October 1, 1917:
In the early part of the 20th century, a lot of the sports we know and love today were new and weird. One of those was the one that would eventually become American Football, as played currentlt in the wildly popular and wealthy National Football League.
But in order to get there, efforts were made for many years in the late 19th century and early 20th, to spread the game in other areas, almost entirely to limited success.
According to the sports section of the Vancouver Daily Sun in 1917, an effort was made to play a game of ‘the American style of rugby’, such that it was back then, as entertainment around the opening of ‘the Winnipeg Patriot League’ which was the war-time name for what was really the Manitoba Senior League.
Ball players played along, trying to figure out the new fangled game with its new fangled rules, but it didn’t go so well.
INTRODUCE AMERICAN GAME
U.S. style of football is played at Winnipeg Saturday
The American style of rugby was introduced here yesterday in the opening game of the Winnipeg Patriot League, which the Arenas won from the Granites, 23 to 2.
The American style, as demonstrated by the local teams, many of the bots never having played the game before, did not make a hit.
Here’s hoping the Americans can figure out how to make their game more appealing going forward, eh?
Either way, let’s go down the rabbit hole and see if we can’t learn more about this scene.
Turns out, the Winnipeg Patriot League was an amateur baseball league back in 1917, a then five-team affair where the Winnipeg Arenas [pictured above] and Granites were pitched against Dominion Express, Transcona, and Winnipeg Catholic Club.
According to the excellent Western Canada Baseball historic website, crowds of 2500-3000 were common, though issues involving whether coloured players would be allowed, and whether certain players were considered professional or not after playing side games that included pro players seemed to dog the organization. Player names included the multi-decade player-manager Steamer Maxwell, the lightning fast base-runner Snake Siddle, and ‘Chum’ Irwin, giving a little insight into the pioneer nature of the town and sport.
A decade later, only the Arenas would remain in the league, which ow featured the Tammany Tigers, Elks, Columbus Club and Norwood.
Though there were gaps and mergers along the way, the Manitoba Senior Baseball League folded 100 years later, in 2017, when it could only register two teams.