How Victoria's 'gentleman umpire,' a grandson of Black pioneers, inspired a generation of baseball players
Life and legacy of Little League legend Doug Hudlin will be featured at an event at the Royal B.C. Museum
An entire generation of Little Leaguers in Victoria played the game of baseball with Doug Hudlin behind the plate.
Hudlin was an umpire in the city for decades, and became the first Canadian to umpire at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Penn.
Niece Barbara Hudlin said her uncle was known as the "gentleman umpire" because he did more than just call balls and strikes.
"He is the man [who would] stop a game and talk to the batter or go up and talk to the pitcher and then carry on the game," she said, recalling his calm and calming demeanour.
Barbara Hudlin, who has been working with charities to help keep her uncle's memory alive, will be among the speakers at an event on Saturday at the Royal B.C. Museum celebrating the heritage of Black British Columbians.
B.C. Black History & Heritage Day, hosted by the B.C. Black History Awareness Society, is billed as an opportunity for the public to meet and talk with direct descendants of some notable Black British Columbians about their stories and family history.
Grandson of pioneers
Hudlin was born in 1922 in Victoria, the grandson of Nancy and Charles Alexander, who were among the city's first Black pioneers.
Hudlin and other family members formed the Brown Bombers, an all-Black baseball team, at a time when the sport had a colour barrier.
"I think that it was a sport that they could afford," Barbara Hudlin said. "As Doug and I have talked, you just have to have a stick and a ball or a stick and a rock and you can play that sport."
Hudlin started umpiring after injuring his back in a soccer game in 1951. He umpired his first Little League baseball game two years later.
In 1964, he was chosen to umpire at the Little League World Series and was invited back in 1974. His last game behind the plate was in 1992, the year he turned 70.
Throughout his long career, Hudlin had a reputation as a calming presence on the diamond.
A 1978 article in the Daily Colonist described him as "a fair man with a low boiling point."
Hudlin died in 2014 at the age of 91.
In 2017, he was inducted to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. That same year, the City of Victoria announced Doug Hudlin Awareness Day.
Barbara Hudlin remembers her uncle as a "kind-hearted soul," who was "very soft spoken."
"My dad passed when I was young, and so he became like my dad," she said. "If you talk to anybody that knows Doug here, they have a story about Doug."
"It is just amazing, amazing stories about Doug and how loved he is in this city."
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
With files from Rohit Joseph
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