MISE À DAY
He used to train in the winter aiming for the hole in a tire in a gym, his arm was so powerful his friends wouldn't run with him to college, he went to the United States United without speaking French to pocket $165 a month in baseball: but how did Georges Maranda manage to become a major league pitcher in his time?
Powerful and enormous right-handed pitcher (6 feet 2, 200 pounds), Georges Maranda is one of eight Quebecers to have thrown more than 100 innings in the 147 years of existence of major league baseball. It was in 1960 and 1962, with the San Francisco Giants and the Minnesota Twins.
Very few Francophones had been there before him. He was the first in the Quebec region.
There is nothing logical in the fact that a youngster from Lévis with a very limited baseball background could reach the major leagues in the 1950s and be better than the Americans or the Dominicans. The only explanation is that he had courage and incredible talent.
He began to get noticed when he was playing at the Collège de Lévis. A good athlete and even a hockey goalie, Maranda had an incredible arm. His friends couldn't catch his balls.
Georges Maranda when he was a goalie at Collège de Lévis in the mid-1940s.
Aunt Colette as catcher
“The only one who could catcher my father was my aunt Colette “, says, smiling, his son Denis Maranda. Since she had often learned to catch balls from her brother, Colette could therefore volunteer without any problem.
The abbot of the Collège de Lévis quickly saw the potential of young Georges and he started spreading the good news to attract the eyes of high-level teams.
At 19, the Major League Boston Braves (now the Milwaukee Braves, now the Atlanta Braves) signed him to a contract and he joined the Quebec Braves, Boston's affiliate club.
He quickly imposed himself with his explosive fastball.
But the competition is fierce to go to a higher level in the organization. His American teammates can train year-round. Him?
“He attached a tire to a rope in a gymnasium and aimed for the middle,” says Denis Maranda.
This rather rudimentary training did not change anything in his progress, however. Three years later, here he is in Wisconsin, where he will get 18 wins in one season. And the caliber must have been rather high, as Hank Aaron was playing for this same team the previous year. Aaron is the player who has hit the most homers in history, behind Barry Bonds.
Maranda's rise will then begin towards the higher levels.
With Alou and Marichal
He will then go from the Braves to the Giants of San Francisco in 1959. He had just had another 18-win season, this time in the tier just before the big league.
He would therefore make his debut for the Giants in 1960, with as teammate Juan Marichal, one of the greatest pitchers of all time. Felipe Alou is also in his team.
Georges Maranda's player card with the San Francisco Giants.
In his first game, Maranda will face the Cards Stan Musial, another baseball monument.
Maranda will then be traded to the Minnesota Twins, where he will kick off another season before returning to Quebec with an elbow injury.
His number with the Twins? 47. It is the same as that of Édouard Julien, who made his debut with the Twins three weeks ago. It's a coincidence, it seems. It was not “Eddy” who chose his number.
Only two players from the region have played more than one game in major league baseball and it's with the same team and the same number.
Édouard Julien has incredible talent and he alone deserves all the credit for his accomplishment. But if there hadn't been a Georges Maranda, would there have been an Édouard Julien?
“I think we've opened the doors,” explains Claude Raymond, who pitched 721 innings in major league baseball from 1959 to 1971.
5 Quebecers at the same time
When he was younger, he was a batting officer for a team that played against Georges Maranda. They then became friends, teammates and adversaries.
In 1962, there were five Quebecers in the majors: Claude Raymond, Georges Maranda, Raymond Daviault, Ronald Piché and Tim Harkness. It is still unheard of today. They are great builders. They cleared a path for others, for Édouard Julien.
“What helped was that we Quebecers were recognized as tough because we played hockey and it's true that we were tough to endure everything we endured,” recalls Mr. Raymond, mentioning that the salary in the minor leagues was of $165 per month for five months. That's about $8,500 a year in today's money.
“It hasn't been easy, it's not a career where you could be rich. When he finished baseball, he hadn't really learned a trade,” says his son Denis.
Denis Maranda in 1967 with his father, Georges, in the garage of the family home. The former major league baseball pitcher had transformed this room into a veritable little baseball museum.
“He even had to have two jobs at one point. He worked in fruits and vegetables during the day and was a doorman at night. In short, it was not always an easy retirement.
He also played an important role in the promotion of minor baseball in Lévis until his death. < /p>
If these Quebec heroes hadn't inspired Quebec by bravely breaking down doors, would baseball have remained alive as much? Would that much land have been built on? Would the departure of the Expos have made baseball a marginal sport? Would sports-study programs with infrastructures have emerged? Could so many young Quebecers ever hope to be drafted into the major leagues?
No matter where he looks at it, “maybe in a cornfield like in the film Field of Dreams“, suggests his son Denis, Georges Maranda also deserves to be proud in the accomplishment of Édouard Julien.
Denis Maranda, son de Georges, is fascinated by the story of Édouard Julien, who wears the same number as his father with the same major league baseball team.
Thanks to author and baseball history enthusiast Daniel Papillon for research assistance. Daniel is invaluable in keeping important moments in the relationship between Quebec City and baseball alive.