NEM baseball league reunion set for July 21
OMER — Former players from the Northeastern Michigan Baseball League (NEM) will converge on the Ye Olde Courthouse in Omer July 21 for the league’s annual reunion.
According to Bob Pelton, chairman of the Cletus Vallad NEM Museum, the reunion will open with a luncheon at 11 a.m. before the hall of fame inductions at 1 p.m. There will be six inductees this year, along with two posthumous ones. The inductees are chosen by the former players, coaches and officials.
This year’s honorees include Ken Ayers, Alex Fedak, Ray Gulvas, Ron McCarthy, Harlow Gillings and Harold Janeski. Posthumous inductees are Les Schwerin and Jim Wendt, with a special posthumous award going to Cletus Vallad for helping make the museum at the old courthouse a reality.
Pelton, who has been running the reunion since it started 10 years ago, said it has been a great opportunity for the players to rekindle friendships that may have petered out over the years.
“Some guys made relationships going to college in northern Michigan and hadn’t seen each other in years,” Pelton said. “Then they saw each other in the reunion, and have become good friends again.”
Pelton said the reunion usually draws around 150-175 attendees, which he considers a good turnout considering the league has been defunct for 26 years.
Tickets to the Detroit Tigers’ game against the Cleveland Indians on Sept. 1 will also be available at $25 per person at the reunion, according to Pelton.
“There is probably not a person raised in Northern Michigan that doesn’t have a connection to the league in one way or another,” Pelton wrote in a press release. “It could have been as a former player, umpire, family member, friend, or perhaps a spectator who loved the game of baseball. For many years, it was the most popular form of entertainment in Northeastern Michigan.”
He added that his own father played in the league during the 1920s, after he returned to the area from Alma College.
The NEM was originally formed in 1916 and continued until 1986, when it disbanded. It spanned from Saginaw to Alpena with about 52 teams competing in as many as three divisions, depending on the year.
Tickets are $15 for adults, $7.50 for children 8-12, and free to children younger than 8. To purchase tickets, contact Bob Pelton at 989-846-9644. Some tickets will also be available at the door, though Pelton said he prefers people let him know in advance so he can have enough food on hand.
The museum will also be open to the public during the reunion, with its collection of memorabilia, news articles, uniforms and photographs, and Pelton said he has more items to add to the collection there.
“I have photos from when the Indians at White’s Beach had a team, that was before the ’20s,” he said. “I have books from the ’20s, ’30s, three books from the ’40s with 8x10 pictures, all the way through the ’80s. They couldn’t get through all those if they wanted to in one day.
“I’ve got scorebooks going back to the old days. There’s a lot of history in there, and you couldn’t get in there in one day or an afternoon and begin to touch on it.”