A rickety old bus drove the Hamilton Cardinals down the golden path to the Senior Intercounty baseball championship 43 years ago.
Sunday, in the imagination of the champs, it made one last run stopping at Carmen’s Banquet Centre then at Bernie Arbour Stadium.
Aboard were veterans of Hamilton’s only Intercounty championship team, the 1978 Cardinals.
Following breakfast at Carmen’s, the oldtimers were introduced before the start of the current Cardinals afternoon game. Fittingly the London Majors, the team Hamilton beat to win the title, provided the opposition.
Manager Phil Duffy, now 75, threw out the ceremonial first pitch to his son Matt, a pitcher with this year’s squad. Simulating the opening toss was young Kade Challans, a lefty, and the great-grandson of Bruno Casanova, who played second base for Hamilton’s entry in the Pony League in 1949.
“The chemistry and camaraderie among the players was instrumental in the 1978 championship,” Duffy said. “Our owners bought an old bus, cleaned it up and it took us everywhere.”
As an 18-year-old Duffy had signed with Kansas City Athletics in 1963, just before they moved to Oakland. He pitched one season for Wytheville, Virginia, of the Applachian League before coming back to Hamilton.
The Redbirds finished first in the league’s East Division with a record of 19-17. They eliminated the Brantford Red Sox, Toronto Maple Leafs and London Majors, in that order, in the playoffs.
Shortstop Jim Hrach was named the league’s most valuable player in the post-season.
Besides Duffy, Larry Buist, Brian Burke, Enzo Fazio, Skip Griese, Larry Mackie, Darrell Ostrosser, Dennis Santucci and Jim Hrach attended Sunday’s reunion. Dan Creechan, Pete Rosser, Ron Buist, Larry Fischer, Bill Tait, Doug McLean, Dan Finan and Larry Lasswell were unable to attend.
Three players – John Crandall, Mike Lynch and Chuck Beaudoin are deceased.
History repeated itself on the diamond as the 2021 edition of the Cardinals upset first-place London 6-5 to improve their record to 9-10 on the season.
Hamilton plays host to Toronto twice this week, on Tuesday and Friday nights at 7:30 p.m.