Mary Oikawa Memorial Tournament

LALBA Elks’ Annual Mary Oikawa Memorial Tournament

Her scorebooks were the stuff of legends.

The Lethbridge American Legion Elks’annual Mary Oikawa Memorial Tournament was established in 2010, to pay tribute to Mary (Endo) Oikawa, a tireless volunteer with LALBA, who passed away in 2009 at the age of 73.

Mary’s involvement with baseball and other sports in Southern Alberta dates back several decades to the 1950’s.  Throughout the ‘fifties and ‘sixties, she kept score for her husband Tricky’s (aka Kazumi) senior men’s baseball teams.  She developed a unique and very thorough system of scorekeeping that told the whole story of the game.  Over the years Mary was in great demand as a scorekeeper because of her expertise.

American Legion Baseball–the Elks and Miners—was among her greatest passions. She was one of the founders of the LALBAprogram in Lethbridge, as well as the Big League Baseball program that preceded Lethbridge’s entry into the Montana State American Legion Baseball League.  Starting in 1982, Mary kept score for both the Miners Tournament, (now the Ron Mathews Memorial Tournament), and Elks Tournament that was named in her honour, along with all the league games for the two teams.

Mary’s scorekeeping extended beyond LALBA, too.  In 1988 George Haegele first requested Mary as scorekeeper for the Montana State ALB Championships, and after 1988, Mary continued to do this every year.  She also did the score-keeping for the Lethbridge Diamondbacks (Pioneer League) and the Lethbridge Bulls (Western Major Baseball League). The Alberta Summer Games in Lethbridge in 1981, the Labatt Senior National Slo-pitch Championships in 1986, Lethbridge Little League games including district, divisional, prairie and national playoffs, and high school baseball playoffs all benefited from Mary’s expertise.

Mary also worked as a volunteer in other sports, including hockey and curling, with the Lethbridge Hurricanes, Coaldale Minor Hockey Association, Scotties Tournament of Hearts and several Japanese Bonspiel Committees. She held executive positions with the Coaldale Minor Hockey Association, Spud League, Lethbridge Big League Baseball Association, and the Lethbridge Hurricanes, and she helped organize minor baseball in Picture Butte.  Beyond her involvement in sports, Mary held a Bachelor of Education degree, teaching English, along with other subjects, for 35 years.  Both of Mary’s sons, Dean and Scott, played American Legion Baseball, and Scott is now into his 24th year as a coach with the program.

In 1994, Mary was inducted into the Lethbridge Sports Hall of Fame, and given a Special Award to recognize her volunteer contributions to the sports community.   Her score-keeping abilities received further recognition in the form of a letter from the commissioner of Major League Baseball, complimenting Mary on her easy-to-read score sheets.

This annual tournament in Mary’s memory strives to keep alive her spirit of volunteerism, and her commitment to supporting baseball in Lethbridge.  Her colourful scorebook, knowledge of the game, and her sage advice continue to be missed.