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PCL Memorable Seasons: 1918

PCL MEMORABLE SEASONS- 1918
 
July 29, 2004 - Memorable Seasons: 1918,
The Year the PCL Threw in the Towel


© 2004 by Carlos Bauer - Pacific Coast League Historian

Pictured: Los Angeles Angels pitcher Doc Crandall led the PCL in wins in 1918, going 16-9 with a 2.02 earned run average in an astounding 222.1 innings-pitched. Courtesy: Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics

From the moment of the sinking the passenger ship Lusitania off the Irish coast in 1915, with the loss of 128 American lives, most people felt that the United States would eventually be dragged into the first World War. Nineteen sixteen was a nervous year for the republic, but the country managed to stay out of the conflict across the waters, and baseball even prospered. But in February 1917, the United States broke off relations with Germany, and in April the Congress declared war. On the home front, industry geared up for the war, and people's minds drifted away from the national pastime. Out on the Pacific Coast, the cloud of war only began to appear after the 1917 season ended.

Going into the annual Coast League meeting in early November, President Allan T. Baum announced that there would not be any team changes for 1918. Once the two-day meeting ended, however, the league president issued the following statement: "Only the mere formalities are to be completed before the Portland Club will have been replaced by Sacramento. Portland has decided to enter the Northwest League next season."

Portland had been a long-simmering problem, both for the California franchises, and for the Portland Beavers themselves. Portland had long maintained the season was too long, as the rainy season forced the Beavers to spend the last month of the season on the road. The expenses of that last road trip turned many profitable seasons for Portland into near break-even affairs, or even losses in some years.

On the other side, the California clubs bemoaned all the money they were forced to spend on train fare, and additionally, for the two Southern California clubs, Tuesday games were lost when returning from Portland, as the train trip took two days. For the coming season, the Federal government had imposed an eight percent tax on passenger tickets and a ten percent tax on Pullman tickets. Add to that, just before Christmas, the Federal Government announced that it would be taking over all the railroads in the country for the war effort, and that left every league in the country wondering whether clubs would be permitted unrestricted use of the railway system, as they had during the 1917 season.

With the war drawing closer each day, owners wanted to retrench, and even some thought was given to cutting Salt Lake City loose from the league, making the Coast League an all California affair. What saved Salt Lake City was the fact that - since its entrance in the PCL in 1915- business leaders of that city gave subsidies for travel expenses to visiting clubs. Charter PCL member Portland never had such an arrangement, which made it much more often a candidate for being dropped from the league.

Part of the agreement with Portland owner Judge Walter W. McCredie called for the Portland club to sell its players to Sacramento, and that his nephew, Walt McCredie, long-time manager and one-time player for the Beavers, would join Sacramento as field leader. Then on December 1, Sacramento balked at the deal, citing Portland as requesting exorbitant amounts for players. But rumors circulated that the Sacramento principals had not secured all the financing to run a Coast League franchise. Charley Graham - who had been first a player-manager in the PCL, and then a part owner of the previous Sacramento franchise - put the group together, but apparently some of the partners got cold feet at the last minute. With the Sacramento franchise on shaky ground, league owners - then called magnates - began in earnest discussing the possibility of becoming a four-club circuit, Salt Lake City once again becoming the prime candidate for being dropped.

Finally, in January, a special league meeting was called for in Los Angeles to resolve all outstanding league issues for the coming season. At that meeting, Charley Graham showed up with another group of investors, and that group demonstrated that it had enough financial wherewithal to secure the Sacramento bid. Graham then became Secretary of the club. And a compromise was also worked out between Portland and Sacramento on players: Sacramento would be permitted to buy as many players as they wanted, but any player Sacramento didn't want - or come to an agreement on price - would be offered on the open market.

Once the composition of the league had been settled upon, owners approved the traditional 30 week/30 series schedule that would run from April 2 through October 27. The league also took care of one other piece of outstanding business: For financial reasons, the league mandated 16-player rosters, the smallest since the early years of the league.

In the wake of the league confab, the new Sacramento franchise purchased five starters from Portland that would form the core of the new club. They also named Bill "Redmeat Bill" Rodgers, the Portland second baseman for the last six years, as playing-manager of the Senators. The very next day Walt McCredie, who had been the managerial choice of the first group of Sacramento investors, then signed to manage Salt Lake City. Presumably owner Bill "Hardrock" Lane thought that would give the Bees the inside track on any players Sacramento did not acquire. And that, in the fullness of time, is exactly what happened.

Shortly thereafter, the Vernon Tigers named its new manager, Vinegar Bill Essick, who pitched for Portland in 1905 and 1906, before being sold to Cincinnati. Owner Tom Darmody brought Essick west from Grand Rapids, where he had been manager and part-owner of the Class B Central League club for the past several seasons. Essick was about to embark on a very successful eight-year managerial career with Vernon before becoming the longtime Southern California scout for the Yankees. He picked up the moniker "Vinegar Bill" as a young pitcher who had, as one reporter wrote, "a rather sour disposition." Vernon finished dead last in 1917, and its manager George Stovall got the boot the day the 1917 season ended.

Up in the Pacific Northwest that January, Judge Walter McCredie attended his first Northwest League meeting, where the league immediately changed its name to the Pacific Coast International League. The Pacific Coast League immediately filed a protest with the National Association, but that went nowhere with baseball's national governing board. The Judge also announced the new nickname of his club, the "Buckaroos." The name change was necessitated by the fact that Vancouver had used "Beavers" as their nickname since the 1916 season.

Underlying all the turmoil of the past few months was a constant rumor that two unnamed PCL franchises teetered on the brink of insolvency. Many reporters speculated that the two clubs were Vernon and, surprisingly, the San Francisco Seals.

Nothing in the Coast League is ever easy.

The run-up to training camp showed that clubs had more than the usual problems in filling roster spots, even the reduced sixteen-man ones. Any number of players had joined the service or had taken defense industry jobs, primarily in the Southern California oil industry, and/or shipyards up and down the coast. The Oakland Oaks were the worst hit club. On the eve of spring training, they only had one catcher on the roster, but he was at least last year's starter, Dan Murray. The rest of the line up had more holes than a doughnut shop: two of their starting outfielders, Billy Lane and Hack Miller decided to remain in defense-related jobs; first baseman Rube Gardner retired shortly after the 1917 season closed; third baseman Rod Murphy joined the Marines; and starting shortstop Bill Stumpf had been drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates. The situation in Oakland looked so bleak that owner Cal Ewing threatened to fill his ranks with sandloters.

Two clubs decided to travel east to find players. Walt McCredie mined his contacts with major league clubs to get their surplus players; and Vernon's new man, Bill Essick, scoured the Midwest, where he hoped his contacts would yield some fruit. Another club, the Los Angeles Angels, managed to retain a group of solid veterans, and added to the mix long-time Detroit Tiger right fielder Sam Crawford, who had decided to make Southern California his permanent home. San Francisco thought they had come up with an infield and pitching staff stronger than the one that carried them to the 1917 pennant, but their outfield appeared weak.

With all six clubs scurrying off to spring training all over Southern California and the Central Valley, a bombshell exploded: Long-time Seals owner Hen Berry sold the San Francisco club to a group headed up by Charley Graham (who was still part owner and Secretary of the newly formed Sacramento franchise) and Charles H. 'Doc' Strub, who had been a teammate of Graham in college. Graham, of course, resigned his position with Sacramento, and disposed of his holdings in the club, before moving to San Francisco. Graham and Strub would control the franchise until the mid-1940s.

Spring training began under showers, and the weather stayed wet throughout the month of March. As training progressed, reporters began making predictions on what clubs should be strong and what clubs would not. Los Angeles and, surprisingly, San Francisco were thought to be the two strongest clubs in the league. Oakland, obviously, and Vernon - which retained much of the same pitching staff that finished last in 1917 - were figured to finish at the bottom of the standings. Most observers felt that the Salt Lake City Bees, with four solid pitchers - three of whom (Ken Penner, Walt Leverenz and Jean Debuc) had won 20 or more games in the Coast League in 1917 - would be the most improved team in the league. Sacramento seemed to be just a cut below Salt Lake City, even though it, too, had came up with a good crop of pitchers, and got some solid position players from the previous year's Portland Beavers club.

The Bees' chances took a turn for the worse, however, just as camp was winding up: pitchers Ken Penner and Jean Debuc rolled an automobile, putting both on the sidelines for a several weeks with broken ribs.

The PCL season opened officially on Tuesday, April 2 in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Sacramento, and by week's end lowly rated Oakland had taken five games from the previous year's pennant winning Seals to top to the standings. In Los Angeles, Sam Crawford exploded on the scene for the Angels, getting a couple of hits, stealing a base, and throwing out two runners in his first game. After the second week, both Oakland and Vernon had surged way out in front of the pack. San Francisco's weak outfield manifested itself in the early going. Charley Graham bought long-time star outfielder Harl Maggert (.287 lifetime minor league average to go along with 516 stolen bases), who had become expendable when that club signed Sam Crawford, from the Angels. Maggert's knees had been going for several seasons, but Graham thought there still remained some life in the old warhorse. As soon as he joined the Seals, Maggert twisted one his knees, and was sidelined for a week or so. To add to the Seal's frustration, Roy Crohan - whom Graham had counted on to fill the shortstop position as he had in 1917 - still had not shown up.

Yet, as soon as it looked the bleakest, the Seals righted themselves, and made a run on the league leading Salt Lake City Bees. Then, as quickly as they made their surge, the club took another dive, finishing up April once again at the bottom of the heap, though by then Crohan had joined the team.

The month of April ended with Vernon slipping past the Bees for first place by a single game.

During the first week of May, Oakland was hit by the first of many player defections. The already weakened Oakland Oaks lost their starting second baseman, Eddie Mensor, to a St. Helens, Oregon team in the Columbia-Willamette Shipbuilders' League. Mensor had been one of the bright spots on the Oaks roster, hitting a solid .278 in a season dominated by pitchers.

The same week as Mensor jumped the Oaks, rumors spread throughout the league that several Coast League umpires were attempting to recruit players for defense industry companies in and around the Bay Area.

But what was happening on the West Coast had been taking place all across the country. The Sporting News ran an editorial that same week denouncing Bethlehem Steel, which had begun recruiting players from professional baseball, including major leaguers, for its steel mill league in Pennsylvania. "It now appears," went The Sporting News editorial, "this privately conducted organization, operated for the purpose of furnishing recreation and entertainment for steel mill workers...is invading the ranks of players [in Organized Baseball] under contract, and under various subterfuges, endeavoring to induce some of them to break their pledges and repudiate their signed agreements." While The Sporting News only dealt with Bethlehem Steel, the editorial could just as well have been written about shipbuilders on the West Coast. Or industrial firms in the Midwest.

In the second week of May, Salt Lake City jumped back in front of the Vernon Tigers by one game. While Salt Lake City had counted on its stellar pitching staff to take the club to the top, it was its heavy hitting that carried the day, at least in the early going. Three of their players topped the .300 mark, led by Larry Chappell at .372, and two others were just a notch below the .300 mark. Their pitching was hampered by the auto accident that sidelined the two pitchers, but one of those pitchers, Jean Dubuc, came back in late May, and ran off three straight wins. Veteran Walt Leverenz, who had pitched three seasons for the St. Louis Browns, topped the staff, and the league, with 6 wins.

The deeper into May the league got, the bleaker the future looked for the PCL. First, more players were notified that they were draft eligible, then Oakland got hit by three more players defecting to shipyard teams, and finally, Provost Marshall General Crowder issued his famous "Work or Fight" order, which made it harder for clubs to even fill gaps in their rosters from the ranks of sandloters. The order affected all men between the ages of 21 and 31, but it was commonly believed that the upper age limit would soon be raised to 40 years old.

With the war in full swing, many owners felt that attendance would dry up - just as it had during the last major conflict, the Spanish-American War - but PCL attendance held up surprising well early in the season, except at Rec Park in San Francisco, where a combination of bad weather and a bad ball club drove attendance way down.

Finishing up a full slate of doubleheaders on June 2, the league standings stood as follows:

Club
Salt Lake City
Los Angeles
Sacramento
Vernon
San Francisco
Oakland
W
32
34
29
29
29
27
L
26
28
27
33
33
33
Pct
.552
.548
.518
.468
.468
.468
GB
--
--
2
5
5
6



Los Angeles had slipped past Sacramento into second place by taking six out of eight contests from them, including a doubleheader sweep on June 2.

While pitching dominated in 1918, the talk of the league during the first two months of the season was Art Griggs, Sacramento's fine first baseman, who was tearing up the league at a .445 clip, which was more than a hundred points above the number two batter, Jack Fournier of the Angels. Griggs, who had been a college footballer, started his pro baseball career in his native Kansas in 1905. By 1909 he had worked his way up to the majors for 2 1/2 seasons before finding himself once again in the high minors. He battled his way back up to Cleveland in 1912 - where he .304 in 89 games - but failed to stick the following season. After two years in the Federal League, mostly riding the bench, he found his way to the Coast, where his career resurrected. A lifetime .313 hitter in the minors (and .277 in the majors), 1918 was arguably his finest season. After hitting a league leading .378 in the PCL, he joined the Detroit Tigers, where he continued his hitting prowess with a .364 average in 28 games. Once again he didn't stick in the majors in 1919, and found himself back with Sacramento. Griggs' career ended in 1926 in the Coast League with the Seattle Indians. He went out with a bang, bidding farewell with an impressive .346 in 89 games.

Early June dealt the Coast League another body blow, and a special meeting was called for in San Francisco on June 8. The meeting was necessitated by to the National Railroad Board having raised train in the first days of June. This was the second time that year that the National Board had raised railroad fares. But this time the Board, without prior notice, more than doubled the fares, catching the league completely by surprise. The round-trip fare per player, Los Angeles-San Francisco, went from $21.50 to $45, and the California-Salt Lake City trip jumped from $40 to over $80. The Coast League - because of distances between cities - always had been held hostage by the railroads. For that reason the circuit only scheduled one seven-games series a week, rather than two series a week of other much more compact leagues. At the June 8 meeting, the league approved a plan to cut down on travel expenses by mandating all road trips would be made by automobile, save those to and from Salt Lake City. The league determined that the automobile trip between the Bay Area and Los Angeles would "only take" from Sunday night to Monday at 8:00 pm at the latest, giving players a night's sleep before beginning the week-long series' on Tuesdays.

Even though the special meeting was called to come up with a plan to cut travel expenses, wild rumors of the league shutting down completely swirled around the meeting. In closing the special session, the league declared to the press that the Pacific Coast League would not shut down until all of baseball was forced to close. That put the rumors to rest for a while. But just two weeks later the Oakland Tribune quoted Oakland owner Cal Ewing as saying that the league would stop operations after games on the Fourth of July. No sooner had the words appeared in the press, than some backtracking began. Ewing stated that he had been misquoted, declaring that he only said that if General Crowder's "work or fight order" pertained to all of baseball, then the PCL would be forced to close down with the rest of the leagues in Organized Baseball.

Nevertheless, there were other signs that all was not well financially in the PCL. Salt Lake City, which had put a good team together, saw its attendance drop off so badly that the club instituted "twilight games," with the first pitch at seven in the evening, in order to attract enough fans to Bonneville Park to keep the club solvent.

The Coast League was not alone in facing the very real specter of financial disaster. Up in the Pacific Coast International League, Portland and Seattle appeared to be well supported by their fans, but after seeing almost nobody show up for a Saturday game in Tacoma on May 26, owner Russ Hall - a former Coast League infielder and manager, who also had a brief trial in the majors, and who went on to be one of the founders of the Association of Professions Baseball Players of America and its first Secretary - told the other owners in the league that he would not be able to continue after the scheduled Sunday doubleheader. Tacoma ownership was not to blame, as the club was in second place at the time and in a real battle for the flag.

In short order the league notified Spokane that they would be dropped to make the league a four-club circuit. The new configuration, however, only limped on through July 7, when the league gave up the ghost. The Portland franchise of Judge McCredie lost $5,000 in the endeavor, quite a large sum at the time.

While turmoil was constant off the field for the PCL, a great pennant race was taking place on the field. Through much of May, Salt Lake City remained atop of the standings, but the pennant race tightened up, with the last place San Francisco Seals only six games out of first place. The Los Angeles Angels, which held down second place for much of May, pulled into a tie with Salt Lake on June 2, after which the two teams battled one another for first place throughout the rest of that month.

The last week of June proved to be the undoing for Walt McCredie and his Salt Lake City club. On Tuesday, June 25, the Bees began a seven-game set with the Angels for first place at Washington Park in Los Angeles. Los Angeles finished the previous week with a one-game edge over the Bees.

Things started off splendidly for Salt Lake, as the team took the first contest 5-1 behind the seven-hit pitching of Tim McCabe. That pushed the Bees into first place by percentage points. Then the Angels reeled off five straight wins against Salt Lake, leaving the Bees 4 1/2 games out, and in third place behind the Vernon Tigers.

While the five-game win streak give the impression that Los Angeles wiped the floor with the Bees, that was not the case. It was an extremely hard-fought series. Game 2 featured a pitching battle between Walt Leverenz and Paul Fittery, both mainstays in the Coast League. Through seven innings, Leverenz led by a 2 to 1 score. In the eighth, the Angels got to Leverenz for three runs, pulling out a 4-2 victory capped by Rube Ellis' home run. The third game turned out to be the only game that was not close. Doc Crandall - a former star pitcher with the New York Giants, who would eventually win 230 games in the PCL - pitched a four-hitter, winning 7-1. Game 4 was another heartbreaker for Salt Lake, as Bill Pertica, another long-tenured Coast leaguer threw a two-hit shutout over Ed Willet who gave up the lone run of the game in the second inning. On Saturday, the two clubs battled to the end. Los Angeles moved out to a three run lead in the early going, then in the fifth, the Bees scored three runs to tie it up. With two out in the ninth, the Angels drove a man over to win. In the morning game on Sunday, Doc Crandall and Tim McCabe hooked up for what turned out to be another seesaw affair. LA jumped out to 1-0 lead, then the Bees tied it up in the third. The Angels took a 2-1 lead in the sixth, only to be tied up once again in the top of the seventh. In bottom half of that inning, LA pushed across the winning tally. That afternoon, Salt Lake City finally put it all together, taking a 7-0 lead into the bottom of the seventh. Walt Leverenz, on the mound for the Bees, pitched airtight ball up until then. He yielded five runs in the last three innings, but managed to hang on for the win. After that series, Salt Lake fell completely out of the race, winding up at .500 and in a three-way tie for third place by then end of the season.

During that same week, Vernon moved up into second, 2 1/2 games out, by taking four out of seven from the Oaks up at Emeryville. Bill Essick's Tigers, after a surprisingly strong start, fell back to fourth in early June, before starting a slow climb back into contention. And up in San Francisco, Jerry Downs quit as manager of the Seals on July 1, and Charley Graham replaced him with Charley Graham himself. Graham had not been satisfied with Downs as manager from the moment he took over the club. Downs, who brought the Seals home first the previous season, finally had enough of Graham looking over his shoulder, and announced his retirement from the game to go into the automobile business. His retirement lasted a week, until he signed with the Angels to become their new second baseman.

Following the Salt Lake City-Los Angeles series, Vernon and Los Angeles met for the second first place battle in a row. Both clubs shared Washington Park, though Vernon did play the occasional Sunday morning game at Vernon Park.

Vernon took the first two contests, and then split the Fourth of July doubleheader. All except the first game, decided by an 8-2 score, were hard fought one-run affairs. The game on July 5 produced another one-run game, with Vernon coming out on top 6 to 5. On Saturday, Tiger veteran Wheezer Dell pitched a shutout into the seventh inning, but then ran out of gas, losing 3-1. Vernon, however, came back strong against the Angels on Sunday morning, trouncing LA and their star pitcher, Doc Crandall, 7-1. In the afternoon game, Paul Fittery of the Angels and Roy Mitchell battled for 13 innings before Vernon pushed one across in the top of that inning, the deciding run scoring on a wild double steal.

In what turned out to be the final week of the season, Vernon traveled to Salt Lake City, and the Angels remained at home to face the Seals. Both teams took four out of seven games, and so the Angels finished the same 1 1/2 games behind the Tigers as they had been the week before.

The demise of the league had been unforeseen even the previous week. On Tuesday, July 9, the league office adamantly squelched rumors that the league was about to fold. It became known, however, that Vernon owner Tom Darmody was lobbying other owners to reduce the rosters to fourteen players, though most clubs by then weren't carrying the full complement of sixteen players anyway.

On Friday the July 12, Darmody called for a special league meeting in Los Angeles the next day. At that meeting, Darmody told the other owners that - financially - his club could not continue, no matter that his Tigers stood atop the league standings.

With that, the dam burst. First, the league owners confronted the fact that they would have to drop one team to maintain a balanced schedule. That meant Salt Lake City had to go, but that was completely unacceptable to owner Hardrcok Bill Lane and one or two other owners. Finally Charley Graham of the Seals stood up and told the other owners that his Seals did not want to continue. With the prospect of no San Francisco team in the league, the other owners decided it was time to throw in the sponge, and they quickly voted to suspend operations until the war ended.

The release to the press stated that the league would play all scheduled doubleheaders the following day, July 14, and then disband. The resolution made no mention of Darmody's plight, but rather stated: "Exemption boards in the two states in which the league operates - California and Utah - ruled that the players are subject to the "work or fight" rule, and the league decided to abide by the decisions of the boards rather than appeal to higher authorities..."
Additionally, in an effort to help Tom Darmody's out of the financial hole he found himself in, the league proposed a post-season championship series for the league pennant, rather than awarding it to the team that finished atop the standings at the close of play. The league announced that Los Angeles and Vernon would square off at Washington Park in a best-of-nine game series. Historically, the cross-town rivalry drew well, and all - especially Tom Darmondy - hoped that it would do so one more time.

After Sunday doubleheaders across the league, the regular season wound up as follows:

Club
Vernon
Los Angeles
San Francisco
Salt Lake City
Sacramento
Oakland
W
58
57
51
49
48
40
L
45
47
51
49
48
63
Pct
.563
.548
.518
.468
.468
.450
GB
--
1 1/2
6 1/2
6 1/2
6 1/2
18



The final chapter of the pennant race began on Wednesday, July 17, when the Angeles and Tigers met at Washington Park in the first game of what was billed as the Championship of the Pacific Coast League. Both clubs starting lineups had remained pretty stable throughout the season, and sported only two new faces in the playoffs. Bob Meusel, on furlough from the Navy, joined the Vernon club, playing first base. He replaced Babe Borton, who only hit .265 during the season. And the aforementioned Jerry Downs, who took over second base for the Angels two weeks before the close of the regular season.

In Game One, Curly Brown faced Roy Mitchell of the Tigers. Mitchell, who had been with Vernon for four seasons, finished the 1918 season at only 7-7, but had a sterling 1. 82 ERA. The opposing pitcher, Curly Brown, had an even better 1.56 ERA, and he finished the season with 12 wins against 7 losses. The Angels jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead, and then increased that to 7-1 by the eighth inning, knocking Roy Mitchell out of the box in the process. In the top of the ninth, the Tigers attempted a comeback, but fell just short, letting the Angels escape with a 7-5 victory.

Game Two featured the two pitching stars of their respective clubs: Doc Crandall and Jack Quinn. Quinn set the all-time PCL season record in 1918 with 1.48 ERA, while Doc Crandall led the league with 16 wins. Both starters pitched complete games, Quinn giving up seven hits and three runs; Crandall one run on six hits. With that, the Angels took a 2-0 edge in the series.

On Friday, Wheezer Dell and Paul Fittery both pitched shutout ball for the first six-innings. The top of the seventh brought in the first two scores of the game, both notched by Vernon. The Tigers added two more in the eighth, while the Angels only managed one tally, making the final score 4-1, Vernon.

Saturday had another pitchers' duel, this time between 40-year-old Charlie Chech - who began his Coast League career in 1912 - and Angel veteran Paul Fittery, who had won as many as 29 games in the league, but had an off year in 1918 (11-13 2.66). Chech didn't have much of a fastball left (attested to by his meager 24 strikeouts in 141 innings), but didn't walk many either (18 BB), and all in all wound up the season with a 9-11 record and 2.11 ERA. The Angels tallied the first score in the sixth, adding another in the eighth, after which Bill Essick removed Chech for a pinch hitter. When the counting was done, Los Angeles had 2 runs and Vernon but 1.

Going into the Sunday doubleheader, the Angels held a 3-1 series edge over Vernon. The morning game featured Roy Mitchell, who had been knocked out of Game One, against Doc Crandall who pitched brilliantly in Game Two. This outing, however, had Mitchell come back to pitch a two-hit shutout. Into the eight inning, Crandall had held Tigers to one run, but gave up 2 in the eighth, and Ralph Valencia replaced him on the mound in the ninth.

The afternoon contest pitted Jack Quinn against Curly Brown in another low-scoring one-run affair. The two veterans battled down to the wire, with the Angels' Curly Brown picking up his second win of the series, mainly because he scattered the 13 hits he gave up. The 4 to 3 win left Los Angeles needing only one more win to clinch the championship.

Because there was no need for a travel day, a rare Monday game was played. Wheezer Dell and Paul Fittery hooked up for the second time in the series. Both pitchers had been wild at times that season, and both walked 7 men in the game. Wheezer Dell gave up one hit less than Fittery, but bunched too many of them together in the eighth inning, and Los Angeles brought four men across the plate. Up until that inning, the crafty veteran had pitched shutout ball. The game ended with a 4-2 victory for the Angels - giving them their second PCL Championship in three seasons -, and with that brought the curtain down on the war-shortened 1918 baseball season.

In the aftermath of the Coast League shutdown, shipyard and service baseball came into its own. In the two primary Coast League centers, Los Angeles and San Francisco, strong leagues were formed. Stocked mainly with Coastleaguers, these leagues played ball on par with any that had been played that season. In the Los Angeles area, the Southern California War Service League was formed by Angels owner John Powers, who wanted to provide an entertainment for the people of Los Angeles, and to provide some income for his Washington Park. It boasted of six teams, of which two were military teams. One team, the San Pedro Sub Base team, even boasted two future Hall-of-Famers in Bob Meusel and Harry Heillman. The defense industry teams picked up players such as Sam Crawford, Ken Penner, Red Killefer, and even future Black Sox infielder Fred McMullin. Up in the Bay Area, the San Francisco Shipbuilder's League put on an even better class of ball on the field, attracting the Seals, Oaks and Sacramento players, plus a number of major leaguers, including Swede Risberg, Joe Gedeon and Ossie Vitt.

The San Francisco based league played every Sunday up through the Armistice on November 11, 1918, when - magically - players discovered they no longer needed a draft deferments.

The Los Angeles based War Service League began as a Saturday and Sunday league, but as the demand on war industries grew, Saturday shifts changed the league into a Sunday-only affair. After games played on September 1, the league announced that it would suspend operations "for a month" because players on service teams were being deployed overseas. Supposedly the league would resurrect once new teams could be formed, and hopefully stocked with major leaguers enticed west, now that the major leagues had closed down.

The War Service League's hopes never materialized. Shortly after suspending operations, the Los Angeles area was hard hit by the Spanish Influenza, forcing health officials to prohibit any large gatherings of people throughout that fall and winter. The pandemic killed an estimated 675,000 Americans over the fall and winter of 1918. World-wide, some 40 million lives were thought lost.

The PCL's final championship series turned out to be well attended, and did much to solve Vernon's financial woes. And that gave a somewhat better ending to a difficult season.

But when the league officially ceased operations "for the duration" of the war, neither fans, nor players, nor owners knew when the PCL would play their next season. Many secretly feared that the Coast League had stepped out onto the ball field for the very last time.

This is the first in a series on the noteworthy seasons in PCL History by baseball historian Carlos Bauer, who is one of the foremost Pacific Coast League historians in the country.