Duke of Norfolk
How long a time lies in one little word!
At the official opening of the stadium, Howie Morenz (see Morenz Drive), of the Montreal Canadians was a celebrity guest. He had worked for the railway after moving from Mitchell to Stratford in 1918 with his parents. On this day, he was on the platform with city and railway dignitaries, in front of more than 2,500 spectators, from whom he received the loudest applause of the afternoon.
The day also included a parade of floats, marching bands, and Stratford’s sports teams, all of them winding their way to the stadium. There, people witnessed the CNRA’s first annual track and field meet, which starred a young Syl Apps, who later captained the Toronto Maple Leafs. In the evening, 4,000 were on hand for a tattoo featuring seven bands, among them the CNR Band, the Stratford Boys’ Band (see Brett Street) and the band of the Perth Regiment.
In that first stadium season of 1934, the Stratford Nationals (see below) brought the city its first Senior A Intercounty Baseball League championship. They repeated as Intercounty champs for three straight years, 1938, 1939 and 1940, and again in 1946, and in 1938 and 1939 they Ontario titles (see below). In the next dozen years, the Nats won another six Senior A, Senior B, and Intercounty championships.
National Stadium always had a shallow right field, initially 285 feet to the fence. That distance was eventually shortened to 277 feet. In his book Railway Stratford Revisited, author Dean Robinson shares the story that it was “built shallow to complement the hitting habits of Irish Miskimmons, a 17-year old import from Hamilton. True or not, for years its outer boundary was known as Miskimmons fence, and Irish responded with a memorable career. His first season in Stratford was 1934, and it remained his favourite. He opened the new stadium with a two-run home run onto the ninth fairway of the city’s municipal golf course. Thirteen years later, the left-handed hitting catcher won the Intercounty batting title with a .415 average. It should be noted, traffic over Miskimmons fence was not one way and, with regularity, smaller, harder, whiter balls would fly into the stadium from that same ninth fairway.”
Irish Miskimmons, at the left, was the first player to hit a home run in the new National Stadium, in 1934.
Eventually, the grandstand at the stadium was covered, and in 1948, lights were installed. At the first night game in June 1948, catcher Billy Flick (see Morenz Drive), who had come to Stratford to apprentice as a blacksmith and welder in the railway shops in 1943, hit two home runs as the Nationals blanked defeated London Majors 9-0.
Billy flick, left, who came to Stratford to play baseball, also became one of Stratford's foremost senior league hockey stars.
In the early 1950s, Bill Inkol (CJCS Albert Street) called the baseball games for CJCS radio from a folding chair and card table atop the grandstand. In 1952, the CNRA Nationals won the Intercounty Baseball League championship (see picture below) .
Born in Stratford in 1955, Larry Landreth played minor baseball in the city and then became the first Stratford native to pitch in the big leagues, for Canada’s Montreal Expos. * See Flashback Article: Larry Lanreth.
After the CNR shops closed, the CNRA membership voted to turn the stadium over to the city. The original grandstand was replaced in the late 1960s, and the grounds reworked and drained. The Stratford Hillers won ICBL championships in the late 1980s. (see below). In addition to baseball and track meets, through the years the stadium hosted high school football games and concerts. Source: Gord Conroy
In 1938, the CNRA Nationals won the first of three straight Senior Intercounty Baseball League titles. (See picture below). They had won the crown in their inaugural season in their new stadium (1934) and did it again in 1946. In 1938 and 1939 they also added Ontario Baseball Association championships and almost didc it again in 1940.
Stratford- Perth Archives
In 1952 the CNRA Stratford Nationals won the Intercounty Baseball League Intermediate A championship with a 12-6 win over the Hespeler Orioles. The win was the 10th straight for the Nats. (see picture below).
Stratford -Perth Archives
Front row, from left: Dean Gibson, third base; Eddie Shuett, shortstop; Keith (Red) Pallister, bat boy; Jim Loader, third base; and Ab Flood, outfield. Second row, from left: Wally Bateman, first base; Bob (Bunny) Fryer, shortstop; Lorne (Gorb) McGraw, coach and outfield; Bruce Smith, outfield; Ken Leinweber, catcher; and Norm Calvert, catcher. Third row, from left: Dean Ayrheart, pitcher; Oren (Lefty) Price, pitcher; Bill Hodges, team president; Percy Lingard, executive; Lionel (Lew) Ayres, first base; and Ken Uniac, pitcher. Back row, from left: Bob (Whitey) Griffin, secretary; Ernie Taylor, executive; Monty Logan, trainer; and Harold (Bud) Dixon, manager. Others to play for the team that year: Denis (Dinny ) Flanagan, second base; Les Hutchinson, outfield and first base; Gerry Hesse, outfield; and Jim Langley, pitcher.
On Aug. 13, 1958, the Stratford CNRA Nationals beat Kitchener 5-3, in Stratford, to win the Intercounty Baseball League Juvenile championship. (See picture below, right)
Front row, from left: Gerry Howard, Gary Kingsley, Paul Shillolo (batboy), Ab Player, Bob Zimmer and Jim Fooks. Middle row, from left: Jim (Tiny) Nigro, coach; Jim Edmonds, Barry Butson, Doug Fountain, Claude Harefield, manager; and Angelo Nigro, coach. Back row, from left: Ben Wasman, Marv Thomas, Bernie Lawrence, John Gardner and Pete hiller.
Stratford Nationals Stratford Hillers
Rex Bartlett, carmaker, 1917