Members of Alberta’s Black community participated in sports for a variety of reasons. Exerting energy through physical activity was beneficial to one’s health but more importantly, sports provided a means whereby Blacks could develop a strong sense of camaraderie. Teamwork and cooperation were integral to most sporting events, including baseball games; therefore, most Blacks thoroughly enjoyed the chance to get together at the ball diamond.
In 1926, Jefferson Davis Edwards started the Amber Valley Baseball Team. Within a short period of time, members of the team, through their incomparable skills and hard work and cooperation, would serve as unofficial ambassadors of the Black community. J.D. Edwards, as team manager and through his coaching techniques, gave the young men focus. His son Kenneth (Kenny) was the ace pitcher whose repertoire featured a dangerous fastball. James Brown was the original first baseman.
Amber Valley's population peaked in the early 1930s when it was home to roughly 350 Black residents and, not surprisingly, the baseball team was also at its prime during this time. The team would travel to various locations throughout northern Alberta and was frequently guaranteed $50 for its appearance, regardless of whether it won or lost.
The team consisted entirely of Black American settlers and their family members. Players wore white uniforms with “Amber Valley” written across the chest in cursive script. They played against teams consisting of only White players. This was in stark contrast to the baseball being played in the United States in that there, Black baseball teams could only compete against other Black teams and were consistently denied the opportunity to play against White teams. Segregated baseball was just another example of the discriminatory Jim Crow Laws that plagued the entire American South.
The Amber Valley Baseball Team typically drew large crowds; fans appreciated the skill, power, agility, and camaraderie exuded by members of the all-Black baseball team. The most highly anticipated game of the year was the traditional barnburner against Lac La Biche. Occurring every 1 July, the game was just one of the activities and events in celebration of Canada Day.
Most players on the Amber Valley Baseball Team agreed that their fondest memory was their trip to Grande Prairie. Transportation to and from games was one of their greatest challenges: roads were often in poor condition and vehicles were consistently unreliable. During the trip to Grande Prairie, the team had to cross a river using the local ferry. The ferry crossing cost 5 cents, and each individual was typically responsible for covering his costs. However, most players could not afford the fee. Fortunately, their truck driver agreed to hide the players underneath a pile of straw and snuck them across the river.
On the field, the men communicated effectively: they cahttered continuously and gave each other instruction and positive reinforcement. When Amber Valley defeated Grande Prairie, the team claimed $300 in prize money, an impressive sum of money compared to the wages the players received at their regular places of employment. More importantly, however, they had fun competing on the ball diamond. Baseball was an opportunity for the community of Amber Valley to come together and showcase its commitment to team spirit, hard work, and cooperation—both on and off the field.