Russ Nantais founded Nantais Sport Shop, which he owned and operated for parts of four decades. He also enjoyed a long and distinguished career as a baseball and softball player and manager.
Nantais was born in Windsor, Ontario on August 31, 1915. He attended Kennedy Collegiate for two years and Assumption High School for one year.
Nantais enjoyed significant success on the diamond in his teens, twenties, and thirties. In 1933 and ’34, he played Junior and Senior softball for Tip-Top Tailors. Later, in 1937, he was a member of the CYO League Senior Softball Champions. We also know that Nantais played softball for the two-time Windsor League Champion Bayer Aspirin team.
In 1945, Nantais played for the Meretsky and Gitlin team that won the Ontario Senior Softball Championship. The team was the first local squad to win the provincial championship since the 1931 Windsor Chilver Coals. The victory was Nantais’ greatest success as a softball player.
Nantais also played in the Essex County Senior Baseball League. An excellent first baseman, in 1945 he finished third in league batting with a .390 average. He also played baseball in the Windsor City League for manager Norm Lawther’s Post Office Lunch team and manager Ross Myles’ powerful Royal Windsor Garage team. He won the 1946 City Championship with the latter club.
Also in 1946, Nantais served as Player-Manager of the Canadian Champion American Auto Wreckers. The memorable team defeated clubs from London, Brockville, Toronto, and Stratford in a double-knockout tournament in London to contest the national title. Although the team dropped an early contest 5-3 to Stratford, Windsor put together consecutive 1-0 and 7-5 victories over that team in the finals to take the title. The Auto Wreckers went on to represent Canada in the first sanctioned Canadian-American amateur World Series. The best-of-seven series was contested in Wichita, Kansas. Unfortunately, Windsor’s representative fell four games to one to a club from Carmichael, California.
Nantais also coached the Windsor Ryancretes. The first Canadian team to participate in the Detroit Baseball Federation Class “A” League, the Ryancretes won the 1948 Championship.
Most notably, Nantais founded Nantais Sport Shop in 1946. The business soon became an important and trusted supplier to Windsor’s sporting community. Although Nantais sold the business in 1980, the store continued operations long past his induction into the WECSHOF. As of 2015, a business bearing the name Nantais Sport Shop continued to serve Windsor.