Many are the times, over the last few years, that while talking to peopple at Nat Bailey Stadium, I was told "you should go talk to Rud - he’s that guy over there, watching from the first base side - he has more stories than anyone. He’s been around this place for decades…"
More often than not, I’d think to myself, "Yeah, I should totally go talk to that guy." But I didn’t.
It was always a case of, maybe next season I’ll go sit with him and turn on the recorder and put his memories to print. Too much to do. Too much going on. Maybe tomorrow, and then maybe next year…
I missed my shot. Rud Haar passed away, leaving behind a wife of 69 years, three kids, and a heap of grandkids and great grandkids who, hopefully, can leave even half as big a mark as Rud left on Vancouver baseball.
Rud Haar was the groundskeeper at Nat Bailey Stadium for 19 years, but his involvement in local baseball went far longer than that. He was the founding President of the Pacific Metro League, which saved the last remaining teams from the 30-year-old old Industrial League and actually kicked on with a little growth, offering semi-pro ball at Capilano Stadium during the years when there was no other ball to see in this town.
He was a long time coach, administrator, fan and enthusiast, but the legacy he’ll be most remembered for in wider circles is the grass at Nat Bailey Stadium, which he tended to lovingly to the point where the ballpark was actually better known for its premier playing surface than just about anything else - no easy feat when the place is underwater for the first few months of the year, and under goose poop for the rest.
Rud was laid to rest last Sunday. You’d have to think that on gameday, however, he’ll be perched in his favorite seat, right next to old Nat Bailey, enjoying the game on the field.
And me? I’ll just quietly boot myself in the behind that I never recorded Rud’s thoughts and memories on tape.
Thankfully, others did, like the Vancouver Courier writer who talked to Rud about the famous Babe Ruth all-star game that happened in Vancouver on October 9th, 1934 - a game that an 18-year-old Rud Haar attended:
The 88-year-old Haar, the headgroundskeeper at Nat Bailey Stadium from 1981 through 1991, recalls, "Icame down from Woodfibre to take in the game. It took three or fourhours by Union Steamship. I would have been 18 then. It was a terribly,terribly wet day. As the game progressed, it got worse and worse. Thefield became pretty muddy. About the sixth inning, they made theannouncement that the game was going to be terminated because of theweather conditions. The crowd let out a big moan and Ruth came in fromthe outfield and said, ‘Look, if these people can sit here and watchus, we can stay out here and play.’ That impressed me. I remember thatso well."
They played the full nine innings to a 2-2 tie.
"There was a ball hitthrough the middle," remembers Haar, "and, despite the atrociousconditions, Gehringer went back of second and fielded that ballbackhand and threw to first. That play has stuck out in my mind allthese years. And Averill hit a homer that just seemed to go forever. Idon’t know if it cleared the houses on Sixth Avenue, but it was a greatclout. He really powered it. I was always an Earl Averill fan afterthat."
Rud Haar, Vancouver baseball legend, and now permanent resident of the field of dreams that is this city’s baseball past.