I recently sent a query to Seattle Rainiers scholar, collector and SABR member Dave Eskenazi to see if he had any information or materials about Spencer Harris, the longtime Seattle resident and former Rainier about whom I’ve written in an earlier post. In his response, Dave asked, “Are you the Far West League guy? I LOVE that league.” After I assured him I was that guy, Dave generously offered to let me scan some of his collection of Far West League ephemera…so, courtesy of the David Eskenazi Collection, I’m delighted to present some images from correspondance Dave has acquired pertaining to the FWL.
We’ll start with the full letterhead from a 1950 letter from FWL president Jerry Donovan:
Note that Redding Browns president, manager and star player Ray Perry was also a vice-president of the league!
Now let’s take a look at home some of the league’s franchises presented themselves in correspondance:
Klamath Falls was a member of the league in all four seasons, although you’ll notice this particular letter was written in 1952. It was written by a member of the team’s front office, who was losing his job and asking the general manager of the Portland team in the Pacific Coast League about a position in Victoria, British Columbia. Klamath Falls appears to have had the strongest franchise in the league; the Gems had a winning record all four seasons, taking the regular season pennant in 1950 and winning the playoffs in 1951. They also led the league in attendance the first three seasons, and by a wide margin in 1949 and 1950 (Eugene was the final season’s attendance champ). But Klamath Falls has never had another minor league team, due to a combination of size and location.
Marysville was a charter member of the FWL in 1948 and stayed in through the 1950 season. They weren’t wasting any stationery; this letter was written in November 1948, but Eddie Wheeler had been fired as field manager in August.
Pittsburg was a charter member of the league, but the team moved to Roseville in August 1948. Pittsburg rejoined the league, using the same Diamonds nickname, in 1949, then dropped out again while in first place in the standings midway through the 1951 season.
The Santa Rosa Pirates were a charter member of the FWL, but that ownership dissolved after the 1948 season. The Santa Rosa Cats entered the league in 1949 and were apparently a very badly run franchise that left a trail of debts behind when they dropped out of the league in August.
There are only two Far West League cities that aren’t represented in the letterhead above: Oroville (Cal.), which was a member in 1948, and Willows (Cal.), which was on board for the first three seasons.
Jerry Donovan served as president of the FWL all four seasons (while also serving as president of the California League starting in 1949) and is one of the great figures in California baseball history. He spent a decade as a player in the Pacific Coast League, hitting the first PCL home run in Seals Stadium in 1931, and became president of the Seals in 1956. When the Giants moved to San Francisco in 1958, he was hired as the team’s business manager and stayed in their front office until his death in 1981. Before starting his baseball career, Donovan was a basketball star, earning AAU All-American honors and leading the Olympic Club to the national championship. You’ll find some of Donovan’s story in this writeup of the 1928 San Francisco Seals, for whom he played.
Ray Perry is the great figure of the Far West League, the man who sparked my interest in this in the first place.
Dave Eskenazi tells me has some additional FWL items he’s willing to share with me, and I look forward to seeing them. Thanks, Dave!