Premier Baseball Team
Melbourne's Past and Present Champions
By ERN COWLEY
written in 1932 for the Sporting Globe
The M.C.C. has on its committee three old baseballers and a good fan in Hugh Trumble; therefore the ball game receives consideration and respect from the premier club of Victoria. It is recognised at headquarters that baseball is a great aid to cricket, in that it provides a winter sport for their cricketers and tones up at least one phase or their game-fielding.
MORE than that, they have come to see that the American game has great entertainment value and that members are entirely satisfied with the game provided for them every Saturday as curtain-raiser to the football match.
In the early days of baseball in Victoria, M.C.C. was looked upon as the "rich uncle." They had a wonderful supply of baseball equipment, and visiting clubs frequently carried away samples. In fact some clubs carried on with the samples as their sole outfit.
To go back thirty years is far enough to recall the giants of the Melbourne Baseball Club. At this time we find the great Dr. Twiss, an American, who was gaining experience as doctor at the Melbourne Hospital. Many old-timers will remember the wonderful action he had on the pitching mound, showing them the effectiveness of the wind-up. He pitched to Harry Allan, and a fine battery it was, the doctor being a long way ahead of the baseballers of that time.
Allan was a fine exponent of the game, being a noted hitter; he represented Victoria in interstate games. Big Guy Henty ("Old 'Piano Legs’ ”) was a champion at the initial sack, while at second base was the wizard. Wally Ingleton, possibly the finest baseballer Victoria has known. He was a dasher in every phase of the game. The other two infielders were Freddy Vaughan (third base) and Jack Ballantyne (short-stop), both of whom made great names for themselves.
In the same team was the prince of outfielders, both at cricket and baseball Vernon Ransford. If baseball did not make him the champion field he was, at least it assisted a wonderful natural ability to throw. Arthur Johnston was very safe and accurate in the centrefield position, and an all-rounder, Arthur Wiseman, usually held down rightfield. The latter at various times relieved the catcher and first baseman.
Those who can remember the team mentioned above will agree it was a set of champions. Ingleton skippered the State teams of that period; he was also a member of the ill-fated touring team that visited America and England. Although a financial failure, this trip did a powerful lot to spread the game in Victoria, for on their return Ingleton and Charlie Over brought the experience gained to bear in coaching new players.
When Dr. Twiss returned to New York, Billy Scott became the pitcher, sharing the duties with Charlie Over. A little later Len ("Fishy") Mullett pitched to Charlie Simmonds (now treasurer of M.C.C.), who captained the side. Simmonds was formerly catcher for the New South Wales nine. Then Vernon Ransford took up the No. 1 position and speeded them over to Harry Taylor, who also "repped" Victoria. Taylor afterwards did a fair amount of pitching himself, carrying on to the veteran stage.
Vaughan, Taylor, Johnston, Tait and S. Rodgerson dropped out of the game, and a new side had to be formed. It took about six years to mould up a fair team again. In the process of team building several fine players experience threw in their lot with the club such as Peter Gibaud, who pitched, caught and played second base; Frank Wright at first base; Billy Mackay (son of Bayne). Gordon Rodgerson, George Horsburgh, Basil Onyons, and others. Ron Tait, who pitched both for New South Wales and Victoria, worked wonders with the juniors.
Today's team is almost back to the 1904 standard. Jack Francis (a son of Harry Francis, an old player with the first Hawthorn line-up, and now the prince of umpires) and Stan Quin form a battery that holds its own with any in the A grade. The giant American, Perry Ballmer, would be an acquisition to any baseball team that ever existed in this State, for his knowledge of the game and prowess on the diamond stamp him one of the finest exponents we have seen.
Ken Kennedy has had to nurse an injured arm this year, and his place at the keystone has been taken by Cliff "Roo") Morris. This player is essentially a short-stop, but could hold down almost any position because of great natural ability; he is the team's second-string pitcher. Geoff Eustace is short-stop, whose throw over to first reminds one of the great Fitzroy s.s..
Billy Ponsford, the present captain of the team, completes the infield. "Ponny' is considered by many to be Australia's best baseball batsman. Last year he had the great average of .500, and in the interstate series his batting was one of the features. He has been playing for many years, first representing Victoria in the schoolboy teams.
Another cricket celebrity in Len Darling, who learned his baseball at South Melbourne, plays leftfield for Melbourne, and is one of their best batters. Cliff James is their speedy centre-field and base-runner. Harry Hill and Tom Leach are the babies of the team, and share the rightfield position. With such a line-up, it is little wonder that Melbourne won the 1932 pennant. This was their first success for 12 years. The men who captained Melbourne in baseball competitions were W. Ingleton, C. Simmonds, A. Wiseman, V. Ransford, B. Onyons, J. Francis and W. Ponsford.
ACTIVE AS MANAGER
No history of the club would be complete without special mention of Andy Crichton. For many years a player of note, Andy is now actively connected with the club as manager. We are especially indebted to this popular 'baller for many of the facts contained herein.
The club has been fortunate in possessing such an efficient scorer and enthusiast as Dr. Levien, who followed the club for many years, and now W. Campbell has been doing great work in a similar capacity. He has this year drawn up a special scoring sheet that is certain to be adopted by all clubs.
The Melbourne Baseball Club is truly worthy of the name of the premier team of Victoria.