Proud baseball history celebrated

The history of what is now known as the Central Baseball Club begins 90 years ago, but the lead-up to the club’s official establishment goes back as far as 1892, when the first recorded baseball game in Mount Gambier was played.

The match was arranged by two former Adelaide players, with teams comprising local players selected for an exhibition match played at the Mount Gambier show on Wednesday, 16 March 1892.

However, it was not until 1931 the Mount Gambier competition officially started – with just two teams, said to be called team “Number 1” and team “Number 2”.

Their first match was played on 27 July of that year, with Number 2 winning easily.

The late Clive Braybrook, the only experienced baseballer in Mount Gambier at the time, acted as catcher and coach for both teams.

On 15 August 1931, according to reports, Number 1 was named “Gambier” and Number 2 “Centrals”, with their first-ever game with new names ending 5-5.

The games were played at Vansittart Park, and Gambier were premiers in that historic inaugural season, defeating Centrals 15 runs to 12.

In 1932, three teams played in the competition: Centrals, Federals and Old Scholars.

Centrals recruited six players who had not previously played the game of baseball and were minor premiers that went on to win the grand final by defeating Old Scholars 13 runs to 10.

The Mount Gambier Baseball Association (MGBA) owned all the equipment and in 1934 a semi-final had to be postponed when the only existing catcher’s mask was stolen.

During 1935, 1936 and 1937, there was an increase in the number of players participating in the sport with seven teams competing in 1937.

During that period, baseball became a major sport and football is said to have taken a back seat.

A school’s baseball competition commenced in 1938.

It took Centrals a further eight years to win another premiership, when, in 1940, they defeated High School Old Scholars 12 runs to 11.

But a limited competition was played from 1941 to 1946, amid the Second World War.

The year of 1941 turned out to be the last time Centrals appeared, until their resurrection in 1951.

Between 1946 and 1950 the district teams of East, West, North and South made up the competition as well as Colts, R.S.L., Marist Brothers Old Collegians and Glencoe at various times during those years.

A year later, the district competition was disbanded due to the difficulty in fielding teams, but new ones emerged: South, Yanks, Federals and a resurrected Centrals.

Centrals were minor premiers and went on to win the grand final from South 18 runs to 7.

The following year was also a premiership year for Centrals, and the league began to grow.

An A and B Grade competition was formed in 1960 with Centrals recruiting many players for both teams which paid dividends when they won both premierships, while C grade was added in 1961.

Centrals fielded teams in all three grades that year.

In the following years, the first night baseball game was played in 1964/65 in Mount Gambier at the showgrounds, with Centrals second in that fixture, while in 1968, Centrals’ first junior teams entered the Minor A competition.

With capital city baseball starting to be played in the summer, Centrals in 1970 requested the local league be played in summer, too, with the league eventually bowing to the request 10 years later.

Meanwhile, while they waited, Centrals in 1972 asked the league to set aside an area for baseball at the sports ground on Casterton Road, a ground that is now known as the Blue Lake Sports Park.

Baseball moved there for the start of the 1980/81 season, after the last winter season at Frew Park wrapped.

Summer baseball commenced full time, from then on, at Blue Lake Sports Park.

Centrals instigated discussions, in 1973, with the West Gambier Football Club regarding the use of the nearly completed Malseed Park for summer baseball, and the ground became Centrals’ home in the 1975/76 season.

The prestigious Wilkins Trophy came into being in 1974, after being donated by the late Mr and Mrs Albert Wilkins and their son Michael.

The trophy is now awarded to the best club person and has been awarded every year since 1974 to an outstanding recipient.

The executive committee, in 1975, decided to concentrate its efforts in fostering junior teams, but there was not a competition for those youngsters, at the time just boys.

Two teams were entered in the Minor A.

The hard work reaped rewards in 1978 and 1979 when the juniors team won the grand finals from the other Centrals team.

Centrals became an incorporated body in 1979 and was granted permission by the South Australian government to use the Piping Shrike in the club emblem that year.

In the season of 1983/84, Stephen Kuhl won the first of his eight Division 1 Best & Fairest awards, with his final Best & Fairest won in 2000-01, representing an MG&DBL record.

That season also saw the introduction of the Taylor Probert Shield, donated for a game to be played annually between Federal and Central by club stalwarts Frank Taylor (Federal) and Alwyn Probert (Central).

Federal won that first encounter 16 runs to 1 and went on to win the next three times they met for bragging rights to the shield.

However, Central turned the table by winning the next five matches over the following five seasons.

Currently, the score stands at Central 10 Federal 9 with one drawn game.

Last summer in season 2020-21, the Magpies won their 24th Division 1 flag thanks to Dylan Chuck.

Chuck won the Division 1 League Best and Fairest for the fifth time equalling club legend Fedor Kovaleff, while Steve Kuhl surpassed 750 club 

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