By Woodard, Dale on February 21, 2020.
The 1983 Lethbridge Schwartz Angels slo-pitch team’s basic mindset probably sounded like any catchy pop single you could find on the radio at that time 37 years ago.
“All we knew was cars, sports and girls, that was it,” said Angels team member and second baseman Bill Henderson.
That second obsession on the list earned the Angels a national championship that summer.
Now, another honour has been lobbed their way nearly 40 years later when the Angels were announced as one of the 2020 inductees for the Lethbridge Hall of Fame in the team category as the hall celebrates its 35th anniversary.
The Angels were officially announced to this year’s LSHOF at a press conference Thursday at Nicholas Sheran Arena.
Joining them this year are builders Eunice David (figure skating), Mary Dyck (soccer, volleyball and wheelchair basketball), Cliff Nelson (multi-sport) and Howard Rasmussen (volleyball) as well as athlete Jolene Watson-Schweitzer (soccer).
“We grew up together his kids playing sports,” said Henderson. “Back then there were none of the electronic distractions that kids have nowadays. So sports was huge back then and we were lucky enough that this group of friends all had a certain amount of skill set and talent for that. It started well before we ever got involved with slo-pitch. The slo-pitch window for us probably lasted eight or nine years. Prior to that we all played Little League together and Senior Little League. We played American Legion baseball and it just carried on.”
That summer 37 years ago the Angels advanced to the national championship in Kentville, N.S., defeating the same Windsor, Ont., team that had handed them their only loss earlier in the tournament.
After losing 10-7 to Ontario in the first game, the Angels battled through the B-side with wins over Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and B.C. to advance to the final against Ontario.
Needing to beat Ontario twice after advancing through the B-side, the Angels won the first game 6-1 to set up the winner-take-all game.
Pitching his third game of the day, Bob Lanman went 3-for-3 at the plate and was supported by four home runs, including a three-run shot by Doug Roberts as the Angels won 8-5 to collect the Canadian championship.
Harvey Pocza was named tournament MVP, while Dave Snopek and Henderson earned spots on the all-tournament team.
“Ontario actually had our number earlier on in the tournament and they had some pretty intimidating-looking athletes,” said Henderson. “Not that we knew them personally, but just to watch them walk out on the field, they had some good athletes. So they kind of trounced us in the first game, but it woke us up that we played poorly and they played really well to accomplish that. So we thought we could do a lot better. There was no pressure on us, we had made it this far and there was absolutely no pressure on us and that seemed to relax everybody and we just started getting into our groove.”
It was nicely timed.
“The first game was really close and won on a really good, smart baserunning move.”
“That was very memorable, which took us to the next game,” said Henderson. “It was pretty thrilling, too. There were about 3,000 people in the stands and once we had beaten out the host team it’s like the whole city of Kentville embraced us throughout the tournament.
“So the whole stadium was loaded with fans for us to beat Ontario. In the second game we took the lead and held onto the lead and it came down to their best hitter coming up to the plate with guys on base. I can’t remember if he would’ve won it for them or tied it for them, but he was their big hitter and he grounded out to yours truly, no less.”
In the end, it was a group of buddies ages 21 to 29 that brought home the national title that summer.
“We weren’t cherry picked from the ground up to accomplish this,” said Henderson. “We have to give full credit to the league we played in and the teams we played against because they were good we were part of that. There were three or four teams that were at an exceptionally high level. The other teams forced you to levels that maybe you wouldn’t have achieved if you were playing in a different league somewhere else. They forced you and we practised so much. That’s unheard of at this level. They don’t practise like we did. Every waking moment was ‘OK what field are we meeting at?’ But I give credit to all those teams that pushed us so hard. It was said to us from somebody else that the real Canadian championship were the Lethbridge playoffs. We were told that.”
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