the same predicament.”

Harding said the team deserved recognition for its historic impact.

“It wasn’t just about baseball. It was how they changed society. It opened doors for my generation, and my children, and my grandchildren and the local community.”

Two of Harding’s uncles, Len and Andy Harding, were also All-Stars.

Long list of awards

To be inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, individuals must first be nominated by members of the public. After that, a selection committee (consisting of media, previously appointed persons, historians, and executives) votes for the nominees in an annual ballot. Individuals who receive at least 75 percent of the vote are sworn in.

That Hall of Fame site citing the accomplishments of those selected for this year’s class, an announcement made on the first day of Black History Month.

“Each person inducted this year has had a significant influence on the game of baseball in Canada in their own way,” said Jeremy Diamond, chairman of the Hall of Fame’s board of directors.

The history-making all-black team is still waiting for baseball hall of fame recognition

Blake Harding, now in his 70s, was not even born when his father, Wilfred (Boomer) Harding, was on the Chatham Colored All-Stars team. She grew up hearing stories about the challenges an all-black team faced because of the color of their skin. He hopes the All-Stars will earn induction to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, even if the team isn’t inducted this year.

Harding, however, noted the All-Stars have received notable recognition from other organizations.

“What we don’t understand is – they were inducted into the local Chatham Sports Hall of Fame. They were inducted into the Negro Hall of Fame in Philadelphia in the US a few years ago. Then they were inducted last year, in 2022, into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame, which is very phenomenal,” he said. “They paid for all of our expenses, rolled out the red carpet, nine yards.

“So for this team not to be accepted is really disappointing,” Harding said referring to the Hall of Fame.

The 1934 champion has also been revived in MLB video games MLB Show ’22.

In 2016, the University of Windsor received a $72,500 grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to create an oral history project, called Breaking the Color Barrier: Wilfred “Boomer” Harding and Chatham Colored All-Stars (1932-1939)to preserve and share team stories.

For more stories about the black Canadian experience—ranging from anti-black racism to success stories within the black community—see Being Black in Canada, a CBC project black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.


Hadwin Floyd

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