Local sports fans called him “Mr. Baseball” for good reason. For decades Nat Bailey helped keep baseball alive in Vancouver—providing financial assistance and support from the little league level right up to the professional ranks.

Bailey was born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1902. His family moved to Vancouver when he was nine. He began selling peanuts and popcorn at sporting events around the city to help support his family. In the 1920s Bailey started a concession stand inside the Denman Arena (with 10,500 seats it was the largest indoor arena in Canada). His food became as popular as the hockey games and over the years he hired dozens of young men to scour the stands selling peanuts and soft drinks.

During the summer months Bailey became a familiar figure at Athletic Park combining his love for food and baseball by selling hotdogs and refreshments. He was known as “Caruso Nat” in honour of his sports announcing skills. Nat called out batters’ names from a spot high above the diamond whle continuing to lob peanuts to his customers.

In 1928 he opened Canada’s first drive-in restaurant on Granville Street and named it The White Spot. The restaurant prospered through the tough times of the 1930s and as the number of automobiles on Vancouver’s streets grew, one drive-in became a chain of restaurants.

Bailey was generous with his hard-won earnings. From the 1950s through to his death in 1978, he supported a variety of sports teams. He owned a junior hockey team (the Vancouver Nat’s) that played out of Kerrisdale Arena. He sat on the Board of Directors for the original Vancouver Canucks of the Pacific Coast Hockey League and helped save the team when it was on the brink of bankruptcy.

Bailey also sponsored dozens of little league baseball teams. “White Spots” baseball uniforms were a common sight at ballparks around the city. His love of baseball culminated in the purchase of the Vancouver Mounties in 1953. For the next twelve seasons he kept the Triple A professional franchise alive.

“He came out to all the games,” recalled Bailey’s grandson, Mark Bailey Andrews. “He sat in the box seats in the stands. It was his passion.”

Over the years thousands of fans came to watch the Mounties play at Capilano Stadium on 33rd and Ontario. In 1978, the 6500-seat ballpark was renamed Nat Bailey Stadium to recognize his support of baseball in Vancouver.