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.