Field improvements bring baseball’s big hitters to region
The second instalment on the history of Far North Coast baseball concludes at the end of the 1970s
THE Goonellabah Giants were added to the baseball family in 1978 with both junior and senior (B grade) teams.
A grade, now called Major League, included Ballina which leaned heavily on Phillip Clifford, Brad Myers and the pitching of Michael Donovan.
Meanwhile, the first game of baseball in Casino in more than 25 years was played in the under-18 division in May.
Casino’s original field was adjacent to the airport before moving to a more permanent field in West Casino and later named after Ralph and Dot Groth (Groth Field) who were tireless in the formation and growth of the Casino Baseball Club.
In the same year, the main field at Albert Park in Lismore was fully enclosed when foul fences and the home run fence were completed.
The first of the four diamonds was now a true baseball field.
Significantly, this year also saw the first night game to be played under lights at Oakes Oval in Lismore following the installation of a new sports lighting system.
Night baseball was to become a regular event in Lismore in the late 1970s. Games in the schedule were played each Friday evening under the Oakes Oval lights.
However, many players struggled with hitting under the lights and outfielders also battled the new conditions.
Despite this Oakes Oval played a big part in Lismore being offered the chance to stage the first international game to be played outside a capital city.
In February of 1979, Japanese Industrial League champions Honda took on Australian teams in every state.
Two local stars, Adrian Meagher (junior) and Peter Gahan, were selected to wear the green and gold. Sadly, after months of preparation, heavy rain caused the cancellation of the clash.
However in November, Meagher and Gahan got their chance to wear the national team uniform when Korea defeated Australia comfortably at Oakes Oval in front of a capacity crowd.
Further international clashes were staged in 1981and 1983 when Japanese Industrial League champions Sumitomo Metals and NKK played eight test matches against selected Australian squads.
As the 1970s drew to a close Far North Coast Baseball was further encouraged when the Lismore City Council tip was reclaimed and transformed into the third and fourth diamonds at Albert Park.