Joe Page

This article was written by Patrick Carpentier

Long before he died in 1947, Joseph Henry Page was regarded as the Father of Baseball in Canada. Not that he introduced the sport above the 49th Parallel. But he did more than anyone else to popularize it with Canadians, especially those in French-speaking Quebec. In a baseball career spanning 60 years, Page played for countless teams, organized countless leagues, and made countless connections in the baseball world, making him the quintessential Montreal baseball man.

In a 1936 Sporting News article, J.L. McGowan wrote that “Joe Page is a hard man to get to know, yet everybody knows him, which makes him something of an enigma.”1 Indeed, little is known about Joe Page’s youth besides what is recounted in that article and a few others. Page liked to say that he was from Chicago, where he worked on the railroad, played baseball in his spare time, and was a batboy for Cap Anson’s club in 1876. He told that he had played for a semipro team in Michigan, the Hiawathas, where he was a teammate of Tip O’Neill. He is supposed to have later played for Big Rapids in the Northern Michigan League. He then boasted of having been a catcher for Indianapolis of the National League, after which he settled in Montreal.

In reality, Joe Page was born in England on April 19, 1868, in the London suburb of Dalston. His father was a well-known con artist, his mother a well-known pickpocket.2 The Pages began to feel the wheel of justice turn on them so they emigrated to the United States in 1877. The family settled in Chicago but moved often as the elder Page was always on the lookout for swindle opportunities. The family might have crossed the Pond but it had not turned over a new leaf. Harassed by the authorities, they fled to Boston in 1880. They were back in Chicago by 1884. After years of criminal activities in several states, Page’s father was convicted of fraud in Chicago in late 1888. The Page family had left the Windy City and had settled in the Detroit-Windsor area some time before the proceedings. From there, they made their way to Montreal after a heavily covered stabbing incident in February of 1889.3

It was during his time in Michigan that young Joe Page’s baseball career took off. He did play for the Big Rapids club but not in 1887 as he claimed. His assertion of having played with Tip O’Neill in Michigan in the early 1880s is unfounded, as O’Neill had already reached the majors by that time and Page was barely a teenager. Page being a catcher on the roster of the Indianapolis franchise during its brief stint in the National League is also in serious doubt. Batboy for Cap Anson in 1876? Page and his family were still in England at the time. … One thing that is certain is that Page became involved in baseball as soon as he set foot in Montreal in 1889. He played all season for the famed Clipper Base Ball Club, one of the oldest and most successful amateur baseball teams in Montreal.4

The following three years would define Page for his entire lifetime. On the business side of things, early in the summer of 1890 Page became the owner of the Turf Exchange, a betting saloon on Victoria Square in Montreal. This move was a natural one; he was now well acquainted with the Montreal sporting scene and had met several of its most important actors. The business allowed him to indulge in his love of baseball without depending exclusively on it to make ends meet.

Joe Page also saw a major change in his personal life. He had been raised in the Church of England, but he soon converted to Catholicism in order to tie the knot with Mary O’Brien, a Montrealer of Irish descent. The wedding took place at St. Patrick’s Basilica in downtown Montreal on September 23, 1890. Together they had 10 children but only four survived the couple. The family lived for more than 60 years in the Ste-Cunegonde district of Montreal (now known as Little Burgundy), where many baseball players also lived and played.

The 1890 season also saw Page embark on a significant baseball endeavor. Several sportsmen of the city and many of its best players banded together to form the Montreal Baseball Club, the first overtly professional team in Montreal. Baseball in Montreal had remained amateur since its introduction into the city in 1869, and fans had clamored for professional baseball for a long time.5 Although Joe Page was not one of the founders of the club, nor one of its directors, his standing was clear. He coached the other players during practice and in early May had a notice published in the Boston Globe announcing the creation of the club and its willingness to play against established professional clubs from New England. The notice was clear: Those interested had to reply to him directly.6 In all likelihood, the founding of the club and Page’s marketing in the United States helped attract the attention of baseball magnates in the United States. Later that summer, two International League teams, first Buffalo in June then Hamilton in July, moved to Montreal, although briefly and quite unsuccessfully. It was nonetheless Montreal’s first real introduction to Organized Baseball.

The last of Joe Page’s life-defining moments came on June 8, 1891, when Montreal liquor commissioners decided not to renew the license of Page’s betting saloon. His father, back at his old tricks, used the saloon to find his new fraud victims. The authorities took notice and acted accordingly. Joe Page soon found employment with the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1892. He first worked as a brakeman in the small town of Farnham, about 40 miles southeast of Montreal. He was soon promoted to baggageman at the local station. Farnham had a semipro team that played games against Quebec, Vermont, and upstate New York teams. Page immediately joined the Farnham nine. Within a year, he had become its manager. He remained on and off with the Farnham club until 1897, when he moved back to Montreal. It is to be noted that the revocation of his liquor license was Page’s only major run-in with the law. His father, on the other hand, was in and out of Montreal jails for years.

For the 1895 season, Page earned a spot on the newly organized National club of Montreal, which played in the Eastern International League with Plattsburgh, New York, and St. Albans, Vermont. The National was the strongest and most prestigious French Canadian baseball team of the time, and Page was its best player and one of the league’s offensive leaders. He played mostly second base, his natural position since his first days in Montreal. That year Page played against Cy Seymour of Plattsburgh and Ed Doheny of St. Albans. Both men reached the majors months later. The following year, Page returned to Farnham as a baseball player and helped the local club join the league in an expansion that also included Hull and Saint-Hyacinthe in Quebec, as well as Malone in upstate New York. Again, Page played against soon-to-be major leaguers: Louis Sockalexis, John Pappalau, and Doc Powers.

His growing influence in Montreal baseball circles now undeniable, Page was instrumental in bringing W.H. Rowe to Montreal in March of 1897. Rowe was well known throughout New England, having managed, among others, Pawtucket of the New England League. He, together with Page, immediately set out to gather local and American players and formed a new Montreal Baseball Club that would play against teams from Quebec and New England.7 They had, however, set their eyes on a bigger prize. Several Eastern League clubs were struggling financially. It became the two partners’ goal to bring one of these clubs to Montreal. Their big break came in July when the Rochester entry lost its ballpark to fire. The two men successfully negotiated a transfer to Montreal. And so, Joe Page helped bring the first incarnation of the Royals to Montreal. This episode proved to be classic Joe Page. Without having any money of his own, he was able find an investor who would bring money to the table to bring one of his projects to fruition.

In the fall of 1897 Joe Page was also busy founding the Montreal Baseball League, which included the best English-speaking amateur teams from Montreal.8 Page’s French-speaking competitors responded by establishing a new league of their own for 1898, the Quebec Provincial League, whose 1940s iteration would become famous in North American minor-league circles. Page’s new league wasn’t as successful as he had hoped, so he joined the Provincial League and played for several of its semipro clubs between 1898 and 1903.

He played for Saint-Jean in 1899, went back to manage Farnham in 1900 and spent the entire 1901 season umpiring home games for the Royals in the Eastern League. He reconnected with the Provincial League in 1902 with a transfer to the Delorimier club of Montreal. As Page had undergone eye surgery during the winter, everyone thought he would no longer be able to play or manage. So it was a surprise when he ended up with Delorimier. Montreal’s French-language daily La Presse reported that the Provincial League magnates, once so certain that Page would be out of commission for the year, would now have to deal again “with this cunning man and contend with the new team he just organized.”9

Page’s reputation in the Montreal baseball community was forever set. He was named secretary of the Provincial League in 1903 and the same year started a new club, the Shamrocks, which was admitted into the league. The circuit collapsed before the 1904 season and Page immediately helped create a new semipro loop to replace it, the Eastern Canada League. He was named its secretary while the original Tip O’Neill, who had since moved to Montreal and whose brother had become vice president of the Royals, was named its president.10 Seizing on a brand-new opportunity, Page tried in 1906 to place a Montreal club in the Northern New York League.11 When this failed, he founded a new league of his own, the Canadian League, which had semipro teams as far east as Trois-Rivières and Quebec City.12 Until then, most baseball leagues in the province had their heart in Montreal, with other clubs operating within a short distance from the city. Page’s new league was the first to have its clubs spread so far apart and, most importantly, was first to capitalize on the Quebec City market.

The reason why is simple. Joe Page was first and foremost a Canadian Pacific Railway employee, and he wanted to attract new patrons for the railroad’s train lines. The Canadian League experience proved a disaster, as travel expenses encroached on club profits. His league folded in 1908 after trying to place a franchise in Montreal. It would not be the last time Page would use baseball to promote the activities of his employer. He had received a promotion in 1902 and had been transferred to the Montreal-St. John, New Brunswick, line as a train baggageman. From then on, he spent less time on the diamond as a player or manager and more as an organizer and promoter. His place of residence was still Montreal but he traveled frequently to New Brunswick. And he was getting older. He was 38 when he last played regularly for the Quebec entry in the Canadian League in 1906.

In 1909 a new league came to life, the Montreal City League. Organized with the help of Page, this semipro league comprised the best teams in the city. Page was at one point its president and umpired league games until the middle of the 1920s. The league was the best and most stable loop in the province for some 20 years, with established local baseball stars. Several of these players even ended up on the roster of minor-league teams, including Oscar Major, who would later play for the Royals and become a Quebec-based scout for the Dodgers. At the same time, Page umpired games for a rival semipro circuit located in the East End of Montreal, the Independent League.

Page took no time to mingle with the baseball community in New Brunswick after his transfer to St. John. By 1905, he was already working to create a league.13 His project came to fruition in 1911 when he founded the New Brunswick-Maine League with six teams scattered across the province, which of course increased traffic for the CPR. In 1913 the league joined Organized Baseball as a Class-D circuit. From the beginning, the league made good use of established players such as George Winter, pitcher for the Boston American League club between 1901 and 1908, and Bob Ganley, formerly with Washington. Several players in the league would go on to have minor-league careers of their own as well. Some even reached the majors, like Merwin Jacobson and Casey Hageman.14 When the league folded after the 1913 season, Page attempted to form a new league with clubs in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, but failed.15 He also tried to place the St. John club in the New England League for 1915.16 This also failed.

Page’s interests shifted somewhat after his league ceased operation in 1913. His devotion to the CPR slowly began to take more of his time. Always with an eye toward increasing traffic for the railroad, Page started promoting hunting and fishing expeditions in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, most notably in the pages of Sporting Life, for which he had been a Montreal-based correspondent since 1897. In a December 1916 promotional piece, he explained that “in the Summer season, the province of New Brunswick is a happy land, where the sunny hours speed away on the feet of delightful dreams” and reminded readers that the Algonquin Hotel, owned by the CPR, was perfect for the outdoor game player.17 He was no doubt influenced by George Ham, a former Canadian journalist who was head of the CPR press bureau from 1891 until 1926. Ham was a marketing man himself who promoted the CPR and its use for tourism throughout North America and the world. He was first to recognize the tourism potential of St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal, and wrote the first biography of its founder, Brother André, who was canonized by the Catholic Church in 2010.

Page had the full support of the railroad in these enterprises as he set out to create new baseball clubs and to promote tourism destinations to sportsmen, making sure that they used the CPR for their travels. For his efforts, Page was rewarded with a promotion in 1922. He was named passenger traffic sports representative, a job created exclusively for him by George Ham. In that capacity, he guided each year several hunting and fishing expeditions that took sports reporters from major US newspapers to the Maritime Provinces and Quebec.

In the fall of 1914, Joe Page was among a group of investors who came close to buying the Royals from longtime owners Sam Lichtenhein and his two partners. The Federal League had made life difficult for the Montreal franchise and its owners decided it was time to quit, especially since their ballpark had burned to the ground that summer and the rebuilding had put them in the red. In the end, the deal fell through and Lichtenhein ended up buying out his two partners. Page later said that his group had offered $35,000 but that the Royals ownership held firmly for $60,000. It was also revealed that Lichtenhein and Page were not best of friends, which might have hindered the deal.18

In 1922 Page founded the Eastern Canada League and orchestrated its entrance into Organized Baseball as a Class-B minor league.19 The league changed its name two years later to the Quebec-Ontario-Vermont League when it welcomed two clubs from Vermont into its ranks. More than anything else, the league was a vehicle for Page’s scouting activities. He had been a scout for the Chicago White Sox since at least 1914, and he used his league to gather and develop players for Charles Comiskey. A half-dozen players were signed by the White Sox, but all had undistinguished minor-league careers. Bob Lawrence and Augie Swentor reached the majors but played only one game. Plagued by financial woes and player and fan rowdiness, the league folded after the 1924 season.

Joe Page was always a clever promoter. He was instrumental in arranging the visit of the Chicago White Sox and New York Giants to Montreal and Quebec City in 1924, the first leg of their grand tour of Europe after the World Series. Both teams used the CPR for their travels and sailed from Quebec City to Liverpool on the SS Montroyal of the Canadian Pacific Steamship Line.20 Two years later, Page was the mastermind of one of Montreal’s most famous sporting events as Babe Ruth traveled to the city to play in an exhibition game. More than 3,000 people filled small Guybourg Grounds in the Longue-Pointe district of Montreal to see the Bambino hit no fewer than 36 batting-practice balls into the St. Lawrence River.21 In 1934 Page again contracted with Ruth and other all-stars as they started their tour of Japan. He helped organize transport for the major-league players. They ended up traveling to the Land of the Rising Sun on the Canadian Pacific’s fastest ocean liner, the RMS Empress of Japan. Page was on hand in Vancouver to send the All Americans off.22

Page also promoted other sports. As early as 1919, he had attempted to bring the big Dempsey-Willard fight to Montreal, which would have brought heavy traffic to the Canadian Pacific Railway. It went to Toledo instead. In 1923 Page served as an interpreter for a series of bouts held in the Province of Quebec between Jack Johnson and Senegalese fighter Battling Siki. In October 1925 Page was selected as delegate of the New Brunswick Skating Association, and spearheaded the organization’s successful bid to host the 1926 World Speedskating Meet in St. John.23 By the 1930s, Page was into horse racing and acted as a patrol judge at a number of racetracks, most notably at King’s Park near Montreal.

He got involved in hockey as well. In 1922 he was one of the directors of the new amateur Quebec Hockey League. Four years later, he helped Quebec City win an entry in the Canadian-American Hockey League. The league later rebranded itself and survives as the American League. Then, in 1926, Page was hired as a scout for the Pittsburgh Pirates of the National Hockey League. The team’s coach was fellow Montrealer Odie Cleghorn, who had become acquainted with Page in the early 1910s when Cleghorn played for the Star baseball club of Montreal with his brother Sprague and future Montreal Canadiens coach Cecil Hart. Page also became adviser to team owner James Callahan. Page claimed to have sold Madison Square Garden manager John Hammond on hockey when Hammond was looking for new events to increase the arena’s revenues. Hammond was seduced and soon declared after a meeting with Page that “Madison Square Garden will go in for hockey.”24 The New York Americans began play at the Garden on December 15, 1925. Legend or not, Page was sometimes regarded after that as the “Founder of Hockey in the United States.”

One of Page’s last major and long-lasting accomplishments in baseball was his tireless work to bring high-level professional baseball back to Montreal. In 1923 he was involved in negotiations to transfer the Syracuse Stars of the International League to the city. Branch Rickey’s St. Louis Cardinals would have bought the Stars and placed them in Montreal. The deal fell through when no suitable grounds could be secured.25 Then, in early 1926, Page tried unsuccessfully to secure for a local syndicate the placement of a New England League franchise in Montreal.26 In November of the same year, Page raised the possibility that Reading of the International League could be cut from the league and replaced by a Montreal club.27 Again, the fact that Montreal lacked a suitable ballpark came under scrutiny in both instances. Page had two sites in mind for a new ballpark but no money with which to build it.

Undeterred and having learned from recent experiences, Page came up with a new plan in 1927. He first sought potential local investors who were able to not only buy a team, but, most importantly, also able to build a ballpark. Montreal businessman Ernest Savard and his partners were these men. Then, when he learned that George Stallings was looking for potential investors to acquire the Jersey City franchise with the intent of moving it, Page lost no time. He introduced Stallings to his group of Montreal investors and the deal was signed soon after. The transfer was approved. Construction on the ballpark began on the site of a former Provincial League stadium. The Montreal Royals began play on April 18, 1928, in Reading.28 For the fourth time in almost 40 years, Joe Page was responsible for bringing the International League to Montreal. As usual, Page brought no money to the table, but rather served as matchmaker. He remained close to Royals management until his death.

He later arranged a tour of Western Canada by the Montreal Royals and the Toronto Maple Leafs in September of 1932.29 Page was also successful in having Montreal selected as host of the National Association convention for 1930 and again in 1936. Both times he entertained baseball writers at resorts in the Laurentian Mountains of Quebec. Page claimed that he had attended every National Association convention since 1901.

Joe Page retired from the Canadian Pacific Railway on July 1, 1937.30 Although he was best remembered for his sporting activities, Page also left his mark as an innovative railroad employee. He was the holder of several Canadian patents pertaining to railroad operations. These included an improved luggage rack and an improved braking mechanism, among others. Many of these inventions were still in use at the time of his death.

After retiring, Page was less active as a promoter. He attended almost every Royals home game in his reserved box seat. He became the elder statesman of Montreal baseball and a reference for the younger generation of newspapermen. He was quoted often in Montreal, Canadian and US newspapers. In the media, he gave advice to managers, analyzed rookies and established players alike, and reminisced about the good old days. Of course, Page was no stranger to the journalistic world. Besides being a correspondent for Sporting Life, he was also the editor of the Canadian edition of the Spalding Guide from 1910 to the early 1920s. He was sporting editor of the Montreal Evening News in the late 1910s and wrote articles for several Montreal and US newspapers during his career. For his journalistic work, he was named an honorary member of the Baseball Writers Association of America. He attended the BBWAA’s annual ball from its inception until his death.

Joe Page left a final mark on Quebec and Maritime baseball when he served as National Association liaison in the Quebec Provincial League’s effort to join Organized Baseball after several years as an independent, and at times outlaw, league. With his help, the league achieved Class-B classification for the 1940 season.31 The league collapsed after that season and Page was hired to represent the Quebec and Trois-Rivières franchises in their successful bid to join the Canadian-American League. Both teams would remain in that league through the 1950 season, Quebec winning two pennants and Trois-Rivières one.32 He had served in a similar capacity in early 1937 when he was asked by the National Association to evaluate the Cape Breton Colliery League’s request to join Organized Baseball.33

Page’s connection to Organized Baseball never faded. His personal friends included players and executives. Commissioner Kenesaw M. Landis, Ban Johnson, and Connie Mack were all acquaintances of his. Page was especially proud of his friendship with Chicago White Sox owner Charles Comiskey, for whom he served as a guide when they ventured together on fishing and hunting trips in Eastern Canada. He knew just about every baseball columnist in North America. And it was common knowledge that he had attended every World Series since 1903. There he could take the pulse of the baseball world and promote either his baseball ventures or the Canadian Pacific Railway. His fall classic attendance record became his claim to fame in the twilight of his life.

Joe Page died in Montreal on April 3, 1947, from complications related to a stroke he had suffered while attending the 1946 World Series.34 His funeral at St. Patrick’s Basilica in downtown Montreal was covered by the press from Montreal and abroad. He was laid to rest in Montreal’s Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery. Hundreds of people, including representatives from the Canadian Pacific Railway, the Montreal Royals, Organized Baseball, and the BBWAA attended. All were there to pay their homage to the man who for more than 60 years seemed to be ever-present within the baseball scene.



1 J.L McGowan, “Joe Page, ‘The Man Everybody Knows,’ Has Served Nearly 50 Years as Game’s No. 1 Booster in Canada,” The Sporting News, November 26, 1936: 5.

2 “Page Found Guilty,” Montreal Gazette, June 9, 1892: 2; “The Woman Jackson Must Then be Produced or the Bail Will be Forfeited,” Detroit Free Press, February 13, 1889: 3.

3 “A Stabbing Affray,” Detroit Free Press, February 10, 1889: 23.

4 “Clippers Want Opponents,” Montreal Gazette, June 13, 1889: 8.

5 “A Montreal Nine,” Montreal Gazette, April 19, 1890: 5.

6 “Canada Taking it Up,” Boston Globe, May 4, 1890: 8.

7 “Preparing for the Season,” Montreal Gazette, March 13, 1897: 5.

8 “The Name of the New Baseball Association,” Montreal Gazette, November 5, 1897: 5.

9 “Joe Page Sera Gérant du Club Delorimier,” La Presse, April 28, 1902: 3.

10 “Big Name, Little League,” Sporting Life, March 12, 1904: 5.

11 John B. Taylor, “Independent Northern,” Sporting Life, March 31, 1906: 15.

12 “Canadian Baseball League,” Montreal Gazette, April 2, 1906: 4.

13 “For a Provincial League,” St. John Daily Sun, April 21, 1905: 8.

14 Colin D. Howell, Northern Sandlots (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995), 140-145.

15 Joe Page, “A Provincial League,” Sporting Life, April 11, 1914: 10.

16 “Baseball Chatter,” Meriden (Connecticut) Morning Record, March 13, 1914: 3.

17 Joe Page, “Big Game in New Brunswick,” Sporting Life, December 23, 1916: 15.

18 Frederick G. Lieb, “Joe Page, Mr. Baseball of Dominion, Dies at 79,” The Sporting News, April 16, 1947: 27.

19 “Four Clubs Join Baseball League,” Montreal Gazette, April 3, 1922: 18.

20 “Baseball Players Arrive Tomorrow,” Montreal Gazette, October 11, 1924: 18.

21 “La Lutte Cesse Faute de Balles,” La Presse, October 18, 1926: 20.

22 Frederick G. Lieb, “All Japan Ready to Hail Ruth and his Team of Stars,” The Sporting News, October 18, 1934: 3.

23 “Delegates Nominated,” Montreal Gazette, October 31, 1925: 18.

24 Frank G. Menke, “Hockey Enthusiast’s Idea Tapped Sport Gold Mine,” Carbondale (Illinois) Daily Free Press, December 18, 1929: 6.

25 “Le Marché Serait Conclu,” Le Devoir, November 9, 1923: 7.

26 “Pro Ball Locally Is Again Mooted,” Montreal Gazette, February 8, 1926: 13.

27 Hugh Bradley, “Montreal Likely to Supplant Keys in Toole’s Circuit,” New York Evening Post, November 5, 1926: 11.

28 “La Renaissance du Baseball Professionnel à Montréal,” La Patrie, April 28, 1928: 16.

29 “Royals, Leafs En Route,” Montreal Gazette, September 22, 1932: 16.

30 “Joe Page Leaving CPR Post July 1st,” Montreal Gazette, June 22, 1937: 16.

31 Joe Page, “Provincial Loop Shaping Up; Pilots for Five Clubs Named,” The Sporting News, April 4, 1940: 7.

32 David Pietrusza, Baseball’s Canadian-American League (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2005), 45-47.

33 Chauncey MacQuarrie, “Maritime Loop Turns to O.B. for Salvation,” The Sporting News, February 11, 1937: 5.

34 “Joe Page Dies in Montreal After a Lengthy Illness,” Montreal Gazette, April 5, 1947: 16.

Full Name

Joseph Henry Page


April 19, 1868 at Dalston, (England)


April 3, 1947 at Montreal, Quebec (Canada)

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