Twenty years ago, almost to the day, Greater Trail hosted arguably the most prestigious and memorable event in its sporting history – the Babe Ruth World Series. For the next three issues, Trail Times Sports will take a walk down the base paths of time, and revisit the tournament that ran from Aug. 19-26, 1995; highlighting its evolution, its players, and those that made the event possible.
Preparation for the 1995 age 16-18 Babe Ruth World Series was a long and challenging process, that couldn’t have been accomplished without an inspired community effort.
The City of Trail along with close to 60 corporate sponsors boosted the World Series Committee’s budget to $500,000. But it was the thousands of volunteers from construction workers to scorekeepers, hostesses and bat boys, billet families and ticket sellers that made the Series an unparalleled success.
“It’s the biggest sporting event Trail has ever seen,” said tournament committee director Brian Pipes. “Even when you have the summer or winter games here, those are big, but not as big as this. As far as attendance and participation, it was huge.”
The biggest priority was renovating Butler Park to bring it into line with Babe Ruth standards and dimensions. Director Dan Ashman brought in Rud Haar, the groundskeeper for Nat Bailey Stadium in Vancouver, and with the support of residents, Cominco, and local contractors, the field was completed by 1993.
But that was only the start.
“Getting the lights was a big challenge, getting the ball park done was a big challenge, the bleachers was a big one,” said Pipes.
West Kootenay Power along with local contractors GESCAN and Bryan’s Transfer helped Butler see the light of day, bringing a $112,000 lighting project in at a cost of $56,000.
To accommodate the thousands of fans, new bleachers were installed along the first and third base lines, and the outfield. With a team of 10 students, led by Cominco carpenter and Local 480 representative Gord Menelaws, the crew added 6,000 more seats to Butler Park and its already 800 capacity.
They added a press box, installed a new scoreboard, and rewired the whole system.
“We got the lights done plus we rebuilt the whole scoreboard and put a new electronic line out there,” said Smyth, whose brother Roy did much of the electrical work. “We needed a big place for the press box for the announcers and that so we took the top of Butler Park stadium, and rebuilt that into a facility so all the lines had to go back up into there – it was a huge undertaking.”
With vendors lined up along the street, and 50-50 ticket sales topping $5,000 a draw, and the best young players in the world taking to the field, the resulting influx of crowds was unprecedented at a Babe Ruth World Series. In the first two days over 24,000 people went through the gate, with crowds of over 7,000 spilling in for the Trail Jays matches. In the end 113,364 fans attended, setting records for Babe Ruth 16-18 World Series that still stands and smashing the previous record of 78,000.
“Despite some great opening action, it was the organization and the pristine condition of Butler Park that had fans enthralled,” wrote Times sports editor Guy Bertrand at the time.
“It’s a dream come true,” committee director Eleanor Gattafoni-Robinson told Bertrand. “After all this time, it’s an unbelievable feeling to see what we’re seeing here.”
Trail’s Babe Ruth World Series committee couldn’t have been more dedicated and effective, but it was the response of the community that made the difference to visiting teams and dignitaries.
Bill Smith, chairman of the board for Babe Ruth League Inc., had met with Ashman and Gattafoni-Robinson at the 2014 Babe Ruth World Series in Wharton, Tex., and said he was skeptical when the Trail representatives told him what was in store.
“I thought they were putting the Chamber of Commerce sale on me,” Smith told the Times. “But it’s more than surpassed that. It’s people who make the World Series and these in Trail are the greatest in the world.”