Top 100 Teams
Pacific Coast League (Triple-A)
By Bill Weiss & Marshall Wright, Baseball Historians
| (from L to R)|
Bert Ellsion, Gene Valla, and Paul Waner
In the 1920s, San Francisco won four Pacific Coast League championships. Three of the teams rated inclusion in the Top 100. The best of that trio was the 1925 Seals, whose star was a pint-size powerhouse who felt he had something to prove.
San Francisco won its first PCL title in 1909 and the formation of the league is covered in the story of that team, Top 100 team #71. The Seals also won pennants in 1915 and 1917. The 1915 team featured slugger Ping Bodie (.325 with 19 home runs) and right-hander Spider Baum (30-15, 2.45). The 1917 Seals were led by Swedish-born right-hander Eric Erickson, who pitched an improbable 444 innings and won the Triple Crown with 31-15, 1.93 and 307 strikeouts. San Francisco won its next championship in 1922 with Top 100 team #44 and the history of the team is updated in the report of that club.
1923 brought another pennant, but it was a trying season, although the Seals won by 11 games over second-place Sacramento. Popular manager Dots Miller, who had piloted the 1922 champions, became ill in mid-season. He was diagnosed with tuberculosis, entered a sanatorium at Saranac Lake, NY, in August and died on September 5. First baseman Bert Ellison was appointed interim manager and guided the Seals to the pennant. After the season, Ellison was rewarded with a two-year contract by part-owner and business manager Charley Graham. With its starting lineup virtually intact, San Francisco was heavily favored to repeat in 1924. However, the pitching faltered in the closing days of the season and the Seals finished third in an extremely tight race. Seattle won with Los Angeles second, 1-½ games behind. The Angels were only one point ahead of the Seals. Fourth place Oakland was in the chase until the last week, but finished seven games behind Seattle.
The 1925 Seals again were favored to win the flag. Only one change had been made in the starting lineup and just two in the pitching staff, but opening day gave an indication of how important they were. Right fielder Frank Brower replaced Joe Kelly. Right-hander Doug McWeeny, a star in 1922-23, rejoined the team. In the season opener before a capacity crowd at Recreation Park, April 7, McWeeny went the distance and Brower hit two homers, the second a two-run blow in the bottom of the tenth to beat Seattle 6-4. The Seals split the opening series with the defending champions, 3-3, then won six of seven from Oakland, including the last four games. Sacramento came to town and dropped all seven games of their series. The Seals won the first three of their next seven-game series against visiting Salt Lake to run their winning streak to 14 games. San Francisco was now in first place and stayed there the rest of the season. Salt Lake, the leader for the first two weeks, provided the Seals with their only real challenge, but when the season was over San Francisco led the Bees by 12-½ games. The Seals won 24 of the season’s 27 series. Their winning percentage of .643 (128-71) was the second highest in the PCL up to that time, surpassed only by another Top 100 team, the 1906 Portland champions.
The regular season ended October 18. In what was planned to be the latest version of the off-and-on post-season series for the mythical Class AA championship, the Seals were supposed to play the winner of the Junior World Series between Baltimore and Louisville in a best-of-nine game series starting October 22 in San Francisco. The Orioles beat the Colonels, 4 games to 3, but owner Jack Dunn declined to play the series, possibly because the financial rewards were not sufficient. All the games were scheduled to be played in San Francisco and the Seals’ owners were taking a financial gamble. As Scott Mackey points out in his book “Barbary Baseball,” the Seals were paying all of Louisville’s travel, lodging and meal expenses, plus the salary and expenses of one of the two umpires. 70% of the gate receipts from the first five games were to be split 60-40 between the winning and losing players. Fan interest was lukewarm. After five games, San Francisco led 4 games to 1 and attendance was averaging only about 6,000 a game. Even adding in concessions revenues, the Seals’ owners would lose money unless the series went to eight or nine games. Mackey writes, “On Tuesday, October 27, game six commenced with all the charm of a funeral. An autumn chill and morbid interest enticed few fans to the ballpark to witness the Colonels’ interment. The corpse resurrected itself, however, scoring five late runs to win 11-9.” Louisville won again, 6-2, before a slim Wednesday crowd. The Seals fell once more Thursday in a sloppily played game, 12-11, as they made five errors and left 16 runners on base. That tied the series at four wins apiece. San Francisco eked out a 9-8 win in the series finale, scoring the winning run in the eighth inning on a bloop single and the Seals could claim to be the best team in the minor leagues.
San Francisco batted .315 with 1,250 runs, 2,264 hits and 155 home runs, averaging 6.25 runs and 11.32 hits a game, but finished second to Salt Lake in all three categories. The Bees hit .321 with 1,377 runs, 2,284 hits and 197 homers. At Salt Lake, batters benefited from the 4,330-foot altitude and from the friendly dimensions of Bonneville Park. While the distance down each foul line was a respectable 325 feet, the center field fence was only 360 feet from home plate, leading to abnormally short power alleys. After the advent of the lively ball, Salt Lake regularly led the PCL in batting until the team was transferred to Hollywood after the 1925 season. In the Bees’ final year, Salt Lake second baseman and San Francisco native Tony Lazzeri became the first player in professional baseball to record 60 home runs in one season and 39 were hit at Bonneville Park.
Herbert S. (Bert) Ellison, the Seals’ 29-year-old manager, frequently described as a “fiery competitor,” was a right-handed hitting first baseman from the University of Arkansas who began his pro career in 1915 with Clinton (Central Association). He played a handful of games for Detroit in 1916-17-18 and 117 games for the Tigers in 1919-20. In 135 major league games he batted .216. Ellison joined San Francisco in 1921 and in his first three years with the Seals batted .311, .306 and .358. In 1924 he hit .381-33-188, leading the league in hits (307) and RBI and was third in batting and tied for third in home runs. In one series at Salt Lake, May 20-25, 1924 he set several PCL records that still stand: Most hits in a series, 25 (in 37 times at bat for a .676 average); most home runs in a series, 10; most home runs in three consecutive games, 8 (3 on May 24, 2 in the first game May 25, 3 in the second game May 25); most home runs in two consecutive games, 5; and most home runs in a double-header, 5. In 1925 he batted .325-22-160. The next winter, Ellison resigned as manager because of illness and was succeeded at the helm by Nick Williams, but was able to return as a player in July, 1926. He batted .302, but hit just 3 home runs in 105 games and drove in only 48 runs. Ellison played part of 1927 with Minneapolis and managed Dallas the first half of 1928, then left baseball. He was an appraiser for the United States Customs Service in San Francisco for 20 years. He donned a uniform again in 1953 and 1954 when he managed the Seals team on Old-Timers Day. After the 1925 championship season, Bert was presented with a watch that he prized and wore every day. The watch was stolen in 1933 while Ellison was in Kobe, Japan. Thirteen years later, some boys found the watch in a park in Vancouver, BC, during a heavy rain and it still ran and kept perfect time. The boys noticed the inscription on the back of the watch and turned it over to the local police. They contacted the Seals and the watch was returned to Ellison.
San Francisco’s star-of-stars was 22-year-old outfielder Paul Waner, who put his home town of Harrah, OK, on the map. His middle name was Glee and that is what he brought to Seals fans in 1925. He hit .401-11-130, leading the PCL in batting and doubles (75) and was the first player in league history to hit .400. How Waner became a Seal is an example of serendipity at its best. Waner told the story in an interview for Lawrence S. Ritter’s “The Glory of Their Times:”
“How did they find me? Well, they found me because of a scout on a drunk. Yes, that’s right, because a scout went on a bender. He (Nick Williams) was a scout for the San Francisco Seals, and he was in Muskogee looking over a player named (Ray) Flaskamper that Frisco wanted to buy. He looked him over, and sent in a recommendation - that was late in the summer of 1922 - and then went on a drunk for about ten days. They never heard a thing from him all this while, didn’t know where the heck he was. He finally got in shape to go back to the Coast, but on the way back a train conductor by the name of Burns found out that this fellow was a baseball scout. Well, it so happened that I went with this conductor’s daughter at school. So naturally he couldn’t wait to tell this scout how great I was. How I could pitch and hit and run and do just about everything. He was such a great talker, and this scout decided, ‘Doggone it, I’ve got something here.” When Williams got back to San Francisco, he told Charley Graham about his find. “I’ve been looking over a player in Ada, OK. His name is Paul Waner and he’s only 19 years old, and I think he’s really going to make it big. I watched him for ten days and I don’t see how he can miss.” Williams then wrote Waner explaining the situation and telling Paul to write back with all the details of his personal background - and to send it to Nick’s home address, not to the ball club.
Waner didn’t hear form the Seals immediately, but the next year they sent him a contract “However, I sent it right back, ‘cause my Dad always wanted me to go to school. He didn’t want me to quit college. But they sent the contract right back to me, and even upped the ante some. So I said, ‘Dad, I’ll ask them for $500 a month and if they give it to me will you let me go?” Paul’s father agreed with the understanding that if he didn’t make the Seals, he would come home and finish college. The Seals okayed the arrangement and Waner reported to 1923 spring training as a left-handed pitcher.
On the second day, he was pitching in an intra-squad game and his arm began to tighten up. The next day he could barely lift his arm. He didn’t want to get sent home, so he went to the outfield during practice, shagging balls for the regulars and tossing the ball back to the infield underhanded. Finally, one day he was asked if he wanted to hit. Of course he did and began to hit one smash after another over the right field fence, some 360-370 feet from home plate. That night Manager Dots Miller told Waner to start hitting with the regulars. He had made the team. His arm strength gradually returned and a few weeks into the season it was back to normal. In his rookie season he batted .369-3-39 in 112 games, the second best average in the PCL. In 1924, playing more regularly, Waner hit .356-8-97 in 160 games, sixth in the league, and tied for second in assists by an outfielder with 28.
Waner told Ritter, “I was figuring by then that maybe I should be moving up to the Big Leagues. Joe Devine, Pittsburgh scout, was trying to get the Pirates to buy me, but the San Francisco club wanted $100,000 for me, and the Pittsburgh higher-ups thought that that was a little too much for a small fellow like me. I only weighed 135 pounds then. I never weighed over 148 pounds ever, in all the years I played. So Joe said to me, ‘Paul, it looks like you’ll have to hit .400 to get up to the majors.’ ‘Well then,’ I said, ‘that’s just exactly what I’ll do.’”
In 1925, Waner, Lefty O’Doul of Salt Lake and Frank Brazill of Seattle were at the top of the PCL batting statistics all season, alternating in the 1-2-3 positions. O’Doul held the lead the longest, from July 25 to September 19. On August 24, he was batting .420 and in a series against Vernon in July had gone 19-for-21, including 11 consecutive hits, at the time a PCL record. Meanwhile, Mackey writes “Waner’s hopes for .400 and a batting title took a severe blow at the end of August when he was stricken with nausea and dizziness. Vowing to play despite his condition, Waner could not muster the strength for a single at-bat in the ten-game series against Portland. After missing the first two games against Seattle, Waner finally returned with a 3-for-12 performance in a double-header. While Waner and the Seals fretted over his condition, the cause of the problem surfaced. Waner had been shot in the face in an off-season hunting accident that had left a load of leadshot in his jaw. A doctor in Portland removed the birdshot poisoning Waner’s system, and he could once again set his sights on PCL pitchers.
O’Doul faded fast in the closing weeks of the campaign and finished the season with a .373 average. Waner and Brazill continued to vie for the title with good chances of achieving the additional .400 goal. On the morning of the last day of the season, Waner was at an even .400 (278-for-695), Brazill stood at .395 (278-for-703). If Paul sat out the Sunday double-header against Oakland, Frank would have to go 6-for-6 against Portland to edge out Waner by .0005 point. Paul decided to play and in the morning game at Recreation Park, Waner went 2-for-4, raising his average to .401. Brazill went 1-for-4 in the first game, clinching the title for Waner, who did not play in the afternoon game. Brazill finished with .394. Pittsburgh did purchase Waner, along with shortstop Hal Rhyne for a reported $95,000 and players. The Pirates still considered Waner the lesser of the two prospects, but obviously they were mistaken.
Paul Waner was an immediate success in the majors, batting .336-8-79 in his rookie year and leading the National League with 22 triples, still the most by a major league rookie since 1900. Had today’s rule governing eligibility for the batting championship been in effect then, Waner would have won the title. The official champion, Cincinnati catcher Bubbles Hargrave batted .353, but had only 365 plate appearances in 105 games. The criterion then was 100 games. On August 26, 1926 Waner made six consecutive hits in a game, three singles, two doubles and a triple. In 1927, in helping the Pirates win the pennant, he hit .380-9-131, leading the league in batting, hits (237), triples (17) and RBI and was voted the National League’s Most Valuable Player. Although Pittsburgh lost the World Series in four straight to the Yankees, Waner hit .333 in his only post-season appearance. He played for the Pirates for 15 years, winning two more batting championships, in 1934 (.352) and 1936 (.373). He led the league in runs in 1928 (142) and 1934 (122), in hits in 1934 (217), in doubles in 1928 (50) and 1932 (62). The 62 doubles are the most by a left-handed hitter in National League history. He had 200 or more hits eight times, the National League record until it was broken by Pete Rose. Waner was named to The Sporting News Major League All-Star Team in 1927-28 and 1937. He played in four Major League All-Star Games, 1933-34, 1936-37, going 0-for-8. He played for the Dodgers, Braves and, briefly, the Yankees from 1941-45. In 20 major league seasons, Waner batted .333 with 3,152 hits in 2,549 games. He rarely struck out, only 376 times in 9,459 times at bat and only once more than 30 times in a season, 34 in 619 AB in 1937. He managed Miami in the Class C Florida International League in 1946, batting .325 in 62 games at the age of 43, but the team finished last. In 1952, Paul Waner was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was a batting instructor for the Braves, Cardinals and Phillies from 1956-65, the year he died.
|Paul (L) and Lloyd Waner|
Three years after Nick Williams “discovered” Paul Waner, he returned to Oklahoma to sign Lloyd Waner, Paul’s younger brother, also a left-handed hitting outfielder. Lloyd made his pro debut with the 1925 Seals, getting into 31 games, batting .250-0-1. Early in 1926, after hitting .200 in six games, Lloyd asked for, and received, his release from San Francisco. Divine signed him immediately for Pittsburgh. He had a successful season at Columbia (South Atlantic) and joined Paul in the Pirates outfield in the pennant-winning year of 1927. He hit .355-2-27 and tied for the National League lead in runs (133). He hit .400 in the World Series. Lloyd enjoyed an 18-year major league career, 17 seasons with the Pirates. If anything, his batting eye was even better than Paul’s, striking out only 173 times in 7,772 times at bat. After his rookie year, he struck out more than 15 times in a season only once and in 1933 fanned only 8 times in 500 AB. His career average was .316 with 2,459 hits in 1,993 games. The Waners’ total of 5,611 hits is the most by two brothers in major league history. Lloyd was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1967.
Fourth in the PCL in batting was right fielder Frank Brower, who hit .362-36-163 in 186 games. He was third in the league in homers and fourth in RBI. Brower, a 32-year-old left-handed hitter from the University of Virginia, started his pro career in 1914 and made his major league debut with Washington in August 1920, coming up from Reading (International). In five big league seasons with the Senators and Indians he hit a respectable .286-30-205 in 450 games. The Seals bought him from Cleveland for $7,500 after the 1924 season. In 1926 Brower dropped to .330-16-99 for the Seals team that plunged to the basement and Graham sold him to Baltimore for the same price he had paid Cleveland. In his book “Baseball Nicknames,” James Skipper relates the story behind Brower’s unusual tag of “Turkeyfoot.” Brower’s daughter said, “His real nickname was ‘Tuckey’ which he got as a child. Sportswriters thought he said Turkey because of his Southern accent. Later it was changed to Turkeyfoot because he was so fast.” She said her father did not like the nickname.
In center field was speedy leadoff batter Gene Valla, 27, who had jumped from the San Francisco sandlots to the Seals’ starting lineup in the championship year of 1922. In his first four years with the Seals he batted .333, .334, .367 and, in 1925, .333-6-72 in 177 games with 256 hits, 44 doubles and 332 total bases. Valla and Waner were often described as the two best young outfielders in the PCL. In 1924, Ed Hughes of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote, “His first year, Gene was content to beat out infield taps and he got down to first base so fast that he had the infielders all upset. Gene has changed this year. He is taking a full swing at the ball and he is driving it hard. He is a swell fielder with a pretty good arm. He is no Tris Speaker when it comes to throwing, but his throws are accurate and he always throws to the right spot… The greatest improvement in Valla is in his base running…He is getting the knack of getting the start on the pitcher. Valla may never get to the majors, but he is a valuable Class AA ball player. He takes perfect care of himself.” Valla never reached the majors. In the Seals’ disastrous 1926 season, Valla’s hitting dropped off to .268-1-73 in 181 games and during the winter he was traded to Oakland. He was in center field on opening day, 1927, but after batting only .173 in 35 games he was released. He went to Fort Worth and was hitting .333 in 27 games, but quit because, as a lifelong resident of the cool San Francisco Bay Area, he couldn’t take the 90-100 degree Texas temperatures. He later managed Santa Cruz in the semi-pro California State League for several years. His son, also Gene Valla, was a third baseman in the Yankees organization and in 1951 played for his father’s old team, the Seals. For 37 years, Valla, his two brothers and later his son, owned and operated the Blue Gum Lodge, a large restaurant and motel near Willows, CA, 80 miles north of Sacramento, popular with hunters, fishermen - and baseball scouts.
In late August, the Seals added another player who was to become one of the greatest stars in PCL history, Smead Jolley. Jolley, 23, was pitching and playing the outfield for Corsicana in the Class D Texas Association and many clubs in the high minors were interested in acquiring him. He was an 18-game winner on the mound and was hitting .352 with a league-high 26 home runs. Graham stepped up with a sizable cash offer and came away with his new player. In September, Mackey relates, Valla’s mother was seriously injured in an automobile accident and on Saturday, the 19th, Jolley was inserted in the lineup in right field. He went 4-for-5 that afternoon against Portland. The Seals traveled to Salt Lake the next week and in the series there he went 13-for-23 with four homers and five doubles. During the remainder of the season, Jolley hit .447 with 12 home runs and 43 RBI in 38 games. His career is profiled in the story of the 1928 Seals, Top 100 team #50.
The four starting infielders, Ellison at first, Pete Kilduff at second, Hal Rhyne at short and Eddie Mulligan at third had played together for three years. It was considered the best infield in the PCL and a Sporting News story said it was better than at least three or four in the majors. The quartet was a big reason the Seals led the league in fielding (.968). The careers of Kilduff and Rhyne are covered in the story of the 1922 Seals, Top 100 team #44.
Third baseman Mulligan, 30, was in his third year with San Francisco and hit .286-10-77 in 180 games. He batted second in the lineup behind Valla, an ideal spot for an expert in the hit-and-run, the bunt and the opposite field hit. Mulligan played in the Pacific Coast League for 17 years and holds the following league records: Most clubs played for, 8 (Salt Lake, San Francisco, Mission, Seattle, Portland, Oakland, Hollywood, San Diego); most career sacrifice hits, 390; most career putouts, 2,221, and most career assists, 4,762, by a third baseman and most bases on balls in one game, 5. A native of St. Louis, Mulligan started his pro career in 1914 at Galesburg (Central Association). He made his major league debut September 23, 1915 with the Chicago Cubs and got two hits off Grover Cleveland Alexander. He batted .364 in 11 games and he often kidded that he led the National League, but it didn’t count. He started 1916 with the Cubs, but batted only .153 in 58 games and was released to Kansas City. In 1917 he was with Kansas City and Mobile (Southern). Mulligan was in the Navy in 1918 and made his PCL bow with Salt Lake in 1919. In 1920 he hit .299 in 179 games with 50 stolen bases. The Black Sox scandal broke during the last week of the 1920 season and White Sox owner Charles Comiskey had to replace three starting infielders. He solved the problem by purchasing three-fourths of the Salt Lake infield, first baseman Earl Sheely, manager-shortstop Ernie Johnson and Mulligan.
Mulligan hit .251-1-45 in 152 games for the White Sox in 1921 and .234-0-31 in 103 games in 1922. After Chicago purchased Willie Kamm from the Seals in 1922, San Francisco bought Mulligan from the White Sox for $10,000 in a separate transaction during the winter. Years later, Eddie told San Francisco Examiner columnist Bucky Walter, “I almost didn’t report. I had a wonderful offer from a strong ‘outlaw’ league in the Midwest, but one day I received a telegram from Charley Graham that indicated he had come to my thinking about contract.” However, Los Angeles Angels executive Oscar Reichow complained to Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis that Mulligan had been negotiating with “outlaws.” “Landis called me to his office and I reported to his secretary, Leslie O’Connor,” related Eddie. ‘Tell the Judge the truth,’ O’Connor advised me. I said, ‘I’ve got nothing else to tell.’ When the Judge learned I hadn’t signed anything and had taken no money he told me I had nothing to worry about.”
Mulligan was the Seals’ third baseman for the next five years. Before the 1928 season started, he was purchased by Pittsburgh and was a utility infielder for the Pirates, batting .233 in 27 games. The next winter, Pittsburgh sold his contract to Dallas, but Mulligan, now a permanent San Francisco resident, said he would refuse to report. Within days he negotiated a deal whereby the Mission Reds would buy his contract. He helped lead Mission to the first half PCL title in 1929. He remained in the league through 1938, the last three years as a player-coach for San Diego. He always said the achievement that gave him the most satisfaction was stealing 45 bases for Oakland in 1934 when he was 40 years old. He hit .269 in 184 games that season. In 1936, at San Diego, manager Frank Shellenback assigned Mulligan to take a 17-year-old rookie named Ted Williams, who had never been away from home, in tow and show him the ropes. During his career he collected 3,223 hits in 3,079 major and minor league games. He batted .283 with 455 stolen bases in the minors and .232 in the majors.
In 1939, when the Class C Pioneer League was organized, Mulligan applied for and was awarded the Salt Lake franchise. The Bees were a farm club of the San Francisco Seals. In that 1980 interview, he told Walter, “I met the Judge (Landis) in Chicago in 1939, en route to Cincinnati for the celebration of the 100th anniversary of baseball. ‘I’ve been keeping track of you, Eddie,’ he said. I owned the Salt Lake club and had the working agreement with Charley Graham. ‘You’ve got the best deal in the country,’ he said, respecting Graham’s integrity, as did everybody in baseball.” Mulligan managed the Bees in 1939, his last year in uniform, and even pinch-hit a few times. Salt Lake won the pennant the next season. The league suspended operations in 1943-44-45 and Eddie did some work for the Seals. In the first four years after the war, Salt Lake, still affiliated with Seals, won two titles and led the Pioneer League in attendance by a wide margin. However, it was getting harder to compete with major league farm clubs and after the 1949 season Mulligan sold the Bees to San Francisco advertising executive Bert Dunne. Mulligan and Charles Graham, Jr., then bought the Sacramento Solons of the PCL. Eddie operated the club for five years, then sold his interest in the club. Late in 1955, he was elected President of the California League, succeeding former San Francisco teammate Jerry Donovan who became President of the Seals when the Boston Red Sox bought the franchise. Mulligan served as head of the California League for 20 years, retiring after the 1975 season, ending a 62-year career in baseball. After he stepped down, the California League directors decided to name the league’s Rookie-of-the-Year award in his honor and it is now the Eddie Mulligan Memorial Award. In 1964, at the National Association convention in Houston, he was chosen King of Baseball. At the winter meetings in Toronto in 1979 he received the George Trautman Award for his contributions to minor league baseball.
Mulligan was a star in another sport, soccer. He grew up in St. Louis, for years the soccer capitol of the United States. Walter wrote, “In the Mound City, the game was no-holds barred. Only the valiant survived.” In 1920, Eddie was invited to join an All-American soccer team that was going on a European tour, but declined because it would have meant interrupting his baseball career. In later years, he was elected to the St. Louis Soccer Hall of Fame.
Eddie was a team leader and a fierce competitor. Walter wrote: “He weighed only 152 pounds. They were all scrap iron. He never sought a knuckles match but when occasionally pushed into one, he delivered like a buzzsaw.” His 1924 fight at Recreation Park in which he decked Portland infielder Duke Kenworthy, who outweighed Mulligan by 15-20 pounds, was a PCL legend. Eddie was ejected from more than one game, but never for swearing. When he was still a boy, his mother asked him to promise to never use profanity and he always honored that pledge. In one game in San Francisco in the 1920s, after being called out on strikes, he turned around to veteran umpire Perle Casey and said something. Casey immediately gave him the thumb. The newspapermen knew Mulligan never cursed and after the game they asked Casey what Eddie said to get ejected. Drawing himself to his full 5’6” height, Casey, still feeling offended, said, “He called me a snot!”
The catching again was ably handled by Sam Agnew and Archie Yelle, who were teammates from 1920 through 1926. When The Sporting News announced its 1925 Pacific Coast League All-Star Team, Yelle was the catcher on the first team and Agnew the catcher on the second team. There is more about these players in the story of the 1922 Seals.
The Seals had a quartet of 20-game winners and another pair who won 16 and 15 games. The ace of the staff was 28-year-old right-hander Doug McWeeny, a fastball hurler, who went 20-5, 2.70, striking out 175 and walking 78 in 263 innings. McWeeny led the PCL in ERA, tied for the lead in won-lost percentage (.800) and was third in strikeouts. He had been a mainstay of the 1922-23 champions after being obtained early in the ’22 season from the White Sox in the deal in which third baseman Willie Kamm was sold to Chicago. McWeeny had a 15-7, 2.78 record in 1922 and was 20-12, 3.91 in 1923. The White Sox brought him back for 1924, but after going 1-3, 4.57 in 1924 he was traded to Minneapolis. Graham bought his contract after the 1924 season. In October 1925 he was drafted by Brooklyn and pitched for the Dodgers for the next four years. His best season was 1928 when he went 14-14, 3.17, tied for the National League lead in shutouts (4) and was ninth in ERA. His major league career ended in 1930 with Cincinnati. After he retired from O.B. in 1934, McWeeny, a lifelong resident of the Chicago area, pitched for the Mills semi-pro team in the Windy City. The team had its own ballpark, Mills Stadium, on the city’s Northwest side that seated 10,000 and they frequently outdrew the White Sox for a Sunday double-header. The team was sponsored by the Mills Novelty Co., one of the largest manufacturers of slot machines and juke boxes.
Tied with McWeeny for the percentage lead was 23-year-old Marty Griffin, a 6’2”, 200-pound right-hander and a San Francisco native. Griffin went 16-4, 4.26. He had jumped from semi-pro ball to the Seals in 1924, going 16-14, 3.20, fourth in the league in ERA. He pitched 251 innings in 50 games, both starting and relieving. On September 29, 1925 he was the Seals’ starting pitcher in the first game played at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles. It was not one of his better outings as the Seals lost to the Angels 10-8. The first home run in the new park was hit by Paul Waner, over the right field screen, 338 feet from home plate. Griffin dropped to 7-17, 4.56 in 1926 and was released to Lincoln (Western). His only major league experience was in 1928 with the Boston Red Sox when he went 0-3, 5.02 in 11 games.
The Seals’ biggest winner was a 24-year-old, 5’9”, 155-pound left-hander, Guy Williams, the third of Nick Williams’ finds from Ada, OK. He, too, went from the sandlots to the Seals in 1924 and was 14-12, 3.63 in his rookie year. In 1925 he had a 21-10, 3.80 record. He struck out 133 in 249 innings, but walked 140. Williams fell to 10-19, 4.29 in 1926 and in 1927 he was released to Fort Worth (Texas). He pitched four years in the American Association with Minneapolis and Louisville, retiring in 1932.
The other 20-game winners were Seals veterans, southpaw Ollie Mitchell (20-8, 4.29) and right-hander Bob Geary (20-12, 4.01). Both had been with San Francisco since 1922. Mitchell, a 28-year-old native of Cullinan, AL, was the only pitcher with the Seals in all of their four championship seasons in the 1920s. He led the PCL in wins in 1924 (28-15, 4.20). Although he won 135 games in his seven years with San Francisco (122-28), he never pitched an inning in the big leagues. Geary was a 20-game winner three times in his six years with the Seals (1922-27). There is more about his career in the story of the 1922 Seals.
The veteran of the staff was 36-year-old Jeff Pfeffer who was something of a disappointment with a 15-15, 5.27 record. He was in his first year with the Seals after a 13-year National League career during which he won 158 and lost 112 with a 2.77 ERA. He pitched for Brooklyn, St. Louis and Pittsburgh. His best years were with the Dodgers, 1913-21. In 1916 he was 25-16, 1.92, second in the league in wins and fifth in ERA as he helped lead Brooklyn to the pennant. 1925 was his only season with the Seals. He pitched four more years, with Toledo, than became an American Association umpire.
When The Sporting News picked a 1925 PCL All-Star team, they chose six Seals on the first team (Kilduff, Mulligan, Rhyne, Waner, Yelle and McWeeny) and four on the second team (Ellison, Valla, Agnew and Geary). Among the regulars, only Brower was not honored. In 1995 a panel of historians selected an All-1920s PCL team. Ellison, Kilduff, Mulligan, Rhyne, Waner and Jolley made the first team and Agnew, McWeeny, Mitchell and Geary were on the second team.
In three more years, the Seals returned to the top with their third Top 100 team of the decade. Almost 20 years later, the 1946 team (115-68) won a spirited race with Oakland and just missed inclusion in the Top 100. This champion was led by Larry Jansen (30-6, 1.57) who set a league record for lowest ERA. Eleven years later, the team left the league when New York’s Giants moved west.
The 1925 San Francisco Seals, led by the first .400 hitter in the PCL, was the best team in the first quarter century in the league. As a tribute to the city and the franchise, the ’25 champion’s main competition for these honors were the 1922 and 1928 Seals - giving the Bay Area three fine pennant winners in the space of six years.
|1925 Pacific Coast League standings|
|SALT LAKE CITY||116||84||.580||12.5||OAKLAND||88||112||.442||40.5|
|1925 San Francisco batting statistics|
|Bert Ellison||1B, 2B, 3B||174||708||122||230||160||38||7||22||8||.325|
|Frank Brower||OF, P||186||705||163||255||163||42||3||36||17||.362|
|Paul Waner||OF, 1B||174||699||167||280||130||75||7||11||8||.401|
|Smead Jolley||OF, P||38||132||31||59||43||16||1||12||1||.447|
|Joe Kelly (Vernon)||OF||24||71||11||19||5||1||0||0||1||.268|
|1925 San Francisco pitching statistics||PITCHER||W||L||PCT||G||GS||CG||SH||SV||IP||H||BB||SO||ERA|