Tri-City Hosts Calgary in Thursday Night WIL Start
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
[Thursday, April 29, 1954]
“Give us folks decent weather,” says Bob Abel, “and the Western International League will have a tremendously successful opening night Thursday.”
The Tacoma attorney who doubles as league president will attend the Tri-City portion of the opening baseball program at Kennewick. The game will match the Calgary Stampeders—the team that was snatched from the grave—against Tri-City’s Braves.
Elsewhere around the 10-team circuit Edmonton will open at Salem, Wenatchee at Lewiston, Yakima at Spokane and Victoria at Vancouver.
Calgary, plagued by memories of poor attendance last year, came close to dropping out of the loop just when spring training was due to start. In the nick of time the directors decided to continue and the Stampeders will be set to go when the umpire yells “play ball!”
All the towns have drafted elaborate plans for the opening, with booster club luncheons and pre-game ceremonies. Spokane will have a parade with drums, bugles, beauties and one real, live elephant.
Lewiston appears to rank as the early favorite, mainly because it has nearly everybody back from the team that finished strongly in 1953. The Broncs could get their toughest opposition from Vancouver’s Capilanos, who swiped the Lewiston manager-pitcher, Bill Brenner, during the winter.
Many of the clubs which seemed ticketed for also-ran status a week ago have begun to show improvement as the Coast League pared its rosters and sent a number of promising players to the WIL.
As was the case last year, the league will play a split-season schedule, rubbing out the standings and starting over July 7.
WIL Will Open Season Tonight
By United Press
The Class “A” Western International Baseball League, long on spirit, but sometimes short on cash customers, opens a 150-game, split-season tonight with 10 teams ready to go.
Opening night games feature Victoria at Vancouver, Calgary at Tri-City, Edmonton at Salem, Wenatchee at Lewiston and Yakima at Spokane.
League President Robert Abel of Tacoma will take in the Tri-City-Calgary game at Kennewick where Don Robertson (14-9) in 1953 will hurl for Tri-City and Ed Kapp (10-7) last season takes the mound for Calgary.
Calgary, incidentally, caused financial flurry early in spring training when it looked like the Stamps would not field a team come starting day. However, Calgary fans got behind Manager Gene Lillard and the Stamps are now ready for the first pitch
Vancouver, under new Manager Bill Brenner, opens at home against Victoria. The Capilanos finished fourth and this in last year’s play but are an added threat this year with Brenner available for mound duty and a good crop of rookies sent down by the Seattle club of the Pacific Coast League.
Brenner says he will send Bill Franks (13-14) with Spokane last year to the mound while the Victoria starter is unannounced.
Spokane, last year’s playoff winner, opens at home against the Yakima Bears. Spokane Manager Don Osborn lost a flock of talent from last year’s team but has a new crop of hopefuls from the Philadelphia Phillies. Righthander John Anderson who won 18 and lost 11 with Terre Haute in the Three-I League in 1953 will start for Spokane.
At Salem, the Salem Senators present a new manager in Harvey Storey who blasted WIL hurling for a .343 mark in 1953. Storey will send Jack Hemphill (15-12) in 1953 to the mound. Salem opens against Edmonton who will probably counter with John Conant (24-13) on the mound.
Larry Barton will try to bring Lewiston home in front this year—a feat nearly accomplished last season by his predecessor, Bill Brenner. Barton boasts lots of punch in his lineup but has a hatful of hurling problems. Lewiston meets Wenatchee at home in the opener.
George Kelly, former New York Giants star, is at the helm of the Wenatchee club this year and the Braves really hustled during spring training. Kelly hopes they keep it up.
Last year, the loop drew 701,959 customers through the turnstiles with Edmonton leading with 92,758 and its next-door neighbor, Calgary, low with 40,106.
Salem took the first half in 1953 with a solid finish to win by 1½ games over Edmonton. Spokane edged Lewiston by one game in the second half and went on to down Salem 4-2 in the best-of-seven playoffs.