November 22, 2017

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Team 'Toba alumnus returns to the Games

Hall-of-famer reminded of softball's heyday

Memories of the first Canada Summer Games back in 1969 are fading slightly for Ernie Peters, but he can’t forget the crowd that came to watch him play softball for Team Manitoba.

“That was one of the highlights in my career. The crowds were very huge in Halifax. It was a really good time.”

On Thursday, Peters attended the Games again, this time as a spectator in a much smaller crowd at the women’s softball match between Team Manitoba and New Brunswick.

Softball has been declining in popularity since its heyday in the ’80s, said Peters.

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Memories of the first Canada Summer Games back in 1969 are fading slightly for Ernie Peters, but he can’t forget the crowd that came to watch him play softball for Team Manitoba.

"That was one of the highlights in my career. The crowds were very huge in Halifax. It was a really good time."

Ruth Bonneville</p><p>Peters was inducted into the Manitoba Softball Hall of Fame, as an individual and team member, in 2010.</p></p>

Ruth Bonneville

Peters was inducted into the Manitoba Softball Hall of Fame, as an individual and team member, in 2010.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Ernie Peters was a pitcher on Manitoba’s softball team at the very first Canada Summer Games in 1969.</p></p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Ernie Peters was a pitcher on Manitoba’s softball team at the very first Canada Summer Games in 1969.

On Thursday, Peters attended the Games again, this time as a spectator in a much smaller crowd at the women’s softball match between Team Manitoba and New Brunswick.

Softball has been declining in popularity since its heyday in the ’80s, said Peters.

In its inaugural year, softball was the most popular event at the first Summer Games.

More than 200,000 spectators showed up to watch baseball and softball alone.

While softball has been one of the top-attended sports so far at this year’s Games, attendance reached just about 4,000 in the first four days.

For the last two Summer Games, Manitoba didn’t even have a team for fans to cheer on.

But this year, a team from the small northern community of Pimicikamak stepped up to the plate.

Peters checked out one of their games last week, bringing up memories of the good old days

Whenever he wants to reminisce, Peters digs up the album of newspaper clippings his wife made.

The book contains precious memories of his successful softball career that spanned over four decades.

"I started in the ’40s as a nine-year-old and went right to the ’80s."

Pitching at the first Canada Summer Games at Halifax-Dartmouth wasn’t easy after sustaining an injury to his hand at a tournament and then another one, on the same hand, during the Games

"I remember losing the first game against Calgary 2-0 and the next game I pitched, would you believe, against Quebec I took a line drive and caught it with my bare hand. It broke everything open — there was blood all over the place. And that was the tournament for me."

Thankfully, he has fond memories of the historic event, too.

"One thing I remember is at the closing ceremony all the men had caps and we threw them into the audience as we were marching. It was a really good feeling."

Now 79 years old, Peters said his memory of the Games from almost half a century ago is fading, although he’s still able to easily rattle off the dates of his career moves and accolades with impressive ease.

In 2010, he was inducted into the Manitoba Softball Hall of Fame as an individual and as a team member with the Black Knights.

Peters started his career playing minor softball in Steinbach, advancing to his senior softball career in 1966 with the Molson Canadians, which won both the Winnipeg and Manitoba Senior Championships.

He then joined the Black Knights, capturing the Industrial League and Manitoba Intermediate Championship in 1967 and 1968.

He moved back to senior competition in 1969 when he was recruited to pitch in the Canada Summer Games. He was 31 — and lucky to have snuck in before an age cap was later set to 21.

Now retired, he looks back fondly on his career.

"I don’t know where I’d be without the sport, but I enjoyed my ball days tremendously."

keila.depape@freepress.mb.ca

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