Sackville Sports Wall of Fame still going strong after quarter century

Wallie Sears
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Left to right, Randy Beal, Wayne Hicks, Sharon MacIntyre and Kate Crawford were inducted into the Sackville Sports Wall of Fame in 2010.

Despite a good many twists and turns with a few ups and downs the Sackville Sports Wall of Fame (SSWF) has survived quite successfully for a quarter of a century and continues to meet its original mandate, which is to recognize and honour the achievements of Sackville and area individuals and teams who have attained prominence and distinction in any field of sport, and those who have made a major contribution to the development and advancement of sport in the coverage area.

The project came into being in 1989 as your columnist, with the full backing of then Mayor Will Campbell, working closely with the N.B. Sports Hall of Fame, framed a set of guidelines, a constitution as well as establishing a board of directors and a selection committee. We served as advisors for several years but have had little contact with the organization over the past decade.

The original induction of five charter members took place in 1989 under the leadership of Campbell and included all internationally recognized individuals. Billy Harris of Major League Baseball fame, Chester (King) Cole, a world junior skating champion, George Lawrence, Bisley Marksman, Ted Doncaster, New England boxing champion and Bob Edgett, coach of the Canadian intermediate boxing team as well as director of the local boxing club became charter members during a special dinner induction during which the renowned Angus (Gus) MacFarlane was guest speaker.

Over the next few years several outstanding notables, including Ral Tracy, Bill Crawford and Hartley Estabrooks, were accepted into the SSWF and each inductee since the beginning has been presented with a special pin designed for the occasion by Clark Sheppard.

The dinners, held at the Legion, were discontinued in 2003 and now the nominees chosen by the selection committee are hosted at a local inn and then presented to the public with a small reception held in the civic centre. Such well-known guest speakers as Vance Toner, Don Grant, Howie Trainor and Guy Lafleur came to Sackville for the occasion.

Since the beginning, a total of 37 teams and individuals have joined the Wall of Fame and the addition this year of builders Barb Campbell and David Burns and the 1982 Titan football team will round the number out to 40.

Wayne Mackay, Sackville’s “Mr. Basketball” and an inductee, says he views the Wall of Fame as a marvellous way of recognizing not only young men and women for outstanding efforts but it also allows those who make things happen be honoured.

MacKay says the opportunity for residents to come together to pay tribute to these people is an important aspect.  He adds that many of these builders are parents who might otherwise not be involved although a good many contribute due to their love of the game. 

He believes there are a goodly number of other strong athletes and builders out there who deserve to be on the SSWF and like many others has little problem with most of the 40 already there but thinks more consideration should be given by the selectors.

Meanwhile, Mayor Bob Berry, who has been closely involved with the project almost from its beginning, says it is a good project for Sackville. He is also pleased to see that the portraits have been relocated from the old town hall to the lounges of the Tantramar Veterans Regional Memorial Civic Centre.

“Visitors to the rink ask questions when they see the marvelous display we have arranged up there,” he said during a recent discussion.  ‘Then they discover Sackville has produced internationally recognized athletes as well as national, provincial and regional champions. Overall, it is really a plus for our community.”

Until 2008 the portraits on the wall were created by well known artist Rod Matattall. Since then Pat Dixon has picked up the torch and continues to produce some fine works.

It is interesting to note that 30 percent of the inductees from 1989 to 2014 are listed in the “builders” category. These include those who have provided expertise in leadership, managed, coached, officiated or contributed significantly in that regard. The late Bert Robertson, the first in this category to be inducted, was the man responsible for keeping baseball alive over a long period. And Wayne MacKay is another who introduced minor basketball to Sackville and continued to build the programs as he coached for many years and at various levels.

Many of the athletes inducted were multi-sport individuals such as Ral Tracy, Vince Estabrooks, George Chambers, Bill Crawford and Gail (Burns) LeBlanc. Seven teams will grace the wall following the next nomination. There will be four golfers, two boxers, two football players, a speed skater, a marksman, a runner and a basketball player.

Like most organizations, the Sackville Sports Wall of Fame has had its share of controversies and disagreements. Mayor Berry said he has had some problems with choices made by the selectors from time to time, especially recently. And this may have echoed what MacKay said when he pointed out that too many well-qualified performers have not been inducted.

This may be partially due to a seeming reluctance by many people to complete a simple nomination form, which may be obtained at town hall. 

Like MacKay your columnist has few problems with those men and women who have been installed, but we do have with some who haven’t. Three local athletes, all members of the Mount Allison Mountie all-time all-star team have been excluded. We definitely feel that Peter Hess is more than qualified for the Wall, but we have two former All-

Canadians – Peter Ayer and Mike Jardine – the best in the country. And Peter Estabrooks, the third all-star, was the team’s best punt returner prior to Gary Ross. All four played their high school ball at Tantramar and then performed with the Mounties all the way to the Vanier Cup.

And there is the Goodwin’s Discounts who won the Maritime fastball championship as well as the ladies fast ball team that captured the Eastern Canadian crown. Each of these outstanding teams and individuals has been nominated and still they sit on the outside looking in.

That said, the Sackville Sports Wall of Fame is in fine shape and mistakes can be made – we only hope they can be remedied. A wonderful outcropping from the group was the creation of the Sports Recognition Night where young men and women who have had standout seasons receive the proper acclaim.

Organizations: Major League Baseball

Geographic location: New England, Tantramar

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  • Sharon Hicks
    May 28, 2014 - 16:45

    I just wanted to point out that Pat Dixon is no longer doing the Sports Wall of Fame portraits, as is stated in the report ... this year I was asked to carry on the tradition, and it will be my work which is unveiled next week. :) Cheers :)