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Arthur Duchesnil

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Arthur Duchesnil

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[edit] Biographical Information

Pitcher Arthur Duchesnil was one of the first players from Quebec to sign a contract with a major league team, although he never reached the majors. He was still a teenager when he first drew attention with his pitching in the Montreal City League, playing against grown men, striking out over a batter an inning in spite of his small stature, and also distinguishing himself as the most dangerous hitter on the team. In 1911, George Kendall, President of the "Club Athlétique Canadien", better known as the parent organization of the soon-to-be-famed Montreal Canadiens hockey team, put together a baseball team made up of the best French Canadian players available; Duchesnil was the team's mound star, but the team was disbanded for lack of a steady league to play in. He was back playing in the city league in 1912, once striking out 21 batters in an 11-inning game, and managed to catch the attention of major league scouts. Charlie Comiskey and Nixey Callahan of the Chicago White Sox gave him a workout, but he chose to attend college near Burlington, VT instead.

Back in Montreal in 1913, Duchesnil realized he needed to face stronger competition and signed with the Pittsfield Electrics of the Eastern Association, going 10-6 in 20 games. When he returned to Montreal after the season, he struck out 26 batters in one game to improve his previous record. That got the Boston Braves interested, and they signed him for the 1914 season. After attending spring training with the team, he was assigned to the Rochester Hustlers of the International League, then the strongest minor league in existence. He went 6-2 in 19 games, finding a spot in the starting rotation even though at 22, he was the second-youngest player on the squad. He got to face Babe Ruth, who was with the Baltimore Orioles, that summer, and both of his losses came against his hometown team, the Montreal Royals. Late in the season, he was sent down to the Binghamton Bingoes in the New York State League, although his statistics with that team are unavailable. He then moved to the Scranton Miners of the same league in 1915 and 1916, where he had two good seasons, going 12-8 the first year and 23-12 the second. The latter year, he tied for 4th in the NYSL in wins, behind Howard Ehmke, Jimmy Ring and Dixie Walker.

Duchesnil then moved back to Quebec where he played semi-pro ball for a few more years. However, in 1926, his health declined rapidly, and people who met him commented he looked only a shadow of his former athletic self. Pennyless and without a family, he was housed by a good Samaritan who knew him from his glory days and died one day after his 35th birthday. A public subscription had to be taken to pay for his funerals, which were sparsely attended.

[edit] Further Reading

  • Alexandre Pratt: "Arthur Duchesnil", in Gilles Janson, ed.: Dictionnaire des grands oubliés du sport au Québec, 1850-1950, Les éditions du Septentrion, Quebec, QC, 2013, pp. 145-146. ISBN 978-2-89448-725-9

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