Sunday, November 18, 2007

Clancy Goes to Spring Training

When I started this blog, it wasn't my intention to examine Western International League spring training games. After all, it's spring training. The media makes the contests out to be vital and important—and then the season starts and all is forgotten. Spring training means meaningless games featuring players who don't cut it and are never heard from again. However, I've done spotty coverage of it in a couple of the year's blogs and will likely go back and do it for other years when I complete the scores.

I don't have 1946 spring on this blog, so I'm going to post some late spring stories and a column by Clancy Loranger. Baseball fans in Vancouver may know there is a Clancy Loranger Way that leads into Nat Bailey Stadium (I thought it was part of old Robsart Avenue). He's in the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame, so you can read his bio there.

Clancy was still watching hockey and baseball when I first started appearing in press boxes in 1979. Clancy had his own spot in the box at Nat Bailey (right side, first seat, next to the announce booth) and his own chair in the Molson Lounge at the Pacific Colesium. It wasn't really "his" but everyone respected Clancy and no one would sit in his chair, and Robo and Jim who ran the lounge made sure no rookie media types did (like Pat Karl of CJVB).

His columns in the Province were loved by all. One of his ways of getting into a topic was to write a thoroughly-invented conversation with his neighbour across the fence. But Clancy still did game stories when it came to his favourite sport, baseball. He had been an official scorer during the Vancouver Mounties days (leaving a Mountie pitcher with a one-hitter, though everyone else said it should have been ruled an error). He covered the Mounties, and the Capilanos before that. He had been Sports Editor at the Vancouver News-Herald, the puny also-ran paper in town, though at the time these pieces were written, Carl Robertson was Sports Editor. The News-Herald had some good writers, generally people who had been, or would end up at, the big dailies. Copies of the News-Herald were bound and placed in stacks at the Vancouver library. Unfortunately, when it was decided to photograph the papers and put them on microfilm, the dough-heads didn't unbind them, so one side of each page is in the gutter and unreadable. However, but for a few words, these stories are complete.

By the way, Clancy's still with us, but the stair-climb at Nat Bailey would fix that. So he hasn't been to a ball game in some years. I'm sure he's still with us in spirit up there, growling under his breath and puffing on his cigarellos.

P.S.: The Tacoma and Salem stories aren't Clancy's; they're wire service previews that were in his paper that I include for interest's sake. The News-Herald, being as inconsistent as it was, didn't publish them for all the teams in the league.

It Says Here
[Vancouver News Herald, April 23, 1946]
SUNNYSIDE, Wash.—Even Nick the Greek, the famous gambler who used to carry a million bucks in cash in his pocket, wouldn’t have done any better than break even here.
By now, you may have gathered from Carl “Bullpen” Robertson’s earlier observations from [Caps’ spring training] this isn’t exactly the wildest town in the world.
The principal amusement I have found to my sorrow, is watching the pinball machines in the lobby of the Planter’s Hotel. We have three of these robbers and two of them are out of service. That leaves one. It’s not out of order—it’s just hungry.
It says here they make it very simple for you to lose your dough.
All you have to do is put a nickel in the slot, then things start happening. The whole machine lights up brighter than Broadway at midnight, numbers flash off and on, two small boys come out of the innards and shoot off firecrackers, Kate Smith sings a few bars of the Star Spangled Banner, then bingo, you’re confronted with the number three.
At least it always seem to be the number three, for me.
Oh yes, I forgot to tell you—numbers two and seven are out of order, too. Anyway, you’ve got your number—three—and all you have to do is shoot the little round ball into the number three hole. Numbers one, four, five and six are as simple, but all you get from the machine is a cold stare if you sink these.
I think the OPA should be informed about that number four, because it has no ethics at all. Even when number three yells “I got it,” it calmly reaches over and grabs the ball.
But really, Ma, I was driven to playing this thing. The only other alternative is listening to the ball players talk and, well—I’ll give you an example of that.
The other night George Bogdonovich, the Vancouver kid who came down here with Bob Brown to see how the pros perform, thought he’d heckle Alex Palica a lot.
“What’s your nationality,” says he.
Well, this seemed like a waste of time to me, because Palica is quite dark, and with a name like Palica, he seemed almost a cinch to be an Italian, but “I’m a Slav,” said Palica, right quick as it he was sure of it.
“A Slav,” echoed George, who is a Slav from way back and resented Alex trying to cut in on his territory. “If you’re a Slav, I’m an Indian.”
“How,” said Alex. Then, “Sure, I’m a Slav. All the best ball players are Slavs. There’s Johnny Pesky, Andy Pakfo, George Metkovich, Alex Palica. It’s Palovich, really.”
“You a white Slav?” asked George, incredulously. “If you’re a white Slav, I’m Santa Claus.”
“I want a doll for Christmas,” answered Alex, “about five foot three, with blonde hair.”
“But I can tell by looking at you you’re just a black Slav. One of those Serbs who live up in the hills. But don’t worry, maybe you’ll live it down.”
At this point, Lou Janicek, Texas gift to the Capilanos, wandered within range. “Now, there’s another Slav,” said Palica.
“Man, I’m no Slav,” drawled the Texas Terror. “Mah folks were white people from Czechoslovakia.”
“Oh, yes,” said George. “That’s the country on the border with Germany.”
“What you mean, boy? Germany’s on the border of Czechoslovakia. Ah dropped in and saw mah folks when ah was over there helping show the Germans where their bordah was. They don’t let none of those Slavs in there.”
Jimmy Estrada shuffled in at this crucial moment and I thought sure we had Palica. Jimmy is a full-blooded Indian who comes from the Mission tribe that produced Chief Myers, the old New York Giant star.
But I saw that look in Palica’s eye. And that, kiddies, is how I became a gambler.

[Vancouver News Herald, April 23, 1946]

SUNNYSIDE, Wash.—Aside to Bob Brown, “What were you saying Bob about the Vancouver Capilanos fielding before you left for home Monday. Something like: “One thing I’m sure of, we’ll have a topnotch fielding club.”
Well Bob, you should have seen your boys against Bremerton Blue Jackets here Monday, or maybe it’s a good thing you didn’t.”
The Caps confined their trouble to one inning, the fourth, but they really made a job of it while they were at it, they did everything but bury the ball in the sand, and they couldn’t find any sand. When they were through Bremerton had eight runs, enough to win almost any ball game.
It just wasn’t enough, as Sylvester Johnson’s W.I.L. lads came back busting to pound Bremerton’s Bill Kostenbater for 13 hits and almost pull the game out of the fire, but the final tally was Bremerton 11, Vancouver 10, and the tying run died on third in the ninth.
That fourth inning was something which isn’t likely to happen too many times this summer. The Caps are, as vice president Brown said, a top notch fielding club. Al Kretchmar started it off by throwing to second on a double play, then Watts Guland [sic] tossed two wild ones and Catcher Ray Spurgeon neglected to tag a man coming home, thinking it was a force out. Veteran Frank Volpi wrapped it up for the Blues by rapping out a homer to right field with two on.
CUFF NOTES—Big Doug Ford was the victim of his mates misdemeanors up till then, he had done very nicely holding the opposition to one hit in three innings if he’d have allowed 100 runs after that, nobody would have blamed him, except maybe the scorekeeper.
Ron Bryant finished up for the Caps, who windup their Spring training schedule against Bremerton again today.
Sad Sam Gibson’s Blue Jackets have, besides old friends Frank Volpi and Walter Bliss, young Vern Hill playing shortstop. Vern was with Bellingham last year, you’ll recall . . . They also have perhaps the best second baseman in the league in veteran Al Wright, late of Oakland . . . Wright is really smooth . . . he also powered out three hits in four tries . . . Third sacker Watts Gulan led the Caps at bat making up for his two miscues with four hits in six tries, one a triple . . . Frank Mullens stayed with the hot pace maintained by his outfielding by banging in three runs with two safeties.
Ray Orteig is expected to join the Caps in Spokane . . . he’ll be out of the Coast Guard momentarily . . . He should give Vancouver the toughest corps of right handers in the loop, with Alex Palica, who looks very impressive . . . Ford who looks likewise . . . Bryant who won 15 and lost six in ’42, his last year, and Bob Snyder, who also went well against Tacoma last week.
It’s been discovered that Cleve Ramsey, the rookie hitting star, also plays the infield. He may get a spot at first base if big Frank Gosney, whose play has been in and out, fails to click.
Bremerton . . . . . 000 811 010—11 16 6
Vancouver . . . . . 200 210 212—10 13 4
Kostenbater, Curran (9) and Volpi; Ford, Bryant (5) and Spurgeon.

Capilanos Break Training Camp; Open Season In Spokane Friday
By CLANCY LORANGER, News Herald Sports Writer
[April 24, 1946]
SUNNYSIDE, Wash.—That long, loud sigh (maybe you heard it) emanating from the Vancouver bench following the Capilanos 3-1 loss to Bremerton Blue Jackets here Tuesday was a sigh of relief. The spring training grind was over.
For Manager Sylvester Johnson and some of his boys, who started working with the Seattle Rainiers in San Fernando, it wound up nine weeks of kink-chasing. That’s not a lot of weeks, but there’s not a kink in sight.
Today the lads pack up their crisp new uniforms, the white home jobs and the grey travelling set and pile into their special bus for Spokane, where they open the season Friday. They plan to get in a couple workouts under the lights before the umps yell “play ball” for the first time at Ferris Field.
Manager Johnson will herd 21 ball players, including himself (and his old Major League soup bone is feeling pretty good) to Spokane where Ray Orteig will probably join the club.
Syl is well satified with his crew. Tuesday’s loss was number four in ten starts here, but he’s not too concerned about wins and losses—yet.
He is somewhat concerned about one spot on the club, though. That’s first base, big Frank Gosney who is none too strong around the bag, hasn’t been hitting lately either, although he did get hold of a double yesterday. Down in San Fernando Syl says, Frank was knocking the cover off the ball, but he hasn’t even looked like a hitter as of late.
Johnson isn’t exactly unprotected if Gosney doesn’t come out of it. He’s got Jimmy Estrada, who has been playing well, and he also figures he could use Orteig, who is at home in the infield, at the initial sack.
But the ace-in-the-hole is one Bill Wright, who, you’ll remember covered the spot in 1941-42. Bill is supposed to be getting out of the service soon—and he’d look mighty good out there.
The rest of the club goes like this:
Catchers: Ray Spurgeon and Dick Zender. Young Carl Brannum was returned to Seattle Tuesday. A promising boy, he’ll be placed where he can get steady work.
Infield: Art Bonnell and Al Kretchmar at second and short are as good as any keystone corps in the league. Watts Gulan at third has been a little erratic afield the last couple days, but he should do. His antics will kill the folks, too.
Bill McCloskey and Estrada are both capable utility men. Orteig can also help out, and then here is Vancouver’s Andy Clovechuk waiting to break in.
Outfield: Four top notch performers in Earl Silverthorn, centre; Frank Mullens, right; and Cleve Ramsay or Sid Van Sindern in left. Jim Youngman and Reg. Clarkson are also available.
Pitchers: Six right handers, including Johnson and Orteig, topped by Alex Palica and Doug Ford. One of the latter two will start in Spokane Friday, with Palica the probable choice. Alex looked very good in three innings Tuesday, allowing just one blow. Bob Snyder, who also went well Tuesday and Ron Bryant, complete the right side staff.
The three left handers, Lou Janicek, Jim Hedgecock and Dick Conover have all run into a little grief here lately, but all three know what they’re doing on the hill. The pitching staff is the least of Johnson’s few player worried.
While we’re on pitching worries, we might mention that Gene Holt, who played a couple times for Norvans last summer, gave the Caps some uneasy moments yesterday. Southpaw Holt handcuffed the boys with two safeties the six innings he toiled on the Bremerton mound. That was the ball game Tuesday.
Bremerton . . . . 000 021 000—3 10 0
Vancouver . . . . 000 000 001—1 6 2
Holt (6), Medeghini and Paglia; Snyder (3), Hedgecock (6), Palica and Spurgeon, Zender.

Salem Will Have Good Pitching; First Sacker Is Club’s Standout
SALEM, Ore.—Leo “Frisco” Edwards, who used to see things from the umpire’s point of view, will be learning how the other half lives this year.
Frisco now is the manager of the Salem Senators of the Western International League, and will be calling his decisions from the bench and the coaching lines.
The Senators, a farm club for the Portland Coast Leaguers, appear to have a strong pitching staff, an outstanding first baseman, a weak keystone combination and a fair outfield. Their catching has weakened by the departure of Roy Younker, who didn’t like the salary terms.
Edwards will probably catch a 200-pound salmon, by name of Woody Salman, who will alternate with George “Red” Daniels behind the plate. Both have shown this spring, whenever weather conditions permitted practice. The Senators are somewhat behind in their training program because of dripping skies.
The mound staff includes one hometowner—Lee Fallin, tall gangling right-hander who has played with Portland. Another prospective ace is Steve Gerkin, who was with the Philadelphia Athletics before being traded to Portland. Then there’s Ed Kowalski, portsider with plenty of steam, who whiffed 14 in a recent 10-1 victory over Pogland University.
Two more southpaws are Carl Gunnarson and Jack Schafer of California. Paul Soderberg, Henry Newman, Clyde Janeway, Jimmy Foster, Andy Adams and John Nolan complete the mound hopefuls.
George Vico, a six-foot-three first baseman, is expected to be a standout. The only thing that kept him off Portland’s first sack was that the Beavers have Larry Barton. Vico hits well and is excellent defensively, with his “splits” on low throws drawing admiring oh’s and ah’s.
Al Pristo and Henry Bartholomi [sic] are competing for second base, and Ray Malgradi and Sam Tosti seek the shortstop berth. Jim White appears to have third base cinched. There’s suspicion the club may be weak down the middle but it’s a bit too early to verify this.
Dick Wenner, a Fresno State product, Bob Cavinett of the University of Oregon and the Portland Beavers; Frank Lucchesi from Portland, Ralph Arnott of San Francisco and Duane Crawford complete the outfield. Crawford will also do relief work at first base.
A squad of 18 to 20 players will leave for Yakima April 25 to open the season the following day.

Angels Aid Tiger Crew
TACOMA, April 24—Tacoma’s Western International League Tigers will have excellent catching, an infield which figures to be as good as any in the circuit, and an entirely adequate outfield—but Manager Luther “Red” Harvel doesn’t like to dwell on his pitching prospects.
Fortunately, assistance in the elbowing department has been promised by the Los Angeles club of the Pacific Coast League.
Right-handers Warren Martin, Richey Colombo, Gene Clough and Jack Jimmink and southpaws Cy Greenlaw and Kenny Dupuis are the club’s pitchers now but at least one or two of that sextet will be replaced before the gong rings April 26.
Martin, a one-time Chicago farmhand who saw service in the Texas, East Texas and Three-Eye Leagues and Colombo, a 17-year-old Boston youngster reportedly handed a good sized bonus to sign with the Chicago Cub organization, are flingers on option from Los Angeles.
Jimmink, formerly a Michigan State Leaguer, was signed as a free agent after getting a trial with the Angels. Greenlaw, a Boston Red Sox chattel until he drew his release a fortnight ago, twirled for Vancouver in the W-I before the war, and Clough and Dupuis are locals without previous professional experience.
Catchers are Dick Kemper on option from the Angels, and Earl Kuper, former Pioneer Leaguer signed as a free agent. Both are nifty receivers.
[remainder of story unavailable]

By CLANCY LORANGER, News-Herald Sports Writer
[April 25, 1950]
SPOKANE.—There’s nothing like a good bus ride to shake a ball club down. Pardon, make that “up.”
Well, anyway, we all got here, with no bones broken. A few of us thin fellows were vibrating a bit, but otherwise the Vancouver Caps’ trip from Sunnyside, Wash., was uneventful.
Peppery Watts Gulan, the club’s unofficial court jester, kept things moving nicely by making cigarettes disappear, and everything was dandy until Jim Hedgecock, the left-handed ex-Marine, tried to lead the boys in song all the way from Walls (or is it Halls?) of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.
But another southpaw, Lou (Tex) Janicek, broke that up by suggesting we render “Deep in the Heart of Texas” or as a second choice, “The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You.”
By the time they got that ironed out, the eyes of Spokane were upon us, and with native son Jim Youngman serving as guide, harbor was safely reached.
After deciding that Spokane was a pretty nice town, the lads went out to look at Ferris Field, where they open their W.I.L. season against the Indians Friday night.
They had nothing but praise for the ball park, too. It is a nice park, with good lighting, an excellent infield, a comfortable mound, lots of fresh green grass, and some bright new signs on the fences. Sylvester Johnson’s crew put in a couple of hours under the lights, and they’re going back for another workout. Then they’ll sit tight and worry a bit until Friday night’s first ball.
The Spokane team, which is bossed by ex-Pittsburgh and Brooklyn shortstop Glenn Wright, isn’t worried a bit about the opening game. Tradition is on their side. Ever since they’ve been in the W.I. loop, they’ve won every other opener, and this is their year.
As for manager Johnson and his Caps, well, they kinda figure tradition is about due to take a beating.

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