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Post master pays tribute to Granum White Sox

Granum post master Lynn Barrie had a cancellation stamp featuring the Granum White Sox created.

The Granum White Sox, who won the provincial senior baseball championship five times in the 1950s, are commemorated in a special cancellation stamp at the post office.

Granum post master Lynn Barrie had the cancellation stamp made to promote awareness of the town’s colourful history.

“Lynn had toured the museum with me and I had told her some of the stories concerning the White Sox,” said Mike Sherman of the Granum Historical Society. “She then approached Canada Post and they agreed to design a pictorial dated stamp.”

The Granum White Sox were the product of area farmer and rancher George Wesley’s passion for baseball.

While farming and ranching in the Wrentham area in the 1930s, Wesley started a team that played in a local league.

When he moved to the Granum area in 1948, Wesley formed a new team, which joined residents to build a new ball park.

About five years after he started that team, Wesley began to bring in U.S. college players to supplement the local squad.

The White Sox played in leagues that included southern Alberta teams from Vulcan, Vauxhall, Picture Butte, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and other centres.

The White Sox were a power, winning league and tournament championships, even when up against top-flight teams from Wyoming, Washington, Oregon and the northwest United States.

The 1955 Granum White Sox, front row, from left: Roy Johnson, Frank Stone, Ted Bogal, Gordie Vejprava, Jim MacDonald, Steve Odney, Bob Laurie, Jocko Tarnava and Lee Wesley. Back row, from left: George Wesley, Bill Fennessy, Gordie Wesley, Jack Altman, Darwin, Walkingshaw, Don Johnson, Al Malarchuck, Bill Kucheran, Earl Ingarfield and Willie Walasko.

“As a boy growing up in Granum I worked for George Wesley during game day chasing foul balls,” Sherman recalled. “George would pay us 25 cents per game providing no balls were lost.”

The college players came from Chicago, Oregon, California and other places.

“This was an era when baseball was played for the love of the game,” said Sherman, who put together a White Sox display for the Granum Museum. “There were no million dollar contracts, no one taking steroids, no corked bats — just pure baseball.”

The White Sox won the Alberta senior baseball championships from 1954-’58.

One of those White Sox players was Pat Gillick, who went on to win back-to-back World Series championships as general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays.

The 1956 Granum White Sox, back row, from left: George Wesley, Joe Weremy, Darwin Walkingshaw, Bentley MacEwen, Willie Walasko, Jim Lester and Earl Ingarfield. Front row, from left: Ted Bogal, Jim MacDonald, Bill Fennessy, Gordon Vejprava, Gord Wesley, Steve Odney and Bob Carlson.

Gillick hitchhiked to Alberta from southern California to play baseball, signing on first with Vulcan and later the White Sox.

Gillick was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011.

“During his playing days in Granum he actually pitched a no hitter,” Sherman said. “Pitching for Granum with a population for 400 to the hall of fame in Cooperstown, New York. What a story.”

White Sox alumni include Dave Gamby, who played for the White Sox in 1951 and went on to play in the National Basketball Association with St. Louis Hawks and Philadelphia 76ers, winning a world championship with the latter, whose lineup included NBA Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain.

Ray Washburn, a righthanded pitcher, is another White Sox player who made it to the majors, playing form 1961-’69 with the St. Louis Cardinals and in 1970 for the Cincinnati Reds.

Washburn won a World Series with the Cardinals in 1967 and threw a no-hitter for them in 1968.

Earl Ingarfield, who made it to the big leagues in hockey with the New York Rangers, played for the White Sox.

Ingarfield returned to Granum in 2011 for the official opening of the White Sox exhibit at the museum.

“Everything was so first class,” Ingarfield said of the White Sox, recalling his team had the best equipment and great travel and accommodations on the road. “Most everybody wanted to play for Granum if they could.”

Ingarfield, who made $125 a month playing for the White Sox, said the team was a fun-loving bunch who got down to business on the diamond.

“We always had a good bunch of guys and we had lots of fun,” Ingarfield said in the 2011 interview. “But when it came game time, everybody competed.”

The White Sox left Granum for Lethbridge in 1959 and a stadium that had lights to accommodate night games, which drew more fan support.

The White Sox joined the Western Canada Baseball League in 1960, with teams in Alberta and Saskatchewan, and won championships in 1960 and 1961.

Mike Sherman is delighted post master Lynn Barrie is helping to celebrate the White Sox’s place in Granum history.

“She deserves all the credit for her community spirit in keeping our history alive,” Sherman said.

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