Die-Hards and Gimmicks Put New Life in Wenatchee Club
(Editor’s Note: This is one in 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 JOHN RICHARDSON
Wenatchee Daily World [April 26, 1954]
WENATCHEE — Die-hard baseball fans and a gimmick called the “apple box derby” have jumped new life into the Wenatchee Western International League baseball franchise.
About ready to throw in the sponge and facing a $30,000 deficit at one point during the winter, baseball boosters here have cut the red ink to a trickle.
The apple box derby was a natural for the Apple Capitol [sic] of the World. Fruit warehouses entered 60 boxes to be floated 18 miles down the Columbia River.
Entry fees were $10 and tickets were sold for $1 entitling purchasers to estimate the time, in advance, of the winning play. Almost $3,000 was raised to help pay the team’s old debts.
The event along with a donation campaign and creditors voluntarily closing out their accounts, allowed the team to whittle the $30,000 debt down to about $6,000.
To head the 1954 club, the Chiefs signed as manager George (Highpockets) Kelly, the old New York Giant first baseman, who for several years has been a coach for the Pacific Coast League Oakland Acorns.
Kelly began his career in 1914 at Victoria, and was later an all-time great for John McGraw in the 1920’s with the Giants.
A strong tie-up with Oakland will be in effect this year, with Kelly on hand to develop young talent for the PCL club.
Never given to superlatives, Kelly has already predicted Wenatchee will have “the best infield in the WIL” this season. He bases this forecast on the return of Tommy Munoz, a .302 hitter in 95 games with the Chiefs last year. Tony Rivas, a hard-hitting rookie second baseman and Jerry (Pumpsie) Green, a top-flight glove man last year.
Munoz signed with the Oaks for $30,000 three years ago. Rivas entered pro ball this spring after California collegiate experience, and Green was a defensive standout last year with Wenatchee. He will play shortstop this season, with veteran Don Stanford, a .294 hitter in 1953, moving over to third base.
In the outfield. Joe Unfriend, a .303 bitter in 1950 who has just returned from two years in the service, is expected to hold down centerfield.
Rookies Don Faber, from Oakland and Dick Stacey, a Spokane boy who played at San Jose Junior College, are other outfield prospects.
Ross McCormack, a. three-year veteran with Wenatchee, was purchased by Oakland last winter but may be returned for another season in the WIL. He hit .292 in 1953 and is a top defensive man.
Manager Kelly has his biggest problem in the pitching and catching departments. Harry Bartolomei and Jake Helmuth. last year’s receivers, have retired from the game and only Matthew Kellum-Rose, a rookie, and Walt Aragon, who has had some pro experience, were in the Chiefs’ spring training camp at Petaluma, Calif.
Keith Bowman, a fire-balling righthander who had an 8-9 record and a 3.40 earned run average, and veteran Charlie Oubre, 14-15 last year, will form the nucleus of the mound staff.
Also returning are Frankie DeCarolis, a five-foot- five-inch relief hurler who had a 7-8 record in 1953, and Jack Klein, 2-9, mainly reliefer.
Despite his one-hitter in the first week of Coast League play for Oakland, righthander Charlie Beamon may be returned to Wenatchee, according to Kelly. Beamon had a 10-12 record last year.
Kelly also hopes to get Rick Botelho, the lefthander who was picked on the WIL second all-star
team and who posted a 11-10 mark last season. Both Beamon and Botelho are 19-year-olds.
Ernie Broglio, another Oakland youngster m his second year of pro ball, also is being eyed by Kelly.
With a strong infield in sight and potentially good pitching, and the help expected from Oakland, Wenatchee fans are betting their team will finish higher than the fifth and ninth-place standings of the 1953 split-season.