St. Thomas, ON
Review by Gary
The earliest record of a baseball game being played in St. Thomas, Ontario dates back to 1869. A place called “The Diamond at Pinafore Park” opened in 1898, making it one of the oldest ballfields in Canada. Emslie Field has been here in some name or fashion since the turn of the century. The ballpark’s original grandstand burned down in 1936, but was rebuilt shortly thereafter.
In the 1950s, the ballpark was named after Bob Emslie (1859-1943), a former major league player-turned umpire who is best known for his role in the infamous “Merkle’s Boner” play during the 1908 National League pennant race. Emslie umpired for 33 years, including calling games single-handedly in the rough-and-tumble 1890s. He was from St. Thomas originally and would end up retiring and living here until his death.
The City of St. Thomas purchased Pinafore Park in 1903 and has been responsible for its development and maintenance ever since. Currently the home of the St. Thomas Tomcats and the St. Thomas Cardinals, Emslie Field has hosted several different teams at different points in the Intercounty Baseball League’s century-plus history, including the St. Thomas Legion, St. Thomas Elgins, and St. Thomas Storm. When the London Werewolves were unable to use their nearby home stadium at Labatt Park for a series in 2000, they played those games at Emslie Field.
Today, the grandstand at Emslie Field is the centerpiece of this notable ballpark. The great vintage structure features simple wooden benches affixed to a raised concrete base. A massive, slanted metal roof is held aloft by tall steel girders. In 2013, a significant upgrade at Emslie Field took place as new lights and a new scoreboard were completed in time for the season.
The stadium carries a Canadian historical designation and is set in a gorgeous natural setting with a Carolinian Woodlot as a backdrop. While no IBL team currently calls Emslie Field home, this lovely ballpark still sees lots of action just over two hours west of Toronto. Mr. Emslie would be proud.