Alex Kashuba will be remembered as a devoted family man and one of the finest hitters in Vernon senior baseball history.
Kashuba died two days after Christmas, peacefully, in his sleep. He was 77.
Diagnosed with diabetes in 1991, Kashuba had his first leg amputation in 2003 and his second in 2012. His athletic ability came into play as he was able to walk regularly near his Harwood home with two prosthetics.
“He walked like crazy,” said son Keith Kashuba. “He walked with a walker, but sometimes he would go out with prosthetics just to show off. Mom (Gert) would say, ‘That’s enough of that, you use your walker.’”
Kashuba’s will and deterimination came to play in amateur sport, where he was a slugger with the Vernon Carlings and Luckies. He also took up lacrosse and soon became captain of the Vernon Luckies, who defeated the Kelowna O’Keefes for the 1961 Interior Senior B League championship, their first since 1947.
Bill Roth, mainly a lacrosse star, also played some baseball with Kashuba. Roth and Johnny Lackner each scored four goals as Vernon stuffed Kelowna 11-5 to sweep the ‘61 final in two games.
“He was a great guy, a good friend and a good teammate,” said Roth. “His wife Gertie was always there supporing him. He was a good lacrosse player. He never played the game before but he and his brother, John, played for us. Alex was strong and rough, a fun guy to have on defence once he got the knack of defending. He caught on to the game quickly.”
On Kashuba the ball player, Roth offered: “He used to hit ‘em over by the tennis courts at Polson Park. He was a hell of a hitter. I thought he was going to hit the Tastee-Freez (on Highway 6). Later on, when we had the Beefeaters, he tried slo-pitch but he couldn’t do it. He said, ‘I can’t hit the ball; it’s going too slow.’ He was a natural athlete.”
Kashuba’s fierce style did not go unnoticed by the media.
Wrote Kelowna Courier sports editor George Inglis: “On the subject of the Kashuba brothers, John and Alex – much can be said. They are a first-class pair of athletes, capable of playing either softball, baseball, lacrosse or hockey equally well and just about as hard as anyone within a country mile.
“It’s a pretty tough strain on a sports writer’s credibility, however, to be able to call them purists in their play, after having covered many different games in many different sports wherein there were ‘incidents’ in which some player would wind up on the deck, wearing spike marks, bruises or creases from whatever wooden weapon was issued in the particular sport, and one of the brothers Kashuba nearby, busy straightening his halo.”
Kashuba was a centre fielder, catcher and third baseman in his baseball/fastball days. Fans used to pack the Polson Park grandstands for Sunday afternoon doubleheaders.
“Alex was a pretty good guy, a nice fella,” recalled Ron Miciuk, a one-time Yankees’ prospect who pitched in the Okanagan Major Baseball League. “He would never get down, he was always an up person. He was a longball hitter. He could’t hit a curveball, but he could sure hit a fastball.
“He timed everything for the fastball, but would ground out the curveball. He was a good outfielder; he could catch. He would keep up to the younger (Kevin, future Major Leaguer) Reimer kid who could hit it on the highway. He never went south and never got a break.”
Nick Turik, who played Senior A boxla at the Coast, coached Kashuba in lacrosse when Vernon also featured the tough Ogasawara brothers – Normie and Mickey.
“He was a very rugged player. He was quite the playmaker and a very tough player to beat. He liked to knock people down.”
Alex will be lovingly remembered by his wife Gert, to whom he was married for 56 years; their five children, Keith (Christine), Cori (Randy) Novakowski, Rod (Michele), Shari Corbett and Gord, all of Vernon, B.C.; eleven grandchildren, two brothers, John Kashuba of Calgary and Glen Kashuba of Langley, three sisters, Stella Sophonow of Vernon, Diane Leslie of Nakusp and Ann Sabatine of Port Coquitlam.
His grandson, Jonny, played pro baseball in Austria for several years.
Keith said his father oozed of happiness in his final days.
“He had an absolutely fantastic Christmas at my house. He got to see most of his grandchildren.”
Alex cheered for the Blue Jays in baseball and supported the Chicago Blackhawks until the Vancouver Canucks entered the NHL. He retired from Kelly Douglas at age 55.
As an expression of sympathy, you may send donations in memory of Alex to the War Amps, 355-1627 Fort Street, Victoria, B.C. V8R 1H8.