Source: Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame (www.baseballhalloffame.ca)
Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductees Tom Henke and Allan Simpson will be joined by Fergie Jenkins and Tony Fernandez at Boston Pizza in Stratford, Ont., at 4:00 p.m. today. This brief meet-and-greet will kick off a series of events leading up the Ball Hall’s induction ceremony slated for 11:00 a.m. on Saturday.
Welcome Taos, Missouri
Henke’s hometown is sending a busload of supporters to the big city – well, relatively speaking! St. Marys, Ont., whose population is just over 6,000, may seem like a metropolis in comparison to Taos, Mo., whose last census counted 869 townsfolk, which represents almost exactly one person per strikeout over the flame-throwing closer’s big league career.
Approximately 30 friends are making the 1,271-km trek to attend the induction festivities. Henke will be honoured along with Canadian baseball icon, Allan Simpson, and the late George Wood. Bob Elliott, one of Canada’s greatest baseball writers, will also be awarded the Hall’s Jack Graney Award.
“There would be two or three buses coming for sure if it weren’t for the church picnic being held on the same weekend,” said the man known as “The Terminator.”
Missouri is commonly referred to as the “Show Me” state, and Henke has certainly been one to answer the saying on Missouri license plates. His 217 saves rank him first all-time with the Blue Jays and his 311 career saves are the 17th best in big league history. The 6-foot-5 reliever chalked up a pair of saves and pitched in three of the Blue Jays’ one-run victories over the Atlanta Braves to win the 1992 World Series. The 1995 All-Star struck out an incredible average of 9.8 hitters per nine innings over his career.
More importantly, Henke spends much of his time now assisting the Special Learning Centre, a school for handicapped children, as well as volunteering with Down syndrome charities, the Special Olympics, and the Cancer Society. He is also on the board of directors with the Missouri Department of Mental Health.
Henke will be joined by his wife Kathy, and children Linsey, Ryan, Kim and Amanda.
Support for Simpson, Wood and Elliott also coming
Simpson, the Kelowna, B.C. native who founded Baseball America, isn’t having as many guests as Henke, but he’s expecting more than a dozen friends and relatives to converge in St. Marys. Simpson, who now lives in Durham, N.C., will be joined by his wife Jill and children Jordan, Kelsey and Jeffrey.
Posthumous inductee Wood, a big league star in the late 1800s who hailed from Prince Edward Island, will be represented by distant relative Douglas MacDonald, who will be flying in from P.E.I. with his wife Evelyn. MacDonald, a genealogist, is also associated with the P.E.I. Sports Hall of Fame.
Elliott not only has four rooms booked in town, but two of the baseball teams that he coaches in Georgetown are coming to see his ceremony as well as take on local competition at 1:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. on the St. Marys Cement Company Field.
Other celebs to look for
Pat Gillick, who will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in July, will be present, as well as fellow inductee Paul Beeston.
Former Blue Jays pitching coaches Galen Cisco and John Sullivan will be in attendance, as will past inductees Fergie Jenkins, Jim Fanning, Ron Taylor, Don McDougall, Ron Stead and Paul Quantrill. Babe Ruth’s granddaughter, Linda Ruth Tosetti will return to St. Marys after falling in love with it last year, while one of Canada’s most gifted singers, Michael Burgess, will sing the national anthem. Former pros Bill Atkinson, John Upham, Derek Aucoin, Adam Stern, Larry Landreth and Hyung Cho have also committed to attending.
“Hebsy” will emcee
Best known for his role on Global TV’s Sportsline, induction ceremony emcee, Mark Hebscher, stands out from the crowd with his provocative, no-nonsense broadcast style. Best of all, his passion is baseball! When he takes the stage on Saturday, “Hebsy” will join an impressive list of celebrities – that includes Rod Black and Peter Mansbridge – who have emceed the event in the past.
Thursday, June 16
4:00 p.m.: Tom Henke, Allan Simpson and Fergie Jenkins will spend happy hour (4:00-5:00 p.m.) at the Boston Pizza in Stratford.
7:00 p.m.: Third annual Celebrity Slo-Pitch game will take place at the Hall of Fame’s Rotary Field, featuring “Team Henke” against “Team Jenkins.” Free admission, and a BBQ and beverages will be available onsite.
Friday, June 17
7:30 a.m.: London’s Chamber of Commerce and Tourism are combining to host the inaugural “London Salutes Canadian Baseball” breakfast at the London Hilton Hotel. Tickets are $49 and still available.
11:00 a.m.: 15th Annual Celebrity Classic tees off in a Texas Scramble format at St. Marys Golf & Country Club. The event has been sold out for nine consecutive years, but at the time of this writing, four foursomes remain available. Individual golfers may also sign up by contacting the Hall of Fame at 519-284-1838 or email@example.com
For non-golfers, dinner tickets for the post-golf banquet are available by contacting the Ball Hall. The dinner will begin at 5:30 p.m. under the induction tent on the Hall’s Ceremonial Grounds.
Saturday, June 18
11:00 a.m.: Induction ceremony at the Ball Hall’s Ceremonial Grounds at 386 Church St. South. Admission is free. An autograph session will follow the ceremony, and there are featured amateur baseball games all day on the Hall’s site. It is recommended that those who wish to be seated under the Induction Tent arrive by 9:30am.
5 p.m.: Father’s Day Sleepover
The Ball Hall is sponsoring a sleepover under the induction tent beginning at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, whereby parents and children are invited to play a ball game, enjoy dinner, watch a movie, and sleep on cots, for only $30 per person. Henke will be there to welcome the sleepover crowd.
For more information, call (519) 284-1838 or email baseball@baseballhalloffame
I hope Henke’s friends and relatives enjoy the St. Mary’s–Stratford area. It’s a beautiful place to be in the summertime.