Leisure, Our History
The Intercounty Baseball League: Bridging rural-urban divides for over 100 years
Curated by Philip Rich
November 8, 2021
Amateur and minor league baseball is unique in its ability to connect urban and rural lived experiences. While major league baseball teams play in big cities like Toronto, New York, and Chicago, minor league teams that are operated by the major league teams play in small – often rural – towns across North America. Professional players who will go on to play in the major leagues might make stops in towns like Salisbury, Maryland (Delmarva Shorebirds) or Kinston, North Carolina (Down East Wood Ducks) on their way to the MLB. Minor league baseball was also essential to the development of the local economies in small towns in North America throughout the 20th century and continues to be important today. As recently as 2020, politicians, activists, and baseball players argued against an MLB plan to restructure the minor league system (which included eliminating teams) because of the negative effects it would have on players and localities across North America.
In Canada, the Intercounty Baseball League is the oldest amateur baseball league in the country that continues to operate. Its historical roots are largely rural – the league began operating in 1919 with teams in Stratford, Galt, Guelph, and Kitchener, and quickly doubled in size to include teams in London, Brantford, Preston, and St. Thomas, Ontario. Teams have also played in rural communities like Listowel, Strathroy, and Welland. However, most of the current teams in the league play in metropolitan areas.
The following photo essay of IBL ballparks and stadiums explores baseball’s rural-urban connections by capturing a uniquely Ontarian experience. The goal of this project is to illustrate these connections through historical photos of rural IBL ballparks and recent photos of urban, modern, ballparks. If we want to facilitate communication between rural and urban experiences in Ontario, documenting amateur baseball is a good place to start.
Thank you to the local teams, archives, and individuals who contributed photos for the project.