St. J. Baseball in Montreal

To the Editor:

The inaugural year of the Montreal Royals baseball club in 1897 saw the team under Manager W.H. Rowe enter the Single A Eastern League on Friday July 16, 1897 after “secure[ing] the franchise of the Rochester base ball club of the Eastern [L]eague for Montreal.” (“Rochester Club Sold. Franchise Has Been Transferred to Montreal, Canada —-Fire Destroys Rochester Grandstand,” The Scranton Tribune, Sat. July 17, 1897, at p. 2).

While waiting for the Eastern League to call, Manager Rowe’s club played a spring and summer schedule with Canadian clubs in Hamilton, London, Toronto, and Windsor; town teams in “Belfast, Rockland, Bangor, Lewiston, Augusta, and Portland, of the Maine State League, and Brockton [Mass.][,] and St. Johnsbury.” (“Montreal’s Itinerary,” The Montreal Gazette, Mon. May 3, 1897, at p. 5).

After receiving an invitation from Manager Rowe for a three game series in Montreal, the St. Johnsbury Town Team (under the managerial direction of skipper Charlie Carr) headed north to check into The Albion Hotel and to engage the Royals at Shamrock Grounds on Rue St. Catherine.

Game 1 was held on Sat. May 22, 1897 with the batteries of Aldrich (p) and Straub (c) for St. J. and Joyce (p) and Downey (c) for Montreal. Our home town team from Scale City took the first game victory by a score of 10-7 (“It Was A Close Game Montreal Lost in the Tenth Inning Through Hard Luck,” The Montreal Gazette, Mon. May 24, 1897, at p. 2).

Game 2 was played on Mon. May 24, 1897. The Royals showed no noblesse oblige to the visiting Vermonters. Montreal won, 13-4, as “Colton’s pitching and the good backing he received proved too much for the St. Johnsbury team yesterday afternoon. The Vermonters were only able to make five hits off the Montreal south paw.” (The Montreal Gazette, Tues. May 25, 1897, at p. 5).

The rubber match Game 3 was washed out by inclement weather. The St. Johnsbury Caledonian commented on the experience for the Scale City baseballers that: “[t]he boys enjoyed the trip, were [well treated] by the manager of the Montreals and [are] ready to cross bats again with the city team whenever they wish to get them up there.” (“Baseball in Montreal,” The St. Johnsbury Caledonian, Fri. May 28, 1897, at p. 8).

The Montreal Royals went on to a record of 49 wins and 76 losses in that first season of play in 1897. The club enjoyed a long and storied history in Mount Royal, particularly in the 1939-1960 era as the Class AAA affiliate of The Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers. Baseball legend and National Baseball Hall of Fame member Jackie Robinson played for the Royals during the 1946 season. Other famous past Royals included Roy Campanella, Roberto Clemente, Chuck “The Rifleman” Connors, Don “The Twin D” Drysdale, Tommy Lasorda, and Don Newcombe.

Following the conclusion of the 1960 minor league season, the Royals franchise left Montreal with relocation to New York State as the Syracuse Chiefs, the AAA affiliate of the Minnesota Twins during the 1961 baseball season.

Christopher E. Ryan

Los Angeles, California

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