On June 6, 1935, Winnipeg’s Osborne Stadium reopened after renovations with an exhibition that featured future Hall of Famers Willard Brown, Satchel Paige, and Bullet Rogan. The game ended in a scoreless tie.
The Kansas City Monarchs, an independent team in 1935, were considered the home team for the exhibition, while the integrated professional team from Bismarck, North Dakota, was considered the road team.
Newspaper previews publicized both Kansas City’s starting pitcher, Chet Brewer, and Bismarck’s starter, Paige. “The North Dakotans will headline ‘Satchel’ Paige, rated the greatest attraction of independent baseball, while the Monarchs have all the old favorites and several newcomers on their starry roster, including ‘Pee Wee’ Dwight, Chet Brewer and ‘Lefty’ Beverley [sic],” the Winnipeg Tribune wrote the day before the game.1 Brewer was in his 11th season with the Monarchs, while Paige had recently returned to Bismarck after a stint there in 1933.
Paige was brought to Bismarck by Neil Churchill, a bombastic auto dealer who also ran the local baseball team. Churchill stood 5-feet-8, didn’t smoke or drink, and was nicknamed “Church.” He was known for always wearing a three-piece suit and carrying a pencil and notepad. Churchill was a player-manager for Bismarck in 1926, stepping foot on the field only occasionally as a pinch-hitter or substitute first baseman.2
Churchill believed in signing the most talented players, regardless of their skin color. Bismarck’s lineup for a 1935 national semipro tournament in Wichita, Kansas, consisted of five black players and four white players. “It wasn’t until after I signed up with Mr. Churchill that I found out I was going to be playing with white boys,” Paige said. “For the first time since I’d started playing, I was going to have some of them on my side. It seemed real funny. It looked like they couldn’t hold out against me forever after all.”3 One White major leaguer told another after a 1934 exhibition in Bismarck, “I knew there were a lot of good Negroes in baseball. I just didn’t know they were all in Bismarck.”4
Bismarck’s 1935 team photo symbolizes the team’s integration and unity. In the back row of the photo, White outfielder Moose Johnson has his right hand on Paige’s left shoulder, showing his acceptance and friendship. Churchill appears in the front row of the team photo.5 Paige was impressed with his Bismarck teammates, calling them “the best players I ever played with. But who ever heard of them?”6
Paige’s 1935 contract from Churchill gave him $500 per month and use of a new Chrysler. While his great pitching and eccentric personality made him a celebrity in North Dakota, segregation still made it challenging for Paige to rent an apartment there in 1935. He and his wife had to live in a remodeled boxcar near the Soo Line railroad station.7
When Bismarck and Kansas City met in Winnipeg, it was a cool June afternoon, with a high of only 54 degrees.8 The game’s lone umpire was Snake Siddle, who was a standout hitter in the Winnipeg Senior League in the 1920s. Siddle was inducted into the Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006 for his playing achievements.9
After Brewer struck out the first two Bismarck batters in the top of the first, Quincy Trouppe singled and Red Haley hit a ground-rule double off the Winnipeg Amphitheatre, the home arena for Manitoba’s Junior Hockey League team, who, coincidentally, were named “Monarchs.” A groundout left two Bismarck runners on base and ended the first-inning threat.
Paige struck out the side in the bottom of the first and allowed only two Kansas City hits in the first five innings. With the score still 0-0 in the bottom of the sixth, Kansas City loaded the bases with two outs on two singles and an intentional walk. In a battle of two future Hall of Famers, Paige struck out Willard Brown on three pitches to end the inning.10
Kansas City had another opportunity in the seventh to bring in the game’s first run. Newt Joseph tripled to center field off Paige with one out but was then thrown out at home trying to score on a groundball.
Brewer was matching Paige inning by inning but ran into trouble in the top of the eighth when Bismarck loaded the bases with two outs on a single and two walks. Brewer responded by striking out LeRoy Drengberg to end the rally.
Ed Mayweather’s double with one out in the bottom of the ninth put the potential winning run in scoring position for the Monarchs, but Paige struck out the next two batters to leave Mayweather on base.
The game was scoreless at the end of nine, but there would be no extra innings. As “twilight descended at the end of the ninth inning,” umpire Siddle called the game.11 The exhibition ended in a 0-0 tie. Bismarck collected five hits, while Kansas City had seven. The game took 1 hour and 55 minutes.
Paige struck out 17 Monarchs and was featured prominently in the Winnipeg Tribune’s recap, which said he was “displaying more smoke than Winnipeg fans have seen since Lefty Grove pitched here in the fall of 1933.”12 It appears Paige kept his outfielders in the outfield that day; legend has it Paige sometimes confidently “sent the outfielders to the dugout and pitched to an opponent with an empty outfield.”13
Brewer struck out 13 Bismarck batters and the same Winnipeg Tribune article mentioned his “fast-breaking sinker” and applauded his “combination of speed and curves.”14 It appears fielding was sharp on both sides; the teams combined to make only one error.
Paige appeared in three games, all starts, for Bismarck in 1935 and had dominant results. All three of his starts were complete games and he had a 2-0 record with a 0.33 ERA. Paige struck out 44 batters and walked only five. The hitters Paige shut out in Winnipeg became his teammates three months later when Paige joined the Monarchs.15 It was the first of his eight seasons with the famed Negro League franchise. Years later, Paige pitched in the American League for the Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Browns, and Kansas City Athletics. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1971.
Brewer made seven appearances for the Monarchs in 1935, starting four games. He had a 2-3 record with a 2.28 ERA, striking out 37 and walking 10. It was the next-to-last of his 12 seasons with the Monarchs. Brewer never pitched for an American League or National League team, but he was still pitching professionally at age 45 with the California League’s Visalia Cubs in 1952.
Even though Paige’s stints in Bismarck were short, it’s obvious he left a legacy there. In a 1985 retrospective of Paige’s time in North Dakota, the Bismarck Tribune sentimentalized how “wives, daughters, sons and grandsons suffered through grandpa’s tales about the unbelievable black Paul Bunyan of pitching who cut down batters instead of trees; about his ability to consistently throw fastballs directly over a gum wrapper on home plate when warming up; about times he called his fielders back to the dugout while he and his catcher, Quincy Troupe [sic], took on three batters with nine pitches for three consecutive outs; all about a black man who could perform magic with a baseball.”16
Paige also connected with the Native American community in North Dakota. “Among the customers who sat fascinated by the sight of Paige at his peak were many Sioux Indians from nearby reservations. They named him Long Rifle and worked him into at least one tribal legend, in which he uses the bean ball on a cantankerous local Indian commissioner.”17
Paige returned to Bismarck in 1959 at age 53 while barnstorming with the Cuban Stars and “was amazed at Bismarck’s growth and saddened that it no longer fielded a semipro team. He dreamed aloud about personally building a team in Bismarck. He also spent time enlarging on how he got his nickname and how old he was.”18
The longest scoreless game in professional baseball history is also associated with North Dakota. The Fargo Red Stockings and Grand Forks Black Stockings hold that record after playing 25 innings in Devils Lake, North Dakota, on July 18, 1891. That 0-0 tie ended after 25 innings because the players had to catch a train.19
Winnipeg has hosted various levels of independent and minor-league baseball since that exhibition game in 1935. The city has a deep baseball history, including the time Satchel Paige struck out 17 batters in a scoreless tie.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author used Baseball-Reference.com, Newspapers.com, and the Seamheads.com Negro Leagues database.
1 “Kansas City Monarchs Play Bismarck Here,” Winnipeg Tribune, June 6, 1935: 14.
2 Tom Dunkel, Color Blind: The Forgotten Team That Broke Baseball’s Color Line (New York: Grove Press, 2014), 37.
3 Marc Conrad, “A Paige in Bismarck Hhistory,” Bismarck Tribune, August 25, 1985: 4C.
4 “A Paige in Bismarck History.”
5 “Bismarck Baseball,” Northwoods League, www.northwoodsleague.com/bismarck-larks/bismarck-baseball-history/.
6 “Section 4: Bismarck Baseball,” ND.gov, Official State Website, www.ndstudies.gov/gr8/content/unit-iv-modern-north-dakota-1921-present/lesson-3-building-communities/topic-5-sports/section-4-bismarck-baseball.
7 “A Paige in Bismarck History.”
8 “Daily Data Report for June 1935,” Government of Canada, https://climate.weather.gc.ca/climate_data/daily_data_e.html?hlyRange=%7C&dlyRange=1872-03-01%7C1938-07-31&mlyRange=1872-01-01%7C1938-12-01&StationID=3703&Prov=MB&urlExtension=_e.html&searchType=stnName&optLimit=specDate&StartYear=1840&EndYear=2020&selRowPerPage=25&Line=0&searchMethod=contains&Month=6&Day=6&txtStationName=Winnipeg&timeframe=2&Year=1935.
10 “Paige, Brewer, Hurl Double Shutout,” Winnipeg Tribune, June 7, 1935: 15.
11 “Paige, Brewer, Hurl Double Shutout.”
12 “Paige, Brewer, Hurl Double Shutout.”
13 “Section 4: Bismarck Baseball,” ND.gov, Official State Website, www.ndstudies.gov/gr8/content/unit-iv-modern-north-dakota-1921-present/lesson-3-building-communities/topic-5-sports/section-4-bismarck-baseball.
14 “Paige, Brewer, Hurl Double Shutout.”
15 “Exhibition Tuesday,” St. Joseph (Missouri) News-Press, September 22, 1935: 11 A.
16 Conrad, “A Paige in Bismarck history.”
17 “To Area Sioux He Became Known as ‘Long Rifle,’” Bismarck Tribune, August 25, 1985: C.
18 “A Paige in Bismarck History.”
19 Phil Lowry, Baseball’s Longest Games: A Comprehensive Worldwide Record Book (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2010), 71.
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