Wednesday, 12 December 2007

WIL Meeting Ahead - Column

By Jim Tang
[Victoria Colonist, Oct. 28 1951]
Fate of the Western International Baseball League and several of its member clubs may be decided tomorrow when team delegates and league officials convene at the Empress Hotel for a league meeting.
Although it is almost certain that the league will operate again, it is far from certain whether to not it will remain an eight-team league and conditions are far from cheerful. Minor league baseball is having a rough time and the W.I.L. is paying the price for striving to give better than the Class “B” baseball that was all it could afford.
As this is written, seven teams appear prepared to give it another whirl but at least two of these are doubtful quantities and the eighth team is an unknown quantity.
It can be safely presumed that Vancouver, Spokane and Salem are ready to start, Wenatchee and Tri-City are reported more or less ready but nothing has been heard from Yakima although it is believed that the Bears will be back.
That adds up to six teams, leaving Victoria and the franchise previously held by Tacoma Tigers. And here is a real problem.
What About Victoria?
Victoria officials have had little to say but appear to be confident that they can operate another season. Just how they pan to raise the money—estimated as much as $50,000—needed to pay off bills incurred over the past two seasons and leave a little for spring training expenses is something that they have kept to themselves.
Presuming that Victoria manages to remain, there still is the need of finding an eighth club. Bill Starr, owner of the Tacoma Tigers, has stated that he does not intent to operate another season and his franchise is up for sale.
Lewiston, Idaho, and Calgary have been mentioned prominently as the eighth club but things are not rosy in either direction. It is rumored that Calgary has lost interest and will not even be represented at the meeting. Which seems reasonable in that Calgary without Edmonton would not likely be a paying proposition.
That leaves Lewiston and, at the moment, the Idaho city is an extremely doubtful bidder. A baseball committee has been trying to raise $50,000 to purchase the Tacoma franchise, At last reports, the sum was pledged was just over $14,000 and $50,000 was only a mirage. Besides, Lewiston means another long jump for Coast teams and there is no assurance that the draw there would be enough to compensate for increased travelling expenses.
Not only is there the problem of getting enough teams but there is the knowledge that chances of breaking even are mighty slim, even in Spokane and Vancouver, with increased costs of operation being what they are. Certainly, they are slim enough to discourage new capital.
That part of the blame for the present condition of member clubs is due to the clubs themselves is evident. They have promoted badly and are reaping the inevitable crop failure. There has been a new for a full-time president ever since the W.I.L. was reorganized in 1946 but the majority of owners felt they couldn’t afford it, refusing to believe they couldn’t afford doing without a full-time operative at the top.
There is talk now of a full-time president, and of a new rookie rule which would cut the top-heavy salary costs but it may be too late. Good young players are invariably the property of clubs in the higher classifications and hard to get. But the situation is worse now with the U.S. draft skimming off the cream of the young talent which ordinarily would be prepping in a Class “B” league. There may be no choice except to go along with veterans who are at least partially disinterested or to use less expensive players with no future in baseball. The first comes high and the second could mean a lowering of the calibre which would be unwelcome to fans used to Class “A” baseball at Class “B” prices.

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