In no particular order, here are some of the more prominent players and managers in the four-year life of the Far West League…not including Ray Perry, who’s been discussed previously…
Joe Gantenbein (player/manager, Klamath Falls, 1948): Gantenbein was an infielder with Connie Mack’s Philadelphia A’s in 1939-40. His first managing assignment was in 1948 and he took Klamath Falls to the seventh game of the league championship series. He also hit .368 as a part-time outfielder for the Gems.
Dick Young (outfielder, Klamath Falls, 1948): A first-year pro in the first season of the FWL, Young had a brief career in the major leagues (20 games with the Phillies in 1951-52). He had more than 1400 hits in a minor league career that lasted until 1960.
Don Ferrarese (pitcher, Klamath Falls, 1948): Ferrarese made six appearances in the FWL to begin a career that included 183 games in the majors from 1955-62. He’s become a generous philanthropist in the high desert of southern California.
Niles “Sonny” Jordan (pitcher, Klamath Falls, 1948-49): A World War II vet, Jordan broke into pro ball with six appearances for Klamath Falls in 1948, then returned to go 19-7 for the Gems in 1949. He quickly moved up the ladder, going 17-6 at Terre Haute in 1950 and 21-3 for Wilmington in 1951 to earn a spot with the Phillies late in the ’51 season. Jordan pitched a three-hit shutout against Cincinnati in his major league debut but won only one other game during his brief major league career in 1951-52.
Spence Harris (player/manager, Marysville, 1948): Harris had 3617 hits in a minor league career that began in 1921 and ended in Marysville. He took over as manager of the Braves on August 14, 1948, two days after his 48th birthday, and he hit .361 in 11 games down the stretch. Harris is the all-time minor league leader in hits, runs, doubles and total bases and also played 164 games in the majors between 1925 and 1930.
Ed Wheeler (player/manager, Marysville, 1948): Wheeler had spent the 1945 season with Cleveland. He was Marysville’s first manager before being replaced by James Keller on August 3.
Larry Shepard (pitcher/manager, Medford, 1948): Shepard went 22-3 at Medford and led the FWL in wins and ERA. It was the first of four straight 20-win seasons for Shepard (who had the others for Billings) on the way to 179 career minor league wins. It was also Shepard’s first year as a manager; he managed in the minors every year but one through 1966, then managed the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1968-69. After being fired by the Pirates, he became Sparky Anderson’s pitching coach with the Cincinnati Reds for all of Sparky’s nine full seasons with the Reds.
Nino Bongiovanni (player/manager, Oroville, 1948): Bongiovanni started his career in the Pacific Coast League in 1933 and finished his minor league career with more than 1800 hits. He played 68 games for Cincinnati in 1938-39, serving as a backup outfielder for the Reds’ 1939 National League champs. In 1948, his first year as a manager, he led Oroville to the regular season championship. He lived to be 97.
Jack Littrell (shortstop, Oroville, 1948): Littrell made his pro debut in the FWL and continued playing until 1962 in a career that saw him get almost 1400 hits. He also saw action in 111 major league games with the A’s and the Cubs between 1952 and 1957. Littrell was a railroad brakeman and conductor after his baseball career and died just last year.
I’ll continue posting these as I can. By the way, I finally set up a Far West League category here on the blog to make it easier to find the FWL posts.