|1925 LONDON BRAVES, SENIOR IBL CHAMPIONS: At Tecumseh Park, today's historic Labatt Memorial Park. BACK ROW (L-R): Fred Isaacs (C), Ted Braund (GM), Gil Forgue (MGR), Lloyd Reilly (1B), Hank Down (P), MIDDLE ROW: Fred Quick (P), Cecil Langford (INF), Roy (Buster) Baker (P-OF), Jimmy (Toots) Doherty (SS/2B), Tom Filmore (OF). FRONT ROW: Allan McWaine (3B-IF), Fred Ward (SS-2B), Sammy Silverstein (CF-OF), Clarence Armstrong (3B). ABSENT: Jimmy (Shag) Arnott (3B-C), Coleman (INF), Bill Finlayson (INF-OF), George (Tony) Fitchett (OF), Chris Mulhall (INF), McIntyre, Larry Nolan (C), Frank Pring (P), C Pirie (P), Herbert Smith (C-OF). PHOTO: Courtesy, Sarah Lewis.|
1937 LONDON SILVERWOODS, SENIOR IBL CHAMPIONS (L-R): At historic Labatt Park. BACK ROW: Del Lewis (PRES), Clare Van Horne (LF), Charlie Males (CF), Bob McCallum, Ken McFadden (INF), Alf White (CAPTAIN-2B), John Mezza (SS), Harry Garside (BIZ MGR). FRONT ROW: Tom Whitney (RF), Jack McFarquhar (P), Fred (Irish) Bennett (C), with MASCOT 'Pug,' Manny Hamon (RF), Harvey Hall (3B), Tony Bonk (1B). ABSENT: Gil Forgue (MGR). PHOTO: June 18, 1937, London Free Press.
The dignitaries on-field during the pre-game ceremonies for the June 21, 1937 IBL game at Labatt Memorial Park (first game after the April 26, 1937 Thames River Flood) between the London Silverwoods and the Stratford Nationals (L-R): E.V. Buchanan, GM of the Public Utilities Commission; Gil Forgue, field manager of the London Silverwoods; J.C. Doidge, chairman of the PUC; A.E. Silverwood, president of Silverwood's Dairy and team sponsor; Alex Morrison, chairman of the PUC's parks' committee and R.W. Del Lewis, president of the London Silverwoods Baseball Club. IMAGE: June 21, 1937 London Free Press Evening Edition, PUC Collection, Western University Archives.
2008 Pennant-winning Majors were loaded with talent
London Majors Alumni Day at Labatt Park, June 16, 2019, honouring the 2008 London Majors, IBL Pennant Winners and IBL Finalists.
EVENT PHOTOS BY MATT HISCOX:
By Majors' Alumnus Dave Byers, SS, #18, Riley Nowokowski and Barry Wells
> The 2008 London Majors won the John Coppes Memorial Trophy with the best win-loss record of 27-9 during the regular season (a .750 winning percentage). London's first pennant since 1988.
> Majors' RHP Josh Palmer, 22, won the 2008 Ted Earley Memorial Trophy with the lowest ERA during the regular season (2.14). His record was 8-0, pitching seven complete games.
> IBL All-Stars were: Majors' SS David Narodowski, RHP Josh Palmer, 1B Jess Bechard, OF Christian Riuz and MGR Roop Chanderdat.
> 2008 IBL All-Stars: theibl.net/awards2008.html
> 2008 Regular Season Stats: theibl.net/documents/RELEASE12_001.pdf
> 2008 Playoff Stats: theibl.net/documents/RELEASE15.pdf
> Majors' SS David Narodowski was named MVP of the 2008 IBL All-Star Game in Toronto.
> Majors' Co-owners Scott Dart and Roop Chanderdat won the David E. Hastings Trophy as IBL Co-executives of the Year.
> In Game 7 of the best-of-seven-game championship series at Labatt Park, the Brantford Red Sox defeated the London Majors 8-2, before a sold-out crowd of 5,200.
> Majors' INF Jeff Helps won the Max Roseman Memorial Trophy as the MVP during the IBL Playoffs.
Remembering the Season
Jeff Helps, 2B and SS
"It was a summer of memories. The players were a great group of guys; the one’s you wanted on your team. We had bulldogs on the mound, matched with good defense and good hitting.
"Roop was in his 3rd season as the manager and he was good at communicating with the players. I always knew where I stood with Roop, what his expectations were and what my role was. He put all the pieces together and let us play."
On winning the IBL Playoff MVP Award (Jeff batted .408 with 29 hits), Helps reflects: "It was a team effort. The guys would always work out together and talk hitting. Mentoring from Jess Bechard helped me understand myself and helped me turn a corner.
"2008 was bitter-sweet. It was more than just the playoff run. It became a part of my life. Without that summer, I don’t meet former Major Leaguer Adam Stern, owner of Centrefield Sports, where I now work. I wouldn’t have set up in London. It was kind of like the stars aligned.
"The season was special; you’re playing baseball at a good level and seeing the big playoff crowds made it great. Either being booed or cheered, it didn’t matter, it was a great experience.”
Kyle Piwowarczyk, 3B
"My memories of the 2008 season began the same as most, with a lot of new faces. There was always turnover from year to year when I played. And you never really knew what kind of team you had until you got onto the field.
"In '08, you could see early on that we had a special group; really good players and really great guys. I can't remember having any problems of any kind with anyone. There were no egos to navigate around and the leadership that guys like Jess Bechard and Kevin Virtue provided kept everyone in check and moving towards the common goal.
"One thing I do remember that summer is winning a lot of one-run games in late innings. We were always confident that someone would step up with a big hit and our pitching staff always gave us the chance to win. We were 2nd in the league in team hitting and defense and our pitching was the best in the league.
"There were a lot of capable players that accepted their roles and contributed whenever given the chance. No matter what our lineup looked like, we felt we had a chance to win.
"As is the case with most successful teams, we had team chemistry and fun off the field. We had guys from different backgrounds, different ages and guys that were there for different reasons, but in the clubhouse everyone connected ... Our clubhouse manager Cam (Snacks) Simpson made sure the guys had everything needed before, during and after games.
"Scott Dart was always close by to make sure the players had everything needed to be successful. He did a lot of behind-the-scenes work, that most fans aren’t aware of.
"Of course, the unfortunate end of the summer is something I will never forget. I had to leave during the championship series against Brantford to fulfill my first professional hockey contract in Germany. An extremely difficult position to be in, but it was an opportunity I simply couldn't afford to jeopardize. There is no feeling in the world worse for me than not being beside your teammates in competition. However, I was extremely proud of how we competed and coming up short is nothing to be ashamed of. It's fair to say that 2008 was my most memorable as a London Major."
Jess Bechard, 1B and 3B
"I’d played off and on in a few leagues in Ohio but when I moved back to Canada in 2007, I hadn’t thought about putting the spikes on again. One day, the itch just hit me and two days later I was at practice with the team. It immediately felt like a great fit. I was really just looking to have some fun and to be totally honest, my motivation was I wanted to prove to myself that I could still play at a high level. It turned out to be more fun than I ever imagined.
"Getting off to a hot start in the IBL regular season can give you some breathing room for later in the season when teams are fighting for playoff position, so our strong start played a big part in helping us win the pennant … It became evident that the key to the team being a close-knit group was Kyle Piwowarczyk. ‘Peo’ was one of the greatest teammates I ever stepped on a field with and a good friend to this day.
"The biggest addition was Jeff Helps, who came about eight games into the season. He was the final piece of the puzzle and we just kept rolling. We now had a lineup where you could put the same starting nine out there each night and let the players go after it. I think Roop knew that he had something special and let us have fun and play and Roop did a great of job of that. He had a professional infield [Piwowarczyk 3B, Narodowski SS, Helps 2B] and an outfield of talented athletes [Vallejos LF, Ruiz CF, Virtue RF]. Every night we stepped on the field expecting to win and we knew we had the team to do it.
"The pitching staff might have been even more impressive. We had two veterans in Adam Echlin and Josh Palmer who you knew were going to give you a chance to win each time they toed the rubber. They were going to go deep in games and give the bullpen a rest when you needed a shutdown outing.
"While one of the storylines of the playoffs is the fact that we lost the left side of our infield for the Brantford series [Piwowarczyk to Germany for pro hockey and Narodowski to start his school year at the University of Kansas], it's more important to focus on the guys who stepped up and filled the vacated roles ... Moving Jeff Helps to SS to cover for Narodowski was seamless. Helpsy is arguably the smoothest infielder I’ve ever played with.
"In my opinion, the hero of that series was Vince Burke. He jumped in at second base and played like an all-star that whole series. Vince was a solid player all season and an unbelievable teammate.
"With Josh Palmer starting in game 7, we felt pretty good about our chances. Long story short, we lost … but the effort we put in and the team that came together to overcome obstacles was really impressive. Not winning game 7 doesn’t change how I feel about that team. We gave Brantford everything they could handle. They were a veteran team who had to fly in every weapon under the sun to beat us. We danced with the ones who brought us and we went down fighting."
LEFT TO RIGHT: London Majors' pitchers Pete Mendham, Kevin Thomas, Derek Moss and Kirk Martin at Labatt Park, pre-game in 1998. PHOTO BY: Jeffrey Reed. Long-time London Majors' catcher Wayne Fenlon presents Fergie Jenkins with his framed retired jersey #31 during Fergie Jenkins Night at Labatt Park on June 5, 1992. Fergie played for the London Majors in 1984 and 1985 after he retired from MLB in 1983. PHOTO BY: Jeffrey Reed.
ABOVE: Three legendary London Majors (L-R) Ken McFadden, Russ Evon and Norm Aldridge at historic Labatt Park circa 1990. All three were members of the 1948 London Majors Baseball Club inducted into the London Sports Hall of Fame in 2002. Ken McFadden played on the 1937 London Silverwoods, Sr. IBL Champions, managed by Gil Forgue.
BELOW: London Majors' infielder Barry Boughner at the plate at Labatt Park, circa 1970s. PHOTO: LFP.
1957 London Majors of the Great Lakes-Niagara District Baseball League.
The London Majors won the league championship in 1957, the only year London didn't field a team in the IBL from 1925-2019.
Billy and Larry Dixon grew up living at the home behind the (now vacant) variety store at 86 Wilson at Chandler Street (west side of Wilson Avenue) ~ just a stone's throw from Labatt Park at 25 Wilson Avenue.
Former London Majors' batboy, Bill Dixon, who grew up a stone's throw from Labatt Park at 86 Wilson Avenue, signs a pro contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers circa 1952.
2B Chris McQueen of the London Majors at Labatt Park on July 4, 2017. PHOTO: The London Free Press.
|Gilbert C. Forgue (1888-1979), manager of the 1925 London Braves (Sr. IBL Champions), 1936 London Silverwoods (Sr. IBL Champions), 1937 London Silverwoods (Sr. IBL Champions) and the 1938 London Seniors of the IBL. PHOTO: 1938 Program.|
Gil and his wife Lillian M. Forgue (1895-1981) both worked at Silverwood's Dairy in London, with Lillian working as the personal assistant to President A.E. Silverwood. The Forgues lived on Victoria Street in old north London. After retirement, they moved to a high-rise apartment on Talbot Street near Mill Street.
St. Peter's Cemetery in London.
2008 Majors' Co-owner, General Manager and Field Manager Roop Chanderdat. PHOTO: LFP.
2008 Majors' All-Star RHP Josh Palmer.
2008 Majors' Playoff MVP Jeff Helps, INF.2008 Majors' team leader and fan favourite, Kyle Piwowarczyk.After the 2008 all-star game in Toronto, Dave Narodowski was named Game MVP. (L-R): RHP Josh Palmer, MGR Roop Chanderdat, SS Dave Narodowski, 2B Jeff Helps and OF Christian Riuz.Aug. 29, 2008 at Labatt Park, Brantford Red Sox defeated London Majors 8-2 in Game 7 of the championship series before a full house. PHOTO: Brown's Photos.Jess Bechard: Besides leading all Kent State University hitters in doubles (83), tying for second in runs (209) and having the third most total bases (409), he was fourth in hits, 304; fifth in average .3698, sixth in RBIs, 181 and at-bats, 822 from 1997 to 2000. Bechard then joined the London Werewolves of the Frontier League.
L-R: Will Richards, Kyle Piwowarczyk, Toshikazu Sasa and Vince Burke, 2008 .
Front cover of the 1992 London Majors' Baseball program, courtesy of Alex McKay.