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Win or lose (and boy, do they lose) It's all for the love of the game

When will the losing streak end? Surely, it will end someday, but the Esso B's aren't in any hurry.
Play ball! The Esso B's happily continue to play in their over-70 division, despite a (very) lengthy losing streak. Photo submitted.

Sadly, the streak continues.

The Esso B’s, who play in the St. Albert Men’s Slow Pitch Association (SAMSPA) have lost 70 games in a row.

The last win was Aug. 9, 2018. Since then, they went 0-31 in 2019 and 0-25 last year. They never lost a game in 2020. But they didn’t win any either as COVID-19 wiped out that season.

Playing at St. Albert’s Meadowview ball diamonds, the Esso B’s losing streak has gone viral. There were stories in the Edmonton Journal, Edmonton Sun and Toronto Sun. They have also been featured on CBC radio and CTV. And in June, they were invited to RE/Max field by the Edmonton Riverhawks, where they got to go onto the field and throw out the first pitch.

“We’ve become celebrities going in the wrong direction,” said Bob Stewart, 79, who, along with coach and pitcher Malcolm Parker, have been with the team since the Esso B’s inception in 1984. For two years Stewart and Parker also played with the team under their previous sponsored name – the Windowhill Broncs.

“We’ve come close to winning a few times,” said Stewart. “But it’s not about winning. Or losing. Just getting out with the guys and getting some physical activity has been a God send to me personally.

“The friendships we have formed over the years has made a big difference in my life.”

Team manager Ken Crutchfield said, “The teams we are playing against are definitely scared of being the first team to lose to us. It’s an interesting position for us to be in.

“The losing streak isn’t something that haunts me when I’m trying to go to sleep. We keep trying. If we fall short, so be it.

“We play ball and then have a beer after the game and not worry about the world’s problems,” said Crutchfield, who also plays shinny hockey in the winter in a plus-65 league.

“We’re doing our best.”

There are seven teams in the over-70 division, with 57 teams altogether in the SAMSPA league.

One of the teams in the plus-70 division have seven players that are older than 80. The Esso B’s lost to them too.

“We’re getting better,” said Parker. “We were leading in one game this year. Then we dropped a couple of fly balls and the other team scored a bunch of runs. We make a lot of errors. We’re defeating ourselves in many ways. We’re chasing the ball. And our hitting is not there either. We’ve all got to get into the batting cage and bring our hitting up to par.

“And we’ve been hit with a lot of injuries. It’s frustrating."

“It’s become mandatory that we win a game," he continued. "With all the publicity we’ve received about losing, it would be nice to finally win a game. But we enjoy each other’s camaraderie. We socialize. It’s a lot better than sitting on the couch munching potato chips.”

Stewart says the Esso B’s are in a rebuilding phase. “We’ve got a lot of new players. We’re doing our best. I’m expecting to see some wins.”

The Esso B’s haven’t always been loveable losers.

“We started out very competitive. We won division titles several years in a row in the plus-40 division,” said Stewart, acknowledging the losses have now taken over.

Don Anderson has been playing with the Esso B’s for five years. He’s been a part of just one win. But that’s okay with him.

“None of us are going to get called up to the majors," he said. "A loss or a win; it’s still fun.”

Someday the losing streak will end, and the Esso B’s are ready for when that time comes.

“I want to tell the world when we finally win a game,” said Parker.

The Esso B's play Tuesdays and Thursdays at St. Albert’s Meadowview diamonds.

Follow Curtis Stock on Twitter @CurtisJStock

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