Author says it’s time for Coloured All-Stars to join Hall of Fame

Chatham Coloured All-Stars 1934 Championship photo (Breaking the Colour Barrier, accessed November 25, 2020, https://cdigs.uwindsor.ca/BreakingColourBarrier/items/show/960)

A Chatham-born author is continuing his push to get the 1934 Chatham Coloured All-Stars inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.

Towards the end of 2020, Brock Greenhalgh self-published Hard Road to Victory: The Chatham All-Stars Story. The children’s book tells the triumphs and struggles of the 1934 Chatham Coloured All-Stars, a team of black athletes who got the chance to play for the Ontario Baseball Championship and were the first black team to win an Ontario Baseball Association title.

Now, he’s hoping to create enough buzz around the team to get them inducted, something he said is long overdue.

The team was first formed in 1932 as a group of friends playing baseball in Stirling Park in east Chatham.

As an African-Canadian team playing among predominantly white teams in the 1930s, the team was faced with many challenges including discrimination on and off the field, racial taunts, being turned away from hotels, and dealing with threats of violence.

“I look at this team and think they were real trailblazers,” said Greenhalgh. “They were able to do something that no other team had done before and win a major championship more than a decade before the great Jackie Robinson breaks the colour barrier in the major league. This is a team whose story I think has been told in the past, but I think the current generation may not know it. It’s an important story that should continuously be told.”

Greenhalgh first heard about the team back in 1989, while he was working at the Chatham-Kent Museum. He quickly developed a passion for their story and used it in his fourth-year University thesis and produced a radio documentary on it during his time in the broadcast industry. Now a teacher, he often uses it as a story of inspiration for his students.

Besides bringing more awareness to the story, one of the goals he had when writing his book was to also get them inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Mary’s.

According to Greenhalgh, a small number of players or teams are inducted each year. However, time is of the essence to get the Chatham Coloured All-Stars inducted.

The team has been on the nomination ballot for four years. The team can stay on the ballot for a total of nine years altogether as long as they receive at least one vote every year.

Greenhalgh said he’s reached out to officials with the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame to find out why the team hasn’t been inducted yet but said he has never received a definitive answer.

He believes one of the reasons is that they haven’t garnered enough support, something he said is a key factor in getting inducted.

“The goal is to drum up some ground support and create a movement behind that,” Greenhalgh explained. “I think tapping into the folks in Chatham-Kent is probably the best place to start.”

Greenhalgh has created the #HOFitstime hashtag. He’s also teamed up with the Chatham Pro Shop to sell shirts with the Chatham Coloured All-Stars logo.

He’s encouraging anyone who purchases a shirt to share a photo online using the hashtag or use the hashtag to share their thoughts on the team. He also said people can send in supporting documents to the hall of fame to support why they believe the team should be inducted.

“Just use that hashtag, if we see #HOFitstime, that generates buzz. People want to know what it’s all about, who the team is and they’re going to be doing research. They can post it on any of their [social media] platforms. We’re looking to keep this front and centre in peoples’ minds where they can feel a part of something,” he said.

Proceeds from the shirt sales will be split between local Black history museums. Greenhalgh has already raised over $8,000 for the Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society through sales of his book.

In addition, Greenhalgh is working with the Chatham Minor Baseball Association to work on an event planned for later this summer that will raise more awareness about the campaign and also feature family members of the players.

The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame Committee will make its induction decision in early 2022.