Relatives of the Chatham Coloured All-Stars at Stirling Park in Chatham, June 28 2016 (Photo by Natalia Vega)

Hitting A Home Run In History

Many people gathered in the baseball diamond at Stirling Park to remember the players on the Chatham Coloured All Stars team.

They were the first┬áChatham team to bring home an Ontario Baseball Associations (OBA) championship, winning the title in 1934. In addition to their achievement they stood up for equality – eliminating segregation among races.

On Tuesday, the Chatham Sports Hall of Fame, along with researchers and students from the University of Windsor launched the website “Breaking the Colour Barrier: Wilfred ‘Boomer’ Harding and the Chatham Coloured All Stars”.

The project is dedicated to remembering the players and what they stood up for. Pictures, artifacts and oral histories of the players will be collected from relatives and digitized to post to online.

Chair of the Department of History at the University of Windsor, Miriam Wright says the players and that specific game that won them the OBA championship is part of Canadian history.

“It’s a really important story but it’s also a story nobody really knows about outside of Chatham and so this is the goal of this project – it’s to make it accessible,” says Wright.

She says that once all the information is on the website, it will connect with the Ontario curriculum so teachers can work it into their learning plans for students from kindergarten to grade 12.

“This was kind of the beginning of a greater acceptance for black people,” says Wright. “It didn’t make thing perfect all at once but it was a foot in the door.”

The launch of this program attracted many relatives of the players, two of which were the grandsons of Archie Stirling.

Dennis and Mark played baseball in the field named after their grandfather and said this event would have meant a lot to him.

“He would be beaming right now to see the crowd come out,” says Dennis. “He would just love that.”

When it comes down to what the players stood up for Mark says there was an obvious difference comparing segregation in Chatham to southern parts of the United States.

“Growing up in this area we didn’t know what racism was until we went out of this area,” says Mark.

Another family member at the field was Earl Chase, son of Earl “Flat” Chase. He reminisced on the days he played the sport and what this launch meant to him.

“It’s nice to be recognized in what went on,” says Chase.

As a child he says he would play ball on the weekend and for every home run the team got Archie Stirling would hand out ice cream bars.

“We were raised in this park,” says Chase.

Although the website is officially up, there is a lot of history that still needs to be collected and posted. The website is not set to be complete until June 2017. You can have a look here.