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Baseball Mercury 33

Edition 33 contains an article in Typescript which in parts is difficult to read. Read it here or click the Header above to read the whole Issue.

I was in Cardiff about two weeks ago to attend a funeral service.

During the late afternoon of the day on which the service was held, I attended a junior schoolboys’ baseball game, which had been the subject of a news story in the South Wales Echo the previous evening. The game in question was between St. Patrick’s and St.Francis, and there was a certain amount of “needle” about the game as far as the teachers were concerned anyway.

I was surprised when I arrived at Sevenoaks Park about 30 minutes before game time to see the teacher in charge of the St.Patrick’s team putting his charges through what could be described as pre-game drills. I say surprised because since 1972 I have seen two or three Welsh National League games each season, and I have never seen men players conducting anything which could be described as pre-game drills.

Anyway, St. Patrick’s overwhelmed their visitors. During the course of the game I complimented the teacher on what I had seen him doing, and on the smartness of play of his charges.

The following morning, which was Saturday, I attended two games played simultaneously on adjacent pitches, which matched junior boys teams and junior girls teams drawn from the schools of South Glamorgan and Liverpool.

During the course of the morning I was introduced to Bill Olsen, who was mainly responsible for coaching the St. Patrick’s team. He has them for a couple of 45 minute sessions two evenings a week, and for two hours on most Saturday mornings. Under four years of his tuition St. Patrick’s have gone from being a “joke” school in baseball eyes to being the most formidable school in their age group.

During my attendance at the two ‘representative games I was able to have a brief conversation with a teacher from Liverpool. He informed me that there were 28 junior schools’ teams in the Liverpool League. I questioned him about number of schoolgirls’ teams; he told me that there were no schoolgirls’ teams. That the girls playing for Liverpool Schoolgirls either played for the “B” teams of some schools, the “A” teams of which would consist of boys, or might be girls who played Liverpool rounders. One girl who came to bat while we were talking was exceptional, in that she played for her school’s “A” team.

I questioned him further on schoolboys’ baseball at secondary level, and was told that at that age level the game had died out within the last two years.

This would seem to be the first time since 1924 that boys of 12 plus were not playing schools’ baseball in Liverpool.

To compensate to some extent for the loss of schoolboys’ baseball the English Baseball Association has operated a Youth League for a few seasons.

My informant told me that the English Baseball Association had eight or nine teams in membership at the adult level.

Returning to South Wales; a friend named Ted Peterson sends me a copy of the Welsh National Baseball League Official Handbook each year. It is an excellently produced little publication, undoubtedly it could be improved by containing more information, but it carries presumably all the details that its member clubs are concerned about.

Looking through those that I possess, I note that in 1981 there were 58 teams in seven divisions, plus a youth division of ten teams. In 1982 and 1983. Details of the Youth Division have been left out. In 1982 there were 60 teams in eight divisions and in 1983 64 teams in eight divisions. Each year the league’s press officer places a story in the South Wales newspapers regarding the number of new teams formed. Upon examining the league handbooks however, one discovers that these new formations are almost counter-balanced by losses. For example possibly thirteen new teams, and eleven teams folding.

The league has five cup competitions, plus a youth cup competition. The Welsh Baseball Union which is the governing body has its own cup competition which is open to all member clubs. The cup competitions operated by the W.N.B.L. are restricted to certain divisions, with the exception of the Welsh Brewers Cup, the number of teams allowed to compete for this trophy appears to differ from season to season.

The Welsh Brewers Cup competition is sponsored by the company named and the final is televised each year. Winners recently have been 1980 and 1981 – Llanrumney Youth Club: 1982 Caerau (Ely). The Welsh Baseball Union Cup, for decades the most coveted trophy, has been overshadowed to a large extent by the Welsh Brewers Cup. Recent winners have been 1980 – St. Albans: 1981 – Llanrumney Youth Club: 1982 – Llanrumney Youth Club. The third cup in order of prestige is the W.N.B.L. Silver Bowl, this is restricted now to the sixteen teams forming the County and First Divisions. Thus the eight clubs in the Premier Division, the forty odd teams in the lower divisions are excluded.

W.N.B.L. Silver Bowl winners have been – 1980 – Llandaff North Athletic; 1981- Alexandra Old Boys “B”: 1982 – Old Illtydians. Premier Division winners have been Llanrumney Youth Club 1975 to 1982 inclusive – yes I that I s right. The club has also dominated the Welsh Brewers Cup during the same period. The most successful run of league championships prior to Llanrumney Youth Club, was Grange Albion/winners of six consecutive Welsh League titles 1921-1926.

The greatest feat of all is claimed by Penylan Baseball Club. That is the Triple Treble in seasons 1960 -1961 – 1962. The club won the three top competitions three seasons in a row. Penylan is the oldest existing club, having been founded in 1903.

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