Millions of Canadians enjoyed the Toronto Blue Jays exciting 2015 pennant drive. Many were baseball enthusiasts, but casual or first time fans were experiencing what Edmontonians have been enjoying for over a century.
Edmontonians, young and old, male and female, participate in the sport of baseball. Edmonton has hundreds of baseball diamonds ranging from basic school yard diamonds to premium diamonds complete with shale infields and bleachers. Although Edmonton does not currently have a professional team, numerous Edmonton area based teams play in leagues ranging from Little League, to Senior AAA.
Edmonton has a rich baseball history, with the game being played in Western Canada in the late 1800s. The May 24, 1884 Edmonton Bulletin reported that a local baseball team was being formed and since then, teams representing Edmonton have had more than a dozen names (e.g. Legislators, Grays, Eskimos, Drakes, Cubs, and even Oilers).
Teams from our city have won a number of major championships. In 1951, the Edmonton Mortons won the Canadian Senior Women’s Softball Championship. The Edmonton Trappers AAA, playing from 1981-2004, were the Pacific Coast League champions four times. Several hundred players from the Trappers went on to play in the major leagues.
Edmonton has played host to a number of international baseball events. In 1995, Edmonton hosted the America’s Baseball Challenge, the qualifying tournament for the 1996 Olympics. The performance of the Cuban national team, later to win Olympic gold, dazzled the fans here. In 2004 the inaugural Women’s Baseball World Cup was also held in Edmonton. The United States team finished first, with Canada third. As well, many prestigious teams have played exhibitions here, one of the most famous is pictured below.
Want to learn more about local baseball history? The City of Edmonton Archives has considerable material available for the public. There are newspaper clipping files on teams (20 folders on the Trappers alone) and individuals (e.g. John Ducey, “Mister Baseball” and Deacon White, the “King of Sports” in Edmonton during the 1920s), and more than 400 digitized photographs covering the local baseball scene. Most photos can also be viewed online. As well, high quality copies can be ordered – a framed 1940s photograph looks great on the wall above my desk!
The Archives have been fortunate over the years to receive donations from various individuals and organizations (photographs, records, posters, old programs, etc.). This material is also available for review.
Whether it’s enjoying a baseball game at Telus Field on a warm summer evening, cheering on your child at a neighbourhood diamond, or enjoying a pickup game with friends, a perspective on Edmonton’s baseball history should enhance your experience.
I encourage you to visit the City of Edmonton Archives, located in the Prince of Wales Armouries Heritage Centre for more information.