Trail pitcher had taste of pro ball

"Tench,under the tutelage of a then-young Andy Bileski, was a hard throwing right hander..."

I have had a chance, via the main subject of them, to peruse a couple of Trail Times items from 64 years ago, reporting that 17 year-old Gordon Tench was signed to play pro baseball by the eventually infamous St. Louis Browns.

Tench, who had played just three years of organized baseball, under the tutelage of a then-young Andy Bileski, was a hard throwing right hander who caught the eye of a Browns scout among 130 kids who attended a coaching/tryout camp in Butler Park.

The late Irv Lavaratto of Rossland was also singled out as a talented dark horse prospect.

For Tench it was the beginning of a five-year stint of class D, C and winter ball, which he wouldn’t have missed, even though the only time he set foot in a major league setting was one spring training where the winter ball pitchers, being in game shape, were called on to pitch batting practice for the big leaguers in Florida – until the big league pitchers worked their way into shape.

“I never had a losing season,” in the minor pros, says Tench, while admitting a high walk rate kept him from moving higher in the baseball chain.

Still, he got to live and play in Reading, California and Pocatello, Idaho, both still ball hotbeds, and in Mexico in winter. How many of us, now, seek the warmth of Mexico when it is cold here? He got paid to live there and to play his favourite sport while he was at it. Not too bad even at wages that in those days weren’t much higher than Cominco pay..

It was almost two decades before Tench moved back to Trail, and Shaver’s Bench, where he still lives.

Back home he played fastball for the Kootenay Hotel and baseball with the Rossland Capilanos.

A naturally strong right arm, an appreciation for baseball and the willingness to give the sporting life a shot was what it took, and Tench had all of those attributes.

Not much better than to be able to say you have had an interesting life, no matter how or when it ends.


Accompanying the article was a column by the Times’ sports editor of the moment, Eric Bishop. Bishop was loquacious and opinionated and well-liked here, all good attributes for a columnist. But, the gist of his comments around the training camp is just wrong.

Like most Canadians, he just believed it when an American said Canadians, including people here, did not know baseball, kinda sucked at it even, on the same day he singled out two 17 year-olds, one with three years ball under his belt, as prospects.

It is true, in my not small experience, that most Canadian cities, especially then, were not, “ball towns.”

That wasn’t true about Trail then and isn’t now. Players from here were routinely called up by, before and after WW2, and had success with, semi-pro and minor pro teams based in the U.S.and Canada, and it was only three seasons later that what was once (and for a long time) the best Little League in Canada – and one of the best in Western North America – was created.

Players from here got scholarships to division ! NCAA schools as far back as the early 60s and, despite the fact most of the top young players created here moved away, teams from here have usually held their own against teams from Spokane and other U.S. towns

Yet Bishop bought into the Amercan’s claim that local kids, “were doing everything wrong.” What was wrong was that superior, condescending, attitude.

This is a good ball town, better than most of any size in Canada, and we should just appreciate that.

Just Posted

A living wage sets a higher standard than the minimum wage; it is what a family needs to earn to provide the basic needs based on the actual costs of living in a community.
Fruitvale now a living wage employer

“I’m really excited that Fruitvale is leading the charge for municipalities locally,” Morissette said.

Rotary eClub of Waneta Sunshine, alongside members from the Kootenay Native Plant Society and Trail Wildlife Association, joined together for a day of planting at Fort Shepherd. The Waneta Sunshine eClub was granted funds through an Express Grant from District 5080 to plant 50 shrubs which support pollinator opportunities at Fort Shepherd. Photos: Submitted
Kootenay conservation partners plant pollinator ‘superfoods’ at Fort Shepherd

TLC welcomes community groups to Fort Shepherd who would like to help local ecosystems thrive

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

A volunteer delivers food to families as part of a West Kootenay EcoSociety program. Photo: Submitted
Farms to Friends delivers 2,500th bag of food to families in need

The program services communities in the Nelson, Trail and Castlegar areas

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum speaks at a press conference in August 2019 about provincial government approval of the city’s change to a municipal force, joined by councillors (from left) Mandeep Nagra, Allison Patton and Doug Elford. Members of the National Police Federation claim there is still no transition plan in place although Surrey RCMP’s contract with the city is due to end March 31.(File photo)
Elections BC approves petition application for referendum on Surrey policing transition

Application was filed under Recall and Initiative Act by the widow of a Surrey murder victim

(Black Press Media stock photo)
RCMP name 2015 homicide victim near Creston, investigation ongoing

26-year-old Clint Wolfleg was found dead in a private residence on May 31, 2015

Queen’s counsel Paul Doroshenko, a Vancouver lawyer, has been suspended from practice for two months after admitting that his firm mismanaged $44,353.19 in client trust funds. (Acumen Law)
High-profile B.C. lawyer suspended over $44K in mismanaged client trust funds

Queen’s counsel Paul Doroshenko admits to failing to supervise his staff and find, report the shortage

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., center left, reaches over to Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., joined by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., center, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus as they celebrate the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act that creates a new federal holiday to commemorate June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people after the Civil War, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 17, 2021. It’s the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Biden to sign bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday

New American stat marks the nation’s end of slavery

Athena and Venus, ready to ride. (Zoe Ducklow - Sooke News Mirror)
Goggling double-dog motorcycle sidecar brings smiles to B.C. commuters

Athena and Venus are all teeth and smiles from their Harley-Davidson sidecar

Kimberly Bussiere and other laid-off employees of Casino Nanaimo have launched a class-action lawsuit against the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
B.C. casino workers laid off during pandemic launch class-action lawsuit

Notice of civil claim filed in Supreme Court of B.C. in Nanaimo against Great Canadian Gaming

A Photo from Sept. 2020, when First Nations and wild salmon advocates took to the streets in Campbell River to protest against open-pen fish farms in B.C.’s waters. On Dec. 17, federal fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan announced her decision to phase out 19 fish farms from Discovery Islands. Cermaq’s application to extend leases and transfer smolts was denied. (Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River Mirror)
Feds deny B.C.’s Discovery Island fish farm application to restock

Transfer of 1.5 million juvenile salmon, licence extension denied as farms phased out

Most Read