January 3, 2010
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:
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.
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.
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.
I wonder if that was Joe Consoli, but not using his name this time?
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.
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.
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?