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The Buffaloes’ party, thrown at a deluxe hotel in Downtown Winnipeg, on the dime of their cigar-chomping, white owner Stanley Zeed, saw nine aging Negro League veterans – averaging 35 years old – celebrate with black up-and-comer teammates, taking advantage of the opportunity for baseball seasoning up north.
This all happened in 1950, three years after Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers.Four years later, Willie Wells’ Winnipeg Buffaloes reveled in their own championship, the first in the history of the Man Dak League.Short for “Manitoba and Dakota,” the Man Dak League was founded in 1950, and was initially comprised of five teams: the Buffaloes, the Brandon Greys, Elmwood Giants and Carman Cardinals, all from Manitoba, and the Minot Mallards out of North Dakota.The first-ever recorded baseball game played on North American soil may have actually occurred in the small village of Beachville, Ontario in 1838 – one year before Abner Doubleday purportedly formalized baseball’s rules in Cooperstown, New York, and nearly forty years before the first organized indoor ice hockey game took place in Canada.Over the next few decades, amateur and professional baseball leagues popped up around Eastern Canada. citizens – both black and white – caught wind of the deal and flocked to the region.
Rosters featured black players, as well as Latinos with skin complexions too dark for Major League team owners to tolerate.