The Woodstock Actives- Today's Club

"Been in this game one-hundred years, but I see new ways to lose 'em I never knew existed before."

Casey Stengel

  

Front Row: John Macdonald, Keith Adair , Mike Bragg, Jay Woods

Back Row: Chad Currah, Don Johnson, Dave Beattie, Roger Campbell, Jamie Adams, Pat Simms, Terry Hilderley

Absent: Pat Sloan, Bob White

A Brief History of the Actives

Written By Murray "Cubby" Coulter, Captain 1993-2002

In the early 1990s, the City of Sylvania on the northern border of the State of Ohio was twinned with Woodstock,Ontario as its sister city and a Committee was designated by each municipality to coordinate activities which might occur to promote goodwill between the two communities. A member of the Sylvania Committee played on the recently formed Vintage Base Ball club in that City called the Great Black Swamp Frogs, engaged in playing the game according to its rules and traditions of 1860, and asked that a Woodstock team be formed to engage in competition with our U.S. neighbours.

I was asked in the Spring of 1993 to assume organization of the local team and thereby took on the onerous task of "Captain". Sheila Johnson at the WoodstockMuseum suggested that our team be named the Woodstock Actives in honour of the 1879 club of that name which featured Tip O'Neill, the local hero who went on to star in the American Association and National League in the late 1880s. She also took on the task, assisted by the Sister City budget, of designing and having made 15 uniforms in the style of the photograph she had of the 1879 Actives - in the colours of red and white and dreadfully heavy in hot, summer weather.

Perhaps we thought the inaugural game of July 1,1993 would be the only one of its kind and,for that reason, recruited players more for their status as recognizable community figures than their playing talents. I attended at the local radio station, K102, on an interview with Brad Janssen to promote a game I had never seen played and knew about only from a perusal of the printed rules forwarded from Sylvania along with a video tape of one of their games.

The game was played at the soccer field at the Woodstock District Complex in perfect weather and, due to curiosity of the citizenry and combining of Canada Day festivities at the same location, drew well over 500 curious fans. The Actives, featuring such legendary Vintage players as Mayor Margaret Munnoch running the base paths, were trounced by our American teachers but enjoyed a great backyard party at the home of Bob White Sr.

The tradition of playing home and home games each year with the Frogs began that fall as we journeyed to Sylvania for an October 9 match at tiny Memorial Field in bitterly cold conditions in which we were again beaten badly, having to use children of adult players to fill out the roster when our experienced politician-type players failed to make the trip. The now established ritual of playing in Canada each July 1st and in The United States each July 4th began, at least temporarily, in 1994 as we lost at the Complex, but having trailed only 2-1 to the 9th,and at the much larger Pacesetter Park in Sylvania, which was followed by a huge dinner and party at the Museum property there. We were not included in the Frogs July 4 plans for 1995 but, instead, travelled to Sylvania April 29 for their opening game, a humiliating 24-2 loss for us,and hosted the Frogs July 1st at the Southside Sportsfield in Woodstock, the new venue of the Canada Day celebrations for the City.

The July 1 - July 4 tradition became entrenched in 1996, beginning with a cricket game between the Actives and Frogs hosted by the Woodstock Cricket Club and the match at Southside followed by the first of many after-game parties at the home and backyard swimming pool of David Beatty. The return match at Pacesetter featured a get together at the home of Boyd Montgomery, just outside Sylvania, for the first time. Our first match with another opponent occured on Sunday, August 18 of that year as we journeyed to Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan to play the Lah De Dahs on their picturesque village green bounded by a huge slope behind third base and a railway track in short right field. We lost the match 15-7 and adjourned to the Eagle Tavern in the Village to discuss new strategy.

The venue of the games in Canada was switched to its present location at Victoria Park in 1997 with a new team philosophy dedicated to recruiting new players who could actually run and hit. The game at Pacesetter was followed, the next day, by a re-match with the Lah De Dahs, literally on the route home, and a close 18-15 loss (probably our best played game to that date) and more strategy at the Eagle Tavern. After 10 consecutive losses to the Frogs, the Actives triumphed 14-10 at Victoria Park on July 1, 1998 followed by a convincing 15-5 win at Pacesetter on July 4 which entitled us to retain the Sylvania Cup for the next year. Unfortunately, the streak ended in Greenfield Village the next day when we gave up an early lead and lost 30-15 in what proved to be our last match with the Lah De Dahs, as their future schedules could not accomodate our availability.

Our short-lived success with the Frogs came to an end the following year with a rain-soaked loss in Victoria Park and a 23-8 defeat on our return to memorial Park in sweltering temperatures reaching 35 degrees Celsius - or 100 degrees to our opponents. We rebounded, however, by returning on July 25 that year to participate in the Sylvania tournament with a win over Middleton and a victory over Columbus Capitols which marked our coming of age among Vintage Base Ball competitors.

The Actives prevailed with double triumphs over the Frogs in 2000, by 21-14 in Victoria Park and 13-6 at memorial Field before the first of our parties at Oleander Park in Sylvania. That year we also participated in the first of the Vintage Sports Days in London, Ontario with games played in uneven farm fields behind Fanshawe Village and losses to Ohio, Forest City and the Mutuals of New York on July 22 and July 23. The matches of 2001 were both close and low-scoring as the Actives prevailed 7-6 in Woodstock but lost 6-5 at Memorial in Sylvania on the July 4 return. The results left us with a 5-13 record with the Actives over 9 seasons of home and home competition but a 5-3 edge over our friendly rivals since 1998.

We again played in the London Vintage Sports Days games of July 21 and July 22 with a win in Victoria Park over Forest City, a loss at the St. Marys hall of fame field to Kent, and a 16-0 win on the Sunday at Harris Park in London against the London Tecumsehs which marked the first competition for the "Silver Ball", emblematic of Canadian Base Ball supremacy, in over 100 years.

We look forward to building on our Vintage skills in the future with a growth in fan support and interest in the historical game in Canada.

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