With the only Canadian major league ball team 3,000 clicks away, Drumheller may seem far from the world of baseball.
“I was the happiest person on earth,” Barry Pozzo said about the New York Yankee’s loss in game six against the Rangers last week.
Too much money in them, he says. “I like the underdog.”
The word underdog could be pinned to the generations of miners who worked tirelessly for little pay to put the then thriving communities of Wayne, Newcastle, and Rosedale on the map as coal mining powers.
Baseball was their summer escape.
“Back in the coal mining days, they didn’t find as much work in the summer, they needed other activities,” says Pozzo.
“We used to get 2,500 people at our game in the playoffs,” said longtime Drumheller resident Roger Berlando, who played for a ball team in Rosedale.
“I remember going to Rosedale as a kid, I must have been only four or six, and the cars were parked all around the diamond,” reminisces Pozzo.
Then, rivalries between the booming mining towns that now constitute the corporate limits of Drumheller were fierce.
There has been great ball talents who grew up in the valley because of it.
Major league outfielder Glen Gorbous was born in Drumheller and started his career playing for a team out of Rosedale. He was first drafted to the Cincinnati Reds in 1955, then the only Canadian in the majors.
An Alberta Sports Hall of Fame inductee, Gorbous still holds the record for longest baseball thrown.
On August 1, 1957, Gorbous, who then played for St. Louis Cardinals, emerged onto the Omaha Ball Park Field with a hotdog, glove, and a root beer, after being offered $200 to break the existing record. He crammed the hotdog into his mouth, put his glove on, and slammed back his root beer.
He went outside the stadium and across the street before running back into the string and releasing the ball high into the air.
It landed 445 feet, 10 inches away, shattering the previous record by nine inches while simultaneously putting Drumheller into the baseball books.
“A lot of great players went through the valley, and if they had the opportunity, they would’ve went a long way,” Pozzo says.
“Baseball faded away, I don’t know why,” muses Berlando.
Pozzo believes the finesse of baseball has been a difficult aspect for some to grasp.
“It’s just the mentality of the game– you need a lot of smarts.”
But once understood, baseball is a uniting and rewarding game to be a part of.
“Baseball is the name of the game in my family... my involvement with it has been thrilling, and one of my biggest pleasures. To me, it’s real family oriented. It brings people together.”
And now, as the 2010 World Series is underway between the Rangers and Giants, baseball fans in the valley are glued to their T.V. sets. Both Pozzo and Berlando are calling the Texas Rangers win in six.
“I have to go with the underdogs.”