Edmonton Goes Pro
“1,000 frenzied capitalists” witness Edmonton’s first professional baseball game.
On May 30, 1907, the first professional baseball game was played in Edmonton, Alberta. Played at Diamond Park, which also opened that day, the home team beat the visiting “Cow Pokers” from Calgary 9–8 (the game was called because of darkness with one out in the top of the 9th). The Edmonton Legislators and Calgary Chinooks* were part of the four-team Western Canada League, along with the Lethbridge Miners and the Medicine Hat Gaslighters. It was Class D baseball, which in modern terms would be equivalent to Rookie League baseball.
Advertisments for the game highlight a new ballpark, “just below hill on 2nd street.” While baseball had been played in Ross Flats for several years, it wasn’t until 1907 that Diamond Park became Edmonton’s first permanent baseball facility.** It served as Edmonton’s primary professional and semi-professional ballpark until 1933, when Renfrew Park (now RE/MAX Field) opened a couple of blocks southwest, closer to the North Saskatchewan River. Though there is no plaque to acknowledge its historical importance as a gathering place for local sports clubs — football and lacrosse teams also played there — Diamond Park remains, with a shale baseball diamond open to public use at Rossdale Road and 101 Street, right next to the Rossdale Brewery.
Game time was 6:45 pm, and tickets were $1 (prices for games after the home opener were 25 cents for general admission and 50 cents for the bleachers). Alberta’s first Lieutenant Governor, George H. V. Bulyea, was in attendance, along with Mayor William Griesbach. The Edmonton Bulletin’s summary of the game the next day is worth a read in its entirety, but here’s the first paragraph as a sampling:
“In spite of the fact that the thermometer registered 33 below zero, and icicles formed on the clubhouse store and Jimmy’s Bill’s nose, 1,000 frenzied capitalists gave up their good money, and were present at the opening game of the Western Canada League in the brand new grounds on Ross’ flats. The thousand odd were there to boost the home team, hoot at the enemy, and if necessary, kill the umpire.”
*The Edmonton Bulletin refers to the Edmonton team as the Capitals. Ducey notes in “The Rajah of Renfrew,” however, that Deacon White chose to call his team the Legislators, perhaps in an attempt to distance himself from the Capitals, who were the semi-pro team in the city in 1905–1906. It should also be noted that though Ducey refers to the 1907 Calgary team as the Chinooks in the book, in Appendix Three he calls them the Calgary Bronks. The Bulletin calls the 1907 Calgary team the Chinooks, however, so in this instance I’m going to assume an error in Appendix Three.
**Though the first game at Diamond Park was held on May 30, 1907, because of construction delays that saw the park being completed just hours before the first pitch, it wasn’t until the following year that the park held its official opening. After a couple of postponements due to bad weather, Diamond Park officially opened on June 15, 1908.