Monday, 1 September 2008

WIL is Finished

Western International May Operate With U.S. Clubs
SEATTLE, Sept. 27—(UP)—The Western International Baseball League was formally dissolved yesterday, in what seemed an inevitable end after a season of chronic financial crisis.
However, moments after the meeting ended, owners of the Wenatchee, Yakima and Tri-Cities clubs in Washington, and the Salem, Ore., and Lewiston, Ida., teams, met in informal session, intent on the idea of forming a professional baseball league to operate in 1955, founded on those five teams.
Bob Abel, president of the Class A loop, said formal dissolution was decided upon because, specifically, "of the absolute refusal of the teams in the states to play in the league with Edmonton, the sole franchise holder in Alberta, Canada. “It was just impractical, for the American teams to make the long journey to Edmonton.”
Calgary, Alta., was a former member of the WIL, but dropped out, as did Victoria, B.C., and Spokane, because of financial inability to operate. Vancouver, B. C. was the only other Canadian team still in the league at the end of the past season.
Babe Hollingbery, Yakima, was designated as temporary chairman of the informal group of five teams. They will meet again Oct. 23 in Yakima.
The league board of directors and franchise holders set Dec. 15, 1954 as the formal dissolution date “to protect the present franchise owners on all their player contracts,” Abel said.

Caps Minus A League, As W.I. Loop Bows Out
Move Surprises Local Club; Financial Hurdles Too High

[Vancouver Province, Sept. 27, 1954]
Vancouver’s position in professional baseball is uncertain today. The Western International League voted to put itself out of business Sunday by folding the league.
Though no one cares to admit it, the action was the result of two things—though those two things could be summed up in one word: Money.
This last season has not been a particularly happy one for the WIL. The setup started out with 10 teams, ended up with seven—and none of these seven made anyone millionaires. Spokane, Calgary and Victoria all chucked it in before the season was over.
But probably the direct reason the league directors decided to write “the end” to the Class “A” WIL was of the long travelling distances to Edmonton. Salem, for instance, had to travel 800 miles to get to the Alberta city. The thing that hurt the most, though, was Edmonton was probably the biggest drawing club in the circuit.
Travel Tough
The obvious step, it would seem was to boot Edmonton out of the league.
“Try it,” general manager John Ducey had warned earlier during the season, “and we’ll sue.” Under the WIL constitution, Ducey could sue the WIL if they gave Edmonton the heave-ho—so they disbanded the league, effective Dec, 15 instead.
Apparently four clubs (two of them were Lewiston and Tri-City) made no secret they wanted Edmonton out. After a seven-hour meeting, the vote was 5-0 to terminate the WIL. Vancouver and Edmonton—who had refused a request to withdraw—abstained.
President Bob Abel of Tacoma then issued the statement: “The WIL formally resolved to dissolve the corporate organization as of Dec. 15, 1954.” And then the wheels started turning.
Babe Nominated
There was an immediate move to start another loop in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. The move was led by Salem, Wenatchee, Yakima, Lewiston and Tri-City. A temporary committee under chairman Babe Hollingbery, president of the Yakima Bears, was set up to dig into the possibility of a new eight-team league.
One report said “the committee will contact interests in cities reported interested in gaining a franchise. Cities named were Tacoma, Spokane, Eugene, Coos Bay and VANCOUVER.”
Reason for keeping the league officially in operation until Dec. 15 is to protect the interest of the club owners. If the league were officially closed now the players would become free agents and could accept positions where they liked, a major item when the draft system starts in not too many years.
Won Three Flags
Tommy English, president of the Capilanos, told The Province from Seattle:
“Obviously, it’s too early to make any plans yet. We don’t know just where we stand. We didn’t expect this when we came to Seattle.”
The WIL came into existence in1937, with Vancouver a charter member. The club was known as the Maple Leafs then and played in what is now Callister Park, but was then Con Jones. In 1939, Bob Brown took over and the Capilanos moved into Athletic Park. The league folded from 1943 to 1945 because of the war.
In the middle of the 1951 season the Caps moved into their new home at Capilano Stadium. Three times, in 1942 under Don Osborn, and 1947 and again this last season, under Bill Brenner, the local team ahs won the WIL championship.

City May Lose Pro Baseball
WIL Disbands In December
Travel Difficulties Given As Reason For Dissolution

[Vancouver News-Herald, September 27, 1954]
Vancouver may be without professional baseball next summer for the first time since 1946. Directors of the Class A Western International League Sunday voted to dissolve the organization, effective December 15, 1954.
The meeting in Seattle was attended by representatives of each of the seven clubs, along with president Robert Abel.
Five of the delegates voted in favour of dissolution with Vancouver and Edmonton declining to cast a ballot.
Tom English, president of the Vancouver Capilanos Baseball club, attended the meeting and told The News-Herald he was still hopeful of operating next season.
Said English, “There is still a possibility that there will be professional baseball here next summer. I can’t say at this time what class it will be, but I do know it won’t be any lower than Class A.”
At the same time, English clarified Bill Brenner’s position with the club. Brenner will remain on the payroll indefinitely as general manager.
The News-Herald learned that if there is no professional baseball here next year, Brenner has an excellent chance of becoming manager of the Seattle Rainiers of the Coast League. Jerry Priddy, who handled the club this year, was released recently.
What would happen to Capilano Stadium should there be no baseball is still a deep mystery. The stadium was build three years ago at a cost of half a million dollars and baseball was counted upon to bear the brunt of the cost.
Although the 1954 Vancouver Capilanos went to considerable expense to build a championship team, it attracted only 55,000 fans, an all-time low. Capilanos won the first half schedule and then beat out Lewiston Broncs in straight games to capture the Western International League pennant.
Following the dissolution of the league, Salem, Wenatchee, Tri-City, Yakima and Lewiston directors gathered and designated Babe Hollingbery of Yakima as temporary chairman of a committee to form a new professional baseball loop in the U.S. northwest.
Should the circuit become a reality, it would be of lower calibre since any Class A League must boast a total population of a minimum of one million people.
However, several directors are still hopeful of reviving the WIL, thus the season [sic] for the late date of the dissolution.
The league directors issued the following statement through president Abel:
“The WIL formally resolved to dissolve the corporation organization as of Dec. 1, 1954.”
The resolution, Abel said, was the outgrowth of a discussion centering around the impracticality of travel between the U.S. entries and Edmonton.
The trip to Edmonton represented a 550-mile jaunt for the closest team, Lewiston, alone. For the other five members the mileage was even more, with Salem required to make an 800-mile trip to play at Edmonton.
Under the disbanding date on Dec. 15, the owners of the clubs in the WIL would be protected on their player contracts under rules of the National Association of Minor Leagues.
Although Abel denied the financials situation of the teams in the WIL was the reason for the dissolution it was generally believed that red ink was a dominating factor.

Sea of Red Ink Drowns WIL Ball
Caps’ Future Very Cloudy As Loop Folds

Special to The Vancouver Sun
[Monday September 27, 1954]
SEATTLE—After two years of floundering helplessly in a sea of red ink, the Western International Baseball League has decided to abandon ship.
In a Seattle meeting over the week end WIL directors voted to disband December 15, 1954.
Meeting was attended by one member from each of the seven clubs and league president Bob Abel. Five delegates voted for dissolution. Vancouver and Edmonton did not cast ballots.
Resolution was an outgrowth of a discussion concerning the impracticality of travel between the U.S. entries and Edmonton.
The closest U.S. team, Lewiston, had to travel 550 miles in their Edmonton trips. Rest of the teams travelled further, with Salem having the longest trip, 800 miles.
There was an immediate move by five of the teams, Salem, Wenatchee, Yakima, Lewiston and Tri-City, to start another league in the Pacific Northwest. Brand of ball will be lower than Class “A”.
Babe Hollingbery, president of the Yakima Bears, who was named chairman of a committee to dig into the possibility of getting eight teams together.
Hollingbery said directors of the five teams involved have scheduled a meeting for next month and will make concrete plans to the proposal seems advisable.
Plans are sketchy at this point, although it was determined that any league formed should have eight teams.
Vancouver Caps, 1954 champions of the WIL, have been mentioned as one of the teams which would be included in the tentative league.
What will happen to Cap Stadium if there is no pro baseball next year is still unknown. The three-year-old, half-million dollar ball park was built with the idea of having the ball team pay for it.
Caps had an excellent class “A” ball club this year but not even their great work on the diamond could stop the fans from staying away. An all-time low of 55,000 fans clicked stadium turnstiles this year.
Disbanding of the league has been expected for some while, led by the bankruptcy of three clubs. The WIL started in the spring as a 10-team league. It ended the season with seven teams. Spokane, Calgary and Victoria bowed out because of financial embarrassment.
Both Hollingbery and Abel denied financial condition of teams was the reason for the dissolution. But it is generally believed red ink was the dominant factor.
League nearly collapsed early in the season when most clubs—Vancouver excluded—had trouble paying their way.
It was reported later in the second half of the season that more U.S. clubs were on the verge of dropping out of the league. One club was said to have relief pitchers taking tickets at the game to save cost of extra help.
“The WIL feels it was handicapped by the weather and adverse publicity it got from the teams not finishing the season,” Hollingbery said.
If Vancouver refuses to join the proposed Pacific Northwest league and if they do not get a chance at Pacific Coast league ball, it will be the first season since 1946 Vancouver has not been represented.
Fate of Vancouver’s popular manager Bill Brenner is undecided but he still is the choice of Cap brass as general manager. If Vancouver doesn’t have professional baseball, big Bill may get a chance at the held of parent Seattle Rainiers.

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