The Baseball Newfoundland and Labrador Hall of Fame will welcome four new members in its next induction ceremony. The question is when will Mike Buist, Lou Drake, Sean Gulliver and Steve Phillips be inducted into the Hall?
The four were set to be inducted at Baseball NL’s semi-annual meeting in St. John’s in April but, of course, all those plans were scuttled because of COVID-19.
The hope now is to do something formal, either at the upcoming Baseball NL annual general meeting in October (perhaps a virtual induction), or regional (one on the east coast and one west) events this summer or fall.
Drake and Gulliver are going in the Hall as players, while Buist and Phillips enter as builders.
MIKE BUIST (builder)
Buist will be remembered by the younger crowd around the ballparks in St. John’s for his work in minor baseball, but he was a very good ballplayer himself in his day.
He moved to St. John’s in the mid-1970s from his native Ontario to manage the 1977 Canada Summer Games in St. John's after having done the same job for the 1973 Games in New Westminster, B.C.
A native of Hamilton, Buist spent three years in the New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals minor league systems after signing a professional contract as a 16-year-old. During his time in the minors, he was teammates with future big-leaguers like Tug McGraw, Ron Swoboda, Cleon Jones, Ed Sprague, Willie Montanez, Mike Torrez, Pedro Borbon, Boots Day, Jerry Reuss and fellow Canadian hurler Reggie Cleveland.
After arriving in St. John’s, he was a mainstay on the local and provincial senior baseball circuit for the next decade as a pitcher for the Feildians and St. John’s Capitals where he was a top pitcher for both teams.
He was involved with minor baseball in St. John’s since the 1970s, restarting the St. John’s Minor program on Saturdays at Wishingwell Park. Previous to that, the organized baseball circuit had all but died for minor players in the city.
He became involved in minor baseball again in 2013 when he came on board to be the executive director of the St. John’s Minor Baseball Association (SJMBA). Under his watchful eye, SJMBA enjoyed many successes including huge growth to a Winterball program and house league numbers doubling from 500 to 1,000 players. He was also a driver behind promoting and growing school tournaments, especially the Steve Phillips Classic.
Before his work with the Canada Games Council, Buist, a graduate of McMaster University in Hamilton, also taught in an Ontario high school, held a marketing job for Labatt Brewery, worked in the local hospitality industry, was assistant deputy minister of tourism in the Newfoundland government, was employed as executive director of the Avalon Convention & Visitors Bureau, and founded Destination St. John’s before running operations of the SJMBA.
He passed away in 2019 at age 72.
LOU DRAKE (player)
Drake, from Lourdes, N.L., may not be the most well-known ballplayer from the province, but he’s among the best.
A local, hometown star, Drake burst upon the provincial scene as a minor baseball player at the 1974 provincial bantam championship where he was the MVP and top batter in the tournament. On top of that, Drake also pitched 11 scoreless innings.
The following year, a new league was formed in the Bay St. George area of the province, which lasted six years.
Drake suited up for his native Lourdes squad, and was the playoff MVP five straight years, top batter three times and top pitcher twice. This was a minor ball player in an adult league.
In 1976, he got his first taste of national competition, playing for Newfoundland as a 17-year-old at the junior nationals in Moncton, N.B.
The following year, he was a member of the Newfoundland and Labrador team at the 1977 Canada Summer Games held in St. John’s. Drake, in fact, was the flag bearer for the opening ceremonies.
In 1978, he played for Bay St. George in the provincial senior B championship. His team lost to Grand Falls, but the Paper Town squad picked him up to play in the senior A semifinals against the Corner Brook Barons.
In 1980, Bay St. George won its first senior B championship, and Drake was the MVP and top batter. Bay St. George lost to the St. John’s Capitals in the senior A semifinals, but the Caps picked up the west coast star for the senior A finals against the Barons.
SEAN GULLIVER (player)
Sean Gulliver started playing minor baseball in St. John’s in 1977 and it’s safe to say he hasn’t left the ballpark since.
Following a fine minor career that started with representing the province in the 1977 national peewee championship in Vancouver, and the 1979 Atlantic bantam championship in Fredericton, N.B., Gulliver broke into the St. John’s junior and senior ranks. He was a starting middle infielder and pitcher with the St. John’s Junior Capitals in 1983-85 and represented the province in the 1985 Canada Summer Games in Saint John, N.B.
He played for the senior Shamrocks from 1981-2015, winning 24 league championships and numerous awards, including top batter and MVP in 1994. He hit .400 10 times, and is a lifetime .360-.370 hitter.
He was a stalwart on the St. John’s Senior Caps for 15 years as a starting shortstop/second baseman, and was a provincial MVP and top batter in 1998 and 1999.
As for coaching, he’s coached provincial teams for 18 years, including three Canada Games teams, and guided teams in 35-plus national and Atlantic tournaments.
He was player-coach for the senior Shamrocks from 2005-2015, and the St. John’s Senior Caps’ head coach from1993–1997 and 2015–present. He is currently the St. John’s Junior Caps’ head coach since 2016.
He’s won 61 championships as a coach and 22 as a player.
STEVE PHILLIPS (builder)
Steve Phillips served in just about every capacity on the ball field, including player, coach, umpire, local association president and Baseball NL executive member.
He played in the St. John’s senior circuit with Gonzaga, winning a league championship in 1978. His success as a player followed him to the coaches’ box where he guided teams at the local, provincial and national levels.
Taking the reins of the St. John’s Winmar Junior Capitals, Phillips would guide the Caps to six consecutive junior A provincial championships.
He also represented the province at the national level, taking the Canada Cup teams from 2009-2011.
As an umpire, he worked in the local St. John’s leagues, as well as provincial minor championships and Atlantic championships. He often worked home plate during the senior A provincial championships.
Phillips served three years as president of St. John’s minor baseball, and minor chairman on the Baseball NL executive from 2009-12.
He passed away in 2015 at age 57.