Minor League History: Far West League

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor Ray Perry Far West League
Letter head of the Far West League


The Far West League saw the light in 1948 and was located mainly in California but also had two teams playing in Oregon and one in Nevada. 

The league was rated as a class D league and lasted for four years before it folded.

Cities represented:

Eugene, OR Eugene Larks 1950-1951
Klamath Falls, OR Klamath Falls Gems 1948-1951
Marysville, CA Marysville Braves 1948-1949; Marysville Peaches 1950
Medford, OR Medford Nuggets 1948-1949; Medford Rogues 1950-1951
Oroville, CA Oroville Red Sox 1948
Pittsburg, CA Pittsburg Diamonds 1948, 1949-1951
Redding, CA Redding Browns 1948-1951
Reno, NV Reno Silver Sox 1950-1951, moved from Sunset League 1947-1949
Roseville, CA Roseville Diamonds 1948
Santa Rosa, CA Santa Rosa Pirates 1948; Santa Rosa Cats 1949
Vallejo, CA Vallejo Chiefs 1949
Willows, CA Willows Cardinals 1948-1950

Most of the teams that played in the Far West League had an affiliation with a Major League club for one or more years.

The Eugene Larks were affiliated with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1951 but were an independent team in 1950. The Klamath Falls were linked to the Phillies for the full run of their existence. The Marysville Braves were affiliated with the Boston Braves but only in their final year, 1950 they played as an independent team. The Medford teams were affiliated to the Brooklyn Dodgers (Nuggets in 1948) and the New York Giants (Rogues in 1950). The Oroville Red Sox were affiliated to the Boston Red Sox in their sole year of existence (1948). The Redding Browns lasted for the full run of the league and were affiliated to their St. Louis namesake for the same period. The Reno Silversox entered the league in 1950 and did not have an affiliation.
In 1948 the New York Giants were affiliated with two teams in the Far West League: With the Pittsburg Diamonds, who were unaffiliated for the rest of their existence and the Roseville Diamonds. The Diamonds moved from Roseville to Pittsburg during the 1948 season.
In 1948 the Pittsburgh Pirates had an affiliation with their namesake in Santa Rosa. In 1949 that team was named the Santa Rosa Cats and did not have an affiliation with an MLB team. The Vallejo Chiefs lasted only one year, 1949, and were not affiliated.
The Willows Cardinals were affiliated to their St. Louis namesake for the full run of the league.

Ray Perry joined the Redding Browns as a player manager in Afbeeldingsresultaat voor Ray Perry Far West League1948, after a six year MiLB career in which he reached AAA. Due to a fractured leg in 1946 he did not play for two seasons. From the day that he entered the Far West League he dominated the league and led the stats in many categories. For example in 1948 he led the league in BA, RBI, hits and homeruns. In 1949
and 1950 he led the league in RBI, runs and homeruns. In 1951 he set the all time record of the short lived league in walks: 180. He set the following records: homeruns 47 (1949), RBI 170 (1950), runs 162 (1950) and batting average .411 (1948).

According to the Sporting News article above, Perry was partial owner of the Browns as well.

The first no-hitter of the Far West League was pitched in the first season by Bill LaThorpe of the Santa Rosa Pirates. In the game vs the Pittsburg Diamonds on August 5, LaThorpe struck out seventeen hitters Al Grunwald (future Major Leaguer and NPB player) hit a grand slam to give LaThorpe the necessary run support.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor Ray Perry Far West League
program of the 1949 Medford Nuggets

In 1948 singer / entertainer Bing Crosby, who had bought himself a share of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1946, visited a game in Santa Rosa to see the newly acquired Vern Law make his professional debut. Law was a future MLB pitcher who was signed thanks to many efforts of Crosby. He played his entire career for the Pittsburgh Pirates and won the Cy Young Award in 1960, the year that the Pirates beat the Yankees in the World Series.

In September 1949 two clubs dropped out of the league and the Far West League started looking for replacements. This news made the Madeira Tribune that published a small article about the search.

fwl

Far West League championship series:

1948: Santa Rosa 4 games, Klamath Falls 3
1949: Pittsburg 4 games, Redding 3
1950: Redding 3 games, Klamath Falls 1
1951: Klamath Falls 3 games, Redding 0

Even though the Pittsburg Diamonds folded in June 1951 due to poor attendance, the team was leading the league at the moment of folding.
Vince DiMaggio, brother of Joe and Dom, was player manager of the team. Despite the factfwl-2 that he was the least talented of the three brothers, he still played 1,100 games in the Bigs. After the Diamonds folded, he moved to Tacoma to play for the local Western International League (Class B). After the 1951 season he turned his back to baseball. The news about the Diamonds dropping out was also mentioned in the Madeira Tribune of June 13, 1951. The league started with two teams less than the previous three years. The withdrawal of the Pittsburgh franchise may have been an omen for the demise of the league.

Perhaps the player with the best anecdote that played in the Far West League was Cliff Dapper. Dapper played with the 1951 Eugene Larks and hit .383 in 38 games. But the anecdote that surrounds him was during his MLB days with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1942. After eight games with the team, the catcher who hit a whopping .471 was sent to the Braves (even though the Dodgers had two catchers that did not hit as good as Dapper) in exchange for announcer Ernie Harwell (!).

In the early fifties, TV became popular and due to the invention of airconditioning, baseball fans could watch MLB games in their own cool comfort zone instead of watching a game in the scorching sun. This was the case, especially in California and Nevada. Like many class D minor leagues the Far West League did not survive the early fifties and folded after the 1951 season.

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