Top 100 Teams
International League (Triple-A)
By Bill Weiss & Marshall Wright, Baseball Historians
From before the turn of the century until the mid-1960s, the city of Toronto enjoyed high-caliber minor league baseball. Fielding teams in high-class circuits like the International League, the city took home several championships, placing more teams in the top 100 than almost any other locale. In 1960, Toronto fielded one of its strongest entries behind the efforts of a dominant pitcher.
In the years following the Civil War, several amateur clubs were organized in the city of Toronto, located in the Canadian province of Ontario. One of these clubs, called the Maple Leafs, competed against other amateur nines from Guelph and Hamilton. The cityís first foray into pro ball came in 1885 when a team called the Toronto Canucks was part of a five-team league known as the Canadian League. The following year, the Canucks joined the International League, which consisted of six clubs in upper-state New York, and another Canadian team in Hamilton, Ontario. Here, the Canucks finished third with a 53-41 record. During the next four years, the team finished first (1887), second (1888) and third (1890) once each. When the International League disbanded midway through the 1890 season, Toronto left Organized Baseball.
In 1895, the team rejoined the loop, now called the Eastern League. The club, renamed the Maple Leafs, finished in the first division several times in the ensuing years, culminating in a razor-thin victory in 1902, earning the team a place in the top 100 list. After a pair of last place finishes in 1905 and 1906, the team rebounded to win another flag in 1907.
During the latter part of the next decade, after the Eastern League was renamed the International League, the Maple Leafs again enjoyed a dominant run. Beginning in 1917, the team finished either first or second seven times during the next nine years. Three of these clubs (1918, 1920 and 1926) finished in the top 100 list.
The next thirty years were not blessed with success for the Leafs. During that time the team won only one regular season crown in 1943, with a sole playoff championship in 1934. In the mid-1950s, the teamís fortunes took an upswing. Beginning in 1954, the Leafs won three pennants in four years, missing a shot at four straight by a slim half-game in 1955. Following this success, the team slid into the second division, bottoming out with a last place finish in 1959. However, thanks to a little outside help, the club rebounded strongly the very next year.
In 1960, the Toronto Maple Leafs entered into an arrangement with the Cleveland Indians, becoming their top farm team. The dividends paid off immediately as the club jumped from the cellar to the top-rung in the space of one year, duplicating the feat of the 1906-07 clubs. The Leafs crushed the competition, finishing with a 100-54 record, 17 games ahead of second place Richmond. In the first round of the playoffs, Toronto defeated Buffalo, four games to none before dispatching Rochester four games to one in the finals. In the Junior World Series, against the American Associationís Louisville club, the Maple Leafs went down to defeat, four games to two.
During the regular season, the team batted a modest .246, only fifth in the league. However, the pitching was far from mediocre as the staff compiled a 2.82 team ERA, nearly a half-run better than their next competitor. The team also twirled 32 shutouts, breaking the old league record of 29 set in 1910 by Rochester.
The moundsmen were led by Al Cicotte who won the pitching triple crown (16-7, 1.79, 158). During the course of the season, he also twirled an 11-inning no-hitter, defeating Montreal, 1-0, on September 3, retiring 29 batters in a row. Five nights after his no-hitter, in his final start of the season, Cicotte beat Rochester 4-1 on four hits. Except for an unearned run, he would have had his ninth shutout. In addition, he finished the campaign with 56 consecutive innings without an earned run, winning ten of his last 12 decisions, the losses being by 1-0 and 2-1 scores. Cicotte did not fare as well in his major league career as he toiled for six teams in five years from 1957-62, compiling a 10-13, 4.36 record.
The best hitters on the Maple Leafs in 1960 were outfielders James King and Don Dillard. King batted .287 with a team high 24 homers and 86 RBI while Dillard batted a team-high .294. King enjoyed an 11-year major league career mostly spent with the Senators, batting .240 with 117 homeruns from 1955-67. His best season was 1963, when he hit 24 home runs for Washington. Dillard played six years in the bigs with Cleveland and Milwaukee from 1959-65, finishing with a .244 average.
Other í60 Leaf batters who played in the majors included Earl Hersh who played in 13 games for the Braves in 1956, Billy Moran who hit .263 in seven seasons for the Angels and Indians, Steve Demeter who played 15 games in 1959-60, Tim Thompson who caught in 187 games from 1954-58, Mike de la Hoz who batted .251 in nine seasons and Rod Graber who played four games for the 1958 Indians. Other pitchers who threw in the big leagues included Bob Smith who won four games for Pittsburgh in 1958-59, Steve Ridzik who was a relief pitcher for 12 years with the Phillies, Reds, Giants and Senators, Frank Funk who finished a four-year stint in 1963 with a 20-17, 3.01 record, Ron Negray who won six games in four years from 1952-58 and Bob Chakales who finished 15-25, 2.54 during a seven-year stint during the 1950s. In addition, Funk served as a minor league manager and a major league pitching coach after his playing career ended in 1967. In his 11 seasons in the majors (1976-98), Funk saw service with San Francisco, Seattle, Kansas City and Colorado.
Chuck Tanner, who played briefly for the Maple Leafs, became best known as a major league manager for all or part of 19 seasons, 1970-88: White Sox, 1970-75; Oakland, 1976; Pittsburgh, 1977-85; Atlanta, 1986-88. Tanner led the Pirates to the championship in 1979.
Another member or the Maple Leafs was also known more for his managing skills than his playing expertise. Although he played a full season for the Phillies in 1959, batting .218, George (Sparky) Anderson would receive much more fame as a big-league manager. Beginning in 1970, Anderson managed for 26 years, leading both the Reds and Tigers. For the Reds, he skippered five pennant-winners, including the juggernaut í75 version which some consider one of the greatest teams of its era. Later, Anderson led the 1984 Tigers to a 35-5 start on the way to the first of two pennants. He resigned following the 1995 season. In February 2000, he was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee.
In addition, Cicotte, Anderson, King and Riverboat Smith were honored by being named to the league All-Star team.
Following the 1960 season, the Maple Leafs played another six years in the International League. In 1965 and 1966 the team won the playoffs as an affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. Following the 1967 season, after the team only drew only 67,216 fans, the club was relocated to Louisville. Ten years later, baseball returned to Toronto with the advent of the American League expansion Blue Jays.
The 1960 Toronto Maple Leafs are remembered as a dominant pitching team, augmented by the triple crown season of hurler Al Cicotte. The city was well represented by the club - making Toronto one of only three cities to place five teams in the top 100.
|1960 International League Standings|
|1960 Toronto Maple Leafs batting statistics|
|Rod Graber (Montreal)||OF||119||268||35||57||29||8||2||3||42||44||7||.213|
|Mike de la Hoz||SS||16||44||4||10||8||0||0||0||3||11||0||.227|
|1960 Toronto Maple Leafs pitching statistics|