Don Edwards has been a number of things in his time, a long-standing referee, an advocate, a volunteer and an aspiring politician to name a few.
This week we are going to be looking at his time as an official for not only basketball but baseball and fastball as well.
It all started in 1952 when Don wanted to play for the Wildcats and he couldn’t, because after some testing, doctors found he had a heart murmur. Well Tom Tipton saw him on the sidelines and threw a whistle at him and said “see if you can call some of these rules.”
And as Don says, “I picked up a rule book and started learning.”
By 1954 he was with the YMCA, volunteering as a referee for John Marasco, who himself put about 45 years into local sports by the time he was finished. “We did more games than I can ever imagine,” Edwards says.
One of the worst experiences he ever had as a ref with basketball was in St. Ignace when the home team usually wins. Well they didn’t win that night and they were storming the locker rooms, trying to get in, banging on the doors. “Well we never played there again,” said Edwards.
Some highlights of his time as a ref for basketball was coaching the midget leagues, the physically handicapped, where he says the games were over 100 points for a team, the Globetrotters, who he said were just as funny before the game as during, and chance to go the 1976 Olympics as a ref.
He put an amazing 28 years into local sports.
He and John Marasco are also in the High School Hall of Fame.
He was an official for games that the famous Darren Zack pitched for which Don says, “he never once argued a ball or strike.”
But there were the hecklers, like any sport.
“I learned enough from all sports, not to respond to the fans,” Edwards said.
“But I’ve enjoyed my time time with sports. I worked with a lot of good people, many of which became doctors and lawyers. A lot became good citizens,” he says.
He was an official for the All-Canada First Nations tournament at one time. And he was even around when he says the Americans started the ‘buzz ball,’ when he would see them play the Canadian teams because there wasn’t enough American ones for a league.
“I can’t remember ever getting in a real hassle,” he says, even when a player missed second base once and lost the game for his team and the benches cleared to run over to Edwards when he called it. Luckily for him the player admitted that he missed the base and said “Mr. Edwards is right.”
How he got into baseball was when he would watch the games at North Street and see some terrible calls. He asked, “what kind of officials have you got out there,” and the answer was, “you think you can do better?” And he did.
“It was a real treat to be involved,” Edwards says.
Edwards has also been the president of the Ontario Lung Association and moved up to the Canadian Lung Association. This let him see the country fron Newfoundland to Vancouver.
He ran for the provincial government against Tony Martin, who won.
He started the group G.A.S.P. or Group Against Smoking Pollution which made presentations at council and started banning smoking in public places.
He ran once for city council in ward one and lost even though he had more votes than all the other wards put together. Ward one was just too big.
He has also been on the board for Community Living Algoma.
When he looks back he says “it (all) took a lot of my time. I never regretted it.”
Edwards is now 83 but has such a good memory it was hard to keep up writing all of his stories down as he told them!