Softball for kids began in Cobourg in 1958 when Cobourg Branch 133 Royal Canadian Legion stepped up as a sponsor. That support continues to this day providing boys and girls an opportunity to play and have fun with this wonderful game. That first year just over 60 boys participated spread over 4 teams, all in the squirt division (kids under 10 years).
The league organizer and head of the squirt division was Jack Bevan. Among the coaches were long-time star softball players Burke Clarey and Dick Turpin. At the end of the season the Legion hosted a season-ending banquet for the players and coaches. That tradition continued for many years.
In 1959 some 125 youth signed up to play squirt and peewee softball. In 1960, with the age limit raised, the number registered had risen to 380. It was decided that a formal executive was needed. Lionel Gutteridge was elected President. He would hold that position for 7 years.
In 1961 it was decided that all players and coaches would assemble at the Legion on Orr Street and then parade down King Street to Victoria Park. Once there, opening ceremonies were held. The parade became a tradition and in 1978 all the other summer sports teams were invited to join the parade. It became Cobourg’s “All Summer Sports Parade”.
By the summer of 1962 the Legion Minor softball Program had grown to 500 youth participating in the league. And in 1964 the number of youth participating would be 560. That would be the highest number of participants the league would reach.
In 1966 Lionel Gutteridge who had served as President for 7 years stepped down. Cedric Smith became President. He was another war veteran and a long-time supporter of Legion softball. In 1968 Bill Robbins, who had been the PeeWee Governor, took over as President. He declined to run in 1969 and Lionel Gutteridge was re-elected as President. Since then many well-known softball and Legion enthusiasts have held the prestigious role of President of Cobourg Legion Minor Softball.
As the organization grew, it became more aware of what it takes to keep an organization of this kind strong and healthy. Part of their mission was to give structure and direction to future Executive Boards. To that end, the 1978-79 Cobourg Legion Minor Softball executive created and approved a constitution. It would later become the blueprint that Napanee used when they started their minor softball program.
On the diamond, Legion Rep Teams have competed in many Ontario Amateur Softball Association Provincial Playdowns, and brought home several championships. Individually, Marty Kernaghan has to be the most successful alumnus. He has been recognized as one of the best fastball players in the world and was inducted into the International Softball Association’s Hall of Fame and the Cobourg and District Sports Hall of Fame.
In recent years, the first-class Legion Fields Park was developed and has become the home of Cobourg softball. One of its three diamonds is named after Jack Bevan, who started it all in 1958.
From 1958 until the present day, the Cobourg Legion has faithfully sponsored youth softball in our town.
Thank you Branch 133 and all of your volunteers.
Updated August 2020