#Shortstops: A Patch of Royalty
Today’s baseball fan knows Montreal, Quebec, as the former home of the Montreal Expos.
But before the Expos brought Major League Baseball to Canada, the minor league Montreal Royals was the city’s baseball team.
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The Royals were one of the most well-known and successful teams in Minor League Baseball history.
Beginning in 1897 as the Montreal Jingoes, they changed their name to the Royals in 1901. Playing in the Eastern League and later in the International League, the Royals were not remarkably successful, only winning one pennant in 1898 before disbanding in 1917.
From 1922-1924, the reformed Montreal Royals played in the Eastern Canada League – which later became the Quebec-Ontario-Vermont League. This period of Royals history was highlighted by two events. The first was that Charlie Culver, an African-American pitcher/shortstop, played six games for the Royals in 1922, going 6 for 19 with two home runs at the plate and 2-0 with 13 strikeouts on the mound. The second was that the Royals won the Eastern Canada League pennant in 1923.
In 1928, the Montreal Royals were reformed again by George Stallings – the manager of the 1914 World Champion Boston Braves – and local investors, rejoining the International League. They built a new “20,000” seat stadium called Delorimier Downs that replaced the smaller Atwater Park, where previous Royals teams played.
This incarnation of the Montreal Royals would be the longest and most successful. In their 33 seasons, the Royals made the International League finals 11 times, won the pennant seven times (1941, 1946, 1948, 1949, 1951, 1953, 1958) and won the Junior World Series in 1946, 1948 and 1953.
A primary reason for their success was their affiliation with the Brooklyn Dodgers as their top farm team. This partnership brought many great players to the Royals, including future Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson. In 1946, Robinson led the International League in batting average and runs scored while helping the Royals capture the IL pennant and the Junior World Series championship with a record of 100-54.
Other Hall of Famers who have played for or managed the Montreal Royals are Ed Barrow, Waite Hoyt, Burleigh Grimes, Rabbit Maranville, Duke Snider, Roy Campanella, Walter Alston, Tommy Lasorda, Dick Williams, Sparky Anderson, Don Drysdale and Roberto Clemente.
In the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s collection is a Montreal Royals patch that is dated from the 1950s. The patch is 4.5 x 4.75 inches and was originally sold in a store in Canada. Even though Montreal Royals players never wore this patch on their uniform sleeves, young Canadian ballplayers could sew the patch on their sleeves and imitate their favorite Royal players while playing their baseball games.
The Royals left Montreal for Syracuse, N.Y., after the 1960 season.
Matthew Carter was the 2019 curatorial intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development