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.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Congrats to Bud Kerr

He never played in the Western International League, but he's been supporting Vancouver baseball since those days. He's Bud Kerr, who has received more space in one edition of the Vancouver Courier than the dailies will give to local baseball in a month. Click HERE for it.

A loud "Hear! Hear!" comes from this blogger about a baseball museum. One of the selling points about dear old Nat Bailey Stadium is "the past," but precious little about it is visible anywhere there, unless you want to count the coats of paint like rings on oak tree. What a great idea to allow baseball fans of all ages to view Bud's collection and learn about our city's baseball history. Decades ago, Bob Brown was the first to be inducted into the Vancouver Baseball Hall of Fame. The Hall's resurrection is long overdue and should have a home in Bud's museum.

Now that the club will put this excellent idea in place, the next thing they should do something about is the atrocious state of the field at Nat Bailey. It used to be the best in the PCL. Now, it's a divot-laden, boggy embarrassment to A-ball. Cement has more give than the infield some nights. It's pretty bad when the umpire demands last-minute work be done on it, like we saw on Thursday night.

While we're mini-ranting, here's a question raising from the Courier story: where on earth did anyone get the idea that professional baseball in Vancouver "is preparing to celebrate its 100th anniversary"? The first pro game was 1905. That was 103 seasons ago. If you take out the various gaps when Vancouver didn't have pro ball, it still doesn't work out to 100. Whoever came up with "100 year" canard sure didn't get the idea from Bud Kerr. He knows his history. Other people obviously don't. Maybe when we get a baseball museum, stupid misconceptions like this will become history themselves.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Don Ferrarese

Today, not an awful lot of players get called up to the PCL from the Northwest League. How different things were in the 40s and 50s. The Western International League was, in part, a feeder for PCL clubs and you'll read stories of guys going from, say, the Vancouver Capilanos to the Seattle Rainiers (and vice versa). So, when Vancouver joined the PCL in 1956, Mounties fans (and it's remarkable there were any after that dreadful season) would see former WIL players dotting various Coast League rosters.

One of these was Don Ferrarese, who appeared in a Wenatchee Chiefs uniform in 1950. He was 9 and 12 with an ERA of 5.21 that year, giving up 123 runs (107 earned) on 121 hits and 209 walks. He struck out 154 and tossed 18 wild pitches that year (the 16 March 1951 newspaper photo to the left is when he went to spring training with Oakland). Ferrarase also pitched for the Vancouver Mounties, as he was sent down from the Baltimore Orioles on May 16, 1957 (the baseball card you see to the right and above is from that year). He won his first start for the Mounties ten days later against the Rainiers, and reeled off three straight victories, then five straight losses, then eight straight wins to finish the season. Don had a remarkable string of four straight four-hitters and even beat Tommy Lasorda who was with a Los Angeles team that wasn't the Dodgers on August 28th. He struck out 15 in his final start for Vancouver on September 14 and finished with an ERA under 3.00 (why aren't minor league career stats before 1978 available on-line anyways?)

I write this because I occasionally stumble upon what former WIL players are doing now. Don had a charity web site with a broken URL, but THIS will give you an idea of what it's about. It's great to see someone helping others.

And HERE is an interesting article about his career in the Texas League and what happened after he left Vancouver.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Bob Robertson - Part 3

Instead of me rewriting the story, go HERE to go to the 1950 blog and read how Bob started his radio career. It's interesting, but a little less than candid. Sounds like the play-by-play guy got liquored up or didn't show up or both. That wouldn't be a surprise, considering the sports media back then. It's a lot different than today's sterile, corporate radio (or newspaper) world. The industry doesn't have real characters any more. And they wouldn't be allowed to smoke cigars in the press box anyway. I'll have to ask Bob about it when he comes back to Vancouver next season.

Vancouver's main library is still behind CUPE pickets. I can't put August and September up on the 1949 blog until then. However, I'm getting some pre-season work done on 1950 which you can click on and read.