Bob Abel Returns As WIL President In Surprise Move
By JIM TANG
[Victoria Colonist, November 10, 1953]
Robert B. Abel, the Tacoma barrister who was first elected to the presidency of the Western International Baseball League in 1941, is again head of the Class “A” league.
In a surprise move at the annual meeting, which opened Monday at the Empress Hotel, league directors decided to replace Bob Brown, the Vancouver veteran who took over the presidential reins from Abel last year.
Brown made the announcement following the end of the third of yesterday’s lengthy sessions, stating that would remain as president until December 31, when his contract expires, and then turn the job over to Abel. Brown was named honorary president and will accompany Abel to the annual meeting of the National Association of Minor Professional Baseball Leagues, set for Atlanta, November 30 to December 4.
Club delegates questioned refused to elaborate on the announcement but it was obvious the decision had been made reluctantly and in the interests of economy. Abel will be a part time president, the same role he filed in his previous nine years, 1941, 1942 and from 1946 through 1952. The clubs decided last year to have a full-time president and Brown was elected at the annual NAMPBL meetings and Abel was retained as a legal adviser.
The presidential change was the big news of the first day but the WIL, which had expected to revert to an eight-team league after a season with 10 teams, was confronted with an unexpected problem. As far as could be ascertained last night, the league now has nine clubs willing to give it another try and is not at all certain whether it will have eight or 10 when “play ball” is barked across league diamonds on April 29 next year.
It had been thought, and announced, that neither Wenatchee nor Yakima would be back for 1954. Wenatchee had no representative at the meeting but Fred Mercy, Jr., owner of the Yakima franchise and first vice-president of the WIL, announced that a group of Yakima businessmen intended to retain the franchise in that city. And with Spokane apparently all set for another year, that left nine clubs—Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Victoria, Salem, Lewiston and Tri-City, as well as Yakima and Spokane.
Lengthy discussion on this knotty problem resulted in the announced decision that Wenatchee interests will be given until November 24 to offer proof they are ready to retain their franchise. Just what would happen if Wenatchee forfeited its franchise is still a matter for the future. There was a hint that Tacoma would apply for re-entry while at least one club favored Eugene, Oregon. Neither city was represented at the meeting.
With all clubs agreed that a later start would be helpful, it was finally decided that the 1954 season would open on either April 29 or 30, a week later than the past season. Edmonton pressed for a May 6 opening, a 124-game schedule, and a Shaughnessy playoff to be over not later than Labor Day, September 6. April 29 was the compromise date and Labor Day was set as the closing date of scheduled play.
No decision was made on playdowns. Edmonton reportedly had the support of Victoria and Calgary in the request for the Shaughnessy playdown, but best information available Monday night was that the other clubs were opposed and that the league would retain the split season used for the first time this year.
The only other decision reached yesterday was to retain the Spalding baseball as the official WIL ball.
Delegates will convene again at 9 this morning in an effort to clean up unfinished business. This includes suggestions that some sort of a limit be placed on the date of training camp openings and that the league player limit be reduced from 18 players—ad well as the election of other officers. If past meetings are any criterion, as much business as possible will be completed quickly this morning and any matters which can not be decided in the one sitting can be left over for the next league meeting, which will probably be held some time in January.
Representing the host Victoria club at the meetings were club president Arthur Cox and business-manager Reg Patterson. Delegates present from other clubs were:
Vancouver—president Tom English, general and field manager Bill Brenner, and vice-president Dewey Soriano, 1953 general manager who is now general manager of the Seattle Rainiers.
Calgary—president Norman “Bus” Lacey.
Edmonton—president Brant Matthews, vice-president Cecil B. Ross and general manager John Ducey.
Salem—president Bruce Williams and Hugh Luby, general and field manager.
Tri-City—president Harold Matheson and Eddie Taylor, former coach of the Seattle Rainiers who was recently appointed general manager.
Spokane—owner Roy Hotchkiss.
Lewiston—president Jim McMonigle, business manager Tom Tabor and director George Thiessen.
Yakima—owner Fred Mercy, Jr.