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Professional Baseball in Dewsbury
SABR UK Examiner - Examiner #10 - July 1998
Written by Ian Smyth   

Dewsbury witnessed a fleeting visit from professional baseball during the summer of 1936, when Crown Flatt became the home of Dewsbury Royals Professional Baseball Club. Dewsbury Royals were founder members of the Yorkshire Baseball League. Other teams in the league included Bradford City Sox, Greenfield Giants, Hull Baseball Club, Leeds Oaks, Scarborough Seagulls, Sheffield Dons and Wakefield Cubs. The league was established by John Moores of Littlewoods Pools, who was also President of the National Baseball Association, in an attempt to establish baseball as a major summer sport in England. All of the teams played either at the local Rugby League or Greyhound Racing stadia.

The first professional game to be held in Dewsbury was on Saturday May 9th, 1936. The Dewsbury Reporter noted that, "Local sportsmen will have their first opportunity to see the game that is all the rage in America at Crown Flatt this weekend when Dewsbury Royals, the newly formed baseball team, will play their first Game with Hull in the Yorkshire League. Players have been busily practicing all week under the direction of WT Graham who has played the game in Canada, and until more local players have learnt the game, Dewsbury will have the assistance of Jack Pomerantz, an American professional pitcher, Sam Berman, an American professional catcher, Towler Cox of Settle, who has experience of the American game in Canada, and Graham."

Unfortunately for the Dewsbury team, neither the weather or the opposition were particularly kind. Despite this a large crowd turned out to watch the game. The Reporter noted, "Probably 80 per cent of the those who visited Crown Flatt last Saturday to see Dewsbury Royals play their first League baseball game out of curiosity. It was a pity, therefore, that conditions were so miserable, or by now there might be many more baseball fans in the Heavy Woollen District. Even as things turned out, a bitterly raw afternoon, with an icy wind with rain at times, most people would have their appetites whetted, for there was no doubt about it, the game made some appeal. Compared with the usual sporting spectacles at Crown Flatt, bad as they were last season I do not think baseball is as thrilling as Rugby League football, but when Heavy Woollen District people are sufficiently versed in the laws as to appreciate the finer points of the game, and, more important still, when some of the Dewsbury players themselves understand its possibilities better, the game should command a good following." (16 May 1936).

The inexperience of the team, allied to the fact that Dewsbury's foreign professionals were not always available, led to the team struggling. Whereas other clubs in the league had imported professionals, Dewsbury in the main had to field local players who were new to the game. Dewsbury did compete with most teams; however, when it came to the crunch, the greater experience of the various opponents invariably won through. In fact, Dewsbury lost their first nine league games, and as of the morning of July 11 they were firmly rooted at the bottom of the league table.


   GP W L
D PTS
 Greenfield 9 9 0 0 18
 Hull 9 7 2 0 14
 Sheffield 9 7 2 0 14
 Wakefield 8 6 2 0 12
 Bradford 9 5 4 0 10
 Leeds 9 2 7 0 4
 Scarborough 8 1 7 0 2
 Dewsbury 9 0 9 0 0

 

However all of this was to change, when on July 11 Dewsbury met Scarborough Seagulls.

"Dewsbury Royals gained their first victim in the Yorkshire League on Saturday when they overwhelmed Scarborough Seagulls 54-6. The score, a record for the league, was a true reflection on the game. From the start it was apparent that Dewsbury were easily the stronger team. The Dewsbury fielding showed a marked improvement. Cox was again in good form as the Royal's pitcher, and the brothers Graham also showed up well in the field." (Dewsbury Reporter, 18 July 1936)

This record victory was quickly followed by a second league win over Bradford City Sox. "A somewhat tame opening between City Sox and Royals in a Yorkshire League game at Legrams Lane Bradford on Tuesday developed into one of the closest struggles so far this season with the Royals winning 10-9. After scoring a single each in the first inning, both teams retired in the next four without a score, but in the sixth frame Dewsbury, who were batting first, scored three runs while their opponents were pointless, and followed this with another three to the Sox one. A fine rally by the Sox gave them four runs in the eighth frame after the Royals had scored a single, and the last innings opened with the home team only two behind. Dewsbury scored twice and the Sox failed by one run to draw."

However, despite improved performances, crowds at Crown Flatt were disappointing, and without the financial backing, which other clubs were receiving, Dewsbury found it difficult to attract quality foreign players. Subsequently the Royals struggled to compete with the bigger clubs, which in turn affected the club's viability, which sadly forced the club out of business. The summer of 1936 was the first and last for professional baseball in Dewsbury. The Royals finished the league season in seventh place with a record of three wins and eleven losses, defeating Bradford, Scarborough and Sheffield, while Greenfield Giants won the league. Dewsbury Royals dropped out of the Yorkshire League at the end of 1936, being replaced by York Maroons.

Despite the demise of Dewsbury Royals, professional baseball thrived in the region. The league expanded in 1938 to include teams from Lancashire. Also in 1938, players from the Yorkshire-Lanacashire Major League beat the United States Olympic Baseball team under the management of Leslie Mann (of the 1914 Miracle Braves), Secretary of the International Baseball Federation, and could lay claim to being World Amateur Champions. Sadly for professional baseball, World War II brought about a sudden halt to proceedings after the 1939 season. Unfortunately the game had not fully established itself, therefore after the war it only resurfaced in areas such as Hull, London and Liverpool where the game had firmly established roots in the pre-war era.

It is true to say that professional baseball did not set Dewsbury alight, and that its existence is all but forgotten. However, the sport did exist in Dewsbury, and for that one short summer in 1936 local players from the Heavy Woollen District became the boys of summer. Their exploits deserve recognition, and their story should be told.

Ian Smyth is an official of the British Baseball Federation and head of Youth Development.

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 June 2009 17:36