By Ewart Timlin, Manager Edited by Donna Cole
From 1990 until 1992 the Cats played in a number of fastball tournaments. Although there was a great deal of camaraderie and good fellowship during those years, the executive decided it was time to take a break from the competitive softball world. Consequently, the team folded for three years.
In 1993 until 1995, ex-Cats such as Roger Cole, Ron Herriott, and GM Ewart Timlin joined the Baltimore Rockets fastball club. During 1994, the Rockets were finalists in Chelmsford in the Intermediate A category. Then in 1995, the team progressed to the OASA Men's Championship title in Sturgeon Falls.
In the winter of 1995-96, I had the opportunity to become a member of the OASA Men's Committee. It was an entertaining and certainly rewarding experience in the fact that a new OASA category was formed. That was, of course, the creation of the Masters level in fastball, for players who had achieved a certain maturity in physical and mental outlook in this great game. Thus, the Cats were reunited in 1996, which prolonged the interest in the sport for several years.
Eleven of the former Senior A champions who represented Ontario in the Nationals were involved in the new, mature Masters club. The members were: Roger Cole, Bill Elliott, Ray Bickle, Don Elliott, Barry Dawe, John Maughan, Stephen Mitts, Paul Goodfellow, Mike McIvor, Ross Timlin, and Ewart Timlin. Other key elements of that '96 team included Gary Latchford, Dan Donahue, Dave Ruthowsky, Jeff Timlin, Mike O'Hearn, Tim Neron, John Cane, Harold Lang, Pete Harrison, and coach Steve Nealy.
In the '96 OASA Masters Championship in St. Thomas, the Cats opened up with a 5-0 win over St. Thomas Rusty Spikes as Roger Cole threw a nifty two-hitter. In their next start they came from behind with four runs in the sixth to take a 7-3 verdict from the Toronto Force. Lefty Gary Latchford gave up only four hits to record the win. In the final, these same two teams hooked up again, with Cold Springs taking a 9-3 decision. Dave Ruthowsky was the winning hurler. Cold Springs carried the OASA banner north over the Labour Day weekend as they traveled to North Bay and won the prestigious 32 team World Old-Timers Tournament.
During the winter of 1996-97, Harry Jeschke and I planned to make history in the fastball world by hosting the first ever Canadian Amateur Softball Association Masters Championship at Cobourg's newly opened Legion Fields. What fantastic facilities to showcase the event!
After planning the championship series over the course of several months, the tournament finally came to fruition in August, but it involved several problems in the beginning stages, which I will outline after I discuss the OASA Masters Championship. The Ontario Masters was also staged in Cobourg during July of 1997, when eleven teams answered the call. As defending provincial champions, the Cats already owned a berth in the upcoming Nationals. But rather than accepting the free pass, our team chose to walk through the front door, winning five straight games and taking the first of three qualifying spots.
In the first game of the Ontario's we managed to beat Toronto's Chick 'n Deli 8-5 in 10 innings, followed by wins over Scarborough 4-2, Mississauga Masters 11-3 in a mercy game, 10-2 over Wellesly/Wilmot in a mercy game, and 11-5 over Wellesly in the final game. All three finalists qualified to compete in the Nationals. Also competing in 1997 were teams from Grafton, Trenton, Ottawa, Etobicoke, Toronto, Scarborough, North Bay, and a second team from Mississauga. Roger Cole was the obvious choice for the Top Pitcher award at the Masters tournament in July.
As I stated earlier, in August there were some problems in the scheduling of the Nationals. Just two days before the largest ball tournament ever held in Cobourg, Harry Jeschke was informed by a telephone call that a second team from Nova Scotia - namely Sydney- was on its way to the Canadians. Due to a mix-up, Harry had not been told earlier. Needless to say, Mr. Jeschke scrambled to accommodate the Sydney team into the schedule. This left the tourney with an odd number of teams. Therefore, he added Cobourg Thomas Pontiac to increase the entries to ten.
Also, due to inclement weather, some of the games had to be re-routed to Baltimore where there were well-drained diamonds.
Branch 133 of the Royal Canadian Legion in Cobourg was an enormous aid in 1997 as they provided the facilities, food and refreshments for our welcoming party on a wet Wednesday evening in August. All the participants from British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, as well as officials and local dignitaries were entertained by the Cold Springs Cats and their wives. This set a positive tone for the whole tournament.
The Cold Springs Cats won seven consecutive games and captured the First Canadian Masters Fastpitch Championship at Cobourg in '97, in the inaugural event. What a fantastic ending for the final game! I couldn't have written a better script for the dramatic action-packed conclusion. The Cats won four in a row in pool play as they handled Sydney, N.S. 8-1 and mercied Bass River, N.B. 7-0. Their third and fourth wins were by 7-1 scores over Manitoba and Mississauga.
Advancing to the playoff round, the Cats dropped Wellesly, the same club they downed to win the Ontario title. Roger Cole recorded the victory. Cold Springs went into the next playoff match with Halifax, N.S. and edged the maritime crew 3-2. Dave Ruthowsky held Halifax to just five hits, although he gave up a 2-run homer in the first. Nevertheless, the Cats clawed back with three runs in innings l, 2 and 6.
In the exciting final, Cold Springs were leading 2-1 going into the bottom of the seventh against Victoria Payless. With one away and a runner on first base, B.C.'s Victor Malli slammed a double to right-centre. Tim Neron fielded the ball and relayed it to second baseman Stephen Mitts, who in tum fired it to catcher Bill Elliott, who tagged the oncoming runner and threw to Harold Lang at third who tagged Malli for the game-ending out. In that championship game Terry Lewis went the distance for the winner. Mike McIvor drove in both runs.
Ray Bickle was named the tourney's Top Hitter - he hit .700 plus in the round robin and then kept on the playoffs, finishing with a .583 mark. Mike McIvor, by the way, had three home runs and went 10 for 24, and he also drove in eight runs. The Cats batted .333 for the tournament.
Terry Lewis was named the Top Pitcher of the event as he allowed just two earned runs in 14 innings. The strong three-man staff of Lewis, Ruthowsky, and Cole allowed just nine earned runs in 46 innings for an ERA of 1.37. Even though we battled rain and unexpected teams at the beginning of the week, we felt that the tournament was a fantastic success for not only the Cats but also the throngs of fans who attended the inaugural event.
However, we weren't exactly perfect in '97 as we attempted to retain the World Old-Timer title we won in '96. With a small crew of twelve we lost in the final game in North Bay to Total Cleaning and Restoration in two extra innings. Bill Jacko was the winner while Dave Ruthowsky took the loss. Roger Cole had a two-run double for the Cats.
In 1998 the Cats recorded our third straight Masters Elimination Championship, the tournament for which was held in Mitchell. This qualified us to defend our Canadian title in St. John, N.B.. We didn't have the easy road that we traveled in 1997, as we had to come from the loser's bracket to challenge for the OASA crown.
The Cats won our first two games 12-4 over Kitchener-Waterloo and 13-6 over Mitchell before being nosed out by Scarborough 1-0. In the final, the Cold Springs Club had to win to survive and we came up with a 2-1 victory over the Scarborough Blues and then won the sudden death rematch 7-0 to emerge as champions for the third consecutive year. Cold Springs (as defending champions), Scarborough, Sarnia, and Mitchell all qualified for the Canadian Masters Championship in New Brunswick.
Bill "Cowboy" Elliott has always been a great catcher and cheerleader for the team. However, in 1998 he particularly shone as a fundraiser. Bill began the year by staging a 29-table euchre tournament in February, helped organize our first annual golf tournament in May, staged a yard sale, meat roll and raffles in the summer. As a result of his efforts, sufficient money was raised to pay for all the room reservations at the gorgeous Delta Brunswick Hotel in St. John, N.B. at the Nationals. What a year we had!
The Cold Springs Cats won their second Canadian Masters Fastpitch Championship in a row, but it was far from a cakewalk. In the Nationals at St. John, Cold Springs took top spot, followed by Mitchell, with Sarnia third and St. John Whistle Shop placing fourth. In the round robin series the Cats lost their opener 4-1 to Nova Scotia's Captain Eli's. They came back to take their next four games to win the Spalding Division. The Cats blitzed Sarnia 12-1, beat York Sunbury Minglers 4-1, and blanked Dairy Queen 7-0 with Landers fanning a dozen and giving up only two hits. They took the division title with an 8-0 win over Bass River, N.B. as Roger Cole gave up only one hit.
The Cats opened up the playoff round the same way they opened the round robin set-with a loss. Labatt’s Division winner Mitchell came up with a 4-2 decision. That win threw Mitchell into the final and Cold Springs against Sarnia in the semis. In the semi-finals, the Cold Springs crew nipped Sarnia 2-0 as Dave Ruthowsky fired a one-hitter. In the final the Cats blanked Mitchell 7-0 with 50 year-old Canadian Softball Hall of Famer Pete Landers tossing a neat no-hitter, fanning ten and walking just one man.
In '98 we had a plethora of splendid pitchers and great swatters as well. However, we needed every one to capture our second Canadian Masters Championship. The question at that time was, can we make it three in a row? Little did we know then that there would be no more Canadians staged at the Masters level.
The Cats had won the title in '97 and '98 - the only years this championship has ever been held. Therefore, some type of historical softball record has been set by our team. To conclude our successful activities in '98, Barry Dawe once again organized a golf tournament at Ashbrook in September, followed by a year-end party at E.T. 's, We certainly had lots to celebrate!
In 1999, I felt that one of the main reasons for the Canadians not continuing was the lack of dissemination of information by Softball Canada and its provincial bodies, such as Softball Alberta and Softball British Columbia. In discussing the national tournament, for example, with players from Western Canada, I discovered that many were unaware that the Canadians even existed in '97 and '98. Thus, the Cats decided to enter both the Western Canadians and Eastern Canadians this year. Our team made history again by becoming the first OASA club to be allowed to compete in a Western Canadian Softball Championship, which was held in Calgary.
We got off to a slow start in the event as we lost our first two games: 8-2 to Victoria, B.C. and 9-7 to Manitoba #1. To have a chance at the playoffs the Cats had to win their next three games, which we did: 8-4 over Saskatchewan #2, 9-3 over Calgary Rockies, and 4-3 over Northwest Territories. That left us tied with the host Rockies and Manitoba# I for the second playoff spot in our division.
We defeated the Rockies again 7-4 but lost out to Manitoba 4-0. Hall of Famer Cliff Bishop was on the mound in the second tiebreaker, and he shut down the Cats. Bishop had previously beaten the club in 1980 in the Canadian Senior Championship in Saskatoon. Victoria, B.C. eventually won the Western Canadian Masters title by defeating Saskatoon in the final. The B.C. team reached the Canadian finals in '97 but were beaten 2-1 by the host Cold Springs Cats.
In September of '99, because of a lack of interest and the cost of the trip to the Maritimes, we could muster only a skeleton crew in the Eastern Canadians. Four Mitchell players bolstered our ranks, which included the stalwart members of Roger Cole, Ray Bickle, Stephen Mitts, John Maughan, Jeff Timlin, Dave Ruthowsky, Mike Gibson, and myself(that was pretty scary!) As a result, we managed only two wins and lost two games. One of the wins was a default, by the way. Nevertheless, we enjoyed ourselves in the friendly city of Fredericton and renewed old friendships with players and coaches that we had met over the last three years.
Tom and Elsie Massey have been loyal Cats fans since the mid-seventies. You could always recognize Tom in his cowboy hat and high boots leaning over the fence beside the first or third base lines, taunting the opposing team's defense. In 1999, with their little red Honda, they roared into Calgary and then on to Fredericton to cheer on their team. They had little difficulty finding Calgary and the appropriate ball field because their son Tim lived nearby. However, traveling to Fredericton was another story.
I drew a map for Tom to follow through Montreal. Unfortunately, he drove through the tunnel and returned via the bridge, returning to about the same spot where he had started. He finally found the #20 highway and proceeded towards New Brunswick. I reserved a room for Tom and Elsie in the Lord Beaverbrook in Fredericton, but when they hadn't arrived at 11:30pm I cancelled the room. At 11:45pm Tom came lumbering into the hotel and I hustled to the front desk and luckily obtained a room for the couple.
After the tournament, Tom and Elsie left the hotel at 1:00am to avoid traffic and routing problems, especially while traveling through Montreal. Fortunately, they arrived home safely.
Updated August 2020