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Lester Bowles Pearson.


A sporting prime minister

Lester Pearson is known to most Canadians as the winner of the 1957 Nobel Peace Prize and our fourteenth prime minister. But in his youth he was an accomplished athlete. At the University of Toronto in 1914, he played baseball, basketball, lacrosse and hockey. While at officer training camp in Oxford, England, during the war, he set a record by throwing a cricket ball 114 yards, a feat which was reported in The London Times.

Back at the University of Toronto in 1917, Pearson earned money that summer playing "semi-pro" baseball with the Guelph Maple Leafs. He also played quarterback on the university rugby team and was so invincible that at every game, the cheerleaders on the opposite team chanted, "Will we get the Pearson boy?"! He returned to Oxford in 1921 to study. Here again he made his name in sports, playing fullback in rugby, defence in hockey and winning a half-blue in lacrosse. Pearson toured Europe with Oxford's hockey team in 1922 and was on Britain's Olympic hockey team the same year.

Pearson's participation in sports declined as he became more involved in politics, but his passion remained. He was never happier than when talking to hockey, baseball and football players, and he could recall all the details of their positions, scores and careers. While prime minister, Pearson had a television installed in his office during the World Series so he wouldn't miss a game!

Source: Canada's Prime Ministers, 1867 - 1994: Biographies and Anecdotes. [Ottawa]: National Archives of Canada, [1994]. 40 p.

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