Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Q75: 1899 Doukhoboer Baseball Team?

From: Dmitri Fofonoff, Grand Forks, British Columbia (November 19, 2016)

Although we haven't seen each other for years, we did meet a long time ago. While I have lived in Vancouver for a long time, I grew up in Grand Forks, and attended UBC. I continue to read your contributions to Iskra, and sense your interest in Doukhobor history.

I have run across an old reference to Doukhobors in a Toronto paper, and thought you might be interested, and might be able to solve a bit of a mystery.

First, some background. I lived in Toronto (1975-1985) and while there was a member of the Royal Canadian Curling Club. The club recently celebrated its 125th anniversary and decided to look into its history. It started as an athletic club and a bicycle club before transforming into a skating club, and finally a curling club in the 50's. The members also participated in other sports over the years, including baseball. ...

... In the summer of 1899, the Royal Canadian Athletic Club entered two baseball teams into a local amateur league. The names of the teams were the Lobsters and the Doukhoboers (sic). ... original newspaper clipping ...

R. C. B. C. Notes (August 3, 1899)
A baseball match was played on the ball grounds Saturday afternoon between the Lobsters and the Doukhoborers, all members of the Royal Canadian Bicycle Club. The playing on both sides was fierce, many brilliant stops and wild throws being executed. The features were the heavy hitting of the Douks and the poor fielding of the Lobsters. The following composed the teams : Doukhoboers—Messers. L. Saulter, H. Penguilly, W. Vennels, C. Walton, Geo. Cooper, R. Pringles, W. Fortescue, D. Logan, C. Lancaster, B. Leslie, and H. Salisbury. Lobsters—Messers. F. Prouting, W. Crocker, W. Booth, W. Cross, W. Hewlett, H. Lowman, T. Johnson, H. Thompson, J. Grieves, G. Abbott, and W. Simpson. The Douks won by 48 runs to 27. Messers. Pengilly and Pringle served up the snakes [pitched] for the winners, while Messers. Crocker, Booth and Johnson twirled [pitched] for the losers. A good afternoon's sport was the result and the boys will line up again on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

Can Play "De Game."
It is quite evident members of the Royal Canadian Bicycle Club can occasionally play baseball. On Saturday afternoon the baseball team of the club journeyed to East Toronto Village where the engaged the attention of the G. T. R. team of that hamlet. A few words will suffice to tell the story of the battle : score—R. C. B. C., 21 ; G. T. R. , 3. Pringle did the twirling [pitching] and Abbot caught for the victorious Royals.

I don't know what to make of this reference. It's possible that the names were just fanciful, Lobsters being ocean creatures far from any ocean, or just ball players who "lobbed" the ball rather than throwing it hard. And Doukhoboers may have been a mis-spelled name picked out of the news, of a strange group of new immigrants to central Canada, or even a mixed reference with the Boers of South Africa since the Boer War was ongoing at the time. Or it could be something entirely different.

I doubt there is much of historical value here, but it is curious. I wonder if you have any interest in this, and whether you can shed any light on this oddity.


Glad to renew our acquaintance from many years back. Your story from 1899 is indeed interesting.

Why would a local amateur baseball team in Toronto call itself Doukhoboers? None of the players appear to be Doukhobors. That was the year that 7,500 Russian Doukhobors arrived in Canada, and the mainstream media published the story across the country and the world.

Perhaps someone heard about the group and out of a whim said 'that sounds like a good name for a baseball team'. Of course this is speculation.

A Google search for the spelling finds it in a 1903 book for teachers of blind students: The Association Review, Volume 5, American Association to Promote the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf, 1903, page 116 : 'Doukhoboers—A peculiar Russian religious sect'.

If any readers can help, please comment below.

1 comment:

  1. Gunter Schaarschmidt1 December 2016 at 07:23

    The spelling "Doukhoboer" is unfortunate because the noun "boer" refers to the Dutch in South Africa, note "The Boer Wars". So whether or not the team has actually Doukhobor players in it, is irrelevant. By the way, "boer" in Dutch is pronounced "boor", not a very complimentary word in English, so should be avoided in conjunction with a respectable root like "doukh-".