AZARIE ADAM & THE MONTREAL ROYALS
Azarie Adam, sometimes referred to as Jerry Adams by reporters, played professional baseball for the Montreal Royals of the Eastern League, and later for the Whitin Machine Shop team in the Blackstone Valley League out of Whitinsville, MA. He was a pitcher and a utility player in the outfield as well as infield.
The Montreal Royals Years
The exact years that Azarie Adam played for the Montreal Royals is still being verified, however the only year between 1900 and 1920 which lists an Adams on the roster is 1904, and the box scores for all of the games can be viewed in the Montreal newspaper of that time, "La Patrie". His son Jean Marie Adam is my grandfather, and can't pinpoint the exact years when he played for the Royals, but believes he played for them some time between the years 1900-1908, however no mention of his name is on any of the rosters I have seen for those years that are still around, except for 1904.
Azarie was quite popular and well known amongst the players and fans of those days. He was well known and respected in Montreal as well as his hometown of St. Barthelemy, Quebec. Jean Marie said his father would be asked to do newspaper interviews with reporters, but they would spell his name incorrectly by putting an 's' on the end of his last name. Azarie would say "if they couldn't take the time to spell my name correctly I wouldn't give them the time of day."
Baseball & The Family
Baseball was not popular amongst the Adam family in those days. It had caused many hardships and bitter feelings with the family, as well as a lot of lonely summers Alphonsine his wife had to spend alone raising three kids. The family didn't think it was worth it for him to keep playing and couldn't understand why he was paid good money to do what he did. Azarie's relatives couldn't understand why he didn't want to be a farmer and take over his father Alexis' farm in St. Barthelemy, Quebec. Farming may not have been much, but it was all they had to make a living and feed their family.
Alphonsine his wife, was the one who talked Azarie in to finally leaving baseball behind and spending more time with the family in the states. She spent too many summers alone with the kids while Azarie traveled from city to city playing ball. She wanted him to settle down for good and help raise the family. So Azarie hung up his socks and settled in to a normal life working as a cotton mill worker for the Rockdale Mill in Northbridge, MA owned by the Whitin Co.
Playing for the Mill Teams of the BVL
Azarie lived in the US from 1892-1895 in Manville, Rhode Island with his father and family, and again from 1905-1908 in Northbridge, Massachusetts with his own family, until 1908/1909 when he and his family moved back to St Barthelemy in the hopes of offering them a better quality of life. During his time in the states he had played ball for several mill teams in the valley before ending up on the Whitin Machine Works team playing in the 'Blackstone Valley League' working for the Rockdale Mill in Northbridge, MA.
Paul Whitin, the owner of the Whitin Rockdale Mill, had told Azarie that he could have any job he wanted in the shop as long as he continued to play ball for the team. The BVL at the time consisted not only of local sports stars but also a higher quality of semi-professional athletes in the hopes of drawing bigger crowds because of the level of talent and competition. It is unknown the exact dates, number of years he played for who, and dollar figures that Azarie made in the BVL, due to the lack of information available that was preserved of such games and rosters. There are a few sites that have a little information on the teams and league in general, which makes for some great reading. A good site to start at is: http://www.geocities.com/daninhopedale/baseballBVLeague.html
Jean Marie remembers going to watch the ballgames at the Rockdale Mill with his family after work. They would take a horse and buggy across town to watch the games. Jean Marie can remember they were some of the best times and memories of his life.He can remember the workers would get out of work and meet their families at the ball field and have dinner there while watching the game. They were very spirited games as the mill owners collected the finest talent available to play on their teams and work in their mills.
A terrific site on Northbridge, MA and the Whitin Machine Works can be found at http://www.blackstonedaily.com/whitinintro.htm
Azarie Adam was known as a "heavy-ball" pitcher, not the fastest, but threw a heavy ball which hurt when you caught it and went nowhere when you hit it. Azarie played a lot of baseball growing up in Canada including high school ball, where he developed his skills enough to let people take notice of his above average talents. He was mainly a pitcher, but did play infield and outfield as needed. Azarie's brother Joseph Adam used to catch for him growing up all the time. Joseph often spoke of how Azarie threw a 'heavy' ball which hurt to catch and was tough to hit hard. Jean Marie mentions a story about his friend 'Lefty Lamente' who played for the Senators at the time, saying "If he threw a ball that heavy, he must have been a hell of a pitcher. Something really special."
Story of 'the Curve Ball'
His son Jean Marie, can recall the time when "My father (Azarie) told his father (Alexis) he could make a ball curve when he threw it, and he didn't even believe it was possible. Joseph said, you won't believe it, it actually starts here and curves over here before it crosses the plate. Alexis never heard of such a thing before, it was preposterous! He just couldn't understand why the Montreal Royals were paying him so much money to just play baseball for them.
Well, the three of them set up a makeshift plate and batters box, and gave Alexis a bat and told him to stand in there and try to hit it. Imagine how Azarie felt, throwing a breaking ball at his grandfather, praying he wouldn't plunk him. Well he threw the first curve, and Alexis couldn't believe it and told him to do it again. He threw him 3 or 4 more pitches before Alexis began jumping around like a school boy saying 'Can you believe it! He can actually make a ball curve!' From that moment on he then understood why his grandson was playing ball in the big leagues."
Babe Ruth Story
In 1928, after a 10-year absence, the Montreal Royals returned to the International League, where they would remain until their demise in 1960. Following the 1928 World Series Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig set out on a barnstorming tour. They stopped first in Montreal. That day neither player hit a homerun during the game although they put so many out during batting practice that the organizers feared they would run out of baseballs!
Their game in Montreal was at "Dimanche Stadium" for the club L'Ahuntsic in the year 1928. Jean Marie was about 10 years old at the time, but remembers the day like it was yesterday. It was the end of the inning, and Babe Ruth was running in from playing right field to his dugout, when he noticed Azarie Adam and his son Jean sitting in the front row beside the dugout. He made his way over to their section and talked with Azarie for a bit like they were old friends and introduced himself to his son Jean. He didn't have much time to talk, but Jean Marie said they talked and joked a bit, before he returned to the dugout. Jean said he couldn't take his eyes off of the Babe and couldn't beleive that his dad even knew the Babe.
When Jean Marie returned to parochial school the next day, he told all of his school friends about meeting the Babe and how he was friends with his father, and no one believed him. There happened to be a couple of old-timers sitting on the wall in front of the school playing checkers at the time which overheard the kids, and stopped and told them they better believe him, because they were at the game as well, and saw the Babe over talking with Jean and his dad. They told them how well-known and respected Azarie was among the professional and semi-pro ballplayers in Canada, and for the rest of the school year, Jean Marie walked with a little bit of a swagger.
Here are some great articles and pictures from "La Patrie" concerning the exhibition games discussed above.