Toronto Maple Leafs (minor league baseball)
Defunct MiLB infobox
name = Toronto Maple Leafs
firstseason = 1896
lastseason = 1967
city = Toronto, Ontario
lastclasslevel = Triple-A
Boston Red Sox(1947; 1965-67)
pastmajorleague = Washington Senators (1964)
*St. Louis Browns (1951-52)
*Philadelphia Athletics (1940-41; 1945-46)
lastnickname = Toronto Maple Leafs
Maple Leaf Stadium(1926-67)
Hanlan's Point Stadium(1897-99; 1908-26)
*Diamond Park (1900-07)
The Toronto Maple Leafs were a high-level
minor league baseballclub located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, that played from 1896 to 1967. While the Maple Leafs had working agreements with numerous Major League Baseballclubs after the introduction of farm systems in the 1930s, they achieved great success as an unaffiliated club during the 1950s, when they were the strongest team on the field and in attendance in the AAA International League.
The First Club
The first Toronto club played in the Canadian League in 1885, playing its home games at the Jarvis Street Lacrosse Grounds at Jarvis and Wellesley Street. It finished the season in third place. The next year, Toronto left the Canadian League along with Hamilton to join the original
International League(also called the International Association), where it played from 1886-1890. The baseball stadium that would come to be known as Sunlight Parkwas built for the team and opened on May 22, 1886, with Toronto defeating Rochester 10-3 in front of 3,000 fans. Toronto won the pennant in 1887, behind 33-game-winner Cannonball Crane, who also led the team in hitting with a .428 batting average (walks were counted as hits for that season). The league folded in July 1890.
The Maple Leafs Return
In 1895, Toronto resurfaced in the original Eastern League (which in 1902 was designated Class A, one level below
Major League Baseball), where it played through 1911. The club relocated to Albany, New Yorkfor part of the 1896 season, but started and finished the year in Toronto. In 1897, the team began playing its home games on the Toronto Islandsat Hanlan's Point Stadium. The stadium and the team were owned by the Toronto Ferry Company. In 1900, a group of 52 Toronto businessmen bought the team and moved it to a park, later called Diamond Park, southeast of Dufferin Street and King Street West. Led by Ed Barrow—who was also co-owner—the Leafs won the International League pennant in 1902 with a record of 85-42.
The team faltered after its championship season, falling to eighth place by 1905. Debtholders called in their loans and the team was purchased by James J. McCaffery, who serve as president from 1908 until his death in 1922, and Lawrence "Lol" Solman, president from 1922 to 1931. Former major league star
Joe Kelleytook the reins as manager in 1907 and the team's fortunes immediately turned around. Kelley was drafted by the Boston Doves the next season—when the Leafs returned to Hanlan's Point Stadium—but Kelly rejoined the club in 1909 and guided the team to the championship in 1912.
minor league baseballwas reorganized and a new top level classification, AA, was created. The Eastern League moved up to AA and changed its name to become the International League. The Maple Leafs continued as members of the International League for the next 55 years, with the league being reclassified as AAA in 1946.
Nap Lajoieand his .380 batting average helped lead the Maple Leafs to another championship in 1917. Manager Dapper Dan Howleyfirst joined the team in 1918, leading the Leafs to the pennant that year. Canadian Moony Gibson became manager in 1919, and was called to the major leagues after one season. The 1920 Leafs won 108 games, and had what would be the highest single season winning percentage in the history of the franchise at .701, but finished second to the powerhouse Baltimore Orioles. Through the 1920s, the team averaged 93 wins a season, but one only one pennant. In 1926, the Leafs moved to the new Maple Leaf Stadium, which would be their home for the next 42 seasons, and capped off the season with the championship, with Howley back as manager. NHL scoring star Babe Dyebriefly played for the Leafs in 1926, as he had in 1920. Multi-sport athlete Lionel Conacheralso played briefly for the Leafs in 1926. The team drew more than 222,000 fans to the new stadium that year, a franchise record that would stand for 22 years. (The following year, the National Hockey Leagueteam, the Toronto St. Patricks, changed their own nickname to Maple Leafs.)
The Leafs struggled through the 1930s, both on and off the field. In 1931, ownership of Maple Leaf Stadium passed to the Toronto Harbour Commission after the club was unable to pay taxes and other debts. Shortly after, club president Solman died, with George Oakley succeeding him in May 1931. At the same time,
J. P. Bickelljoined the team's board of directors. The 1932 Leafs lost 113 games and only attracted 50,000 fans through the entire year. James A. Dunn, vice-president and second-largest shareholder after Oakley, died in August 1933. The one bright spot was 1934, when the team won the league championship under manager Ike Boonebefore losing the Junior World Seriesin nine games. A few months later, in December 1934, Oakley died.
Gardiner and Ross keep the Leafs in Toronto
After George Oakley's death, his son Cliff Oakley succeeded him as team president. Following the 1936 season, Oakley publicly commented that baseball was in trouble in Toronto and that something would have to change. A few months later, he and general manager Leman were approached by Joe Cambria, former owner of the Albany Senators, who wanted to buy the team and move it to
Albany, New York.
A group of local investors, headed by stockbroker
Percy Gardinerand former lieutenant-governor of Ontario William Donald Ross, bought the Leafs in January 1937 to keep them in Toronto. Oakley immediately stepped down as president and was succeeded by Donald G. Ross, lawyer and son of William Donald Ross. Howley was brought back as manager, returning to the position he had held three times previously: in 1918, 1923-1926, and 1933.
The team lost a lot of money, and wasn't very successful on the field, drawing about 60,000 paying fans a year during a three-year stretch from 1939-1941 when the Leafs finished in eighth place each season. Control of the team passed to Peter Campbell, who would be president until his death in 1949. The Leafs' .305 winning percentage in 1941 was the lowest in franchise history. Campbell negotiated a working agreement with the
Pittsburgh Piratesin 1942, and a year later the team won the International League pennant—its first in 16 years. By 1947, the team was back to eighth place. Joe Ziegler then became general manager and is credited with turning the team's fortunes around, with such promotional innovations as 20-cent hot dogs and Sunday games. Under Ziegler, the Leafs set a new franchise attendance record with 353,247 customers in 1949—double what it had been two years earlier, despite a fifth-place finish. Ziegler resigned at the end of the 1951 season, soon after the team came under new ownership.
Jack Kent Cooke era
In July 1951,
Jack Kent Cookebecame the new owner of the Maple Leafs, and succeeded Ross as president. Under Cooke's ownership, the Leafs were one of the flagship franchises of the IL, leading the league in attendance every year from 1952-1956. In his first home game as owner, Cooke offered free hot dogs and drinks to everyone in the park. Within a week, he had brought in Victor Borgeand Gloria DeHavenfor guest appearances. At another game that week, he provided free orchids from Hawaii to the first 3,000 women in the park. An opera company and free comic books for children under 14 were scheduled for another game that week that was rained out. Cooke had suggestion boxes installed throughout the stadium and introduced music over the public address system between innings. He also announced that he would hire female ushers for the next season and hired a flagpole sitter who was supposed to remain at the top of the pole until the Leafs made the first division. Over the 10-year span from 1951 to 1960, the Maple Leafs drew 3.2 million spectators, peaking in 1952 with 446,040 fans in attendance (which went to more than 500,000 with the playoffs included) to see a team that finished in fourth place.
Nine days after Cooke became owner, the team announced that it had signed its first
African Americanplayers. Cooke negotiated an affiliation with the St. Louis Browns for the 1952 season. With his focus on entertainment, Cooke had often been compared to Browns' owner Bill Veeck. The arrangement with the Browns lasted only one season.
But, despite the strong start, attendance never again came close to matching the 1952 numbers, even with pennant-winning seasons under managers
Luke Sewellin 1954, Bruno Betzelin 1956, and Dixie Walkerin 1957. The pennant-winning 1960 Leafs, a Cleveland affiliate, won 100 games with a league-record 32 shutouts under manager Mel McGaha, but attendance figures were flat from the previous season, when the Leafs had finished in eighth place. It was also in 1960 that Sparky Andersonfirst joined the team as a middle infielder. He went on to play with the Leafs until 1964 when he became manager.
In 1961, Cooke left Canada to become a U.S. citizen, naming Harry Kimber club president. Cooke sold the team in January 1964 to a syndicate led by Robert L. Hunter and Sam Starr for a reported $50,000. Former co-owner Gardiner returned to the Leafs as a director. Hunter and Starr launched a drive for community ownership, selling shares in Toronto (Community) Baseball Ltd., but there was little interest.
In 1965 the
Boston Red Soxbecame the parent club and another future managing star, Dick Williams, took the Leafs' helm and led them to consecutive Governors' Cup titles in 1965 and 1966. Despite the championship season, the Leafs lost $168,000 in 1965. Gardiner wrote a personal cheque for $100,000 to cover the shortfall, with the balance being paid by other members of the board. Meanwhile, the deterioration of Maple Leaf Stadium, regular broadcasts of major league games on television, and other factors drove attendance down to only 67,216 in 1967. According to Hunter, the team lost about $400,000 over its last four seasons in Toronto. The final home game, on September 4, 1967, drew a paid attendance of 802.
After the season, the team was sold to Walter Dilbeck, a real estate developer from
Evansville, Indianafor $65,000. On October 17 1967the directors of the International League approved the transfer of the Maple Leafs franchise to Louisville, Kentucky, where the team competed as the Louisville Colonelsstarting in 1968. There had been several offers for the team, including one from the hockey Toronto Maple Leafs. After just five seasons, the club moved again, to Pawtucket, Rhode Islandin 1973, where it continues to operate as the Pawtucket Red Sox.
In 1969, the year after the demise of the AAA Leafs, a new Toronto Maple Leafs began play as an amateur team belonging to the
Ontario-only Intercounty Baseball League. Major League Baseball arrived in the city of Toronto during the next wave of expansion, in 1977, with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Toronto won the Eastern League/International League pennant 12 times: 1887, 1902, 1907, 1912, 1917, 1918, 1926, 1943, 1954, 1956, 1957, and 1960. The team won the
Governors' Cupfour times: 1934, 1960, 1965, and 1966 (finalists in 1943, 1955, 1956, 1958), and won the Junior World Seriesin 1907 and 1926 (finalists in 1917, 1934, and 1960).
International League MVPs
Most valuable player
* 1934 -
* 1954 -
* 1956 -
* 1958 -
* 1960 - Jim King
* 1965 -
Joe Foy(also rookie of the year)
Most valuable pitcher
* 1955 -
* 1956 -
* 1957 - Don Johnson
* 1960 -
* 1966 -
Members of the Maple Leafs won the league batting title 16 times:
*1886 - Jon Morrison, .346
*1887 - Cannonball Crane, .428 †
*1895 - Judson Smith, .373
Buck Freeman, .347
*1899 - Jim Bannon, .341
*1906 - Jack Thoney, .294
*1907 - Jack Thoney, .329
*1909 - Myron Grimshaw, .309
Jack Slattery, .310
Morrie Rath, .332
Nap Lajoie, .380
Dale Alexander, .380
Ike Boone, .372
Rocky Nelson, .326
Joe Foy, .302
Reggie Smith, .320
Bases on ballscounted as hits for the 1887 season
Hall of fame
Twelve members of the Maple Leafs have been inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame:
Fourteen team members have been inducted into the International League Hall of Fame: John Berly,
Bruno Betzel, Ike Boone, Jack Dunn, Luke Hamlin, Dan Howley, Rocky Nelson, Steve O'Neill, Eddie Onslow, Dick Porter, Dick Rudolph, George Selkirk, George Stallings, and Dixie Walker.
*Games, career (player): 1,077,
*Games, career (manager): 1,159,
*Winning streak: 19 (1925)
*Losing streak: 14 (1932)
*Hits, season: 236,
*Hits, career: 1,111, Eddie Onslow
*Runs, season: 134, Mike Slattery (1887)
*Runs, career: 582, Lew Morton
*Home runs, season: 43,
*Home runs, career: 138,
*Runs batted in, season: 144,
*Runs batted in, career: 556,
*Batting average, season: .380 † (tie)
Nap Lajoie(1917), Dale Alexander(1928)
*Batting average, career (min 1,000 at-bats): .360,
† Excludes 1887 season when
bases on ballswere counted as hits
*Wins, season: 33 (tie), Cannonball Crane (1887), Albert Atkisson (1888)
*Wins, career: 120, Dick Rudolph
*ERA, season: 1.16,
*Strikeouts, season: 307, Albert Atkisson (1888)
*Strikeouts, game: 15,
"Source: Baseball's Back in Town by Louis Cauz, Controlled Media Corporation Inc., 1977"
Babe Ruthhit his first professional home run against the team.
The Maple Leafs were affiliated with the following major league teams:
Toronto Maple Leafs (baseball)
Toronto Blue Jays
*Lloyd Johnson and Miles Wolff, editors. "The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball," 1997 edition. Durham, N.C.:
* [http://www.minorleaguebaseball.com/app/milb/history/top100.jsp?idx=76 Top 100 Teams – 1902 Toronto Maple Leafs]
* [http://www.minorleaguebaseball.com/app/milb/history/top100.jsp?idx=45 Top 100 Teams – 1918 Toronto Maple Leafs]
* [http://www.minorleaguebaseball.com/app/milb/history/top100.jsp?idx=21 Top 100 Teams – 1920 Toronto Maple Leafs]
* [http://www.minorleaguebaseball.com/app/milb/history/top100.jsp?idx=39 Top 100 Teams – 1926 Toronto Maple Leafs]
* [http://www.minorleaguebaseball.com/app/milb/history/top100.jsp?idx=87 Top 100 Teams – 1960 Toronto Maple Leafs]
Boston Red Sox
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