Tofield, Home of the Alberta Junior Baseball Champions
Posted November 29, 2018
This year I spent some time looking for old baseball stories from the Powerline Baseball League area to try and paint a picture of the league's history. Hopefully we can find more stories of baseball in the area and share them. One story I found was that of the Tofield Legionnaires and their successful, albeit short lived run in the 1950s. Below is a story of the Legionnaires found in Tales of Tofield Two - Continuing 100 Years of History (1906-2009) and written by Ron Taylor.
Baseball has been played in Tofield and area as long as anyone can remember. However, the junior team of 1954 and 1955 was the most successful team to come out of this part of the country. The Tofield Legion organized the team. Graham Allan and Pete Pederson were the managers with Doug McKernan as coach. Lois Solberg was enlisted as scorekeeper.
Players were recruited from Tofield, Ryley, Holden and the surrounding area. The team consisted of Ed Williams, Denzil Solberg, Lawrence Williams, Leo Rurka, Dave Yakabuski, Arnold Bailey, Billy Grieg, Dale Barrow, Leonard Lawson, Bob Nahrebeski, Marshall Slywka, Ed Slywka, Mike Badum and Allan Bjork.
They played the game the old fashioned way with good pitching, hard hitting and aggressive base running. Sometimes the aggression went wrong. During a playoff game, Leo Rurka was fading back for a deep fly ball at the same time as one of the outfielders was charging for it. No one called anyone off. The resulting collision sent Leo to the hospital; he was out again as soon as possible.
During the 1954 season they beat teams from Wetaskiwin (where they were rained out one day and got into a "rhubarb" another day"), and Camrose, winning the Northern Alberta Junior Championship. September found them in Taber where they played a best-of-five series against Taber - a tough series, going the whole five games, before Tofield won the last game.
Changes were made for the 1955 season as some of the players reached the magic age of 21, when they became seniors. So, the team lost Eddie Slywka, Billy Grieg, Bob Nahrebeski and Dave Yakabuski. The latter became an assistant coach. New players added were Wayne Lawson, Norman Bugge and Lester Hutchinson.
Near the end of May 1955 they began their conquests: Devon, Hay Lakes, Forestburg, Leduc and Stettler. This led to the northern finals against Red Deer, which, despite being Alberta's third-largest city, was no match for the Tofield Legionnaires. So for the second year in a row, they went to the provincial finals, this time against Lethbridge. They won the best-of-five series in three straight games. As the Lethbridge team had nothing better to do, an exhibition game was played, but even that game was won by Tofield, 13-3.
Again age caught up to the Tofield Legionnaires. With Arnold Bailey and Mike Badun becoming 21, they could no longer field the same caliber junior team. They were also accused of raiding other areas for young ball players. The team no longer had the same spirit. Soon they would have to compete as seniors! Even as seniors the names of several players continued to pop up in baseball write-ups. For many years after, she of the players took part in the Powerline League, competing with Bardo, Ryley and other men's teams. The opposing teams still felt dread when they heard they were facing the battery of Ed (pitching) and Red (catching), or a Lawson or two in an opposing line-up.