During 1950 a few boys from the small, Northern suburbs town of Bellville, decided to get together to play baseball. Some had turned out for Brick Demons in Durban Road (where the brickfields were situated) while others were from the Rugby Club. And thus were sown the seeds of what was to become, one of Western Province’s and indeed one of South Africa’s biggest and most successful baseball clubs! They had to field two teams but initially only had 14 players, so by the 7th innings of the early game would pick up their kit, thank the opposition and rush across town for the late game in the only two cars available!
During 1953 – 1954 Tony Harrison, the new Chairman invited the defunct Parow side to join and Fred Simon’s (Eric’s dad!), Mannetjies Viljoen, Basil Marshal, Bertie Wendlandt and Orrie de Maio joined. Bobby Matthee and Lionel Pearce followed from Brick Demons.
The club started out in the 8th league and rapidly gained promotion to the second league! The four senior sides were called the Bellville Braves, Bears, Beavers and Badgers. A milestone in those early years was the arrival of John Burrows, an American coach, whose practice drills were used for years at Bellville.
During 1959 Maurice Geffen became coach and with the Major League being increased to 14 teams, Bellville were promoted to the Majors. They promptly celebrated this by coming second last!
Under Geffen’s leadership, passion and drive a process of team rebuilding took place which culminated in the successful teams of the early ‘60’s and reached its zenith in the 1963/64 season when Bellville won its first Major League championship after being runners up the previous season.
Baseball has never been the same since those days and it heralded the shifting of power from the Southern to the Northern suburbs. Until that stage clubs such as Peninsula, Clyde and Sea Point has dominated the competition. Following on the success of Bellville, neighbours Goodwood Demons got in to the act and in fact the northern derby clashes between these two teams is the stuff legend is made of!
As a Little League youngster of that period, Dennis Jones recalled how he looked up to the 1st team “manne ” of those days that included Springboks John Griessen, Fred Simon’s(2nd base) and Mellville Stevens (centre field), never realizing that very soon he would be playing alongside them!
Other great names of that team and period included the inimitable “Jakkals” van Romburgh, catcher Bobby Matthee , Albert Uytenbogaardt (Cape Town City goalkeeper of the time),Bob and Butler Smith, Raymond “Lappies”Wragg, Benna Kellerman, “Porky”Pienaar, Kenny Bailey, Eddie Pretorius and Lenny Van Wyk to mention but a few of the 1st team players of that era. (See photo of that team elsewhere on this website)
But Maurice was a man with a vision and a mission………..he wanted to go places and he wanted Baseball to go places! A few promising youngsters (Dennis Jones, Chris Nunes, Brian Hawken et al) were packed off to the National Baseball Training Camp at Hartebeesport Dam in the Transvaal, headed by none other than the legendary Arthur Tew, father of Clyde –Pinelands and Springbok 2nd baseman, Raymond.
The next few years 1964-1972 were to usher in an unprecedented decade in the history of the club as Maurice started developing the Little League teams and commenced “blooding” youngsters for the senior leagues.
By the second half of the sixties decade, the 1st team had been totally transformed by Geffen – up and coming youngsters were given a “blast” to prove themselves.
Dennis Jones had been fortunate enough to make the Majors at age 15 and thus acted as a sort of cross-over bridge between the older, outgoing stalwarts and his contemporaries and by the end of the decade the 1st team consisted almost entirely of teenager and youngsters! The brash new boys on the block!
The Seventies started off in fine fashion with the 1st Team runners up in the 1970/71 Majors.
That young team consisted of inter alia, Brian Hawken pitching to Chris Nunes or Amadeu Andrade, Dennis Jones on 1st, Kiki de Kock on 2nd, Alan Lofthouse at short-stop, Alfie Andrade on 3rd. In the left field was Louis Seyfried , Brian Smyth in centre and John Hon as relief pitcher in right field. See Team Photo elsewhere.
It is interesting to note that Kiki De Kock never came through the little league ranks but started playing baseball for the first time in the 1969/70 season as a 19 year-old and already made it to the 1st team the following season! But then again Maurice Geffen, who was the most wily and shrewd ML Coach of his era, apparently never even played Baseball!! As the old saying goes: “Cream rises to the top”!
In 1971 the Club celebrated its 21st Anniversary with a function at the New National Hotel with co-founder Percy Sieff as the honoured guest speaker. The following season (1971/72) was characterized by the now legendary and infamous Baseball Tour to Port Elizabeth, East London and Durban by the Union-Castle mail ship, Windsor Castle.
Apart from individual savings, the trip was funded by a massive fund-raising drive over the previous two seasons by way of Christmas Hampers, Hypnotist Max Collie Shows and the hosting of live bands to offer the awesome “sessions “of the sixties and seventies at the Club, the Jewish and Masonic Halls.
The touring party, headed up by Maurice Geffen and “Porky” Pienaar and ably assisted by baggage master Ronnie Knyff, included up-and-coming youngsters like brothers Kevin and Sean Smyth and Franzie Rohm.
There is no doubt the team would have returned much more favourable results had it not been for the presence of a young ladies hockey team on board that unfortunately caused much distraction to the players!
After the 1971/72 season Maurice Geffen, disenchanted with the lack of vision shown by administrators of the game in the WP, broke away to spearhead and form the Boland Baseball League with the intention of spreading the baseball gospel to the platteland. The fledgling league consisted of teams like Sanlam, Van der Stel, Stellenbosch University and Somerset West.
Another feature of the late seventies was the addition of women’s softball sides under the leadership of the late Mrs. Aproskie. By the late eighties this division of the club had grown to 3 sides and a valuable asset to the social side of the club’s activities.
The Seventies ended on a high, albeit a nostalgic note, in that the Club relocated in 1979, after 30 years, together with the Bellville Football Club, to the brand-new PP Smit sporting complex in Durban Rd., the current home of BBC. Thus, 30 years after commencing baseball in the nearby brickfields, Bellville Baseball eventually and finally obtained its own, permanent home!!
It should be remembered that many of the Baseball players played soccer in the winter season, so the move was certainly the end of an unforgettable era for many of the sportsmen (and supporters) of that time!!
And for many diehards, it was never to be the same.
The Eighties was the time of the next generation and the likes of brothers Danny and Sean Smyth, John Hon, Tony De Nobrega and Paul Lawrence had come to the fore.
Under the able guidance and Chairmanship of the indefatigable Kiki De Kock for the 1st half of the decade, the Club held it head high in the Majors and continued to flourish as a well-rounded baseball and softball club.
When Dennis Jones took over again as Chairman in 1987, the Club was in great shape and so it continued to the end of the decade and in to the next when Dennis relocated to George in the 1992/93 season and Kiki once again took over the reins at the top for a couple of seasons.
A highlight of the 80’s decade was the Veterans Day held on the 7th December 1985 at PP Smit.
This game between the Veterans and the Super Vet’s was held as a curtain-raiser to the main Major League game between V.O.B and Bellville. Chris Nunes had to do double duty that day as player in the Veterans side and as Coach of the 1st Team in the next game!! Refer to the program for the players who made up the sides.
The decade ended with the Club being probably one of the largest in the country again as a result of the flourishing ladies softball section. But new, unexpected challenges awaited the Club…
The 1989/1990 season was hardly two-thirds through when the dramatic and unexpected announcement of Nelson Mandela’s release was made public by F.W De Klerk on the 2nd February 1990.
Until this time Baseball had been played upon strictly racial lines with the “white” Western Province Baseball Association (WPBA) being in charge of our baseball since the inception of the club. After unity talks that lasted a couple of seasons, the new unified Baseball Association (BAWP) was born.
Baseball in the province and the country was now completely and irretrievably non-racial. Julio Piaoni took over from Kiki de Kock as Chairman in about 1994 and then he in turn was succeeded by Danny Greeff for two seasons until Colin Windell took over the reins in 1998.
During this period the Club adapted well to the new social changes and continued to enjoy a good measure of success on the playing fields, especially in the late Nineties as the world rushed to the end of a century and the dawn of a new Millenium beckoned!
After the completion of the 1999/2000 baseball season in March 2000, the new century started off auspiciously with the 50th Anniversary celebration of the Club on Friday the 5thMay, 2000 at the Bellville Civic Centre. It took the form of a formal “collar & tie” dinner and a highlight of the night was the attendance, upon invitation, of senior Goodwood Demons Baseball Club members as special and honoured guests.
Organised by Kiki De Kock, Chris Nunes and Colin Windell and MC’d by Dennis Jones; the evening was a huge success with the main speakers being Maurice Geffen, Ernie Leonard and the three organizers.
Past players arrived from all over the country and an e-mail of congratulations from Australia was even received from Percy Sieff, one of the club’s founders!! (See gallery of photos)
This wonderful evening ushered in what was to arguably be Bellville Baseball’s golden era as far as Major League results are concerned!! The honours are too many too mention here, but suffice it to say that the 1st team garnered more honours during this period than ever before in the Club’s history.
Ably led by Colin Windell (1998-2003 and 2006 and 2007), Hannes Olivier (2004 and 2005), Louis Seyfried (2008 and 2009) and Alan Philips (2009/2010 Season), the Club continues to this day to be a force in WP baseball with Springboks Alan Phillips Head Coach of the 1st team and Chris Nunes heading the 2nd team!
At the writing hereof in early February 2010, the Club is about to complete its illustrious 60th year of existence and looks headed for another ML victory which will be all the more fitting for such a memorable year!!
The 2nd team also looks headed for league victory which would be a fantastic double for the Club in such an unforgettable year of its history!!