Saturday, April 6, 2024

His name was Drew, John Drew

As you can see from the screenshots above, the two primary sites for baseball statistics have an unknown "Drew" listed as having been with the Beavers during the 1907 season. Both mention, correctly, that he only made one appearance, and both have his line from that lone outing; but that's where the information stops. As is often the case, I expected that a lot more work would need to be done to identify this mystery player. Turns out though, it only took mere minutes to find his first name, but any other pertinent information about the man himself, or any of his other stops, hasn't been quite as forthcoming.

The July, 31st, 1907 edition of the Morning Oregonian reported that "Pitcher Drew, a strapping young fellow from Wallace, Idaho, has been signed by McCredie, and will be given a chance to make good with the Portland club" [McCredie, for those that may not know, is Walter McCredie, Beavers player, manager, general manager, and part owner]. The Oregon Daily Journal mentioned the following day (August 1, 1907) that "McCredie has signed another bush pitcher. His name is Drew, and he hails from Wallace, Idaho". 

One day later, Drew made his debut against the Los Angeles Angels:

Morning Oregonian 8/3/07

Oregon Daily Journal 8/3/07

Before getting to Drew's outing, it's worth noting that "John Drew" is mentioned multiple times in the rather lengthy recaps from both papers, so his first name shouldn't have been a mystery. Clearly, these articles weren't the source for whoever submitted his line to Baseball Reference and Stats Crew. Anyway, back to the game...

August 2nd was "Ladies Day" at Vaughn Street Park, and unfortunately for them, and everyone else in attendance (who were described by the Journal as "one of the biggest and noisiest weekday crowds of the season") pitcher Enon Califf, did what he did so often throughout the 1907 season, started well, and then seemingly lost all interest once things stopped going his way. He threw five scoreless innings, but the Angels finally got to him in the sixth, scoring three runs, and despite his now completely lackadaisical effort, only managed to scored four more in the seventh. 

John Drew made his debut in the eighth inning, down 7-2. After a paragraph and change describing Enon's fall, the Journal is quoted as saying "Following came the introduction of a new twirler from the bushes and the breathless curiosity which such a man is always received. The spectators had the delight of watching the new unknown retire the heavy hitter from the south in one-two-three order, only to fall victim to their stick work and their tricks in the next inning". 

Describing his entry into the game, the Journal said "He appeared a large young man with a resigned look on his face, and a suit that "fit too quick." He delivers most of his balls with an underhand swing and as McCredie is in the kindergarten business, he may be looked upon as a fairly promising pupil". Upon entering, John struck out Bobby Eager, then closed out the inning by getting both Judge Nagle (pitcher) and Curt Bernard to fly out. "The fans applauded the new "find" loudly, but he did not perform so well in the next inning, which was the ninth". Walter Carlisle started off the inning with a double. Kitty Brashear followed with a sacrifice "which the green youth threw to third when called upon to do so by the Los Angeles coach". Brashear made it to first safely. The rest of the inning as reported is a bit confusing, but it would appear that at least two of the four runs that would be scored came on a wild pitch/throw. Two more were then scored before John struck out the final two batters to end the inning. His final. It's also worth noting that there's a quick aside mentioned during that final sequence in which the "youth" is said to be not as young as Beavers pitchers Hub Pernoll (19), Charlie Hartman (18), and Art Schimpf (21); which may be useful later on. 

And that was the extent of John Drew's career with the Beavers. He gave up three hits, four runs, and finished with an ERA of 9.00. On the plus side, he did have three strikeouts. John's trail doesn't quite go cold yet, but we're getting close. Before moving on from this game, in their recap, the Morning Oregonian also provided a few more clues into his background "John Drew, the new pitcher tried out yesterday, hailed originally from California, but recently has been in the Northern part of Idaho working on a ranch. He formerly played ball with Umpire Derrick in California, and several of the Northwestern League clubs have been trying to get him". [Derrick was a controversial presence in the Coast League at the time, not being popular with the fans, coaches, or players. In fact, just a few weeks prior he and Angels captain Frank Dillon got into a physical altercation at the plate during a game in Portland. They ended up having to be separated by a couple of Portland police officers who just happened to be in attendance]

Two days after his outing with the Beavers, John Drew popped up again, this time pitching, and picking up the win, for Cornelius of one of the many amateur city league teams:

Oregon Daily Journal 8/5/07
And here's where his story takes a twist, and ultimately ends... for now:

Washington County News 9/5/07
That's pretty blurry, so for those that have trouble reading it. It says "John Drew, the fellow who pitched such a corking good game for the Colts last Sunday, has gone to Los Angeles, California, where he will run a cigar store which he has just purchased". That's quite a sequence of events, in just a little over a month, John went from working on a ranch in, Idaho, to pitching a game for the Beavers in the PCL, at least one game for two different amateur Portland teams (after his victory with Cornelius, he, according to the blurb above, then threw a game for the team he defeated, the Forest Grove Colts. That game seems to have occurred on Sunday, September 1st, 1907. I can find no information about it) to then up and buying a cigar store in California.

I have not been able to find anything about him after this. Nor have I been able to find anything else about him prior to his coming to Portland. There are a number of unknown Drew's that played earlier than this, including a pitcher for the Portland Browns in 1904 (which I'm pretty sure isn't the same guy), but I haven't been able to conclusively match any up to John. I suspect that he may've been in his mid to late 20's by 1907. This is deduced not only by what the Journal said about his age, but also by his buying a cigar store. That doesn't seem like something that someone in their late teens to early twenties would've done; even at that time. 

I may come back to this at some point, but for the moment I've spent more than enough time just getting this far. And a final word of caution for any potential future researchers, there will be much frustration to be had when searching for John Drew in what are primarily West Coast newspapers, as the well known stage actor, John Drew, was working up and down the coast at this time, and the majority of your hits are going to be about him. It can, and will, start to feel like a lesson in futility in a very short amount of time.

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Here today, gone tomorrow: Wilton Lopez

It was announced after the Beavers 8-4 home win over the Las Vegas 51s on June 1st, 2008 that the team's parent organization, the San Diego Padres, were transferring right-handed pitcher, Wilton Lopez, from San Antonio (where he appears to have been inactive to start the season) to Portland. No timeline was given for this move, but things must've been in motion prior to the announcement, as Wilton would be in town to make his debut the very next night.

I have not been able to find a recap of the Beavers v. 51s game from June 2nd, but looking at the box score, one can deduce that Wilton came to relieve in either the 4th, 6th, or 7th inning. He wound up pitching exactly one inning, in which he struck out one, issued two walks, threw a wild pitch, gave up a hit and one earned run. The Beavers lost the game 4-3.

One day later, on June 3rd, it was announced that he was being transferred back down to AA San Antonio. Obviously the Padres weren't impressed with his outing, and weren't interested in giving him another chance to improve on it.

24 year-old Wilton Lopez had already played for six teams, in five different leagues, during his four-year tenure in minor league ball prior to joining the Beavers. His one inning in Portland was his first taste of AAA ball, and it would appear that he may've been a bit nervous (which is understandable). It would be two years, five more minor league teams, and a brief stint in the bigs with Houston, later, before he appeared in AAA ball again; this time with Round Rock, of the PCL, where things would briefly start to turn around for him.

After a 2-1 record in 2010 with Round Rock, Wilton was called back up to the Astros, who had signed him the year prior, where he'd arguably have his best season going 5-2 with a 3.09 ERA. His fortunes reversed the following season and he was back down to Oklahoma City after finishing 2-6 with the Astros. He was brought back up to be the Astros new closer in 2012 after they traded away Brett Myers, who had previously occupied that position. He'd post a 6-3 record in his new role, before being trade to Colorado the following off-season.

Tow unsuccessful seasons with the Rockies, and their affiliates, led to him being released and signed by the Toronto Blue Jays organization in 2015. That partnership ended after one game with the GCL Blue Jays, which saw him give up four runs on six hits in just 1 1/3 innings. Wilton's final big league record is 16-17, with a 3.54 ERA.

His last appearance in baseball, or at least the last one that I can find, was as a member of the Nicaraguan team that won a bronze medal at the 2019 Pan American Games.

[A special thanks goes out to, Tom, from The Angels, In Order, who was kind enough to send the card that was used in this post.]

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Welcome to the Club: Chico Salmon

The partnership that had been in place for the previous two years between the Portland Beavers and Kansas City Athletics was not renewed after the 1963 season. It wasn't a great pairing, and both clubs seemed to be ready to move on from it. Going into the the 1964 season, Kansas City switched their PCL affiliation to Dallas, and Portland joined forces with the Cleveland Indians. The Portland/Cleveland partnership would end up lasting for the next six years, during which time many notable names would come through Portland. In 1964 alone, Beavers fans were treated to the likes of Luis Tiant, Tommy John, Sam McDowell, Tommie Agee, and today's featured player, Chico Salmon.

The Oregonian 4/14/64
Prior to joining the Portland club, Chico Salmon had spent the previous five years climbing up the minor league ladder. As mentioned in the article above, his previous stop had been in Denver, where his .325 batting average (though it says .324 in the article) had led the league in 1963. As also mentioned, his stop in Portland wasn't expected to be for very long, but as things ended up turning out, if it weren't for a case of spinal meningitis, he very likely would've wound up staying in Portland for all of '64.

Chico didn't start the season hitting anywhere near his .325 average from the previous season. In fact, after the first month, he was only hovering slightly above .200. Manager Johnny Lipon would later say that this was caused by Chico abandoning his strengths as a hitter, namely making contact, and instead focusing too much on trying to hit home runs over the short fence in PGE Park's left field.

Where to use him on the field became a small issue as well. He was error prone at 3rd base, and was moved to 2nd after George Banks arrived. He was also used in the outfield, but his lack of arm strength didn't do him, or anyone else, any favors (later on while in the majors, a reporter once asked Chico what his best position was, to which he replied, "batting").

Despite the fielding issues, and lower than expected batting average, Chico did come through with many timely hits, which resulted in multiple won games.

One of the things that made the partnership with Cleveland so successful, was that then Indians part owner and manager, Gabe Paul, let it be known from the start that players would only be called up when it was thought that they'd be able to help the parent club. Normally a guy whose slash line was .235/.282/.362 after 71 games would not likely be seeing himself called up to the bigs, and certainly wouldn't be one that a manager would expect to help a team, however, this is exactly what happened when Cleveland's Max Alvis went down with a case of spinal meningitis. Chico would be recalled on June 27th, and thanks to his versatility and bat control (he stopped swinging for the fences once he got to Cleveland), would never return to the minors.

I would be remiss too if I didn't also mention somewhere in here that it was while in Portland that Ken Wheeler wrote his short piece about Chico's fear of ghosts:

The Oregon Daily Journal 4/25/64
This article, or at least it's contents, became rather well known, and Chico was reportedly not happy with the pieces reception. He's on record as stating that his stint in the Army Reserve in 1965 cured him of his fears, but that didn't stop reporters from asking him about them many times over the following decades.

Friday, May 26, 2023

The Mystery Continues: Hiser (Hisey) and Striner

By early September of 1934, the Beavers were sitting in second to last place (29-51), with nowhere to go but down (which is where they'd end up by seasons end). As would often happen during this era when a team found itself in this most undesirable of spots, "bushers", mostly of the local variety, would start being brought in on the hope that said losing team might find a diamond in the rough. By doing this, management was not so subtlety signaling that they were already looking ahead to the following season; though local fans would rarely tolerate the team coming out and actually saying that.

For the select few players that would be brought in from a local amateur or semipro team, this was a big opportunity, though they rarely got more than one game (less if you were a pitcher) to show off what they could do. The pressure must've been immense for those kids, and as we can read in old recaps/box scores today, many were heavily affected by the enormity of their situation and ended up underperforming during what often turned out to be their only opportunity to ever rise up through the ranks of baseball.

To add insult to injury, minor league beat writers had a tendency to look down their noses at "bushers" (as has already been seen in previous posts), and seemingly went out of their way to accentuate any faults that a player might have during his one tryout. This dislike could also be seen by the fact that the writers rarely ever took the time to learn how to properly spell the name of a "busher", and almost never used their full name (misspelled or otherwise) in a game's recap (little did they know how much trouble this would cause researchers many decades later).

I mention all of this because it all factors in to today's post.

The Missions, of San Francisco, traveled to Portland for a three-game series during the second weekend of September back in 1934. Despite only sitting in fifth place at the time, the Missions took the first game on Saturday the 8th, and then easily won both games of Sunday's doubleheader. From a historical perspective, it wasn't exactly the most exciting of series', but the second game of the doubleheader does provide some interest (at least to me), because not only did the Beavers decide to use that game to get a look at three "bushers", which was a lot for one game, but also because two of those three guys still haven't been identified.  

The Oregonian 9/10/34
I'll start with "Hiser" (you'll see why that's in quotes in just a second). Of the two, I believe that he will be the more difficult to try and identify, if only because we don't even know if it's Hiser or not. Apparently the paper couldn't even decide what his name was...

This is the box score for that second game, and you can clearly see that within just a couple of inches his name has been change to "Hisey". 

And later in the week it was still Hisey...

I have found two Hiser's, and three Hisey's who played baseball, none of whom could be a match for this player. There were no other players with either name playing baseball in Oregon at this time either. Looking at information from the Census, there are no Hisey's in Oregon at this time (or at least none who filled out the census). Searching for Hiser did yield one possibility though, and that's an Everett A. Hiser who was born in 1917; which would've made him 17 or 18 at the time that this game took place.  Unfortunately, Everett Hiser doesn't yield any results when searching for connections to baseball.

The other unknown player is the "scared" pitcher, Striner, who came in to relieve Ed Bryan in the seventh. At least with him we're given somewhere to start looking, i.e. that he was playing in the Tualatin Valley League prior to his appearance with the Beavers. 

The Tualatin Valley League was a semi-pro league based in Forest Grove (OR), and as of 1934, was made up of six teams; Amity, Carlton, Hillsboro, Newberg, Sherwood, and Verboort. 

Tualatin Valley's season was finished by September, and given how it was phrased, I'm assuming that Striner had played during it's '34 season, but as of this writing, I haven't been able to find him in what few box scores are currently available. And knowing that Striner might not even be his correct name, I've looked for anything similar as well, but nothing has come from that either. 

The 1910 census lists one family from Austria named Striner living in Oregon. There are two sons, one born in 1895, and the other in 1898. Both of them were most likely too old to have been the Striner that I'm looking for, but it is possible that one of them could be the father of this Striner. It's worth noting too that one of the Sacramento papers that covered this doubleheader has Striner listed as "Stronger" in it's box score. And before anyone asks, yes, I've looked for "Stronger" too. Nothing doing. Striner is also listed on all of the usual sites as having played one game with the Beavers in '35 as well, but I haven't found any source for that either.

Some may have noticed that I skipped over the second "busher" mentioned in the recap, the third basemen "Pajnik". I did so because he's not an unknown, that's Frank Pajnich (someday I'd like to come back to him). His name was obviously misspelled though, which of course then makes one think that there's a very good chance that both Hiser/Hisey and Striner's names were too.

I think that Striner will eventually be easier to find than Hiser/Hisey, and I will continue to keep searching, but for now they'll have to remain a mystery.

Friday, February 24, 2023

The Mystery Continues: Gerry

I haven't mentioned it on here in the last few months, but I'm still working on trying to identify all of the "mystery" Beavers. As evidenced by previous posts, I've had some pretty good luck in doing so thus far, but have recently encountered another player whose first name, despite many hours of research, continues to allude me.

The player in question is a certain "Gerry", who appears to have pitched in exactly one game on May 7th, 1935.

The Sacramento Bee 5/8/35
Given his lack of stats, it would appear that "Gerry" came in for the bottom of the 9th (although he could've just as easily have pitched the 8th and 9th innings) during a 11-11 game, gave up a run, picked up the loss; and then disappeared off the face of the earth.

This was the Beavers 29th game of the season, and although they were already below .500 (12-17 after this loss), management wouldn't have been panicking quite yet. And it was certainly still too early in the season to be bringing guys in from any great distance, especially not for just one game. My gut tells me that "Gerry" was local, probably playing on a semi-pro or college team no further South than Salem, and no further North than Vancouver, WA. Seattle's possible, but that seems like a bit of a stretch. 

I've looked around for any "Gerry" playing baseball in the area, with a heavy emphasis between 1930-40, and have come up with absolutely nothing. Part of me is wondering if his name is wrong in the box scores, but until someone can prove otherwise, I'll just have to assume that it's correct.

Seeing as how there's at least two unidentified players now, I'm going to be creating another page at the top of the blog for the names that have alluded me, in the hope of course that some new material will become available at a later date, or that somebody with the necessary information will stumble upon the blog at some point, and hopefully be kind enough to share said information.

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Portland Beavers vs. Dai Nippon: April 1-2, 1935

Following the hugely successful tour of U.S. baseball players to Japan in 1934, Japanese organizers, along with Lefty O'Doul, decided to capitalize on said success by arranging a tour of their own. 

A new team, dubbed, Dai Nippon, made up mostly of players from three universities, was assembled, and in 1935 would become the first professional Japanese team to play on North American soil.

The original plan was for the team to play between 60-80 games, but by the time all was said and done, they wound up competing in 109 contests in just a little over four months. 

Given Lefty's then current position as manager of the San Francisco Seals, it's not much of a surprise that the Coast League teams would be worked into the schedule. A total of 22 games were played against the eight Coast teams, each team seeing the Japanese at least twice.

Portland's final two warm-up games before starting the 1935 season were played against Dai Nippon on April 1st and 2nd.

Game 1:

The Ventura County Star 4/2/35
[Note: Because of how they were originally laid out in the paper, I had to do quite a bit of chopping, more so than normal, to get both of today's recaps to fit, and be readable, on Blogger.] 

Dai Nippon only had four designated pitchers for this tour; Eiji Sawamura, Kenichi Aoshiba, Toshihide Hatafuku, and the very young future HOFer, Victor Starffin (who had won the day before against Seattle). The only relief they got was from third basemen, Shigeru Mizuhara, who pitched in seven games, and second basemen, Takeo Tabe, three games; this being one of those three games. It's worth noting too that Takeo Tabe, who Lefty O'Doul thought had MLB potential, was one of the standouts from this tour, amassing 109 stolen bases, among other things. Despite his success, he for some unknown reason never played baseball again, and died in the war ten years later.

Game 2:

The Ventura County Star 4/3/35
There's no way of knowing for sure, but it sounds like this would've been closer to the real score, had it not been for all of the errors, in the first game as well. And it doesn't appear that Kenichi Aoshiba's injury was too severe, as he was back on the mound two days later (picking up the win against a Brawley, CA ensemble called Pirrone's All-Stars).

In 22 games against the PCL, Dai Nippon went 7-15. However, they did beat 7 of the 8 teams at least once; the Beavers being that one outlier. 

If anyone's interested in reading more about Dai Nippon's mind boggling 1935 tour, Western Canada Baseball has a very in-depth piece up on their website about it (nothing about the two losses to Portland though), which I would highly recommend. Knowing almost nothing of Japanese baseball, I used the article as my primary source for information on the players, and the tour itself.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Giving a name, or at least some initials, to Quisenberry

Dr., or "Doc", E.G. Quisenberry, was a recent graduate from North Pacific Dental College, when the Beavers decided to give him a tryout during the 1921 season.

Having only been able to find a set of initials for the good doctor, and no obituary, my research has been somewhat limited, but even so, I have been able to expand on what little information is currently available from the usual starting points (i.e. Baseball Reference and Stats Crew).

The biggest obstacle one has to overcome when trying to research the Beavers Quisenberry, is the fact that there were two Quisenberry's operating in and around Western Oregon at the exact same time. From what I can gather, both were similar in age, both worked in medicine, both were sometimes referred to as "Doc", both had some association with baseball, both used initials in place of a first name, and both appeared in many newspaper articles throughout their respective lives. The possibilities for confusion are endless, and even more so when an article about one of them only refers to it's subject as "Quisenberry" or "Doc Quisenberry".

In an attempt to help any future researchers, there was Perry Dwight ( or P.D.) Quisenberry, a pharmacist, who owned and operated a well-known pharmacy in Salem for many years. There isn't very much information available, but I have been able to deduce that he played some semi-pro ball in Eugene for a time during the 20's. He passed in 1959.

Then there's our Quisenberry, E.G. Quisenberry. Dentist/ballplayer. 

Morning Oregonian 7/7/21
Following 1920's losing season, the teams fifth in a row, Beavers management attempted to reverse their fortunes for the following year by injecting some life into the team via a number of youthful, and mostly unproven, prospects. Unfortunately, it didn't work, as the team would end up going 51-134 during that 1921 season; which was an all-time low in wins for the franchise. Reading old recaps, one can see that it isn't fair to pin all of the blame for that historically bad season on the youngsters, but they certainly shouldered some of it.

One of those new recruits, Doc Quisenberry, appears to have only pitched for his dental school team prior to joining the Beavers, and as the above article, and records show, he didn't fair so well during his one year with the team. That was his one and only season in the minors too, as he never made it past semi-pro ball after that.

Trying to trace Doc's career post-Beavers is very difficult. He opened a dental office in Portland sometime after 1921, and then closed it before decades end. He played on the Albany semi-pro team during 1925 and '27, as as a pitcher and an outfielder. By the mid 40's he was coaching softball in Corvallis, while still practicing dentistry. He seems to have been an avid golfer as well, participating in many tournaments throughout his life. The last mention of him in the newspapers comes from 1968, where he was the guest speaker for an annual Pioneer Party that was held by the Corvallis Woman's Club and the Benton County Historical Society. Curiously, that article also mentions that he had worked in the U.S. Treasury Department under Woodrow Wilson. President Wilson's second term ended in 1921, so that means that Doc may have worked there before going to dental school, which would make him a little bit older at the time of his joining the Beavers than the 22 or 23 that I thought he might've been as a recent college grad. 

Needless to say, there are many gaps in Doc's timeline. I plan to revisit this research from time to time, and will update this post if anything else comes to light. In the meantime, at least we now have some initials to go with the last name on my all-time list (which can be found at the top of the blog).