Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Victoria Tyees Fold

Victoria Loses Pro Baseball As Tyees Forfeit Franchise
[Victoria Colonist, Aug. 4, 1954]
Professional baseball came to the end of the road yesterday morning, when club officials announced after a meeting that they had forfeited their franchise in the Western International Baseball League.
That made Monday night’s 6-5 victory over the Salem Senators the last professional game played here and there appears little hope that the sport will return to the city within the foreseeable future.
Financial trouble was, of course, the reason for the inability of Victoria Baseball and Athletic Co. Ltd. to continue in the league. It had been evident for some time that only a minor miracle would keep the Tyees in operation until the end of the season. It had been increasingly difficult to meet each succeeding payroll and the end came with the club facing a 10-day road trip between the July 31 and August 15 payrolls.
NEEDED $14,000
At least $14,000 was needed to carry the club through that period and even if that amount could have been found, the August 31 payroll, if not the next road trip, would have brought another crisis. Crowds have been so small that receipts weren’t enough to pay the cost of opening the park and playing the last three games of the Salem series would have cost money even though the home club keeps all of its gate receipts this season. So they were cancelled.
There were only 327 at Monday’s game, a far cry from a crowd of more than 4,100 which saw the first WIL game here in April of 1946. And attendance for the 46 home games this season was about 28,000, an average of less than 700. That’s about half of the break-even point.
Just what professional baseball has cost to keep in Victoria for eight and a half seasons probably will never be known. The club did a little better than break even in the first three seasons of operations. Then diminishing receipts and increasing costs of operation made each season a losing venture. At the last annual general meeting last spring, the auditor’s report disclosed a capital deficiency of $118,000 and while no figures of the 1954 loss are available, it is likely at least another $40,000 was lost this season.
Victoria joined the WIL in 1946 and although a last-place club, 103,000 fans turned out to watch the return of professional baseball. There was an attendance of approximately 137,000 in 1947 and the peak was reached in1948, when attendance soared to 148,000.
From there it was downhill with the skid quickening until the bottom was reached yesterday morning.
Attendance dropped to 115,000 in 1949, to about 110,000 in 1950, and to 87,000 in 1951. It came back slightly in 1952 as Victoria came up with its only winner, then dropped to 56,000 last year.
Sale of stock to Victorians kept the club going until mid-season last year, when Bob and Laura Fergusson-Pollock, two ardent Cobble Hill fans, stepped in to keep it in operation to the end of last season and give it a start this year. But baseball apathy had set in and there had to be an end.
Just what the WIL will do now that it has been reduced from 10 to seven clubs in six weeks will be decided at a special meeting in Seattle today.
League-president Robert B. Abel could shed no light on the possible course of action when queried yesterday.
“I really don’t know,” he said. “I assume everybody is able to continue.”
However, several other clubs are known to be in financial difficulty and there is a chance that the league may continue with six clubs, if it continues at all.
As for the players, all who were owned by the Tyees become free agents and are free to sign with whatever club they can find employment.
The Tyees sold second-baseman Ron Jackson, southpaw Berlyn Hodges and catchers Milt Martin and Don Lundberg, rated their best prospects, to the Portland Beavers before they forfeited their franchise and the quartet will either get a chance with the Coast League club or be placed with another team.
Phil Page and Bill Bottler were on option from Portland and Tom Perez and Hal Flinn on option from San Francisco. They remain property of those clubs.
Of the others, outfielder Neil Sheridan was the first to make a connection. He came to terms with Vancouver and left immediately to join the Capilanos.
Most of the others—Steve Mesner, Mike Kanshin, John Tierney, Bob Drilling, Eddie Lake, Dain Clay and Mel Stein—will doubtless be shopping for the next few days. Manager Don Pries, who won’t have any trouble getting a playing job, will accept an offer as soon as he has cleaned up personal affairs. Bill Prior will likely go back to his job as a printer.

By Jim Tang

[Victoria Colonist, Aug. 5, 1954]
Professional baseball is dead in Victoria and all but dead in almost all of the minor leagues, a victim of the modern high standards of living.
A lots of reasons have been advanced for its failure to keep healthy—and weather, poor promotion, lack of evidence of sincere competition among the businessmen athletes who have taken over as players, and a trailing club have all hurt. But, more than anything else, it has been the amenities of modern life which have been responsible.
Radio, television, the automobile and the airplane, fatter pay cheques, which have made the use of all possible to more and more people and changed their thinking so that nothing pleases them any more except the best, have done in minor baseball—and much other in-between entertainment as well.
Radio and television have brought major league baseball into every home with its glamour and names and the motor car and airplane have made it only hours away when curiosity has to be satisfied. Today’s minor league baseball fan would sooner listen to the broadcast of a major league game than watch his own club play.
Ask a Victoria who leads the American League in strikeout and he will answer “Bob Turley” as quick as a flash. It’s 100-1 he didn’t know that Salem’s Johnny Briggs is the master of the whiff in the WIL. He knows all about Irv Noren’s hitting streak, reads everything he can about Willie Mays, and he can give you an almost complete account of the career of Stan Musial. The phone rings and rings when Cleveland and the Yankees or the Dodgers and the Giants play but a request for a Victoria score has almost invariably been from Johnny Johnson.
But, somewhat ironically, it’s not only the minor leagues who are suffering. While television has kept people in for their entertainment, the automobile has sent them ranging far and wide for new experiences. Either way, baseball has been the loser with the minor leagues losing their fans to the major leagues and the major leagues finding it increasingly difficult to meet the competition of wheel and antenna. Much of it may have been baseball’s own fault but there is not much use denying that a steadily changing way of living makes it next to impossible to do anything about it even if baseball should set its house in order.

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