EEEEEE! Looks at Books

The Pacific Coast League, 1903-1988 -- Bill O' Neal

by Todd Hawley


Tuesday, July 26, 1999

While doing some research recently for my San Francisco Seals website, I came across this book at the library. The Pacific Coast League, 1903-1988 obviously is a book about the history of the PCL. It covers the league through the 1988 season, with a footnote near the end of the book about the 1989 season. Since the book came out in 1990, it's a bit dated now (especially since the PCL absorbed some of the American Association teams in 1998 and now has 16 teams, instead of 10 a couple years ago!)

Since I started working on my Seals site, I've become something of a fanatic about the old PCL. What's interesting about this league, as opposed to other minor leagues is that from its creation in 1903 until 1958, when the Giants and Dodgers moved west is that it was really an "independent" league in a lot of ways. The teams would sign their own players and those needing more "seasoning" were sent to one of the league's "farm teams," usually teams in the low minors.

As I mentioned in my Nuggets on the Diamond review, numerous players preferred to play in the cooler weather of the PCL cities, like Portland, Seattle, San Diego, San Francisco, and even Los Angeles and Sacramento. Consequently, the level of play in the league was close to if not on par with the majors.

The book starts off with chapters on each decade, starting with the 1900s through the 1980s. What I found especially interesting were the stories of each season, and the players involved. The PCL over the years had some truly amazing ballplayers, some were players who for one reason or another never were major league quality, yet "terrorized" the league! Players like Buzz Arlett, Jigger Statz, Steve Bilko, and Ike Boone, for example.

You say you've never heard of them? Well, read this book and you'll discover why I mention them. Even if they only had the proverbial cup of coffee in the majors, they were Triple-A legends. Which may be of course the same as saying F.P. Santegelo might have been a legend at Triple-A, but I digress.

Of course the PCL had its share of future Hall of Famers like Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, the Waner brothers, and other stars like Minnie Minoso, Al Rosen (yes, that Al Rosen!), Frank Crosetti, and even later day stars like Bill Mazeroski, Luis Tiant, and Tony Perez.

The book has an interesting section about how the St. Louis Browns almost moved to Los Angeles after the 1941 season. The winter meetings were to begin December 8, 1941. However, the bombing of Pearl Harbor the day before put an end to this discussion as the owners, obviously fearful there wouldn't even be professional baseball in 1942 voted against the move. Can you imagine the "Los Angeles Browns?" Just think, if that move had happened, would the Giants and Dodgers still have moved west?

The book describes, as did Nuggets the PCL's attempt after World War II to become the third major league. Interestingly enough, the league owners were concerned that Portland and Sacramento wouldn't be able to support major league teams and were looking at Denver and Dallas as cities to replace those two cities if they gained major league status.

It also describes what happened to the PCL after major league baseball moved to California and how the league adjusted. I feel a little sad the PCL didn't get its wish.

It also describes some of the PCL's greatest teams, including the 1934 Los Angeles Angels (who some argue was the best minor league team ever), some of the great Seals teams, the 1948 Oakland Oaks team, all the way through the "dynasties" that the Spokane Indians (later the Albuquerque Dukes) had in the late 1970s through the early 1980s. They, of course, were the Dodgers' Triple-A team, and several players whom we all learned to hate later as LA Dodgers played on those teams!

The author devotes later chapters to players with famous nicknames and a chapter about each city's ballparks. The parks ranged from state-of-the art facilities (for the time) like Wrigley Field in LA, Seals Stadium in San Francisco, and Sicks Stadium in Seattle to "termite-infested" Lane Field in San Diego, and to more modern-day fields like the ones in Las Vegas, Calgary, and Edmonton.

There's also a section devoted to individual histories of each PCL city. I got to got to find out where a lot of these old teams moved to! The book finishes with an extensive section of individual yearly leaders.

I believe this book is currently out of print, and I hope I can find a used copy somewhere. I found this book fascinating and any baseball history buffs will also find this an entertaining look back at the PCL.


If you haven't visited Todd Hawley's San Francisco Seals page, you're just plain naughty, and you deserve a really long time-out. Do you hear me?

Copyright © 1999 by Todd Hawley

Last updated 8/9/99

E-mail Todd at thawley@tdl.com

Gregg Pearlman, gregg@EEEEEEgp.com

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