Saturday, August 25, 2007

Vancouver SABR Meeting

Once a year, a pleasant afternoon is spent in Vancouver when the local/regional members of SABR get rounded up by Max Weder for a little get-together. This year was no exception and Max did a fine job in setting up the meeting in the empty-but-noisy concession area at Nat Bailey Stadium (now, if the old Press Room were still around.....).
I had a chance to speak far too briefly with Bill Whyte, who pitched for the Vancouver Capilanos in the Western International League. Bill's retired in Nanaimo now. He doesn't look old enough for someone who was in baseball 55-plus years ago. The chat was coincidental as I'm now posting the July 1950 WIL games (see the 1950 page) and have reached the point where Bill started appearing for the Capilanos.
He's a local guy who was signed by Bob Brown off the sandlots. Bob sent him to Calgary to play semi-pro in 1949 (if I recall, it was four-team league; the Purity 99s and another club in Calgary and two in Edmonton). He led the league. The following year, Bill says Victoria was shy of players so he and another were loaned to the Athletics, then he ended up in El Centro in the Class C Sunset League before being called up in mid-season to the Caps.
Bill stayed around the team for a couple of more years and has the distinction of winning the last game played in Athletic Park. "They rolled up the infield," he says, "and the next day, we were playing on it here [Cap Stadium, now Nat Bailey]."
I wish I had a chance to make some notes and then speak with him longer. The stories about the games and the players are usually more interesting than the games themselves.
Bill's picture you see above is from 1951. It's been purloined off the web and I'm guessing it's from Max's collection.
Incidentally, I mentioned how I saw Bud Beasley's name in a linescore with his. "He was quite a character," Bill said. Indeed he was. Here's a link to Bud's obit. He's probably the only WIL player to have a school named after him (it's in Sparks, Nevada).

The best part about the meeting perhaps was the appearance of the former trainer for the 1954 Capilanos and PCL's Vancouver Mounties during their years as an Orioles farm club. Doc Younker told the story about what happened after Brooks Robinson ripped his arm on the dugout at Cap Stadium in 1959. It was more like he impaled it. Doc explained that ambulance response times were worse in the '50s than they are today, so he ended up taking Brooks to Vancouver General, and then caught hell from Mounties General Manager Cedric Tallis for it. But, in doing so, Brooks was able to get medical attention and then, as we all know, go on to a Hall of Fame career for the Orioles.

Bud Kerr showed me a ball signed by members of the 1953 Caps. Apparently, some widow found it in her late husband's garage workshop on the North Shore, called former C's souvenier man Torchy Pechet, who immediately called Bud.

Canadians co-owner Jake Kerr made an appearance. What a great thing to have local ownership show that kind of interest. Andy Kerr, the GM-who-has-some-other-title, spoke about his jaunts around the minor leagues, starting with the Oklahoma City 89ers. It sounds like he was there when the Rangers would seemingly sign almost any six-year free agent over the age of 32 (pitches, especially) and ship them to OKC. A lot of veteran PCL players used to end up there back then.

He reminded us the park isn't up to AAA standards. We can always hope that day comes.


Nancy said...

Thanks for all the hard work on this interesting site. I had great fun reading about the ups and downs of a left handed pitcher for the Tacoma Tigers, Carl Shapley, in spring of '47.
I didn't know Dad played for them, however briefly! I never heard him speak of it, though he sure loved baseball. My brother said someone told him that Dad had a screwball as good as Carl Hubbel. Don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing.
Thanks again for the fun.

WIL fan said...

Thanks for the note, Nancy. Some of the newspaper stories kept moving the placement of the 'e' in his name, but I think I fixed them all so none of them read 'Shapely' now.

Yes, having Hubbell's screwball would be a good thing if you can throw it for strikes.