1959 Polar League Champs
After World War II, a senior baseball team in The Pas played exhibition games against teams from northern Manitoba and Saskatchewan communities such as Bowsman, Flin Flon, Nipawin, Melfort, and Sturgis. Touring teams from the USA, including the Legion Colored All-Stars, also played in The Pas. The team also travelled to tournaments in both provinces.
The players included the brother battery of pitcher Ken Smith and catcher Claude Smith, Arvid (Swede) Grant, Sten Wadelius, Steve Anaka, Rene Raulins, and Rene McKinnon. In later years, they were joined by a younger group that included Claude Kozik, Ron Cox, Cliff (Ticky) King, George Hiatt, and Kenny Gair.
Locally, games were played on The Pas Collegiate Institute grounds until the early 1950s. When the school division decided that it needed a new high school, a decision was made to build it on the school playing field south of the present building. Because there was not another suitable playing facility in the community, the beginning of construction led to the end of organized baseball, not only at the senior level but also for younger teams. While the school opened in the spring of 1954, the town did not have a senior team again until 1956.
Formation of the Polar League
In the Spring of 1956, individuals in Flin Flon and Cranberry Portage decided to get together to see if there was any interest in forming a senior men’s baseball league in the north. A major component of the DEW Line had been established in Cranberry Portage so the population of the small community located on Hwy. 10 between The Pas and Flin Flon was on the rise. This meant that the DEW Line people were looking for recreational opportunities for the young men working there.
A meeting was scheduled for a Sunday in Cranberry Portage. Kent Morgan, a teenager from The Pas, was in Flin Flon that weekend to see an SJHL playoff game so some of the people going to the meeting suggested that he attend on his way home. The discussions indicated that there was interest in forming a league with two teams from Flin Flon and one from Cranberry Portage. Morgan said that he would approach people in The Pas to see if a team could be formed and a playing field found.
Morgan initially contacted Arvid Grant about the idea and Mr Grant agreed to bring together a group of baseball people to discuss the idea. Once there seemed to be enough interest and it was determined where the team could play its home games, a notice was placed in the local paper, The Northern Mail, by Morgan, who was a freelance sports reporter for the paper, to recruit players. Initial practices were held in the small Winton field near The Pas Lumber Company.
In 1960, The TeePees finished first in regular season play and then met Creighton Economy Braves in the semi-final. The series went five games with the TeePees winning the rubber match 10–2. Lynn Marlowe was the winning pitcher and Dick Laframboise had three hits. The final with the Stylers from Flin Flon actually went eight games as the first game ended in a 5-5 tie. The Pas won game two 14-9, but Styler bounced back with a 9–0 victory to even the series. Ron Cox’s grand slam homerun was the big blow in the TeePees 6-3 win in game four. Stylers won the next two games 4–1 and 2–1 to move ahead 3–2. Catcher George Konik stole home with the winning run in the second game. The Pas won the championship beating the Stylers 6–1 behind Claude Kozik’s first inning three-run homer and then 4–2 in game eight. Marlowe drove in the winning run with a pitch hit single in the top of the seventh and pitched the bottom of the inning in relief of winning pitcher Bernie Lanigan. Marlowe with a record of 10–2 on the year was named league MVP.
In 1961, the same two teams reached the Polar League final with Stylers coming out on top in the best-of-seven series 4–1. Stylers Al Longmore was named league MVP. The following season the league expanded to six teams when a second team from The Pas called Trappers was accepted. The second team provide an opportunity for graduates from the minor ball program in The Pas to compete at a higher level. Coached by Marv Hill and George Hiatt, the young Trappers included Ted and Gerry Rock, Jack Ashely, Norm Engen, Gerry Foster, Paul Bayda, Wally Kowbuz and Gerry Yee. Several later played for the TeePees.
That year the TeePees won their third Polar League crown in four years beating Johnny’s Cardinals in the best-of-seven final. The series was tied 2–2, but the Cardinals won a 4–3 battle on Labour Day Sunday to move ahead. The TeePees then fought back the following day in game six to beat the Cardinals 10–5. Don Miller was the winning pitcher with Ron Cox, Harvey Beech, Barry Rowley and Millar leading the way at the plate with two hits. Orest Strocel contributed to the attack with two RBI. The Pas then captured the title with a 7–3 win in the second game of the doubleheader. Millar was the winner in relief of Wally Hausknecht while Rowley and Bill Donaldson led the attack with two hits. The Northern Mail reported that “the fleet-footed Donaldson scored five runs in the DH and played solidly in the outfield” and “second baseman Ron Cox was at his peak Monday. He was particularly brilliant in the second game.”
Back Row: Ron Ewing, Brian McTaggart, Harvey Beach, Barry Rowley, Orest Pidskalny (Strocel), Lynn Marlowe, Claude Kozik, Irv Snyder
Front Row: Jimmy Demetruk, Stan Reid, Bill Donaldson, Cliff King, Bernie Lanigan, Ron Cox, Doug White
Bat Boy: Merlin Donaldson