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'It breaks my heart': Descendants of Chatham Coloured All-Stars disappointed with Canadian Baseball HOF

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Disappointment and frustration looms over Chatham-Kent after the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys Ont., announced the 2024 Class of Inductees this week, again omitting the Chatham Coloured All-Stars.

The historic team was first placed on the ballot in 2017 and have not received the votes needed for the nod, despite an extensive multi-year campaign to include the group.

“It hurts,” said Blake Harding, whose father and two uncles were members of the team, which was the first Black team to win an Ontario Baseball Association Championship in 1934.

“It breaks my heart to see that St. Marys hasn't recognized them in all this time. Give me a reason. Just tell me why,” he said.

Harding noted the All Stars were inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2022, but remain shut out of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, with little explanation.

Harding said the team’s members were trailblazers on and off the field, accomplishing things never done before, suggesting their legacy is still felt in Chatham-Kent as many descendants of the team still work and reside there.

Blake Harding on Feb. 9, 2024. (Chris Campbell/CTV News Windsor)

“There's so many positive spins that come from that team that's more than baseball,” Harding explained. “And in this community, Chatham, Windsor, southern Ontario, they opened so many doors and they played with dignity and that's all they wanted was dignity and respect.”

Harding explained he’s pleased the team’s history will be taught in Ontario schools along with Black history education starting in September 2025. He said efforts will continue to get the recognition, urging supporters to not be angry.

“There are some people in the community that are bitter. There are some people that wrote St. Marys with nasty letters and I said that's not going to get ‘em in. It's not,” said Harding.

“Keep that same front that the All Stars put forward, that you demand respect. We are here, we're not going away. We demand respect,” Harding told CTV News. “If St. Marys doesn't want us, that's their loss. You know, it just gives the credibility to the institution that they represent.”

“It just doesn't make any sense,” said fellow descendent and Buxton National Historic Site and Museum curator Michelle Robbins.

Robbins said, “It's so disappointing to not honour these players and their families and it's just been ongoing every year, every year, every year. And now it's almost a statement from them, but what is the statement?”

“After receiving the Order of Sport, I think, for a lot of those family members, that was a turning point for them and they were honoured in such an amazing way. But now, they're still being snubbed by the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame where they should have been honoured years and years and years ago,” said Robbins.

Robbins continued, “There are so many descendants, of all of these amazing players that broke so many barriers for so many people and being descendants of those players, it's time for them to be honoured in the way that they should be.“

The Chatham Coloured All-Stars. (Chris Campbell/CTV News Windsor)

“I just can't make sense of it,” said Chatham resident and avid baseball fan Jay Smith. “This is a story that needs to be told, that deserves to be told, and locally, we're telling it over and over and over again and that recognition to be recognized, to have this story told across this country is needed.”

Smith said, “The fact that this seems to happen every year with the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum coming down with their nominees in February, every year, Black History Month, there's a good way for them to get in front of this and do some damage control from years past in my honest opinion and they just continue to not do so.”

“I feel like the Hall of Fame is failing,” Smith stated, “It's getting in its own way with this story. There's no disrespect to any of this year's nominees, any nominees from years past. I love baseball, first and foremost, and that's what this is. It's a baseball story, but so much more,” said Smith.

CTV News reached out to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame for response, but officials were unavailable for comment before this story’s publication.

Former Toronto Blue Jays Russell Martin and Jimmy Key headline the 2024 class of inductees this summer on June 15.

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