Remembering Chatham Township’s Green Valley All-Black Baseball Team
By Ian Kennedy / CKSN.ca
A lot has been written about the 1934 Chatham Coloured All-Stars. They were a groundbreaking, star studded team, Chatham’s first Ontario champion, and Canada’s first all-Black champion.
The All-Stars paved the way for many baseball players, and teams in Chatham-Kent. In Chatham itself, the All-Stars were followed by Taylor A.C. and the Kent Panthers.
In Chatham Township, during the late 1950s and early 1960s, another all-Black baseball team played. This team was known as Green Valley.
The team was comprised of Black baseball players, who lived on farms across Chatham Township, Dover, and Dresden.
The name Green Valley came from Green Valley School (SS No. 10), which was located at the corner of Greenvalley Line, which used to be the 12th Concession, and Prince Albert Side Road. Today, Greenvalley Line runs from the Bear Line near Dover Centre, diagonally across the County to Base Line Road near Dresden.
The Green Valley team itself was sponsored by the Scott Family, whose sons, Murray Scott and Dennis Scott played on the team.
“Most of the players on the team we knew each other because the majority of them lived on farms down in Chatham Township,” remembers Jim Dudley, a member of the team for a season in 1962.
“A number went to different churches, the Black churches in that area. Queen Street in Dresden, and Union Baptist down on the Union Line as it’s called now, and the Prince Albert Church, so we knew each other through the churches and the farming community, and then a few from Dresden.”
Jim Dudley, who went on to lead Tupperville to an Ontario championship in 1964, recalls many of the players on the roster in the season he played. He was several years their junior, and remembers looking up to his teammates at the time.
“I looked up to those guys, and I mean I was really fortunate that they asked me to play.”
Some of the athletes who played for Green Valley included Murray Scott, Jim Dudley, Bev Handsor, John Robbins, Hugh McCorkle, Gary Travis, Doyle Handsor, John Robbins, Bill Handsor, Robert Dudley, Clifford Dudley, Sherman Highgate, and Ralph Highgate.
The team, like most predominantly or all-Black baseball teams in the era, faced its share of racism.
“When I was dating my husband, there was a baseball team in Green Valley, I can remember one really appalling experience,” recalls Ruth Dudley (nee Lambkin).
“They played ball in Edys Mills. They went there to play ball, and I don’t think there were any white kids on that ball team, and I can remember getting at Edys Mills and the name calling, it was just absolutely brutal. So they weren’t going to play ball, but finally did. They couldn’t finish the game because people were throwing balls at them. That would have been around 1956.”
The team’s home diamond was in Dresden, and they played other small farming communities in a Chatham-Dover Township league including Tupperville, Dover Centre, Wabash, Eberts, and Electric.
The team also played exhibitions across the area, including taking part in the North Buxton Homecoming games in 1961.
While they didn’t play to as much fame as the 1934 All-Stars, or the Kent Panthers of the 1950s, Green Valley deserves their place in Chatham-Kent’s sports history. They were a team that embodied the agricultural and athletic roots of the region, while continuing to move the lines of race and sport in the region.