John Leslie Upham was born in Windsor December 29, 1940. He attended John Campbell Elementary and Forster Secondary.
He began his career as pitcher (left-handed) in the Windsor Jaycee League with the 1953 Jackson Dodgers; in 1954, they were the City Bantam Champions. At age 12, he played for Fr. Ronald Cullen at Assumption. Said Upham: “My dad, who was an umpire, told me that if I was really serious, that he (Fr. Cullen) was the only man to play for.” He played several seasons with Assumption, competing in the Class “F” Detroit Federation and Class “D” Billy Rogell Leagues.
An all-round athlete, Upham starred in basketball and hockey, as well as baseball; in basketball he won WSSA, WOSSA, and OFSAA All-Ontario titles (1957); on the ice, his team won the Midget championship.
After high school, Upham turned down scholarships from Michigan State, Michigan, Western Michigan and the University of Detroit, opting instead to go pro in 1959. Signing as an amateur “free agent” with the Phillies, he went on to play nine seasons of professional baseball. He played 21 games with the Cubs, batting .308 and had a 0-1 pitching record before an injury ended his career. A career highlight would surely be the five shutout innings he pitched against the champion Cardinals in 1968. His minor league stats are: games played, 769; at bats, 2632; hits, 772; batting average, .293.
His playing career over, Upham came back to Windsor and helped Fr. Cullen coach several Mic Mac championship teams, 1969 through 1971; after that, he managed for the Riverside Baseball Association. He even found the time to coach at Massey High in 1990.
His involvement at the international level was deep: in 1981, he was the pitching coach for the Ontario Junior All-Star Team, which won gold at the Canada Summer Games. Upham coached the pitchers for the Canadian National Youth Team from 1986 to ’88, winning a bronze medal in 1987. In 1991 he coached pitchers and third base for the National Team participating in the Pan American Games in Cuba; the following year, he was named manager of the team. Add to all this his later-life successes in senior slo-pitch competition, and we have a Hall of Famer – inducted into the Windsor/Essex County Hall in 1995 and to University of Windsor’s in 2005.
Jonathan Straw, “John Upham,” Retired Living (September 2010), pp. 4-5.
John Upham, Windsor Essex County Sports Hall of Fame
Techko, Tony and Carl Morgan. “John Upham: Versatility Led to the Games” in The Olympians among us: a Century of Excellence (Tecumseh, Ont.: TravelLife, 1995)