Press-Republican

Columns

June 14, 2013

Le Chef's field of dreams

There’s an apocryphal story that Maurice Duplessis, who ruled Quebec for nearly 20 years (some say with an iron fist), was such an ardent baseball fan that on his dying day in September 1959, he was wondering if his Yankees had won the night before.

True or not, there’s no doubt the man they called “Le Chef” was a serious Yankees fan and a devotee of the sport, who, according to one biographer, would have liked to have been a professional ball player had he not been drawn into law and politics.

Duplessis, though, would surely be pleased that his love of baseball has been one of his lasting legacies, in a way he may not have imagined. This season, after an absence of some 36 years, professional baseball has returned to his home city of Trois Rivieres.

That’s thanks mainly to his desire to see his city equipped with a first-class baseball park. So, 75 years later, the diamond that Le Chef built is still standing, indeed recently given a major renovation, and a few weeks ago welcomed a new professional baseball team, Les Aigles (Eagles).

It’s been 36 years since fans in the historic city, halfway between Quebec and Montreal, were treated to high-level baseball. The last minor league team to take to the field was an earlier version of the Aigles, a farm club of the Cincinnati Reds, which had on its 1972 roster eight future major-leaguers, including Ken Griffin Sr.

The association with the Reds ended in 1977, capping a period that had seen teams affiliated with the Philadelphia Phillies, New York Yankees (to Le Chef’s delight) and Brooklyn Dodgers play in the city.

Ever since, the vintage park had fallen into decline, though amateur leagues kept the sport alive in a city with a rich baseball history. Ironically, it was thanks to another stadium Duplessis built that baseball has now returned to Three Rivers.

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