Lots of New Faces in 1954 Edition of Spokane Indians
(Editor’s Note: This is one of the series on the prospects of the Western International League, written for The Associated Press by the sportswriters who follow the teams throughout the season.)
By BOB JOHNSON
Spokane Chronicle Sportswriter
[Tuesday, April 27, 1954]
SPOKANE—Any resemblance between the 1953 Spokane Indians who won the Western International League pennant and the 1954 club now being put together by Manager Don Osborn may be purely coincidental.
That’s not to say the Indians won’t be a contender again. Manager Osborn thinks they will be. But there'll be a lot of new faces in the lineup.
The Indians, who started a youth movement a few seasons ago, plan to stick with youngsters again although there will be a mild sprinkling of older players to help settle the newcomers.
Holes Not Filled
With the opening of the season just a few days away the Indians aren’t completely set. Biggest holes are in the infield and the need for a left-handed hitting outfielder.
Only five members of the 1953 championship club are back. Will Hafey, who hit 25 homers a year ago, and Eddie Murphy, the veteran centerfield speedster, return to the outfield. Only Bob Donkersley is back at shortstop among the infielders.
Ralph Romero and Virgil Giovannonni represent the only returnees to the mound staff.
Everything else is new although Osborn is hopeful that Jimmy Command currently is working out with Syracuse, the Phils triple-A club in the International League. Brown is a holdout.
Osborn believes he has made improvement in the mound staff with many new faces. Among them are John Anderson, who won 18 for Terre Haute last year; Len Wisneski, a 12-game winner from Salt Lake; Jack Trautwein, a big left hander who had a 9-6 record at Granby in the Provincial League and Tom Lawson who is still a student at Michigan State.
Just out of service and eyeing mound jobs are Bud Closs, a 6 foot 4 inch right hander, and Charles Schildmeyer, a 200 pounder credited by Osborn with one of the best curve balls in baseball.
A Western International League pitching veteran who hopes to make a comeback is Dick Aubertin, out of pro baseball last year.
Besides Donkersley at shortstop Osborn has Gerald (Red) Robbins, a service returnee working at first base and Chuck Ruddock, who was in the Army the past two years working at second. If Brown and Command return it’s possible Ruddock will fill the utility infield role, having played all positions but first.
Murphy and Hafey give the Indians at least two-thirds of a solid outfield. Attempting to pick off the right field spot is John Vossen, a right-handed swinger who has never hit under .300 during his professional career. He was an outstanding athlete at Oklahoma University a few seasons ago.
The catching department has two new faces since Bill Sheets was sold to Edmonton and Jerry Ogle was drafted. Ellsworth (Diz) Dean, first string receiver for Salt Lake last year, has teen designated as the Indians first string receiver. Eddie Sack, who was with Terre Haute last year, is the No 2 back stopper and may yet work his way to a starting assignment.
Since Spokane has a full working agreement with Philadelphia this year Osborn expects to get whatever additional help he’ll need to keep the Tribe in contention.
He rates the Spokane mound staff as superior and the catching at least as good if not better than a year ago. The outfield looks capable but will miss the big bat of Stan Palys, who led the 1953 champs with a .331 average.
The Indians got off to a shaky start last year but came on strong to win the second half race and the playoff. They figure to get stronger as the season moves along again.
Spokane Indians Face Major Rebuilding Job
BY RAY ANDREWS
SPOKANE, Apr. 21 (UP) — If Don Osborn and his Spokane Indians win the Western International title this year it will represent the biggest construction job in the northwest since the Grand Coulee Dam.
Osborn turned the trick last year when the Indians took the second half of play and then downed Salem 4-2 in the playoffs but the 1953 outfit is no more.
When Osborn assembled his hopefuls at Bennetsville, S.C., this spring, he faced the task of rebuilding from the ground up.
PALYS WITH PHILS
Stan Palys, a .331 hitter last year with 95 RBIs is making a bid with the Philadelphia Phillies; Will Hafey, who hit 25 homes and drove in 110 runs, is trying to stick with Syracuse; infielders Jim Brown and Bob Donkersley are trying to move up and hurler Jack Spring (14-8) and George New (5-12) are showing their wares elsewhere.
Others missing from last years squad are catchers Bill Sheets and Jerry Ogle; pitchers Bill Franks and Bob Nemes; shortstop Wilbur Johnson; third sacker Jim Command and first baseman Carl Bush.
It is possible many of those working out in the Philadelphia farm system will be turned back to Spokane. Others will not be back.
With this bleak outlook staring him in the face, Osborn was no doubt pleased when centre-fielder Eddie Murphy of last year’s team turned up at training camp.
Murphy covers more ground than a circus tent, hit .269 last year and swiped 41 bases. His presence gives Osborn something to build on.
Meanwhile, the Spokane skipper must await help from the Phillies. Some of it has already hit camp and Osborn is looking over a flock of newcomers.
Lefty Jack Trautwein (9-6) with Granby of the Provincial League in 1953 has joined the Indians’ camp along with right handers John Anderson, Charles Schieldmeyer, Len Weniski, Ralph Romero and Tom Lawson.
MAY BE PRIZE
Romero was around last year and picked up 11 victories while losing 10. The rest. Anderson (11-8) with Terre Haute of the Three-I League in 1953 seems to be the prize. Weniski won 12 and lost 13 for Salt Lake City last season; Schieldmeyer is back in pro ball after a tour in the military service and Lawson is a college player for whom Osborn has high hopes.
Catcher Ellsworth Dean, a .270 sticker with Salt Lake City last season, has been turned over to the Indians along with Tom Cooper, reserve backstopper for Schenectady in 1953.
Outfielder Frank Turcey, who hit .277 with Terre Haute in 1953, has joined the club along with Bull Rudock, infield who played first base before Uncle Sam got in his bid.
That’s about the current crop from which Osborn must try to pluck a winner. There will be more and the picture can change fast but, as of now, Osborn must do the best with what he has.