MANITOBA BASEBALL HISTORY WESTERN CANADA BASEBALL TEAM MANITOBA
ALL-TIME MSBL STRIKEOUT LEADERS (LEAGUE)
NAME TEAM Ks OPPONENT YEAR
ROB SHILLING GRANDVIEW 22 DAUPHIN 1980
JIM HUFF VIRDEN 21 ROLLA 1969
DAVE ROTTMAN DAUPHIN 20 ROLLA 1970
BRUCE BREMER VIRDEN 19 RIVERSIDE 1972
DICK LIMKE SOURIS 19 BRANDON 1966
JERRY FALK BINSCARTH 19 DAUPHIN 1977
Standing left to right: Irv Powers (mgr), Dave Rottman (p,2b), Garth Neville (p), Billy Chapple (ss), Doug Fraser (p), Bob Thompson (rf),
Grant Everard (p), Ron Ramsey (p), Roy McLachlan (3b), Lorne Lilly (p), Cliff Seafoot (c), Don Sumner (stats).
Kneeling left to right: Gary Keating (of), Dennis Wiebe (1b) John Morrison (cf), Doug Armour (inf), Brian Hodgson (p), Rick McFadyen (c), Bob Wilson (cf), Rob Medoff (p).
TEAM MANITOBA--The Canadian National Baseball Championship Tournament first began in 1970 and was held in Brandon, Manitoba. British Columbia won the inaugural National championship when catcher Russ Holmes walked with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 9th inning. Saskatchewan's Ross Stone, who later spent five seasons with the Dauphin Redbirds (1972-1976), took a 2-0 lead into the last inning before a reliever coughed up the winning runs. Manitoba has never won gold at the Canadian Senior Nationals after competing in the tournament for 48 years. The team has won silver (runners-up) three times (1973, 1977, and 1985). Among the most successful Manitoba ballplayers at the Provincial, National, and International levels are Binscarth Oriole pitcher Garth Neville, McCauley Blazer shortstop Barry (Sam) Jamieson, Hamiota Red Sox outfielder Doug McPhail, Bob Thompson and Rick McFadyen of the Brandon Cloverleafs and Dave Rottman of the Dauphin Redbirds. Doug McPhail attended Mt. Palomar College in San Diego, California during the spring of 1977 and returned that summer to hit .378 (3rd best in the MSBL) for the Hamiota Red Sox. He was named MVP at the Canadian National Championship tournament that same year while playing for Team Manitoba. A year later, while playing for National champion Team Alberta, he was named game-MVP in Alberta's 13-4 pasting of his ol' mates from Manitoba. McPhail homered, doubled, and singled against future Mb. Baseball Hall of Famer Grant Everard before blasting a grand slam during Alberta's 15-8 victory over British Columbia. McPhail homered for Team Canada during the 1982 Amateur World Series.
Garth Neville has logged more innings and won more games at the National and International level than any other Manitoba pitcher. He holds a 2-0 record at the International level with 4-1 and 3-1 victories over Panama and Italy during the 1972 World Series of Amateur Baseball. Bobby Thompson seemed to pick up the tempo during the post-season including National and International competition. He was named National Tournament MVP in 1971 and was a member of Canada's National team that went to Cali, Columbia. A year later, he homered against Saskatchewan in the semi-finals of the 1972 Canadian Nationals, homered in the finals of the '73 Nationals, hit a grand slam against B.C. in the 1974 Nationals, and homered against Ontario in 1975. While playing for Team Canada during the 1975 Continental Cup held in Saskatoon, Sask., Thompson hit a home run against Nicaragua. In 1977, Thompson led the MSBL in home runs with ten.
The two main factors contributing to Manitoba's lack of success at the National level have been poor management and "Good ol' Boys" politics, especially during the mid-1970s when Team Toba was loaded with some the best sluggers in the nation. In 1974, pitchers Dave Rottman and Les Lisowski refused to play for Manitoba manager Roy Cuthill. Neither did Brandon catcher/pitcher Rick McFadyen and Rottman in 1976. McFadyen led the MSBL in hitting in 1975 with his .418 average and a year later hit .375 and led the league in Rbi's with 39. In 1983, he was named the MSBL's top pitcher and league MVP. Lisowski, from Winnipeg, pitched a no-hitter for the Univ. of Arizona in 1971, signed a contract with the Montreal Expos that same year, went 5-0 for the Calgary Giants of the Alberta Major Baseball League in 1972, and won the MSBL's Top Pitcher Award with his 8-1 record for the Binscarth Orioles in 1973 but was not selected to play for Team Manitoba. Neither was Binscarth's Dale Gies who led the MSBL in hitting with his .406 average nor NFL netminder Ron Low who finished 2nd a year prior with his .391 average. After getting suspended for the 1974 playoffs, Lisowski vowed never to play in the "bush" MSBL again. The Manitoba Senior Baseball League was Manitoba's premier league during the 1960s and '70s with several teams recruiting ex-professionals, American college prospects, and top players from leagues in and around the Winnipeg area.
Rottman won the MSBL Top Pitcher Award in 1970 and that same year, struck out 343 batters while pitching for Yuba College (160), the Twin Cities Giants (42), the Dauphin Redbirds (127), and the San Mateo Twins of the level-A PeninsulaTwins (14). He holds Team Manitoba career records for winning percentage (.750), shutouts (2), strikeouts/9 inn. (10.4), and ERA (0.69). Rottman was a 1st-team MSBL All-Star seven times during his seven years in the MSBL and led the playoffs in hitting three times: .538 in 1972, .556 in 1973, and .455 in 1975. He was suspended from the 1974 playoffs. His grievance was that Team Manitoba was being watered down with second-tier players and stated in the Brandon Sun that they had no way in hell of winning a National title. In 1974, Team Manitoba went from the nation's 2nd best to the country's 2nd worst, topping only lowly P.E.I. Team Toba scored a mere 12 runs and allowed 33 while getting shut out twice -- 9-0 by Quebec and 10-0 by the host club, North Battleford. 1974 was Manitoba's worst showing ever at a National competition. Three years later, at age 27, Rottman shutout Quebec with a 2-hitter and 12 strikeouts to open the 1977 Nationals, then just walked away from the MSBL.
Only a handful of Manitobans have reached the Major Leagues. The most notable and successful of is Corey Koskie from Anola, Manitoba. Koskie attended the University of Manitoba before spending nine years in the Majors (1998-2006). He averaged .275 during his MLB career with 124 home runs and a .458 slugging percentage. He hit .310 with 11 homers for the 1999 Minnesota Twins, .300 with nine HR's for the 2000 Twins, and .276 with 26 home runs including 103 Rbi's for the 2001 Twins. A year later, Koskie signed a 2.15 million dollar contract with Minnesota. He hit .292 with 14 homers for the 2003 Twins. Koskie spent the '05 season in a Toronto Blue Jays uniform before signing a 6.25 million dollar contract with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2006, his last in the majors. Koskie would be considered as Manitoba's greatest ballplayer of all-time.
Russ Ford from Brandon, Manitoba, logged seven years in the Majors between 1909 and 1915. He went 26-6 with a 1.65 earned run average for the 1910 New York Highlanders (later Yankees) and 22-11 with a 2.27 ERA for the Highlanders a year later. His seven-year MLB career included a 99-71 record and 2.59 ERA. In his memoirs, the great Ty Cobb noted Ford as a pitcher with an odd delivery that was nearly un-hittable with a pitch ("scuff ball") that just darted away.
Outfielder Mel Kerr was born in Souris, Manitoba, although noted as Saskatchewan's first to play in the major leagues when he got into one game as a pinch-runner for the 1925 Chicago Cubs. He spent four years in the minor leagues at the B and C levels with a career .291 batting average. He hit .319 for the 1928 Elmira Colonels of the level-B New York-Penn League. Right Fielder Harry Bud Sketchley from Virden, Manitoba made $1,050 for the 1942 Chicago White Sox where he hit .194 (7-36). He also spent part of the '42 season with the Waterloo Hawks of the level-B Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League where he hit .267.
Team Toba as featured on the cover of the Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame's 2001 calendar is considered as Manitoba's greatest team of all-time. The 1973 Manitoba Provincial Team was made up of a group of Manitoba Senior Baseball League East Division All-Stars along with the addition of Binscarth Oriole pitcher Garth Neville. The East All-Stars had qualified for Canada's National tournament held in Edmundston, New Brunswick after besting the MSBL West Division All-Stars in two straight games. The key victory was Dave Rottman's 7-0 shutout over MSBL Top-Pitcher-Award winner Les Lisowski in a Provincial qualifying tournament. Rottman and Team Manitoba then shut out perennial powerhouse Alberta 3-0 to open the National tournament. After finishing the B-side of the round-robin pool with a 4-1 record, the Tobans, behind Rottman's 6-hitter, topped Saskatchewan 4-2 in the semi-finals which set up the final against National Team ace-pitcher George Brice and his British Columbia provincials. Brandon's Brian Hodgson started the final however didn't record an out. A fluke play cost Manitoba three runs in the first inning and B.C. jumped out to an early 6-0 lead. Brandon's Bobby Thompson reduced the gap to 6-2 with a two-run homer and Cloverleaf center fielder Bob Wilson added a grand slam that cut the lead to 8-6 in the fourth inning but it was too late. B.C won her third of six National titles in the decade with a 10-7 victory. Brandon's Roy McLachlan led the tournament in home runs with four while Dauphin Redbird pitcher Dave Rottman was named National Tournament MVP. Team Manitoba finished the tournament at 5-2 while scoring a total of 44 runs and allowing 22. Eleven members are in the Keystone Province's Baseball Hall of Fame, however Team Toba's most successful player of all time is not.
THE 1950 WINNIPEG BUFFALOES---The all-black 1950 "Buffs" were managed by MLB Hall of Famer Willie Wells. Wells, from Austin, Texas, came to Canada in 1949 as a playing/manager for the Elmwood Giants of the Manitoba Senior League where he hit .333 at age 43. Wells averaged .320 during his 22 years as a shortstop in the professional Negro Leagues, mostly with the St. Louis Stars. His best season was 1928 when he was 22 years old and led the Negro National League in home runs (23), SLG (.699), doubles (28), hits (119), total bases (228), and runs scored (89). His .365 average and .414 on-base percentage were the league's 2nd-best. Wells also played several years in the independent Mexican leagues where he was dubbed "El Diablo" (The Devil) due to his spirited play. He supposedly was the first ballplayer to use a batting helmet (construction hat) after getting beaned.
Winnipeg outfielder Robert Lomax "Butch" Davis led the ManDak in hitting in 1950 with his all-time ManDak record .456 average. Along with Brandon's Ian Lowe, his 39 RBI's were also tops in the league. Davis led the league again the following year when he hit .406 with a league-best 53 RBIs. Davis began his baseball career in 1944 with the Atlanta Black Crackers in an independent Negro league. In 1947, he hit .313 for the Baltimore Elite Giants of the Negro National League and in 1951, Davis won two batting titles. Before rejoining Winnipeg, Davis led the level-A Eastern League in batting average (.350) and slugging percentage (.564). In 1952, Davis started the year with the level-A Scranton Miners of the Eastern League where he hit .256 before moving up to the AAA American Association and batting .319 for the Toledo Mud Hens. He ended his professional baseball career back in the ManDak with the 1955 Minot Mallards where his .369 average was the league's 2nd best.
The taproots of Canadian prairie baseball were probably embedded at the bar of a hotel pub in Winnipeg, Manitoba during the mid-1880s, shortly after soldiers returned home from the Riel Rebellion. 1886 saw the formation of Western Canada’s first professional baseball league, a Winnipeg city league, which featured the Hotelkeepers, the Metropolitans, the Winnigegs, the Ottawas, Prairie City, and the Canadian National Railroad Club. Large bets were wagered. Teams began bringing in “ringers” from the United States and Ontario to secure their bets. The ’86 Hotelkeepers hired five Americans, paying $500/mo. plus room and board at the hotel; quite the sum of money for that era. The Metropolitans brought in experienced ballplayers from Ontario for $300/mo. plus room, board, and transportation. The average joe’s pay those days was about a dollar a day.
In 1902, the independent class D Northern League was formed with teams from Grand Forks, Devil’s Lake, Cavalier, and Fargo, North Dakota, Winnipeg, Manitoba, and the Crooks of Crookston, Minnesota. The league operated until 1971 with teams coming and going, changing their names, and merging with other leagues. The Winnipeg Maroons were champions during the league’s first two years. They were also title holders in 1907, ’12, ’16, 1934 and 1939. They won three more Northern League crowns after they changed their name to the Goldeyes. In 1908, the league merged and became the Northern Copper Country League. Supposedly, Brandon Angel manager Artie O'Dea handled the leagues' financial affairs and disappeared with all the money towards the end of the season. The Angels were leading the circuit with their 50-31 record and declared champions.
In 1961, Binscarth Oriole center fielder Bill Berezinski put together a year unmatched in the history of Manitoba baseball. He not only won the MSBL's Triple Crown with his .549 average, four home runs, and 32 Rbi's; but also led the league in hits (39), doubles (8), and an incredible all-time .915 slugging percentage. His .549 average is the highest ever recorded in the MSBL's 40-year history.
BASEBALL PLAYERS FROM MANITOBA THAT HAVE SIGNED A PROFESSIONAL CONTRACT.
Ernie Boushy, from Gilbert Plains, Mb. hit .282 and .265 for Dauphin's Red Birds in 1950 and 1951 before hitting .228 for the Carmen Cardinals of the independent, all-professional ManDak League. At age 18, he signed with the Welch Miners (Philly Org.) where he led the Class-D Appalachian League in hitting (.349) and hits (169). A year later, Boushy advanced to the Class-B Lancaster Red Roses of the Piedmont League and hit .276 before ending his pro career by batting .140 for the Class-C Burlington A's ( Kansas City A's Org.) of the Provincial League.
Morley MacFarlane from Brandon, Mb., logged a 2-4 record in 1954 for the non-affiliated Statesboro Pilots of the level-D Georgia State League. He returned to Brandon that summer and went 1-0 for the Brandon Greys of the independent ManDak League.
Reg Chopp, at age 21, from Winnipeg, Mb., spent the 1954 season with the Moose Jaw Mallards of the Saskatchewan Baseball League. He hit .321, the league's 8th best, before getting a chance with the Winnipeg Goldeyes of the level-C Northern League where he went 0-6.
Chris Riddell, from Warren, Mb., spent three years in the minor leagues (1956-1958) beginning at age 19. He combined to win 20 games while losing 19 with a career 3.93 ERA while striking out 114 batters in 337 innings pitched. He went 4-4 with the level-D Muskogee Giants of the Sooner State League, 3-8 for the Michigan City White Caps of the level-D Midwest League, and 2-1 for the St. Cloud Rox-Winnipeg Goldeyes of the level-C Northern League.
Claude Lambert, from St. Laurent, Manitoba, signed a professional contract with the Houston Astros organization in 1965. At age 19, he was sent to the Florida Rookie League where he posted a 1-1 record with a 2.25 ERA. A year later, he went 6-6 with a 5.25 ERA for the Salisbury Astros of the level-A Western Carolinas League, and in 1967, finished his states-side pro career with a 7-4 record and 4.43 ERA (9.1 K's/9 inn.) for the Lexington Braves of the same WCL. He logged a career 14-11 record with a combined 4.73 ERA. In 1968, Lambert returned to Manitoba and led the Manitoba Senior Baseball League in hitting (.375) and home runs (6) while with the St. Lazare Athletics (his career minor league BA was .135), however, his pitching record slipped to 2-6 while recording 70 strikeouts in 78 innings pitched.
Mark Fisher from Nesbitt, Mb., signed with the Detroit Tiger organization in 1970 at age twenty. He posted a 2-5 record with a 2.63 ERA recording 30 strikeouts while allowing 47 hits and 17 base-on-balls in 48 innings pitched for the Lakeland Tigers of the level-A Florida State League. He returned to Manitoba where he became a long-time Riverside Canuck, 3-time MSBL batting champ, 17-time All-Star, and considered the MSBL's top hitter of all-time.
Les Lisowski, of Winnipeg, on March 22, 1971, fired the fourth no-hitter in the history of the University of Arizona baseball program as the Wildcats shutout Northern Colorado 5-0. Lisowski struck out 16 and walked three as he faced 30 batters. Also in 1971, Lisowski signed a contract with the Montreal Expos and was sent to their lower-class A affiliate, the Watertown Expos of the Northern League. There he was 1-0 with a 3.86 earned run average with 14 strikeouts in 21 innings pitched. In 1972, Lisowski posted a 5-0 record for the Calgary of the Alberta Major Baseball League.
Herb Andres, from Binscarth, Manitoba, a long-time outfielder with the Dauphin Redbirds and Binscarth Orioles of the MSBL combined to hit .210 (17-81) in 1973 while playing for the Bristol Tigers of the Rookie Appalachian League and the Anderson Tigers of the class-A Western Carolinas League.
Cam Walker, from Souris, Mb., attended Western Kentucky University before spending six years in the minor leagues at the A and AA levels. He combined to win 48 games while losing 52 with a career 4.42 ERA. His best season was his rookie year (1982) at age 21 when he won 8 of 14 games with a 3.28 ERA for the Beloit Brewers of the class-A Midwest League. The following year, Walker struck out 138 batters (team's most) in 174 innings (7.1 per 9 inn.) with an 11-11 record and 3.77 ERA for the North Division champion Stockton Ports of the class-A California League. He went 9-10 with a 4.03 and 106 K's for Stockton in 1985 and combined to go 11-9 (4.88 ERA) for two teams (Stockton and the Division-winning El Paso Diablos of the AA Texas League) in 1986. Walker ended his pro career at age 26 with El Paso and the Wichita Pilots of the Texas League where he combined to win 5 of 11 games with a 5.82 ERA.
IAN LOWE, 1948
1973 TEAM MANITOBA
THE MANITOBA-NORTH DAKOTA LEAGUE or ManDak League was a rogue, independent league that operated for eight years (1950-1957) in the province of Manitoba, Canada and the state of North Dakota. The all-professional league replaced the semi-pro Manitoba Senior League. The ManDak was considered an outlaw league in that it did not abide by the rules and regulations of the National Association of Professional Baseball Players. There was no restricted free agency. Players were allowed to and often jumped from team to team, usually for better pay or more playing time. Minimum salary in the ManDak was $300/month with a cap of $900/month, about twice the amount offered by MLB affiliated minor league teams. Salaries were based on previous experience.
The rosters consisted mostly of professional players with minor league experience including several ex-major leaguers, and a few college and local players with exceptional talent. About 25% of the rosters consisted of ballplayers from the declining professional Negro leagues after those leagues were raided by Major League Baseball by snatching up great young ballplayers such as Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and other young stars. Several ManDak players came from great teams such as the Kansas City Monarchs, Birmingham Black Barons, Newark Eagles, Pittsburgh Crawfords and the Philadelphia Stars while other talent came from the Pacific Coast League and other top minor leagues. The initial ManDak teams of 1950 included the Brandon Greys, Winnipeg Buffaloes, Carmen Cardinals, Elmwood Giants, and the Minot Mallards. Satchel Paige briefly pitched for the Mallards in the league's inaugural season. Other teams that eventually entered the ManDak were the Winnipeg Giants, Winnipeg Royals, Dickinson Packers, Williston Oilers, and the Bismarck Barons, the latter three all operating out of North Dakota. Three ManDak players were later enshrined into Major League Baseball's Hall Of Fame -- Leon Day played for the Buffaloes and Greys. Ray Dandridge suited up for the Bismarck Barons and Willie Wells was a playing/manager for the Winnipeg Buffaloes and Brandon Greys. Other ex or future major-eaguers that played in the ManDak were the Drake brothers, Sammy and Solly, Jerry Adair, Mickey Rocco, Preston Gomez, and Roy "Stormy" Weatherly.
The Brandon Greys won the initial ManDak pennant with a record of 32-16 before losing the final game of the league's championship playoff series 1-0 in 17 innings to the Winnipeg Buffaloes. "Buff" pitcher and future MLB Hall of Famer Leon Day pitched the complete-game victory for Winnipeg. Brandon rebounded a year later to capture both the pennant (37-26) and the ManDak championship when they swept the Winnipeg Buffaloes in four straight games.
JERRY MACKAY---Along with Ian Lowe, Jerry MacKay would be considered as Brandon's two greatest ballplayers, as far as home-grown Manitobans are concerned. MacKay, from Kenton, Manitoba moved to Brandon in 1947 and a year later hit .231 for the Greys of the Manitoba Senior League at age eighteen. In 1949, the speedy outfielder hit .261 for Brandon of the Manitoba Baseball League before splitting the 1950 season in the tougher ManDak League by batting just .177 in a Greys' uniform and .264 for Minot. MacKay returned to Brandon the next season and hit .229 for the Greys in 1951.
Nineteen-fifty-two proved to be Jerry MacKay's breakout season. At age 21, he signed a professional contract with the Chicago Cubs organization and was sent to Sioux Falls, South Dakota where he led his Canaries and the level-C Northern League in hitting with his .347 batting average. Eighteen-year-old Henry Aaron of the Eau Claire Bears finished 3rd in the batting race at .336. The following season, MacKay led his Canaries in batting average (.335), slugging percentage (.506), and home runs (10). His 14 triples were tops in the Northern League, one better than Fargo-Moorhead's and future Yankee Roger Maris. MacKay's best season as a professional came in 1955 when suited up with the El Paso Texans and led the hitter-friendly West Texas-New Mexico League with his .371 average. His career-best 17 home runs and .563 slugging percentage were both 2nd best for the Texans. MacKay split the 1956 season with the AA Birmingham Barons and the level-B Winston-Salem Twins where he combined to hit .228. During his five years in the minor leagues, he averaged .317 while playing for seven different teams. MacKay returned to Brandon in 1957 where he concluded his professional career as a player by hitting .264 for the Greys during their return and final season in the ManDak League. He spent the rest of his playing career (1962-1968) in a Brandon Cloverleaf uniform of the newly formed Manitoba Senior Baseball League where he hit .333, .215, .349, .308, .294, .255, and .400 (in 20 at-bats) respectively.
MacKay turned to coaching as a player/manager and guided his Brandon Cloverleafs to two Manitoba Senior Baseball League championships in 1966 and '67 before becoming Canada's first National Team coach. He and Hamiota's Gladwyn Scott traveled throughout Canada putting together Team Canada for the upcoming 1967 Pan-American games where the Canadians finished with a 1-7 record. Half of the team was from Manitoba. Four years later, under MacKay's guidance, Team Canada finished 4-5 at the 1971 Amateur World Series and 4-4 that same year at the '71 Pan-American games. A year later, his Canadian Nationals won eight games while losing seven at the 1972 Amateur World Series, the only time that a Canadian National baseball team has ever finished with a winning record.
MANITOBA'S GREATEST PITCHING DUAL -- In 1935, the great Satchel Paige and his Bismarck, North Dakota Churchills hooked up with Chet Brewer and his Kansas City Monarchs in an exhibition game played at Osborne Stadium in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The pair of right-handers combined to strike out 30 batters in the nine-inning contest with Paige whiffing 17. The Churchills had just won the inaugural National Baseball Congress semi-pro World Series in Wichita, Kansas where Paige won four games and was paid one thousand dollars for his efforts. There have been some great pitching duels that have taken place in Manitoba since then, however, statistically, none greater than the match-up that took place in 1979 during the final game of the $2,500 Tournament de Notre Dame. The duel was between the hard-throwing twenty-year-old Carey Candy, a "ringer" picked up by the Carmen Goldeyes to pitch the final, and St. Rose Seal pitcher Dave Rottman.Candy had recently finished his Manitoba Junior Baseball career with the Elmwood Giants where he set Manitoba Junior League records (118 strikeouts in a single season and 441 career strikeouts) that still stand today. Rottman, once ace of the Dauphin Redbirds, was pitching with partial tears to his forearm and rotator cuff. He would be pitching his last game at age twenty-nine. His 160 strikeouts in 1970 while at Yuba College in Northern California were the most by any collegiate pitcher in the nation. His 343 K's on the year, including 127 that summer while pitching for Dauphin, ranks today as 3rd-most in California baseball history at any level. Earlier in the day, he had defeated the prestigious Crookston, Minnesota Reds 2-1 which sent the Seals into the final.
The Carmen Cardinals won the final 1-0 and collected the $2,500. Candy tossed a no-hitter with 16 strikeouts while Rottman only issued a bunt single and struck out 14. The 30 combined strikeouts are the most in Manitoba baseball history for a 7-inning game. Candy, selected to Manitoba's Baseball Hall of Fame, went on to star for the Senior Elmwood Giants including leading the Giants to the 1994 Manitoba Senior Provincial Championship over the Brandon Cloverleafs. Rottman ended his playing career a year later, 1980, as a 2nd baseman with Lumberworld of the Victoria, B.C. Senior Amateur Baseball League where he hit an even .400.
While the suburbs of Winnipeg, most notably Transcona, Elmwood, and later Carman, dominated baseball in the eastern part of the province, it was the city of Brandon that dominated the west. Brandon, located approximately 215 kilometers or 135 miles west of Winnipeg along the Trans Canada highway, is synonymous with Western Canada Baseball. The city of nearly 50,000 residents fielded a baseball team as early as the late 19th century with amateur town teams. The Brandon Greys were formed in 1921 and become one of Western Canada’s most successful semi-pro teams. In 1948, the Greys won the pennant and league championship in the newly formed Manitoba Senior League with a record of 25-8. Other league members included the Winnipeg Rios (15-15), the Elmwood Giants and (12-17), and the Winnipeg Vets (7-19). Brandon finished the year at 58-17 overall which included a seventeen-game winning streak and a championship at the prestigious Indian Head Baseball Tournament with a victory over Sceptre, Saskatchewan in the finals. The 32-team tournament was considered among the best in the west. The core of Brandon's '48 team were Cuban-born imports from the professional Negro Leagues and playing/manager Ian Lowe.
Lowe, from Bradwardine, Manitoba, began playing senior baseball in Moosomin and Neilburg, Saskatchewan at age twenty-one in 1938, before joining the Saskatoon Lions a year later in 1939. He returned to Saskatoon for the 1940 and '41 seasons. At age 25, Lowe began a four-year stint with VMD (Victoria Machinery Depot) of the Victoria Senior Amateur Baseball League where he won batting titles in 1942 and 1943. He ran away with the batting crown in 1943 with a .443 average and led the league in home runs with eight. Lowe turned pro in 1946 with the Victoria Athletics of the level-B Western International League. After hitting just .223 in 29 games, he left the A's to join the Calgary Purity 99s of the Alberta Foothills League where he was the runner-up in the batting race with a .425 mark.
The '49 Brandon Greys are considered as the greatest team in Brandon baseball history and possibly Western Canada's best semi-pro team at that time. The '49 Greys won the Manitoba Senior League pennant with a record of 28-4 before capturing the league championship by defeating the Elmwood Giants four games to three in the best-of-seven championship series. Greys' pitcher Frank Watkins, from Ireland, won the final game 2-1 with a complete-game fifteen-inning masterpiece. He also drove in the winning run. It was the Greys' second consecutive MSL title in as many years and their third Provincial title in four years. They finished the year at 87-18-3 overall, which included the playoffs, exhibition games, and tournament play. Brandon won six of the nine tournaments that they entered including the prestigious Indian Head tournament for the 2nd year in a row. Other notable victories included a doubleheader sweep against the Minot Mallards and wins over the barnstorming Ligon's All-Stars, St. Louis Black Cardinals, San Francisco Sea Lions, and the Brooklyn Cuban Giants.