Clarence George Yanosik
Born: April 20, 1926 (Lethbridge, Alberta)
Died: January 10, 2015
Member: Lethbridge (Alta.) Sports Hall of Fame (2007)
Clarence Yanosik was a prominent baseball player, coach and organizer in his hometown of Lethbridge, Alta. He won three provincial titles as an outfielder with the senior Lethbridge Cubs from 1951 to ’53.
Yanosik went from the player’s bench to the legal bench, as the lawyer was named a district court judge in 1969. He was a justice on the Alberta Court of Appeal and a deputy judge of the Supreme Court of the Yukon Territory before retiring on his 75th birthday in 2001.
His later achievements were all the more remarkable for his having dropped out of school in Grade 11 to go fight the Nazis.
He enlisted in the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve (with the permission of his parents) as an underage recruit at age 17 in 1943. He worked in boiler rooms as a stoker first class, serving aboard the minesweeper Grandmere and the frigate Springhill. He sailed from Boston to St. John’s, Newfoundland, later serving on the North Atlantic.
“There were still some U-boat threats, but not that much by then,” he told the Lethbridge Herald on his retirement.
After the war ended, he returned home to finish his high school studies. He worked briefly at Sick’s Brewery in his hometown, a business owned by West Coast baseball impresario Emil Sick. He enrolled at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver in 1947, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1951 and a law degree the following year.
While in Vancouver, he had a tryout with the professional Vancouver Capilanos of the Western International League, a team owned by Sick.
The left-handed outfielder, who batted right, soon realized his dreams of a major league career were misplaced.
“I thought I was a good ball player until just before I left the Vancouver Capilanos when the boys from the higher up leagues started coming back down,” he once told baseball chronicler Jay-Dell Mah, a former radio host who operates the historical AtThePlate website. “When I saw what was coming down, compared to what I was, I realized I wouldn’t be going to the majors for sure. And I thought that was a good time to get serious about completing my education, and playing ball when I could.”
He returned home to article with a Lethbridge firm, becoming a full partner in 1956.
Meanwhile, he played senior men’s baseball for teams in southern Alberta, starting with the Galt Miners in Lethbridge. In 1949, he joined a team organized by his father and sponsored by a local Mercury dealer. After one season, the Lethbridge Reos became the Cubs and the team enjoyed great success. The Cubs won three provincial championships (with Yanosik getting three hits in the final 9-2 victory over Brooks in 1952), as well as three consecutive White Lunch Challenge Cup city titles. Yanosik spent three seasons as a playing coach with the Lethbridge Miners before handling the Lethbridge warriors in 1958. Among the players he recruited to the Miners was hockey player Earl Ingarfield, the son of an NHL player who would go on to have a long NHL career himself.
There was not a lot of money to be made playing semiprofessional baseball on the prairies.
“If we made a profit we would divide it at the end of the year,” Yanosik told Mah. “One year the share was $13 a person. I went to the bank and got everything in one-dollar bills so that I could give everyone a fat envelope. Thirteen dollars (each), including the owner and the manager.”
In 1958, Yanosik ran for Parliament as the Liberal candidate in Lethbridge. The Progressive Conservatives, led by lawyer John Diefenbaker, swept to power in Ottawa and handily won the Alberta riding, as farmer Deane Gundlock defeated the incumbent Social Credit candidate, John Blackmore, a teacher, by 13,364 votes to 6,471. Yanosik got just 2,714 votes, less than 12 per cent of the total. He missed part of the campaign recovering from the flu.
As a justice on the Court of Queen’s Bench, Yanosik sentenced the eldest son of Alberta premier Don Getty to 18 months in jail for trafficking in cocaine, a sentence to which an appeal court added 15 months. Among his other high profile cases was an obscenity trial over the showing of the movie “Caligula.” The judge said the film, which starred Roddy McDowell in the title role as the depraved Roman emperor, exploited sex and violence, but was not without merit. “Grotesque as it may be,” he ruled, “I feel ‘Caligula’ has a serious and philosophical purpose. It is not a skin flick or a smut movie.”
Yanosik was named to the Lethbridge Sports Hall of Fame in 2007. He kept on display at his home the polished White Lunch Challenge Cup for senior men’s baseball, which had been given to him to keep.
Clarence Yanosik (back row, third from left) was playing coach of the Lethbridge Cubs in 1952. The Cubs won three consecutive senior men’s championships in Alberta. Courtesy of AtThePlate.com.