#8 Harvey Bronstine
Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he? - Clarence the Angel from, "It's a Wonderful Life".
Our Stars of the Week have highlighted the accomplishments, achievements and contributions to the sport of fastball by those who are involved either directly or indirectly to the Scout Shootout. This week's Star of the Week has left an indelible mark on the sporting life of many young athletes by his selfless devotion to providing an environment where so many kids had an opportunity to have fun, play sports and just have, "A place to play".
To honour a man whose life has touched so many other lives we bestow the honour of this week's Scout Shootout's Star of the Week to Harvey Bronstine.
To understand the motivation for Harvey's involvement in youth sports we need to go back to the year 1893. This was the year that a gentleman by the name of Robert "Bob" Abate was born. Bob Abate coached over 200 city, provincial and national championships in baseball, basketball, football and hockey through his role as Principal Supervisor at the Elizabeth Street playground in Toronto. Those who played sports there were affectionately known as the "Lizzies". Noted Lizzies who went on to achieve professional sports success were; Lionel "The Big Train" Conacher, Major Leaguer Goody Rosen and NHL'er Alex Levinsky. Another Lizzie champion who was coached and mentored by Bob Abate was Harvey Bronstine.
Born in 1929, Harvey grew up on Major Street in Toronto, an area which was known as the Jewish Ghetto. He started playing sports at Lansdowne Public School and continued to play baseball and basketball at the Elizabeth Street playground where as a 12 year old he played shortstop and batted lead-off. Harvey is very pround of the Ontario Championship he won as a member of the Lizzie's. As a boy he would travel to the old ball diamond on Fleet St to watch Goody Rosen, and Harry and Matty Eckler. Harvey attended Harbord Collegiate but had to quit before he finished grade10 so he could go to work with his dad in the family scrap collection business where he toiled until his late teens. He married at 20 and went on to have 3 children; Cheryl, David and Michael.
In the 1950's the family moved to Winston Park in the Wilson and Keele area and then in the early '60's, Harvey took the family and settled in the area known as Bathurst Manor. It is here where the influence of Bob Abate on Harvey's life really took shape.
It is at Bathurst Manor where Harvey, realizing the positive influence that Bob Abate had on so many children, and adolescents, including himself, started the Bathurst Manor Community Association (BMCA). The BMCA league gave literally hundreds of children the opportunity to play squirt, peewee and bantam sports out of Wilmington Park. Among those who were able to take advantage of this great opportunity and go on and achieve personal success at a higher level were Phil Gigan, Stu Himmel, Cory Sherman, Robert Pfeifer, Lorne Funt, Bernie Hertzmann and sons Michael and David. As they became older and could no longer play in the BMCA, the best players went on to play in the Willowdale Fastball League where they played out of Hendon and Goulding Parks. One of Harvey's fondest memories of this time was when his sons, playing with Dave Strauss on the "Nationals" midget team where, unfortunately they lost the City championships to Co-op Taxi with Robbie George.
After running the BMCA for many years and having the kind of impact on the lives of so many children the way Bob Abate had on him, Harvey decided,at age 42, to leave the running of the BMCA to others and to focus his attention on the athletic endevours of his sons, where he would follow their careers by driving them and many of their teammates to games and tournaments wherever they were taking place. One of these memories that stood out to Harvey was in 1975 when he watched his son Michael's L and G Autobody squirt team, with Lorne Swartz, Daniel Finkler, and Terry Bowles win the Ontario Championships over Grantham Optimist from St. Catherine's and then driving down to St. Catherines on the same day to watch son David's midget team win the Ontario's over the host team.
Both sons have benefitted from Harveys support, encouragement, dedication and sacrifice throughout their own fastball careers. David, a catcher, won the Ontario championships with the "Nationals" as a second year midget and then as a Juvenile and Junior. He went to Saskatchewan to play in the Canadians in '73 with Barry Crawford, John Giamou, Dave Strauss and Larry Gurrizan where they finished in 3rd place. In 1975, David went out west to play for the Edmonton Monarchs in the Western Major Fastball League with George Chapman, Lorne Funt and Bernie Hertzmann. In '84, following in his father's organizational footsteps, he put a team together to prepare for the up-coming Maccabian games. David lists winning a silver medal in 1985 in Israel with his brother Michael, Mark Bendahan, Dave Strauss, Corey Vyner, David Jafine and Gerry Sternberg, an ex Argonaut, and his 1993 Gold medal also in Israel, with David Finkler, Mark Bendahan, Bobby Green, Lorne Swartz and Phil Gigan as 2 of his proudest fastpitch accomplishments. David retired from ball after the '93 season.
Younger brother Michael has also enjoyed success in his fastpitch career. He was an Ontario Champion Squirt with L and G Autobody, and in Peewee and Bantam playing for Faster Linen Service. In 1978 playing as a second year midget at Amesbury Pk with Carmen Pernarella and Phil Gigan they lost to Port Perry in the Junior semi-finals. Playing with Amesbury in Orville Ohio, and pitching alongside Tony Nagy, they won the tourney and Michael had such a great tournament that he was recruited to play the next season with Orr Park in Ohio. He travelled all over the States that year to play. Michael retired from ball until 1984 when he helped brother David to put together the Bucks team to prepare for the '85 Maccabian games where he won a silver medal as a pitcher and second baseman. Michael retired again but made a brief return a couple of years ago to pitch for the Bridlebash team where they won the Richmond Hill Championship.
Reliving his sons accomplishments brought back a lot of wonderful memories for Harvey. Tears of joy came to his eyes when he described his feeling of pride and happiness in having watched both his sons playing together when they represent Canada in Israel in 1985. His best memory in ball was watching his sons play good ball. The best player he ever saw was Harry Eckler who played 1st base for Tip Top Tailors and the best pitcher he ever saw was Bob Domik. He loved watching ball at Trinity- Bellwoods Pk and highlighted Sarnia as one of his favourite places to watch ball as well as travelling to Ohio to watch Michael pitch. Harvey showed the skills of a veteran politician when asked which one of his sons was a better ball player. He just smiled and didn't say anything!
Harvey said that he started the BMCA for the love of it and to follow the passion that Bob Abate had in giving back to the community and he felt that this has been followed with his sons starting the Bucks team and in Lorne Swartz's giving back with the Scout Shootout.
Every September for the past 30 years the Lizzie Oldtimers Association made up of members who played for the Lizzies, average age, over 85, get together at the Noth Toronto Community Centre to share stories and raise money through ticket sales to give to charities for inner-city kids to play ball in honour of the memory of Bob Abate.
In 1976, 5 years before his death, Robert Abate was Inducted into the Canada Sports Hall of Fame. In 1990 the Elizabeth Recreation Centre was posthumously renamed the Bob Abate Community Recreation Centre.
As Clarence the Angel so rightly stated, each man's lfe touches so many others lives, when he isn't around, he leaves an awful hole doesn't he?
We are fortunate that Bob Abate's life touched Harvey Bronstine's and that Harvey's touched the lives of the children that he sacrificed his time for including some who are in the Shootout including Lorne Swartz who's vision it was to organize this tournament for charity and whose lives will be touched in a small way from the money that will go to the charities we are playing for.
All of us who play have benefitted from a Bob Abate, or Harvey Bronstine. We could not have achieved what we have without their sacrifice, passion and guidance. In appreciation to all those men and women who have given up for us, we highlight the life of Harvey Bronstine as our Star of the Week.