Gus Dugas was Canadian born, in St Jean de Matha, Quebec on March 24, 1907. However, his parents moved to Connecticut when Gus was 2 and he spent his young and early adult life in New England. He played semipro ball and got a two week trial with the Hartford Senators when he was 21 years old. Though he was not kept, he went back to playing semipro and struck the interest of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who signed him after the 1929 season. In his first professional season in 1930, Dugas looked like a natural. The left handed hitter hit .349 with 206 hits, 24 2B, 12 3B and 26 HR for the Wichita Aviators of the Western League.
The Pirates were interested in Dugas, but were simply looking to add depth to their organization at the time he was signed. If Dugas played today, the younger, computer-centric baseball fans (they call themselves analysts) would say that Dugas is not and was not a prospect. Because of this status, it was a bit of a surprise to the Pirates that the then 23 year old performed as well as he did. He got a late season call up and hit well, .290 in 9 games and 31 at bats. This included a 3-5 MLB debut and being the first ever batter faced by future Hall of Fame pitcher Dizzy Dean, drawing a walk. Though his call up seemed to be a reward for his season in the minors, his hitting in the brief opportunity warranted a shot the following season for the Pirates.
The Pirates were all set to bring Dugas with them to start the big league season when he suffered a freak injury just before they were about to start. 1931 would proceed to see Dugas playing for... the Kansas City Blues of the American Association. He only hit .419 in 93 games with 25 2B, 11 3B and 8 HR. Because of the Waner brothers (Paul and Lloyd) manning the OF for the Pirates, Gus did get much of a chance to play the next season, getting 97 ABs- the majority of them as a pinch hitter. The following two seasons saw him get a couple cups of coffee from the Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Senators, netting him a total of 90 at bats (he went 1-19 for the Senators in 1934). When he was not on the big league rosters those seasons, Dugas played for the Albany Senators both years and hit .379 and .371, respectively.
For the 1935 season, he joined the Montreal Royals, where he hit 22 HR and 29 2B. He returned to hit an identical .308 the next season with 26 2B, 15 3B and 18 HR. He hit .324 the next season when Montreal became a minor league affiliate of the Pirates. Finally, Dugas hit .314 in 1938 for Montreal though the team moved to Baltimore half way through the season.
A rough start to the 1939 season saw Gus get claimed on waivers by the Nashville Volunteers of the Southern Association- an affiliate of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Dugas hit .291 the rest of the way for Nashville, followed by seasons of .336, .320 and .309. Unfortunately, his last two seasons in Nashville were unaffiliated as they were no longer a Dodgers farm team. The next season, he hit .283 for the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League, once again playing minor league baseball for the Pirates organization.
Like most players of that time, Dugas was called into duty during World War II, which cost him the 1944 and 1945 seasons. He manufactured aircraft propellers for Hamilton Standard, something that was influential in his out of baseball career. He returned to baseball in 1946, playing for the Providence Chiefs at age 39, hitting .260 before calling it a career.
There are many examples of players like Gus Dugas. The great minor league numbers leave doubt over whether he should have gotten more of a chance to play in the big leagues. Over 14 seasons in the minors, Dugas hit .327 with 1529 hits, 301 2B, 67 3B and 191 HR. The fact that he hit .206 in 125 big league games is deceiving. He only played 43 games in the field, starting 34 of them. Is 34 starts enough time to determine whether someone can handle the major leagues? Of course not. He certainly did not get as much time in the big leagues as the contemporary "AAAA" players. One thing has to be mentioned- the average MLB player salary was not much more than what Dugas made in the International League. That was common practice at the time. It became more comparable during the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Being born in Quebec, playing his best baseball in Montreal and later playing in Toronto makes Gus Dugas seem like a Canadian born player shining under the lights of his home cooking. Sounds great, but little is true. Dugas grew up in the United States and played in Montreal until the team moved to Baltimore mid season in 1938 and played his one season in Toronto only because it was the Pirates International League affiliate. I still like the fact that he became a hitter when few thought he could maintain it. His career minor league stats prove he was a very good hitter. Gus lived until April 14, 1997- just a couple weeks after his 90th birthday.