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.
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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
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Vancouver Only Get Four Blows; High Wind Spoils Opening; Ross Edy Looks Good, Hal O’Banion Works Smart Game for Wenatchee.
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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.

1 comment:

Norman Klenman said...

Wondrous website. Brings back the memories. In the thirties I lived in Kits, spent most evenings at Athletic park. Worked for Bob Brown as ballboy, then took over in-park mike for announcing after brother Allan went to work at CKWX. 75cents a nite. Bob fired me for rewriting his un-grammatical announcements between innings. Stu Keate hired me to write high school sports for Province, then Hal Straight to write for Sun and I came back to cover many intercity and WIL games. Baseball a huge sport here in those days. Brown was a great curmudgeon.Norman Klenman nklenman@shaw.ca