Quebec Provincial League

From BR Bullpen

The Quebec Provincial League of 1940, a class B league, lasted only a season in the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, but it followed a successful stretch as one of the top leagues outside of it.


The first serious try at an organized league in Quebec since the 1922-1923 Eastern Canada League and 1924 Quebec-Ontario-Vermont League, the Provincial League started in 1935 as not much more than a semi-pro Sunday league with teams in Sherbrooke, Sorel, Granby and Drummondville, and 4 teams in Montreal, including a team from the Montreal police force. The level of play quickly increased, and by the 1937 season, teams were playing 60-game schedules. The league also moved out of Montreal and towards Eastern Quebec, adding teams in Trois-Rivières in 1937, and St. Hyacinthe and Quebec City in 1938.

For the 1936 and 1937 seasons, the league also had a roving team sponsored by Chappie Johnson, the Black Panthers, that served as some sort of farm team for the Negro Leagues. They were competitive in 1936, making the playoffs, but fell to a 10-50 record in 1937.

In these early years, the league featured a high number of local players, but also raided New England colleges for help. Franco-Americans were also a popular target throughout its history. A big boost to its credibility was the hiring of former major leaguer Herbie Moran as manager for Trois-Rivières in 1937.

In 1938 and 1939, the league became one of the top leagues outside of the National Association. With loose regulations on spending, it was able to outspend its rivals, and it raided the neighboring leagues, notably the Can-Am League and the Cape Breton Colliery League. This led to some dispute with the National Association, and some teams were worse offenders than others. In particular, Sorel seems to have lured many players and encouraged them to jump their contract, then hiding them under aliases. It was a mostly successful strategy, as Sorel won the championship every year between 1935 and 1938. Fighting for a playoff spot in 1939, they committed one of their worst offenses, convincing Bill Powley to jump his contract with Ottawa of the Can-Am league, adding him to the roster after the league deadline and presenting him as Al McElreath, a real player who does not appear to have been aware of it all. The move did not work: it was reported in the Sporting News,[1] and Sorel missed the playoffs. It was reported that Powley received a salary of $600 to $700 per month. [2]

The list of high-priced players in 1939 also include Canadian outfielder Vince Barton (Granby), Dutch Prather and Moose Clabaugh (Trois-Rivières) and Ernie Sulik (Quebec). Trois-Rivières and Quebec City, as the largest cities in the league, soon also became the biggest spenders and the most successful franchises. Both also received a nice gift from the Quebec government: identical state-of-the-art ballparks built under public work programs that are still in use today, now known as Stade Fernand-Bédard in Trois-Rivières and Stade Canac in Quebec City. Granby and Sherbrooke also opened new stadiums allowing them to play night baseball.

The 1939, the Quebec Athlétiques hired Del Bissonette as manager, and he was much more careful than his Sorel counterpart in respecting rules, as he still aspired to climb up the ranks as a manager. He was mentioned as a candidate to manage the 1940 Montreal Royals, but he eventually lost to Clyde Sukeforth, with his stay in an outlaw league mentioned as a potential factor.

The league also discovered one of the downsides of not being in the National Association just before the 1939 playoffs: the Quebec Athlétiques lost two of their starting pitchers, Granby lost three key players and Trois-Rivières' star pitcher By Speece briefly held out for more money. Glenn Liebhardt, who tossed a no-hitter in the finals, and Lou Lepine rose to the occasion and led the Athlétiques to the championship.

Talks of joining the National Association dominated the 1939-40 offeason. It seemed to be a good way to control salaries, which ballooned to $4,000 to $4,500 per month for some 1939 teams. By comparison, a class B team had a salary cap of $2,500 per month. The talks to join the National Association were led by league president Jean Barrette and his representative Joe Page. They dragged on for most of the off-season, with the league gaining Class B status on February 3, 1940. Quebec City, Trois-Rivières, Sherbrooke, Granby and St. Hyacinthe were in, and there was talk of the sixth team being in either Gatineau, QC just across from Ottawa, ON on the Quebec side, or Lachine, QC on the island of Montreal. Unsurprisingly, this led nowhere as there were other teams in the National Association in Ottawa and Montreal. The Sorel team was left out, either because it refused to play by the National Association rules or because it was not wanted for its past offenses. It was only in mid-March that Drummondville was confirmed as the sixth franchise.

Five of the six teams were managed by former major leaguers, with Wally Schang (Trois-Rivières), Mel Simons (St. Hyacinthe) and Doc Gautreau (Sherbrooke) joining returning managers Del Bissonette and Charlie Small (Drummondville). Many players returned from 1939, with a notable exception being Howie Moss, apparently still banned for jumping his contract. Moss had led the 1939 league with 11 home runs.

The Drummondville Tigers were plagued by problems from the start. The late organization led to a slow start. A strike at a local textile mill was a drag on attendance, and some local games were moved to nearby Victoriaville, QC. Finally, the team disbanded on July 8, with a 7-25 record. The Sherbrooke Braves, who went through a change of ownership in late June that led to Gautreau being fired and replaced by George Klivak, decided on August 1st that there was no point in losing money for another month. The fact that 800 soldiers were about to leave town for their training was also mentioned as a factor.

Attendances were down across the league, especially in the last month as the four remaining teams were guaranteed a playoff spot. St. Hyacinthe finished strong with 8 straight wins to clinch the pennant, but after losing the opening game of the semi-finals to Trois-Rivières, their next home game was delayed thrice by bad weather over the long Labor Day weekend. Unable to sustain more losses, the ownership pulled the plug. In the other semi-finals, Granby eliminated the defending champions Athlétiques, before quickly bowing out to Trois-Rivières in 5 games in the finals.

Talks immediately started for the 1941 season. Sherbrooke was interested in coming back, and once again Gatineau, Sorel and even cities in Vermont were mentioned as possibilities. J. Emile Dion, president of the Quebec Athlétiques, took over from Barrette as league president, but had not much luck in finding partners. When in late March Dion traveled to Gatineau and found no support, the league collapsed. The next week, Dion headed to the Can-Am League meeting, where Quebec City and Trois-Rivières were accepted as members. Sherbrooke, Granby, St. Hyacinthe and Drummondville started an amateur league, that, in time, led to the next incarnation of the Provincial League.

Over the 1938-40 period, the Provincial League featured about 30 players with major league experience. Among them was centerfielder Joe Cicero, arguably the best player in the league during his stay with St. Hyacinthe, who had cups of coffee with the Boston Red Sox in 1929 and 1930, and would receive another one with the Philadelphia A’s in 1945. There were also a half dozen players on their way to the big leagues. In that last group is Pete Gray, the one-armed outfielder who attracted large crowds after joining the Trois-Rivières team for the last half of the 1938 season, and three local talents who benefited from the higher caliber of play: infielder Roland Gladu (Quebec 1938-40) and pitchers Paul Calvert (Sherbrooke 1938-39) and Jean-Pierre Roy (Trois-Rivières 1940).

Cities Represented[edit]

Teams and Statistics[edit]


1939 Quebec Provincial League - schedule
President: Jean Barrette

Team Standings W L PCT GB Managers
Trois-Rivières Foxes 42 30 .583 - Jim Skelton
Quebec Athletics 42 30 .583 - Del Bissonette
St. Hyacinthe Saints 38 34 .528 4 Jim Irving
Granby Red Sox 38 34 .528 4 Henry Bloch
Sorel 37 35 .514 5 Ernie Olson
Sherbrooke Braves 29 43 .403 13 Tom Hammond
Drummondville Tigers 24 48 .333 18 Henry Demeo

Regular Season Playoff: Trois Rivieres 2 games, Quebec 0.
Playoffs: Trois Rivieres 3 games, Granby 0; Quebec 3 games, St. Hyacinthe 2
Finals: Quebec 4 games, Trois Rivieres 2

Player Statistics
Player Team Stat Tot Player Team Stat Tot
Georges Andrews Granby/Trois Rivieres BA .332 Jack Kimball Sorel W 13
Howie Moss Granby R 56 Byron Speece Trois Rivieres SO 108
Howie Moss Granby Hits 96 Art O'Donnell Drummondville PCT .778 7-2
Howie Moss Granby HR 11 Fred Browning Quebec PCT .778 7-2
Howie Moss Granby RBI 59


1940 Quebec Provincial League
President: Jean Barrette

Team Standings W L PCT GB Managers
St. Hyacinthe Saints 48 30 .615 - Mel Simons
Quebec Athletics 44 35 .557 4.5 Del Bissonette
Granby Red Sox 42 37 .532 6.5 Glenn Larsen
Trois-Rivières Foxes 37 43 .463 12 Wally Schang
Sherbrooke Braves# 25 31 .446 NA Doc Gautreau / George Klivak
Drummondville Tigers## 6 26 .188 NA Charlie Small

## Drummondville disbanded July 8.
# Sherbrooke disbanded August 1.
Playoffs: Trois Rivieres 1 game, St. Hyacinthe 0. (St. Hyacinthe forfeited due
to the prolonged weather delay); Granby 3 games, Quebec 2.
Finals: Trois Rivieres 4 games, Granby 1.

Player Statistics
Player Team Stat Tot Player Team Stat Tot
Sherley Andrews St. Hyacinthe BA .339 Bruno Shedis St. Hyacinthe W 18
Joseph Dooley Quebec Runs 64 Bill Yocke Quebec SO 127
Stanley Platek St. Hyacinthe Hits 105 Lou Lepine Quebec ERA 1.67
James Walsh Granby RBI 63 Bruno Shedis St. Hyacinthe PCT .783 18-5
James Walsh Granby HR 17


The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball: Second and Third Editions. Christian Trudeau, "La Ligue Provinciale 1938 et 1939: Notes de recherche sur le baseball au Québec" (in French)

  1. Sporting News, July 27, 1939, p.10.
  2. Bridgeport Post, August 29, 1948, p. 35