Induction citation read by Shelly Williams, daughter of Colin “Coke” Grady
To us, dad was more than an extraordinary athlete, he was a loving father and husband. Although he “might” have been a little rough and tough on the ice at times, at home he was always “present, and there for his family.” Whether it was holding our hand at tee-ball or running around the bases with us because we were too shy, or taking us to the old freezing cold Cahill Stadium to learn how to skate, or taking us to the MET downtown for an ice cream float. We have many wonderful memories of our dad. A true family man.
As you might know, there is no shortage of nicknames around Summerside, especially here around the west end. many of you might wonder where dad got the nickname “Coke” (pronounced mostly as “Cokie”). Well, he simply used to drink coke all the time, and the name just stuck. So much so, that it was listed in the phone book under Coke Grady. There are very few that would know him by his given name, Colin.
When we started this nomination process a few years ago, it became clear very early on how much so many people thought of my father. As the letters of support came in supporting his induction, it was obvious that not only was he revered as an outstanding all-around athlete, but a person who would do anything to help out any youngsters who needed a helping hand.
Yes, he was a fine athlete, one of the best many would argue – but the Coke Grady story doesn’t finish on the day he hung up the skates or baseball glove – he continued to give back, dedicating his life to the sports, and community, that he loved so much. The fact we have so many people here tonight supporting his induction into the Hall of Fame says just as much about Coke the man, as Coke the athlete.
Born in Summerside in 1934 to James and Margaret, Colin was one of 11 siblings. Playing outside and keeping out the way was normal for children in large families growing up in those days, and the young Coke soon found a natural gravitation to the sports field – in winter it was on the frozen ponds, and in summer on the makeshift sandlots that represented the baseball diamonds.
It was clear early on that he had a natural talent in both sports, and he showed his potential in hockey at 15 when he helped the Summerside Kinsmen win a Maritime Midget Championship in 1950.
It was the start of a nomadic hockey career in an era where teams throughout the region would try and get the best talent to win the big Championships, and early on, Coke was in demand. Despite being just 5 ft 7 he knew how to handle himself, especially in rinks on the road, where the locals would often take an early dislike to the all-action, no-nonsense style of the young Islander.
Wherever Coke went he was successful, winning titles throughout Nova Scotia and New Brunswick with teams such as the Sussex Junior Rangers (alongside Paul H. Schurman), the North Sydney Franklins, Kentville Wildcats and the Digby Ravens. Local fans loved him, because he was a winner.
In 1957 he came back to the Island and was a standout for Summerside Aces, helping them win a Maritime title in 1959, before further stints and more titles on the mainland with the New Glasgow Rangers, the North Sydney Vics, and the Moncton Hawks, and back again in the 1960s with his hometown Aces. Whoever he played for, Coke Grady never gave less than 100%, putting his heart and soul into every game.
When hockey season was done it was time for baseball, and Cokey was a natural, a smooth hard-hitting short-stop whose talents were also in demand wherever teams were looking to build championship contenders.
As with hockey his baseball story started with the local favourites, and he won Maritime crowns with the Curran and Briggs Junior and Intermediate teams in 1950, despite being just 16 years of age when he starred with the intermediates. He then went on to be in demand throughout the Maritime region, playing in senior leagues on teams such as the Black’s Harbor Brunswick and the Yarmouth Gateways, winning championships in what was always tough, hard-nosed baseball, where imports were given a rough-ride by the locals.
Coke attended two Brooklyn Dodger schools, and he was always considered one of the top three players on the Island, often thought capable of going higher up the baseball ladder.
To show his natural sporting ability, Coke also was a fine softball player, again winning Maritime titles, and he even tried his hand in the boxing ring, putting himself forward against many of the finest Island fighters of the day.
When he finally decided to end his playing days, Coke went into officiating, and he quickly earned a reputation as one of the best in the business, again excelling either as a hockey referee or baseball umpire for more than 20 years. His reputation was always one of firm but fair, and players always respected his authority and knowledge of the game.
Following in the footsteps of his mentor, the great Johnny Carroll, Coke served for several years as the Minor Baseball Director for Summerside, and in that capacity he could be relied upon to be present at the diamond from dawn until dusk. He was an outstanding coach of young players, and always knew when somebody needed a helping hand, whether it was treating somebody who couldn’t afford it to a free hotdog, to helping out with equipment to whoever might need it. He knew how to make people laugh, to get the best out of themselves, and to enjoy their sports. He had a natural capacity to teach, and to help.
And if all this wasn’t enough, Coke also loved the harness racing game, owning horses (sometimes successfully!), and serving on the Board of Directors for the Prince County Horseman’s Club for approximately 15 years.
Along the way, people have shown their appreciation for Coke in many ways. In 1987 he was recognized with “Coke Grady Day” by the City, and in 2015 he was inducted into the Legends Field Honour Role at Queen Elizabeth Park. Just recently, the Island Junior 22-under Baseball League dedicated its championship trophy in Coke’s name.
However, we think that tonight would be the recognition that my dad would hold most dear, for this evening he takes his place alongside the very best that Prince Edward Island has to offer. He would have loved an evening like this, a gathering of all those whom he held most dear, celebrating the very best in Island sports.
On behalf of my family, it is my pleasure to say dad – Colin “Coke” Grady – welcome to the Hall of Fame.