Adapted from 'A History of the Brantford Red Sox', from the book 'Intercounty Baseball League – 100 Seasons Strong' (published in 2018)
The Brantford Red Sox Organization would like to thank Historians Anne Chamberlain and Paul DePasquale for all the hard work that they put into researching the following information.
Brantford joins the ibl
Brantford made its debut into the Intercounty Baseball League in 1921 with two teams: the Veritys (Senior division) and Machine Gun Corp "Emma Gees" (Intermediate division). At the time, the IBL administered teams in three divisions - Senior, Intermediate, and Junior. Brantford fielded entries in all divisions at one time or another over the years, with only a couple of short breaks. Today, while remaining a strong presence in the league, the Brantford Red Sox play in the senior division.
Contrary to popular belief, the Brantford's teams weren't always known as the Red Sox in the IBL. Reason being the Red Sox name was being used by another team when Brantford first entered the league. By 1933 the name Red Sox" was on the jerseys of Brantford's intermediate team, and later the senior team also took on the Red Sox moniker.
Games have always been played at Cockshutt Park (formerly called Agricultural Park) in West Brant. The park was deeded to Brantford in 1901 in memory of Ignatius Cockshutt by his family. Included was a $1,200 cheque for park improvements, which included a gateway and a tablet inscribed with "Agricultural Park Donated to the People of Brantford by the Cockshutt Family. A Memorial to Their Late Father, Ignatius Cockshutt, A Resident of this City from 1832 to 1901”.
The baseball diamond on which the Red Sox play was dedicated in 1998 as “Arnold Anderson Stadium”, in memory of local CKPC radio sports announcer Arnold Anderson. Anderson was also the public address announcer at Red Sox games.
Many IBL greats donned a Brantford uniform, including Ron Stead (the only amateur to be inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame), Jimmy "Seabiscuit" Wilkes,Ted Baker, Wilmer Fields, Bill Gibbs, Bill Leconte, Dave Dix, Frank "Nig" Parker, Jamie Corke, John Lockington, Larry Ellins, "Spud" Bush and Stan Lipka.
Brantford's inaugural Senior IBL season in 1921 featured Bob Long as Manager and Del Orcutt as coach.
In 1923, Brantford was denied a senior franchise due to management not presenting signed contracts of players at a pre-season meeting, to show they could field a team. Brantford team representative Dave Hepton stated the notice from the league was wrongly addressed and he hadn't received the notice until the afternoon prior to the meeting, and consequently did not have the time necessary to get the contracts.
This actually wasn't the first time Brantford was denied a senior team. Previously, in the IBL's inaugural 1919 season both Brantford and Paris were denied teams due to the extra time it would take for Stratford to travel to their away games.
In 1924, Brantford Cordage defeated Guelph to win the league's Intermediate Championship. This was the first IBL championship for a Brantford team. Admission to the series was 25 cents. The team featured outfielder Carl Powers who over the years became a well-known figure in local baseball circles as a player and coach.
In the 1925 season Brantford once again fielded teams in both the Senior and Intermediate divisions. And for the remainder of the decade, there was at least one team representing Brantford in at least one of the league's three divisions.
One of Brantford's outstanding players during this decade was catcher Gord Bradshaw. Bradshaw left Brantford to join the Galt Terriers where he batted .698 in 1930, which still stands as an IBL record nearly a century later.
In 1930, a new professional Ontario League was started by Knotty Lee. With Brantford entering a team into the new pro league, it initially looked like that there may not be an Intercounty team in the city. But then Billy McKinnon went to the Intercounty meeting to state Brantford's intention of fielding an Intermediate team for the 1930 season. An announcement was made shortly thereafter to recruit players.
A notice entitled “Amateur Baseball Club Deserves Local Support” appeared in the August 12, 1930 Brantford newspaper, urging fans to come out and support the Intermediate team in the championship series vs. Ingersoll. The article stated "Brantfordites who have any pride in their citizens, their city and the accomplishments of its residents should acquaint themselves with the fact .. nine of its own boys with the aid of more home-grown talent, ready to help, will be fighting for baseball championship .. It is purely an amateur organization and as such deserves, should demand, the best support that this city can give. Do not fail to give the boys your best support vocally and in every way you can". Brantford ultimately lost the Intermediate championship to Ingersoll.
1934 Brantford Universal Coolers
Brantford remained in the Intermediate division until 1933. In 1934 they rejoined the senior ranks as the Universal Coolers. The Brantford Universal Coolers reached the semifinals, only to lose against Stratford who went on to win the IBL Senior championship. Before the decade was over, the Brantford senior team would reach the finals twice (in 1936 and 1939) but came up empty handed.
Two players of note this decade were pitcher Joe Krakauskas and third baseman Louis Smith. Smith won the league batting title in his 1935 rookie year. In 1937 Krakauskas advanced from Brantford to Major League Baseball's Washington Senators, appearing in five games and posting a record of 4 wins with a 2.70 ERA. In 1939 Krakauskas moved from Washington's bullpen to starting rotation, winning 11 games over 29 starts and posting a 4.60 ERA.
In 1946, Larry Pennell entered a team in the IBL Intermediate division called the Brantford Red Sox. Initially, the league told him the deadline had passed for entries, but Pennell persuaded the league's executive to change their minds. This was on the condition that Pennell paid the league fee, and had the team organized with uniforms for the players by the end of the week. The first two conditions he had no problem in meeting, but getting the uniforms was proved challenging with Pennell securing only nine complete sets. Despite the hurried start, Brantford made the Intermediate playoffs.
1947 saw Brantford return to the IBL Senior division with Frank "Nig" Parker emerging as a dominate force in the pitching department. However, the team still had problems with Brantford's 5-0 opening day victory over Waterloo ruled invalid. The league stated that Brantford's player certificates weren't delivered on time, so a claim was entered for using ineligible players. League president Otto Manske also questioned Brantford's use of imported players "without official approval of their transfers by the provincial body". Branford ended up with a 10-18 record on the season.
Agricultural Park, 1947
In 1948, the Senior Red Sox again opened their season against the Waterloo Tigers. This time the Tigers beat the Sox 1-0 in 11 innings. Brantford continued to improve, finishing the season over .500 with a 19-18 record.
In 1949, Brantford made the Senior IBL playoffs with a 4th place regular season finish. The Red Sox went on to be crowned Intercounty Senior champions, besting the Waterloo Tigers in the Best of Nine finals series. This marked Brantford Red Sox's first championship at the senior level, with many more to come.
|The 1949 Brantford Red Sox Championship Team|
The Brantford Sox remained a steady presence in the Senior IBL league to start the new decade – finishing the regular season in first place to win the pennant in both 1950 and 1951, and making the league finals in 3 consecutive years from 1950 to 1952.
American Negro Leagues start plater Wilmer Fields came to Brantford in 1951. According to Fields' autobiography the people in Brantford liked him so much they offered to set him up in a sporting goods store so he would stay in town. Fields wrote "I regret that I didn't accept that business offer, because the person who finally did open the sporting goods business ended up making $500,000 a year with it".
Along with Fields came Homestead Greys teammates, Luther "Shanty" Clifford and Johnny "The Devil" Richardson. Other all-time greats Jimmy Wilkes, John Lockington, Ron Hodara, Jim Burns and Tommy McGrattan would also wear Brantford uniforms during this decade.
Controversy arose during the 1951 semifinals series against Kitchener. As the Red Sox led the playoff series two games to none, Kitchener coach Don Gallinger knew that his team would have a difficult time coming back from a game 3 loss in Brantford. With a storm brewing overhead, Gallinger began to delay the game in any way possible in hopes of a rainout. Brantford fans, catching on to what was happening, stormed the field. Newspaper reports stated that fists flew and one lady managed to kick Gallinger in the shins. Brantford fans also surrounded the Kitchener bus to prevent it from leaving, only backing off when police arrived. Gallinger was suspended for an indefinite period by the league.
1959 Brantford Red Sox
After finishing below .500 in 1955 and 1956, the Brantford Red Sox left the Senior Intercounty league in 1957 to play in the upstart Great Lakes-Niagara League. The Great Lakes league folded after its inaugural season, however, and Brantford returned to the IBL in 1958, finishing in eighth place with a disappointing 9-22 record.
Brantford's dismal 1958 results led to many offseason changes. In 1959, Brantford improved their regular season with a 17-12 record, just 1.5 games back and good for third place. Not only that, Brantford went on to win their second IBL Championship with a 4-1 finals series win over Galt. Little did anyone know at the time that this was not just a bounce back season, but the beginning of the Brantford Red Sox's first dynasty.
1960-61 Brantford Red Sox
The Brantford Red Sox opened the 1960s the same way they ended the previous decade - not only winning the pennant, but clinching another Senior IBL championship with a 4-1 finals series win over Hamilton. Members of the 1960 champion Red Sox team included Jimmy Wilkes, George Carruth, Marv Larsen, Ted Baker, Jim Reeves and Ron Stead. Brantford went on to add three more consecutive titles from 1961 to 1963. Brantford's 5 straight IBL championships, spanning 1959 to 1963 matched the league record at the time (Galt Terriers 1927-1931).
1964 saw Brantford's fortunes change drastically with the Red Sox going from first to worst, finishing last place in the regular season standings with a 11-19 record. But Brantford quickly rebounded in 1965, once again winning the IBL championship. This championship didn't come easy for the team however. The 1965 Red Sox had the nickname of "wounded warriors" due to various iniuries on the team - Ted Baker having difficulty raising his right arm above his shoulder, Paul Kormos with arthritis in one of his elbows, Ron Stead having muscle aches in his right side and Robbie Vipond having stretched ligaments in his left knee. As Brantford Expositor writer Ted Beare put it "Their dressing room looks like a first-aid station after an air raid".
With 6 IBL championships from 1959 to 1965, the Brantford Red Sox established themselves as a true baseball dynasty, There is no doubt that Brantford was the dominating team in the league. Pitchers Ron Stead and Wallace "Spud" Bush regularly struck fear into opposing batters while hitter Jim Reeves made opposing pitchers shake. Bush also set a record in 1961 with the most wins (16) and the most complete games (15).
But in 1966, the sun started to set on the team as the Red Sox were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs after a mediocre 12-16 regular season. In 1967 Brantford went 8-20, finishing last in the eight-team league. The following year Brantford asked for a year's leave of absence from the IBL. Gerry Convey, Jim Torti and Robbie Vipond, who were in control of the team, were losing money and needed a sponsor to carry on.
1971 Brantford Red Sox advertisement
Brantford's leave of absence would end up spanning 3 seasons. But when 1971 arrived the Brantford Red Sox had regrouped and were back in the IBL. Max Roseman was now team owner, with Ken Benjamin as manager. Brantford marked their IBL return with a 2-0 over Guelph. But the score wasn't the most memorable part of the game, as Brantford's Doug Lane won the pitchers' duel against former Red Sox great Ron Stead, who was now playing for Guelph.
Brantford fielded a competitive team during the remainder of the decade. reaching the finals three times (1972, 1974 and 1977). 2 Red Sox players, Jamie Corke and Craig Kennedy, won the league's Rookie of the Year award in 1975 and 1976 respectively. Other notable Red Sox players during this decade included veteran Robbie Vipond, Dave Cheetham, Gord Petersen and Dave Dix.
1979 featured an anomaly as the Brantford senior IBL team saw a temporary name change to the 'Active Athletics', but the name reverted back to the Red Sox the following season.
1980s Brantford Red Sox
Brantford started off the decade well by making it all the way to the 1980 IBL finals, only to lose the series 4-2 to Stratford.
In 1981, Brantford built off the success of the previous season, making it back to the IBL finals. This time the Red Sox succeeded, defeating Kitchener 4 games to 2 to win their 8th IBL championship. Jamie Corke was named Playoffs MVP. The championship team also included Dave Cheetham, Bob Blasko, Brian Cascadden, Phil Pomeroy, Paul Papadopoulos, JP Groulx, Gary Dix, Gary Beal, Alf Payne, Romeo Shannelly, Larry Ellins, Dave Dix, Nick Noonan, Rick Herkimer, Andy Lawrence, Bill George, John Mowat and Floyd Davis.
In subsequent years in the decade, the team remained competitive and continued to make the playoffs, but only reached as far as the semifinals in 1988.
On June 3, 1990, Brantford found themselves on the losing side of a 32-20 game on a windy day in Hamilton. This was despite Brantford hitting two grand slams off the bats of Dan Burns and Joe Stefan. The newsworthy game was even mentioned by Tom Cheek on the Toronto Blue Jays' broadcast.
Brantford fared better over the course of the 1990 season, finishing with a 20-13 record. The Red Sox reached the IBL championship series against Kitchener, but were undone by a shortage of pitchers. With Brantford facing elimination in Game 5 Paul Eveleigh, who pitched a mere 48 hours earlier, took the mound in a losing effort.
Brantford would only go as far as reaching the semifinals twice over the remainder of the decade, with the team posting a below .500 record the remainder of the seasons.
2000s and onward
2006 Brantford Red Sox
The new millennium began with Brantford finishing out of the playoffs for the first three years. Another shakeup was needed to breathe some new life into the Red Sox.
Owner Mike Calbeck, who kept Senior Intercounty baseball alive in Brantford for many years, sold the team to Paul Aucoin. Aucoin, a former bat boy with the team, became the owner just as the 2002 season was getting underway. Aucoin's goal was clear - bring the IBL championship back to town.
The 2003 Red Sox finished above .500 for the first time since 1995. Brantford's momentum also carried them all the way to the 2003 IBL finals, where they lost a heartbreaker series to Guelph 4 games to 3.
Brantford's winning ways would continue in 2004 (27-9) and 2005 (20-16) before finally breaking through in 2006. Brantford got off to a 4-3 start before Aucoin decided to relieve new manager Steve Charles of his duties, bringing back Rick Johnston who had previously managed the team from 2003-2005.
Johnson, also owner of Mississauga's Baseball Zone and involved with Baseball Ontario, immediately went to work. Johnson brought in players that would form the Red Sox core for many memorable years to come such as Lee Delfino, Al Stephens, Hyung Cho, Josh McCurdy, Steve Murray and John Ogiltree. Perennial fan favourite catcher Wayne Forman also joined the 2006 Red Sox. The young group immediately showed what was to come, making the playoffs based on their 24-12 regular season record. Brantford then reached the IBL finals and brought home the franchise's 9th championship with a 4-1 series win over London.
Brantford's momentum continued right into the 2007 season, finishing behind only Toronto with a 27-9 record. Brantford and Toronto would then meet in the 2007 IBL finals. This series was also notable for the now infamous bat flip/jogging incident. During game 7 in Toronto, Brantford shortstop Lee Delfino hit a blast over the Christie Pits outfield fence, flipping his bat while admiring his shot. As Delfino rounded the bases he was joined by Toronto pitcher Paul Spoliaric, unimpressed with Delfino's celebration and jawing at him to let him know how he felt about it. Toronto would end up with the last laugh however, denying Brantford's shot at winning back to back IBL titles with a 4-3 series win.
Despite falling just short in 2007, the talent that had been assembled in Brantford's would not be denied. The Brantford Red Sox would go on to play some of the greatest seasons in IBL history over the next years, creating the team's second dynasty in the process.
2013 Brantford Red Sox championship team
The Brantford Red Sox won the IBL Championship for a record setting six consecutive seasons, spanning 2008 to 2013. In particular the 2013 championship series capped off the streak in most improbable fashion, with Brantford falling behind 3 games to 0 against Barrie before somehow rallying back to win the championship series 4 games to 3.
Following their record setting string of IBL championships, many of the players from the Brantford's new dynasty years retired, and in 2015 owner Paul Aucoin transferred ownership of the team to player Lee Delfino. In 2017, Delfino retired from the IBL and sold the Red Sox franchise to current owners Rick and Connie Pomerleau.