Vaughan Furriers, Maritime Junior Baseball Champions, 1962
The Vaughan Furriers Junior Baseball team was the creation of Graham Downey. Initially, he created and coached a Midget team called the Rangers, consisting almost entirely of quality black baseball players, who for the most part lived near the Halifax commons. By 1962 the team, with additional white players, moved up to the junior division. For Graham this was the ideal time to fully integrate the best white and black players to be found into a junior team capable of winning the Maritime Junior baseball championship. Consequently, Graham scouted and recruited the very best players he could find to create this team. To obtain financial backing for the team, so as to have quality uniforms and all the other necessary equipment, Graham set out to obtain a team sponsor; and persuaded businessman Tommy Vaughan, the owner of Vaughan Furriers in Halifax to sponsor the team.
As a coach, Graham was a brilliant strategist. He instinctively seemed to know when to employ the correct baseball strategies during games to ensure the team would win. He knew when a player should hit hard, bunt, or steal a base. As an experienced coach he knew when to move players in and out of the game to make sure that the team would have a better chance of winning. However, his greatest strength was that he knew how to motivate each player to improve, give their best and to teach them to function as a successful, unified and motivated team rather a group of isolated individual stars. Graham was responsible for creating a fantastic winning team spirit that was largely responsible for the success of the team.
The players on the Vaughan Furriers Junior baseball team exhibited extraordinary baseball talent. That is they were recruited,from among the best one could find in the Province. Outfielders Denny Clyke and Burtie Mentis transited all the way from Truro for each game in Halifax; Denny later went on to play professional baseball and star in the NSSBL. Cecil Jackson was a superb infielder capable of fielding any ball hit in his direction and possessed a strong arm as well. Cecil drove powerful line drives through the field producing many runs for the team; he latter starred for the Dairy Queen fastball team, which represented Nova Scotia the Nationals for severalyears, winning a silver and bronze medal. Jimmy MacDonald and Denny Clyke undoubtedly held records for hitting the longest home run balls; sometimes knocking the ball right out of the commons plating fields. Additionally Jim was renowned for his “rifle arm” from right field to third or home. Lefty Ernie Simons was also an extremely versatile player: he was a talented pitcher, first baseman and fielder and could excel at virtually any position where he was needed. Dave Downey (future Canadian Middleweight Boxing Champion for 11 years) was another strong hitter and outfielder, exceptionally fleet of foot. Wayne Maxner ( Junior and NHL player and coach) played shortstop.. The team had an able and experienced catcher in George Croucher, who knew exactly how to help pitchers by selecting the right kind of pitch for each hitter. George was also an excellent hitter at the plate. He was ably supported by diminutive Joey MacNeil, also a very good hitter. Gary Furlotte was very effective left-handed pitcher as he had a series of great curve balls and numerous exotic pitches that frequently confused the batters; Furlotte would later star in the NSSBL for twenty-five years. John Dean was a hard-throwing, durable right-handed pitcher who threw an awesome curve ball and moving fastball. Another fireballing left-hander was six-foot-four, Gord MacInnis, who lived in the North end of the city along withRight hander Ches Farwell, was a fast ball hurler who kept hitters off balance by mixing in an inside hook and occasional curve ball. Roy Keeler, with a motion that often confused batters, was the 6th pitcher among a unique combination of 3 lefties & 3 right handers. Roy who was also the team’s #1 cheer leader, always motivating his teammates And this was a team that boasted nine (9) right and nine (9) left handed batters along with two switch-hitters, Farwell and Croucher. The remainder of the team is listed below and their accomplishments, positions, batting, years with team, etc. are summarized on page 29 of the publication, The Boys of ‘62.
Overall, the team had perhaps the most powerful pitching, hitting and fielding rosters ever seen in a junior league baseball team. It is no wonder that they captured the Maritime Junior Baseball Championship in 1962 with an 11-1 record, losing only a single game 3-2 to perennial rivals, Halifax Orphans, then went undefeated against all NS, PEI and New Brunswick junior teams to sweep the Nova Scotia and Maritime titles.
The team was selected for the Nova Scotia Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005 and inaugurated into the Maritime Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.
The team was also recognized in 2008 by the mayor and City of Halifax; became the first senior (Classic) team to represent Nova Scotia at the Roy Hobbs World Series; and were awarded certificates for their contribution to human rights by the Lt. Governor of Nova Scotia in 2009. The team was also the subject of an Atlantic best-selling book, The Boys of ’62; transcending the racial divide in 2008, and a second updated edition in 2009. All of the ream’s records and accomplishments are detailed in this publication.
Team members included: