Victoria Athletics on Market, Franchise to Be Kept in City
By JIM TANG [Colonist, Nov. 17, 1951]
Community-owned baseball in Victoria is no more. At least, this civic enterprise will end when, and if, the Victoria Baseball and Athletic Co., Ltd., find a buyer for its Western International League franchise.
Shareholders met at the Y.M.C.A. yesterday to discuss what to do about the Athletics, burdened with debt after three consecutive seasons of red ink. At the end of the meeting, officials made the following short statement and declined to elaborate.
“The directors have been authorized to negotiate for the sale of the Victoria W.I.L. franchise so it will be kept in Victoria.”
The only explanatory work was the announcement that directors do not have the authority to sell the franchise. They will try and find some prospective buyers and call a meeting of shareholders when a concrete offer has been made. Shareholders will make the decision on any sale.
The only chance—and it is probably a slim one—that the club will remain at least a partial community effort is if someone should buy up enough outstanding stock or get majority control.
While it is unlikely that the Victoria Baseball and Athletic Company Limited will continue to exist, it is the consensus that Victoria will be in the W.I.L. next season. Victoria is rated a good baseball town and would make an ideal farm club for a Pacific Coast League team.
Business manager Reg Patterson had not comment when queried about reports that the Portland club which had a working agreement with the A’s last season, has first chance of refusal. However, it is generally believed that Portland is the most likely purchaser although several people have shown interest in acquiring the franchise. Among them are Ted Norbert and Marty Krug, former club field managers.
Nor was there any report of the amount needed to take care of outstanding accounts. It is estimated the club owes as much as $30,000 and there is approximately $40,000 in outstanding stock.
Assets Include 14 Players
Assets include the franchise, 14 players, the lights at Royal Athletic Park and playing and concession equipment.
The lights cost about $10,000 to install and would cost more today if they had to be re-installed. It would be difficult to assess their value at Athletic Park, which is owned by the city of Victoria. The club has four years left on the 10-year lease it signed with the city when the club started play in 1946. Whether or not the lease will remain in effect if the club is sold is not definitely known and officials claimed they weren’t certain.
Players owned by the baseball club are: Catchers Milt Martin and Rocco Cardinale; infielders Hal Jackson, Jim Clark and Bill Dunn; outfielders Ben Jeffey, Bill White and Gene Thompson, and pitchers Jim Propst, Jim Hedgecock, Ben Lorino, Bill Osborn, Bill Prior and Bill Carr.
Bob Sturgeon, who was “signed” for a second term as manager if the present ownership continued to operate the club, is a free agent. He was given his release before the draft deadline.
Also undecided but not any problem for the new owner is the suit of ex-manager Dick Barrett for the balance of last season’s salary, a sum in the neighborhood of $3,000.
Barrett was granted the money in a verdict by George Trautman, minor league head, but the A’s appealed to the executive council of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues. The council will make a decision at the annual meeting in Columbus early next month and whoever loses will doubtless appeal to baseball commissioner Ford Frick. If the A’s lose, directors of the Victoria Baseball and Athletic Co. Ltd. will have to pay unless they try civil action. That is not likely.
So ends the six-year effort to make professional baseball play its way in Victoria as a community enterprise.
The club was formed in 1945 with Laurel Harney doing the spadework. About $28,000 in stock was sold and the A’s played their first W.I.L. game in April, 1946, with Harney as manager and Patterson as business manager and without a working agreement.
Successful Under Yanks
Harney was replaced early in 1946 by Norbert, who remained at the helm until mid-season in 1949, when he was replaced by Earl Bolyard on orders from officials of the New York Yankees. The A’s and Yanks entered into a working agreement before the start of the 1947 season and continued to work together until the end of the 1949 season.
Patterson has remained as business manager and Johnny Johnson as president through the six years. George Straith, Francis Norton, Vic Clarke and Ray Parfitt have been directors from the start.
The A’s made money in 1946, 1947 and 1948 but rising costs saw them lose $9,000 in 1949, $22,000 in 1950 and as much again last season. The figures are approximate. More stock was sold to keep the club in operation.
Artistically, the A’s were never took much of a success. They had only two seasons—1947 and 1948—when they managed to finish above .500. They finished fifth and third, respectively, for those seasons. It was last in 1946, fifth again in 1949 and 1950 and seventh last year.
The club had its best success as a Yankee farm club and the 1947 team should have won the pennant. It was in a five-team battle right up to the wire and fell back after losing a double-header, 5-4 and 1-0, to Vancouver Capilanos near the end of the season. Its final standing of 80-72 left it six games from the top.
In 1948, the A’s wound up with a 93-68 record, yet were six and a half games behind Spokane and two and a half games behind Bremerton.
Fans will long remember the interesting 1947 aggregation, which had Jack Harshman, Leo Righetti, John Cavalli and Babe Jensen in the infield, Bill White and Olney Patterson and Johnny Hooper in the outfield, and Vic Mastro and Bill Anske behind the plate. Bill Woop, Len Kasparovitch, Dick Mitchell and Joe Blankenship were the mound stalwarts.
The 1948 club had Vic Buccola, Jack Palmer, Russ Walseth and Jensen in the infield, Archie Wilson, Charlie Balassi and Lou Kubiak in the outfield and Sal Recca and Didck Morgan as catchers. That was the year five pitchers—Blankenship (25-10), Propst (12-6), Del Owens (16-2), Kasparovitch (18-14) and Frank Logue (14-7)—compiled an aggregate record of 85 wins and 49 defeats only to find it wasn’t enough.
Top graduate is Gil McDougald, second baseman of the 1949 club and this year the star of the Yankees and the American League rookie award winner. Wilson, who won almost every individual batting title in 1948, will get a chance with the Yanks next season, as will Rex Jones, righthander class of ’49. Harshman had parts of two seasons with the New York Giants.