Tuesday, September 16, 2008

WIL 1939 Season Opens

It’s going to be some time before I get to the pre-war Western International League game-by-game page, so below you’ll find the opening day highlights. I’ll add a Hal Straight sidebar soon; Hal was a lefthanded pitcher in Bob Brown’s senior league in the, I think, late ’20s before his stellar newspaper career.

Some 1939 WIL background: Brown took over the Maple Leafs franchise from the Jones family (at the request of the league, said Bob), moved it to Athletic Park, and named it the Capilanos. The Vancouver Archives has some fine public domain photos from the 1939 season, including this one on the right. You can really see the unbelievable slope of the field. I think that’s the old Granville Bridge in the background (someone reading, I’m sure, can confirm that). If I had a 1939 programme, I might be able to tell you (please avoid going into a circa 1939 radio routine now) who’s on first, but Wayne McCue played 103 games for the Caps there that season.

This one gives you an idea of the short right field distance. Note the large, tacky owl on the Owl Drugs sign.

Since the ’39 season ended more than a few days ago, it’s not spoiling anything to tell you Wenatchee won the championship, seven games ahead of Tacoma. Bill Skelley of the Chiefs won the batting title, hitting .366, Morrie Abbott of the Tigers smashed 37 homers, while Yakima’s Hub Kittle was the only 20-game winner.

Knowledgable major league fans will notice a couple of familiar names in the story below. Yes, that is Floyd "Almost Tossed a No-Hitter" Bevens, in his second year with Wenatchee (he finally made the Yankees in 1944). And Vancouver’s Rigney is none other than Bill Rigney, who ended up in a Bellingham uniform before the season was out, long before his fine playing career with the New York Giants and his managing tenure around the majors.

The last 1939 photo below is of Bob Brown (the Archives caption simply calls him "man". And they’re supposed to be keepers of history! Tsk). He’s in the office that was destroyed by the 1945 Athletic Park fire. The Archives has a number of other well-preserved baseball shots; my favourite is the Vancouver Beavers carrying the Northwestern League pennant with one of the old beehive burners along False Creek benignly and continously spewing their blackish product of progress into a dismay spring sky.

W.I. League Ready for Big Ball Opening.
- - -
Brown Cuts Team Down; Plays Wenatchee Tomorrow
[Vancouver Sun, Saturday, April 22, 1939]
SEATTLE, April 22—The hustling, popular Western International Baseball League opens its third season tomorrow and president F.H. Knickerbocker expects the year to be the league’s best so far.
Two of the six clubs have new owners and different names. The increased player limit—16—is new. The opening week has been changed around to give fans in all cities a quick look at every team in the league, and to top it off, there’s even a new umpire to differ with—Cecil Morgan, formerly of the Arizona-Texas League.
One of the “new clubs” is Spokane, named Indians instead of Hawks, tied up with the Seattle Rainiers of the Pacific Coast League and owners of Twin Falls of the new Pioneer League.
Spokane finished in next to last place last year, but new owner William P. Ulrich looks for a different story this season. He is counting on two ex-Seattle players, McCormack and Serventi.
Vancouver is the other new club, with its name changed from Maple Leafs to Capilanos and veteran baseball man Bob Brown now the owner. Despite its independence of big league teams, Vancouver’s outlook is promising.
Tacoma Tigers, who won the first pennant but finished in last place last year, have vowed to make a strong showing this season.
Yakima’s Pippins, who won in the regular playing season last year only to lose the flag to Bellingham’s Chinooks in the play-offs, have virtually the same pennant-contending team on hand.
The Wenatchee Chiefs, connected with the New York Yankees, have a hustling team of youngsters who are expected to go far.
Bellingham is tied up with Hollywood of the Coast League.
The opening schedule finds Bellingham at Spokane, Tacoma at Yakima and Vancouver at Wenatchee. On Monday, Bellingham jumps to Yakima, Tacoma goes to Wenatchee and Vancouver to Spokane.
April 25 and 26, Bellingham will be at Wenatchee, Tacoma at Spokane and Vancouver at Yakima. On April 27, the line-up will be Wenatchee at Bellingham, Spokane at Tacoma and Yakima at Vancouver. April 29, Wenatchee will be at Tacoma, Yakima at Bellingham and Spokane at Vancouver. The 30th will find Yakima at Wenatchee and Vancouver at Tacoma.
May 2-5 will find the teams settling down for their first full-week stands: Bellingham and Spokane, Wenatchee at Yakima and Tacoma at Vancouver.
Merle Pedegani was released from the Capilano roster yesterday when Frank Volpi reported for catching duty. Pedegani was playing the outfield in practise games while Ralph Samhammer was behind the plate. But Volpi arrived from Oakland and was given the catching duties, moving Samhammer to the outfield and displacing Pedegani.
Pedegani has been released outright to the Class D Boise Club of the Pioneer league.
Don Osborne, leading Vancouver pitcher last year, has been given the starting assignment for the opening game in Wenatchee Sunday.

Chiefs Find Capilano Chuckers Osborne and Malman Easy Picking
- - -
Vancouver Only Get Four Blows; High Wind Spoils Opening; Ross Edy Looks Good, Hal O’Banion Works Smart Game for Wenatchee.
- - -
Vancouver Sun Sports Editor
[April 24, 1939]

WENATCHEE.—They are calling Vancouver Capilanos the “Mystery Team” around the Western International belt and as far as last night was concerned in their opening game you can make that a murder mystery.
There was a howling wind, the eerie atmosphere, and the villainous laughs of the Wenatchee Chiefs as they murdered two Vancouver pitchers with 12 smashing blows—righthander Don Osborne and lefthander [Joe] Malman. The wind spoiled the opening here, only 1500 turning out.
Vancouver started out on top, scoring two runs in the second inning. At that time ace Don Osborne was going well, his curve ball breaking as sharp as the Cariboo road (we’re in the mood for roads at present) and his fast ball hopping on a following wind. Then suddenly Osborne was fresh out of curve balls and the Chiefs had a basehit pow-wow.
Osborne alibi’d after the game that the wind spoiled his curve, to which Johnny Kerr didn’t pay much notice, as Bevens of Wenatchee only allowed four hits and he had the same wind. That’s one thing the eager townfolk here can’t fix for their beloved ball team ... I’m sure they can’t.
Bill Bevens, however, wasn’t the most accurate pitcher and got off his course seven times on the stormy baseball sea, that many men getting free dockage at first base.
Incidentally, Hal O’Banion, former of Vancouver Athletics, caught for the Chiefs and looked very good. His throwing arm has improved, he has a quick shift and works his pitcher very smartly.
Wenatchee tied the ball game in the third, scoring a deuce, then Vancouver went out in front in the fourth inning, Ross Edy scoring a run, driven in by Frank Volpi, another Vancouver Athletic catcher.
Then the Chiefs came right back with three runs, added a single in the next inning—the sixth—and got two more in the seventh. Rigney, who got two of Vancouver’s hits, didn’t have any dust on those gold-rimmed spectacles he wears, and hit a homer to complete Vancouver’s scoring. He got another hit earlier.
Skelley and Bonnetti hit home runs for the Chiefs.
Ross Edy looked like he’s been playing pro ball all his life. He went away back into the north winds and caused the apple blossoms to blow into the wide open Wenatchee mouths as he pulled down a tough fly.
Paul McGinnes was in uniform, but the Seattle-owned slicker didn’t play. Johnny Kerr was on second instead ... in fact, now they have McGinnes they do not know what to do with him, which is a lot of ball players to have hanging around doing nothing.
Frank Volpi is just twice the catcher he used to be in Vancouver. And he’s a hitter, too ... Wenatchee has a team of giants and look very, very formidable ... McCue and Stewart, his siege guns, failed to fire, but Bob claims that won’t happen very often ... Cailtaux, third baseman, looked like the neatest defensive player on the club ... accurate flipper ... covers plenty of ground, charges the ball...
Today, Vancouver moves to Spokane, but not with this writer. I give up ... Thursday they will be in Vancouver to open up so I suppose it is raining up there.
Vancouver ..... 020 020 100—5 4 1
Wenatchee .... 002 031 20x—8 12 0
Osborne, Malman (7) and Volpi; Bevens and O’Banion.

YAKIMA, April 23 [TSN]—Two big innings, in which they scored six of their runs, gave Tacoma a 7-2 victory over Yakima, 1938 league champions, in the season’s curtain-raiser, played before 3,500 fans. Pitcher Bob Cole, who went the route for the Tigers, handcuffed the Pippins with five hits. Tacoma unloosed a four-run barrage against Hurler Johnny Lewis in the third stanza, featured by a homer by Morrie Abbott with Harriman and Colbern aboard. Yakima tallied once in the last of the third, and there was no more scoring until the eighth, when the Bengals drove Lewis to cover with a two-run blast. The Pippins threatened in the seventh, when Jacobs and Fernandez singled in succession, but Cole forced Peterson to hit into a double play to snuff out the uprising.
Tacoma ...... 004 000 021—7 11 2
Yakima ....... 001 000 010—2 5 2
Cole and Clifford; Lewis and Lorenz.

SPOKANE, April 23 [TSN]—A pass to Ken Manning, followed by singles by Manager Bernie deViveiros and Al Marchi, after two were out in the ninth inning, gave Spokane a 10 to 9 decision over Bellingham, in the season’s inaugural, before 6,591 fans at Ferris Field. The game was a see-saw battle from start to finish, with each club collecting 14 safe hits. Trailing 6 to 5, going into the last half of the seventh inning, the Tribe went into the lead, when Outfielder Levi McCormack poled a 342-foot home run over the left field barrier, scoring Dwight Aden ahead of him. Bellingham tied the count with a run in the eighth, the result of two safeties and an error, but the Indians came back in the home half with a pair of runs on singles by Marchi, Windsor and Hornig and Byram’s walk. The Chinooks again evened the score in the first of the ninth on two bingles, a base on balls and a walk, producing two markers, with Spokane putting over the winning in the final half.
Bellingham ..... 100 001 412—9 16 2
Spokane ........ 001 400 221—10 16 1
McGahan, Olson (4), Shutte (9) and Rush, Lassell; Jonas, Windsor (7) and Clawitter.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Victoria's Royal Athletic Park

Here's a photo from the BC Provincial Archives collection of a game at Royal Athletic Park in 1946. And to look at those empty seats and realise this was one of the better drawing seasons, around 103,000 fans.

The Athletics drew about 148,000 in 1948, the best in their brief history. When the Tyees suddenly folded near the end of the 1954 season, the attendance number was a mere 28,000. The CJVI announcer is an inset. I have no idea who it might be; I don't believe Bill Stephenson had arrived there at that point.

Pat Karl, the official scorer at Nat Bailey Stadium in Vancouver, used to go to see the Athletics play when he was a kid and explains there was a dogleg in right field. I don't know if you can see it in the photo.

Friday, September 12, 2008

What's New For 1946 and 1947

Before getting to anything else, George Nicholas’ grandson sent a nice e-mail. When George wasn’t making suits, he was pitching, and for four seasons did it for the Vancouver Capilanos (62 wins). He also spent time with the Tacoma Tigers and in the PCL with San Diego. I mentioned to Jeffrey that this year, the fence along the barbeque area on the 1st base side at Nat Bailey (nĂ© Capilano) Stadium has highlights of the team’s history since 1951 when the stadium opened. Next to a large “1951” is a large blown up picture (it takes up the whole high fence) of a swarthy pitcher. It’s George Nicholas. I thought it was to commemorate George’s no-hitter for Vancouver—except he tossed that in 1950 in Athletic Park. So, I don’t know why they picked George. To be honest, I never did get a close look at the wall so I don’t know what the caption under his name says. There’s also a large photo of four of the players on the ’54 pennant winner in the last WIL season.

If Jeffrey sends any pictures I’ll put them up.

As for the site...

It’s September which means I’m tied up with fraternal groups. So work will be minimal here. Sorry.

I’ve added a few things. You’ll see columns from the three Vancouver papers on this page for 1946. On the 1947 site, I’ve added the WIL-related columns from the Vancouver Sun. Keith Matthews had been handed a Saturday baseball column when he came over from the News-Herald to cover the Caps. Alf Cottrell still wrote about the team on occasion. And Don Carlson, a former ball player (likely semi-pro), took over as sports editor and he contributed a piece. You’ll find stuff on umpires and the flap when Lee Mohr quite the club when Seattle stiffed him on a call-up. And, since I haven’t mentioned it before, 1954 is finished except for the year-end stats.

So, here’s what I’ll be working on over the next few months.
Finishing daily standings for 1946. [done]
Removing 1946 game material from here and placing it on the 1946 site.
Adding Ken McConnell’s 1947 columns on baseball from the Vancouver Province (there were maybe eight of them, including one answering the question “Where did infield prospect Lavis York get to?”). [done]
Formatting the 1953 and 1954 year-end batting and pitching stats and putting them up.
Stories and linescores on the start of the 1939 [done] and 1938 seasons.
A short note on (and cartoon of) the first WIL broadcaster in Vancouver.

And since I’ve been linking to WIL pictures from several public libraries, here’s one from spring training 1954. It’s of Salem manager Hugh Luby with Al Lightner, sports editor of the Oregon Statesman. They’re in Napa, California. Luby had a fine career with both the Oakland Oaks and San Francisco Seals, and followed the well-worn trail blazed by many old PCL players to the Western International League. Despite calls by the sports editor of the Tri-City Herald to make him the first president of the Northwest League in 1955, he remained as manager (and sometime G.M.) of the Salem Senators for six seasons in both the WIL and NWL. He died in Eugene on 4th May 1986 at 72.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Some WIL Fan Net Picks

Over 20 years ago, when I was researching every game played by the Pacific Coast League’s Vancouver Mounties and major events in baseball history in Vancouver, the only option I had was to sit in the main branch of the Vancouver Library and go through reels of newspaper microfilm and hand-write some notes. I still have those notes in a shoebox. Some day I may actually find time to do something with them.

Today, those microfilm reels are still there, though some are now scraped up and unreadable. One newspaper that I viewed in hard copy is now on reels and difficult to read thanks to the way the microfilm was shot.

However, today we also have the web and it’s amazing the places you can go to find things of interest to fans of the Western International League fans, and those of other minor baseball leagues of former times.

In an earlier post, I referred to digitised archival photos. But I want to tell you about a couple of other places:

SABR has a huge project, still underway, to create a minor league player database. Records of some of the bye-gone days are incomplete. But it’s an admirable thing to try to accomplish as the records simply haven’t been accessible to most of us. However, if you go HERE you can peer into the database. As I say, it’s still under construction. Eventually, ball fans will wonder how anyone got along without that information. I’m so appreciative to the people who are working on this.

Some of the information on this site and even some of the pictures come from a free on-line newspaper archive. THIS SITE IS DOWN AGAIN. I'LL POST THE URL AGAIN WHEN IT'S UP.

Finally, something I stumbled on today by accident is a great Project Retrosheet database. It has scans of The Sporting News’ minor league umpire index cards. You see Amby Moran’s to the right (I learned from this card that Amby lived about seven or so blocks from me; probably in a rooming house in those days). Click HERE for the alphabetical listings. This arcanity may not be as popular as the minor league player historical database but it certainly is useful to researchers and I’m glad someone took the time to do this.

I’m sure there are more nooks and crannies of the web with some more useful research gems for fans of old minor leagues, but those are just a few I thought you might like to know about.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Tacoma 1937 Opener in Pictures

It’s always a treat running into Western International League photos on-line, especially now that some public libraries have had the common sense to digitise their image collections and put them out there for the world to see.

The Tacoma Public Library is no exception, and amongst its baseball pictures are a number of the Tacoma Tigers of the WIL. There are several of Opening Day, 1937. I’m going to link to two of them here and you can go HERE to search under baseball for more.

The caption reads the "Stadium in background is filled with capacity crowd of around 4,000 spectators." It also informs us Tacoma split the double header with Vancouuver, but lost the four game series 3-1. The park is at 1302 South Sprague. Oh, you can click on both of these to enlarge them.

The caption says "On May 2, 1937, Abner Bergersen, Tacoma commissioner of public works, presented a gold watch to Tacoma Tigers player-manager Eddie Taylor for hitting the first home run by a Tiger for the 1937 season. Besides managing the team, Taylor was also the teams regular 2nd baseman. After the presentation, the Tigers went on to split a double header against Vancouver in front of 4,000 cheering fans. They won the first game 3 to 1, but lost the second 10 to 5."

For those who aren’t aware, the Vancouver team was not the Capilanos until 1939. That’s when Bob Brown took over the franchise and managed it for Sick’s Capilano Brewery. From 1937 to 1939, the team was called the Maple Leafs and played in Con Jones Park (for many years known as Callister Park, across from the PNE on Renfrew). The Leafs had financial troubles; Brown’s Senior League amateur baseball apparently drew better than pro ball. I’m not sure how crazy I am about the Leafs’ uniform design. There’s no indication which Vancouver players are in the picture.

There’s another photo of Taylor leading off the game with a double.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Clancy and Jim in the Hall of Fame

54 years have passed since Bill Brenner wanted lead-footed Dick Greco out of the Capilanos’ outfield, and since John Ducey last ran a pro ball club. 54 years since jealous and self-indulgent club owners killed the Western International League to get rid of some unwanted kids in their baseball tree fort. Yet after all this time, the dear old WIL was still remembered as nine of us became the initial inductees of the Vancouver Canadians Hall of Fame media section.

There’s some irony in that the Canadians are in the Northwest League—formed, partly, because Vancouver was one of those unwanted kids (by the Americans) in that WIL tree fort 54 years ago.

Jim Robson, the Voice of the Vancouver Mounties, was one of the inductees, and talked about his first game at the old Athletic Park. He came over from North Vancouver by ferry and streetcar. The Capilanos were taking on the Bremerton Bluejackets and Jim recalled the game went 12 innings. He talked about the short distance to the right field screen and how the field had huge bumps in it because it had been constructed on reclaimed land using sawdust from the Giroday Sawmill at the bottom of the hill along False Creek. Jim was something like 11 at the time.

But the real WIL connection was in the form of 87-year-old Clancy Loranger, who covered the Capilanos from their revival at the end of the war through their demise, and then became the Dean of Pacific Coast League Writers (years ago, he was given a lifetime pass to all P.C.L. games), covering the Mounties’ move from Oakland in 1956 to their departure in 1969, and then advising Harry Ornest (a) not to try to bring P.C.L. ball back to Vancouver because (b) he’d lose everything; (a) Harry did, and (b) Harry didn’t. Clancy hung around the ball yard for a couple of seasons of the P.C.L. Canadians after before finally retiring.

What a treat it was to have him at the ceremony and to talk to him again. (Clancy is right of centre in the tan jacket)

Clancy asked if any of the stuff I’ve compiled on the WIL will be put into a book; Jim Robson has apparently been sending some of it to him. Alas, I doubt it will happen. Clancy then brought up the 1947 Capilanos championship and how they were stuck in a Yakima hotel waiting for word whether Vancouver had won. Clancy remembered two things about the hotel—that they had old-fashioned bathtubs “on stilts” (apparently, they were the old kind with legs on them) and that they served the best breakfast in the WIL.

He seemed pleased I had found some stories he had written for the long-dead Vancouver News-Herald (at the time of the championship in question, he had been promoted to sports editor), and those written for the same paper by the late Keith Matthews, with whom Clancy said he spent many a spring training.

And, no, he hasn’t slowed down too much with age, though his voice shakes a bit. He stayed for a couple of innings of Vancouver’s win and upon viewing a Greco-like crush of a fastball for extra bases, Clancy remarked “The fences used to be farther out.” He was right. They were brought in a bit more last year (and were farther still in the days of the Caps and Mounties).

I thought I had posted Clancy’s contemporary stories about championship day on the 1947 site. I hadn’t so I’ve done so now. But to save you some time hunting them down, you will find them below. The first two were written on either side of a picture of Bob Brown. A third, by an anonymous staff writer—Dan Ekman perhaps—is included as well. This is about the best tribute I can pay to a fine writer and columnist, and a fine gentleman. I’m humbled to even be considered to be in the same Hall as people of the calibre and character of Clancy Loranger and Jim Robson because I’m not in their league.

Oh, by an odd coincidence, the Barney Potts mentioned below was later (and very briefly) the morning man at CKWX. He replaced an individual who went full-time into sports. A fellow named Jim Robson.

Rainmaker Is Hero As Capilanos Clinch 1947 Willy Loop Pennant
Hectic Last Days Were Apt Climax To confusing But Amusing Season
News-Herald Sports Editor
[September 8, 1947]

YAKIMA.—And so, kiddies, our heroes drove off the big, bad Indians and lifted the mortgage on the W.I.L. pennant. The fingernail-biting finish of the race was a fitting climax to a season which had the so-called experts running around in circles, and the casual fan somewhat confused by it all. The latter, picking up his paper one day, would find the Caps in the midst of a robust rally that threatened to pitch them into first place any day. A week of so later the Brownies would be floundering in the second division, and having trouble with teams like Wenatchee.
The Vancouverites made two false starts in pursuit of the bunting before they finally did get settled down to the serious business of winning more than the next club.
After dropping the first four games of the season, Brenner and Co., getting fine pitching and some surprising hitting from rookies like Buddy Hjelmaa and Len Tran, set out on a nine-game victory streak that put ‘em right up there with the leaders.
Then their pitching collapsed and after breaking even for the early part of May, they ran into their Bremerton nemesis. The Bluejackets took three in a row at Vancouver, then contributed five straight losses at the Navy Yard city to an eight-game Vancouver losing streak.
A couple of deals got them straightened out early in June. Lefty Carl Gunnarson was picked up from Salem in a trade for Hunk Anderson and Pete Jonas was signed (for half the ball park, ‘twas said). That got the hurling corps in shape again, and our boys were away once more; they won 18 of the next 27 games.
Then the Caps went to Bremerton again—and lost seven straight. Victoria added two more losses, and the club hit the skids—but before the squad dropped completely out of the league bottom, a couple more deals were made—and these moves got the Brennermen on the victory road for keeps. Probably the smarted piece of business was the trade of Jimmy Estrada, who wasn’t doing us much good, for Bill Reese.
Bill Wright, who never did round into shape, was let go, and Reese took over at first base. Reese had long been known as a capable man at the gateway, but you have to watch him day by day to really appreciate him. Reese “made” the infield, and shortly thereafter another man arrived to do the same for the outfield, and to add a needed note of authority in the batting order.
He was Paul Carpenter, a ball player’s ball player,” without whose light-footed antics in left field and timely swatting in the cleanup spot, the Caps couldn’t have reached the top.
Wish new vigor at the dish, a superior defense, and brilliant pitching from Jim Hedgecock, Bob Snyder and Bob Hall, aided and abetted by Carl Gunnarson and, occasionally, Sandy Robertson and Ron Bryant, Vancouver started their final drive on July 25 with a double triumph in Salem.
From there in, not even Bremerton was safe, as the winning streak piled up. A five-game string was topped by a nine-tilt victory whirl, and the boys bettered even that one with 12 triumphs in a row. The record at one stage was 23 wins against four losses, and you don’t stay in the second division with that kind play.
It was a pleasant and profitable season for a lot of Capilano individuals, especially, of course, Bill Brenner, whose scalp was being called for both privately and publicly before the last big uprising.
Bill had a good year as a player, too, despite a bad knee injury, and his presence in the lineup almost nightly the last few weeks contributed no little to his team’s success.
And a number of fellows who had trouble getting started last year after stints in the armed forces, gents like Jim Hedgecock, Frank Mullens, Bob Snyder and Charley Mead hit their true strides this summer.
The happiest surprises of the season, of course, were the infield kids, Buddy Hjelmaa and Len Tran. Ticketed as spare infielders, the duo established themselves early as regulars and earned their spots all the way.
Of the others, Lee Mohr was inclined to be an individualist, but you can\t overlook his value as a lead-off man or his healthy batting average; and Bob Stumpf, though he hardly lived up to his billing as a big league prospect, made a competent understudy for Brenner.
All in all, it was an interesting, albeint nerve-wracking, season, and any time, you’re passing a rest home, why, drop in.

Spokes Lose Last Chance As Rain Kayoes Double Bill With Victoria
News-Herald Sports Editor
[September 8, 1947]

YAKIMA.—Vancouver Capilanos fought the battle in the Commercial Hotel lobby here Saturday night and emerged with the 1947 Western International League pennant.
Yakima, which has eight inches of rain yearly, came close to its quota Saturday, and washed out the Brownies’ scheduled game with this city’s Stars. And when the rainmaker, definitely on our side, did the same for the Spokane-Victoria doubleheader at the Bremerton-Salem game, the Caps backed into the Willy championship.
With the tension gone today, the Brownies went through the motions in their last two games in a carnival atmosphere that saw everybody, including Larry Manier, get into the act. Relief hurler Manier functioned at first base as the Caps won the first game, 9-5, and then bowed, 6-2 in the second. But nobody cared.
The championship, first for Vancouver since 1942, was actually their second in t[unreadable] years of play, for the WIL ceased operations during the period, 1943-45. It was the first, too, for Manager Bill Brenner, serving first full year as manager.
The 25-year-old backstop took over the club in the last month of the ’46 campaign, and had that time hitting the fastest pace in the league at the finish.
Saturday’s struggle, while it lasted, was the tougher on the winners than a game would have been. When they learned the contest here had been cancelled, they settled down (if you can pacing up and down settling down) to sweat it out.
Finally came word that the games in Victoria were off, and the boys breathed a little easier for even if the Caps had lost both Sunday games, they’d still have finished [unreadable] percentage points up on Spokane.
But Bremerton still had a mathematical chance of catching the Brownies, so the ads had to worry again. Finally, however, about 7 p.m., the message was flashed from Salem that their game had bowed to the weatherman, too. The Caps were in!
At least, they were in for a few hours. Then Bob Abel, president of the W.I.., wired General Manager Bob Brown of the Caps that Spokane had proposed coming to the Inland Empire Sunday with Victoria and playing the games there.
Brown, who, a few hours before, had predicted that Spokane might try something like that, was furious. It was against baseball law, he said—a game starts on a certain day, and finishes on a certain day, regardless—and Abel had no right to even suggest going along with Spokane’s idea. Ruby Robert dispatched a hot telegram to Abel to that effect.
But once again fate—dear fate—stepped in and made things easier for us. Reg Patterson, business manager of the Victoria Athletics, announced that he was unable to get plane reservations to Spokane—and that was that. The Caps were in—definitely.

Victory Rally To Greet Brenner’s Boys Tonight
[Vancouver News-Herald, Sept. 8, 1947]
Hold onto those long-distance cheers for the Capilanos, baseball fans, because you’re going to be able to deliver them in person. Yep, Bill Brenner and almost all of his pennant-winners will be back in town tonight, and you’re invited to get in on the royal welcome which awaits them.
At 7:45 tonight, the doors of the Veterans’ Memorial Centre, 636 Burrard, will be tossed open, and from that hour forward, the welkin will get a tremendous beating at the hands of the gathered horde.
A big program has been whipped up to greet our conquering heroes, most important item of which is the presentation of bonuses from the Capilano baseball club.
And the baseball writers are even now working up a few presentations of their own, the nature of which we can’t divulge until they happen. To make sure there won’t be a dull moment, Barney Potts, his orchestra and entertainers, will be on hand to further the fun.
General manager Bob Brown reported last night from Yakima that all but one or two of the pennant winners will return for the salute. And Bob forwarded an invitation to all you baseball fans to be on hand at 7:45 when Peard Sutherland opens the celebration.

P.S.: One of the reasons this site (and its accompanying pages in the tree to the right) exists because of another inductee. Pat Karl, these days, is the official scorer for the Canadians and we used to cover baseball and hockey together in the early ‘80s before he retired from radio. Pat used to spend his boyhood summers visiting his aunt in Victoria and going to WIL games at Royal Athletic Park. Pat’s aunt was a member of the Athletics Booster Club and Pat tells how she used to invite much-travelled WIL pitcher John Marshall over for dinner (after he had been traded from Victoria). I hoped that by posting stories about Victoria games and the rest of the W.I.L., it would bring back some pleasant memories for him.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Hall of Fame

Every baseball player, if he’s any kind of a baseball player at all, dreams of going into the Hall of Fame. When you’re an aging, unjockish baseball reporter, the best you can dream of is a free hot dog (that’s hot) and beer (if it’s free, temperature is irrelevant) as you’re covering a game. Let’s face it. You’re not going into the Hall of Fame.

Much to my amazement, I am going into the Hall of Fame.

No, not that one. But I received the stunning news that I am being inducted into the Vancouver Canadians Baseball Hall of Fame media section. I wouldn’t have dreamt of it because this Hall of Fame doesn’t have a media section. Or, at least it doesn’t until Friday when the first group of us goes in.

There is a Western International League connection here, as among the inductees is the gentleman whose picture (from the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame site) you see—Clancy Loranger. Clancy covered the Vancouver Capilanos from July 1945, when the W.I.L. re-formed, through to the bitter end, then covered the Vancouver Mounties of the P.C.L. until, well, the bitter end of them. We can only presume Clancy’s presense at these two demises is purely coincidental.

Clancy actually had a bearing on the record book. He was the official scorer at Cap Stadium for a time, including a tense game on August 13, 1962. Gerry Arrigo was throwing a great one for the Mounties against Tacoma; he eventually struck out 11 and Kd six in a row at one point. More importantly, he was tossing a no-hitter. In the sixth, Frank Reveira lined one into left field. Joe Christian got under the ball, caught it, took two steps and dropped it. Clancy ruled it a hit. Mounties manager Jack McKeon (yes, that one) immediately signaled to the press box that it should be an error. Afterwards, Tacoma manager Red Davis said it was an error. Even Christian thought it was an error—he sprinted for the ball, he said, but should have made the play.

But a hit it remained. The only hit of the game.

Clancy ignored the besiegement and stuck to his ground, that ground between two covers also known as the Rule Book. A footnote to Rule 10.05, to be specific, which told scorers to give hitters the benefit of the doubt and score a hit when exceptionally good fielding of the ball fails to result in a put out.

So, Arrigo never got a no-hitter. And neither did a single Mounties pitcher during the entire life of the franchise.

Clancy covered the return of the P.C.L. in 1978 and took in a couple of spring trainings and regular seasons before retiring.

Two of the other all-time greats have been named to the Hall as well. If you’re of my vintage, you grew up listening to Jim Robson call the Mounties on CKWX (which he did from 1957 to 1969). Then there’s Greg Douglas, an innocent cub sports reporter for the Vancouver Sun in 1966, who witnessed Merritt Ranew being bashed on the skull with a not-so-innocent swing by on-deck hitter Santiago Rosario—one of the most infamous incidents in P.C.L. history.

Greg and I work together at the same spot and I see him once in awhile. The retired Robson still pops by his old press box at the former Cap Stadium maybe once a year to say hello. But I haven’t seen Clancy for a couple of decades and I hope they’re able to induce the Dean of the P.C.L. Writers (and likely one of the last few W.I.L. writers still around) to make an appearance at this week’s ceremony. At least he won’t have to worry about hits and errors. The guy who does now, Pat Karl, is being inducted, too.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

1946 Material Added; 1954 Delayed

The work on the 1954 Western International League pages has come to a temporary stop again. There’s a web-site where I get the Tri-City material and it’s down for another weekend (it was up for 3 1/2 days last week). So, I’m working a bit on 1946 material on this page which will eventually be transfered to its own page. You can now go back and find:

All but a couple of Clancy Loranger’s stories on the Capilanos games for the Vancouver News-Herald, and all of his columns dealing with the Caps,
All of Alf Cottrell’s On the Sunbeam columns which dealt mainly with baseball,
Daily standings through July 3.

Alf’s columns—there are eight or so—range from the light to the serious. He has one on Bob Snyder, another Clarkson has written for him, yet another deals with the horrific Spokane bus crash. And there’s one on the NIMBYs of 62 years ago upset at having a baseball park anywhere near their homes. Some things never change.

The columns are always interesting, and eventually, I’ll get around to posting Ken McConnell’s columns from the Province. What’s really cool is the sports cartoons I stumble upon. The Sun and Province always had great cartoonists going back before World War One. This one on your right (click on it to enlarge) accompanies McConnell’s piece I’ve posted from May 20, 1946. The cartoonist by this time is someone named Ray Tracy. This one uses some clever drawing tricks; to avoid trying to do a good caricature of Vancouver’s manager, he has him hidden. Brown is done from a profile shot of an old photo. Tommy Turner ran the Capilano Brewery at the time. The tattered W.I.L. pennant (from 1942) is a nice touch. My guess this cartoon’s supposed to deal with the Caps’ puny offence under Johnson, who finally had enough and walked away from the job in mid-season.

The standings, of course, have been a pain to do as it turned out there were a couple of late games not picked up by the newspapers so I didn’t know they existed. I think there’s still one W.I.L. game for which I cannot find a score. That’s in addition to the papers getting them wrong.

While adding the standings, I corrected some misspelled names in the linescores. But there are two names I’ve just left from the AP linescore; I can find no record of the players though I think I know who they’re supposed to be and made a note for that appropriate date.

I’m also going to flesh out a few of the Victoria game stories where there’s just a sentence. Sid Thomas had columns in the Colonist involving the Athletics, but I don’t think I’ll post any. All I’ve seen so far is constant spin (after a litany of the bad play of the previous evening) that management was doing all it could to make the team win. Unfortunately, he has no player profiles or funny stories or anything like that.

In the meantime, the 1954 page remains on hold as of August 23rd due to the availability problem mentioned above.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

1954 WIL Season On-line

The first half of the soap opera that was the 1954 Western International League season can now be re-lived on the 1954 site (conveniently in the link tree to your right).

The second half is in draft form but I won’t be adding to the site until I can access some additional material and, right now, my source is down for repairs. I don’t know for how long.

Len Tran’s son Mark sent me this yellowed clipping from the Vancouver Sun. For at least one season, and maybe two, Jack DeLong composed a bunch of these rhymes about Capilanos players; if the microfilms at the local library weren’t so chewed up and were readable, I would have posted a bunch of them for ‘52.. The game in question was July 11, 1952 (click on the doggerel to enlarge). Lansdowne, by the way, was a race track of the day; my grandmother used to go there and said it was the best of the three local tracks. The site is now a large mall which bears its name.

1954 was the last year of professional baseball for both the popular Trans.

There are people stopping by this site after doing a web search on a specific player. Within the last week, some searches were done on Bob Moniz, Danny Holden and Virgil Giovannoni, among others. If you’re doing a search, please drop me a note and say hello, especially if you’re a former player or the offspring of one.

The Vancouver contingent of the Northwest SABR Chapter will be meeting on Saturday the 23rd at Capilano Stadium (now Nat Bailey Stadium) from 1-3pm. I’m hoping a few of the former Western International League players will be able to come again.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Emmett Ashford’s Quote of the Day

This little item finished out Dick Beddoes’ From Our Tower column in the Vancouver Sun of September 11, 1954.

Emmett Ashford, the only Negro umpire in organized baseball, and a graduate of the Western International League (Class of ’53), is now considered the toast of the Coast League. Now the rumor is out that he may pass to the majors next year. Asked by Emmett (Seattle P.I.) Watson how white ball players had responded to a colored arbiter, Ashford said:
“A good job done can change people’s minds about a lot of things. The better job I do, therein lies the good I can do my people. A good man’s example is better than all the soap-boxes ever made.”

Sunday, July 27, 2008

1954 Site Underway

Well, if you head over to the 1954 page, you’ll notice it’s finally starting to get some content. There'll be four categories of material you’ll eventually see:

Pre-season, beginning in September 1953.
Spring Training (April 1954).
Regular season.
Post season and League folding.

So far, I’ve finished the pre-season and spring training game stories and roster moves, and have started on the regular season. The most interesting pre-season stuff (and there isn’t much) is the WIL meetings (where Bob Brown was summarily dumped) and Colonist sport editor Jim Tang’s All-Victoria WIL team. As the Tyees folded in the ’54 season, I don’t think he would have made any changes. And there’s lots on the Calgary soap opera.

Research for this blog involves, mainly, going through reels of a minimum of two newspapers at the library, as well as a couple of on-line sources, followed by transcribing of stories and columns. It takes time.

And what happened in that final year for the WIL?

Some of the season highlights you’ll read:
Vain attempts to save the Spokane and Calgary franchises, which folded in June.
Victoria finally succumbing to years of financial problems and little interest in baseball and packing it in at the start of August.
Vancouver winning the crown over Lewiston.
The league imploding almost immediately after the championship series.

Oh, and I may find some unexpected odd stuff.

There’ll be the day-by-day game highlights of the regular season, or at least (I hope) a linescore for each game, depending on what I can find.

After that’s done, I may take a breather, but I’d like to restructure some of the yearly sites and then start on 1937-1942, though it looks like most games will be limited to a score only due to an unfortunate lack of available source material.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Some Pictures From the Vancouver Capilanos

First, my apologies for not doing much with the blog lately (specifically, the 1953 season). I explained the situation in the post below and am overwhelmed doing other things. In fact, it was only last Thursday I had a chance to take in a game for the first time this season at Nat Bailey Stadium. And, unfortunately, my time to work on this will be limited for the forseeable future, notwithstanding the fact my old laptop I need to transcribe information is finally frapping out.

I've got the rest of the 1953 season in draft mode to put on that page. The problem is the standings have to be done for each game and the AP wire of the day royally screwed them up so I have to manually calculate them. And I want to flesh out some game stories and dig up a few missing linescores. That all takes time.

However, during the away-time I've received a couple of e-mails from Mark Tran. Mark's dad is Len Tran and his uncle is Ray. As WIL fans know, the Tran brothers were fixtures in the Vancouver Capilanos infield for several years and were probably the finest keystone combination in the city's history (though Lenn Sakata and Ed Romero had a good year in 1979). Mark has graciously sent me some photos which I'd like to share with you.

This picture is of the 1947 Capilanos at Vancouver's Athletic Park, autographed by none-other than Mr. Baseball, Bob Brown. If you can't see the names, Len is at the bottom right and Ray is next to him. The team had some great players and won the pennant by percentage points and raindrops.

A spring training picture from 1947 in Sunnyside, Washington. Len is on the left, and fellow Washington State boy Buddy Hjelmaa is on the right. Buddy played on several clubs in the league. Whether he's still with us, I don't know. Mark points out his dad had a spike wound under his nose.
The Vancouver Library has this and other 1948 spring training shots in its photo collection, but none specify who is in the picture. They were taken by Art Jones. They're in the public domain, so perhaps I should post some.

Here are the 1948 Caps at Athletic Park. At least, I'll take the photo's word for it. But the background and topography don't look like Vancouver, even of the 1940s. There would be houses on three sides of the park and the north view would overlook downtown with the mountains in the background.
Len mentioned to Mark that the field went down hill (it was built on the hill coming up from False Creek). One of the columns in a Tri-City paper I've posted refers to this as well.

The one on the right's pretty self-explanatory. And 14¢! The current Vancouver Canadians programme goes for $5. Albeit, you get an article written by me. Hmm. Come to think of it, I got paid less than 14¢ for it. And you also get a nice piece from Kit Krieger on opening night at Cap Stadium in 1951 (with a box score that came from a certain blog), which also mentioned the Tran brothers.

Mark didn't supply this picture of the programme from the following year—I think I got it off eBay or something—but I don't think I've put it up, so here it is. The programmes certainly aren't as elaborate as what you find today, but there are shots of all the players and the previous year's stats; the basic stuff every baseball fan would want. Oh, and quaint ads for small local stores.

I'd like to thank Mark for taking the time to send these to me. If he decides to send anything else to share with you, I'll certainly put them up. Perhaps he can get his dad to send a note about how he was signed by the Seattle Rainiers and his musings of life in the Western International League (including his departure from Vancouver to Tri-City).

During the dead posting time, a nice e-mail came in from Jim Wert's son. Jim played first base with both Vancouver and Victoria in the WIL. Judging by various newspaper pieces I've put on the year-to-year blogs, he was much in demand.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Peace and Quiet in WIL-Land

You can see the blog has been quiet for almost two months and work has come to an abrupt halt on the 1953 game stories. It's certainly not for lack of interest.

About the time of the entry below, the Secretary of an organisation to which I belong was taken to hospital. He is having heart and breathing problems. He is now at home, but recovery is very slow due to his age. So I have assumed his duties as Secretary at his request until he's better. Which, I'm hoping, is by the summer.

I am also Secretary of three other groups and this, combined with a full-time job, has eaten up my spare time.

As well, one of my sources to obtain additional information was out of commission for about a month. So that didn't help.

Anyway, the gist of it is there probably won't be a lot of activity here until the groups I'm involved with take their summer hiatus and I can get back working on this again.

However, I've still been getting some nice notes via e-mail. One was from a newspaper in the Bremerton area which wants to use material here about the Bluejackets. It seems there isn't a lot of information about the old pro ball team there and now they can check out every game ever played here. And I was surprised to receive a kind word from legendary (and he really is) sportscaster and writer J. Michael Kenyon, now living in Oregon. I remember him being at KVI in Seattle (I think that was after he was at the P.I.) and if you want to know anything about old-time wrestlers, he's probably the guy to ask.

People have asked me about pictures. I'm afraid I don't have a picture or card collections (something tells me WIL bubble-gum cards wouldn't have been a huge seller) or anything; I'm sorry I don't as it would add a lot. It's a shame photos from newspaper archives in former WIL cities aren't digitised and available for viewing.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The WIL That Was Forgotten

When everyone thinks of the Western International League (and I know you all do constantly), they think of the league that was around from 1937 to 1954, interrupted for a few years because of the war.

There was a Western International League before that. It operated only in 1922. I've always thought of it as a new name for the Pacific Coast International League of 1921 which, more or less, was the old Northwestern League. But it appears the first WIL was something different. It appears to have been an attempt to merge the PCI League with the Western Canada League, which had attained B status by 1921. The WCL had clubs in various cities in the prairie provinces, including Edmonton, Calgary, Regina and Saskatoon.

I came across this wire story from 1922:

TACOMA, March 14—The Western International Baseball League will have only four clubs this year, Russell J. Nelson, business manager of the Tacoma Tigers, said today on his return from a league meeting in Calgary. Saskatoon and Regina were unable to enter the league under satisfactory conditions, and it was decided to perfect an organization with teams in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Tacoma, Mr. Nelson said.
A tentative four-club schedule is now in the making, and the season will open about May 1, with Edmonton playing in Tacoma and Calgary in Vancouver.
Directors of the league, Mr. Nelson said, agreed on a list of 18 players to June 1 and 14 thereafter.
Managers of the teams are announced as follows: Tealey Raymond, Tacoma; Gus Gleichman, Edmonton; Bob Brown, Vancouver and Bill Rogers, Calgary.

The first WIL folded in mid-season due to an odd set of circumstances. Baseball Commissioner Landis got POd at Bill Klepper, the owner of the PCL's Portland Beavers, who was also supporting the WIL's Tacoma Tigers. The Commissioner suspended him in a player tampering case, Klepper withdrew his support of Tacoma, and the league collapsed.

It seems odd that there was no pro baseball in the Pacific Northwest (other than the PCL teams in Seattle and Portland) for the next 15 years, but that's what happened until the WIL we all know was put together for the 1937 season.

Friday, March 14, 2008

1953 Page Coming Together

Well, despite a bike accident that put me out of commission for a few days and having to go back on a slowwwww dial-up connection (it takes five minutes for a .pdf file to download), I've completed the first part of getting the 1953 page together. All the pre-season stuff (which starts at the end of the 1952 season) is now in chronological order and I'm starting to transfer the 1953 game stories over from this blog. Once the season's done .. and it won't be for a few months, I suspect .. then I'll delete the 1953 game stories on this page.

I plan to make a few additions on the 1953 page. One was the pleasant task of transcribing Eric Whitehead's columns dealing with the Capilanos' season. There weren't a lot of them so that's been done; in fact, I added them to this page for now.

However, the real problem is standings. I've decided to add daily standings, knowing how the papers can screw them up badly and not fix them. Other than a period of about five days at the end of April, I was sailing along. And then at the end of July 1953, the AP assigned the wrong win and loss in a Victoria-Wenatchee game. And ten days later, it still wasn't fixed. The Sporting News picked up the incorrect standings. Meanwhile, the Victoria paper I can access was fine for a few days, then missed a Victoria-Spokane game on a day it didn't publish and its standings were wrong. A few days later, someone with the Victoria club must have told the paper because it fixed the Victoria standings, but not the Spokane ones. And as Spokane was leading the league, it meant the 'games behind' column was completely wrong. So, I am looking at two sets of standings, both wrong in different ways. That means I manually have to calculate them and that takes time. (UP also did WIL standings, but they must have been compiled on Mars as they never seem correct).

And as some game stories are either missing or consist of one line, it means going through the Vancouver and Victoria papers to see what I can add. The Victoria Colonist stories are lovely, but the home game stories are very long and take about 20 minutes each to transcribe (the Vancouver papers gave a lot less space to Capilanos). So that'll slow the process, too. Even more so as I'll likely add the Jim Tang columns from the Colonist as he whines for another season that no one was supporting the ball club.

Some time over the summer, I hope to slog my way through 1954, the final WIL season, and may take a break when all the post-war game stories are done.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Missing Player and Another Book

Well, let’s dip into the old mail once again.

Here’s a nice little missive:

Hello there,
I am Jim Allicotti's daughter (one of 4) and happened upon your site during a search of our family's last name. My dad is 77 and living in Yorba Linda, CA with my mom. I recently shared a printout of the baseball game that mentions his name. He definitely got a kick out of it. Thanks for posting it!
Lola Allicotti

I mention this because Jim played for the Spokane Indians, but in checking the nascent SABR Minor League Database, there’s no record of him in the W.I.L. at all. He’s mentioned in a wire service story, so he got into at least one game.

This is where this SABR project of assembling minor league data is so important. It seems some records simply don’t exist. I’ve seen plenty of stats that read “ten or more at-bats”, with anyone under that simply a non-entity, thinking that maybe they’re recorded in the official, year-end league stats. That’s evidently not the case as baseball wasn’t as stats nuts at one time that it is today.

So, Lola’s inadvertently helped add to missing data, or at least data hidden away somewhere. Which is kinda what this blog is doing about the W.I.L.

Now, about books. It seems everyone’s writing a book about minor league baseball. Except me. Despite what the newspapers say. A former player has sent me a note about his book. Okay, he didn’t play in the W.I.L., but he writes of his experiences in minor league ball in the ‘50s, and I wish more players of that era would do the same thing.

My name is Ed Mickelson. I played 11 years in professional baseball, ten of which were in the minor leagues. I played in every classification from class C up AAA and also three years in the PCL batting .308 in 55, .309 in 56 and .338 in 1957. I still hold the fielding record for 1st basemen in the PCL by fielding .9964 in 162 games. The record is for 1st basemen in 150 games or more. My book is called Out of the Park- Memoir of a Minor League Baseball All Star. It is about baseball in the minor leagues in the golden age of the minors 1945 to 1957. The book is published by McFarland Publishers. If you are interested you can buy the book from me for 29.95. Ed Mickelson, 1532 Charlemont Drive, Chesterfield. Mo. 63017. I will take care of handling and postage.
The book is recommended by
Library Journal in N.Y.
Sabr – Neil Chamberlin
New York Yankee Magazine Sept Issue 1907
Richard Beveridge former President of SABR
Tom Kayser current President of the Texas League

You can e-mail Ed if you’re interested.

You Forgot Something, Mr. Brown

You find the damndest things rooting through the library when you least expect it. For example, there’s an extensive newspaper clipping collection; I've looked up some non-baseball stuff in a few of the filing cabinets. But, to my surprise, I found another set of cabinets and therein happened to spot a file on Vancouver’s “Mr. Baseball,” Bob Brown, who ran the Capilanos and then the Western International League (in 1953).

Back in 1957, Bob Brown told his life story to the Vancouver Province’s Eric Whitehead, which was presented in three parts in the newspaper’s weekend editions. It’s really fascinating, and eventually, I’ll get around to transcribing the whole thing. I wish I had access to the original photos accompanying the story, which likely were in Bob’s personal collection. No doubt Tom Hawthorn used Eric’s lengthy piece for some of the material in his excellent biography of Bob, which you can find here.

In reading the third part, published July 13, 1957, Bob made a comment about the W.I.L. as follows:

“The league folded in ’55 after an unfortunate attempt to include Calgary and Edmonton—both too remote and ill-equipped for membership.”

Bob is being a little coy. He left out some information here—the fact that he was the one who had been championing the inclusion of Calgary and Edmonton and pushing the idea to sceptical W.I.L. members; even John Ducey in Edmonton had concerns the concept was not viable because of the travel distances involved. Readers of our 1953 blog will be able to see contemporary reports of the day about how the whole thing actually unfolded. Bob thought he had, um, all the bases covered (don’t throw things, please) but attendance kept falling around the league (which was happening all over minor league baseball then) and Calgary never did draw anything remotely close to what was expected.

Incidentally, the library has a clipping file for the Vancouver Capilanos and another for Capilano Stadium, and several dealing with the Vancouver Mounties of the P.C.L. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to have much on any W.I.L. players, other than a couple of things on Sandy Robertson after he finished his athletic career.

Western International League Opener, 1937

If you click on the VANCOUVER BASEBALL link to the right (okay, to make it easy, click here), you will see a page on the first day of the true Western International League in 1937 (the 1922 league was really kind of a separate W.I.L.). It’s in lieu of starting the 1937 pages on this blog because that unfortunately won’t happen for months because of time restraints.

Once that project starts, it’ll be slow. About the only way I’ll get information is by parking myself at the library and transcribing from the three local newspapers on microfilm. And they didn’t really cover the league outside the local team all that well, so there may be not much more than a score, and that’s it. You’ll notice on the 1937 page, a linescore is missing. None of the Vancouver papers had it and I don’t have access to any resources where it might be.

Eventually, I’d hope the Vancouver papers will get smart like the ones in Toronto or New York and scan their old editions and have the archives on-line. Of course, the day that happens, I can complain about all those wasted hours going to the library to get information.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Oh, That Newspaper Story, Part Two

Someone asked about the newspaper article (mentioned below) about this blog. Here is a link to it. It's the no-frills version.

I take no responsibility for Cookie Gilchrist misspelling Ossie Chavarria's first name.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

WIL fan's Mighty Mailbag

While I'm not writing a book about Vancouver baseball, there is someone writing a book that will touch on the Western International League.

Ken McIntosh has been busy researching Capilano Stadium, known to baseball fans today as Nat Bailey Stadium. The idea of a new park to place the dumpy Athletic Park was a bit of a political football before it was built, but the new (in 1951) ball yard has given countless baseball memories to several generations. Ken's book is 99% finished, he says.

He's even dug up material related to the old Western International League club. I don't know if you can see this, but...

A note has come in from Graham McNeil. He asked how much a signed baseball is worth. In this case, it's from the 1946 Victoria Athletics and the signatures are readable. If you're interested, mail Graham.

The post about Luke Moyls brought a response from Jim Robson, the Voice of the Mounties, via Ron Robinson, the Re-Creation Assistant to the Voice of the Mounties. Jim writes:

Hi Ron
I knew Luke Moyls well. He did the PA job at UBC football and
basketball for many years. He was an insurance agent with Parsons-Brown..
then went out on his own. He was our insurance agent for many years.
I don't remember him at the ballpark.. but I wasn't around in 1951.
(Except for one game I "covered" for the Maple Ridge Gazette as a 16 year old)
I think Luke did the Lion's PA job for many years as well.
He died probably 20 years ago.

In reading Jim's note, it's sad to think none of his old baseball broadcasts are available on line. The sound effects Ron made for the recreates are now in the Provincial Archives but they have not been converted and uploaded. Maybe some day.

As a side note, Jim and Bill Stephenson (the Voice of the Victoria Athletics/Tyees) did all the PCL Mounties games on CKWX .. except at least one. The team's first home game in 1956 was broadcast by Jim Cox over CKNW. I believe Jim did the last season of the Capilanos.

It's tremendous what the internet has done for old minor league information. About 20 years ago, I made a pile of notes on every game of the Mounties. It had to be done at the library, going through microfilm reels of newspaper (except the News-Herald, which was hidden away in hard copy in unbound stacks). Today, there are a bunch of sites devoted to the PCL and I can even find old newspapers on line (unfortunately, not local ones) which almost instantly can bring me some of the information I painstakingly scrawled down in the 80s.

One of the things I'm absolutely thrilled about is a huge project being undertaken by SABR .. an on-line data base of minor league players going back more than 100 years. Some of this information is available in old guides and other books most of us don't have access to. It looks like in many cases, the information isn't available anywhere, judging by the lack of stats and even first names of some players. But it'll be so valuable that, some day, I suspect people will take for granted it'll be available to them.

This is as good a place as any to plug Oz's NOTES FROM THE NAT web site, known to press box denizens simply as "The Blog." He provides in depth coverage worthy of something more than an A ball team, and is not afraid to post inside player/front office dirt. I wish the kind of player stuff he has were available for the W.I.L. days.

The kind of baseball Vancouver sees now is really unlike anything in its history. In the PCL days, fans could see guys going up, guys coming down and a bunch of guys who would stick around for a few years or went from team to team to team. The WIL was no different, other than the players were coming down from the PCL. Today, it's a handful of media-hyped prospects and a large bunch of guys going nowhere past Class A. You see them for nine weeks then they're gone (the real prospects may be gone within days) and replaced next year by a whole bunch of new guys. How .. or why .. anyone would want to follow that kind of baseball, interrupted by "contests" solely existant due to sponsorships, I don't know. Give me the old days when between innings, people talked about the team, their favourite players and the game, instead of either cheering on racing mascots or trying to be heard over deafening MP3 files.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Oh, That Newspaper Story

The phone rang yesterday morning. It could only mean one thing. I was sleeping. That's the only time it rings.

It was Cookie Gilchrist at the Vancouver Province. He was asking about my baseball web site. The other one. The one I wanted to start working on, but kinda got sidetracked by these blog pages that grew into a project I didn’t start with. I guess he was alerted to it by Jim Robson, the Voice of the Vancouver Mounties (Pacific Coast League), the finest play-by-play broadcaster in Vancouver, period.

The other site has a capsulised history of Vancouver baseball I wrote to help out Ami Catriona, who is endeavouring to do a documentary on the subject. The idea was to also publish stories on the highlights of local baseball history over the years -- the Santiago Rosario bat incident, the Fireball, the first night baseball game in Canada, Babe Ruth's appearance at muddy Athletic Park, and so on. But I’ve been occupied going through each W.I.L. season first. I suspect it may be the summer before I can finish the post-war game stories.

Anyway, it’s been so long since I've been on the other site, I couldn’t remember the URL because I just kinda threw the page together and haven't done much with it (It won’t win any design awards). You can check it out here.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Yakima's Gain is Seals' Gain

A nice little note came to me from Bill Soto Castellanos. Bill was originally the visitors' batboy at Seals' Stadium and spent 1954 to the end of the Seals' days as the visiting clubhouse man, taking over when Bill Rode became the trainer for the Yakima Bears of the Western International League.

So Bill would have taken care of the Vancouver Mounties in their very first game in the PCL in 1956. Maybe that isn't such a great memory, as Bill worked for the Oakland Oaks, too, which ended up in Vancouver and leaving him without one of his jobs.

Bill's written a limited edition book about the Seals of those days and you can find out more by giving him a shout at leenbill2k2 at aol.com (address munged to foil spammers).

Other than that, I continue to work on 1952 game stories and continue to deal with incorrect standings. One wire service had them incorrect for about ten days early in the season, and again for another ten-day period in June, meaning I have to do my own math and that takes time.