Ralph Hammond

Portrait by Robert Howson

“Lefty” Hammond was the pride and joy of Guelph in the 1930’s and 1940’s. A dominant pitcher with an excellent fastball and sharp breaking curve, he led Guelph’s minor baseball teams year after year. Look back through the newspaper clippings of the Guelph Mercury and headlines routinely shout his name: “Lefty Hammond Pitches Two Weekend Victories” or “Hammond Boosts Strikeout Total by 16”.

He was so good that Major League teams got scent of his abilities and dispatched scouts to look at him. He was signed by the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League where he played for Manager Tony Lazzeri, a Hall of Fame second sacker who was a part of the Yankee’s famous Murderer’s Row.

In an interesting side note, Lazzeri only discovered Hammond when a Guelph fan attending a Maple Leaf game yelled to the manager that he should do something about his pitching because the team was so horrible. Lazzeri asked the fan…”What would you have me do” and the fan told him to check out the kid Hammond in Guelph. Believe it or not, Lazzeri did and signed the young ‘fireballer’ on the spot.

Hammond, a six foot hurler with the powerful frame of a body builder, had his hopes for a Major League career dashed by World War II but even then he became the Army’s top pitcher.

After the war he returned to play for teams in the Niagara Peninsula before returning to Guelph to lead the home side for many years in the Intercounty League. Teamed up with fellow Guelph pitcher Bill Leader, they became the best one-two combination in the league. Hammond’s name regularly made all-star rosters and writers like Rex Macleod commonly referred to him with a sense of marvel. “The big, easy-going southpaw was blazing them down the gut just as effortlessly as ever. He has the fluid motion of a professional pitcher and could seemingly twirl morning, afternoon and night without tiring.”

Inducted into the Guelph Sports Hall of Fame – Veteran Athlete category – on May 4, 2005