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This article was published 4/8/2015 (745 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The first baseball game played at Osborne Stadium on June 6, 1935 is nothing more than a footnote in the province’s sports history. Completely forgotten is a game that the Winnipeg Free Press described as "the finest mound duel ever unfolded in Winnipeg."
The stadium that sat where Great-West Life is now located was officially opened on May 19, 1932. Soccer, men’s diamond ball, girls’ softball, high school track meets, rugby football and boxing cards were held there in its early days.
Prior to the 1935 season, manager Johnny Peterson announced the stadium would be renovated in order to place a baseball diamond in the northeast corner. New bleachers along the north end would seat 1,000 with a total capacity of 5,000 for baseball.
Winnipeg had an organized baseball Class D team that already had a home at Sherburn Park, near the corner of Portage Avenue and Sherburn Street. The Maroons won the Northern League championship that summer and the Osborne operators decided to bring in touring teams to play in the new ballpark. During the Depression, many teams barnstormed across North America looking for paydays.
The Kansas City Monarchs were booked in to play a four-game series against Bismarck, N.D.
The Monarchs were widely regarded as the dominant black professional team of the day. Bismarck fielded an integrated squad as car dealer Neil Churchill had signed the best players he could find, regardless of colour. The spring of 1935 was a cold and wet one and only 700 shivering fans showed up for the opener. General admission cost 25 cents. Bismarck sent Satchel Paige, black baseball’s greatest star, to the mound. Monarchs countered with their veteran ace, Chet Brewer.
The pair didn’t disappoint with Paige striking out 17 and Brewer 13. With the score 0-0 after nine innings, Winnipeg umpire Snake Siddle called the game on account of darkness. The game was played in one hour and 55 minutes.
The Winnipeg Evening Tribune reported that Paige "had the Monarch hitters absolutely helpless." The Kansas City lineup included future National Baseball Hall of Fame members in Willard Brown at shortstop and Bullet Joe Rogan in the outfield.
K.C. won the second game 2-1, Bismarck with Paige back on the mound took Game 3 11-4 and Monarchs won the last, 3-1.
Later that summer, Bismarck won the first U.S. national semi-pro championship in Wichita, Kan. In addition to Paige, the team's lineup included HOF members Ted (Double Duty) Radcliffe and pitcher Hilton Smith. Radcliffe earned his nickname for pitching one game of a doubleheader and catching the other. Five-time Negro Leagues all-star Quincy Trouppe played centre field. Brewer joined the team on loan from the Monarchs.
In 1950, Osborne Stadium became home to the ManDak League. In his history of the league, Winnipeg author Barry Swanton called it a "haven for former Negro League ballplayers, 1950-1957."
Radcliffe managed the Elmwood Giants for parts of two seasons, Paige joined Minot for three games in 1950, and Brewer pitched briefly for the Carman Cardinals in 1953. Hall-of-Famers Leon Day and Willie Wells played for the Winnipeg Buffaloes.
Memories of Sport appears every second week in the Canstar Community News weeklies. Kent Morgan can be contacted at 204-489-6641 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org