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Baseball in the Millard's blood

The Millard Family of Canwood will be inducted into the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum along with one team and 13 individuals Saturday, Aug. 21. Nature-nurture, heredity-environment, or it's in their blood.

The Millard Family of Canwood will be inducted into the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum along with one team and 13 individuals Saturday, Aug. 21.

Nature-nurture, heredity-environment, or it's in their blood. Who knows what forces were at play to instill in the Millard brothers, and their families, a deep and everlasting love for the game of baseball. This near obsession endured throughout their lives and has been passed on to the succeeding generations.

The late 1890s and early 1900s were pioneering times in the state of Michigan. The land was still being cleared, money was scarce and most everyone lived a subsistence lifestyle. It was in this environment the Millard family had it's beginnings. Each family member was expected to work and make their contribution to the family's well being. Recreation for the young Millard boys consisted of getting into mischief, swimming in the local water hole and playing baseball. It was baseball that was the total diversion from the day-to-day life. It was a challenging and fun outlet for excess energy, it was socially acceptable, and the boys loved it.

In April of 1913, John Patterson Millard, his wife Myrtle and five sons moved and established a new life in Canwood due to his wife's respiratory condition and the need for cool dry prairie air. Three years later, Myrtle died and John was left to raise the five boys.

The youngest, Howard, returned to Michigan where he was close to John's sister and brother in the same state.

The five Millard brothers were: Fay Berkholder (1895-1974), Emmet Lawson (1897-1972), Lloyd Seymore (1899-1988), Otis William (1901-87) and Howard Harvey [1909-48] and all were born in Michigan.

At that time, the major social activity in every small town was the annual sports day or farm fair held in July or August. The showcase attraction was the baseball tournament, attracting large crowds of partisan fans. The Millard brothers had their share of fans and loved every minute of it.

Following World War I, Emmet, Lloyd and Otis filed on homestead land northwest of Canwood, continuing to play baseball.

Fay joined the Canadian army, was sent overseas in 1917, was wounded at the Battle of Vimy Ridge, then with his new Irish wife, returned to Canwood in 1919. Emmet joined the army in 1918, went overseas too late to see action, returning to Canwood in 1919. The four brothers then played on the town baseball team. Otis at second base, Lloyd as catcher, Emmet in the field and Fay at first base. The Millard boys formed the core of the team until about 1930, when Lloyd and Emmet left to work in Prince Albert and in the mid 1930s Fay had to quit as his war wound was acting up. After several months in the hospital, he continued actively with the team as manager.

Throughout the years 1919 and well into the 1950s, the Canwood baseball team was a constant presence at regional ball tournaments as well as in the larger centres like North Battleford, Saskatoon and Prince Albert. From 1913 to the disbanding of the team, there was always at least one Millard on the team roster, but usually two or three, and from at least three generations.

Fay's three sons, Alden, Clifton and Patrick and later, Alden's son George, played with the team.

Otis was a constant with the team for over 40 years, from 1917 until it disbanded in 1958. In 1952, at 51 years, Otis played second base and managed, and his son Neil, at 14 years, played right field on the same team. While completing high school, Neil coached minor league teams and continued to play senior ball.

Lloyd moved to Prince Albert in the mid 1920s, then back to Michigan in 1944. He returned for a visit about 1957, when at the age of 58, was called upon to catch for the Canwood team, where he ran, hit, slid into bases, and was very stiff the next day. He told his brothers, "I can't remember having so much fun."

Neil, Otis' son, continued the family tradition of playing and coaching baseball, reviving baseball in Star City during his posting as the United Church Minister from 1976 to '80. He then organized minor baseball in Birch Hills. Son Kenneth, played, coached and organized baseball in Birch Hills. Robert, the younger son, played in Birch Hills, Biggar and senior in Saskatoon. Neil was active in baseball governance, organizing local league play, umpiring, served as a director of the SBA 1986 to '88, and Governor in 1989 and '90.

Howard's daughter Hazel married and lived in Shellbrook where her husband, Bill Barkway was active in baseball. Their three sons played with Shellbrook teams. Their grandson played in leagues in Prince Albert. Howard's son Ivan also played baseball in Shellbrook as well as other small towns throughout the province, as his father worked for the Department of Highways. In turn Ivan's son Howard played the game, and while playing in the Regina Optimist Midget League in 1952, young Howard hit a respectable .425 for second place in league batting.

For most people baseball is a game to be played. To many of the Millards it was a living entity and was a major part of their family life. Family gatherings were held at a home where the yard was big enough to accommodate the inevitable ball game. Trips were planned around ball games and major tournaments enroute. In recent years, it is now the major league games in Minneapolis, Seattle, California, New York and Texas. It's probably a fair assumption to say that every Millard's dream is to attend spring training in Florida - even if it's just as an observer.

So, is this devotion to baseball due to heredity or environment?

It seems more probable that it is something in their blood.