Tuesday, February 19, 2008

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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A very good book about Edmonton Baseball including the WIL Eskimos was written Brant Ducey. The book tells stories such as Harry Ornest the first Canadians President umpiring in the Edmonton area. It talks about the collapse of the WIL iin Sept 1954 as Brown fought to keep Edmonton in the League thus it folded and was reformed the next day as the NWL in Salem.
Brant E. Ducey " The Rajah of Renfrew" University of Alberta Press 1998.
Ken McIntosh