The late Bill Sobkow, long-time coach and manager of the Western Canadian Baseball League Yorkton Cardinals, will be inducted into the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame this weekend.
Sobkow was born June 17, 1946, in Yorkton, and was raised on the Sobkow family homestead and attended Calder School and later St. Joseph’s College in Yorkton.
“It was just a real honour,” said Bill’s wife Erna Sobkow.
“Baseball, that was his passion. That was his thing. For other people to recognize that, that’s special.”
“As young boys, Bill, and his brother Steve played baseball for hours on their baseball diamond built in their pasture,” notes the bio send out by the Hall of Fame. “The farm yard light allowed them to play well into the night. That is how the lifelong passion for the game of baseball began for Bill. As a 16 year old, Bill pitched three shut-out innings against Satchel Paige’s touring Coloured All Star Team. The following year Bill was named Rookie of the Year in the Saskatchewan Major Baseball League [SMBL].
“In 1964, Bill was the recipient of the Father Athol Murray Trophy for best performance of the season. Also, in 1964, he received a baseball scholarship award to Fresno State University in California where he received his BA and BEd degrees. He returned home for the summer to play for the Yorkton Cardinals, who, in 1967, won the Saskatchewan Major Baseball League Championship.”
Erna said while Bill played the game for years, his true legacy in the sport came through coaching.
“He helped a lot of young ballplayers,” she said. “He mentored a lot of young ballplayers.”
It was that effort that Erna said made Bill special in her mind in terms of baseball.
“I think he was well-respected in the baseball world,” she said.
The Hall of Fame again fills in information on Sobkow as a coach.
“Bill’s love of the game led Bill to coach and mentor his son Phillip, his friends and countless others,” it detailed.
“In 2002, Bill recreated the Yorkton Cardinals in the Western Major Baseball League, as it is known today. As head coach and general manager, Bill had a reputation for being fair, for treating everyone with respect, and giving everyone a chance. He lobbied passionately for the principles in which he believed. He spent many hours every winter scouting and searching for the next group of young men who would make up the Yorkton Cardinals team. In 2002, Bill was named the Western Major Baseball League Top Coach Executive Award.”
One player who Bill coached was son Phillip, who was drafted and signed by his father’s favourite team, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“I’m proud that he’s getting recognized. I think that’s always a nice thing,” said Phil. “When you give a lot to a certain sport it’s nice to be recognized for your accomplishments.
As a player Phil said his father was encouraging of his efforts, although if he made an error he might hear some suggestions about how to make the play the next time.
“He was a pretty laid back coach ... (but) he wanted you to be both a better person and a better player,” said Phil
Erna said one of the great things about this weekend’s induction is that Don McIntyre will also be inducted at the ceremony Saturday at Battleford, location of the Hall of Fame.
“They played together on the Neilburg Monarchs and got to be very good friends,” she said, adding she had wanted McIntyre to be a pallbearer at Bill’s funeral but couldn’t track him down soon enough. “Now him also being inducted, that’s really special.”
Erna said while she is looking forward to the induction, she knows too it will be hard as well.
“It’s going to be very emotional,” she said.
Bill died suddenly at his home, Sept. 14, 2016.