After being educated in Guelph and St. Davids, George Sleeman became the general manager of his father’s Silver Creek Brewery at age 18. Just six years later, he was a partner, and by 1868, the enterprising 27-year-old owned the company. Sleeman was also passionate about baseball, pitching for the Guelph Maple Leafs in 1863. In 1869, his Leafs squad captured the Canadian championship, downing teams from Ingersoll and Woodstock in a three-day competition.
Already the chief financial backer of the Leafs, Sleeman was named president of the club in 1874 and became one of the first Canadian managers to import American players. It was a strategy that worked: his club was victorious in a tournament tabbed as “the non-professional championship of the world” in Watertown, New York in 1874.
Sleeman would also form the first professional Canadian baseball league in 1876. The following year, the diamond pioneer helped establish the International Association, the first serious rival of the National League. The brewing magnate continued to be a prominent baseball executive in Ontario through the latter part of the 19th century. He has been dubbed the father of professional Canadian baseball for his role in the early organization of the game.