The Western Canada Baseball League returned, with Saskatoon back in the loop to rejoin Edmonton, Calgary, and Lethbridge.
Clark Rex and John Carbray returned to head up league operations (Rex as league president) and run their clubs in Edmonton and Calgary. Dan Royer guided the Lethbridge franchise with Howard Lowder as manager. The Saskatoon franchise was run by the league with Lyle Olsen (above) back as field manager.
The league decided to try out some new rules intended to speedup the game.
1) Pitchers will warm up on the sidelines during an inning, then proceed to the mound and be ready to start the next inning without throwing additional warm ups.
2) With two men out in an inning, a special pinch runner will be allowed to run for either a pitcher or catcher who is on base. The special runner, however, must not be one of the other sever players in the game at that time.
3) Pitchers will be allowed only 20 seconds between pitches. The base umpire will time the pitcher.
4) Teams will not be allowed to throw the ball around the infield after an out. (Lethbridge Herald, May 25, 1954)
The Edmonton Oilers were the class of the circuit winning the pennant and besting Calgary in the playoff final.
The Oilers Louis Smith (left) captured the batting title with a .344 mark, shading veteran Lyle Olsen, of Saskatoon, who finished at .341. Gail Hopkins (right), also of Edmonton, was third, at .337.
Larry McWhirter of Calgary led the league in homers, with 9, and doubles, 16. Ted Bridges of Edmonton had the most runs batted in, 52. Katsu Shitanashi of the Oilers had 33 stolen bases to top the loop.
Oilers had two of the top moundsmen. John Pearce (left) led the league with 10 wins (he lost 6). George Fowlkes (right) finished at 8-4. Phil Capka of Saskatoon was second in wins with a 9-3 won/lost mark. Rich Johnson and Willie Walasko of Calgary each won 7 as did Gary Johnson of Lethbridge.
One of the leading lights for the Saskatoon Blues was outfielder Fergie Olver (right) who, twenty years later, would be a television star as a broadcaster with the Toronto Blue Jays.
18-year-old Greg Conger put on quite a show. When he arrived near the end of June, Conger put in a couple of long relief appearances then threw five straight complete games. Then, needed in relief, he pitched 11 innings of a 20-inning game with just one day of rest. He returned with another complete game five days later and in his followings start went ten innings before giving way to the 'pen. Conger finished with the best ERA, 2.46, and was second in innings pitched.
1964 marked the end of the Western Canada League and a style of baseball (especially with American college imports and former pros) not to be seen regularly on the prairies until Medicine Hat, Calgary and Lethbridge brought pro ball (Rookie level) to the area in the mid 1970s and Edmonton and Calgary joined the Triple-A Pacific Coast League in the 1980s.
Melville Millionaires rode the arms of Cliff Mein (left) and Tommy Taylor (right) to the pennant in the Southern League. Each appeared in 15 games (to lead the league) . Mein won 7, Taylor 6. Taylor also provided some punch at the plate finishing 5th in the batting race, at .337.
However, the Millionaires were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs as the Regina Red Sox captured the crown behind the hurling of Wally Blaisdell (right) who registered four wins and a tie in five playoff encounters.
Ed Stefureak of the Red Sox won the batting title with a .389 mark and tied for the lead in home runs, with 6. Teammate Larry Bachiu was the runner-up at .385 with Lorne Humphreys of the Moose Jaw Regals third at .341.
Don Laube of the Melville Millionaires was selected as the league's Most Valuable Player. Cliff Mein of Melville and Merv Sanderson of Swift Current tied for Pitcher of the Year while Bill Sobkow of Yorkton was named Rookie of the Year.
In the Manitoba Senior League, Hamiota Red Sox ran away with the pennant and a victory in the playoffs. Hamiota had the loop's top hitter and top pitcher. Gord Lyall (right) topped the hitters with a .447 mark in 94 at bats besting Dave Pearson of St, Lazare, at .440. Cliff Seafoot of Riverdale was third at .394. Gerry Van Buskirk compiled a 7-1 won/lost record to lead the moundsmen, ahead of Lorne Lilley of Riverdale who finished at 6-2.
The North Battleford Beavers won their third straight title in the Northern Saskatchewan League. Beavers edged Unity Cardinals 2-1 in a 12-inning thriller to take the crown. Beavers had finished a game ahead of Neilburg during the regular season.
Ken Hoyt of Kindersley put up a .500 average in 72 at bats to take the batting title. Three Beavers followed - Roy Rowley, at .395, Ira McKnight, .385, and Johnny Ford, .366. Sherman Cottingham (right) of North Battled led the pitchers with a 10-2 won/lost record. Jim Arens of Neilburg was 9-1 and Ross Stone of Unity was unbeaten with a 7-0 mark.
Stenen won the Northeastern Saskatchewan League crown for the 8th straight season. Gust Koroluk again was key to victory. .
Outfielder Shaun Fitzmaurice, from the University of Notre Dame, led the Sturgis Titans to the Basin League pennant and was named the circuit's Most Valuable Player after a record-setting season. Fitzmaurice set new standards for hits, runs batted in, total bases and triples.
Sioux Falls Packers, third during the regular season, downed Valentine in the playoff final to capture the league championship.
Future major leaguers Don Sutton, Clyde Wright and Chuck Dobson were among the pitching stars.
Reggie Cleveland (left) of Swift Current, Saskatchewan, began to attract attention as a teenager pitching for his hometown team. After leading the Swift Current Indians to the Southern League pennant in 1965 he signed with Cardinals and fashioned a 13-year career in the majors with St. Louis, Texas, Boston and Milwaukee.
Up in the Prince Albert area of Saskatchewan, 14-year-old Dave Pagan (in his Yankee baseball card, right) began his climb to the majors pitching for teams in the Highway 55 League. He went on to a 10-year career in professional baseball, including five in the major leagues with the Yankees, Seattle, Baltimore and Pittsburgh.
Gene Graves, the former Saskatoon and Calgary right-hander, signed on to be playing manager of Kindersley of the Northern Saskatchewan League