Pro baseball’s rich Winnipeg history

City, province have been home to many professional teams


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When the Winnipeg Goldeyes play their first home game of the 2023 season at Shaw Park on May 19, independent professional baseball will return to the city for its 30th season. In 1994, the team owned by Sam Katz joined the Northern League and won the championship under the leadership of manager Doug Simunic.

Before the independent-league Goldeyes arrived, Manitoba baseball fans enjoyed watching teams that were part of the large organized-baseball umbrella, usually sponsored by major league teams. In the early years of the 20th century, Winnipeg had teams that first played in the old Northern League and then the Northern-Copper County, Western Canada and Central International Leagues. Both Brandon, in 1908, and St. Boniface, in 1915, played in the Northern League.

Calling Sherburn Park home, the Winnipeg Maroons played an entertaining level of ball in the Class D and C Northern League from 1933 until 1942, when several leagues folded owing to the Second World War. Older Winnipeg fans will remember the first version of the Goldeyes, a farm team of the St. Louis Cardinals, which played at the Winnipeg Stadium from 1954 to 1964. The city last had an organized baseball team when the Montreal Expos organization moved its AAA International League team from Buffalo to Winnipeg partway through the 1970 season. The Whips lasted one more season in our city.


Baseball Hall of Famer Steve Carlton pitched for the Winnipeg Goldeyes of the Northern League in the early ’60s before making it to “The Show” with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Sports collector Burnett Konsmo recently sent Memories of Sport a copy of an article about Winnipeg baseball published in the September 1987 issue of Sports Collectors Digest. Author Paul Gertsen, whose journalism credentials are not listed, claims that minor league baseball is an oft-forgotten chapter of Winnipeg’s sporting legacy. Take that statement for what it’s worth from a writer who spelled Sherburn Sherbourne, had the Whips playing in the American Association, and tells his readers that Dale Hawerchuck, not Hawerchuk, can really skate.

Photos of the 1959 and 1960 Goldeyes teams that won the Northern League championship accompany the article. Dal Maxvill, Chris Krug, Harry Fanok, Dick Hughes, Johnny Lewis, Roy Majtyka, Ed Olivares and Bob Sadowski went on to play in the major leagues, while pitcher Bill Carpenter was inducted into the Manitoba Baseball and Sports Halls of Fame. Major leaguers Steve Carlton and Walt Williams, who had one of the great baseball nicknames – No Neck – played for the Goldeyes in 1964.

The article’s subhead mentions night games played without lights, 550-mile gravel road bus rides to Eau Claire, Wisc., and the appearance (almost) of a chimpanzee in centre field highlight Winnipeg’s minor league history. Right!

The story of Ted the Chimp was a new one to me. According to Goldeyes business manager Terry Hind, in 1962 club brass vetoed his idea of using a chimp in the outfield for three outs in the top of the first inning. The plan was to have the chimp bat leadoff in the bottom of the inning.

“I’m sure the umpires would have been consternated by the whole thing, but we would have achieved our end, which was a sellout,” Hind told Gertsen. “We had the contract all ready to sign. The only thing is, someone on our team would have had the reputation as the only player to pinch hit for a chimpanzee.”

If Hind had pulled off the chimpanzee stunt, it would have gone down in the baseball history books, along with Bill Veeck’s use of diminutive Eddie Gaedel as a St. Louis Browns pinch hitter in 1951. Gaedel, who was three-foot-seven, walked on four pitches. No doubt if the umpires had let Ted the Chimp hit, he would have taken a couple of swings.

T. Kent Morgan

T. Kent Morgan
Memories of Sport

Memories of Sport appears every second week in the Canstar Community News weeklies. Kent Morgan can be contacted at 204-489-6641 or email:

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