George Wesley had an eye for baseball talent.
The Granum wheat farmer recruited recruited top local players as well as outstanding U.S. college players who would spend the summer farming and ranching, but mainly playing baseball for the Granum White Sox.
“George always recruited good players,” said former White Sox player Earl Ingarfield. “It became really something to play here. We were always one of the top teams. And the family always treated us well.”
The Granum White Sox won league and provincial championships, and produced a few major leaguers along the way.
Ingarfield, who played professional hockey with the New York Rangers, said the Granum White Sox had an excellent reputation among players.
“Everything was so first class,” said Ingarfield, recalling the best equipment and great travel and accommodation arrangements on the road. “Most everybody wanted to play for Granum if they could.”
On Saturday Kathy Wesley, Mary (Wesley) Campbell and Shirley Wesley cut the ribbon to open the expanded White Sox exhibit at the Granum Museum.
“This is very special for all of us,” Mary Campbell said. “I know Dad is watching us.”
George Wesley already had a reputation for being the largest grain farmer in North America during the 1952 when he started the White Sox.
The White Sox initially played in the Foothills-Wheatbelt Baseball League with teams from Fort Macleod, Claresholm and Stavely. Granum won the league every year except 1953, and claimed the Alberta senior baseball title in 1954, ’55 and ’56.
By 1957 the league had become the Southern Alberta Baseball League, with teams in Vauxhall, Picture Butte, Medicine Hat and Lethbridge.
After the Lethbridge team folded George Wesley in 1959 moved the White Sox to the city, where new stadium lights made night games– and more fan support — possible.
In 1960 the White Sox joined the Western Canada Baseball League, which had teams in Alberta and Saskatchewan. The Sox won the league title in 1960 and ’61.
White Sox alumni include Ray Washburn, a righthanded pitcher who played from 1961-’69 with the St. Louis Cardinals and in 1970 for the Cincinnati Reds.
Washburn won a World Series in 1967 and in 1968 threw a no-hitter.
“They had some real good ballplayers come through here,” Ingarfield said.
Former Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies general manager Pat Gillick, who is in the Baseball Hall of Fame, played for the White Sox in 1956-’57.
Gillick was inducted this year into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Gillick, who is still a major league scout, had to be in California last weekend to watch a prospect, but through Mary Campbell sent his regards.
White Sox alumni who attended the ceremony were Ingarfield, Jim MacDonald, John Vaselenak, Jim MacDonald, Gary Kirk and Gord Vejprava. Umpire Roy Vejprava also turned out.
“Wasn’t it fun?” Kathy Wesley said during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “They were good, fun days. I would like to thank you . . . for keeping the memories alive.”
Kathy Wesley remembered some of the White Sox arriving to game wearing sunglasses, even if the sky was overcast.
“They’d been partying,” Wesley said. “They thought if they wore sunglasses George wouldn’t notice. Wrong! He always knew.”
Ingarfield, who made $125 a month with the White Sox in the 1950s, admitted the players liked to have their fun away from the diamond, but got down to business when the game started.
“We always had a good bunch of guys and we had lots of fun,” Ingarfield said. “But when it came game time, everybody competed.”