Top 100 Teams
Canadian – American League
By Bill Weiss & Marshall Wright, Baseball Historians
In 1950, a baseball team from the Canadian province of Quebec crushed all opposition, while setting a new record for league wins. Playing in front of a league-high 123,000 fans in what was usually a hotbed of hockey, the Quebec Braves accomplished their feat by out hitting and pitching their opponents. However, a good portion of the Braves’ success came when they didn’t even swing the bat.
Baseball in the city of Quebec dates back to the 1920s. Here, the city placed teams in the Eastern Canada League in 1923 and in the Quebec – Ontario – Vermont League in 1924. Both entries in the Class B circuits were known as the Bulldogs, named for a previous National Hockey League franchise. In 1923, the club finished last in a four-team loop, but rebounded to take the flag with a 66-40 mark the next year. Following the 1924 season, Quebec dropped out of Organized Baseball, but later entered several teams in the outlaw Provincial League in the 1930s.
In 1940, a new team known as the Quebec Athletics joined the Class B Quebec Provincial League, not to be confused with the outlaw circuit still in operation. In the loop’s one year of existence, the Athletics finished second and lost in the first round of the playoffs to Granby. The following year, the Athletics joined the established Class C Canadian – American League, Can-Am for short. The circuit, established in 1936, consisted primarily of teams in upper-state New York, with Trois Rivieres, Quebec, joining the Athletics in 1941. Here, the club finished fifth, followed by a sixth place finish in 1942 before the loop was put on hiatus for the duration of WWII.
Following the cessation of hostilities, the Can–Am League was revived in 1946. A renamed Quebec club, now known as the Alouettes, finished the campaign in last place. After another pair of last place finishes, the 1948 team with a New York Giants working agreement, Quebec decided to return to independent operation. The club president, Ulysee Sainte Marie, millionaire owner of a construction company, spent big money to bring in former Cincinnati star first baseman Frank McCormick as manager and a roster studded with veterans from higher classification leagues. The plan worked beautifully and the 1949 team, now called the Braves, finished first with a 90-48 record, 14.5 games ahead of second place Oneonta and swept the playoffs in eight straight games. Lofty as this total was, the 1950 version of the club would leave that mark far behind.
|George McQuinn (Photo courtesy of National Baseball Hall of Fame)|
In 1950, ex-major leaguer first baseman George McQuinn, coming off a 12-year, .276 career spent primarily with the Browns, replaced McCormick as manager. McQuinn improved on McCormick’s total, leading the team to a 97-40 record, 7.5 games over second place Schenectady. In the playoffs they beat Oneonta four games to one and swept Amsterdam four straight in the finals.
Outfielder Garland Lawing, who had played for the Reds and Giants in 1946, won the Triple Crown (.346, 19 HR, 141 RBI). McQuinn, playing in 74 games, hit .318. Lou Palmisano hit .304, led the league in runs (130) and stole 36 bases. The 5’6” Palmisano had been a successful left-handed pitcher in the lower levels of the Cleveland organization for several years, playing in the outfield part-time. 1950 was the first year he played the outfield exclusively.
In the regular season, the Quebec Braves batted .280 to lead the league, but it was their prowess in a more esoteric stat – the base on balls – that contributed to their success. The team was issued a whopping 1,009 walks in 1950 – nearly equalling their hit total. Lawing led the league with 168, infielder Waldon Williams, a young Boston Brave farmhand, had 128 and Palmisano 101. In all, the team had over 18% of their plate appearances result in bases on balls.
On the mound, Fred Belinsky, in the best year of his pro career, led the league in wins (22-6) with a 2.99 ERA and 203 SO, although he walked 169. Hal (Moose) Erickson (20-7) led the league in ERA (2.40), SO (205) and complete games (23). Erickson went on to pitch for Detroit in 1953 as a 34-year old rookie.
After the 1950 season, the Provincial League rejoined the National Association after several seasons as an “outlaw” league, featuring in recent years the major league players who had jumped the Mexican League in 1946 and became disenchanted with baseball below the border. Quebec and Trois Rivieres left the Can-Am and joined the Provincial League. Other Can-Am teams were not sorry to see Quebec depart. They were getting tired of being outspent and out performed by the Braves and the more compact circuit eliminated the long and expensive trips to the canadian cities. In the Provincial League, the Braves continued their successful ways, winning four championships in a row beginning in 1952.
The Can-Am League was not as successful. Following the 1951 season, minus its largest and best drawing city (Quebec), attendance dwindled and the league became another victim of the intrusion of major league radio and television broadcasts.
When the Provincial League disbanded following the 1955 season, Quebec was out of Organized Baseball until 1971 when they began a seven-year stint in the Class AA Eastern League. The Quebec Braves of 1950 led their league in both batting and pitching, which was enough to propel them to the forefront of the pack. However, their record of 97-40 and their placement in the top 100 would not have been accomplished without the benefit of 1,000 free passes – a total which ranks among the best of all time.
|1950 Canadian – American League Standings|
|1950 Quebec Braves batting statistics|
|Peter Elko (Rome)||OF||103||381||85||111||60||18||2||5||72||26||6||.291|
|John Tondora (Trois Rivieres)||37||132||22||32||16||2||1||0||21||16||7||.242|
|1950 Quebec Braves pitching statistics|