FNC baseball of today a far cry from its early days
In the second part of the history of Far North Coast baseball we look at the decade from 1969 to 1979.
BASEBALL at Albert Park, Lismore, in the early days was a far cry from today’s game.
Players did not wear batting helmets, there were no pitchers’ mounds, only wooden bats were used and the bases were made of hessian and stuffed with horse hair.
The dugouts consisted of a wooden bench for each team which would be carried down from the newly-built storage shed at street level and returned there at the end of the game.
The back net behind home plate was small, offering hardy spectators little protection and there were no foul fences or home run fences to speak of.
The baseball fields were far removed from today’s playing surfaces but despite this Far North Coast Baseball produced many stars.
With no lighting, many games on winter Saturdays ended in draws while some finals games, interrupted by fading light, had to be completed on Sunday or replayed the following weekend.
Nevertheless, the move to Albert Park saw player numbers at both junior and senior level begin to rise significantly and the participants soon bent their backs to the task of making the facility one they could enjoy in added safety and take much pride in.
Events like the annual Inter Club Series where as many as eight Brisbane clubs travelled to Lismore to battle FNC Baseball for bragging rights and prizemoney generated the necessary funds to improve the playing facilities.
The organisation’s best players – who by now were travelling quite extensively to experience higher-level competition – demanded better fields.
Over the summers of 1970-1972, baseball was trialled at the Lismore Showground.
The games were staged as curtain-raisers to the speedway races held later in the evening.
Despite strong support from a larger-than-expected number of players, summer baseball was abandoned after two seasons due to the large numbers who were cricketers in the summer and ballplayers in the winter.
In May 1971, FNC Baseball handed control of Albert Park over to Lismore City Council.
Since then, the development of the facility has been a cooperative and mutually beneficial partnership. Council has always tried to direct available resources to improving the fields and FNC Baseball has attracted dozens of events to the city which have boosted its economy significantly.
The amazing efforts of volunteers have built Albert Park into a national-level complex which is continually earmarked by administrators for major events.
The 1970s were exciting years of change for baseball as numbers grew and clubs in surrounding towns came aboard.
Ballina, led by teacher Jim Roche, established a club in 1975 and entered the competition the following year.
Some veteran Lismore players moved over to the Ballina club to support its early years.
A field was secured at Fripp Oval and appropriately it was Reg Baxter, by then a life member of FNC Baseball, who scored the first run at Ballina’s new field.
> This article is compiled from The Northern Star archives and with the assistance from Bill O’Sullivan, Bob McClelland, John McKee and Geoff Baxter.
See The Northern Star tomorrow for the second instalment on this era of FNC baseball.