It was almost 60 years ago when the crack of the bat wowed baseball crowds in Granum, Claresholm, Vulcan and the rest of the towns in the Foothills-Wheatbelt League.
Jack Altman, a left-handed pitcher with the Granum White Sox, was one of the players people paid to see.
Recently, Altman was in southern Alberta and made a visit to Granum to check out the Old Jail and Museum’s display of him and his White Sox teammates.
Altman also brought his scrapbook with him.
“I’ve been addicted to baseball since I was nine,” Altman said.
Now 78 and living in Ashland, Oregon, Altman was born in Hawaii but, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, his family moved to Berkeley, California.
In 1947 Altman was batboy for the University of California at Berkeley Bears when they beat Yale in the college championship. Playing first base for Yale was former U.S. President George Bush Sr.
Altman returned to Hawaii for high school, the same high school from which U.S. President Barack Obama graduated.
“That was a big thrill for us,” Altman said.
After graduating high school, Altman and lifelong friend Greg Seastrom made a tour to see every major league team and park. It covered 33 states and 33,000 miles.
Altman then attended Fresno State University in California, which sent a lot of players to the Foothills-Wheatbelt League.
Altman played in the area in 1954 and 1955, first with the Vulcan Elks then the Granum White Sox.
Altman pitched for Granum owner George Wesley in 1955.
Altman’s best memory in a Granum uniform was travelling to Lacombe to play an exhibition game against the Seattle-Cheney Studs.
The White Sox lost 3-2, but Altman pointed out the winning run came on a short home run down the left field line which was just 270 feet.
Altman’s best memory in the Granum ball park came when he was a visitor with the Vulcan Elks.
The teams went back and forth, and eventually into the 10th inning.
Altman stepped in to face Granum pitcher Will Walasko.
“He was a good friend of mine,” Altman said.
Then Altman promptly hit a home run to win the game.
“I hit maybe four home runs in my career,” Altman said, with a broad smile.
Altman pitched in 42 games in two years, compiling a record of 27-9, and threw a no hitter for Vulcan against Stavely in 1954.
It was his time in Vulcan that drew him back to southern Alberta for the town’s 100th anniversary celebrations the weekend of Aug. 2-4.
“That’s the trip down memory lane,” Altman said, adding when he arrived in Vulcan it was 26 miles from a paved road.
“It looked like a set out of a western movie.”
Alman made about $200 per month, but earned it doing other jobs in town. Had he been paid to play baseball, he would have lost his college eligibility.
After he finished college, Altman played professionally for the Yakima Bears, then spent time in the army.
His playing rights were owned by the New York Yankees, who helped him get a job as a business manager of the Stockton Ports of the California League.
However, promotion was not Altman’s strong suit. The team hosted a pony night, where a little boy was awarded a pony at home plate.
“The pony bucks him off,” Altman said. “That’s the kind of promoter I was.”
Altman moved on to Humboldt State University where he worked in student housing and then financial aid, retiring after 36 years.
Altman has participated in numerous baseball reunions and alumni events involving the teams he has played for and coached.
To conclude his time at the Granum museum, Altman donated a Granum White Sox jacket presented to him by George Wesley in 1955, then stuck around to autograph some baseballs.