Roy Lehman passed away on April 19, 2003. He was the last of the old-time Haney-Hammond ball players and was widely respected for his skill and love of the game. His active involvement in the local game spanned more than 60 years, ending his career with the occasional senior’s game at Pitt Meadows Days. He never coached the game but served as a mentor to younger players, including Larry Walker Sr.
Roy Lehman was third youngest of 14 children when he and twin brother Frank were born in Ruskin in November of 1912. As a young man, he was known for his practical jokes – including one rather famous one involving chickens with wooden legs – and for baseball.
In the late 1920’s Roy was a good enough pitcher to be asked to try out for the professional game. He was scouted twice – by Saint Louis and another eastern American team. In those early days, there was no way to make a living playing baseball and all expenses for travel came out of the player’s own pockets so he could not quit his job to go for tryouts. The rest of his family were all working on the family farm and Roy was the only one bringing in a cash income.
Later in life, he did not regret having turned down the offers. Professional sports were not the glamour show they are now and mostly meant a grueling life on the road, far from friends and anything like a normal family life, and relatively low paid as well.
Roy worked in some aspect of the logging industry his whole life – starting with Abernethy & Lougheed Logging as a tree-topping faller. While he never enjoyed that aspect of his work, he continued to help family and neighbours by topping trees for them well into the 1970’s.
Roy’s job with Abernethy & Lougheed went under with those of so many others when A&L went bankrupt in 1929. He did a variety of jobs between then and his marriage, still honing his baseball skills all the while. He and most of his family went to the Peace River for a year or so, trying to make a go of it farming, but they couldn’t make enough of a living to support themselves.
On his return, Roy played for a Pitt Meadows team that had a large Japanese component. Throughout his life, he always admired the discipline of those Japanese players and their skill at the game.
Through his sister Violet, Roy met the love of his life, Frances, at Christmas in 1935. He was so taken with her that he spent the rest of that winter skating from Pitt Meadows to New Westminster on the frozen Fraser River to visit with her. They married six months later.
In 1936, Roy came to the attention of the manager of Hammond Cedar – Doan Hartnell – who was a huge baseball fan, always recruiting for his champion team at the mill. Roy was offered a job if he agreed to play for their team. It was an impossible offer to refuse – a full time job at decent pay – even though it meant leaving his Pitt Meadows team.
By the 1950’s, Roy Lehman was star pitcher for the Hammond Millers – a senior men’s team that fought a bitter rivalry with the Haney team – usually at Pete Telosky’s stadium. Roy was a good friend of Haney pitcher Bill Minty, who he credited with teaching him how to throw a knuckle ball.
Roy worked for Hammond Cedar until his retirement. He had started in the mill but soon moved outdoors to the booming grounds and tugboats. His retirement gift was a tug’s control mounted on a polished wooden burl. When Hammond Mill celebrated its 90th Anniversary in 2000, at the evening celebration all that had ever worked at the mill were asked to stand and then sit down again according to the decade they started work. By the time they got to the 1930’s, Roy Lehman was the only man standing.
by Val Patenaude & Rebecca Lehman, May 26, 2003