Jim Cockman, Bunk Congalton, Bob Emslie, Dan O’Connor, Dave Rowan and Tom Smith
For a small town in Midwestern Ontario, Guelph played a prominent role in Canada’s early history in Major League Baseball.
The very first Canadian to play in the majors according to Baseball-reference.com was Guelph’s Tom Smith, who suited up for the 1875 Brooklyn Atlantics.
The next Guelphite to the majors was pitcher Bob Emslie. He had an amazing year with the 1884 Baltimore Orioles. They went with a two-man rotation that year with Emslie notching 50 complete games while throwing a stunning 455 innings. He sported a 32-17 won-loss record with an ERA of 2.75. But with the number of innings pitched, it is not surprising to hear he went 6-28 the next season and was out of baseball. He was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986 and to the Guelph Sports Hall of Fame. He would go on to umpire for 33 years, most of those in the big leagues.
Big, 6’2” Dan O’Connor won or almost won the 1890 World Series with the Louisville Colonels of the American Association. He “almost” won because the Colonels actually tied the World Series with the Brooklyn Bridgegrooms. Before 1903, post-season games were only considered to be exhibition matches so when each team won three games and then they tied the seventh, they shook hands and called it a year. First baseman O’Connor only had 26 at bats that year but hit .462.
Third baseman Jim Cockman had a short stint with the 1905 New York Highlanders where he was a team mate of future Hall of Famer Wee Willie Keeler.
The best hitter Guelph produced was outfielder Bunk Congalton. He made his debut in 1902 in the National League with the Chicago Orphans (who would become the Cubs the following season) where he played with the future hall of fame trio of Johnny Evers, Joe Tinker and Frank Chance (known for the baseball saying “Tinker to Evers to Chance” recalling an oft made double play). Congalton returned to the Majors from 1905 to 1907 playing with first the Cleveland Naps, then the Boston Americans where his playing manager was Cy Young. Congalton had a strong year in ‘07 leading the team in RBIs with 47 with a .286 average. Over his career Congalton maintained a .296 batting average over 1,163 at bats.
The final player inducted is first baseman Dave Rowan of Elora. He played part of the 1911 season with the St. Louis Browns batting .385 in 65 at bats.
Inducted into the Guelph Sports Hall of Fame – Veteran Athlete category – on May 20, 2009