Leo “Tatters” Girard was one of Windsor’s best-known and most versatile athletes of the first half of the twentieth century. During his prime, Girard famously competed in five baseball leagues simultaneously. He also played basketball and football and ran track. Later in life, Girard was a highly respected organizer, coach, and official. Notably, he worked three Grey Cup games alongside Hec Crighton.
Girard was born in Windsor on October 19, 1900.
In football, Girard was a backfield star, alternating between halfback and quarterback. His Windsor Mic-Macs won five consecutive championships in the Border Cities League, which played according to American rules, between 1922 and ’26. In 1927, Girard switched teams to coach and quarterback the Windsor British American Brewery Americans. Later, Girard returned to the Mic-Macs – and eventually Sarnia in 1931 – in the Canadian-governed Senior ORFU.
Girard’s career in organized baseball began at the age of 15 in 1916, and he quickly distinguished himself as a strong pitcher and third baseman. Between 1921 and 1924, he played semi-professional ball in Cheboygan and Detroit. The Detroit Tigers took note, signing Girard to a minor league contract in 1928. He played briefly with the Tigers’ Evansville, Indiana farm club, before deciding that the self-employed life in Windsor could be more lucrative. He soon thereafter signed with the Walkerville Chicks, leading them to the 1929 Ontario Senior Baseball Title. He also played for the “Tool Shop Team” in a Triple “A” semi-professional league in Detroit at various points between 1926 and ’31. The team was league champion in 1929, ’30, and ’31, with Girard picking up three League All-Star honours.
On the basketball court, Girard was an Ontario Basketball Association Senior Finalist in 1923 as a member of the Windsor Omars. Later, his Windsor Mohawks won the Ontario Intermediate Championship in 1925.
After – and indeed during – his playing career, Girard was a successful coach. He led Windsor Patrick’s Senior Men’s Basketball team to Ontario and Eastern Canadian titles in 1942-43. Girard’s team finally fell to Victoria RCAF in the Canadian Finals, held that year in British Columbia. The follow season, he coached the Windsor Grads Senior Men’s Basketball Team, which lost in the second round of the Ontario Playoffs. In 1944-45, he took the reigns of the Windsor Dayus Senior Men’s team, which made it to the first round of those same playoffs. Girard also coached the Walkerville Collegiate Senior Boys basketball team for a two-year period, and the Windsor Rivard Cleaners football team in the South Eastern Michigan Football League for one year in the 1920s.
Girard continued to involve himself in local sports throughout his life. Notably, he officiated football at the high school and Junior and Senior ORFU levels. The Windsor sporting community owes a tremendous debt to Girard, who was instrumental in organizing the Police Athletic League (PAL) and the AKO Pee Wee Football League.
He passed away in 1976.