Top 100 Teams
Pacific Coast League (Triple-A)
By Bill Weiss & Marshall Wright, Baseball Historians
During World War II, many minor leagues closed up shop for the duration. There were 41 leagues in 1941 and 31 in 1942, but only 9, the smallest number in National Association history, were ready to start the 1943 season. The draft of young men for the armed services, restrictions on team travel, gas rationing (to save rubber, not gasoline), a ban on “pleasure driving” (an oxymoron in today’s world) - all contributed to the reduction. The three Class AA leagues survived and the Pacific Coast League showcased one of its finest champions, the 1943 Los Angeles Angels, during the three-year period ending in 1945. The Angels were not what one might think of as strictly a wartime team. Almost all of the players had extensive major league and/or top minor league experience before or after the war. In June, San Francisco Seals manager Lefty O’Doul told The Sporting News that in his opinion the Angels were superior to their parent Chicago Cubs. He considered Roy Hughes the best second baseman he had seen in the PCL in his many years as a player and manager.
Los Angeles was a charter member of the Pacific Coast League in 1903 and boasted the first league champion. (The formation of the league is covered in the report on the 1903 Angels, top team number 29.) In its 55 years in the PCL, Los Angeles won 14 championships, still the league record. Their best team was the 1934 powerhouse, another of the Top 100. Los Angeles won the first half in 1935, but lost the playoff to second half winner San Francisco. The PCL abandoned the split season in 1936 in favor of the four-team Shaughnessy playoff format that was increasing in popularity throughout the minors. The league called its playoff the Governor’s Cup Series. The official league champion still was the team finishing first in the regular season. The 1938 Angels won the pennant, winning 32 of 41 games in June and July to jump from sixth to first place, but lost the first round of the playoff to third place Sacramento. In 1939, Los Angeles won 19 in a row in April, a league record, but finished third and was defeated by Sacramento in the finals of the playoffs. The Angels finished second in 1940 and won the first round of the playoff before losing to Seattle. The 1941 team dropped all the way to seventh place.
Los Angeles almost didn’t have a PCL team in 1942. As the winter of 1941 approached, negotiations were quietly under way which provided for Donald Barnes, owner of the St. Louis Browns, to purchase the Los Angeles franchise and Wrigley Field from the Wrigley family for one million dollars and move his American League team to the Southern California city. The Pacific Coast League club would move to Long Beach and be a Browns’ farm team. A schedule had been worked out and arrangements had been made with United Airlines for the transportation of the visiting teams to Los Angeles and for that city’s team to go East on their road trips. The deal was finalized in private meetings during the National Association convention in Jacksonville, FL, the first week of December. The announcement was to be made at the major league meetings starting in Chicago on December 8. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor December 7 put an end to the plan and Los Angeles remained in the Pacific Coast League for another 16 years.
In the first few weeks after Pearl Harbor it was by no means certain there would be professional baseball in 1942. However, in a letter from President Franklin D. Roosevelt to Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis dated January 15, baseball got the green light. The President emphasized that “people working longer and harder than ever ought to have a chance for recreation and for taking their minds off their work even more than ever before. Baseball provides a recreation which does not last over two hours or two hours and a half and which can be got for very little cost. I believe it best for the country to keep baseball going.”
The Pacific Coast League had another problem to face. Dick Beverage in his book “The Angels” writes, “The coastal regions of the United States were under the jurisdiction of the armed services command, and this left the PCL in a very vulnerable position during the winter. All during December and January a Japanese attack was considered to be a distinct possibility, and baseball would be the least of the nation’s concerns were that to happen. But as the danger of invasion receded, it was decided that the clubs should begin spring training as usual. Army approval was expected to be forthcoming and on March 25, General John L. Dewitt of the 4th Army Command gave his approval for Pacific Coast League baseball in 1942 with the clubs permitted to play night games, provided that attendance be no greater than the average of the year before….The Army subsequently withdrew its permission for night ball effective on August 20. The ban on night baseball extended through the 1943 season.”
In 1943, the PCL clubs experimented with various starting times ranging from morning to twilight. At the request of war plant swing shift workers, Los Angeles president Clarence Rowland on May 6 set the starting time for weekday games at 12:15 p.m. rather than the customary 2:15 p.m. San Diego decided to start weekday games at 11:15 a.m. This was the season Bill Veeck, owner of the American Association Milwaukee Brewers staged some “breakfast” games for war plant workers whose shifts ended at 8 a.m. The gates opened at 9:30 and free breakfast cereal, milk, doughnuts and coffee were distributed by ushers wearing nightshirts.
There were many other problems. Take shoes, which were rationed to conserve leather, for example. In April 1943, the Office of Price Administration declared that the baseball shoes (spikes) worn by professional players, managers and coaches were “work shoes” and when bought by the club itself the shoes could be furnished members of the teams without the players having to surrender ration stamps as long as the club retained title to the shoes. The club had to apply to a regional OPA office for a certificate that enabled them to buy the shoes. If a player bought the spikes himself, he had to use precious ration currency.
Transportation was another headache. In “The Race for the Governor’s Cup,” Donald R. Wells writes “The military had travel priority. No longer were separate dining cars and sleepers set aside for players; they would have to take berths wherever they could find them and carry their own luggage. Train delays often caused teams to play doubleheaders after postponements.” (In 1942, before the California League suspended for the duration on June 28, San Jose owner Bob Ripley had his own solution to the travel problem. Forbidden by the government to operate his own bus, when the team went on the road he furnished each player with a Greyhound bus schedule and tickets to get himself from city to city. It was up to the player to show up at the right place and time. The player with the lowest batting average had to carry the bat bag and the pitcher with the worst ERA was responsible for the bag of practice balls).
In 1942, Rowland made many roster changes in an effort to improve the Angels’ performance. The team bounced back from its dismal ’41 season and finished in second place with a 104-74, .584 record, only a game behind Sacramento, and led the PCL in attendance. In the playoffs, they bested San Diego in the first round, but as in 1940 lost to Seattle in the finals.
In 1943, the PCL reduced the schedule to 155 games, the fewest up to that time, and scheduled opening for April 18, the latest in league history. The Angels’ spring training was held at nearby Anaheim, home of the present-day major league Angels, and lasted only three weeks. Rosters were depleted. Los Angeles, for example, had only seven pitchers in camp. The Angels won the season opener at Wrigley Field before an excellent crowd of 12,500. They scored five runs in the bottom of the first, then held off Oakland for a 9-8 victory. They lost two of the first five games as San Diego won five straight, but by the end of the first week Los Angeles was tied for first place with a 6-2 record and never relinquished the top spot.
Starting on April 28, Los Angeles was undefeated in 21 consecutive games, 20 wins and one tie, a Pacific Coast League record that still stands. All but the last two games of the streak were on the road. Six games went into extra innings. The first six games were at Hollywood. After four wins, the teams played a Sunday doubleheader May 2. The first contest went ten innings with the Angels winning 7-6. The second game was called at the end of five innings with the score tied 1-1, a time limit having been set in advance to permit the Angels to catch a train to Portland. Los Angeles won all six games from the Beavers, three going into extra innings. There was a ten-inning game May 6 and an 11-inning game May 8. The first game of the Sunday May 9 doubleheader went 19 innings before the Angels triumphed 7-6. The score was tied 6-6 at the end of six innings. Ken Raffensberger, who had pitched a complete-game 2-1 victory only two days earlier, entered the game with one out in the ninth and pitched 9 2/3 innings of three-hit shutout ball.
Portland starter Wayne Osborne went the distance and pitched 12 shutout innings before giving up the winning run. The teams were able to play a seven-inning second game that Los Angeles won 2-1 with Don Osborn edging Bill Thomas in a pitchers’ duel. The Angels then traveled to Seattle where they swept the seven-game series. The first two games were routs with Los Angeles winning 13-0 and 14-1, banging out a total of 37 hits. The remaining five games were much closer, three won by one run. The last three were shutouts, 1-0, 2-0 and 1-0. Seattle wreaked its revenge in September. After two days off to travel back home, the Angels took a doubleheader from Hollywood. The streak ended May 20 when the Stars and Roy Joiner beat the Angels and Raffensberger 4-2. During the streak the starting pitcher went the distance 14 times, including all seven wins in Seattle. The Angels won five doubleheaders, five one-run victories and five shutouts. Red Lynn won six games, five complete plus one in relief. Los Angeles outscored its opponents 134 runs to 56.
By the time the Angels’ streak was over, they had a 26-3 record and an eight game lead over second place San Francisco. The Seals remained in the second spot the rest of the season, but Los Angeles gradually increased its lead, finishing 110-45, .710, 21 games ahead of San Francisco’s 89-66, .574. The Angels clinched the pennant September 1 with 12 days left in the schedule. As mid-season approached, Portland general manager Bill Klepper proposed that the season be split, but on June 28 the league directors, in a telegraphic vote, turned him down 6-2. Only Hollywood supported Klepper. Seattle came in third at 85-70, .548 and Portland was fourth, 79-76, .510. The Rainiers were 8-19 after the first month of the season, but came on strong in the second half, going 50-24, .676 only 2-½ games poorer than the Angels’ 53-22, .707 for the same period. Los Angeles walked all over the second division teams, winning 70 games against only 22 losses. They held a 15-9 margin over Seattle, but after that seven-game series in May, the Rainiers actually had a 9-8 edge.
The two teams met in the first round of the playoffs. They had just finished the regular season with an eight-game series in Seattle, which they split 4-4, so the first two games of the playoff series were held there. The Rainiers took the opener 3-2 with Frank Tincup defeating Lynn. In the second game veteran lefty Carl Fischer held the Angels to one run and Seattle won again 4-1. After two days for travel, the series resumed at Wrigley Field, but playing at home did not help the Angels. Joe Demoran held Los Angeles to two runs and five hits, shutting the Angels out on only three hits for the first eight innings. Seattle pounded four Angels’ righthanders for 16 hits and an 8-2 victory, knocking 20-game winner Lynn out of the box in the third. A doubleheader was scheduled for the next day, Sunday, and a crowd of 15,000 was on hand, but only one game was needed. The contest matched two righthanders, Los Angeles’ other 20-game winner, Paul Gehrman, and Seattle’s Pete Jonas, 12-14 during the season. The Angels got off to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning when shortstop Billy Schuster stole home. Seattle tied the score in the second on a solo home run by catcher Hal Sueme, who had been dumped by the Angels at the end of spring training. Each team scored single runs in the fourth and sixth innings and the game was tied 3-3 going into the ninth. With a man on second and one out, Sueme doubled home the go-ahead run and scored on a single by Jonas, a .188 hitter. Gehrman gave up two more runs, Jonas held the Angels in the bottom of the ninth and Seattle won 7-3. Los Angeles, one of the most dominant teams in PCL history, had been swept in four games, the first time all year they had lost four straight. Manager Bill Sweeney told The Sporting News, “We have no excuses. We were not hitting. The Rainiers were. My congratulations to (Seattle) manager Bill Skiff. He is deserving of every credit for the splendid manner in which he brought his team through.” San Francisco defeated Portland 4 games to 2 in the other first round action, then beat Seattle by the same margin to capture the Governor’s Cup Series.
The 1943 Angels led the league in batting (.281), runs (776), hits (1,441), total bases (2,090), triples (58) and home runs (97). Their home run total was almost twice their nearest competitor, Hollywood with 52. They led the league in fielding (.978) by a wide margin and their pitching staff was the stingiest, giving up only 447 runs, an average of 2.88 per game.
The Angels were managed by 38-year-old Bill Sweeney, one of the most popular pilots with the writers, the fans and his players in Pacific Coast League history. He was in his first year at the helm of the Angels. Sweeney was a native of Cleveland, OH, one of 15 children, 12 of them boys. He started his pro career with Wichita (Western) in 1925 and first reached the majors in 1928, playing the full season with the Tigers, batting .252 in 89 games. After a year at Toronto he returned to the American League with Boston for two years, batting .309-4-30 in 1930 and .295-1-58 in 1931. In 1931 he led American League first basemen in fielding (.993). Sweeney played for Toledo in 1932-33. In 1934 at Syracuse he made his managerial bow, taking over the seventh place Chiefs from Andy High on June 29. He played for Baltimore in 1935, batting .357-13-75, second in the International League by only two points, and set a league record, still standing, by hitting in 36 consecutive games. Sweeney started 1936 as the first baseman for Portland, taking over as manager on May 10 when Max Bishop was fired with the Beavers in seventh place with an 11-18 record. Under Sweeney’s direction, the team went 85-61, finishing first by 1-½ games in a very tight six-team race, then beating Seattle 4 games to 0 and Oakland 4 games to 1 to win the Governor’s Cup Series. In 1937 Portland was fourth and lost the playoff finals to San Diego. He stayed at Portland two more years, but with poor teams came in sixth and eighth. Sweeney managed Hollywood in 1940-41. The Stars reached the playoffs in ’41, but were eliminated in the first round. He was a coach for Los Angeles in 1942 and was appointed Angels manager when Jigger Statz resigned the day after the playoffs ended.
The 1944 Angels again won the pennant, although not by such a wide margin, and in the final series of the regular season had the pleasure of defeating Seattle 6 games to 2, knocking the Rainiers out of fourth place and a playoff berth. Los Angeles beat Portland 4 games to 2 in the first round, but lost the finals to San Francisco, 4 games to 3. Sweeney remained with the Angels for two more years, finishing seventh in 1945 and fourth in 1946. The ’46 team lost the first round of the playoffs to Oakland, 4 games to 3. Sweeney resigned and was a major league coach for Detroit in 1947-48. He returned to Portland for the next three seasons, coming in sixth in 1949 and fourth in 1950-51. No playoffs were held in 1950 because the schedule had been lengthened by two weeks to 200 games, running from March 28 to October 8, the last time any league played that long. Instead, the league set aside $80,000 to be divided among the first division teams. (As a footnote, Portland played 202 games, including two ties, and second baseman Eddie Basinski played every inning except for four innings in one game in April.) The playoffs returned in 1951, with Portland being eliminated in the first round. Seattle hired Sweeney in 1952 and he led the Rainiers to third place in 1952 and second in 1953. Once again, there were no playoffs.
The Angels’ best player was 22-year-old rookie center fielder Andy Pafko from Boyceville, WI. Pafko, a right-handed hitter, led the Pacific Coast League in batting (.356), RBI (118), hits (215) and total bases (326) and was second in runs (109), triples (13) and home runs (18). He struck out only 38 times in 664 plate appearances. He took over the batting lead on May 31 and held it for the rest of the season. Not surprisingly, Pafko was voted the PCL’s Most Valuable Player. He had been signed by the Milwaukee Brewers in 1940 and farmed out to Green Bay (Wisconsin State) in 1941 and Macon in 1942. After batting .300-7-85 and leading the Class B South Atlantic League in triples (18) he was purchased by the Cubs and assigned to Los Angeles for 1943. He had been turned down by the armed services because of high blood pressure. After the Angels were eliminated from the playoffs, Pafko reported to Chicago and batted .379-0-10 in 13 games. In his major league debut, September 24, he singled and doubled in three trips to the plate, driving in four runs in a 7-4 win over Philadelphia. He played in the National League for 17 years with a career .285-213-976 average in 1,852 games. Possessing a great arm, he led the league’s outfielders in assists (24) in 1944 and in fielding (.995) in 1945. The Cubs decided to try him at third base in 1948 and he led the league’s third basemen in assists (314) and double plays (29), but he also led in errors (29), so it was back to the outfield the next season. Pafko’s best years at the plate were both with the Cubs, 1948 (.312-26-101) and 1950 (.304-36-92). On June 15, 1951 he was the key player in a four-for-four trade that sent him to Brooklyn. In January, 1953 he was traded to the Braves and was with Milwaukee until he retired as an active player after the 1959 season. He was a Milwaukee coach from 1960-62. Pafko was named to The Sporting News Major League All-Star Team in 1945. He played in four World Series, 1945 with Chicago (the Cubs “last hurrah”), 1952 with Brooklyn and 1957-58 with Milwaukee, batting .222-0-5 in 24 games.
The PCL’s home run leader was 25-year-old right fielder Johnny Ostrowski, another rookie up from Macon. Ostrowski, a south side Chicagoan, hit 21 homers, the second lowest total to top the league since World War I. He started the season slowly at the plate, but finished with a .282 average and 82 RBI in 143 games. Ostrowski also moved up to the Cubs after the playoffs. He played briefly with the Cubs in 1944-45 and all of 1946. After three more productive years with Los Angeles in 1947-48-49, he returned to the majors for two seasons with the White Sox and Senators. He had a major league average of .234-14-74 in 216 games. Cecil (Rabbit) Garriott, a little 26-year-old switch-hitter who started his career in the Cardinals organization was the primary left fielder. He batted .255-10-47 in 97 games. The next season he took over center field and became one of the best leadoff batters in modern PCL history. He was with the Angels in 1944, leading the league in runs (148) and walks (124). Garriott was in the service all of 1945 and most of 1946, played six games for the Cubs in ’46, his only major league experience, then came back to Los Angeles for 4-½ years.
The fourth outfielder was 41-year-old Johnny Moore (.290-1-31 in 81 games), who had been the PCL batting champion in 1941. Moore came down to the Angels in 1938 after nine years in the National League during which he hit .307-73-452 in 846 games with Chicago, Cincinnati and Philadelphia. He hit .305-13-64 for the pennant winning Cubs in 1932 and was in center field in the World Series when Babe Ruth allegedly pointed in that direction to predict a home run. Moore retired after the 1945 season and started scouting for the Braves. He was with the organization for the next 25 years. Among the many major leaguers he signed, probably the best was Hall-of-Fame third baseman Eddie Mathews.
One of the most colorful players in Pacific Coast League history was shortstop Bill (Broadway Billy) Schuster who hit .275-5-67, playing every game. He led the league in doubles (42) and runs (117), led the shortstops in fielding (.955), putouts (361), assists (555) and double plays (109), and was voted the Angels’ Most Valuable Player. Schuster, 30, broke into pro ball in 1935 with Scranton (NYP) and never played below Class A. Before arriving in the PCL with Seattle in 1940 he was with Albany, Montreal and Toronto with two very brief National League stops at Boston and Pittsburgh. Los Angeles acquired Schuster in 1941 when Rainiers manager Bill Skiff, schooled in the Yankee tradition, decided Billy was too much of a free spirit for his taste. Schuster also joined the Cubs after the 1943 playoffs and stayed with the Cubs in 1944-45, getting into two games in the 1945 World Series. He returned to the Angels in 1946 for four more years. During his 16-year minor league career, he hit .297 with 2,308 hits in 2,139 games.
In his oral history of the PCL, “The Grand Minor League,” Dick Dobbins devoted an entire eight-page chapter to Schuster and his antics. Why? “In the annals of the Pacific Coast League, probably no one player is more remembered than Billy Schuster…Billy was a true ‘flake’ but he was also a fine player. While there were other comics who graced the PCL, Schuster was more unpredictable than the rest. Umpires were victimized by him, managers couldn’t control him. Players didn’t know what to expect from him and the fans loved him. His wife of 49 years couldn’t control him either.” Yet a former Angels teammate, pitcher Red Adams said “Schuster was about as good a clutch player (as) I’ve ever seen. He had great hands. I don’t ever remember him screwing up in a jam. He was a better hitter when the chips were down. He was a tough, good ballplayer, but he did some damn crazy things….I remember one time in San Francisco, in a clutch situation and Bill hits a big pop up, straight up. He starts to run, then realizes it’s going foul. He runs over behind the catcher with his bat. While the catcher is waiting for the ball to come down, Bill gets behind him and goes whomp, whomp, whomp like he’s hitting him over the head. The catcher’s got to concentrate on the ball while this is going on behind him…He was called out on strikes in a game at Wrigley Field, and he stiffened up as if he had been shot, and fell straight back. A photographer caught the picture in mid-fall, so here’s this photo in the newspapers.” Sometimes, after scoring a run, Schuster wouldn’t stop after crossing the plate but would climb the screen behind home plate.
Former Hollywood pitcher Eddie Erautt recalled. “I saw him get decked one night in Hollywood. Roy Joiner was pitching for the Stars. It was the top of the ninth, two outs and nobody on. We were leading and Schuster tried to drag-bunt one. Joiner threw him out and when Billy crossed the mound on the way back to his dugout, Roy was waiting for him. He busted him in the mouth, laid him out cold!” Ex Angels pitcher Adams continued the story. “The game was over and they turned out the lights right away. Someone came in the clubhouse and said, ‘Schuster’s laying out there on the field.’ When he came in the clubhouse (later), he looked like a guy who had seen a ghost, his eyes were that big. He had just come to. Bill said, “I woke up and the place was dark.’” Ex-Hollywood pitcher Rugger Ardizoia said that one time the Stars had a pitcher who knew nothing about Schuster. Billy hit a ground ball right back to the mound and the pitcher bent down to field the ball. When he straightened up, there was Schuster running toward him, then sliding. The pitcher didn’t know what to do until another player yelled at him to throw to first base, which he finally did. When he came back to the bench he said, “That man is crazy!” His teammates responded, “That’s something we already know.”
The Angels’ second baseman was 32-year-old Roy (Jeep) Hughes, whose birthday in numerals was 1-11-11. He batted .323-0-41 in 121 games and led the league in fielding (.988). He and Schuster formed an excellent double play combination. He was a veteran of six major league seasons with the Indians, Browns and Phillies. His best year was 1935 when he hit .295-0-63 with 35 doubles for Cleveland. He had joined Los Angeles in 1942 and went back to the majors with the Cubs and Phillies from 1944-46. He hit .294 in 6 games for the Cubs in the 1945 World Series. During nine major league seasons he hit .273 in 763 games.
Another veteran with big league experience was 33-year-old third baseman Charlie English who hit .323-16-98. He and Hughes tied for fifth in the PCL in batting and English was fourth in the league in RBI. He had started his pro career in 1931 at Florence, SC, in the one-year, long-forgotten Class D Palmetto League. A year later he was in the majors with the White Sox, batting .317 in 24 games at the end of the season. He started 1933 with Chicago, but although he went 4-for-9 was sent down to Galveston (Texas) where he spent three years, followed by one with Fort Worth. The Giants brought him up at the end of 1936 and was with Kansas City and Cincinnati in 1937. His first tour of duty with the Angels started in 1938 when they acquired him from the Reds. That year English hit .303-19-143 in 171 games for the pennant winners, leading the PCL in times at bat (709) and finishing second in RBI and fifth in doubles (43). He was with Los Angeles again in 1939. He then played for Milwaukee, Fort Worth and Nashville. In 1942 at Nashville, he hit .341-10-139, leading the Southern Association in batting, RBI, hits (201) and doubles (50). After the 1943 season, he was with Los Angeles, Oakland and Portland through 1945, then managed in the lower minors. English’s major league record was .287 in 50 games. In the minors he hit .305-15-1369 with 2499 hits and 502 doubles in 2156 games.
The first baseman was a 24-year-old right-handed hitting rookie, Wellington Hunt (Wimpy) Quinn, who got his name from a comic strip character. One of the main characters in the popular strip, and later movie cartoon, “Popeye” was called J. Wellington Wimpy, who was addicted to hamburgers. For many years, “Wimpy’s “ was one of the country’s biggest chains of hamburger restaurants. Quinn was an excellent fielder with an outstanding arm and had some power, but never hit for a good average in the PCL. In 1943 he batted .235-11-80, playing in all 157 games. He was a graduate of the University of Oregon and broke in with Vancouver in 1939. The next year he hit .342-27-150 and was second in the Class B Western International League in home runs, RBI and total bases (358). He was purchased by the Cubs and started 1941 with Los Angeles. After batting only .159 in 21 games he was brought up by the Cubs as a pitcher, although he had not pitched before in pro ball. Cubs manager Jimmie Wilson, a former catcher, had liked Quinn’s arm in spring training. He relieved in three games for Chicago, going 0-0, 7.20, his only major league experience. The Cubs sent him to Madison (Three-I) where he was an unimpressive 104, 6.43. Back at Madison in 1942 he improved to 7-7, 5.79, but walked 101 batters in 126 innings. Playing part-time in the outfield, he hit .388 with 40 RBI in 50 games. The pitching experiment was over. Quinn was in the service in 1944-45. In 1946 he batted only .234-1-20 in 62 games for Los Angeles. He was out of baseball in 1947, then played in the California League with Fresno in 1948 and Cleveland’s Bakersfield farm club in 1949. After hitting .343-21-151, second in the league in batting and RBI, he received another shot at the PCL in 1950 at San Diego, but after two games was sent to Tacoma (Western International). In 1951 he was the playing manager at Bakersfield, but after finishing in last place he left baseball. Quinn was only 36 when he died at the Sawtelle (CA) Veterans Hospital in 1954.
Rookie Harry Land started the season as the number one catcher, but at the end of May he left for military service. 30-year-old Billy Holm, a ten-year veteran, did most of the catching the rest of the way and had his best year at the plate .292-2-28 in 97 games. Holm, who grew up in the shadow of the South Chicago steel mills, had been the number two catcher for another of the Top 100 teams, the 1938 Newark Bears. He caught for the Angels in 1940-41 and Tulsa (Texas) in 1942 before returning to Los Angeles. Angels’ president Clarence Rowland had managed the champion 1917 Chicago White Sox and told The Sporting News he thought Holm was every bit as good behind the plate as his Hall-of-Fame catcher Ray Schalk. Holm was with the Cubs in 1944 and the Red Sox in 1945, but could not hit major league pitching, batting .156 in 119 games. He was with Portland in 1946-47, was a coach at Newark and Kansas City in 1948-49, then managed briefly in the Yankees organization.
In July, Rowland, who also had been a major league scout for several years, personally signed the youngest player in PCL history, 15-year-old catcher Bill Sarni, who had just finished his sophomore year at Los Angeles High School. A right-handed hitter, he was 5’11” tall, weighed 185 pounds and possessed a strong arm. At that time, there were no baseball rules forbidding teams from signing players still in high school as there are now. Sarni batted .229-1-9 in 33 games in 1943 and .227-5-24 in 87 games in 1944. The Cubs sent him to Nashville in 1945 and he was in the service in 1946 and most of 1947. He passed out of the Cubs organization to Shreveport (Texas) in 1948 and after two years was purchased by the Cardinals. He was with St. Louis all of 1951, St. Louis and Columbus in 1952 and Columbus all of 1953. Sarni returned to the Cardinals in 1954 and had his best season, batting .300-9-70 in 123 games and leading National League catchers in fielding (.996) and double plays (12). On June 14, 1956 he was traded to the Giants in a nine-player deal that saw Red Schoendienst going to New York and Alvin Dark and Whitey Lockman going to St. Louis. While in spring training with the Giants at Phoenix in 1957, Sarni, only 29, suffered a heart attack that ended his playing career. He survived until 1983, making his home in the St. Louis area. In later years, Sarni became famous in the world of autograph collecting. His was one of the most difficult to obtain because he never answered any requests for his signature.
The Angels had outstanding pitching. None of the seven pitchers who worked more than 100 innings had an ERA higher than 3.08. The big winner was Japhet Monroe (Red) Lynn, 21-8, 2.47 who led the PCL in victories. He won his first nine decisions of the season. Lynn, a 29-year-old Texas-born right-hander, was in his second year with Los Angeles. He was signed by the Cardinals in 1934. He once told The Sporting News, “I was a real yokel when it came to pitching. In my first game, when the catcher held down one finger, I thought he wanted me to hold the ball with one finger. I didn’t know I was supposed to pitch a fast ball, which happened to be my only pitch. So I held the ball with one finger and it sailed over the catcher’s head. When he held down two fingers (for a curve) I put two fingers on the ball. I was really dumb.” Red caught on pretty fast and had winning seasons in his first three years in pro ball. In 1937 for Jacksonville, TX, he had a 32-13, 2.65 record with 233 strikeouts, led all of professional baseball in wins and led the East Texas League in ERA, games pitched (56), innings pitched (340) - and walks (143). He jumped all the way to Columbus (American Association) in 1938 and reached the majors with Detroit in 1939. He was traded to the Giants early in the season and remained with New York through 1940. He pitched for the Giants’ Jersey City club in 1941 and then was acquired by Los Angeles. In 1944 he was promoted to the Cubs and was in the service in 1945. Lynn pitched for the Angels again, winning 17, 16 and 19 games in 1946-47-48. He was traded to Portland in 1949, and by the Beavers to Hollywood in 1952. Altogether he pitched in the PCL for ten years. He last played for Bakersfield and Salt Lake (Pioneer) in 1956, going 15-11 at the age of 42. Lynn had a winning major league record of 10-8, 3.96 and in the minors he was 244-191, 3.64. During off-seasons he was, at various times, a professional boxer, a wrestler, a rodeo cowboy and a railroad brakeman. He was ambidextrous, but never pitched left-handed in a game. However, sometimes on the day after he pitched, he would throw batting practice left-handed.
The Angels’ other 20-game winner was 29-year-old right-hander Paul Gehrman, from Bend, OR, who went 20-7, 2.43, sixth in the league in ERA. He walked only 49 batters in 226 innings. Gehrman had very brief major league experience, two games with Cincinnati in 1937 going 0-1, 2.89. He had been purchased from Cincinnati’s Birmingham (Southern) farm club after the 1941 season. Gehrman went into the service in 1944 and never returned to baseball after the war.
Ken Raffensberger, a 25-year-old Pennsylvania Dutch left-hander form York, PA, just missed the 20-win mark, but had the most successful career of any of the Angels pitchers. He was 19-11, 2.14, second in the PCL in ERA, striking out 134 and walking 53 in 244 innings. During June and July he won nine consecutive decisions. Raffensberger was signed by the Cardinals in 1937 and after one year in Class D was promoted to Rochester. He pitched for the Red Wings for two years, then was traded to the Cubs. In 1940 he was 7-9, 3.38 for Chicago, then split 1941 with the Cubs and St. Paul. Chicago released him to Los Angeles in 1942. In September 1943, he was purchased by the Phillies and his one game there was a foretaste of his bad luck with that perennial tail-ender. He gave up only one earned run in eight innings, but lost. In 1944 he had a 3.06 ERA, 12th in the National League, struck out 136 and walked only 45, but won 13 and lost 20, leading the league in defeats. His most satisfying day of the season came when he pitched two shutout innings for the National League in the Major League All-Star Game and was the winning pitcher. He was in the Navy almost all of 1945 and was traded to Cincinnati in June, 1947. Raffensberger was one of the Reds’ starters for the next six years. He tied for the National League lead in shutouts in 1949 (5) and 1952 (6). From 1948-52, 24 of his 76 wins were shutouts. He last pitched in the majors in 1954 with Cincinnati. His major league record was 119-154, 3.60.
Jodie Phipps, a 24-year-old, 6’3”, right-hander from Okay, OK, won 17 and lost 5 with a 3.03 ERA and led PCL pitchers in won-lost percentage (.773). A rookie with no experience above Class C, he won his first 10 decisions and was 16-1 in August before going 1-4 the rest of the season. Phipps broke in with Worthington, MN, in the Class D Western League in 1939. In 1942 he went 20-10, 2.81 for Utica, leading the Canadian-American League in wins. He was one of three players purchased by the Cubs from Utica. Beverage says, “Phipps was a real surprise. He was expected to be an occasional starter as well as serving in relief. He had a very lazy delivery which didn’t impress Sweeney at first, and Phipps saw little action in spring training….During the winning streak, Lynn and Phipps were the big winners….Phipps won his first start in a seven-inning game, picked up two wins in relief, and finally Sweeney put him in the regular rotation. Jodie rewarded the Angel skipper with three fine efforts to establish himself as a starting pitcher.” 1943 was to be Phipps’ only successful season in the high minors. He developed arm trouble and was able to pitch only 32 innings in 1944 and 43 innings in 1945. After the war he dropped down to the East Texas League and except for one season with Dallas and two games with Seattle, he spent the next 12 years in the Class B and C leagues in Texas and New Mexico. In 19 years Phipps won 275 and lost 172 with a 3.68 ERA. He managed for seven years, ending in 1961, the last four years in the San Francisco Giants organization.
The oldest pitcher on the staff was 35-year-old right-handed reliever Don Osborn who had a 10-1, 2.65 record. His Angel teammates dubbed him “The Wizard of Oz,” saying that anyone who could get batters out with the stuff he threw must be a wizard. Osborn pitched briefly in the Arizona State League in 1929-30, then was out of Organized Baseball for five years. He returned in 1936 with an outstanding 22-13, 3.36 season for Seattle, but fell to 2-10, 5.13 in 1937. The next year he was in Class B ball with Vancouver (Western International) and stayed there for five seasons. In 1942 he managed the Capilanos and led them to the pennant. He went 22-5, 1.63, leading the league in wins, ERA and percentage (.815). When the WIL suspended operations for the duration, Osborn was picked up by Los Angeles and pitched for the Angels for five years. The Cubs appointed Osborn playing manager at Class A Macon (South Atlantic) in 1948. He led the Peaches to second place in 1948 and to the league championship the following year. On the mound he was 17-3, 2.15 in 1948 and 7-2, 3.19 in 1949. Osborn managed Nashville (Southern) for the Cubs in 1950-51, finishing third and winning the playoff in 1950 and coming in fifth in 1951. He next managed Spokane (Western International) from 1952 until the team folded June 21, 1954. Osborn finished the 1954 season as manager of the Phillies’ Class D farm club at Mattoon (Mississippi-Ohio Valley). He managed for the Phillies at Schenectady (Eastern) in 1955 and Miami (International) in 1956-57, finishing in the first division each year. From 1958 until he retired after the 1976 season, Osborn worked for Pittsburgh. He was the Pirates, major league pitching coach in 1963-64, 1970-72 and 1974-76. In other years he was a minor league instructor and a scout.
Four of the Angels made the 1943 Pacific Coast League All-Star team, Pafko, Schuster, English and Lynn.
The Angels followed the 1943 pennant with another flag in 1944. In their remaining 13 years in the circuit, the team finished first only twice more. In 1947 the team beat rival San Francisco in a one-game playoff to claim the prize. Nine years later, riding the bat of slugger Steve Bilko, who blasted 148 homers in three years (1955-57), the Angels won their final flag. The following year minor league baseball left Los Angeles, pushed out by the arrival of the Dodgers from Brooklyn.
The 1943 Angels, because of their abbreviated war-time schedule, couldn’t match the win totals of other PCL Top 100 teams. However, in two important areas, the team exceeded most if not all of the other PCL champions. The Angels of ’43 finished with a .710 winning percentage which ranks as the third best in league history. In addition, the team lost only 45 games - no other full season PCL club could make a similar claim.
|1943 Pacific Coast League standings|
|1943 Los Angeles Angels batting statistics|