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Intercounty Baseball League

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The Intercounty Baseball League was founded in 1919. The league plays in central and southern Ontario, and currently has nine teams. As of 2009, these teams are the Barrie Baycats, the Brantford Red Sox, the Guelph Royals, the Hamilton Thunderbirds, the Kitchener Panthers, the London Majors, the Missisauga Twins, the Oshawa Dodgers and the Toronto Maple Leafs. At different times, there were as few as four teams, and as many as 10 teams. The year 1957 is regarded as the start of the “modern era” in the IBL.

These teams play annually for the IBL Championship, and are awarded the Jack and Lynne Dominico Trophy (named for the longtime husband and wife owners of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and longstanding supporters of the league). No championship was awarded during 1942-1945, due to the Second World War. The league is believed to be the oldest amateur men's league in Canada.

The IBL is an independent league, not affiliated with MLB or any other baseball organization. The league consists of amateur male athletes who play a 36 game regular-season schedule, usually running from May to July, spread out among the different teams. Unlike the Majors, teams will not play a full 162 game schedule; on any given day, up to four games are played. Some doubleheaders are played. The league uses the designated hitter rule and also has an All-Star game usually in the last third of the season. IBL teams are allowed to carry 3 import players but not many take advantage of this rule.

Each team has a discrete front office, and the league itself has a Commissioner, a Registrar and a Treasurer/Statistician, along with a Supervisor of Umpires. Players can be signed and released by individual teams, and the League can suspend players for improper behavior. The league operates on a not-for-profit basis, and all staff members are volunteers. [1]

The IBL takes a particularly dim view on fighting, and has the power to suspend players if they act improperly. For example, four players were suspended "following a bench-clearing melee between the rivals" (the Barrie Baycats and the Toronto Maple Leafs) on August 13, 2009 during the 2009 playoffs. [2]

Some games are also televised on the local community cable channel, run by Rogers Cable (part of the same media company that owns the Toronto Blue Jays, although there is no other link between the two teams). The televised games feature announcers and on-screen graphics. Game highlights and results are also featured in local newspapers and on the radio.

Contents

[edit] Individual Team Histories

The Brantford Red Sox joined the IBL in 1934. They were the IBL runner-up team in 1936, and have won the Intercounty Major Baseball League Pennant 9 times (in 1950, 1951, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1965, 1981 and 2006). The Red Sox play their home games at Arnold Anderson Stadium at Cockshutt Park in Brantford, ON. The team suffered a long 25 year drought, winning the IBL championship in 1981, a feat not to be repeated until 2006. For the period 1971-2008, the team went 1003-956, enough for a .512 winning percentage. They also have the longest winning steak in the league, having won 22 straight in 1961 (they would finish 30-4 that season). Hockey great Wayne Gretzky played a few games in his youth with the team. [3] [4]

Two London Majors players in 2006. Click for details.

The London Majors play in Labatt Park, built in 1877 and is the oldest continuously used baseball park in the world.[5] The park is designated as an Ontario Heritage Property by the Government of Ontario due to it's age and historical importance. [6] The park was purchased by the Labatt family (owners of the Labatt Breweries) and it was donated to the City of London in 1936 for baseball and recreational use. From 1970-2008, the Majors went 1054-961, good enough for a .523 percentage, and have only won a single championship during that time, in 1975.

The Barrie Baycats play in Barrie Metals Park in Barrie, ON. They joined the league in 2001. From 2001-2008, they went 155-129, a .546 winning percentage. Their mascot is a large cat named "Cool Cat", and he entertains the younger fans during games. The team itself welcomes children under 12 to games with a no-charge admission, and the chance to win prizes during every game. [7]

The Guelph Royals call David E. Hastings Stadium in Guelph home. From 1971-2008, the team would go 937-961, giving them a .494 winning percentage. The Royals have won four championship titles in that time period, in1993, 1997, 2003 and 2004.

The Hamilton Thunderbirds play home games at Bernie Arbour Memorial Stadium in Stoney Creek, ON. From 1971-2008, the team went a dismal 581-1052, for a .356 winning percentage. For that period, they would only win the league championship once, in 1978. In 2008, the team celebrated it 56th year in Hamilton, and was noted for being the second oldest pro or semi-pro sports team in town, right behind the local CFL football team.

The Kitchener Panthers call Jack Couch Park in Kitchener, ON home. From 1970-2008, the team went 1191-867, good enough for a .579 percentage. During that time, they have won the championship seven times (1971, 1973, 1990, 1996, 1998, 2000 and 2001). The team if one of the oldest continuously operating team in Canadian sports history, having fielded a team every single season since 1919. For a one year period in the 1950’s, the team was known as the Kitchener Dutchmen. Many pro players have been with the Panthers, either before or after their time in Organized Baseball including Harry Psutka, Howie Hupp, Bob McKillop, Gary Ebel, Ron Smith, and Scott Medvin. Several Panthers have also played for Team Canada, including Marty Chubb, Randy Curran, Tom McKenzie and Jamie Pietraszko.

The Mississauga Twins are the newest entry in the IBL, playing home games at Meadowvale Field in Mississauga. The 2009 season was their first in Mississauga, having moved from Stratford, ON in February, 2009.. Their GM for the 2009 season was Doug Kelcher who signed with the New York Mets as a shortstop in 1962, and was also associated with the Toronto Blue Jays, having been their stats man for the teams first 15 years of existence.

The city of Mississauga is second only to Langley, BC for the number of players produced for amateur and pro leagues, and the Twins hope many of them will find their way back to the city and the team. The team moved to Burlington, Ontario for the 2011 season and became the Burlington Twins.

The Oshawa Dodgers played their home games in Kinsmen Stadium in Oshawa from 2002-2009. A relatively young team, from 2002-2009, they went 97-154, giving a .386 winning percentage. They have never won a championship. The team hopes to bring a championship home to the fans in Oshawa, and have been slowly improving over their short history, going 17-19 in 2008. The team folded after the end of the 2009 season however. Per the team website [1], posted in December 2009: "There are many factors that have gone in to making this decision (editor's note to suspend operations pending a sale), most notably changes the league is implementing with regards to limiting the number of junior age players teams can sign, instituting a minimum age and preventing the signing of players rostered to another team. (...) Our interpretation of the Intercounty Baseball League has always been to try and obtain the best players possible regardless of age, sex, race etc…. however the league seems to be taking the direction that the IBL should be a predominantly senior league. We are not prepared to be members of a league where rosters are based on age over ability."

The Toronto Maple Leafs play at home in Christie Pits in Toronto, ON. From 1970-2008, they have won 8 championships (1972, 1982, 1985, 1995, 1999, 2002 and 2007) and went 869-458, giving them a decent .655 winning percentage. The 2008 season was particularly disappointing for the team, falling below .500 for the first time in over 20 years. Overall, the team has won 20 pennants and 8 titles in their 40 year history.

The Ottawa Fat Cats play their home games at Ottawa Stadium, in Ottawa, ON. The team replaced Oshawa in the IBL for the 2010 season. Former minor leaguer and baseball scout Bill MacKenzie is the team's first head coach. The team's name is a clever jab at politicians in the Canadian capital, designed to make people laugh. [8].

[edit] Looking to the future

As of 2009, the League enjoys a strong fanbase and both players and owners appear happy. There has been some talk of hiring full-time staffers to promote the league, as the limited amount of promotions that are now done are contracted out on an as-needed basis.

The league hopes to expand to 12 teams in the future, and there is some interest from Windsor and Ottawa about joining the League. To that end, the League held a vote on January 17, 2010, awarding an expansion team to Ottawa, to be headed by the Ottawa Stadium Group. The new team will play out of the old Ottawa Rapidz stadium in Ottawa. The deal is pending a decision by the city of Ottawa on the stadium lease. The Stadium Group has also proposed to bring Can-Am League games back to the stadium as well, to help sweeten the pot for the city.

The League also hopes to establish a hall of fame at the London ballpark.

[edit] Notable Players

Several Canadian Olympic team members have played in the IBL, including former minor leaguers Paul Spoljaric, Todd Betts, Jeremy Ware, John Ogiltree and Jim Eliopoulos. Former Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson also played for the League in his youth.

[edit] References


[edit] Sources include:

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