When they weren’t playing Little League games, Hugh Morrison, Doug Gilmour, Dave Bowering, Bruce Graham, Grant Hughes, Ken Gregory and Gary Wilcox (not pictured) played on a makeshift baseball diamond they built in the northwest corner of the former Willows Fairgrounds. It lasted about one year before new housing went up. Note the backstop and bikes said Wilcox, who took the photo on a Kodak baby Brownie. (Gary Wilcox Photo)

Looking back at the boys of Oak Bay’s 1954 sandlot

And remembering that one day a girl played

With the World Series playoffs underway, one Oak Bay resident recalls his days of playing sandlot baseball on the old Willows Fairgrounds in 1953 and 1954.

“We were 11 and 12 years old, we had joined Little League by then, but we also played on our own, a small group of us on a grass lot with a makeshift backstop,” said Gary Wilcox, now 76.

It wasn’t far off of what’s portrayed in the 1993 film The Sandlot, about a group of neighbourhood kids who spend their summer playing daily pickup baseball.

READ MORE: Oak Bay athlete leads B.C. to national baseball title

Wilcox took the photo of his baseball buddies with a Kodak baby Brownie, popular of the era.

At the time, Little League added the American (Carnarvon) and National (Hillside/Cook) teams as well as Oak Bay Kiwanis, Victoria Kinsmen and the Lions.

“On my history website I tell an interesting story of the day a girl played with us at that sandlot,” Wilcox said.

“She was 11 or 12, and one day she watched for a while. She wanted to play, so she did. She hit the ball to short stop, and then she ran to third. She was thrown out at first base. But she argued defiantly that she was not out. She argued that because she was left handed, she should run to third.”

The year 1954 marked the end of the kids’ sandlot diamond as it was developed with homes the next year, Wilcox recalled.

Of course, Oak Bay already had a storied baseball history as its 2,000-seat Oak Bay Ball Park, which hosted Hal Chase for three months in 1905 during the short-lived pro baseball league that pitted Victoria against Seattle and Tacoma.

reporter@oakbaynews.com

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