Pitcher Wanted. Must be good.

One of the first things I’m doing in researching the history of the Far West League, because I can do it sitting on the couch next to my wife, is using my SABR membership to search the archives of The Sporting News, and I’m downloading pages with items that have to do with the FWL.  I can tell already I’ll conduct searches a number of different ways, using city names and eventually player names, because I’ve already found examples where a search for “Far West” hasn’t picked up very clear placings of the words.  Then you get into line breaks (“Far” on one line, “West” on the next) and the fact that some of the Paper of Record scans aren’t good enough to be searchable, and I know there will be plenty of work involved in finding news from TSN.

Anyway, as is so often the case, I start out looking for one thing and then get distracted by something else.  My current distraction is classified ads.  Many of the pages with minor league news include classifieds from teams looking for players, or players looking for teams, and I find them fascinating.  Somebody should do an entire book or web site just devoted to preserving these.  In the meantime, I’ll share a few I’ve stumbled upon.

The ad that started this interest is this one:

This was in the issue dated January 24, 1951.  Andy Sierra was a 34-year-old man among mostly boys in 1950, when he pitched the Klamath Falls Gems to the FWL’s regular season pennant.  He never reached the majors, but he had gone 17-11 in the International League in 1942; in 1948 and ’49 he won 11 games in the Texas League each year.  I don’t yet know how he wound up on the bottom rung of the minor league ladder in 1950, pitching for future major league pitching coach Hub Kittle.

I don’t know if Sierra intentionally exaggerated his stats in his ad; the 1951 Sporting News Baseball Guide shows him with 22 wins and 258 strikeouts in 239 innings.  At any rate he led the league in strikeouts by a huge margin, had five more wins than anybody else, and had the lowest ERA among pitchers who worked at least 140 innings (the FWL played a 140-game schedule that year).

And he did move up, spending his last three seasons as a player in Class B ball.  In 1951 he went 9-3 with a 2.95 ERA at Gainesville (Tex.) in the hitter-friendly Big State League, where five of the league’s eight teams averaged at least six runs a game.  I’d love to know if Andy’s ad played a role in his going to Gainesville, and I hope I’ll find out before this project is through.

I haven’t done any kind of systematic search for Sporting News classifieds; I’ll just share a few that came up on pages I’ve downloaded.  Here’s a favorite from August 11, 1948:

The Michigan City Cubs played in a very fast semi-pro league.  “Must be good…No has-beens need apply.”  You can’t put it any plainer than that.

All right, here’s some more:

January 28, 1948

February 18, 1948...I'd love to know if this worked.

February 18, 1948...looking through the records, I'm not sure Johnny ever did play Organized Ball in the U.S.

February 18, 1948...must have worked, Galax won the regular season Blue Ridge League pennant

January 21, 1948...Hopkinsville also won its regular season pennant

August 11, 1948

June 30, 1948

November 12, 1947

Also November 12, 1947...I wonder how many men applied for both the jobs above?

May 26, 1948

May 26, 1948...Vicksburg finished second but never did seem to solve the shortstop situation. The man who played the most there, James Long, made 36 errors in 60 games and batted .214

December 14, 1949

March 8, 1950...Remsen is near Sioux City and apparently played in a pretty fast semi-pro league

January 24, 1951, the same issue Andy Sierra's ad appeared in...Joe Smolko was a teammate of Jackie Robinson's briefly in 1946 at Montreal, but this ad didn't seem to work, I find no record of him playing pro ball after 1950

February 28, 1951...I hope Haines got a refund, Flint went 38-98 in 1951

February 28, 1951...Lafayette also finished last in its league, but with a more respectable 60-80 record

February 20, 1952

February 20, 1952...Austin played in an extremely competitive semi-pro league

February 20, 1952...taking advantage of the fact that several minor leagues shut down after the 1951 season. The pickings must not have been very good, because Hopkinsville wound up 50-70

May 7, 1952

I don’t know which part of this ad I like better, “c/o YMCA” or “Reasonable bonus to sign.”  It would appear Joe Consoli was actually at least 32 years old at the time of this ad…he had not played in Organized Ball in 1951 and would not in 1952…but we’ll see him again later.

May 7, 1952

Louis Lukasiuk did wind up catching on with Lakeland of the Florida International League in 1952, batting .192 in 20 games.  He placed another ad that ran in both the issues of January 21 and 28, 1953:

Lukasiuk didn’t get a job in ’53…but in 1954 he wound up playing for four different teams, hitting a combined .377.  He even managed Hot Springs of the Cotton States League for three weeks in midseason.

November 12, 1952

Laddie Paul was a .300 hitter in 1947, ’48 and ’49 and had a good year in B ball in ’49…but he hit .217 in C ball in 1950 and never got back into Organized Ball.

January 21, 1953

I wonder if that was Joe Consoli, but not using his name this time?

January 21, 1953...didn't turn out to be a good strategy, Danville finished last in the Mississippi-Ohio Valley League

January 21, 1953

And guess who got the job?  Joe Consoli–who led the Panthers to a 68-55 record!  It was the last year of professional baseball in Fond du Lac.  Consoli then went to Blackwell in the Class C Western Association in 1954 and managed until he was replaced on June 30…he later scouted for the Pirates and was considered one of the best in the business.  He was a charter member of the Mid Atlantic Scouts Association Hall of Fame.

January 21, 1953

Glenn McQuillen wound up playing four more years in the minors, none of them higher than Class A.  He hit .346 with 22 homers in the West Texas-New Mexico League as a 40-year-old.

January 21, 1953

There are enough clues in this ad to probably be able to figure out who this was, but I’m not going to put the time into it.  If you do and you figure it out, will you let me know?

About these ads

6 thoughts on “Pitcher Wanted. Must be good.

  1. Pingback: Baseball-Reference Blog » Blog Archive » Bloops: Baseball Classifieds

  2. Charles DeLano

    These are some very interesting classifieds for ball players. Meanwhile, don’t forget about 1945. In a video about the 100th anniversary of the Cardinals, the Redbirds organization put together an ad (at least half a page) seeking qualified ballplayers in TSN. At the time, as many baseball scholars and aficionados know, over 50% of players on 1941 rosters were overseas fighting in WWII. See if you can find out if other clubs put ads in for players just as the Cards did in ’45. Meanwhile, the Nationals might put in ads for players in 2010 (they’ve been doing this for at least three years, LOL). But seriously, here is my two cents regarding classifieds for players in the major and minor leagues.

    Reply
  3. Pingback: Friday Links (15 Jan 10) – Ducksnorts

  4. Pingback: OK. Whew. That was hard. « THE ELEPHANT SEAL!

  5. Rich Elles

    Hi JG…
    Sitting down watching my Phillies tonight and checking Google for my Uncle Joe… and up pops your web site… about Joe Smolko… I never saw that newspaper clipping before… but here’s a little info to help fill in your data…. he was the youngest 1/2 brother to my mom… from what I remember, we lived in Philly and Joe lived in or near Central City, Pa. My earliest recollection was traveling to see him and the rest of the family in Western Pa. in the early 50’s.. he had been a coal miner… and had been in something called the CCC’s foryoung men during or after the war… then he was at spring training for the Dodgers in Florida… but I’m not sure what season… and it was in Florida where he met his future wife… also from the Central City area… I remember being shown an 8mm film of him at that training session where he pointed out The Rifleman, Chuck Connors who was also with the Dodgers at that time… but I never heard if he made the team… and as the mines failed… he moved to Philly, bought a house or two… rehab’ed them to live in and rent out… I also remember he was a good carpenter… because he did make a bat for me at his mother-in-laws home in Central City that year we visited….. he even got me a part time job parking cars at the Germantown YMCA in Philly in the late 50’s… he passed away from Cancer in Philly and was buried in Central City in or around 1969/1970… Thanks again for the view at the clipping ..

    Reply
  6. Pingback: Things I found while looking for other things: Some unusual classifieds in The Sporting News | The J.G. Preston Experience

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