Ron Stead grew up in Toronto close to Maple Leaf Stadium, where he struck up a friendship with Leafs’ trainer, Bill Smith. Stead acted as the Leafs’ mascot in 1946, before becoming batboy the following year. He also honed his pitching skills by tossing batting practice. As his arm strengthened, he would sign a playing contract with his employer. The Leafs sent him to the Florida State League, where he recorded 17 wins and a sparkling 2.43 ERA for Gainesville in 1957.

After that campaign, the Leafs asked him to go back to the Florida State League, but Stead declined and returned to Canada, where he would join the Intercounty League’s Brantford Red Sox. In his near decade with Brantford (1958 to 1966), the crafty southpaw evolved into the top pitcher in the circuit and led the Red Sox to six championships. In 1960, he won 12 games and logged a league record 149 innings. He would top that in 1963 when he went 14-1 with a miniscule 0.63 ERA.

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