Monday, December 24, 2007

A Pair of Pippins

Andy Anthony sent me a note asking about the Yakima Pippins, his grandmother’s favourite team. He was looking for a logo that they had on their uniforms. Today, you’d see a cartoon apple swinging a worm-shaped bat or something like that, and find it on mugs, baby t-shirts, key chains, bobble-heads, whatever, in four different sets of colours. In those days, a jersey had a city name on the front and a number on the back. Home whites, road greys. That’s it. It was cheap. And marketing was far off in the future (bobbleheads can go with ear-splitting between-inning music on the list of things baseball would be better off without).

Here you see two photos of Pippins, which allows me a great opening to rave about Dave Eskenazi’s photo collection, whence these came. It’s absolutely astounding; at least the few pictures I’ve seen are. I don’t know how he found the photos he has, or how long he’s been assembling them. But I swear they encompass the life of baseball in the northwestern U.S. and B.C.’s Lower Mainland. The book Rain Check: Baseball in the Pacific Northwest, a beautiful historical look of some of that history, would have been a far lesser book without Dave’s wonderful pictures. The Vancouver snaps I’ve seen are not to be found locally in the library or city archival photo collections.

The photo above (I have shrunk the pix so they can fit on the page) is of Felix Penso, who spent the pre-war years in the WIL with Yakima and Vancouver and the post-war years kicking around Texas. To your right is Goldie Holt, who managed the Pippins to a second-place finish in 1940. The Pippins slipped to third in 1941 and Goldie was gone at the end of the season to the San Jose Owls of the California League. He’s probably best known to non-WIL baseball lovers as being picked to be a charter member of the Cubs’ ridiculed College of Coaches in 1961. And when the real Pacific Coast League was killed by major league transplantation in 1958, Goldie opened the season managing Brooklyn’s, er Los Angeles’, club in Spokane (I'd settle for any kind of PCL in Vancouver again, but that's another story).

I'm presuming the pictures were taken in Parker Field (the style of outfield billboard seems to have been popular; Sick’s Stadium had similar lattice connectors).

And, yes, it’s a bit late for Christmas now, but Rain Check is a wonderful gift for anyone who thinks there’s more to baseball’s past in this area than A-Rod.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

On to 1952

The 1951 page is pretty well completed as it's going to be right now. I have a couple of additional stories on the new Capilano Stadium I have to add to the June 14 page and some other tidying up to do. It's not really a priority so I'm working on 1952.

I'm changing the content for the blogs. I was doing posts of old stories on the basis on a calendar year, as the pages are labelled in terms of years. But it just looks odd having half the off-season on one page and half the following year. So, I'm going to end the '51, '52 and '53 pages with the season finale stuff (including stats and all-star stuff), and then start all the other off-season stuff on the following year. It may be a bit confusing having 1951 content on the '52 page, but it just seems to work better this way. We'll see. I've had to convert other pages over eventually to do the same.

The post season stuff has been a pain to compile. For 1952, for example, I manually transcribed probably close to 103 pages worth of text (8 1/2 by 11, single space, times roman 12). That was just from two newspapers (with one exception). That doesn't include other news copy on line I haven't even searched for. So, there's plenty of reading.

The 1952 pre-season had four main stories:
Tacoma moved to Lewiston and talk of Alberta expansion remained little more than talk;
The league jumped from Class B to Class A;
Victoria came close to folding due to chronic undercapitalisation;
The league decided to make a pile of knee-jerk reactions, including a rule limiting the number of veterans in an effort to save money.

The last one caused something completely unexpected—massive integration. Vancouver's canny-but-miserly G.M. Bob Brown got around the "rookie" rule by signing experienced Negro League players; organised baseball considered them rookies. Others teams saw this and rushed to do the same thing. Of course, Brown had John Ritchey, and there were Larry Neal and a few other blacks in the WIL prior to this, but 1952 was the year more of them were given the chance to play.

Obviously, if baseball owners spend inordinant amounts of time getting around a rule, there can be only one conclusion—the rule will inevitably die. And that's what happened with the veteran rule after the 1952 season ended.

As I have access to one of the Victoria papers, you'll see a pretty complete story of the efforts to save one of the clubs that year. In fact, there's probably more pre-season information now that anyone would want to know about; and I haven't even added the stuff from the southeastern Washington State papers. Nor the Vancouver Sun or News Herald (the sidebars are unreadable in the latter due to photocopying after binding the papers).

I likely won't go in depth into the off-season like this after the 1953 off-season (and maybe the 1946 pre-season); it's taken almost two weeks, eight or more hours a day, transcribing in the library just to do post-1951 and post-1952 (not uploaded in its entirety). It's just too much typing. I'd rather spend my time posting game notes and sidebars from during the season.