The Camrose Cubs
Posted October 30, 2019
Before the Camrose Roadrunners, there were the Camrose Cubs. They were a franchise without a league and playing in the largest centre in the area of the Powerline Baseball League. The Cubs were successful in the PBL during their short tenure and were even more successful playing in the Sunburst League.
The Camrose Cubs joined the PBL in the Spring of 1970, two years before the Camrose Roadrunners played their first year in the league. There was a Camrose Cubs team participating in the Central Alberta League as far back as 1933. However this will need a little more research as it appears the league ran until perhaps the start of World War 2 before stopping and not re-starting after the war. The Cubs were primarily a tournament and exhibition games team, always with the thought of provincials at the end of the season, leading up to the 1970 decision to join the PBL. So there were numerous games were the Cubs would play PBL teams at a tournament or in an exhibition game. But the small city craved the competition of a baseball league to increase fan interest in the sport again as fastball was taking over the ball fields. In fact, Camrose was home to, or a part of, three fastball leagues and a large slo-pitch league at times.
It appears that the initial hope was that the Cubs would enter the Alberta Major Baseball League, which was a semi-pro league and he highest calibre of baseball in the area. The Pacific Coast League didn’t arrive in Edmonton until 1981 after Peter Pocklington purchased the Ogden A’s from Utah and moved them to the capital city. The AMBL was closer to independent baseball than that of affiliated baseball but still featured players like Ray Brown, Orv Franchuk, Jim Bouton, Randy Gregg and more than a handful of American players who spent part of their year playing with large NCAA Div 1 baseball schools. The AMBL appeared to operate from 1967 until 1978 while featuring teams like the Red Deer Generals, Calgary Jimmies, Barrhead Cardinals, Edmonton Angels, Edmonton Tigers, Foothills Giants, Drumheller Miners and more throughout those years. The AMBL was the goal and if you belief an editorial in the local Camrose Canadian, the AMBL was open to the idea of expanding to Camrose with certain conditions. Mainly a new ball field as the old Cubs Diamond at the Fairgrounds, which predated what we now call Harry Andreassen Field, had no lights and by reports it seems like zero ability to handle any moisture. So a new diamond was one reason, but a competitive roster was a more important reason.
The Cubs decided that given their current roster commitment and player availability the PBL was the best option to start with. Through tournaments and exhibition games the Cubs had won some against PBL teams, and they had lost some. The Cubs would join the Bardo Athletics, Round Hill North Stars, Ryley Rebels, Tofield Lions and Viking Shamrocks to form the 1970 PBL season. Dennis Lindstrand would be named coach of the young Cubs in their inaugural season. But it was a bumpy one for the team with hopes to play in the AMBL.
Judging by reports, expectations were much higher for the Camrose Cubs compared to their actual performance. The Cubs were limping through the 1970 season and consistently having to call up midges from the Camrose Roadrunners team to play prominent roles on the team. The Cubs would win their first ever game, after two initial rainouts, with a big 11-1 win over the Randy Strilchuk and the Round Hill North Stars. After that the Cubs would lose three of their next four and on June 10 they found themselves sitting in fifth place out of the six teams, only the Round Hill North Stars were lower in the standings as they were winless through the first few weeks. On June 17 the Cubs would surge ahead of Bardo after Dennis Lindstrand threw a no-hitter against the Athletics. It was a pitchers duel as Lindstrand would allow only one A’s player to make it past first base and he would strike out seventeen of the twenty two batters he would face. Robert Foshaug would give up only three hits, walk two and strike out five in his complete game effort for Bardo. The only run of the game came in the bottom of the seventh inning when Ray Heck would score on a bases loaded single off the bat of Walt Reynolds. Cubs win 1-0 and would move into fourth place with a 2-2 record, ahead of the 1-3 Bardo Athletics.
On Friday July 2, the Cubs and Bardo had another memorable game as the two teams combined to score twenty eight runs with the Athletics taking the game 15-13. It was a big game because the A’s now moved up into a tie with the Cubs, but took over fourth place due to the tie break. A combined effort from a young Verlyn Olson, Ken Lychak and Marv Swanson would surrender thirteen hits to the A’s including a home run to Bob Foshaug and two home runs to Richard Foshaug. It was a tough stretch for the Cubs who were fighting for a playoff spot because on July 5 they would lose 12-2 to the Ryley Rebels in Camrose. Robert Lyslo carved up the Cubs hitters while Glen Knudslein and Vern Roth each went three for four on the night.
Stumbling down the stretch meant the Cubs would need to with their final game of the season against Tofield and need some help in the standings. Player/coach Dennis Lindstrand would help the Cubs defeat Tofield by throwing a one-hitter in-front of the home crowd to close out Camrose’s first regular season. Lindstrand would strike out eleven and the Cubs offence would capitalize on early control problems from Tofield starter Floyd Taylor who would contribute to Tofield’s combined thirteen walks surrendered on the night. The win was nice but the Bardo Athletics were still in the hunt with a game against the 0-9 Round Hill North Stars and wouldn’t you know it, Round Hill would secure their first victory of the season and send the Cubs to the playoffs.
1970 Final Standings
Round Hill (1-9)
In game one of their semi-final series was an upset 5-3 win for the Cubs against the pennant winning Viking Shamrocks. Marv Swanson would take the hill for the Cubs and surrender only four hits to the Shamrocks while not allowing a walk and striking out six. The Shamrocks showed why the were nearly perfect in the regular season as they would take game two 5-2 with a big four run inning in the fourth, long time PBLer Milt Malick would go three for three, to even the series before taking game three 2-1 with Viking pitcher Gabe Brissard out duelling Camrose’s Marv Swanson.
Viking would go on to defeat the Tofield Lions for the PBL Championship, ending Tofield’s bid for five in a row.
The Cubs would head into the offseason with some organizational questions, highlighted in Ed Clinton’s weekly column in the Camrose Canadian, Sports Score! Clinton bought up concerns about the ability for the Cubs to find players wanting to play in the league and in small tournaments. Fan support did not meet expectations except for one tournament game and the reliance on the Camrose Roadrunners midget team to supply players to 90% of the Cubs games were two main issues. Cubs management would elect to continue in the PBL the following season, a wise decision in hindsight compared to the alternative of disbanding.
During the preseason of the 1971 season, the Camrose Cubs decided to bolster their roster. Through the Canadian, the Cubs sought the services of ball players, specifically infielders as there was concern their strong pitching staff would be forced to play infield positions and not be able to come out of the bullpen with enough time to warm up properly. The Cubs would hold three practices a week again this season leading up to the season on Wednesday and Friday evenings and on Sundays “immediately following the NHL telecast or at 1:00 o’clock” at the Fairgrounds.
The last opponent they would face in 1970 became the first opponent of 1971 as the Shamrocks would travel to the Camrose Fairgrounds to take on the sophomore Cubs. On opening day 1971, the Cubs would demolish the defending PBL champion Shamrocks by the score of 17-2. Marv Swanson and newcomer Glen Nelson would combine to allow no earned runs and hold the Shamrocks to only three hits. Ray Heck would hit a grand slam and Dennis Lindstrand would hit a solo home run in the game as well. It was a statement game and it would set the tone for the remainder of the Cubs season.
In Ryley, the Rebels hosted a two-day tournament on May 23rd and 24th. In game one of the tournament the Cubs defeated the Tofield Lions as Lindstrand would strikeout nine and walk nine. For the second time in the week, the Cubs would defeat the Shamrocks, this time in a close 10-9 game with Glen Nelson picking up his second win of the season. The semi-final game might have been the best game of the tournament as the final was all Cubs in a 11-3 pounding of a team from Andrew. Marv Swanson threw a two hitter and Rich Foshaug (who played with Bardo in 1970) went three for three. It was the first of a few tournament wins for the Cubs this season.
The second annual Cubs tournament would go to the hometown Cubs in 1971. Glen Nelson would hold the Ryley Rebels to only one hit in a 5-1 opening game win before beating the midget Camrose Roadrunners 9-7 in the semi-finals. The tournament final was an all PBL affair with the Cubs blanking the Tofield Lions 7-0.
PBL regular season play was also going smoothly for the Cubs as they would pick up additional wins vs the Rebels, Lions, Round Hill North Stars and Bardo Athletics over the next few weeks. Camrose would find themselves sitting in first place in the league with a 5-1 record and two points up on the second place Tofield Lions who were at 4-1. By the end of the season the Cubs, who one year ago needed a win in the last game of the season to make the playoffs, now found themselves sitting atop the PBL standings and willing their first PBL Pennant.
1971 Final Standings
Round Hill (2-6-1)
In the PBL Semi-Finals the pennant winning Cubs would defeat the Bardo Athletics 2-1 in the best of three series. Bardo would take game one with an impressive 1-0 win over the best team in the PBL. The Cubs however would rebound winning game two 6-2 as Gord Backen would earn the win on the hill for Camrose. Backen would led the team offensively going three for four with Ray Heck, Bill Andreassen and Willie Reynolds each going two for three.
The deciding game was all Cubs as they would notch a big 11-2 win over the Athletics to set up a playoff rematch with the Viking Shamrocks, this time with a PBL Championship on the line. Glen Nelson would go the distance for the Cubs allowing five hits, walking five and striking out eleven in the elimination game. The Cubs would put up eleven hits and earn seven walks against the pitching tandem of Boettger (no first name) and Bob Foshaug. Ray Heck again had a good day at the plate going two for three along with Nelson, but it was Marv Swanson’s big two-run home run in the third inning that opened the doors for the Cubs.
Game one of the 1971 PBL Championship Series was a classic PBL game. The Viking Shamrocks pounded their way to 10-3 lead after only four innings of play. Down to their final nine outs the Cubs would bang out four runs in the fifth and five runs in the sixth inning, which turned out to be the final inning due to darkness. Bob Johns would be the hero for the Cubs driving in the winning run in what turned into a 12-11 win for Camrose. Once again Gord Backen was the winner on the hill for the Cubs while Bill Andreassen was two for two and Marv Swanson and Larry Baird each hit home runs in the big fifth inning.
After the Shamrocks defeated the Cubs 6-1 in Viking for game two, the third and final game was held in Camrose. The Cubs would send the hometown crowd happy with a championship winning 8-4 win over the defending PBL champion Shamrocks in a six inning game (darkness). Gord Backen would pick up his second win of the series and third of the playoffs as he and Marv Swanson would allow six hits and strike out eleven Shamrocks in the combined effort. Player/coach Dennis Lindstrand led the Cubs at the plate going three for three with all three hits driving in runs.
The Cubs would receive their one and only PBL Championship trophy on Thursday August 19, 1971 as PBL President Leonard Stauffer would present the Sid’s Sport Shop Trophy to Ray Heck after the game. The Cubs would end the 1971 season with an overall record of 30-4 and a PBL Championship. The Cubs would also win tournaments in Tofield, Viking as well as their own tournament and the Camrose Roadrunners tournament. Their only tournament loss came at the big 11th annual Killam Lions Baseball Tournament. The Cubs would lose a two day game to Neillburg as the game was stopped on Saturday night due to darkness, and picked up on Sunday morning at the crack of dawn.
Pitcher Greg Nelson was given the team’s MVP award, as voted on by players, a few fans and one media member it appears. Nelson would cruise to a 11-1 record in 1971 throwing 70.2 innings and striking out 88. Nelson would also hit .349 for the Cubs that season. The Camrose Canadian published the Cubs final stats of the season in their August 25, 1971 edition:
Batting averages of players with 50 or more trips to the plate are:
Swanson and Nelson led the team in home runs, as each belted four during the season while Backen led the team in walked received with 14. D.Lindstrand did not strike out during the season while Baird had a total of 11.
The win-loss record for all the pitchers for the season is as follows:
J. Zackowski 0-0
Nelson notched the most innings, 70 2/3 and record the most strikeouts with 88. D.Lindstrand had the best defensive pitching record as he tossed 28 innings, gave up four runs, seven hits, 14 walks and struck out 46.
Moving On From The PBL To Big Things
And then, the Cubs were gone from the PBL. After the 1971 season the Cubs were unable to make the jump to the AMBL like a few people hoped, but instead they moved in the Sunburst Baseball League for a rather successful run between 1972 and 1978. In 1972 the Camrose Roadrunners, still classified as a midget team, joined the PBL for their inaugural season in what would become a on again, off again team in the league from that point until present day.
The Cubs were confident that the could compete in the next level up league as they had played exhibition games against teams like the Leduc Oilers and Burns Shamrocks over the last couple of seasons with mixed success. Their confidence was well placed as the Cubs would go on to have a big 1972 season.
Camrose would cruise through the regular season winning the Sunburst League’s South Division pennant, while the Cubs also battled some of the provinces top teams for a provincial title. The Cubs would go 4-0 in Provincials, defeating Peace River 2-1, Settler 4-2, Peace River again this time 10-2 and then Stettler in the final 6-0. In each of the games, the Cubs would get a complete game from their pitchers with Glen Nelson, Dennis Lindstrand, Ken Lychak and Ron Wilson all throwing gems for Camrose. Dennis Lindstrand was named the provincial MVP for his efforts on the mound as well as at the plate and in the field.
Because of their provincial title, the Camrose Cubs would host the senior men’s Canadian Championships in 1972, which was the first time that the championship was held in Alberta. Since then, the Senior Men’s National Championship has been held twice in Red Deer (1987 and 1994) and will make it’s third appearance as the Red Deer Riggers were awarded the 2021 championship host duties. In 1972 it was dubbed a National title, however only BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba participated. Today, teams from each province across the country make up the field fighting for a national championship.
Senior Champs: The Camrose Cubs are Alberta's senior baseball champions for 1972 after winning tournamens in Edmonton and Stettler. Members of the team are, front left to right: Jim Zackowski, Richard Foshaug, Ron Wilson, Walt Reynolds and Ken Lychak.
Standing, left to right: Dennis Lindstrand (playing coach), Glen Nelson, Brian Harberg, Ray Heck, Bill Andreassen, Marv Swanson, Stan Soholt (manager).
Missing were Gord Backen, Brian Betts and Gerry Porter
Photo: Camrose Canadian Newsphoto - August 2 , 1972
It was a big deal in Camrose and for baseball in the area. The Canadian ran numerous lengthy stories about the players, the pickups, roster updates as the various teams announced there rosters. The Saskatchewan representatives would win the national title that year. The Cubs would go 1-2 in the tournament, defeating the Calgary Jimmies for their only win. In his editorial column Sports Score by Ed Clinton on August 30, 1972, the author was quick to point out his disappointment in the umpires in the game that saw the Cubs eliminated from a national title. “It was unfortunate that the Cubs were beaten in the playoffs by the umpire rather than the opposition but, that’s what happened. The Cubs were leading B.C. on Friday evening when the umpire shrunk the strike zone and the Camrose pitchers couldn’t satisfy him. Everyone in the press box (only two locals) agreed that he wasn’t calling strikes when he should have and with all those walks B.C. were able to score easily and won the game.” Hometown coverage at it’s finest.
Two Camrose Cubs players, Marv Swanson and Dennis Lindstrand would be named to the Canadian National Team after the tournament. It was reported that both players would need to seek a five week leave from their employers in order to join the Canadian National Team which were set to play in the World Amateur Baseball Championships in Nicaragua starting in November 1972. Lindstrand at the time was a phys ed teacher at Charlie Killam School while Swanson was working with Crawford’s, which was the local John Deere dealership in Camrose.
While this was going on the Sunburst playoffs were happening. The Cubs would go nearly a month without any Sunburst League action leading up to the playoffs. The Cubs would end up defeating the St Albert Saints in the semi-finals of the 1972 Sunburst League playoffs (the Cubs earned a first round bye with their South Division pennant). They would knock off the Saints 2-1 including a big 12-0 win in game three, before eventually losing the Sunburst Championship Series to the Leduc Oilers.
Cubs pitcher Glen Nelson would be named the top pitcher in the league, winning the Joey Edwards Trophy. He was 5-0 in the regular season “while recording over one hundred strikeouts” according to the Canadian. Nelson would also win the 1972 Spartan’s Men’s Club Trophy, which was given out to the Sunburst League MVP. Nelson’s overall stats in 1972 were listed as 10-3 over 109 innings allowing 30 runs against and striking out 146 to 51 walks allowed.
Successful Sophomore Sunburst Season
The success would continue for the Cubs in the Sunburst League, throughout the following few seasons. In 1973 the Cubs would finish second in the South Division (which meant no provincials), but they would defeat the Edmonton Cardinals in the opening round of the playoffs after losing game one, then sweeping the Blue Willow Junior Angels in the semi-finals to set up a rematch of the 1972 Sunburst League finals against the Leduc Oilers. The Cubs would get their revenge with a sweep of the Oilers to give them their first Sunburst League title.
1972 Canadian National Team featuring Dennis Lindstrand and Marv Swanson
Going Back To Back To Back
Bill Steen would take the helm of the Cubs for the 1974 season and lead the team to a 10-0 start in Sunburst League play and a provincial championship. At the Provincial tournament along with Widewater and Cold Lake the Cubs saw Bill Andreassen hit a walk off three run home run to win one game and in another saw Glen Nelson throw a five inning no-hitter against Cold Lake, who conceded after the fifth.
The Provincial win set up a “Super Series” against a Alberta Major Baseball League team, for the right to go to the western national championship. The Edmonton Tigers would come to Camrose and defeat the Cubs in two straight games to win the series. A rule was in place for the AMBL representative prior to the series that only Alberta born players could suit up for the Tigers, meaning any American players would have to sit the series out. The Tigers took game one 11-0 and game two 5-1.
Glen Nelson would get picked up by the Edmonton Tigers, who would go on to win the national championship by winning six straight games. Nelson would be credited with a win in the Tigers’ 18-3 win over Newfoundland.
With their best pitcher away, the Cubs were able to defeat the Fort Saskatchewan Red Sox in the opening round of the playoffs. The Cubs would get the Red Sox after finishing first in the south division once again and leading the league with a 13-3 record. The Cubs still had eight games to play in the season, however due to the lateness of the season, the league decided to not play out it’s entire schedule. The Sunburst League final would see the Cubs defeat the Blue Willow Junior Angels 2-1 in the best of three. Nelson would throw eight innings in the third and deciding game allowing only two hits and striking out thirteen in the 10-1 win.
In 1975 the Cubs would battle for second place for most of the season, especially after a slow start by their standards. For the third year in a row, Dennis Lindstrand would be be coveted by the Canadian National Team, this year to play in Moncton, New Brunswick.
The Cubs did run into some controversy in the provincial play downs resulting in the Cubs withdrawing from the tournament. Camrose would win game one 4-0 over Cold Lake, or so they thought. The game was called in the middle of the fifth inning due to rain. The game was in Camrose so it was deemed a win for the Cubs. Cold Lake would file a protest that would go to the executive of the Alberta Baseball Association where it was ruled a suspended contest and would need to be completed and it would now have to be completed in Cold Lake and not in Camrose, where the first part of the game was played. Camrose then protested the ABA executive decision to the ABA Commissioner who over ruled the executive and stated the game was a completed contest and the Cubs would be leading the best of three series 1-0. The ABA President then ruled the game suspended with the approval of the commissioner. The Camrose Canadian reported that the decision to suspend the game was the result of the the Cubs not having a cheque in the hands of the ABA within 48 hours of the upholding of Cold Lake’s protest. According to ABA rules, the President cannot over rule the Commissioner. As a result of what the team felt like was changing of the rules by the ABA, the defending provincial champions withdrew from the series to concentrate on the Sunburst League playoffs.
Once again the Cubs would find themselves in a Sunburst League Championship series. The Cubs would defeat the league leading Edmonton A’s in the semi-finals. Due to the lateness of the start of the Sunburst League playoffs, the Edmonton A’s lost their American baseball players and after a 11-1 loss to the Cubs in game one, the A’s conceded the series. In the Championship Final the Cubs would take on and defeat the St Albert Saints for the team’s third consecutive Sunburst League Championship. The Cubs would find themselves down in the series after a 8-6 loss in game one before winning game two 9-8 and game three 9-5.
Time and Disorganization Catches Up With The Cubs
The 1976 Sunburst League season was another up and down year for the Cubs in the standings. In mid July they had yet to find consistent play and were at 7-7, good enough for fourth place. The Cubs would fall to the Edmonton Cardinals in the Sunburst League semi-finals with a 2-1 series loss.
There was no 1977 Sunburst League season for the Camrose Cubs as they stepped away from the league to re-tool their roster and await the completion of the new baseball field in town. In June of 1977 the lights were going up on the field, which at the time was listed as a baseball field despite the obvious light set up for soccer and football. From the Camrose Canadian on June 18, 1977 - Kinsmen working on a baseball diamond:
The blue standards are the light towers for night baseball and football. At the preset time, the lighting would be sufficient for football but almost totally inadequate for baseball as one or two towers might have to be added to cover the infield area of the baseball diamond.
Apparently a misunderstanding or a breakdown in communications led Kinsmen to believe that football was in desperate need of lights being placed in a manner that does not entirely suit baseball.
However, it could turn out that having lights would be slightly more than meaningless because costs of operating such a battery of lighting would be quite high and the home club involved would have to be prepared to pay a high fee to have them turned on.
Kinsmen and their helpers were busy in Kin Park last week and willb kept busy over the next few weeks as they are erecting light towers for the football field and baseball diaond and getting the baseball diamond rady for use later this summer - June 18, 1977 Camrose Canadian Newsphoto
Another reason why the Cubs couldn’t commit to a league was access to the field at the Fairgrounds, which they have called home since 1970. In recent years the field was used to condition race horses, causing booking and maintenance issues.
Marv Swanson was now entering his second season as coach and the team was looking to play upwards of thirty five games through an exhibition and tournament schedule. The Cubs would play Sunburst League teams, Powerline Baseball League teams and other tournament teams throughout the spring/summer of 1977.
Through mid July, the Camrose Cubs had only played a total of nine games on the year sitting with a 4-5 record. The Cubs would play Czar in the opening round of provincial playoffs via the sweep. It appears that this was the final game played for the Cubs in the season, although some players were suiting up for Round Hill and the Camrose Roadrunners in the Powerline Baseball League.
Changeover was the theme heading into he 1978 season for the Cubs. They re-joined the Sunburst Baseball League but appeared set to lose longtime pitcher Glen Nelson who decided not to play baseball this particular season and catcher Bill Andreassen who suffered a big knee injury during the hockey season. While the City of Camrose was hoping to have the new baseball field at Kin Park was going to be ready for late summer 1977, it turned out that spring 1978 would be the first baseball played on it by the Cubs. In the meantime, the baseball field at the Fairgrounds suffered catastrophic damage at the hands of a rodeo which saw cattle divot the infield beyond repair.
The first game back in the Sunburst League saw a thrilling game, but the Cubs would be on the losing end of the Edmonton Steelers’ 1-0 win. Ken Lychak was now the ace of the Cubs staff and giving the ball for the opening day tilt, on the new Kin Park Diamond. He would give up seven hits in the complete game loss while striking out ten. While the season was going well, with the Cubs climbing the Sunburst League standings, the Cubs would need PBL players to fill out its roster for weekend tournaments throughout the season.
The Cubs would host a provincial playoff tournament in July that also featured Altario and Coronation. Camrose would sweep the provincial playoff and set up a trip to the zone final best of three against the winner of the Provost-Amisk-Czar. The Cubs would sweep Czar in the zone final two games to none sending them to a best of three series against Keoma which they would also win giving them a berth in the provincial tournament hosted by the Edmonton Cardinals. Ken Lychak would throw a no-hitter against the Calgary Royals at the provincial tournament striking out eleven and only walking two. In a wild turn of events, the provincial semi-finals and final was scheduled to be played in Edmonton, the games were quickly moved to Calgary due to the weather. Imagine that happening in 2019. The Cubs would defeat the Calgary Royals again, this time 6-5 before losing to the provincial championship to the Edmonton Cardinals 5-1.
Bill Andreassen and Ken Lychak would be picked up by the Edmonton Cardinals to compete in the western championship in Nanaimo, BC. Lychak would pitch against the Manitoba All-Stars in a ten inning loss. Lychak would pitch 9.2 innings before being lifted for a Cardinals pitcher who would surrender the walk off hit to Manitoba to the first batter he would face.