“Never give up!”

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vic­to­ria Vanier, Beebe Plain VT

Af­ter the Sec­ond World War, life in this re­gion was good again and lo­cal sports and leisure ac­tiv­i­ties reigned supreme. Long­time Beebe, Ver­mont, res­i­dent Johnny Gau­dreau played on a pop­u­lar

base­ball team back in the 1950’s, sim­ply known as the Beebe team. Now the last liv­ing mem­ber of the team, the spry oc­to­ge­nar­ian shared some of his mem­o­ries of those ‘glory days’ with the Stanstead Jour­nal.

“The Beebe team was like a semi-pro­fes­sional team; the guys were paid to play. They were all good play­ers and I loved them all,” said Mr. Gau­dreau, known back then as Johnny “Babe” Gau­dreau, the left-handed pitcher of the team that played in both the Mas­saw­ippi Val­ley League and the Sun­set League. The Sun­set League was international, teams com­ing from Beebe, Derby Line, Is­land Pond, Bar­ton, Orleans and Coat­i­cook.

Johnny’s three broth­ers, Ger­vais, René and Robert, were also on the team. “I was the youngest of the broth­ers. They taught me all their tricks and bossed me around for seventy years,” he joked. “We used to play twice a week, Wed­nes­days and Sun­days. Be­tween five hun­dred and a thou­sand peo­ple would come out to watch the games. Doc Ste­wart (Gor­don) had the best bat­ting av­er­age in the league.”

All raised on their fa­ther’s dairy farm which strad­dled the Cana­dian/ Amer­i­can bor­der, the Gau­dreau broth­ers had some spe­cial trans­porta­tion to get to their matches. “Reg Rediker used to drive us to the games and then back home in time to do the chores. Boy could he drive!”

A tal­ented pitcher who mar­ried his sweet­heart, Denise Poulin, sixty-four years ago, Johnny was ap­proached by a base­ball scout the first night back home from his hon­ey­moon. “I had an of­fer to play for the Dodgers, so I talked it over with my wife. I de­cided to stay in Beebe; my par­ents needed me to run the farm.” Although it was a dif­fi­cult decision to make con­sid­er­ing the wages, $500 a week, that Mr. Gau­dreau turned down to play for the Dodgers, it wasn’t a decision that he re­gret­ted. “An old friend vis­ited me re­cently and he agreed I made the right choice. I raised a big fam­ily on the farm, seven chil­dren, and now I have eigh­teen grand-chil­dren,” he said. Asked if he can re­mem­ber all their names, Johnny an­swered: “Yes, I say their names ev­ery night when I pray.”

Ath­letic tal­ent seems to run in the fam­ily, one of those grand­chil­dren be­ing none other than the Cal­gary Flames’ Johnny Gau­dreau, a left-winger. “My wife and I went to Cal­gary last year to see Johnny play. We were treated like a king and queen and went to all the team’s prac­tices and games.” An­other grand­son, Pa­trick Gau­dreau, plays for the Ma­gog Can­ton­niers, while many of the other grand­chil­dren also play elite sports.

No stranger to catas­tro­phe, Mr. Gau­dreau’s dairy farm was de­stroyed in a fire in 1970, ex­actly forty years af­ter a fire on the same site burnt his fa­ther’s barn to the ground. “We lost ev­ery­thing and we had to re­lo­cate. But you never give up. I learnt that from play­ing sports: never give up un­til the last ball is pitched.”

photo courtesy

The Sun­set League Cham­pi­ons from 1950, the Beebe team. Seen in the photo are (Front, l. to r.): Johnny “Babe” Gau­dreau, Steve Bron­son, Ger­vais Gau­dreau, Ge­orges Buck­land Jr., Robert “Ti-Coq” Gau­dreau; (lower in front): bat­boys Denise Gau­dreau and Ray­mond Taplin; (back l.to r.): Eddy Si­card, Bob Taplin, Con­rad Hasel­ton, Rene Morin, Gor­don “Doc” Ste­wart, Doug Bron­son and Al­ley Davio.

photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

Johnny Gau­dreau, seen here in Stanstead, was the pitcher for the Beebe base­ball team back in the 1950’s.

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