Saturday, 9 August 2008

WIL Loses Calgary and Spokane

Spokane and Calgary Are Cut From the WI League
Schedule To Be Changed Immediately
TACOMA, Wash., June 21—(AP)—The ailing Class A Western International League was cut Monday from 10 to teams as Spokane and Calgary officially withdrew.
League President Robert B. Abel announced at WIL headquarters here that the Spokane franchise has been ordered surrendered and the Calgary team, which nearly folded at the start of the season, has been disbanded. Most of Spokane's players will be returned to the parent Philadelphia Phillies.
The WIL had been the only 10-team minor league in the country after the addition of Calgary and Edmonton two seasons ago.
Abel said the WIL schedule will be revised immediately to complete the season with eight clubs.
Status in Doubt
Spokane's status had been in doubt for more than a week since owner Roy Hotchkiss surrendered his franchise with the explanation he could no longer afford to operate at a loss. He said poor health also prevented him from continuing further.
Since then, the club has been “carried” by the league while a citizens’ committee in Spokane attempted to raise upwards of $40,000 to assure operation of the team for the balance of the season.
Monday, the “Save Spokane Indians, Inc.,” disbanded after raising less than $3,000, although the an organization had the rest of the week to get the money. The committee decided the effort was fruitless.
Calgary's franchise had been ordered surrendered by Abel shortly after the season opened when the owners failed to provide meal and travel money for the Stampeders in their first road trip. Subsequently, new finances were arranged and the franchise was restored.
The Calgary players were told Monday by the president of the Stampeders, Bus Lacey, that the team had come to the end of its financial tether.
Lacey said he had “poured a lot of money” into the venture and could go on no longer. Games at Calgary have been drawing on average of only 300 fans—far too few to meet the club’s payroll of $6,000 a month.
Edmonton Uncertain
Calgary’s disbanding leaves the status of Edmonton somewhat uncertain. The Canadian prairie city s nearly 800 miles from most other WIL members, who have complained the long trips to Alberta were too costly.
Only eight days ago WIL directors, at a meeting in Spokane, considered demands from Lewiston, Idaho, and Salem, Ore., that both Edmonton and Calgary be dropped. The two Canadian members fought the move, and succeeded at the time in keeping the league intact.
Cold weather, a rash of postponements because of rain and poor attendance brought financial woes to the league from the start this year.
At Spokane, the head of the “Save Baseball” Committee, Mayor Arthur Meehan, said about the fund-raising drive: “We just couldn’t get any interest stirred up.”
He said the group would now direct its efforts toward getting a team in the league next year.
Roy Hotchkiss, former owner, quit last week because of poor health and financial troubles. The team has been fulfilling its schedule for the past week on league financing.
The team members, who worked their club into third place in the league last week, and Manager Don Osborn were on a train en route from Calgary, Alta., to Vancouver, B.C., Monday and didn’t know their orphaned status.
They were scheduled to open a three-game series with Vancouver on Tuesday.
Troubles elsewhere in the shaky league probably had something to disinterest in Spokane, Meehan said.
“Those stories in the paper about Lewiston’s financial troubles, and the problem Salem has had making ends meet haven’t helped.”
Most of the Spokane players are owned by the Philadelphia Phillies of the National League, with whom Spokane had a working agreement this season.

Spokane and Calgary Fold Their Tents in Western International
TACOMA, June 22—(AP)— After weeks of uncertainty and financial woe, the far-flung Class A Western International League was down to eight teams Tuesday following the almost simultaneous loss of Spokane and Calgary.
Both clubs dropped out Monday from what had been the country’s only 10-team circuit.
The announcement by league president Robert B. Abel at WIL headquarters here that, the Spokane franchise and the Calgary team disbanded evoked little surprise.
Both teams were floundering in a sea of red ink caused by apathy the of the fans, cold and rainy weather and in Spokane the counter-attraction of television.
Unless the Spokane players, most of them owned by the parent Philadelphia Phillies, heard the news aboard-train they still were unaware early Tuesday of their plight.
At the time the Spokane civic committee “Save Spokane Indians, Inc.” threw in the towel on a fund-raising drive the team was en route from Edmonton to Vancouver, B.C., and due some time Tuesday.
The committee gave up in its campaign for $40,000 to insure continued operation of the club after less than $3,000 was pledged during the week of solicitation. The league had taken over the Spokane franchise a week earlier when owner Roy Hotchkiss said he could not continue a losing operation.
Calgary’s president Bus Lacey told his players the same story Monday, and split up the club’s bank account of $810 among the 18-man squad. A $3,150 deposit with the minor league president, George Trautman, also will go toward player salaries.
Reaction of other owners was a mixture of relief and determination. Most seemed glad the indecision over the two ailing ex-members was over, and confident the league could finish out the season intact.
The loss of Calgary left the Edmonton Eskimos at the “end of the line” in Alberta nearly 800 miles from the nearest other WIL club, but manager John Ducey said “it won't affect us a bit.”
Ducey described the Eskimos’ as “in a very solid position,” and said other teams would continue to get a $600 guarantee to help meet travel costs on the long road trips to the Canadian prairie. This is the only exception made to the league's rule of the home team keeping all gate receipts.
Spokane's departure from organized baseball came just a half dozen or so years after the Inland Empire city set a minor league attendance record.
Civic interests there say they will do the spade work this year to insure the re-entry of Spokane into the WIL next season.
Several other teams, notably Lewiston and, Salem, have been hard-pressed financially this season but improving weather and promises of community support have helped them over the hump.
So serious was the overall problem of poor attendance and anemia at the box-office that directors met about 10 days ago in Spokane to decide whether the entire league would have to disband. The decision was to continue, with the hope Spokane and Calgary would revive.
They didn’t.

8-Team WIL Revises First Half Sched
[June 22, 1954]
The Western International Baseball League revised its schedule with the withdrawal of the Spokane Indians and Calgary Stampeders, and Vancouver, slated to be host Tuesday to the Indians, opens instead at Yakima.
Spokane and Calgary pulled out of the league Monday, both blaming financial losses due to poor attendance.
The new schedule, announced by WIL president Robert Abel, covers the period until July 5 when the league ends the first half of its split season. Abel said a new program is being prepared for the balance of the year.
The schedule:
June 22-24 — Vancouver at Yakima, Tri-City at Salem, Victoria at Lewiston, Edmonton at Wenatchee.
June 25-26 — Victoria at Wenatchee, Vancouver at Lewiston, Edmonton at Yakima, Salem at Tri-City (doubleheader Saturday.)
June 27 — Vancouver at Lewiston (2), Edmonton at Yakima (2), Victoria at Wenatchee (2), Salem at Tri-City.
June 28-30 — Tri-City at Edmonton, Salem at Vancouver, Lewiston at Victoria, Yakima at Wenatchee.
July 1-3 — Tri-City at Edmonton, Lewiston at Salem, Yakima at Vancouver (Doubleheaders Thursday and Saturday), Wenatchce at Victoria (doubleheaders Thursday and Saturday).
July 4 - 5 (doubleheaders both days) — Edmonton at Lewiston, Vancouver at Salem. Victoria at Tri-City, Wenatchee at Yakima.

By Bob Johnson
[Spokane Daily Chronicle, June 22, 1954]

The decision by the "Save Spokane Indians" committee to dissolve after failing in an effort to raise enough money to carry the Spokane club through the remainder of the 1954 season, came as extremely bad news yesterday although we can't say we were surprised.
It seemed like there were just too many obstacles in the way of success. Maybe dissolved the club and getting out of baseball at least for the rest of the 1954 season is a good thing.
Spokane baseball needed surgery, certainly. It was suffering real pain and maybe nothing but a major operation now will save it for the future. The entire Western International League may undergo the same operation before things get back to normal again.
While it may seem to the outsider that $40,000 was a very insignificant fund for a community of more than 170,000 to raise, the problem, we think, goes much deeper than that.
Future Too Uncertain
We agree that $40,000 is a pretty sizable amount to pay for a business that was withering on the vine, as was baseball here the day that former owner Roy Hotchkiss pulled out. But even that wouldn't have been too bad if there had been some guarantee that the league itself was going to survive after July 5 or in 1955.
There weren't any business men interested in sinking any cash in that kind of proposition. And there weren't enough of the "little fellows" to make any kind of a real contribution to the $40,000 fund. As a result the committee to save the club didn't have any other course but the one it followed.
Some may hold that the hotels and the restaurants, who gain the most from a business point of view out of the sports, should have come through with the needed cash. Others might have helped too, but the facts are that interest in the Indians, from the business man's point of view, had ben insignificant for several years and was growing gradually worse.
Ask the business men why they weren't enthusiastic about baseball any more and they'd give you a variety of reasons from, "I don't like Hotchkiss," to "I won't be interested again until we get a decent ball park."
There were too few who supported it because it was baseball regardless of where it was played or who owned the club.
What Next?
But all that is water under the bridge. The question is what do we do next to get the game going again?
In view of the present situation there isn't much that can be done except wait—and posibly pick out and set aside a site for a future baseball park.
If and when Spokane does return to organized ball a park with a covered grandstand amnd seats with backs appears to be a must from many points of view Ferris field is ideally located for baseball. But the amount that Hotchkiss wants for the land causes us to believe that it's too valuable a piece of property for a ball park. There must be cheaper land just as suitable that can be used.
It wouldn't seem to be good business to pay around $150,000 for 12 acres when you have to figure on spending between $300,000 and $400,000 more just to erect a grandstand with a few thousand covered seats.
Unfavorable Publicity
While Spokane will receive a lot of unfavorable publicity nationally for dropping out of baseball, we think the move will not hurt the city's chances of getting into the Coast league some day. The town's rceord prior to the 1948 fire that destroyed the 7200-seat grandstand was exceptionally good. There's no reason to believe it won't be just as good again.
Today it's pretty hard to believe that the city which carried the Western International league on its shoulders for so many years has dropped by the wayside.
There's comfort in the thought, however, that there's always tomorrow and baseball again.

Spokane, Calgary Ouster Force Caps Back on ‘Road’
Brenner Gang Back Friday

[Vancouver Province, June 22, 1954]
Don Osborn and his Spokane Indians rolled into town by train this morning at almost the same time as their supposed opponents, Vancouver Capilanos, were leaving by automobile for Yakima. This confused state of affairs, all too typical of the unstable Western International League since before the start of the 1954 season, followed on a possibly inevitable announcement by league president Robert Abel that two of the pro loops’ 10 teams had folded.
The Spokane team, ward of the league for a week since owner Roy Hotchkiss forfeited his franchise and the always-shaky Calgary Stampeders gave up the ghost officially Monday. The Spokane franchise was turned over to the parent Philadelphia Phillies and Calgary disbanded.
Calgary’s bubble burst when the club couldn’t raise fund to go to Yakima for a series scheduled to start tonight. That was the death knell for a citizens’ committee, the “Save Spokane Indians, Inc.,” that had been trying to raise enough money to keep the Indians going. They had raised less than $3000 of a required $40,000 in a week.
Immediate effects on the Capilanos, and the league, were these:
1. The Caps’ series here with Spokane, scheduled to start tonight, of course blew up, and the locals will now play in Yakima tonight, Wednesday and Thursday.
Re the rest of the week, Caps’ Bill Brenner has a wire from league president Bob Abel saying Lewiston will be here. Lewiston will play a double-header here Friday and one game Saturday.
2. The first half schedule, expected now to end June 30, will continue through to the original date, July 5.
In Calgary, president Bus Lacey called a meeting of the players and told them: “I’ve poured a lot of money into this thing and I just can’t go on. There has to be a halt somewhere.”
It was estimated that the club had lost $60,000 in two years of operation.
Calgary’s folding will undoubtedly raise howls among certain clubs about the long haul to the prairies just to play one club, but in Edmonton, John Ducey made a firm stand.
He pointed out that his team has “lived up to every commitment,” and said that if league directors should attempt to disenfranchise them “baseball would find itself in civil courts.”

Calgary, Spokane Give Up Ghost
Change Affects Schedule of Tyees

[Victoria Colonist, June 22, 1954]
Yesterday, only eight days after it had been decided upon at an emergency meeting in Spokane that all clubs would continue to operate, the Western International baseball found itself an eight-club organization again—less than a season and a half after it had added Calgary and Edmonton to become organized baseball’s only 10-club league.
The missing clubs are Calgary Stampeders and Spokane Indians. Both, it was reported yesterday afternoon, have officially withdrawn.
Stampeders, who caused league officials to gather before the season started and again after the season was only about two weeks old, came to the end of the road yesterday when the team was disbanded following a conference with club-president Norman “Bus” Lacey.
“I’ve poured a lot of money into this thing,” Lacey told his assembled players Monday. “I just can’t go on and the other directors feel the same way so there’s nothing to do but call it quits.
“I am sorry for the inconvenience it causes you fellows but there has to be a halt to this thing somewhere.”
It had been rumored that the Calgary players had refused to make the club’s scheduled road trip this week because they hadn’t received their semi-monthly pay on June 15.
This couldn’t be confirmed but it was announced that the $810 left in the club’s bank account had been split among the 18 players and that the $3,150 deposit with the National Association of Professional Minor Baseball Leagues would also be used for player salaries.
Playing-manager Gene Lillard expressed his regret to see baseball wind up in Calgary and said that he believed Calgary would be a good baseball centre “if given a better break in the weather.”
All the players except catcher Dennis Luby and outfielder Charlie Lundgren, who belong to Reading, Pa., and Sacramento, respectively, were given their unconditional released.
Somewhat ironically, the WIL was helped out of the impossible situation of striving to carry on with nine clubs by the lack of success of the drive to save baseball in Spokane.
A group headed by Mayor Arthur Meehan, had set out confidently a week ago to raise the necessary $40,000 to take over the Spokane franchise, given up by Roy Hotchkiss. Yesterday morning, the total raised was only about $3,000 and when the Calgary situation developed as it did, Spokane also dropped out.
“We just couldn’t seem to get any interest stirred up,” Meehan said as he announced his group would now devote its attention to returning to the WIL next season.
Most Spokane players are owned by the Philadelphia Phillies and it is believed that they will be sent to other clubs in the Phils’ farm organization.
Loss of Calgary failed to dampen the determination of Edmonton Eskimos to remain in the league.
“It won’t affect us a bit,” general-manger John Ducey said last night.
“Edmonton is in a very solid position. We were invited into the WIL with no strings attached and we have lived up to every commitment.”
Apparently believing that the loss of Calgary might cause renewed efforts to get rid of Edmonton, Ducey also issued a word or two of warning.
“League directors,” he said, “could not disenfranchise a club in good standing. Any such attempt and baseball would find itself in the civil courts.”
Ducey was outspoken about the Stampeders, blaming financial losses to “indifferent operation, lack of proper playing facilities, and poor press and radio relations.”
He said there was a tremendous potential for class “A” baseball in Calgary “with a new ball park.”
But he said class “A” baseball should never be sanctioned in Calgary as long as Mewata Stadium was the only park and that any new Calgary team would have to “undergo and satisfy a very close scrutiny.”
However, there appeared to be little reason to believe that there would be any further attempt to oust Edmonton. The Eskimos have promised all U.S. clubs $600 for every scheduled U.S. trip and without Calgary it’s almost certain that all clubs will visit the Alberta capital once during the second half, playing a full week.
Second-half play will now start on July 1, with the first half being cut short by four days in order to help meet schedule difficulties imposed by the withdrawl of the clubs.
First schedule change was made yesterday when Vancouver Capilanos, who were to have hosted Spokane yesterday, today and tomorrow, were sent to Yakima to play the Bears in the three games previously scheduled for the Stampeders.
Changes will also affect Victoria Tyees, due to open a 12-game home stand Thursday.
Spokane was to have been the first of three clubs during the stand and there was no word last night on who would replace the Indians. There is also [a] chance that the Tyees won’t open at home until Friday.
Other series don’t end until Thursday, and unless Lewiston Broncs are sent here, both the Broncs and Tyees will be idle Thursday. The Broncs were scheduled to play here Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week and it may be that this series will be moved ahead.
Definite word is expected today.

Folding Puts Some Players On Block
[Tri-City Herald, June 22, 1954]
The folding of Calgary and Spokane in the Western International league means that some pretty good players are up for grabs and Tri-City general manager Eddie Taylor may soon be sounding out the field.
Taylor said today he doesn’t think that any of the Spokane players, really owned by the Philadelphia Phils through paper deal working agreements, will be optioned to Tri-City or ether teams in the league.
“They will probably be spotted at other farm teams such as Syracuse (AAA), Schenectady (A), Terre Haute (B),” Taylor said.
He said, however, if he could get his hands on a pitcher such as John Anderson, “I sure as heck would take him.”
The ex-Calgary playing staff is a more fertile ground to seek players Some of the better ones are Jim Wert, first baseman, Gus Stathos, centerfielder, and Elmer Clow, shortstop.
However, although some of these players may be taken up by other teams, Tri-City will be primarily eyeing the pitching staff to find a replacement for Bud Guldborg.
One likely bet is Bob Schulte, lefthander. His record last season and this has not been overly impressive but playing manager Edo Vanni likes to have a starting left-hander on the staff.
Righthanders on the Calgary mound staff are Bill Stitcs, Ed Kapp, and Bullet Joe Orrell. Stites has the lowest earned run average of the crop with a 4.42. This figure seems high until the short Calgary fence and its hitter’s heaven is considered.
In other deals, Taylor said he has not heard from his offer to Harvey Storey, former playing manager of the Salem Senators.

Sports Notes

[Tri-City Herald, June 22, 1954]
So Spokane wasn't able to raise $40,000 to buy a ball team? Maybe this could be the cause.
Two weeks ago I was in Spokane hanging around the lobby of the hotel where the Western International league meeting was going on. I had my car outside the hotel, put a nickel in the meter, and had gone inside to see what gives.
Two nickels and two undetected parking meter violations later, it looked as if we would be there a long, long time so I figured the best bet would be to get the vehicle off the street and into a nearby parking garage.
I drove the car in the garage, waited, and waited for the attendant who I could see in the nearby glass office. Finally, I shut off the engine, went inside to get some action.
Inside the office, there was a young man, either a senior in high school, or possibly in the lower college grade age.
“You'll have to wait. No-hitter goin’,” he said breathlessly and went back to a nearby radio.
The no-hitter was going all right and I listened with him.
At that time, Jim Wilson of Milwaukee was but one out away from pitching that magic game.
The last batter was up, and the air in the parking garage was made doubly tense by the contortions of the parking attendant. He was plainly sweating out Wilson for all he was worth.
Wilson threw a ball. The boy raised his eyes in prayer.
Wilson threw a strike. The boy leaped and cheered.
He hit his hand with his fist, cussed, cheered, prayed, and walked in circles.
The count went up to 3-2.
Then the batter hit the ball.
I don’t know how the play went but by the announcer’s description, it was the closest play of the game. A fielding gem. Beautiful play. History was made by the remarkable fielding of the Milwaukee infield and the runner almost beat it out to ruin the game. The crowd went wild.
“Listen to ‘em. Listen to that crowd!” my parking attendant friend shouted to me. “Boy, oh, boy what a ballgame!”
He took five minutes to catch his breath, then gave me one of those stubs so I could get the car when I wanted it.
* * *
The Play Got Little Mention

When I left, he was still babbling about the no-hitter and that final play of the game.
Later on I read the news accounts of the game and I wonder if the announcer and some reliable newsmen saw the same no hitter. For although the newsmen mention a foul ball earlier and a close play in the eighth inning which almost ruined the no-hitter, nothing was said to indicate the final out was anything more than a routine ground ball. One would think that if it was that close, some of' those
reporters would have seen it.
* * *
They All Sound Good

Wilson’s no hitter was a great game all right. But I’ll bet it didn't look as good as it sounded on the air and therein may lie some of Spokane’s troubles.
The fans in Spokane listen to major league broadcasts day after day. And those big league announcers are capable of making a 21-3 fiasco sound good. Pop flies that a one-armed Little Leaguer could take in become beautiful catches, routine ground balls become fielding gems.
No major league outfielder, apparently is clever enough to second guess a hitter and stand around where the ball is going to come down. Almost all fly balls to the outfield are taken off the wall, three steps to the left is a “running catch,” three forward calls for some hysterical cries of “diving catch.”
And the pitches. “Flutterballs, knucklers, sliders," and all manner of weird and wonderful names.
After listening to such beautiful play day after day, I wonder what the Spokane fans must think when they go to Ferris Field and see players field ground balls simply by reaching down and throwing them to first, or see outfielders take in fly balls without running a mile and a half, or strike out trying to hit ordinary curves and fastballs.
* * *
Does He Know About Indians?

And I also wonder if that young parking garage attendant knows Spokane has a minor league team, or if he knew that half the cars in his garage belonged to Western International league bigwigs who were across the street attending that Spokane team’s funeral or if he knew that a Spokane pitcher named Ralph Romero also had pitched a no-hitter a week before.
Maybe that young man just likes any kind of baseball and has bought stock in the corporation there. Maybe he has.
* * *
Pitcher Sought

And general manager Eddie Taylor is looking for a pitcher. Now who is around and available? Well, there’s Don Tisnerat, formerly with Lewiston. His record isn’t so good this year but last season he won 13 and lost 7 for Edmonton with an ERA of 3.38.

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