By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Bruce Prentice, who founded the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in Toronto in November 1982, has passed away at the age of 87 after a courageous battle with cancer.
The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame shared the news of his passing on Twitter early Friday afternoon.
“It is with great sadness that we mourn the passing of Bruce Prentice, the Founder and first president of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, a position he held for a decade,” reads a statement from the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
“Bruce guided the Hall through its early years when we called Exhibition Place and then Ontario Place our home and under his leadership, our first induction ceremony was held in 1983 when John Ducey, James “Tip” O’Neill, Phil Marchildon, George Selkirk, Lester B. Pearson and Frank Shaughnessy were honoured.
We will never forget Bruce’s enthusiasm, creativity and strong governance that helped make the CBHFM what it is today. We are thinking of his wife Audrey, and their children Brad, Laura, Graham and David during this time and offer our condolences.”
Raised in Toronto, Prentice was the brother of longtime professional player and former Toronto Blue Jays director of Canadian scouting, Bob Prentice, but he was also a standout player himself — good enough to earn a tryout with the Detroit Tigers at Briggs Stadium in the early 1950s. The Tigers actually offered him a contract to start at their class-D level, but he declined and returned to Toronto.
Among the prominent positions Prentice held throughout his career was serving as a scout with the Blue Jays under his brother, Bob, where he evaluated talent in Quebec and Upstate New York. He also worked as the executive director of Ontario Lacrosse in the late 1970s.
In 1981, Prentice created Canada’s first college baseball program at Seneca College.
“We’d begin to play schools in upper New York state, because there was nobody else to play.” recalled Prentice when he was interviewed by Andrew North at the 2018 Canadian Baseball History Conference. “So that’s what we did: we went and played Eisenhower College and teams across the border. And we went down south, as a matter of fact; we used to take our team down to Florida.”
Today almost every major college in Canada has a baseball team and have essentially followed Prentice’s blueprint.
But Prentice’s passion was clearly in building shrines that recognized our country’s best. On top of founding the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, he started the Balmy Beach Sports Hall of Fame, the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame and helped revive the World Baseball Hall of Fame. And in 2019, he branched out into entertainment when he helped establish the Canadian Entertainment Hall of Fame.
A testament to Prentice’s impact on his home province’s sports scene is that the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame now presents the Bruce Prentice Legacy Award “to an individual or group” who has made “outstanding contribution to sport” in the province.
Funeral arrangements have yet to be announced.