Today, something a little different. Instead of talking about current/future issues related to in bringing minor league teams in the region, I am going to look to the past and talk about a league that operated back in the late 1930s. The Cape Breton Colliery League (CCL) operated as a class D league in 1937 and 1938, then as a class C league in 1939. All teams were based in Cape Breton County. As an aside, the population of the county increased from 92,502 to 110,703 from 1931-1941.
The league operated prior to 1937 as an amateur league, but the teams voted unanimously to join the National Association (now known as Minor League Baseball) in 1936, in time for the 1937 CCL season. The opening game in 1937 (played June 7) between Sydney Mines and the host Citians drew an estimated crowd of 5,000; and a total 10,000 fans attended the first five games. A highlight from the 1939 season was when Glace Bay and Sydney claimed a `world record`by playing four straight tie games.
Dominion Hawks 1937-1938 (folded mid-season)
Glace Bay Miners 1937-1939
New Waterford Dodgers 1937-1939 (no affiliation with the MLB Dodgers)
Sydney Steel Citians 1937-1939
Sydney Mines Ramblers 1937-1939
1937: Glace Bay Miners (29-19)
1938: Glace Bay Miners (30-21)
1939: Sydney Steel Citians (36-20)
1937: Sydney 4, Glace Bay 3
1938: Glace Bay 4, New Waterford 1
1939: Sydney 4, New Waterford 0
1938: Sydney/Sydney Mines 4, New Waterford/Glace Bay 0 (played August 4)
Major Leaguers who played in the CCL:
A total of ten players who appeared in the CCL also played in the Major Leagues. Most of which were in the back-end of their careers and played in the Majors prior coming to Cape Breton. Only two players appeared in an MLB games after playing the CCL (in italics). All players are linked to their Major League profiles on Baseball Reference.
- Del Bissonette, 1B, Glace Bay, 1938 – Brooklyn Dodgers, 1928-31, 1933
- Al Blanche, P/OF, Sydney Mines, 1939 – Boston Braves, 1935-36
- Bill Chamberlain, P, Glace Bay, 1938 – Chicago White Sox, 1932
- Connie Creeden, OF, Sydney Mines, 1939 – Boston Braves, 1943
- Bill Marshall, SS/3B/2B, Sydney Mines, 1939 – Boston Red Sox, 1931; Cincinnati Reds, 1934
- Len Merullo, SS, New Waterford, 1937 – Chicago Cubs 1941-47 [edit January 2017, Merullo not listed as having played in CBCL on Baseball Reference]
- Freddie Mcguire, 2B, Glace Bay, 1937; Dominion/New Waterford, 1938 – New York Giants, 1922-23; Chicago Cubs, 1928; Boston Braves, 1929-31
- Merle Settlemire, P, Sydney, 1938 – Boston Red Sox, 1928
- Charlie Small, OF, Sydney, 1937 – Boston Red Sox, 1930
- Eddie Turchin, SS/2B/3B, Dominion, 1937 – Cleveland Indians, 1943
- Billy Zitzmann, OF, Dominion, 1937 – Pittsburgh Pirates, 1919; Cincinnati Reds, 1919, 1925-29
The league was well supported by the people of Cape Breton and folded due to Canada`s effort in the Second World War. The team`s also faced the high cost of bringing players in from Central Canada and the USA and paying for their way home after the season (or during the season for those who were released). In 1938,the league`s President, A.D. Campbell was honored by the National Association by being named the Chairman of the Board for that years Junior World Series (AAA) between Rochester and Louisville. The league was not revived since then and professional baseball as a whole has yet to return to the Maritime Provinces.
Sources: Baseball Reference (including the BR Bullpen)