BASEBALL Baseball Association Story, & How did we get Where we Are Today
Prior to 1954, the game of baseball was first played in the Bahamas when Mr. David Ferguson used to go out to the American Naval ships tied up in Nassau harbour and bring the sailors to play against young Bahamian ballplayers. Games were played at the Southern Recreation Grounds, also known as “The Government Grounds” In early 1954 a visiting Canadian school teacher name Harry Joynes saw the raw athletic talent of Andre Rodgers and recommended him to the National League’s New York Giants for a try-out for their professional baseball organisation. this gesture of confidence in his ability on Mr. Joynes part was made even though Andre had never played the game of baseball. Andre succeeded in the try-out and was awarded a contract to play for the Giants that year becoming the first Bahamian to play professional baseball, then regarded as America,s favourite pastime. his success led to the formation of the Bahamas Baseball Association (BBA) in late 1954. The first official grouping for baseball in the Bahamas was formed on Wednesday, August 28, 1954 and was given the name, Bahamas Baseball Association. The meeting took place in the old Y.M.C.A building on Cockburn Street in the historic area of Nassau known as Grants Town. This was the beginning of Organized Baseball. The Association’s first founding members were The Southern Eagles Baseball Team, the Winnie Ann Reds, the Amateur Athletics Association, and the Western Sporting Club. Mr. E. S. Stanley Mitchell was elected President and Mr. Reno Brown as Secretary. These two gentlemen were regarded as pioneers of Baseball in the Bahamas. The other initial officers were Mr. Joseph Moses, First Vice President, and last but not least Mr. George Gardiner, Treasurer. All in all, these four men formed a great Executive team all working together and striving for one main objective. The first games were played at Clifford Park in November of 1954. Teams were the Westerns, Blue Sox, Falcons, Amateur Athletics, Jets, Southern Eagles, Ahepa, Braves, Comets, St Bernard’s, and Cee Bees. As mentioned earlier, Mr. E. S. Mitchell and Mr. Reno Brown were the two individuals who were primarily instrumental in the organization of baseball and in the continued success since that historic day in August of 1954. The Falcons won the first championship. In 1957, the Bahamas Baseball Association officially became a member of the National Baseball Congress of America. The N.B.C had a Global Baseball Programme which covered all the Countries in the World. This Association has helped the Bahamas in countless ways to improve the standard of baseball played here. the Bahamas Baseball Association elected Mr. Harry Joynes as their first Official Representative to the National Baseball Congress and subsequently he was appointed as the Commissioner of Baseball for the Bahamas by the National Baseball Congress. Being a member of the N.B.C., gave the Bahamian teams an opportunity to participate in the N.B.C 's sponsored Global World Series. This was usually held in the United States and competing teams came from all over the World. Commissioner Joynes decided that every effort possible would be made to send a team from the Bahamas to the Global World Series. The players were selected from the teams in the league and were based on their performances during the season. The season ended early in the summer and approximately 25 of the best players in the league were selected and trained for about one month before the series was to be played. The squad was then cut down to 16 players which was the maximum number of players any team’s roster could have. in 1958, the Association took major steps towards improving the standard of play of baseball in the Bahamas. Under the supervision of the Commissioner, the Association employed Salaried Umpires for the very first time. The first such umpires were Tex Lunn, Bernard Millar, Dennis Fernander, Sidney Wilson and Kenneth Francis. Their standard of work was very good and each season, they gained more and more experience under their belts. Each year, there was no doubt that the standard and quality of Umpiring in the Bahamas showed considerable improvement. All Umpires showed enthusiasm, eagerness, willingness and punctuality in their umpiring and were undoubtedly a definite credit to the Association. One of the greatest draw backs to good baseball in the Bahamas was, has always been and still is, the lack of adequate playing facilities. All the games were played at Clifford Park and although the grounds were good it was not quite large enough for a regular-sized baseball park, at least by international standards. All the games were played during the day time as there were no lights for night games. Because there were no bleachers at all, another major problem in those days, was that it was impossible to keep the many spectators adequately separated from the players. This proved to be a major problem whenever there were controversial calls and placed extra burden and responsibilities on the umpires. In 1966, all of that was changed when the league finally made the move to a brand new regulation-sized diamond with bleachers, press box and concession areas at the Queen Elizabeth Sports Center. The move was good for baseball, with bigger and better facilities with more seating and the separation of the spectators from the players, the Umpires had better control of the games. Also with the move the league was able to add more regular season games but was still some what in the same format only this time car races forced postponement of games. With the first class diamond the BBA now thirsted for foreign competition and in 1967 sent a squad to Florida to compete with National Baseball Congress area teams to earn the right to compete in the annual Wichita tournament. the all-star made up mostly of I-Need -A-Laundry players (Adrian Rodgers the stand out player) made a great showing thereby qualifying for a Wichita invitation. each year the BBA sent a team to that tournament 1967 to 1974.the BBA broke its loosing streak winning one game before being eliminated shervin “Seaegg” Taylor got the win in relief. In 1969 under the the guidance of Skipper Vince Ferguson, the Bahamas had their best-ever showing on foreign soil winning 3 games and placing seventh among the power- houses of Amateur United States Teams. Frankie “Cinderella” Sweeting was the hero of the series winning 3 games and placing himself forever in National Baseball Congress record books. the team batted over .400 in the tournament placing two players Sidney “Butts” Outten and Eddie Ford on the All-NBC squad. since 1969 however, BBA fortunes in Wichita went steadily downhill and in 1974 a resolution was made to never again compete in Wichita. In 1970 Tony Curry became the President of the Bahamas Baseball Association in October of that year it was not a job that Tony wanted. it was not that Tony did not want to devote his efforts towards the continued growth of the baseball in the Bahamas, be he had other ideas how best he could make his contribution. Only two years earlier he was still an active professional baseball player and he felt that he could he could best make a contribution towards the game through playing in the local league But close friends encouraged Tony to run for the top job in the association and on easily. It has been almost three years since Tony took over the B.B.A and in this short period of time the association action has gone from strength to strength, Tony;s job was to set a policy designed to improve the calibre of baseball played in the Bahamas. The Bahamas had in previous years competed in the National Baseball Congress Tournament in Wichita Kansas and with the exception of 1969 performed every poorly. but when Tony took over, he immediately made it known that the association would cease to sponsor a team in the Wichita Tournament until such time as the calibre of play locally had been improved, as far as the tournament in Wichita is concern i did not feel that it help our situation very much because of the short schedule which we had at the time in order to compete in such a tournament, i felt we needed to play more games in our local season. One of Tony’s Vision for the game was to the greatly increase in the schedule which he said was a part of his over all programme he said “ i could not see any room for improvement in a league playing in a 12 or 14 game schedule, what we found ourselves doing was playing once a week or every other week and one really could not improve because anything one grasped was lost in the interim period of inactivity. Because he believed that the increased activity was one sure ay to improve the game, Tony and his team of officers left no stones unturned in their efforts to have the LIGHTS TURNED ON at the Queen Elizabeth Sports Center, the light poles had been sitting there for some reason or the other they were never turned ON. IN THE MIDDLE OF THE 1971 SEASON LIGHTS WERE SWITCHED ON and the 1972 schedule was increased to 38 games per team that season each team played a total of 52 games. Now that the local players are being fed a steady diet of baseball Tony Curry has set his sights on the Bahamas one again entering a team in the Wichita Tournament, as a matter of fact the BBA President was confident that a Bahamian would have taken part in the tournament that year. Tony’s desire to see more baseball played in the Bahamas goes as far back as 1957 when he returned home following his first season in professional baseball, he said then that he had came back home in 1957 to see why we could not play more games. At that stage there was much more talent which could have been developed because everyone was so eager to play the game of baseball. He felt that turning on the lights at the Queen Elizabeth Sport Centre was the turning point for Baseball in the Bahamas. Between the years of 1977 to 1985 president George Mackey was in charge of the Bahamas Baseball Association, and went all out to improved the league play and its fan base, he enclosed the baseball park so no one could have stayed on the outside and watch the game without paying their way into the park. the league grew and more and more young men started the mast influx to the game of baseball in Nassau and the league was under the BBA, that included Little League, Pony League and Junior League, do there was always new baseball players move up the chains in the sport of baseball. In the years between 1977 and 1985, the team which had two sponsors was very dominant their sponsors were Holsten Knight and the St Pauli Girls Barons, winning the triple crown in 1977 and 1978 as the Holsten Knights, and in 1979 and 1980 as the St. Pauli Girls Barons, they won the pennant in 1981 and the Pennant and triple crown again in 1982 and 1983, then the team split and the younger player formed a team called Bahamian Kitchen Chiefts who won the Championship and the Commonwealth Championship, and in 1985 The Heineken St Bernards won the triple crown, during the presidency of Mr. George Mackey he opted not to seek re-election after the 1985 baseball season. The Bahamas Baseball Association held election of officers in late 1985, vying for the presidency were James Wood and Athama Bowe, each team had to votes and they were eight team eligible to vote and so there was sixteen votes total. the first vote was for president, the votes was counted and the results was 8 votes for James Wood and 8 votes for Athama Bowe, so they were ask to do a round two of voting, the results was 8 vote for Mr. Wood and 8 votes for Mr. Bowe, at that point according the rules the sitting president as the tie breaking vote so every team reps turn to Mr. George Mackey, who in turned asked for a third voting to take place to see what the out came will be, so the team reps went about lobbing for their candidate to be president, the meeting was called to order and vote was taken for the third time, and the results was Nine votes for Mr. James Wood and Seven for Mr. Athama Bowe, making Mr. Wood the new president on the Bahamas Baseball Association, Mr. Merrill Pinder was elected Vice President and Mr. Audley Humes was elected Treasure. Teams who voted were the St Pauli Girls Barons, Heineken St Bernards, Beck Bees, Bahamian Kitchen Chiefs, Old Spices, St Michael Dodgers, and Paradise Island. James Jim Wood time as president was very turbulent from year one 1986, as one of the most dominant teams in baseball pulled out of the league, unable to attract new players to their team and at time most of their players did not show up, and other teams started losing interest in the game and many players walked away from the game, and the BBA struggled to finish the 1986 and 1987 seasons. I remember teams with only nine ball players night after night and eventually defaulting out of the league; and in 1987 it was the same, with the league struggling to finished the 1987 season, with the championship running all the way to late November, before one team pulled out of the championship. 1987 was also an election year for the 1988 & 1989 calendar years, and all executive post was up for elections, Mr. Jim Wood was up for re-election and Mr. Athama Bowe was his challenger again. There was six team eligible to vote, they were Heineken St Bernards, Beck Bees, Old Spices, T-Bird Flyers, Tom Mac Diggers, and Paradise Island which would have represented 12 votes total. as the meeting began the president informs the members that there was going to be additional votes this election as he claimed that the BBA executives can vote in the elections which lead to all kinds of confusion and back and forward on how was this possible when they never voted before, as a result Mr. Bowe and most all of the team reps walked out of the meeting to protest to the Minister of Sports Mr. Peter J Bethel about what was trying to done at the elections, but in the main time Mr. Wood was declared the President of the BBA and no one knows how, and because the BBA was not answerable to the Minister of Sports nothing came out the protest, but the Minister had the power to denied the BBA use of the baseball facilities which he did, In the mean time Mr. Athama Bowe and the rest of membership formed the New Providence Baseball League, with Mr. Bowe as president, Leon Knowles Vice president, Adli Moss secretary and Lester Dean was Treasure. the new league started off with a bang with its six teams, because of late start of the season, they decided to only play two rounds, and at the end of the season the winner was the T-Bird Flyers, who won both Pennant and Championship, the following year 1989 was to a start of big things to come, with the BBA now looking a venue to play, they eventually got a field at St Joseph Church grounds where they started their league play, but wasn’t as big as the NPBL. In August of 1989 the New Providence Baseball League decided to send a team to a Pan Am games qualifier in Toronto Canada but soon realized that the International Baseball Association Federation only recognized the BBA. and the team was not allowed to play in the tournament but ended up play two exhibition games which was arranged the tournament organizers, and that started the down fall of the New Providence Baseball League, as that league did not finished it 1989 season, and baseball went dead in Nassau, except for games putted together by the BBA. and since the BBA was recognize by the IBAF they were able to put together any team and send them to tournaments. but plenty baseball was being played up in the northern Bahamas, between the Bimini Baseball League and the Grand Bahama Amateur Baseball League, but they too wasn’t recognize by the IBAF. Also in 1989 the New Providence Baseball League, ask the IBAF for advice resolved the situation and in turn their advice to the NPBL was to form yourselves into a Federation type structure and to get recognized the local Olympic Committee. Which they proceeded to and the Federation was called the All Bahamas Baseball Federation and it started off with four island leagues, New Providence, Grand Bahama, Bimini and Inagua. In 1990 some of the six teams from the NPBL went to the Minister of Sports Mr. Peter Bethel and told him we just wanted to play baseball and was willing to do everything to resolved the split in baseball, so he said he would help to resolved it. and lead to whole lot of meeting between the BBA and the NPBL and the then Federation, the meeting with the minister went well with one protest from the Old Spice manager who did not trust the BBA, but the other five teams was willing to forget the whole 1987 election dilemma to try and kick start baseball again, and so on January 11th 1990 an agreement was signed between Mr. Wood of the BBA, Mr. Bowe of the NPBL, Mr. Ali Butler of the Bahamas Olympics Association and Mr. Peter J Bethel the Minister of Youth Sports and Culture, the two league signed an eleven point plan to work together and to move baseball forward it was signed by Mr. Wood and Mr. Bowe and witnessed by Mr. Butler and Mr. Bethel, everyone was happy that it was over except for the manager of the Old Spice team Mr. Leon Apache Knowles who said it over for now but how long, he just did not trust the BBA anymore. At the first meeting at the Holy Family Church Hall, the BBA president pulled out the eleven point plan that was signed in presence of a large audience and national television proceeded to say he did not mean to sign the eleven point plan,and pulled out a ten point plan he intended to sign, which were same as the one signed but he wanted to take of the eleventh point, to which one member object but the other five NPBL member said to the one member leave it along and lets continue on, one of the points in the plan was that three members was also to be named to the executives of the BBA, to which the BBA said yes. the positions available were, Assistant Treasure, Assistant Junior League Director and Assistant Pony League Director to which Jeff Francis asked where did those positions came from, because the BBA always only had six executives, to which the BBA president they have thirty three executive now and all can vote in the BBA election, to which the lone member walked out of the meeting and the other five member of the former NPBL followed. they talk it over but the other five said they just wants to play baseball and will not pursuit any executive post, to which the one member said he will not be joining. The start of the 1990 baseball season was back under the BBA, with the NPBL honoring the 11 point plan for baseball; the league disbanded and all teams joined the BBA, in another meeting one of the team reps ask the BBA how many team their in the BBA league, the answer was don’t worry about how much are in, you guys need to get in now, another one of NPBL teams trying to join the BBA ran into a sponsor problem so two members of the BBA took over that team just in time for the start of the 1990 season which was declared open by the Minister of Sport, Mr. Peter J Bethel with opening remarks from BBA president James Wood, Wood who said he felt vindicated and that he had some things to say and he will leave it alone and just wanted to start the league and play baseball again, and at that note and after the throwing out of the ceremonial first pitch, it was time to play ball!!! The opening game was between the T-Bird Flyers and St Bernards the two team that was in the championship game in 1987, T-Bird Flyers won the opening game. after about the seventh game of the 1990 season, teams started defaulting until it reached to a point that most all of the teams started defaulting and dropping out of the BBA 1990 Season, and league play was stopped once again under the BBA. The BBA then cited that the New Providence Baseball League president Mr Athama Bowe interfered with the League, those allegation were not proven and their was no more baseball been played under the Bahamas Baseball Association, but Mr Wood hold on the BBA, and the BBA was able to send any team to international competition with baseball players he chooses, which the BBA did for years. League play of the game of baseball in Nassau laid dormant for awhile. the game of baseball was being played in the northern Bahamas, between the Grand Bahama Amateur Baseball League and the Bimini Baseball League, these leagues had inter island play for year by then from as far back as 1980, but in the mean time the BBA sent teams to compete in regional COBAPE tournaments with teams who had no league play and most of the results showed in the way they played the game and the games scores. Baseball in Nassau at the senior level was dead no one was playing the game, most players moved over to the game of softball. In 1992 with the change of government and a new Minister of Sports in the person of the Hon Algernon Allen, said he wanted to see senior league baseball being played again in the Andre Rodgers Baseball Stadium and asked Mr Jeffrey August Williams to form a committee to make it happen with the full backing of the government of the Bahamas. and so after a few months of quite meeting by a group of baseball enthusiast, officials and coaches, a Senior Baseball League was ready to be formed, and with the blessing of the minister of sports an election of officers was called at the Lions Club on Thompson Boulevard in December 1992. The election results: Jeffrey Williams President, Jeffrey Francis Vice President, Paul Demeritte Treasure, Athama Bowe Commissioner, with other post to be fill later, the League was called the Nassau Baseball Association, and the election meeting was wide open for anyone to nominate and run and anyone could vote to get the league started. The league started with six teams, but after one team lost their first game by default that team was not allowed to play any more games as the league decided to remove them from the league schedule to avoid what happened in the two earlier leagues. team in the first NBA was Buttons Formal Ware, T-Bird Flyers, TBS Truckers. Spotless Cleaners and TCBY Waffle Cones, with Buttons Formal Ware winning the Pennant and Championship. The following 1993 Jeffrey Williams stepped down as president to become the league commissioner and the elevated Jeff Francis president and Andy Ford was elected Vice President, Williams took over the job of Commission after Mr Bowe did not occupied the office, that year Buttons Formal Wear also won this time a triple crown, as the champions out the the northern baseball leagues also came together to play the champions of the southern baseball leagues for the Commonwealth Championship. The league grew stronger and stronger, bigger and bigger, baseball was finally being played again involving all the islands that played, in 1996 Craig Kemp became president the league change its name to the Nassau Baseball League Kemp serve in 1996,97,98 & 1999 seasons, in 2000 Greg Burrows Sr who also moved baseball along, Burrows served the 2000, 2001, 2002 & 2003 season, before he gave it up to ran for the newly formed Bahamas Baseball Federation. and Teddy Sweeting became president and he served 2004 & 2005, he got the league name change to the New Providence Amateur Baseball League, before Jeff Francis return back as president in 2006, the year the Andre Rodgers Baseball Diamond was demolished to make way for the Thomas Augustus Robinson Track & Field Stadium. In 2003 the Minister of Sports the Hon Nevelle Wisdom gave baseball a stipend to have a baseball conclave to properly form a Bahamas Baseball Federation, it was a one day conclave that was held at the Crystal Palace & Casino Cable Beach Nassau, Bahamas, at the end of the conclave Mr Gregory Burrows Sr was named president, Bernard Aranah 1st Vice, Jeffrey Francis 2nd Vice, Etienne Farqharson II 3rd Vice and Craig Kemp 4th Vice, Theodore Sweeting Secretary General, Jeannie Scavella Secretary. At the end of the conclave the results of its success was report to the Minister who was pleased and name the Bahamas Baseball Federation governing body for baseball in the Bahamas; a move that saw baseball in the Bahamas exploded under the Federation, with more islands playing the game and the establishment of the Andre Rodgers National Baseball Championships; named after the Bahamas’s first Major League baseball player.