Wednesday, 12 March 2008

The Dewey Soriano Story

ERIC WHITEHEAD’S
FANFARE
[Vancouver Province, Jan. 9, 1953]
“There’s absolutely no doubt about it,” said the big man earnestly. “Vancouver is ready for Triple-A baseball and must have it just as soon as the opportunity arises.”
The speaker was Dewey Soriano, new G.M. of the Vancouver Capilanos, and what he means by “opportunity” is the first available franchise in the Coast League. We found the statement particularly interesting because coming as it does from the club’s business boss, it must represent the official views of the front office, that hallowed throne room that dictates the fates for us palpitating fans.
It’s nice to know that we’re on the way up, if only in spirit. And it’s nice to know that Soriano is duly impressed with us as a big town. This, to begin with, is revolutionary thinking. Many of our most eminent citizens still think of Vancouver’s sporting future in terms of Walla Walla or Kokomo, Indiana.
Soriano, at 32 one of the youngest G.M.s in baseball, bears no resemblance to a hard-boiled executive.
Ten Little Sorianos
An big, amiable bear of a man of six-foot-three and 230 pounds who neither drinks nor smokes, he would be more suitably cast as a village scoutmaster. But somehow you get the idea that his scouts better behave, or else.
Some of that “or else” has already happened to several members of last year’s floundering Capilanos.
For further information on the man who has stepped into the shoes of the great Ruby Robert Brown, new president of the WIL:
Dewey is a Prince Rupert, B.C. boy, born of a Spanish father and a Danish mother. There were 10 little Sorianos. Dewey was the sixth.
Poppa Soriano was a fisherman, operated halibut boats in the Georgia Straits on up to Alaska; stayed at the trade when the family, with 6-year-old Dewey, moved down to Seattle.
“During the next dozen or so years, I learned plenty about halibut,” says Dewey, “also about the Alaskan waters, which cam in handy later.”
Our boy, flashing a strong right arm and a dazzling array of fast stuff, broke into pro ball with Seattle in 1939, laid off in ’40 and came back in ’41.
From Scupper to Skipper
Up pops Pearl Harbor, down goes the battleship Oklahoma, and out goes Dewey—to sea with the merchant marine.
Starting as an able seaman, he had his skipper’s papers within three years, a fantastic rise that gives you a fair idea of the ambitious cut of Dewey’s jib.
In fact, practically the whole of the Soriano clan had skipperitis. Four of the six boys eventually turned up with master’s certificates.
“This,” says Dewey, “may be some kind of a maritime record. But on one ship, the 7,000-ton Wm. T. Sherman, all four of us Sorianos serves as officers. My brother Amigo was skipper, Rupert was first mate, I was second mate, and Milton was third mate.
Being a mere 25 years of age when the war ended, Skipper Soriano took another fling at baseball. Pittsburgh bought him, he reported to spring camp in ’47, and:
”Dunno just what happened,” says he. “I pitched real well, shut out Boston and Baltimore, beat the Browns, but they had me shipped to Indianapolis when the season started.”
Call from the Chief
A year later, he landed with San Francisco via Oakland, and in ’48 had a nice 6-2 win record for manager Lefty O’Doul.
“It was ‘Frisco president Charles H. Graham who lined up my first chance at the ‘admin’ side of baseball,” recalls Dewey. “That was lucky for me because Mr. Graham, along with Mr. Brown, was one of the two most highly respected baseball men on the coast.” (Graham died in ’48)
Anyway, Soriano got his chance as manager of Yakima, bought himself a 25 percent share in the club, picked up two pennants in two seasons, and in one year hopped the attendance from 70,000 to 155,000.
Even then he had his eye on a seafaring future and was out on a training ship studying for his Puget Sound pilot’s licence when a call came over the ship’s radio-phone from Emil Sick.
Emil, the big White Chief of the Seattle Rainier-Vancouver Capilano dynasty, simply said “Every club in the league wants Bob Brown as president. I want you to take over from Bob in Vancouver.”
So here he is. He’ll take it from here.

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