Formation of Ballarat City Baseball Club

Extract from the Ballarat Courier. May 1, 1931

A meeting of Ballarat District Cricket Association cricketers was held last night when a baseball club, to be called the City Club, was formed, and the team will compete in Association matches. The officers elected were: President, Mr. W. A. Aikens; Vice-Presidents, Messrs. H. B. Irwin, G. Stone, A. Darling; Secretary, Mr. W. C. Cutter; Treasurer, Mr. F. Gillinder. Committeemen: Messrs. Scott, Heffernan, Nylander, Philp and Jones. Delegates: Messrs. Garner and Cutter.

The Ballarat City Brewers Baseball Club have the longest history in the Ballarat region spanning from 1931 to present. 

The Ballarat Baseball Association was in recess during the World War II years 1942 and 1943. City, along with 1941 competitors Victoria and Druids, was back when the Association resumed in 1944, and so are considered to have an unbroken record of affiliation.

The first recorded game of baseball in Ballarat was as far back as 1888. In July 1960, the Ballarat Courier noted that on December 29th, 1888, American millionaire A.G. Spalding brought his touring teams Chicago and the All Americans to Ballarat. Four thousand people are reported to have watched their exhibition match at the Eastern Oval. An attempt to launch baseball in Ballarat was made in 1927 when Hawthorn and St. Kilda played an exhibition match at the City Oval. In 1930, two Melbourne Baseball enthusiasts, Arch Freeman and Alan Pfeifer, transferred their employment to Ballarat. Both men had been associated with the Carlton Baseball Club. They made contact with the Young Men's Churches Cricket Association, Mr Col. Brehaut. Freeman and Pfeifer convinced the cricketers that baseball was an ideal game for keeping ones eye in during the winter months. It was from this Association that the four foundation baseball clubs were borne. The Ballarat Baseball Association was launched in July 1930, with Y.M.C.A, Students, Congoes and Druids the competing teams. City joined the competition on May 9th 1931, after the opening round of the 1931 season had been played. Cricketers from the Ballarat District Cricket Association, the turf section of Ballarat cricket, formed the nucleus of the City Baseball Club. City quickly became a force in the competition. It made an inauspicious start, losing its first match to Y.M.C.A. 26-6, before emerging the premier team after defeating Congoes in the 1931 Grand Final. City carried on the dominance to win the 1932, 1933 and 1934 premierships. City fielded a B Grade team for the first time in 1933. It finished runner-up, before winning the premiership in 1934, the first time one club had taken out both Association premierships. City had to wait until 1977 to repeat that feat, but it achieved the double again in 1980.

City's 66-2 defeat of V.R.I. in the opening round of the 1932 season is believed to be the highest score recorded in the Ballarat competition. City players shared in another memorable match in 1952, when Ballarat's junior carnival team drew with Geelong 1-all after 19 innings, reported at the time to be a junior world record.

GREAT CLUB STALWARTS

Many individuals have done much to keep the Ballarat City Baseball Club to the fore in its long history. The first President was Alex Aikens, a top grade cricket umpire. He remained President until 1957, and for most of this time was also President of the Ballarat Baseball Association. Arch Fullerton, Frank Gillinder, Norm Philp and George Murrowood were some who did much for the club in the initial years. In 1934, Warren Wigley transferred from Congoes and with his transfer came his sister, Thora, who was the club's efficient scorer for many years. With 1944 bringing the resumption of organised baseball in Ballart, many new faces appeared in the City team, while Max Jackson, Eric Harwood, Bob Scott and George Murrowood remained from the thirties team. Jackson, in particular, was considered by many experts to have had the ability to win a Stawell Gift or play State cricket. Throughout the forties and fifties the club fielded two senior teams and an under-age team, and although not having the spectacular success of the early teams, City remained a force in the competition. Many players consistently performed well in the club games and gained selection in combined teams. To name but a few: Alan Spence, Ray Oxlade, Eric Harwood, Jack Scott, Alan and Ron Clack, Jim Woods, Geoff and Bill Cunningham, Harry Leviston, Max Andrews and Peter Ditchfield.

In 1954, Leviston was the best player of the Carnival series. Geoff Wearne, an early player with City and later a very efficient Honorary Secretary, did much for the club. He later transferred to Y.M.C.A. and was administrative head of that club during its remarkable run of success in the late fifties and sixties.

John Wakeling started in our juniors aged 9 in 1958 and played 4 years. He moved straight into “A” Grade in 61 and played until 69 when he was conscripted into the Army. He then played “A” Grade 71-72 and 74-86. He coached the “A” Grade from 74-79 & 81-83 which included 5 premierships & 2 runners-up. His “A” grade statistics are - 24 seasons, 282 games and a 38 win-13 loss pitching record

Due to a knee injury he played 2nds in 73 and then played/coached 2nds and 3rds from 86 to 89 and sporadically into the 90’s. He has played roughly 500 games for the club. He played and coached numerous Ballarat Carnival both Junior and Senior and represented the VPBL many times as a starting pitcher. 

He was a committee member from 67-69 and 71-86. He was assistant treasurer 67, treasurer 71-77, secretary 86-98 and vice-president 81/82 & 85/86. He was made a Life Member in 1985 and elected to our Legends Hall of Fame in 2006. He was also selected as Coach of the Team of the Century.

Since retiring from playing and formal administration John has maintained the City ground, fittingly named “Wakeling Field”, and continued to prepare and mark it every Thursday & Friday for Saturday’s games. During that time he was also manager/caretaker of the clubrooms at POWP.

He played until he was around 46 years young and immediately took up umpiring. He was President of the Ballarat Baseball Association for 16 of the 26 years that he served the Association. His relationship with Baseball is one that has spanned 55 years of Playing, Coaching, Administrating and Umpiring the game that he still loves.

John Peddlesden came to City in 1962 and performed so well that he is considered one of the most outstanding players in B.B.A. and V.P.B.L. history. A frontline pitcher, devastating hitter and capable catcher, Peddlesden was the complete baseballer. Four times he was judged best player of the Carnival series in 1965, 1967, 1970 and 1977. Wayne Johnson, an outstanding catcher, really set a high standard and the Peddlesden-Johnson batter is widely regarded as one of City's best and was presented with Life Membership.

Peter Ditchfield was another who made a big contribution both on and off the field. An efficient first baseman and Honorary Secretary for 15 years, Peter had Life Membership conferred on him in 1974.

Jeff Clack, winner of the 1975 best player award in GBA/BBA competition has also served as Association Secretary and continues the remarkable record of service to Ballarat baseball by the Clack family including brothers Ron, Roy and Alan. Jeff, the son of club stalwart Ron,  came through City's junior ranks and established himself as a top pitcher and fine all-rounder. Jeff has been President on two previous occasions - 1988-1991 & 1998-2001 and is the current Club President. He was honoured with a Life membership in 2001.

But the record for continuous service to baseball in Ballarat belongs to Ron Clack. His active connection with the sport spans the years 1931-1980, the longest service of any individual. Ron Clack began as scorer for Y.M.C.A. in 1931. He played with Y.M.C.A, City and Cougars until 1941. He rejoined City in 1946 and was Treasurer and Vice-President, 1947-55. He was President from 1957 to 1972. A talented baseballer, Ron Captained City's A team from 1950 to 1960. In 1973, City recognised Ron Clack's huge contribution to the club my awarding him Life Membership in 1973. Tributes were also paid to Ron's wife Norma, who was scorer for City A and Ballarat between 1946 and 1956.

Source: A History of the City Baseball Club

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