Robert N. Gilson
Died: April 25, 2015 (St. Thomas, Ontario)
Bob Gilson headed a partnership that returned professional baseball to London, Ont., after a 47-year absence.
Gilson and the group was reported to have spent as much as $2 million for the Glens Falls (N.Y.) Tigers of the Eastern League. The London Tigers served as the Double-A farm team of the Detroit Tigers for five seasons, after which poor attendance caused the team to move to Trenton, N.J.
The Tigers attracted more than 160,000 fans in their inaugural season at historic Labatt Park in 1989, during which they were managed on the field by Chris Chambliss, a former hitting star with the New York Yankees. Chambliss led the London Tigers to the Eastern League championship in 1990.
A recession reduced the amount local corporations spent on the team and a general decline in attendance led to the franchise being moved. Gilson received criticism from many quarters for the team’s failure.
“We knew we were going to get bashed,” he told Larry Millson of the Globe and Mail. “I didn’t know we’d get bashed this bad.”
As well, the city spent more than $700,000 to improve dressing rooms and add lighting to bring the field to a professional level.
Earlier, Gilson had been a co-owner as well as a coach and manager of the St. Thomas Elgins of the Ontario Major Intercounty League.
He also managed the St. Thomas Tomcats junior baseball team. Gilson officiated high school basketball and football games for more than 50 years.
Gilson worked in the insurance business before becoming a baseball proprietor. The resident of Aylmer, Ont., died of cancer, aged 75. He leaves Mary Helen (née McBrien), his wife of 54 years; two sons; a daughter; 13 grandchildren; and, a sister. He was predeceased by three sons and two grandchildren.