It was, as MC Mark Anderson noted, the shortest acceptance speech of all time but David Went was taken completely by surprise when announced as the 2012 Hans Ebeling Award winner at the Sporting Sections Annual Dinner on November 14.
David’s contribution to the baseball section was as long and significant as his speech was brief.
Among an extensive range of playing, coaching and administrative accomplishments he was a committeeman for 21 years and as senior club coach for an astonishing 18 seasons (1967-84) he snared three flags (1967, 1969 and 1971) and played in the first two.
The champion short stop and later third baseman started with the Demons in 1954 as a 16-year-old. He was a star during a golden era for Melbourne and baseball generally, with opponents and teammates including such greats as Ross and Lyn Straw, Max Lord, Don Deeble, Eddie Illingworth and Ken Stephens.
Went came to baseball by accident. He was invited by the MCC cricketers for an end-of-season try-out in the Albert Ground nets and was spotted by dynamic baseball secretary Les Millis who eventually poached him for the winter game.
He was a natural, playing for Victoria and Australia during much of the sixties before turning his hand to coaching, first with Victoria (14 seasons) and then as head coach of Australia for a decade from 1973.
He designed and implemented pioneering coaching accreditation courses and roundly deserved his Australian Sports Medal in 2000.
Of his Ebeling Award, David was “thrilled to be recognised” and he particularly appreciated the warm reaction of those from his era who were present on the night. He recalled the strong administration that fostered onfield success and paid tribute to the Cavanagh family’s influence over many years.
His career was not all lollies and chocolates, however. He went to Ross Straw’s house for some state training in Straw’s batting cage in 1961 and in poor light a pitch was slammed back at him unexpectedly, hitting him on the side of the head.
His skull was fractured in three places and he couldn’t talk for three or four months. When his faculties returned to normal he was back in action but this time with a helmet from the USA, the first player to wear one in local competition.
David has been pleased to return to the club in recent years as part of past-player functions and has become involved in preparations for the section’s 125th anniversary celebration in 2013, when no doubt he’ll be in the limelight once again.