We have already reviewed the two other pro leagues that have operated in the Maritimes (New Brunswick-Maine League in 1913 and the Cape Breton Colliery League of 1937). Plus the semi-pro Halifax & District Baseball League of 1946-59. Now the final installment of this series. The New Brunswick League (NBL) is one of the more obscure leagues in the history of minor league baseball and hence, there is little information online about it. Most sources, including Baseball Reference list the league as lasting only one season (1890), but the book Saint John: A Sporting Tradition 1785-1995 includes a history that dates back to 1888. This blog will recognize the 1888-89 seasons when recounting this league. The league was a Non-Signatory 19th Century League which means it did not sign the National Agreement (to honour contracts) of 1883.
As one would expect, there was a huge rivalry between the two Saint John teams. The Nationals and Shamrocks were the only two clubs to win the NBL championship during its three seasons as a professional league. The clubs played a traditional season opener on Victoria Day and a doubleheader every Dominion Day. The style of baseball being played in Saint John was so exciting and open that fans came to Saint John from all over New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Maine to see the games. Another big rivalry was that between Saint John (both the Shamrocks and the Nationals) and Halifax (the Atlantas and Socials). The cities meet in many exhibitions as well as the Maritime championship during the 1880s.
One could agree that the Saint John teams were a victim of their own success as the Fredericton and Moncton teams would fold before the end of the 1890 season, and the NBL folded in late August as the Shamrocks and Nationals were the only teams left. A professional league was expensive to maintain with salaries, appearance fees for visiting teams and equipment. After the 1890 season, professional baseball would not return to New Brunswick for another 23 years and has yet to return to Moncton.
Saint John Nationals 1888, Saint Johns 1889-90
Saint John Shamrocks 1888-90
1888: Saint John Nationals
1889: Saint Johns (10-2)
1890: Saint John Shamrocks (.734 winning percentage)
Major Leaguers who played in the NBL:
All players are linked to their Major League profile on Baseball Reference.
- William “Bill” Merritt, C/1B, Saint John Shamrocks, 1890 – Chicago Colts, 1891; Louisville Colonels, 1892; Boston Beaneaters, 1883-94, 1899; Pittsburgh Pirates, 1894, 1895-97; Cincinnati Reds, 1894-5
- John O’Brien, 2B; Saint John Shamrocks, 1890 – Brooklyn Grooms, 1891; Chicago Colts, 1893; Louisville Colonels, 1895-96; Washington Senators, 1896-97; Baltimore Orioles, 1899; Pittsburgh Pirates, 1899
- Frank Sexton, P/LF/2B, Saint John Shamrocks,1890 – Boston Beaneaters, 1895
- Jim Sullivan, P, Saint Johns, 1889 – Boston Beaneaters, 1891, 1895-98; Columbus Solons, 1891
- Joe Sullivan, SS/OF/2B, Saint Johns, 1889 – Washington Senators, 1893-94; Philadelphia Phillies 1894-96; St. Louis Browns, 1896* Three other players on the 1890 Shamrocks went on to the Major Leagues, list will be updated if I can get more info