Top 100 Teams
Pacific Coast League
By Bill Weiss & Marshall Wright, Baseball Historians
| Cliff Cravath|
(photo courtesy of National Baseball Hall of Fame)
In the very first season of the Pacific Coast League, the Los Angeles Angels compiled an outstanding total of wins. Instrumental in their success was their player/manager, who astonished one and all when he fought his promotion to the majors the following year.
Professional baseball was inaugurated in Los Angeles in 1892 when the city replaced Sacramento in the four-team California League. At the time, the population of Los Angeles was only 51,000, one-sixth that of San Francisco. The move was risky, not only because of the size of the city, but it meant added transportation costs. Previously, the longest trip in the California League was 110 miles, from San Jose to Sacramento. Los Angeles was 400 miles south of the other teams. However, baseball was well received in the Southern California community. The league expanded the schedule, playing Wednesday or Thursday through Sunday from the end of March till the end of November.
In 1892, Los Angeles was managed by Bob Glenalvin, who had piloted Portland in the Pacific Northwest League the previous year. The team finished one point behind San Jose in the first half and won the second half by a 3-½ game margin over Oakland. Things rarely went smoothly in the California League, so it was no surprise that a dispute arose over a championship playoff. As related in his book, “Always on Sunday,” John Spalding relates that San Jose owner “Mike Finn objected to playing any games in Los Angeles although LA owner G.A. Vanderbeck offered to pay the team’s expenses and talks broke off. San Jose players had no objection to going to Los Angeles, where they expected the games to draw well, so they arranged for a playoff series on their own. Vanderbeck agreed to split the gate with them.” Los Angeles won the playoff, five games to two with one tie. However, at the annual league meeting, “the magnates ignored the playoff and called the teams co-champion. Los Angeles was dropped from the league and Vanderbeck’s license was revoked.” Although Los Angeles “was the only team that made money, none of the northern owners wanted the city back in 1893.”
At a league meeting in February, however, Al Lindley of Los Angeles persuaded the directors it was in their best interest to retain the city where the game had been so well received. The season began March 26 with Stockton replacing San Jose. Los Angeles won the first half, which ended July 5, by one game. Just before that, on Sunday, July 2, at Athletic Park in Los Angeles, the first night baseball game on the Pacific Coast was played. In the afternoon, the Angels and Stockton had played a regular California League game, with Los Angeles winning, 7-3. The night game was considered an exhibition, not counting in the league standings. Twenty arc lights had been strung around the field between four tall posts. There was a moveable searchlight mounted on top of the grandstand. The stands were packed. The game was loosely played, to put it mildly. At one point, a bulldog dashed out on the field, caught a fly ball and ran off with the game ball. The game was delayed while some players chased the dog and retrieved the ball. There was no box score of the game, but the Los Angeles Times reported that the game was awarded to the Angels, 5-2. Unfortunately, there were many problems in the league. The Stockton club moved to Sacramento at the start of the second half and the league disbanded on August 14. A national depression resulting from the Panic of 1893 reached the Pacific Coast and it was 4-½ years before a California League resumed play.
The California League of 1898-1900 was once more a Northern California operation. It increased its schedule each year and became financially stronger. Spalding states, “By 1900 many things had changed, including the goals of the California League’s management. The City of Angels was expanding, had doubled its size in ten years and at 102,500 was California’s second largest in 1900. Discovery of oil in the 1890s had fueled the boom that would see Los Angeles triple in population” in the next decade. In 1901, James F. Morley, who owned a poolroom in Los Angeles, was granted a franchise in the California League, replacing Stockton. The four-club circuit also included San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento. The league increased the schedule again and the teams played between 144 and 161 games. Los Angeles played its games at Washington Gardens, popularly known as Chutes Park, about ten blocks south of downtown. The ballpark was completed in the fall of 1900. Just beyond center field was a large amusement park, featuring a chute-the-chutes advertised as the highest and steepest in the world. The Angels, or, as the Los Angeles Times called them, the LooLoos, finished second in both 1901 and 1902. In 1902, the teams played between 168 and 182 games.
Historian Carlos Bauer, in “The Creation of the Pacific Coast League,” writes “First mention of the possible formation of a Pacific Coast League for the 1903 season came on December 9, 1902, shortly after the close of the California League season. A short note in the San Francisco papers stated that Henry Harris, owner of the San Francisco franchise, was in Portland en route to Seattle to see if he could induce the owners of the (Pacific Northwest League) ball clubs in those cities to join the California League for the 1903 season. Much later, Harris would tell The Sporting News that he began acting on the expansion idea in July, but kept it under his hat until the end of the season, so the proposed expansion could not be sidetracked before they even began to put the plan into action.”
The PNL president and the owner of the Seattle club were opposed to the plan, but the Portland club was agreeable. Harris had a prospective wealthy owner ready to step in at Seattle. On December 29, 1902, at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, the Pacific Coast Baseball League was organized. In retaliation, the Pacific Northwest League, which claimed the backing of the National Association, announced it was moving into San Francisco and Los Angeles and renaming itself the Pacific National League. During the first three months of 1903, a bitter war broke out between the two leagues over players, with several from the PNL jumping to the PCL.
The Pacific Coast League was far better prepared to operate in its new cities than its rival was to function in California. It wasn’t until late March that the PNL was able to assemble rosters for Los Angeles and San Francisco. The first Pacific Coast League season got under way March 26, the PNL didn’t start the season until April 12. All the PCL clubs felt that they had made improvements to their teams over the winter. In addition to bringing in new pitchers, Los Angeles added to its strength by subtraction. The talented, but stormy, Rube Waddell, always a disruptive influence on the team, had gone back East to pitch.
The pennant race, in practical terms, was over almost as soon as it began. Los Angeles won its first 15 games. Nearly a century later, that is still the PCL record for the most consecutive games won at the start of a season. The Looloos cooled somewhat when they went on the road in May, but were never out of first place. When the season ended Los Angeles had won 133 games and lost 78 for a .630 percentage, finishing 27-½ games in front of second place Sacramento. The Looloos were the only one of the six teams to play better than .500 ball.
At the box office, as the season progressed it was evident that the PCL was the clear winner in the war with the PNL. On July 2, the Portland PNL franchise was transferred to Salt Lake City. On August 16, Tacoma and Helena suddenly dropped out of the PNL. Five days later, Los Angeles, although in first place, and San Francisco disbanded, leaving the circuit with four teams, Boise, Spokane, Seattle and Salt Lake City. In 1904, the Pacific Coast League was admitted to the National Association as a Class A league and the four team Pacific National League was reduced to Class B status. By 1905, the PNL was gone forever.
The 1903 Angels were managed by 29-year-old first baseman Frank (Cap) Dillon, a native of Normal, IL, who was a cousin of Hall-of-Famer Clark Griffith. He pitched for the University of Wisconsin, then started his pro career in 1894. He played for six minor league teams in the middle west, switching to the outfield, and then with Scranton in 1899, to first base. He reached the majors later that year with Pittsburgh and also played for Detroit and Baltimore in the American League before coming to Los Angeles midway through the 1902 season where he hit .340 in 83 games. In 1903, Dillon batted .364 in 190 games with a league-leading 274 hits (Late in the season, things were going so well for the Angels that Dillon was able to take time off to get married and go on his honeymoon.) After the season ended, Morley sold Dillon’s contract to Brooklyn, a move which did not set well with the skipper. He batted .258 in 135 games in 1904, giving him a major league career average of .252. Dillon was able to get his release from Brooklyn and returned to the Angles in 1905, again leading the Angels to the pennant. Dillon won two more championships in the decade, in 1907 and 1908. He managed Los Angeles through the 1915 season, then retired. He was the regular first baseman through 1912 and played a few games in each of his last three seasons. His minor league career batting average was .295 with 2,316 hits in 2,174 games. In the later years of his career, Dillon’s hair turned to a silver gray and his nickname changed to Pop. He never lost touch with the game and at the time of his death in 1931 he was treasurer of the Association of Professional Ball Players of America, baseball’s first benevolent organization, which is still going strong.
| William Hoy|
(photo courtesy of National Baseball Hall of Fame)
Two Angels outfielders had distinguished careers, one coming to a close, the other just beginning. The veteran was 41-year-old William Ellsworth (Dummy) Hoy, who had just completed 14 years in the majors, playing for six teams. Hoy, a deaf mute, lost his hearing and the ability to speak as the result of meningitis when he was three years old. He is widely credited with having been responsible for the creation of the practice of umpires signaling balls and strikes by the use of their hands - raising the left arm for a ball, the right arm for a strike. Hoy began his working life as a cobbler in his native town of Houcktown, OH, after graduating from the Ohio School for the Deaf where he was class valedictorian. He played amateur baseball and was good enough to be signed by Oshkosh in the Northwestern League when he was 24. After hitting .367 with 67 stolen bases in leading his team to the pennant in 1887, Hoy was purchased by Washington. In his rookie season, 1888, he batted .274 and led the National League in stolen bases (82). Hoy led the old American Association (1891) and the American League (1901) in walks. He was one of only 29 men to have played in four major leagues: National, American, American Association and the 1890 Players League. Although only 5’5” tall, Hoy possessed a rifle arm. He was the first major league outfielder to throw out three baserunners at home plate in one game. He had a career major league average of .287 in 1,796 games with 594 stolen bases and 309 assists. In his last major league season, 1902 with Cincinnati, he batted .290. With the 1903 Angels he hit .257 with 48 stolen bases and led the PCL in runs (157). He was the only Los Angeles player to appear in all of the team’s 212 games, coming to bat 808 times, and was still agile enough to patrol center field. He retired from baseball after the 1903 season. After leaving the game, Hoy became a very wealthy man, living in Southern California for many years before eventually returning to Ohio. He and his wife, Anna, also a deaf mute and a teacher of the deaf, had a son, Carson, who became a prominent Cincinnati jurist. They also adopted their orphaned nephew, Paul Hoy Helms, who became a prominent figure in the Los Angeles sports scene. Helms founded a bakery and in 1932 secured the contract to supply baked goods to the Olympic Games. His product ever after bore the name Helms Olympic Bread. In 1936, he established the Helms Athletic Foundation, giving awards and creating a sports library and museum in Los Angeles. That organization has evolved into the present day Amateur Athletic Foundation with its well-known research center and library located southwest of downtown Los Angeles. Hoy was one of the longest-lived major league players. On October 7, 1961 at the age of 99, he threw out the first ball at the third game of the World Series in Cincinnati. He passed away December 15, 1961, just five months short of his 100th birthday.
Just starting his pro career was 22-year-old right fielder Clifford Carlton (Gavvy) Cravath, a native of Escondido, CA, near San Diego. 1903 was his first year in pro ball and he hit a respectable .274 in 209 games, leading the team in home runs (7), a portent of things to come. Cravath remained with the Angels for five years. In 1907 he hit .303, third in the PCL, with 10 homers and 50 stolen bases and was purchased by the Boston Red Sox. He hit only .256 in 94 games for Boston in 1908 and .161 in 23 games for the White Sox and Washington in the early weeks of 1909 before being released to Minneapolis. It was with the Millers that he developed into an early day “slugger.” In 1911, he led the American Association in batting (.363), hits (221), total bases (387), slugging percentage (.637), doubles (53) and homers (29). His home run total was the highest for any player in the 20th century at that time. The Phillies acquired Cravath for a reported $9,000. He was slated for a reserve role when the 1912 season started, but the incumbent right fielder, John Titus, was slow in recovering from a leg injury and Cravath took over. He hit .284-11-70 in 130 games and then blossomed into a star. In 1913, he hit .341, second in the National League in batting, and led the league in home runs (19), RBI (128), hits (179) and slugging (.568). On August 8, he tied a still-existing major league record by hitting four doubles in one game. In 1915, along with Grover Cleveland Alexander, he led the Phillies to their first National League pennant before losing the World Series to the Red Sox, four games to one. (Philadelphia didn’t capture another flag until 1950.) Cravath led the National League in home runs six of seven seasons from 1913-19, missing only in 1916. His 24 homers in 1915 was the 20th century major league record until Babe Ruth hit 29 in 1919. His career total of 119 was the major league high until Ruth passed that mark in June, 1921. Cravath’s last home run title came in 1919 at the end of the dead ball era when he hit 12 in only 83 games while batting .341. His last major league season was 1920 and his career average was .287 with 719 RBI in 1,220 games. He was named manager of the last place Phillies on July 9, 1919 replacing Jack Coombs and served in that capacity through 1920. The Phils finished eighth both years. In 1921, Cravath was player-manager at Salt Lake in the Pacific Coast League, batting .326 with 18 home runs while the Bees finished seventh. He completed his career in 1921 with Minneapolis. Gavvy had saved his money while playing baseball and in the early 1920s got in on the ground floor of the real estate boom in Laguna Beach, CA, where he lived the rest of his life. For many years he was a judge and a justice of the peace. His nephew, Jeff Cravath, was head football coach at the U. of Southern California in the post-World War II years.
Los Angeles boasted one of the best four-man pitching rotations in PCL history in left-handers Eustace (Doc) Newton and William (Dolly) Gray and right-handers Warren (Rusty) Hall and Joe Corbett. Newton (34-12, 2.43) led the league in percentage (.739) and tied for the lead in wins. He had pitched for Cincinnati and Brooklyn from 1900-02 and subsequently returned to the majors with the New York Highlanders from 1905-09. On November 8, he pitched the PCL’s first no-hitter, beating Oakland 2-0 before a Sunday Chutes crowd of 5,000. Only two batters reached base, both on errors and both were erased on double plays. Newton figured in one of the year’s most unusual games. Near the end of the season, with Portland in town, the Angels decided to promote a bigger crowd by having the two teams’ best pitchers switch sides for a game. Newton would pitch for Portland and Oscar Jones, who had recently joined the Browns after a 19-14 season with Brooklyn, would be on the mound for Los Angeles. Jones had starred for the Angels the previous year. Jones won the duel, 3-2. Hall was not far behind Newton with a 32-19, 2.31 record. Hall, who never made the majors, reached his peak at the end of August when he sported a 25-9 record. He was only 7-12 the rest of the way. Carlos Bauer thinks the decline was because of overwork and “to many nights on the town with buddy Newton.” Bauer says that Hall “started hitting the bottle pretty heavily with Doc Newton, a well-known drinking man in his years at Cincinnati and Brooklyn. The more Hall drank, the worse he pitched, not winning a game in the whole month of September. Doc Newton, on the other hand, pitched better the more he drank. During one of Newton’s best stretches of pitching, he once fell off the mound dead drunk and had to be removed before he could throw the first pitch of the game. On August 7, Newton began a streak of two months where he would not lose a game, putting together 11 wins in a row.
Joe Corbett, a San Francisco native, was the younger brother of heavyweight boxing champion Gentleman Jim Corbett. In 1895, when Joe was only 19, he was visiting Jim in the East when his older brother induced Washington to give him a tryout. Joe was signed and pitched briefly at the end of the season. Baltimore signed Corbett in 1896 and he was 3-0 before starring in the Temple Cup Series. He won two of the Orioles’ four straight victories over Cleveland, including a four-hit shutout in the final game. The next year he won 24 and lost only 8, defeating first-place Boston in three of four starts. In 1898, Corbett was dissatisfied with Baltimore’s contract offer and refused to report. He was a sports writer for the San Francisco Call and pitched semi-pro ball for the next five years before signing with Los Angeles in 1903. For the champions he went 23-16, 2.36, led the PCL in strikeouts (196) and tied for the lead in shutouts (8). Corbett went back to the majors in 1904 with the Cardinals where went 5-8, 4.39. Arm trouble developed because of rheumatism and he was released to San Francisco in mid-season. He pitched for the Seals in 1905, then retired except for a brief comeback attempt in 1909.
William Denton (Dolly) Gray went 23-20, 3.55 for the Angels. He was a holdover from the 1902 California League team. Gray’s nickname derived from a popular song of the day whose lyrics contained the phrase “My darling Nellie Gray, they have taken you away.” According to James Skipper in his book “Baseball Nicknames,” “Teammates garbled ‘Darling’ and it came out ‘Dolly.’” Gray was with the Angels through 1908, except for a part of the 1906 season. After the San Francisco earthquake, Gray and several other players took off for the East where they finished the year. Gray was purchased by Washington and pitched for the tail-end Senators in 1909-10-11 with a 15-51 record despite a 3.52 ERA. He is in The Book of Baseball Records because of an unfortunate performance in the game of August 28, 1909. In the second inning of the first game of a doubleheader at Chicago, Gray set the major league record, never tied, for the most walks in an inning, 8, and the most consecutive walks in an inning, 7. Gray returned to the PCL for two years, 1912-13, before retiring from the game.
Late in 1903, Los Angeles signed a skinny (6’1”, 165 pounds) 21-year-old right-hander from San Francisco who was to leave a big imprint on Pacific Coast League history. He was Charles Adrian (Spider) Baum, who had pitched two games for San Francisco in the 1902 California League. He went 1-2 in three complete game starts for the Angels, then won 24 games in each of the next two seasons. He pitched for Altoona (Tri-State) in 1906-07 and was sold to the Phillies, but refused to report because he was getting married and wanted to go back home. Baum pitched for Fresno in the outlaw California State League in 1908, then moved to the PCL for a 12-year stay. He signed with Sacramento and was with the Senators until 1912. Sacramento owner Charley Graham traded him to Vernon because, as John Spalding reports in his book “Pacific Coast League Stars,” that “Graham became concerned about Baum’s interests off the field. Graham had seen other players become too absorbed with running a business during the season and he feared that a Sacramento cigar store might have the same effect on his pitcher.” Baum was traded to San Francisco after the 1913 season and it was there he enjoyed his greatest success. In 1915, Spider went 30-15, 2.45 in helping lead the Seals to the PCL pennant. His last year as an active player was 1920 with Salt Lake. Baum had a 262-236, 2.76 record in the Pacific Coast League, the second highest win total in league history. He also holds the league record for losses. In his pro career, he won 325 and lost 280, ranking ninth among all minor league pitchers in total victories. Spider, as Spalding says, “deceived batters with his curve and spitball. He had superb control, striking out nearly twice as many batters as he walked.” Baum also was an outstanding fielder. He set the PCL record for the most assists in a season (195) and a career (1,308), most chances accepted, career (1,531) and most putouts in a game (6). After his playing days ended, Spider moved into the front office. In 1921-22 he was assistant secretary of the Seals. The next year he began a long association with Salt Lake owner Bill Lane, serving in various executive capacities as Lane moved his franchise first to Hollywood in 1926 and then to San Diego in 1936. After Lane’s death in 1938, Baum was the Padres’ president for one year. Spider’s brother, Allan T. Baum, was president of the Pacific Coast League form 1912-19.
The Angels went on to become one of the premier teams in the Pacific Coast League, winning over a dozen titles during their 50-year tenure in the loop. Two of the group (1934 and 1943) found inclusion in the Top 100 list. After 1957, the Angels left the PCL to make room for the incoming Dodgers.
The 1903 Angels got the PCL off to a good start, showing the baseball world the astounding effects of the lengthy west coast schedule. By playing baseball through November, the team set a win mark that only one other team equaled. Ironically, Los Angeles’ 133 wins were eclipsed by another Top 100 team - also hailing from the city of Los Angeles.
|1903 Pacific Coast League Standings|
|LOS ANGELES||133||78||.630||-||SAN FRANCISCO||107||110||.493||29.0|
|1903 Los Angeles Angels batting statistics|
|1903 Los Angeles Angels pitching statistics|
NOTE: A special thanks to SABR member Carlos Bauer, who compiled these 1903 PCL statistics.