BAHAMIAN BASEBALL HISTORY
FORMATION OF BASEBALL IN THE BAHAMAS
THE COMMENCEMENT OF ORGANIZED BASEBALL IN THE BAHAMAS FROM THE BAHAMAS BASEBALL ASSOCIATION TO THE BAHAMAS BASEBALL FEDERATION
Prior to 1954, the game of baseball was first played in the Bahamas when                                        Mr. David Ferguson used to go out to the American Naval ships tied up in Nassau harbor and bring the sailors to play against young Bahamian ballplayers. Games were played at the Southern Recreation Grounds, also known as “The Government Grounds”   In early 1954 a visiting Canadian school teacher name Harry Joynes saw the raw athletic talent of Andre Rodgers and recommended him to the National League’s New York Giants for a try-out for their professional baseball organization. This gesture of confidence in his ability on Mr. Joynes part was made even though Andre had never played the game of baseball. Andre succeeded in the try-out and was awarded a contract to play for the Giants that year becoming the first Bahamian to play professional baseball then regarded as America’s favorite pastime. His success led to the formation of the Bahamas Baseball Association (BBA) in late 1954.   The first official grouping for baseball in the Bahamas was formed on Wednesday, August 28, 1954 and was given the name, Bahamas Baseball Association. The meeting took place in the old Y.M.C.A building on Cockburn Street in the historic area of Nassau known as Grants Town. This was the beginning of Organized Baseball.   The Association’s first founding members were The Southern Eagles Baseball Team, the Winnie Ann Reds, the Amateur Athletics Association, and the Western Sporting Club. Mr. E. S. Stanley Mitchell was elected President and Mr. Reno Brown as Secretary. These two gentlemen were regarded as pioneers of Baseball in the Bahamas. The other initial officers were Mr. Joseph Moses, First Vice President, and last but not least Mr. George Gardiner, Treasurer.   All in all, these four men formed a great Executive team all working together and striving for one main objective. The first games were played at Clifford Park in November of 1954. Teams were the Westerns, Blue Sox, Falcons, Amateur Athletics, Jets, Southern Eagles, Ahepa, Braves, Comets, St Bernard’s, and Cee Bees. As mentioned earlier, Mr.  E. S. Mitchell and Mr. Reno Brown were the two individuals who were primarily instrumental in the organization of baseball and in the continued success since that historic day in August of 1954. The Falcons won the first championship.    In 1957, the Bahamas Baseball Association officially became a member of the National Baseball Congress of America. The N.B.C had a Global Baseball Programme which covered all the Countries in the World. This Association has helped the Bahamas in countless ways to improve the standard of baseball played here. The Bahamas Baseball Association elected Mr. Harry Joynes as their first Official Representative to the National Baseball Congress and subsequently he was appointed as the Commissioner of Baseball for the Bahamas by the National Baseball Congress. Being a member of the N.B.C., gave the Bahamian teams had an opportunity to participate in the N.B.C’s sponsored Global World Series. This was usually held in the United States and competing teams came from all over the World; Commissioner Joynes decided that every effort possible would be made to send a team from the Bahamas to the Global World Series. The players were selected from the teams in the league and were based on their performances during the season. The season ended early in the summer and approximately 25 of the best players in the league were selected and trained for about one month before the series was to be played. The squad was then cut down to 16 players which was the maximum number of players any team’s roster could have.    In 1958, the Association took major steps towards improving the standard of play of baseball in the Bahamas. Under the supervision of the Commissioner, the Association employed Salaried Umpires for the very first time. The first such umpires were Tex Lunn, Bernard Millar, Dennis Fernander, Sidney Wilson and Kenneth Francis. Their standard of work was very good and each season, they gained more and more experience under their belts. Each year, there was no doubt that the standard and quality of Umpiring in the Bahamas showed considerable improvement. All Umpires showed enthusiasm, eagerness, willingness and punctuality in their umpiring and were undoubtedly a definite credit to the Association.    One of the greatest draw backs to good baseball in the Bahamas was, has always been and still is the lack of adequate playing facilities. All the games were played at Clifford Park and although the grounds were good it was not quite large enough for a regular-sized baseball park, at least by international standards. All the games were played during the day time as there were no lights for night games, and Because there were no bleachers that created another major problem in those days, because it was impossible to keep the many spectators adequately separated from the players and This proved to be a major problem whenever there were controversial calls and placed extra burden and responsibilities on the umpires.    In 1966, all of that was changed when the league finally made the move to a brand new regulation-sized diamond with bleachers, press box and concession areas at the Queen Elizabeth Sports Center. The move was good for the sport of baseball, with bigger and better facilities with more seating and the separation of the spectators from the players, the Umpires had better control of the games.  Also with the move the league was able to add more regular season games but was still somewhat in the same format only this time car races forced postponement of games.    With the first class diamond the BBA now thirsted for foreign competition and in 1967 sent a squad to Florida to compete with National Baseball Congress area teams to earn the right to compete in the annual Wichita tournament. The all-star made up mostly of I-Need - A-Laundry players (Adrian Rodgers the stand out player) made a great showing thereby qualifying for a Wichita invitation. Each year the BBA sent a team to that tournament 1967 to 1974.   The BBA broke its losing streak in 1968 by winning one game before being eliminated, sherwin “Sea egg” Taylor got the win in relief.     In 1969 under the guidance of Skipper Vince Ferguson, the Bahamas had their best-ever showing on foreign soil winning 3 games and placing seventh among the power- houses of Amateur United States Teams. Frankie “Cinderella” Sweeting was the hero of the series winning 3 games and placing him forever in National Baseball Congress record books. the team batted over .400 in the tournament placing two players Sidney “Butts” Outten and Eddie Ford on the All-NBC squad. Since 1969 however, BBA fortunes in Wichita went steadily downhill and in 1974 a resolution was made to never again compete in Wichita.     In 1970 Tony Curry became the President of the Bahamas Baseball Association in October of that year it was not a job that Tony wanted. It was not that Tony did not want to devote his efforts towards the continued growth of the sport baseball in the Bahamas; he had other ideas on how best he would make his contribution.   Only two years earlier he was still an active professional baseball player he felt that he could best make a contribution towards the game through playing in the local league, But his close friends encouraged Tony to run for the top job in the association, and he won easily.   It has been almost three years since Tony took over the B.B.A and in this short period of time the association action has grown from strength to strength, Tony’s job was to set a policy designed to improve the caliber of baseball played in the Bahamas.   The Bahamas had in previous years competed in the National Baseball Congress Tournament in Wichita Kansas and with the exception of 1969 performed every poorly. but when Tony took over, he immediately made it known that the association would cease to sponsor a team in the Wichita Tournament until such time as the caliber of play locally had been improved, as far as the tournament in Wichita is concern he did not feel that it help our situation very much because of the short schedule which we had at the time in order to compete in such a tournament, I felt we needed to play more games in our local season.    One of Tony’s Vision for the game was to greatly increase  the schedule which he said was a part of his overall programme he said “ I could not see any room for improvement in a league that plays a 12 or 14 game schedule, what we founded ourselves doing was playing once a week or every other week and one could not really improve their play because anything one grasped was lost in the interim period of inactivity.    Because he believed that the increased activity was one sure way to improve the game, Tony  and his team of officers left no stones unturned in their efforts to have the LIGHTS TURNED ON at the Queen Elizabeth Sports Center, the light poles had been sitting there for some reason or the other but they were never turned ON.   IN THE MIDDLE OF THE 1971 SEASON LIGHTS WERE SWITCHED ON And the 1972 schedule was increased to 38 games per team that season each team played a total of 52 games.  Now that the local players are being fed a steady diet of baseball Tony Curry has set his sights on the Bahamas one again entering a team in the Wichita Tournament, as a matter of fact the BBA President was confident that the Bahamas would have taken part in the tournament that year.    Tony’s desire to see more baseball played in the Bahamas goes as far back as 1957 when he returned home following his first season in professional baseball, he then said that he came back home in 1957 to  see why we could not play more games; At that stage there was much more talent which could have been developed because everyone was so eager to play the game of baseball and He felt that turning on the lights at the Queen Elizabeth Sport Center was the turning point for Baseball in the Bahamas.   In 1977 Mr. George Mackey became president, and Between the years of 1977 to 1985 president George Mackey was in charge of the Bahamas Baseball Association, and his administration went all out to improved the league play and its fan base, the baseball park was enclosed so that no one could have watched games from the outside  without paying the league grew, and more and more young men started the mast influx to the game of baseball in Nassau and all of the league in Nassau was under the BBA, that included Little League, Pony League and Junior League baseball, so baseball had a big feeder system and long line of players moving up the ranks in the sport of baseball.   In the years between 1977 and 1985, the team which had two sponsors was very dominant in the game, the teams were Holsten Knight and the St Pauli Girls Barons, winning the triple crown in 1977 and 1978 as the Holsten Knights, and in 1979 and 1980  as the St. Pauli Girls Barons, they won the pennant in 1981 and the Pennant and triple crown again in 1982 and 1983, then the team split and the younger player formed a team that was named the Bahamian Kitchen Chefs who won the Championship and the Commonwealth Championship, and in 1985 The Heineken St Bernards won the triple crown, during the presidency of Mr. George Mackey he opted not to seek re-election after the 1985 baseball season.   The Bahamas Baseball Association held election of officers in late 1985, vying for the presidency were Mr. James Wood and Mr. Athama Bowe, there were eight team eligible to vote and each team had two votes each so there was a total of sixteen votes to be cast at that election; in the first round of voting for the president, the votes were counted and the results was 8 votes for Mr. James Wood and 8 votes for Mr. Athama Bowe, so there had to be a second round of voting, and the results was 8 vote for Mr. Wood and 8 votes for Mr. Bowe, at that point according to the elections rules the sitting president has the tie breaking vote so every team reps turn to Mr. George Mackey for his decision on who he would cast the tie braking vote to, but who in turned asked for a third round of voting to take place to see what that out came would be, so the teams reps went about lobbing for their candidate to be president, the meeting was called to order and another round of voting was taken, and the results this time was Nine votes for Mr. James Wood and Seven  for Mr. Athama Bowe, making  Mr. Wood the new elected president of the Bahamas Baseball Association, Mr. Merrill Pinder was elected Vice President and Mr. Audley Humes was elected Treasure. the Teams that voted were the St Pauli Girls Barons, Heineken St Bernards, Beck Bees, Bahamian Kitchen Chiefs, Old Spices, St Michael Dodgers, Paradise Island and Tom Mac Diggers   The BBA administration, had its challenges from the start, one the Leagues best teams the St. Pauli Girls Barons pulling out of the league, and along with the struggles to finish bout the 1986 and 1987 seasons, saw most teams wanting a change at the top of the Bahamas Baseball Association.    After a falling out over the 1987 Bahamas Baseball Association’s elections results, that did not take place, the Bahamas Baseball Association saw most of its teams leaving that league pending talks with the Sports Minister about the elections melt down.   In the mean time in 1988 Mr. Athama Bowe and the rest of the former BBA membership formed the New Providence Baseball League, with Mr. Bowe as its president, Leon Knowles Vice president, Adli Moss secretary and Lester Dean was Treasure. the new league started off with a bang with its six teams, but because of late start of the season, they decided to only play one round, and at the end the season, the winner of that short season was the T- Bird Flyers, who won both Pennant and Championship, the following year 1989 was to be the year of big things and new begins for baseball in Nassau and the restart of senior league baseball; but around August of 1989 players started losing interest in the league and the league stopped.   In 1990 the members of the New Providence Baseball League decided to rejoin the Bahamas Baseball Association after negotiations with Minister of Sport Mr. Peter Bethel, after signing eleven points memorandum of understanding that was signed by Mr. Peter Bethel Minister of Sports, Mr. Arlington Butler President of the Bahamas Olympics Committee, Mr. James Wood president of the Bahamas Baseball Association, and Mr. Athama Bowe president of the New Providence Baseball League, at the first meeting after the signing of the memorandum of understanding, it was obviously that the BBA had changed everything in the constitution, still most of the teams who were at the meeting tried to look pass that even when the BBA said they only wanted to agree on 10 of the 11 points signed so that the baseball league could get started, when season got on the way back under the BBA it look promising but after seven games, the league stopped and the BBA was unable to pull off another baseball season.                                In 1992 a new Minister of Sports in the person of the Hon Algernon Allen, said he wanted to see senior league baseball being played again in the Andre Rodgers Baseball Stadium and asked Mr. Jeffrey August Williams to form a committee to make it happen with the full backing of the Government of the Bahamas. and after a few months of quite meeting by a group of baseball enthusiast, officials and coaches, a Senior Baseball League was ready to be formed, and with the blessing of the minister of sports an election of officers was called at the Lions Club on Thompson Boulevard in December 1992.   The election results: Jeffrey Williams President, Jeffrey Francis Vice President, Paul Demeritte Treasure, Athama Bowe Commissioner, Gishlane Wilkinson Secretary with other post to be fill later, the League was called the Nassau Baseball Association, and the election meeting was wide open for anyone to nominate and run and anyone could vote to get the league started.   The league started with six teams, but after one team lost their first game by default that team was not allowed to play any more games as the league decided to remove them from the league schedule to avoid what happened in the two earlier leagues. Teams in the first N.B.A were Buttons Formal Ware, T-Bird Flyers, TBS Truckers. Spotless Cleaners and TCBY Waffle Cones, and Buttons Formal Ware won the Pennant and Championship.    The following 1993 Jeffrey Williams stepped down as president to become the league commissioner and the elevated Jeff Francis president and Andy Ford was elected Vice President, Williams took over the job of Commission after Mr. Bowe did not occupied the office, that year Buttons Formal Wear also won, this time the  triple crown, as the champions out the northern baseball leagues also came together to play the champions of the southern baseball leagues for the Commonwealth Championship.    The league grew stronger and stronger, bigger and bigger, baseball was finally being played again involving all the islands that played, in 1996 Craig Kemp became president the league change its name to the Nassau Baseball League Kemp serve in 1996, 97, 98 & 1999 seasons, in 2000 Greg Burrows Sr became president and also moved baseball along, Burrows served the 2000, 2001, 2002 & 2003 season, before he gave it up to ran for the newly formed Bahamas Baseball Federation. and Theodore Teddy Sweeting became president and he served 2004 & 2005, he also got the league name change to the New Providence Amateur Baseball League, before Jeff Francis return back as president in 2006, the year the Andre Rodgers Baseball Diamond was demolished to make way for the Thomas A. Robinson Track & Field Stadium.      In 2003 the Minister of  Sports the Hon Neville Wisdom gave baseball a stipend to have a baseball conclave to properly  form a Bahamas Baseball Federation, it was a one day conclave that was held at the Crystal Palace & Casino Cable Beach Nassau, Bahamas, at the end of the conclave Mr. Gregory Burrows Sr was named president, Bernard Aranah 1st Vice, Jeffrey Francis 2nd Vice, Etienne Farquharson II 3rd Vice and Craig Kemp 4th Vice, Theodore Sweeting Secretary General, Jeannie Scavella Secretary.  At the end of the conclave the results of its success was report to the Minister who was pleased and name the Bahamas Baseball Federation governing body for baseball in the Bahamas; a move that saw baseball in the Bahamas exploded under the Federation, with more islands playing the game and the establishment of the Andre Rodgers National Baseball Championships; named after the Bahamas’s first Major.   One of the first thing the President of the Bahamas Baseball Federation did was to introduce a junior national baseball championships featuring all the baseball leagues in the Bahamas, it brought a new energy to the sport of baseball as young baseball players and their leagues had a true national tournament to look forward to every summer, and brought new baseball leagues and islands rivalries through out the Bahamas, with Freedom Farm baseball League leading the way, along with the Junior Baseball League of Nassau (JBLN), other rivalries were Grand Bahama Amateur, Grand Bahamas Little League, Spanish Wells, Legacy Baseball League, Bimini Baseball League, Abaco Baseball League, New Providence Amateur Baseball League, and more and more leagues came on board, One of the Federation’s president mandate was to get as much of our young players of to high schools and colleges to get an education through the sport of baseball and to play the game at a higher level, the Federation also want to flood minor league baseball with our young men there are 28 baseball players between 2005 to present 2017 who has or is play professional baseball both in the minor leagues of baseball and independent baseball leagues, with one reaching to the major leagues of baseball, Mr. Antoan Richardson, with the Atlanta Braves in 2011 and the New York Yankees in 2014, scoring the winning run on Derek Jeter’s  final hit in his professional baseball career.    After the rebirth of senior league baseball in Nassau, it brought a new sense of life  to the game for the Grand Bahama and Bimini baseball leagues, now that the rivalries were to be renewed like three decades before, in the first few years the national championships was in a round robin format before the leagues came up with a new format  for the Commonwealth of the Bahamas National Championships, where there would be a Northern Champions and a Southern Champions,and the winners of each championships would meet for the National Championships, the Northern division featured the Grand Bahama Champs vs the Bimini Champs, and the Nassau champs vs the Inagua champs, but in 2000 the national championship went back to the round robin format for that year.    Even though the Bahamas Baseball Federations team wasn’t supposed to travel to any International Baseball Association Federation (IBAF) or the Pan American Baseball Confederation (COPABE) the BBF still manage to attended a few IBAF & COPABE international tournament, the 3rd World University Baseball Games in Habana Cuba, where the team finished tournament play 1 and 6, in a division with Cuba, Japan, The Czech Republic, Italy and Nicaragua, the Bahamas won its first and only game of the tournament over Cuba 2 to 1, Manage by Lionel Ferguson Sr, Neil Forsyth was the winning pitcher.    And World Baseball Challenge in Prince George, British Colombia, Canada in 2009 & 2011, in 2009 the Bahamas finished the tournament 0 and 6 the team was Manage by Jeff Francis, team at the tournament were, The USA, Germany, Canada, Team British Colombia and Prince George Axemens, in 2011 the Bahamas finished 1 and 6, teams at the tournament were, Cuba, Team Chinese Tiapei, Team Canada, Japan and Team China Beijing.    The federation league Freedom Farm Baseball League team won the 2009 Cal Ripkin 70ft base world series, a team which saw four of its player signing to play minor league baseball, and three playing college baseball, other Federation teams had successful tournaments, JBLN at the Pony League world series, and Grand Bahama at pony league and metro baseball tournament, giving the Bahamas a lot of international exposure, in 2106 nine Bahamian baseball players played with Great Britain baseball team at the World Baseball Classics qualifier in Brooklyn New York, players on the team were, Antoan Richardson, Jervis Champ Stuart, Albert Cartwright, Kyle Simmons, Todd Isaacs, Jasrado Chisholm, Chavez Young, Reshard Munroe and Ali Knowles, most people at home was shock to see the Bahamas had so much professional baseball players and was wondering why the Bahamas could not field it own world baseball classic qualifier team.     After the Bahamas Baseball Association was not able to finish the 1990 season, baseball sat dormant with a few BBA teams traveling to a few small tournaments, and most of the baseball player had migrated to softball and a few went off to play college baseball, but the players were longing to play baseball again but not under the BBA, the Bahamas Baseball Association was ask to have a federation type structure for baseball in the Bahamas but refused to do it, because in the Bahamas the BBA was a league, the largest league in the Bahamas, with leagues in Grand Bahama, and Bimini, but the BBA was recognized as the governing body for baseball in the Bahamas, which should not have happened because only BBA teams voted in an BBA elections, and so no other leagues teams was able to vote in the BBA elections, so they had no say on the governing of baseball in the Bahamas, in 1987 this was asked to be change it so there can be a federation structure with all the leagues in the Bahamas under one head, and stories earlier in this history write up tell how a league for Nassau, New Providence was formed, and ten years later all the leagues in the Bahamas formed the Bahamas Baseball Federation, and grew the game of baseball, but the Bahamas Olympic Committee refused to recognized the Bahamas Baseball Federation despite its great accomplishment with the sports with all leagues in the Bahamas working as never before in the country, and for thirty years the BBA was allowed to stay relevant by the BOC, the International Baseball Association Federation and the Pan American Baseball Confederation would not recognize the Bahamas Baseball Federation, because the Bahamas Olympic Committee recognized the Bahamas Baseball Association, both the IBAF and COPABE recognized the good work the BBF was doing with the sport of baseball, they said they cannot recognize more than two federations from a country, in the back ground the BOC was working on a way to get all the leagues back to the BBA, why? When they haven’t really function for thirty years that benefited baseball though out the whole Bahamas, in 2014 the BBF president and the BBA president signed an agreement to let the BBF take team to international tournament, most BBF team agreed with the move, but a few didn’t and saw it has an end to the Bahamas Baseball Federation, in 2017 five leagues out of the BBF went and join the BBA, without the other BBF members knowledge.     Stay Tune, more to come          
PRESERVING THE RICH HISTORY OF BASEBALL IN THE BAHAMAS
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