Community, Kennedy family mark 40th anniversary of tourney
By Allan Murphy
GUYSBOROUGH – Warm, sunny weather greeted the dozens of local residents, players and fans who joined with the Kennedy family this past Saturday to mark the 40th anniversary of the Billy Kennedy Memorial Softball Tournament. The annual competition, well known to softball enthusiasts throughout Nova Scotia, is named after Billy Kennedy, a member of the Guysborough Josts softball team who passed away from cancer in 1974 at age 30.
To mark the occasion, tournament chair Paul Long addressed the crowd during a ceremony on Saturday afternoon prior to the game between the Guysborough Broadhorns and the East Hants Mastadons. Long paid tribute to the many players, both past and present, who have represented Guysborough locally and regionally, as well as at provincial and national championships. Long also paid tribute to the Kennedy family, many of whom were in attendance, as well as the Drysdale family for whom the existing ball field is named.
Art Kennedy, son of Billy Kennedy, thanked everyone, on behalf of the Kennedy family, for attending the ceremony. He noted that although it was a very sad circumstance for the Kennedy family which led to the naming of the tournament after his late father, “this occasion should be seen as a day to celebrate".
Former Guysborough Jost player Eldon Halloran paid tribute to the support of the Kennedy family, observing that Joe Kennedy, brother of Billy Kennedy, has perhaps seen more ball games over the years than almost anyone in the local area. As well, Halloran made special mention of the late Gordon Drysdale and the late Leonard Connolly, each of whom was critical to the development and success of softball in Guysborough. And that tradition continues to this day with minor softball and the Guysborough Broadhorns intermediate team, which hosted the tournament this past weekend and are always in contention in the local league, the AGR, and in provincial play downs.
Adding some context and a bit of humour to the ceremony, Halloran delighted the crowd with a trip down memory lane, recalling the many fine teams that played for Guysborough over the years such as the Wonder Store Midgets, Gusborough Josts, Guysborough Con Con Juniors and the Guysborough Con Cons. One of the high water marks for local softball occurred in 1982. That year, the Guysborough Wonder Store Midgets won bronze at the Canadian Midget Championships in Napanee, ON, under the direction of coach Philip Connolly, who was assisted by Miles MacDonald. MacDonald told The Journal that placing so high at the nationals was a great achievement by the players, which was supported by sponsorship led by Lloyd Hines and the Wonder Store.
But life at the Drysdale Field back in that day wasn't always about wins and losses. As Halloran pointed out, being one of the first ball fields with lights in eastern Nova Scotia, the original Drysdale Field, across the way from the present location, played host to some of the most well-known softball entertainers who played the circuit. They drew huge crowds from across the region not only for their fastball-themed Globetrotter style antics but also for their immense talent as ball players. Many in the audience nodded in agreement as Halloran recalled travelling troupes like the "California Cuties" and "The King (Eddie Feiner) and His Court". Halloran said that the crowds were so large that the cars would be backed up along Route 16 and those watching would fill the stands and would stand almost 20 deep along the fence surrounding the field.
Ceremonies concluded with ceremonial pitches by legendary Jost player Gerry Jamieson to his long- time battery mate Shawn Hadley, up-and-coming Guysborough player Lowell MacDonald to his catcher Jacob Cook and Kennedy Atwater, granddaughter of Billy Kennedy, who tossed the final ceremonial pitch to Jacob Cook.