Donald Hugh Stewart
Batted Left, Threw Right
6' 0", 170 lbs.
Born : July 11, 1930, Prince Albert, SK
North Battleford/Saskatoon/Edmonton 1950
Brooklyn Dodger system 1951-52-53
Brandon, ManDak League, 1954
Lloydminster Meridians 1955-56
Edmonton Eskimos 1957
Lloydminster GreenCaps 1963
Stewart was among the premier athletes on the prairies during the 1950s and early 1960s gaining a place in the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame.
He also excelled on the ice and might have been better known for his hockey prowess.
It was odd than his baseball career was so often derailed by injuries but, in the roughest sport, hockey, the Unity, Saskatchewan product, for the most part, skated away unscathed.
It was a storybook beginning to his baseball career.
In the Spring of 1949, Don's dad, Jim, thought the lad was "ready for a start in baseball." He took the 18-year-old to a Brooklyn Dodgers' baseball camp at Renfrew Park in Edmonton.
Don (right) with John Ducey, Edmonton baseball promoter, Marshall Severyn from Wetaskiwin, and Dodger scout, Bob Clements.
"A sunburned first baseman from Unity, Saskatchewan and a right-handed pitcher from Wetaskiwin have been tabbed as the 'likeliest prospects' attending the Brooklyn Dodger baseball school at Renfrew Park ... Don Stuart (sic) is the first sacker, a tall, husky kid who gives the ball a ride ... family packed up lock, stock, and elevator to get their baseball product onto a possible Brooklyn market.
Eighteen-year-old Don has a good record on the Saskatchewan sandlots. In the Meridian League, comprised of Unity, Macklin and Denzil in Saskatchewan and Provost in Alberta, he boasts a better than .400 average
Lately he has been playing every position except catcher for Saskatoon Cubs ... he pitched the team to a 15-9 win recently. " (Unidentified Edmonton paper, 1949)
In fact, Don fancied himself as a pitcher. At the tryout camp, he was in line for a turn on the hill when the instructor, noting the absence of a first sacker, asked "if I wouldn't mind playing first base until it came to my turn to pitch. Well, I hit homers in my first three times up and never did pitch."
Out of about two hundred prairie boys, Don was one of two to be selected to attend a Dodgers' California camp in 1950.
Under the headline STEWART HEADS FOR CALIFORNIA, the local paper (Prince Albert?) carried an item on the young star.
"Unity's Don Stewart has been invited to report to the spring training camp of Santa Barbara Dodgers ... March 13. Don's top notch performance on first base will be remembered by all who saw the Unity club in action last year."
The 1950 season started poorly.
Don was thrilled to go to California for the Dodger camp, but soon developed arm trouble and returned to Canada and ended up playing locally for the rest of the season.
He hooked up with the North Battleford Beavers, Saskatoon Cubs and Cal's Dodgers of Edmonton, where he was a key figure as the club defeated John Ducey's Eskimos for the Big Four title.
Stewart saw action at first base, the outfield and shortstop.
Left - Two of the stars of Cal's Dodgers, who upset John Ducey's Edmonton Eskimos to capture the 1950 Big Four championship -- Don Stewart, left, and pitcher Vern Callihan, right.
On April 18, 1951, Robert Ripley, Western Supervisor of Brooklyn's minor league system, wrote to Don's dad asking that he affix his signature to his son's contract as Don was not of legal age.
Ripley had high praise for the young Stewart:
"We are very pleased to have your boy in our organization and we think he has a definite future in the game. He has shown tremendous improvement since last year and we see no reason he can't advance rapidly. Further, he is one of the finest boys personally that we have ever had in camp so we are doubly pleased to give him an opportunity in baseball."
With his successful 1950 season behind him, Don won a spot with the Dodgers' farm team in the K-O-M (Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri) League.
At Ponca City he'd be a fan favourite and an all-star in his first pro season, 1951.
At age 20, Stewart played in 106 games in the outfield for the Dodger farm club.
The club lost its opener then won eighteen in a row. After leading the league in batting for much of the seasonStewart hit .292 after leading the league for much of the season, and was 5th in runs batted in, with 81.
He had 24 doubles, 4 triples and 6 home runs.
Right - Stewart, right, with Ralph Whitey Vold, another Canadian player, honoured as Ponca City's top hitter and best pitcher in 1952. Both would later suit up with teams in Western Canada.
Stewart returned to Ponca City in 1952 where he'd again be among the top hitters in the league, this time with a .318 mark.
The following season he'd be at fabled Vero Beach for Spring Training with the Boys of Summer and was assigned to play with Santa Barbara Dodgers (which had George "Sparky" Anderson among others in the lineup) of the California League.
In spite of a broken ankle, Stewart finished at .272 and, homesick for the prairies, bade farewell to professional baseball and his dream of being a Brooklyn Dodger (the Dodger outfield at the time had Duke Snider, Carl Furillo and Jackie Robinson among others).
For his three minor league seasons, Stewart compiled a career average of .297.
Above left - Stewart, in the outfield for Brandon Greys, awaiting a turn at the dish. Right - Stewart (left) and a Brandon teammate meet some young baseball fans.
1954 brought Stewart to the Brandon (Manitoba) Greys of the ManDak League :
"Stewart is better known to local fans for his efforts with the Lloydminster Jets in the Western Canada intermediate hockey playoffs, is a real fan favorite and for good reason ... slated for the Western League ... but decided to come to Brandon ... liked the city after visiting here during the hockey season and then Brandon was closer to Lloydminster than Pueblo and there is a young lady in Lloydminster who will become Mrs. Stewart come fall." (Brandon Sun, 1954)
Stewart kept producing with the bat. He hit .333 and finished sixth in the batting race.
One of the highlights of his Brandon tour was a three-homer game - on his 24th birthday with his wife-to-be was in the crowd !
Stewart's bat wasn't his only attribute.
"Stewart made two of the finest catches seen here in a long time ... in the sixth, Stewart turned with the crack of (the) bat then lost the ball momentarily as he turned back and made a desperate dive ... and snatched the ball just before it touched the ground. He was even more spectacular in the ninth when he raced almost to the screen to take Chalfant's long blow over his shoulder and going at full speed." (Brandon Sun, 1954)
Finally, in 1955, Stewart would come home to play. At age 24, he was signed as the playing-manager of the Lloydminster Meridians.
Above left - Stewart signs on, flanked by club executives, Slim Thorpe (left) and Ted Mitchell (right). Right - the lefty-hitting outfielder.
Stewart had a very good season, leading the league in hitting for much of the summer before finishing at .324, fifth in the circuit. And, best of all, Don was selected to play for the Canadian team in the semi-pro Global World Series in Milwaukee.
"Don Stewart, playing-manager of the Lloydminster Meridians last year and one of few Saskatchewan boys to make the grade in organized baseball, says he is retiring from the diamond game. There's a good reason too. Don has taken over the Prince Charles Hotel at Coleville, one of the best business points in the province. But it seems a pity that the youthful Stewart, as graceful as he is capable in every move on a baseball field, should be slipping away from baseball." (Cam McKenzie, Saskatoon Star Phoenix, Jan 21, 1956)
He got in a little playing time in 1956 answering a call for help from the Meridians. In 17 games he hit .320.
A little restless off the diamond, the still youthful Stewart accepted an offer from the Edmonton Eskimos for the 1957 campaign.
But, the season would end early, in a contest which became known as the Riot at Renfrew:
"... they had to rush the stretcher out on the field again to cart off another Eskimo, left fielder Don Stewart. Don had walked, and in his haste to get back to the bag on an attempted pickoff, he suffered a badly fractured ankle." (Edmonton Journal, June 13, 1957)
After just 12 at bats, the 1957 season was over.
Stewart continued on the diamond into the 60s, taking the field with clubs in the Northern Saskatchewan league.
In 1961, Stewart suited up with the Unity Cardinals of the NSL. He led the club to top prize in the '61 Saskatoon Exhibition tourney and, to no surprise, won a $25 prize for being the top hitter in the event.
After all these years, there's still the nagging question. Could he have made it to join the legendary Boys of Summer? After leaving the Dodgers, Don was approached by the St. Paul's Dodger affiliate about returning to pro ball. He declined.
On the ice, Stewart was a mainstay of Lloydminster's Intermediate clubs, beginning with the 1950-51 season. He would also play with Minnedosa, Kerrobert and Taber in a hockey career which spanned four decades (including the Old Timers club, the Neversweats in the late 70s and early 80s
During his baseball and hockey exploits, Don was a businessman in Taber, Alberta from 1962 to 1967. Later, he ventured to British Columbia when he established a successful tire business which eventually expanded to sixteen sites. The Stewarts (with three daughters and a son) are now retired in Coquitlam, B.C.