“Never give up!”
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.”
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.
Johnny Gaudreau, seen here in Stanstead, was the pitcher for the Beebe baseball team back in the 1950’s.