Monday, June 7, 2010

Sports in Chilliwack

Baseball under the Bright Lights
Chilliwack’s first lit baseball diamond was constructed during the 1930s. The City of Chilliwack acquired the land, on which the Young Road ballpark was built, when the property taxes were not paid on the property. The land occupied an area from Second Avenue to Fifth and from Young Road almost to Nowell Street.

The building of the park and the layout of the grounds was a spirited venture made possible through the cooperation of the Chilliwack Amateur Athletic Association [CAAA] and by the citizens and merchants of Chilliwack. More than $800.00 was raised to help build the park and many hours of volunteer labour reconditioned the grounds. On June 13, 1934 Chilliwack’s new athletic park on Young Road was opened featuring a double header between the leading teams of the Vancouver League, Home Oil against the Vancouver Athletic Club, followed by the old rivalry of the Chilliwack Cherries versus Hope.

Almost a year later night baseball became a possibility when the CAAA purchased the electrical equipment formerly used at Con Jones Park in Vancouver. The lights were mounted on 12 posts, 10 of which were 75 feet high and 2 of which were 45 feet high. On May 24, 1935, during Empire Day’s evening entertainment, fifty-two 1500-watt lights were lit. The park turned “into veritable daylight” and “brought gasps of wonderment from 600 throats.” (Chilliwack Progress, May 30, 1935 p.1)

Over the years the ballpark also hosted night wrestling at times featuring Vancouver's Jack Forsgren a well known wrestler and fire fighter. Several noteworthy baseball teams also came to play in Chilliwack. Some of these teams were the Vancouver Asahis (Japanese-Canadians,) the American travelling all-star baseball teams called the House of David and two African-American teams named the Detroit Colored Giants and the St. Louis Blues.

Although no reasons were given for the end of night baseball at the Young Road ballpark it would appear the last game under the lights was played in August 1938 between the Chilliwack Cherries and the Merritt Gordons. In 1945 the park was subdivided into lots and sold to returned veterans.

Although we are fortunate to have a number of baseball artifacts in the collection we would certainly be interested in learning of others. The collection does include a number of trophies, and gloves but we do not have any bats, tickets or programs.

Image 1: Chilliwack's Young Road Ballpark.
Image 2: Baseball mitt, circa 1920 - 1949.
Video: Cecil Bradwin Collection 1948. 2006 19

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