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.

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