It was a wacky season.
The Moose Jaw Maples had five managers. The one who finished the season started out with another of the Saskatchewan Baseball League teams. .
An umpire got punched out by a player.
Teams from Manitoba and North Dakota (ManDak League) fit into the Saskatchewan League schedule with a strange arrangement that had a team claim two victories for some games.
In one of those interlocking contests, Minot rapped out 29 hits in crushing Regina 22-3.
The wild ones. Saskatoon's mound staff gave up sixteen walks but still won.
In three games, over two days, Saskatoon allowed 52 runs in losing 12-5, 24-7 and 16-5. Pitcher Sergio Martinez, the loser in all three games, was dumped by the Gems. A few weeks later, pitching for Regina, Martinez tossed a three-hit shutout to beat the Gems 10-0.
In a 72-hour period, North Battleford won six games, taking three double-headers. The wins went to six different pitchers.
In August, the Beavers won twelve in a row and 15 out of 16 to take the pennant.
Dropped by North Battleford, Max Weekly, a 19-year-old left-hander, pitched the gem of the season in his first start for Moose Jaw -- a one-hitter with 13 strikeouts.
Regina Caps had a bit of everything for the fans at Taylor Field. The club spotted Saskatoon a 5-0 lead then charged back to win 12-6. They had 13 hits, made eight errors, stole five bases, gave up nine walks, a wild pitch, a passed ball and, in the 3rd inning, had two runners on the same base.
In another contest, Regina fans saw another rarity -- back - to - back - to - back triples.
Roy Taylor stocked his Kamsack Cyclones with California college kids, including catcher Bob Bennett, who went on to a Hall of Fame career as a coach putting in more than 30 seasons at Fresno State. The club won jackets (proudly displaying the Canada Cyclones crest) for winning their hometown tournament with three wins on the final day. Bennett (right), who caught all three, belted three hits to help capture the title game. One of the jackets turned up for sale on the internet 50 years later.
There was no dominant team on the tournament trail as North Battleford, Ligon's All-Stars, Indian Head, Kamsack and Saskatoon all won top prize money.
Hockey star Gordie Howe ignored a warning from the Detroit Red Wings to suit up with the Saskatoon Gems.
Lloydminster got a new ballpark, but was still a year away from fielding a team. And, in the end, the Beavers won again.
Edmonton and Calgary had a fling at pro ball.
Johnny Ford of Moose Jaw and North Battleford's Bob Herron were the stars in the season openers.
Ford " ... clever Moose Jaw third sacker, spearheaded the visitors at bat with a perfect night at the plate. He collected three singles, a triple and a sacrifice in five trips. Ford also scored three of this team's runs and drove in another pair." The game was played in Regina before a crowd of about 1-thousand.
At Cairns Field in Saskatoon, Bob Herron hit a two-run homer to lead the Beavers to a 3-1 win before about 3-thousand fans.
North Battleford beat the Saskatoon Gems 11-4 in the deciding game of the final series to win their third straight league title.
Gems won the NBC (National Baseball Congress) Saskatchewan title with a 6-4 victory over Indian Head Rockets to win the best-of-three series in two straight games (Gems won the opener 6-1). The NBC which, years later, would hold the Global World Series, sanctioned certain events in an effort to declare provincial champions
Saskatoon fans picked Leopoldo Reyes as the team's Most Valuable Player, Ezzie Diaz as the Most Popular Player and choose Max Weekly, a southpaw who pitched for North Battleford and Moose Jaw as the Rookie of the Year.
At the end of the regular season, the league picked two all-star teams for a match at North Battleford. Emile Francis' club nosed out Ralph Mabee's crew 9-8.
Mabee All-Stars : Rip Robinett C, Sherman Watrous C, Jim Ryan 1B, Art Stone 2B, John Thompson 2B, Curtis Tate 3B, Len Karlson SS, Bob Herron LF, Ken Nelson CF, Roy Dean RF, Johnny Coleman P, Jesse Blackman P.
Francis All-Stars : Jim Shirley C, Walt Tyler 1B, Sylvester Snead 2B, Leopoldo Reyes 3B, Bob Rodness SS, Hiram Marshall LF, Rufus Johnson CF, Johnny Lloyd RF, Ted Wills P, Max Weekly P, Bennie Griggs P, Frank Pickens P.
Regina's Hiram Marshall won the batting title with a .353 mark but North Battleford's Bob Herron was the league's hitting star leading the loop in slugging and finishing second in the batting race. Herron led in homers (12), RBI (60), doubles (17) and had a .341 average. North Battleford's Johnny Coleman and Saskatoon's Bennie Griggs each won 9 games to lead the pitchers. Rufus Johnson of Moose Jaw had ten straight hits in the playoffs.
The California kids, who started the season for the Moose Jaw Maples (but were soon replaced), had quite a welcome to Canada. A blizzard blew into the city covering the diamond in a reported five to six inches of snow. The team was to have had a weekend practice.
Some ups and downs for the Maples -- August 7th, Max Weekly tossed a three-hit shutout as the Maples beat Regina 7-0. Weekly struck out 12. August 12th, Darrell Martin gave up 15 runs on 16 hits in going the distance in a 15-13 loss. Martin however had 5 RBI at the plate with two singles, a double and a triple in four at bats.
A pair of Weyburn Beaver teammates finished one-two in the 1953 Southern League batting race. Outfielder/first baseman Jim Burge (left) topped the circuit with a .437 mark while second sacker Jack Shupe finished in the place position with a .377 performance. Southpaw Lloyd Woolley (right) of the Regina Royal Caps posted a 5 - 0 mark to claim top mound honors.
The defending champion Regina Royal Caps and the Weyburn Beavers finished in a dead heat for top spot in the Southern circuit's regular season. The Royal Caps then claimed the pennant by squeaking by the Soo Liners 1 - 0 in a sudden death showdown. Come playoff time, however, it was the third place Regina Red Sox who broke through to capture the laurels, taking the measure first of all from the highly favored Beavers in a semi-final round and then polishing off the spirited Notre Dame Hounds in the championship series.
The ManDak League had a sterling finish. Minot Mallards won their final six games to catch Brandon and tie for the league lead. Then, the Mallards took a best-of-three playoff from the Greys (in two straight games) to win the pennant. Carman Cardinals beat Winnipeg twice, both by 8-7 scores, on the final weekend of the regular season to tie for third place. In a sudden-death playoff for third spot, Cardinals won 3-2.
Superb pitching from Larry Dempsey and Sugar Cain carried Minot to its second straight league title. After dropping the first two games of the final series, Mallards roared back to win four in a row, including a raucous 5th game which was handed to Minot by forfeit after Brandon refused to take the field in the bottom of the 12th inning.
Dempsey registered four complete game victories in the playoffs while Cain, 12-5 during the regular season, picked up three playoff wins.
Dean Scarborough (left) of Minot won the batting title with a .356 average. Pete Hughes of Winnipeg had the most home runs, 13, and runs batted in, 66. Cain and Ed Albosta, also of the Mallards, with an 8-2 mark, led the pitchers.
"Mickey Rocco, the former Cleveland Indian first sacker, was reportedly clipped off the Minot Mallard roster because his salary was too high ... he was drawing $800 a month ... Minot officials said he was released because of back troubles but he's still starring in the ManDak League -- now as a member of Winnipeg Royals." (Saskatoon Star Phoenix, July 8, 1953)
The four Saskatchewan teams hooked up with the four teams of the ManDak League (Brandon, Minot, Carman, Winnipeg) in a series of inter-league contests.
In the first series, the Winnipeg Royals beat the Saskatoon Gems 4-3 at Osborne Stadium in Winnipeg. Mike Kanshin (who would suit up with the Saskatoon team later in the season) pitched 6 1/3 scoreless innings in relief to lead the Royals to the win. An eighth inning single by Lou Louden scored Bill Cleveland with the winning run. Bennie Griggs went the distance for the Gems allowing just seven hits.
The ManDak clubs had, by far, the upper hand winning 20 of the 24 interlocking games played. (Clubs were awarded two wins for a single victory if only one of the scheduled two games could be played. Thus, ManDak teams ended up with an additional eight wins for an overall record of 28 and 4)
In was in one of the inter-league games that North Battleford's Roy Dean, upset at a third strike call, threw umpire Ron French to the ground, punched him several times and ripped his clothing. Dean was ejected. The umpire finished the game. A 15-game suspension and a $50 fine was the result.
Lloydminster got a new ballpark. The local branch of the Canadian Legion sponsored the new addition in preparation for its annual tournament. The Star-Phoenix noted :
" ... has been built along the same lines as Busch Stadium in St. Louis. The Legion field will have ground rules corresponding to those of the St. Louis park. The centrefield wall is 400 feet from home plate, while the distance to the right and left field barriers is 340 feet and 355 feet, respectively."
Canada eh? Cuban Roberto Zayas on his introduction to Saskatchewan in the spring :
"The first year I was in Saskatoon. Before we started the season it was rain, rain, rain. We couldn't even practice and overnight it snowed and we didn't know that. We were staying at the YMCA and the next morning we all got up and saw all this snow/ The newspaper phoned and they came over with hockey equipment and things like that and took pictures of everybody in this park across from the YMCA. I didn't go because I was too cold. I stayed in my room. It was the first time I had even seen snow."
The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix carried ther above photo in their May 12, 1953 edition. The caption read :
Lo Dice Ignacio Cisnero que es el que mas sabe in Cuba. Or in plain English, they don't have snow and cold in Cuba that seven new members of the Saskatoon Gems have been experiencing in Saskatoon this week. Cisnero, who is spokesman for the group, said the Cubans have never seen snow, hockey skates or hockey sticks. They have seen hockey in the movies. The Cubans frolicked in the snow Monday afternoon and pictured with the snowman are back row, left to right, Ezequiel Diaz (with hockey stock), Ignacio Romay, Jose Vera and Ignacio Cisneros. Living dangerously under the threat of snow are Mario Herrera, with skates, and Sergio Martinez. The seventh, Roberto Zayas, was sleeping at the time.
John Ducey finally got a pro club.
The Edmonton Eskimos and Calgary Stampeders won franchises in the Western International League. ("Live and die in the W.I." was a slogan attached to the loop given the number of aged veterans who suited up in the loop.) It wouldn't be a long relationship.
Burdened by high travel costs and disappointing turnouts, the clubs limped through 1953 and Calgary was forced to drop out mid-way through 1954. One of the Eskimos best remembered players would be Leon Day (right), although he had a mediocre season with Edmonton. Fans had no idea that Day was a Negro League star who was nearing the end of a long career. In 1995, Day's exploits in the Negro leagues were rewarded with election to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. (Photo from The Rajah of Renfrew, Brant E. Ducey)
CARD FARM GETS NEGRO
Tucker Will Play Outfield for
Fresno Starting Tonight
ST. LOUIS, May 26 (AP)--The Cardinals tonight signed the first Negro baseball player in their organization to a contract with Fresno in the California State League.
Leonard Tucker, 23-year-old outfielder, will start tomorrow night's game against Bakersfield.
A native of Mounds, Ill., Tucker is a student at Fresno State College. He is scheduled to play only home games for the California team for the remainder of the season while he finishes school.
August A. Busch Jr., Cardinal president, sent the following telegram to Tucker:
"We welcome you to the Cardinal organization. You are joining one of the greatest groups of athletes in America. You have a fine service and college record and I hope your professional baseball record will be a credit to all of us." (From the New York Times, May 27, 1953)
(Tucker, who played with Kamsack in 1952, would return to the prairies in 1957 to suit up with Saskatoon. In 1961, he'd make it up to Lethbridge for the playoffs.)
HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) -- The Hot Springs-Jackson, Miss., Cotton States League baseball game was forfeited to Jackson here Wednesday night in a dispute over a Negro pitcher.
A crowd of 1,700 booed when plate umpire Thomas McDermott, Joe Thomas, Hot Springs general manager, and Jack manager Duke Doolittle walked to the plate to announce the forfeit.
McDermott said he had been instructed by league president Al Haraway to forfeit the game to Jackson, 9-0, if the name of Negro pitcher Jim Tugerson appeared in the line-up. Tugerson was warming up when the game was forfeited. (Regina Leader Post, May 21, 1953)
No wonder ...
In Moose Jaw, manager Bill Peterson finally got an answer to lefty Don King's control problems. The pitcher's mound was measured at 66 feet from home plate. It's supposed to be 60 feet, 6 inches. This revelation came Sunday (May 24th) when a soccer official with a measuring tape catered to King's request and found the error.
Said King: "No wonder my pitches have been falling into the dirt -- it will be different from now on." (Regina Leader Post, May 25, 1953)
Talk about a tough day at the office.
In a game at Cobourg, Ontario August 17th, Jim Dawe pitched an 11-inning no-hitter and fanned 24 men but his Cobourg Merchants lost, 1-0, to Port Perry in OASA playoff action. Dawe walked two. Port Perry plated the only run in the 11th frame when Cobourg shortstop Stan Edgell booted Jack Parker's drive. Parker took second on a passed ball and move to third on a wild pitch. Another passed ball by catcher Dick Turpin allowed Parker to cross the dish. (Information from the Toronto Star, August 18, 1953)
Stan Charnofsky, the playing manager of the Edmonton Eskimos in 1959, joined his twin brother Hal in the Yankees' minor league system.
The brothers both signed with the Yankees and played for a half-dozen seasons in the minors. The 1953 photo is from the Corbis Collection. The caption reads :
Yankee manager Casey Stengel looks a bit puzzled trying to tell the Charnofsky twins apart. The problem will be still tougher for Stadium spectators, if Stan (center) and Hal (right) ever appear in the Bombers' lineup. Playing shortstop and second base, respectively, the brothers are slated to work out with the Yanks and then join the Binghampton squad this season.
BROOKLYN (AP) -- Walter O'Malley, Brooklyn Dodger president, said Wednesday that the Dodgers are in Brooklyn to stay and it is silly for anyone to think otherwise. Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, August 29th, 1953.
"Gordon Wesley, a member last summer of Granum White Sox of the Foothills Baseball League, will attend Jack Rossiter's baseball school in Florida in January. ... $35 for the four-week course, $7 a week for a room and $15 a week for meals with former major leaguers handing out the tips." (Don Pilling, The Lethbridge Herald, November 11, 1953)