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The Chatham Coloured All-Stars became the first all-Black team in Canadian history to win a provincial baseball championship in 1934.

When the Chatham Coloured All-Stars took to baseball diamonds across Ontario in the 1930s, slurs, spit and rocks rained down on the team from white spectators. As 2022 recipients of Canada’s Order of Sport and inductees to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, the historic team will now be showered with praise.

Established in 2019, the Order of Sport “is a formal acknowledgement that Canada’s shared values are sports shared values; respect, equality, fairness and openness, and that sport is a strong backbone for building diversity, inclusion and accessibility in Canadian communities.”

Founded in 1932, the Chatham Coloured All-Stars, who will enter the Hall in the new Trailblazer category, notably became the first all-Black baseball team in Canada’s history to win a provincial title in 1934. When several members of the team joined the military during the Second World War, the team disbanded in 1939.

“Only playing as a team for seven years, they made a lasting impression during a difficult and hostile time for Black Canadians,” the Calgary-based Sports Hall said in a statement. “They forged ahead despite the barriers, leaving baseball immeasurably enriched by all they had overcome.”

Earl (Flat) Chase and Wilfred (Boomer) Harding, both described as major-league-calibre players, as well as Ferguson Jenkins Sr., whose son Fergie Jenkins became the first Canadian to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., after a major-league career, were prominent players from the roster. According to Blake Harding, the son of Boomer and nephew of Len and Andy Harding, also members of the All-Stars, learning the team would join Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame was a special moment.

“I’m elated,” Harding said. “At this time in our history, it’s so important for this team to be recognized.”

The honour is a welcome change for the descendants of the team. The All-Stars have been on the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame ballot for the past five years, but denied each year.

Being refused entry, whether it be to hotels or restaurants while they played, or to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame 90 years later, remains part of the All-Stars’ story. As does the perseverance of the team and its supporters.

“Despite their championship calibre, the Chatham Coloured All-Stars regularly faced discrimination on and off the field, playing through racial taunts and threats of violence, injuries deliberately committed by opposing teams, and questionable officiating calls,” Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame said. “They also encountered difficulties travelling to games at a time when Black people were often barred from restaurants and hotels in Southern Ontario.”

After the team’s most recent omission from the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont., in February, a groundswell of support erupted. This included backing from the Toronto Blue Jays, who touted the All-Stars for helping to “pave the way to make the game more inclusive for Black players and all Canadians.” The major-league club also said, “we owe a debt of gratitude” to the team “for their excellence and determination.”

With Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame now acknowledging the team’s significance, Harding believes it’s only a matter of time before the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame comes calling.

“Sooner or later the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame will have to recognize them,” he said. “I have to trust the process because I don’t want to bring any negativity to the All-Stars. When they couldn’t get a meal, when they were turned away from hotels, they always responded with dignity, they held their head high, and we’ll do the same.”

Until that day comes, the families will revel in this current success on behalf of their ancestors. The last survivor of the team, Don Tabron, died in 2008 at age 93; Boomer Harding died in 1991.

“I know he’d be so proud and so pleased,” Harding said of his father entering Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. “I get emotional about it. He’d tell me what they went through, what they had to do to play ball and just to be seen as equal. To get all this recognition, I know for every one of them it would be the cherry on top.”

The 10-member 2022 Order of Sport and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame class also includes four-time Olympic gold medalist and Hockey Hall of Fame member Hayley Wickenheiser, Olympic gold medal kayaker Adam van Koeverden, and the Preston Rivulettes, a women’s hockey team that won 10 provincial and four national titles between 1931 and 1940.

“These are ordinary Canadians who have achieved extraordinary things and have remarkable stories to share,” said Cheryl Bernard, president and CEO of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. “Through the lens of sport, these stories put a spotlight on important topics, personify resiliency and showcase overcoming adversity, changing the way each of us sees the world and ourselves.”

At the Oct. 6 ceremony in Toronto, perhaps no inductee will personify this perseverance and cultural significance as clearly as the Chatham Coloured All-Stars.