Possibility of Withdraw by Stampeders Poses Serious Problem for WIL Officials
BY JIM TANG
[Victoria Colonist, April 2, 1954]
Just as most clubs were getting ready to start their spring training, the Western International Baseball League has been confronted with a serious situation in the very definite possibility that the Calgary Stampeders will withdraw, leaving the WIL with only nine clubs, no Alberta company for Edmonton Eskimos, and brand-new schedule problems.
It has been known for some time that the situation at Calgary was far from rosy but some official or other would periodically come out with a reassuring statement. Only this week, a story from Calgary not only announced that the Stampeders would definitely play this season but told of plans for a new park in the foothill city for next week.
IN TRUE LIGHT
Matters, however, were disclosed in their true light yesterday when manager Gene Lillard, signed for a second term, showed up at Porterville, Cal., as scheduled for the opening of Calgary’s spring training camp. Nothing was ready. There were no uniforms, no equipment and, presumably, no ball players. And there was no money, either.
Lillard got in touch with league president Bob Abel immediately to appraise him of the situation and Abel announced that Calgary had withdrawn from the league.
Informed by Abel of this decision, officials of the Victoria Tyees went into action to see what could be done to salvage the situation. Club president Arthur Cox managed to get Bus Lacey on the telephone and after a long talk, stated he was reasonably confident that Calgary would stay in the league. Calgary directors will hold a meeting tonight to make a final decision on whether or not to carry on.
Making the situation even more poignant for other WIL clubs is the fact that the trouble in Calgary is not financial, although it has been reported that the Stamps showed a deficit of about $75,000 last season, their first in the WIL. It seems to be a matter of indifference. Lacey, a reportedly-wealthy Calgary oilman, has been in New York for the past six weeks and, it seems, nothing was done about the Stampeders in his absence although it was announced some time ago that a business manager had been signed.
“I just haven’t had time to think about baseball,” Lacey told Cox yesterday.
Meanwhile, worried WIL officials will assemble at Yakima on Sunday to discuss the problem in an emergency meeting. Most worried of all, of course, is John Ducey, business manager of the Edmonton Eskimos, who is flying up from his club’s California training camp to attend the meeting.
ONE ALWAYS IDLE
Just what would happen if Calgary pulls out is strictly a matter of conjecture at the moment. To go with nine clubs would mean that one club would always be idle, an almost impossible situation. Edmonton Eskimos, who would be stuck away off by themselves, have a big investment and would almost certainly insist on their right to remain part of the league. That would still leave clubs facing an Alberta trip for one club even if a 10th club should be found. It would not only be costly but would force an almost complete revision of the schedule with the likelihood that each of the other clubs would make only one Alberta trip.
The chances of finding a 10th club at this late date certainly can’t be rated as good. Butte, Montana, is said to be anxious to get a WIL franchise but that’s a considerable extension for a league which already encompasses too much territory. Tacoma interests are also said to be anxious to get a franchise but here there is that time element.
“We are going to do all we can to keep Calgary,” business-manager Reg Patterson of the Tyees said last night. And that, it appears at the moment, is most likely to happen. With the problem not financial, pleas and persuasion and pressure from nine sets of distraught club officials could well convince Lacey that it is his duty to carry on.
Lillard Waits to See If Calgary Will Stay In WIL
GOLETA, Santa Barbara Co., April 1—Gene Lillard, the manager of the Calgary team of the Western International League has returned home from Porterville, where his team was to do its spring training, and says he is awaiting a special meeting of the WIL in Yakima to see if Calgary is to stay as a member.
Lillard said the Calgary owners did not provide money for this training, he advanced some of his own, and finally became convinced there is not much chance Calgary will put a club in the running. He said that if Calgary folds, Edmonton’s chances will be impaired, as it is 200 miles farther north.