Down Memory Lane Articles - by Stan Shillington
Good things come wrapped up in small packages - it must be a truism for the moldy old clichÃ© has survived the ravages of time.
The wonderful world of sports has boasted many vertically challenged athletes but, in the overall picture, those who excel despite the need for elevator shoes are relatively small.
Baseball probably holds the distinction for having the smallest participant. Back in 1951, St. Louis Brown used circus midget Eddie Gaedel (just three-foot-seven and 65 pounds) as a pinch-hitter to draw a walk. However, the League brass frowned on the action and, so, Eddie was handed his outright release. Albie Pearson, though, spent nine productive seasons in the majors despite his five-foot-five height.
Hockey has had its share of players short in stature but long on talent - Bobby Lalonde, Bobby Bauer, Aurel Joliet, Andre Boudrias, Tony Leswick, Grant Warwick, King Clancy, Mush Marsh and Billy Reay were but a few who measured a mere five and a half feet.
Every so often, someone under five-foot-ten comes along to frighten the giants of basketball. And how about football quarterbacks the size of Doug Flutie and Eddie LeBaron?
Box lacrosse has long pointed to Hall of Famer as an example of how a scrappy, five-foot-five fireplug could shine in the rough and tumble box lacrosse world. Of course, there have been countless others within an inch or two of d'Easum but all of them were relatively giants when compared with a fellow called Jackie James - just one-quarter inch over five feet and weighing a mere 128 pounds.
John Herbert James, born in Vancouver on January 14, 1918, first picked up a lacrosse stick at the age of 15, joining a Locarno-district Juvenile "B" club run by Hall of Fame Builder H.N. Delmonico. Teammates included , and Herb Delmonico, all future inductees into the Hall of Fame.
In 1937, he joined 's Bluebirds junior team, helping the team to the Western Canadian title; but, when the Bluebirds went East to contest the Minto Cup, James was told he was too small and was replaced on the roster by a bigger pickup player.
"This naturally made me mad as hell", the feisty James recalled recently. "(Therefore) I withdrew from the Bluebirds organization and played for Richmond-Point Grey in 1938. We won the Western title - ah, sweet revenge; not so small now".
The Richmond-Point Grey team met the favourite Mimico Mountaineers, winners of 28 consecutive games, for the Minto Cup. The Easterners paid little attention to the pint-sized James and were soon shown the error of their way. Richmond-Point Grey won the first game 18-16 with James popping in a total of six goals. Mimico took James a little more seriously after that and captured the next three contests to take the Canadian championship. James recorded nine goals and five assists in the four games.
In January 1939, Jackie joined the Los Angles Canucks of the short-lived Southern California professional box lacrosse league, teaming up with Herb Delmonico, , Lloyd and Lorne Steele< Punk Kennedy, Gord Saunders, Art Noble and Bert Bryant.
The four-team league folded after just seven games but the angry Canadian Lacrosse Association declared all the participants "outlaws" and suspended them for two years. The penalty was later reduced to six months but the "outlaw" label stuck; thus, Jackie James was nicknamed Jesse James.
After the suspension was lifted, Jackie jointed the Richmond Farmers of the Inter-City Lacrosse League, accumulating 86 goals and 43 assists over the next two and a half seasons before joining the navy. While serving in Esquimalt, he captained a United Services team that included , Duff McCaghney, Early McDonald, , , and .
Discharged in 1944, James played another two years with Richmond and then moved to Los Angeles. He returned to British Columbia 11 years later and currently lives in Surrey.
"I remember one time I was knocked down by one of the big Indian players and so I scooted between his legs and scored a goal", James recalled with a chuckle.
"I never considered myself a great player but I did consider myself as a damn good player. I figure I would have had to be a damn good player to survive at my size in the Inter-City League."