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Molson Canadian Softball Team of Winnipeg wins Silver medal at World Championships
In 1968, the World Fastball Championships were held in Oklahoma City, U.S.A., and at the end of the ten-team tournament, the Molson Canadians of Winnipeg were the Silver Medallists. However, the road to this crowning achievement was bumpy and almost never happened. The Canadians’ run to glory was almost stopped in 1966 before it really got started. The Provincial Senior Men’s fast-pitch play downs were held on the old baseball diamond at Winnipeg Stadium’s south end… where now stand the Blue Bombers’ practice facilities and offices. In a tournament that included local powers like the Kiewel Seals, the Black Knights and Concord Hotel, the Canadians beat them all except for one. Thunder Bay defeated the Canadians 1-0 in 21 innings in the round robin and then again in the final. But Thunder Bay did not have the resources to go to the 1967 Canadian Championship in Saskatoon, so the runner-up Canadians were requested to fill in and happily accepted.
Despite a shortage of players in the opening games that required Manager Ray “Shampoo” Charambura to play in the outfield until the regulars caught up with the squad, the Canadians won the national title with four straight victories. Included in that string was a hard-fought 3-1 victory over Ontario with their world-class pitcher Dick Hames (later named Most Valuable Pitcher) and the defeat of Quebec in the final. Canadians’ pitcher Ken Dilk was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament.
The Molson Canadians represented Canada at the World Championship in 1968 with six pick-up players from around the country, including Hames. Finances were a problem for this trip as they had been for Thunder Bay when this odyssey began. However the Canadians put together a convoy of vehicles and drove down to Oklahoma City. There they beat everyone in the ten-team round robin except the eventual Gold Medal U.S.A. team. The Canadians captured the final berth with a thrilling 4-3 victory over the Philippines, the highlight of the tournament for the Canuck squad. Failed attempts at getting government funding for the trip meant that the players picked up the cost of the two-week trip almost entirely out of their own pockets, save approximately $50 per player. However the expense to pursue their dream and reach the heights that they did was worth it.
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