History of the Cheltenham and Prahran Baseball Clubs 1900 – 2000
The ‘Old’ Prahran Baseball Club is formed from members of the cricket club.
Games are played in the VBA competition on the VFL league and VFA association grounds prior to Australian Rules football on a Saturday.
In 1912, Prahran are Runners up to Melbourne in B section.
The club is re-formed by Ted Greenwood in 1926.
Prahran fields 3 senior teams and dominates the Metropolitan Division of the VBA competition in the years prior to the Second World War, appearing in an incredible 9 consecutive Grand Finals.
The Firsts win consecutive premierships 1934, 1935, 1936, as well as flags in 1938, 1939 and 1941 before suspending operations for the duration of the Second World War. Nineteen players from the Club enlist in the armed services.
In 1933, with Charlie Bolton as captain, Prahran finishes runners up to Northcote in season where pitcher Les Cheong struck out 133 hitters in 52 innings and batted .379.
In 1934, Prahran defeats Northcote for the premiership as Jack Middleton, a slow right arm curve ball pitcher (58 strike-outs), joined Les Cheong (82 strikeouts) on the mound. Catcher Jack Ferguson and first baseman Jeff Phillips lead a strong defence.
Jack Middleton strikes out 129 batters in 154.2 innings in 1935 and wins a 17 innings marathon 5-3 against Kew, allowing only 6 hits and just 2 batters to reach first base after the 9th innings.
Third baseman Merv Simpson makes a triple play in the 1935 Grand Final win against Caulfield.
In 1936, Jeff Philips wins the Hartley Trophy for best player in the Metropolitan Division.
Gerry Harris bats .460 in 1936 and Gordon Tamblyn bats .440 in 1938.
In 1939, first baseman, Dick Chapman hits a walk off 2-run homer with 2 out in the bottom of the ninth as Prahran again win the Metropolitan Division.
Prahran go on to play Carlton for the Major Championship of Victoria and win 5-3 in a high standard game played at the Dandenong show grounds.
According to an article published in the Age newspaper, Prahran’s winning percentage was .741 in the ten years prior to WW2, during which time they scored 1220 runs against 475 runs by their opponents.
Pictured: Left Prahran Premiers 1934 and Back-to-back Premiers 1935-1936 (Click on images to enlarge)
After winning the Metropolitan Division premiership in 1941, and then losing the Major Championship playoff 4-5 in 10th innings to Richmond at the St Kilda Cricket ground, the Club suspends operations during World War 2.
Prahran reforms in 1945 with Jack Middleton as captain, with one team winning a premiership in C Section.
The Seconds also win a premiership in 1946 as the Club expands to two senior sides.
In 1947, Prahran plays in the Major A Section for the first time. Jack Ferguson takes over as captain of the Firsts.
Pitcher Jimmy Scott wins the E.A. King Trophy in 1948 for best baseballer in Major A.
In 1949, Prahran wins the “Major League” A Grade Premiership at Olympic Park, defeating Collingwood 4-1 behind a dominant performance by pitcher by Jimmy Scott. (It just goes to show that any win over Collingwood is good at any time in any sport.)
Pictured is the 1949 premiership team with a couple of famous club names – Ferguson and Wadsworth. (Click on image to enlarge)
During the 1950s, football expands and baseball is moved off the VFL and VFA grounds.
The Prahran Baseball Club is located at Como Park in South Yarra and is a regular contender in A Grade finals.
Jack Wadsworth’s performances in the Claxton Shield in 1950 earn him selection as No 1 pitcher in the All Star Australian side selected at the end of the series.
Jack Ferguson captains Victoria to win the Claxton Shield in 1954 and is selected as captain of the All Star Australian side selected at the end of the series.
Cheltenham Baseball Club Formed 1953
In 1953, the original Cheltenham Baseball Club is formed to play in the Dandenong Baseball Association (DBA).
The Club wins their first of many A Grade Premierships in 1958 (pictured below – click on image to enlarge) and go back-to-back in 1959.
In 1960 Cheltenham ‘three-peat’ in the DBA with their 3rd straight A grade flag. The B grade win their first flag and back it straight up the following year in ’61 and again in ‘65.
The Cheltenham Club continues to dominate the DBA competition in the 60s and win a further six A Grade flags in the period to 1971.
Juniors take out flags in U15 (1966) and U17 (’69).
The Club played on a several different grounds in the Cheltenham and Highett area, including Cheltenham Park and the Gasworks on the Nepean Highway.
The Prahran Club field 3 senior and 3 junior teams. Under playing Manager and Club Coach Bill Anderson, the Firsts are Runners up to Essendon 6-8 in 1968.
Col Wale appointed Club Coach and Manager of the First Nine in 1969.
Paul Ferguson is selected for U16, U18 All Star Australian Junior Teams as well as to Senior Australian teams selected to tour overseas to the Philippines and to Japan.
In 1969, Prahran wins the VBA Summer Premiership against Alphington 2-1 in a 16 innings epic where Al Tanner pitches a complete game.
Cheltenham takes out the A Grade 1971 and ‘73 premierships.
The club also takes out flags in B Grade in ’71, ’76 and 1978; C Grade ’75 and ’76, and U17s in 1973 and ‘76.
G. Siddell takes out the DBA A Grade MVP award.
Merger of Prahran and Cheltenham BCs 1972
With the advent of summer baseball in Victoria in 1972, the Prahran and Cheltenham Baseball Clubs merge and play at the Cheltenham Park and the Kingston Centre.
The Club is the largest senior club in Victorian baseball, fielding 6 senior teams and 4-5 junior teams with considerable success in both the VBA and DBA competitions.
Both Clubs needed to find a permanent home and prepare for the move to summer as the main season in Victoria. Continued success required the development of a strong junior program and access to specialist playing and practice facilities. The Prahran Club had no prospect of a permanent ground at an inner city location while the Cheltenham Club needed an entry point into the top grade of baseball.
Alan Tanner is appointed Club Coach of the merged Cheltenham club and Manager of First Nine playing in the Victorian Baseball Association.
In 1975, the club extends the Cheltenham Park ground, operating from that location for several seasons under difficult conditions.
In 1977, the VBA moves the main playing season to summer and to Sunday play, to allow Clubs to co exist with cricket.
The Club is still constrained by the lack of a permanent ground and specialist facilities. Persistent representations by successive Presidents, Len LePage and John Stewart, over an extended period, were being made to the Council to find the Club a permanent home and dedicated facilities.
John Ferguson wins the Home Run Award for the 1975-77 Division 1 season and the Gold Glove and Manager of the Year Awards for Division 1 in 1977-78, as the Club plays off in the finals to finish in third place.
In 1978, the Club returns to the Gasworks ground and conditions improve marginally, but the facilities are still being shared with cricket.
Pictured is one of the last Prahran BC lineups in 1971 featuring the Ferguson brothers and Al Tanner. (Click on image to enlarge)
According to John Ferguson:
“We became the Rustlers because we played our Division 1 games at the Kingston Centre for a couple of seasons and the grounds were used by a local farmer to graze his cattle. Before we could mark the diamond we had to chase the cattle off to the other end of the field. Jim Upfill remarked that we looked like a bunch of cowboys. The term cowboys quickly evolved to Rustlers.”
The lack of facilities and a strong junior program eventually tells and the Club struggles between Division 1 and Division 2 in the VBA.
The Club wins Division 2 Club Championships in 1980-81 and 1981-82 (pictured below – click on image to enlarge) and the Division 2 Premiership in 1983.
Lawrie Hall takes out the DBA MVP award back-to-back in 1980-81.
In 1984, the Club moves to the current premises at Farm Rd Kingston Heath Recreation Reserve and commences the task of establishing itself in a permanent home for the first time in combined 85 years of operation.
With help from Graeme Ainscough, the Club commits to a $25,000 contribution to the pavilion facilities. Jim Upfill throws the first pitch of the Summer 1984-85 season to formally open our permanent home.
In 1985, Tee Ball is established with teams from 6 local schools in the area. Maureen Phillips is the first Centre Manager and co-coordinator and does an outstanding job for many years.
Terry Reid wins A Grade DBA MVP award in ’86.
In 1987, the Winter section wins the DBA A grade premiership after playing in the grand final for 7 of the previous 8 years.
The Club also wins the Seconds and Thirds Premierships and the DBA Club Championship.
The club also wins premierships in the DBA A Grade in 1989; C Grade North in 1980 and ’82; D Grade in ’89, and in U13s in 1982 and ’88.
David Clarkson takes out the DBA A Grade MVP award in ’89.
The 1990s prove a barren decade in the Winter A grade section, with no premierships in that division or A Reserve; a situation which will be well and truly rectified in the next decade.
The situation is made slightly better with senior premierships in B grade (’93); 5 for very successful C Grade teams (three-peat ’90-’92, ’96 and ’97); D Grade (’99); and E Grade (’95, ’99). It is also worth noting that Chelt fielded women’s teams that took out premierships in 1996 and 1998.
Senior A Grade DBA MVP awards are taken out by Terry Reid (1990 & 1994), Steve Babidge (1991) and Darren Smith (1995).
The club experiences DBA junior success in the now-defunct U18s (1990, ’95 and ’97); U16s (1995, ’96 and ’98); U14s Association flags (1992 and ‘99) and Centre flags (1992-95 and 1999); U12s Association flags (1992 and ’94) and Centre flags (1992-95 and 1999).
The club also fields tee ball teams that were successful in 1990, ’91, ’92, ’96 and 1997.
In 1996, the club’s successful application for a Village Grant of $2,500 helps fund the permanent home run fence. We now had a home that looked and felt like a baseball ground.
The efforts to develop a strong junior program are also paying dividends for the players and 17 year old Matthew Gourlay becomes the first Cheltenham Baseball Club player to sign a professional contract as a pitcher with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Tim Fisher and Rowan Brasher are awarded baseball scholarships to US Colleges.
The facilities really begin to take shape in 1997 with the installation of a practice pitching mound, the construction of the scorer’s box, benches and scoria home plate/pitching circles on the junior diamonds.
The club wins the VBA Division 2 Grand Final under the coaching of former ABL Bushranger player Terry Reid.
With the assistance of a further Village Grant, the club erects back nets on the junior diamonds, providing 5 high quality junior playing fields.
Summer fields 4 senior and 23 junior teams; Winter grows to 7 senior teams.