The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan

 

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Baseball

Little League play, Regina, May 1998.
Patrick Pettit (Regina Leader-Post)

Settlers from the United States and eastern Canada brought baseball with them when they moved west in the decades after Confederation. The first recorded game in the North-West Territories took place near Fort Battleford on May 31, 1879. One of Saskatchewan’s first notable players was Walter Scott, a pitcher on Moose Jaw and Regina teams of the 1880s and 1890s, who would become the province’s first Premier in 1905. By the turn of the century, dozens of towns boasted their own men’s, and in some cases women’s, teams. Independent professional and semi-pro leagues have come and gone throughout the province’s history, but only the Western Canada League (1909–11, 1913–14, 1919–21) has operated in Saskatchewan as a fully sanctioned member of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues. Regina (Bonepilers originally, Red Sox after 1912) and the Moose Jaw Robin Hoods (1909–21) were in the league throughout its existence, while Saskatoon (Berrypickers at first, Quakers after 1912) joined in 1910. Moose Jaw won the pennant in 1911 and 1913, Saskatoon in 1914 and 1919.

Baseball’s popularity has fluctuated but left a legacy of participation and achievement that bridges communities, race and gender. Many past and future major-leaguers have played for or against Saskatchewan clubs. Barnstorming teams, particularly those featuring Satchel Paige and other great “Negro” ballplayers, frequented the province from the 1920s through the 1960s. During and after World War II, twenty-five women from Saskatchewan played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, easily the largest provincial contingent of the sixty-three Canadians in that institution. Spectator interest in men’s baseball peaked in the 1948–56 period when several leagues flourished and tournaments with thousands of dollars in prize money were held annually, most notably in Saskatoon and Indian Head.

Amateur baseball, regulated by the Saskatchewan Baseball Association, has sustained itself over the decades but has not attained the widespread popularity of Hockey, Curling or Football—partially because of the few months conducive to baseball, but also because it competes with softball for participants.

Terry Puhl of Melville is certainly the best baseball player who was born in the province. Puhl, who holds the major-league career record for fielding percentage by an outfielder (.993), spent fourteen seasons with the Houston Astros (1977–90) and one with the Kansas City Royals (1991). Other Saskatchewan-born major-leaguers are catcher Joe “Stubby” Erautt of Vibank (Chicago Cubs 1950–51) and pitchers Ralph Buxton of Weyburn (Philadelphia Athletics 1938 and New York Yankees 1949), Aldon “Lefty” Wilkie of Zealandia (Pittsburgh Pirates 1941–42, 1946), Ed Bahr of Rouleau (Pittsburgh 1946–47), Reggie Cleveland of Swift Current (four teams, 1969–81) and Dave Pagan of Nipawin (four teams, 1973–77).

John Chaput

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Further Reading

Hack, P. and D. Shury. 1997. Wheat Province Diamonds. Regina: Saskatchewan Baseball Association.
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