Lincoln Grant "Dodger" Lewis
Lewis, who was born in Nova Scotia, arrived in Calgary as a youngster in 1910.
He was still a teenager when he got his start in baseball in Alberta as a catcher with the Hillhurst Hustlers. A newspaper article in September, 1919, said he was 17 years of age, thus likely born in 1902.
Left - Lewis in 1928 with Claresholm. Right - in 1926 with Regina Balmorals.
Dodger was one of four Lewis boys (Earl, Frank, Clifford Gordon(Stiffy) and Dodger - left to right below in photos from 1919) who were prominent in athletics in Alberta mainly in the 1920s and 1930s. Stiffy was the pitcher, Frank played second base and Earl was a shortstop. Dodger, when not on the mound, was a top-flight flychaser in centre field and also played the infield after beginning his career as a catcher.
[Lewis brothers photos courtesy of the Glenbow Museum Archives NA-4932-2]
Early on his prowess behind the plate drew notice:
Their schoolboy catcher, Dodger Lewis, should go far in baseball if he keeps his head and does not become affected with the virus of knavery that his present management exhibits. He is beautifully built, with a stylish handling of himself and an overhand drive to the bases that is a pleasure to watch. (Edmonton Journal, September 15, 1919, p.10)
Behind the bat 17-year-old Dodger Lewis caught like a major leaguer, and he and his brother gave a battery exhibition which earned them continuous applause. (Calgary Daily Herald September 25, 1919)
He began to make his mark as a pitcher in 1921 when he joined Hanna. On June 22, 1921, Lewis opened some eyes with an 18-strikeout performance as Hanna dumped Delia 5-3. The report in the Calgary Herald was highly complimentary.
A better ball game has never been seen in this part of the county . . . Young Lewis gave an exhibition of pitching such as one would read about in the comics. He struck out no less than 18 of his opponents and had it not been for a couple of errors . . . Delia would never have seen the home plate . . . in two games Lewis has pitched for Hanna, he has struck out no less than 34 batsmen.
A couple of weeks later, Lewis was even better with a 19 strikeout performance.
The following season, the 20-year-old attracted the attention of the Calgary Bronchos of the professional Western International League. Lewis appeared in six games. In his third start he fired a two-hit shutout fanning 19. When the league collapsed in June, Detroit was reported to be very interested in signing him. But, Lewis decided to remain on the prairies.
Lined up with Rosetown, Saskatchewan, for the Saskatoon Tournament of 1922, the right-hander set a record as he fanned 24 batters as Rosetown downed Macklin 3-2. A 9th inning rally by Macklin, helped by two errors, tied the count at 2-2, but a single by Lewis in the bottom of the frame paved the way for the winning score. Lewis allowed just three hits and walked none.
With an ailing arm, Lewis decided to return to the maritimes and played in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Maine over the next three seasons before being enticed to join the Regina Balmorals in 1926. It was back to Alberta to hurl for Claresholm in 1927 and 1928. In an exhibition at Claresholm July 3rd, the home squad whipped Calgary Athletics 7-0 as Lewis fanned 19 in hurling the shutout. He pitched a little south of the border in Spokane in 1929 before signing up with the House of David for barnstorming across Canada and the United States.
In the fall of 1929, the Calgary Herald reported Lewis had signed a contract with the St. Louis Cardinals of the National League. He had attracted the attention of the major league club during a stint with the House of David earlier in the season. The paper said he was with the team for the last ten days of the 1929 season. The following spring Lewis, who developed arm problems, bounced around three Cardinal farm teams before deciding to return home to suit up with the Calgary Hustlers.
In 1931, the hired gun suited up in a number of different uniforms - Calgary Boosters, Calgary Pucksters, Camrose, Coleman and the House of David. Pitching for Coleman at the Michel, BC tournament September 8th, Lewis threw a four-hitter and set down 23 via the strikeout route as Coleman downed Fernie 8-1.
Lewis played and managed in Calgary into the mid 40s to round out his outstanding career.
1919-1920 Calgary Hustlers
1921 - Hanna/Drumheller
1922 - Calgary Bronchos
1923-24-25 Maine, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia.
1926 - Regina Balmorals
1927 - Claresholm
1928 - Claresholm
1929 - Spokane Miners/House of David
1930 - St. Louis farm system/Calgary Hustlers/Crossfield
1931 - Calgary Boosters/Camrose/Coleman/House of David/Calgary Pucksters
1932 - House of David
1933 - Calgary Pucksters
1934 - Calgary Pucksters
1935 - Calgary/Crossfield
1936 - Calgary Mustangs, Calgary Pucksters
1942 - COACH United Services All-Stars
1945 - COACH Purity 99
1946 - COACH Calgary Detroit Bears
The Calgary Herald, in a piece by Eric Bishop, carried the following story in its May 7, 1945 edition:
One evening in 1931 Braves Field in Boston was packed to capacity with ardent baseball fans who witnessed the first baseball game ever played beneath the arc lights. The home town Braves opposed the barnstorming House of David nine that evening in an exhibition tiff.
The bearded visitors sent none other than Calgary's Lincoln "Dodger Lewis to the hillock and he baffled the big leaguers with hopping fast balls and sharp breaking curves.
Dodger Lewis, the best ball player ever to develop here in Calgary, bounced around the baseball beat for 20 years and made quite a name for himself. "Dode" still has his fingers in the baseball pie, as he is coaching the new Purity 99 team of the Foothills loop.
STARTED IN 1916
Way back in 1916 Lincoln Lewis started playing organized baseball. Although only a kid in his early 'teens he handled the man-size job of catcher on the Hillhurst Hustler senior squad. One day the Hustlers ran out of pitchers so they sent young Lewis to the mound with the orders to "throw it and duck."
However, the kid didn't do much ducking because the opposition Cubs swung lustily at air pockets all afternoon as Dodger poured fast ball after fast ball past would-be hitters.He fanned 19 Cub batters and won the ball game easily.
Even after this success Dodger didn't turn to pitching. Instead, he travelled about Alberta catching for different teams. Finally, in 1921 he signed up with Hanna as a pitcher and started his fabulous career. Playing in the old Goose Lake Line League Lewis was unbeatable and the next season found him with the Calgary team in the old Western Canada loop.
SET LEAGUE AFIRE
Things really began to hum for the young moundsman and he set the league afire. Dodger never had less than 17 strikeouts a game that year and as a result four major league teams were after his services.
When he whiffed 24 batters in the Saskatoon tournament in 1922 the scouts began to pursue Lewis with vigor. Only three batters hit the ball that game with only one managing to hit safely. This record has never been equalled by anyone in organized baseball.
Dodger turned a deaf ear to all the big league offers and says, "I wasn't smart enough to sign and go. I made the biggest mistake possible by going to Nova Scotia when I could have written my own ticket anywhere at that time."
From 1923 to 1926 he was bothered by a very bad arm ailment that stopped his pitching efforts. Being a better than average hitter, Lewis went to the outer gardens and patrolled the centre field pastures for Moncton, then Regina and later with Calais of the Maine league. In the 1927-28 seasons "Dode" returned to the firing line with the Claresholm club and once again hit his effective hurling stride.
The House of David barnstormers grabbed Dodger in 1929 and he responded by growing a fine beard and pitching winning ball. In the final month of the season the St. Louis Cardinals bought out Dode's contract and he joined the big timers for the last three weeks of the season.
The following year found Lewis with Rochester, Cards top farm team, of the fast International League. The future looked bright for the Calgary right-hander. Then suddenly -- he came down with another bad arm and was shipped down to Houston of the Texas League. After a brief stay he was once again shipped down a notch, this time to Scottdale of the Mid-Atlantic. His ailing soupbone wouldn't respond to any treatment so he returned home in August.
The Cards, figuring his winning days were over, cut him adrift from their farm system. Once again the House of Davids grabbed him. Once again Lewis responded with some great hurling. In this season he played in every state of the U.S.A., with the exception of California, pitching against big league and double A ball teams. It was in this 1931 season that he opposed the Braves in the first night ball game.
The big leaguers were once again clamoring for the ace House of David flinger after his fine comeback, but Dodger could not get across the line in 1932, so he went into retirement. Outside of playing a few exhibition games with the Calgary Pucksters he was inactive until 1936.
Lewis then took over the management of the Mustangs in the now defunct Alberta baseball loop and turned out a capable outfit. In the final game of that season Dodger Lewis went to the mound for what he says was his "last time." He turned in a fine performance and allowed only a few hits as the locals won 3-0.
Although he says his playing days are over, don't be surprised if you see Dodger Lewis' name in the box score as the veteran still has a lot of baseball left in his ageing system. (Calgary Herald, May 7, 1945)