Russell William Nantais
Born: August 30, 1915 (Windsor, Ontario)
Died: January 3, 2015 (Tecumseh, Ontario)
Member: Windsor-Essex County (Ont.) Sports Hall of Fame
Russ Nantais starred as a softball and baseball player in his native Windsor, Ont. He was also a founder of the Windsor-Essex County Sports Hall of Fame into which he was inducted in 1992.
Nantais was player manager of the Windsor American Auto Wreckers, who won the Canadian senior baseball championship in 1946. The Wreckers went 5-1 in a double knockout tournament at London, Ont., defeating teams from London, Brockville and Toronto. They then had to avenge an earlier 5-3 loss to Stratford by winning two consecutive games for the title, doing so by 1-0 and 7-5.
The Windsor team advanced to the first sanctioned amateur World Series at Wichita, Kan., losing a best-of-seven series in five games to a team from Carmichael, Calif.
A first baseman, Nantais hit .390 to finish third in average in the Essex County Senior Baseball League in 1945. That same season, he won a senior Ontario softball title with Meretsky & Gitlin. The M-Gees defeated Butcher Engineering 3-2 in a five-game series to claim the city title before eliminating the Hamilton Beavers and Toronto Cadmiums for the provincial crown.
Nantais also coached the Windsor Ryancretes. In a 1947 game, injuries forced him to pitch in relief at the Canadian Sandlot Baseball Congress, scattering six hits as Windsor lost 3-2 to the Stratford Nationals. The Toronto Star called his pitching “one of the finest performances seen here in a long time.” In 1948, his Ryancretes won the Detroit Baseball Federation championship.
In 1946, he opened Nantais Sport Shop in Windsor, operating the business until handing it to a younger brother in 1980, when he retired at 65. He died at Brouillette Manor in Tecumseh, Ont., aged 99.