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Celebrating Fox Harbour's diamond days: this little place produced many of Newfoundland's biggest softball names

The Fox Harbour Softball Wall of Fame was unveiled earlier this summer at the Fox Harbour Community Centre. On hand were 12 of the 14 honorees, including (left to right), front row: Jim Davis, Derm Flynn, Jim Pittman, Becky (Murray) Pendergast, Pat Kelly, Rose (Foley) Kelly, and Wish Pittman; back row: Mike Davis, Dick Davis, Dan Foley, Mike Kelly and Bill Davis. The late Mag Davis and Tom Spurvey are the others whose names are all the wall.
The Fox Harbour Softball Wall of Fame was unveiled earlier this summer at the Fox Harbour Community Centre. On hand were 12 of the 14 honorees, including (left to right), front row: Jim Davis, Derm Flynn, Jim Pittman, Becky (Murray) Pendergast, Pat Kelly, Rose (Foley) Kelly, and Wish Pittman; back row: Mike Davis, Dick Davis, Dan Foley, Mike Kelly and Bill Davis. The late Mag Davis and Tom Spurvey are the others whose names are all the wall. - Contributed

Wall of Fame honours fastpitch greats from Placentia Bay community

There are only about 250 people living in the community today. Even it its heyday in the 1960s, the population was just around 750.

But little places can be the sources of big accomplishments, and of the people making those accomplishments.
So it’s been with the Placentia Bay hamlet of Fox Harbour, particularly in the sport of fastpitch softball.
“People have always associated Outer Cove with rowing and St. Lawrence with soccer and they had that feeling about Fox Harbour when it came to softball,” said Kevin Foley. “From my perspective, I always felt that feeling should be recognized.”
Foley, a Fox Harbour native, is a retired educator and former president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers Association. He has made things happen, and when it came to shining light on Fox Harbour’s softball history, he was determined that this should happen, too,
“To be honest, it was something that was on my mind for several years”, he said, “but it was a matter of figuring out the best way to do it, and eventually I hit upon a wall of fame.
“There have been a great many of our citizens who have been elected to various (softball) Halls of Fame over the years and I just felt there had to be a wall in Fox Harbour to honour them, an actual physical location where people could go, not just to celebrate what these people had done, but to find examples that others could follow.”
And from that idea has come something tangible: the Fox Harbour Softball Wall of Fame , located inside the community centre.
The honorees are 14 people from Fox Harbour who have already been elected to the St. John’s and/or Newfoundland and Labrador Softball Halls of Fame. In the case of the late Mag Davis, who is one of the 14, she is a member of not only the St. John’s and provincial softball halls, but also of the Softball Canada Hall of Fame.

“There have been a great many of our citizens who have been elected to various (softball) Halls of Fame over the years and I just felt there had to be a wall in Fox Harbour to honour them, an actual physical location where people could go, not just to celebrate what these people had done, but to find examples that others could follow.”
Kevin Foley


The others enshrined on the Fox Harbour wall are Mag Davis’s four brothers — Bill, Dick, Jim and Mike — Derm Flynn, Mike Kelly, Pat Kelly, Dan Foley, Jim Pittman, Wish Pittman
Becky Pendergast, Rose Foley and the late Tom Spurvey.
Kevin Foley, who now lives in Flatrock, but still maintains his family home in Fox Harbour, credits the Fox Harbour town council, and the local senior citizen and community centre committees for help making the wall a reality. However, he said it wouldn’t have possible without the assistance of Fox Harbour Tom Whiffen, “who contributed greatly to the establishment of this wall, especially its design and construction.”
Softball came to Fox Harbour through the proximity of the United States naval base at Argentia, where many people from the community were employed.
But while the Americans may have introduced the sport to the area and provided initial coaching and encouragement, Foley suggests softball’s remarkable growth in Fox Harbour was mostly a product of internal forces.
“Because of Argentia, Fox Harbour was in on it right from the beginning and got a head start when it came to softball, compared to many other communities in the province,” said Foley.
“That was how it started, but it’s development really came from the community.
“There were big families in those days, and there was general and genuine interest in the sport … from adults, from parents, even among those who weren’t active in sports, because they wanted to see their children involved.
“From there, we produced many successful players, including a number who were recognized early.”
There are some empty spaces on the wall.
“We purposely set it up that way,” said Foley. “The Hall of Famers are the focus, but there are lots of other fine ballplayers, athletes, etcetera who came out of there, but never made it into a Hall of Fame.
“I think there may have been people who were confused, wondering why this person or that wasn’t on the wall, but to be there, you first have to be nominated  and then you have to be elected to (a softball) Hall of Fame.”
Foley has an idea who might fill the empty slots, including the King brothers, Donny and Paul, who found success both as players and coaches, as well, as Frank Kelly.
“Frank Kelly drove in the winning run in (Newfoundland’s) first national championship. He won two national championships and was crucial to those teams, but he moved to Labrador City at a young age to work. He was so good, that the league there immediately put in a by-law saying he wasn’t allowed to pitch.
“Based on his early contributions, I believe there is room for him (in the provincial softball).
“And Donny King and Paul King have stood the test of time.”

brendan.mccarthy@thetelegram.com
Twitter: @telybrendan
 

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