A full banquet hall at the Access Event Centre included 16 members of Thomas G. Smith’s family who celebrated their patriarch's enshrinement into the Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame Saturday night in Morden.
“This was pretty awesome for us,” said son Robert who passionately presented and spoke for his father. “There were lots of us here. That speaks volumes. We came from long distance and when I spoke, I introduced the family. That wasn’t what the audience wanted me to do but I did it because we were from everywhere, kind of, doing a celebration.”
Those 16 family members included T.G. Smith’s son Robert & wife Maggie of Steinbach and their son Rob, his wife Lindsay & their daughter Vera of Winnipeg; daughter Jennifer Spencer, her husband Lance and their sons William & Thomas from East St. Paul and daughter Julia Smith and her daughter Margo of Vancouver.
T.G. Smith’s other son David of Kelowna along with his son Lance and daughter Magdalene from Gabriola Island, B.C. and his daughter Terra and son Logan of Campbell River also attended the 25th Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Banquet.
In the mid-1950s, while working for the Royal Bank in Steinbach, T.G. Smith organized Little League Baseball. Initially in 1955 there were three teams. By 1966 there were seven. Smith did everything—coached, organized fundraisers, took boys to out-of-town games and tournaments and constantly reinforced the values of sportsmanship and team play.
By 1968 when he retired to Winnipeg, Steinbach's Little League program was thriving, thanks to the guidance of George Pauls and Jim Mutcheson. Many of his Little League players were members of the Steinbach Millers of the late 1960s and they were inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015.
Steinbach’s baseball pioneer, who organized the construction of the community's hockey facility, later known as the T.G. Smith Centre, had played sports until at age 21 he had to have one of his legs partially amputated.
“It hits home because it’s a good story,” noted son Robert. “It’s a good story to get out there. He had the passion to stay with the game when he couldn’t play. That’s hard.”
“Rob was born shortly after my dad died," added Smith. "He has heard the stories of my dad living in Steinbach. There’s lots of my dad’s stories so now what happens? Well, what happens is that we all grow old, and these stories disappear. People were talking to Jac Siemens (Steinbach City Councillor and former arena facilty manager) about the T.G. Smith Centre. The rink is going to fall down, and they said, ‘What about it, what’s going to happen?’ Jac Siemens I thought gave just the only answer you can give. ‘We got a picture.’ That’s it. Otherwise, it’s done. If you don’t have a deal like this Hall of Fame Induction Banquet where you have the family and my dad’s great grandkids, my grandkids listening to everyone here talk about the game, then it isn’t just a picture. We have a little bit more than that now.”
Robert Smith read a few letters from the podium from former players who thanked T.G. Smith for organizing baseball in Steinbach.
As of Saturday night, T.G. Smith’s legacy is now enshrined in the Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame’s Museum.
“It’s magic because it’s got pictures and pictures tell stories,” Robert Smith said when asked about the jewel of a museum his dad now belongs to. “You can go there. Today’s world, you can go online. You can keep some of these memories alive cause they’re worth keeping alive.”