Thursday, 13 March 2008

Spring Training, Friday, April 3, 1953

Caps’ Owen Works Win Over Hapless Aberdeen
Vancouver Province Sports Reporter
HEALDSBERG [April 4]—Rod Owen, a 22-year-old product of Vancouver’s Magee High School has made a tentative bid to become Capilanos’ new Sandy Robertson. The smooth working righthander, who broke into pro ball last year with Aberdeen, chucked nine full innings as Harv Storey’s ’53 WIL pennant contenders breezed through their first Grapefruit League contest with a 14-1 win over the Class C Aberdeen Pheasants Friday night.
He allowed five hits, two triples and a single, fanned 10 and walked four, but his performance was somewhat furnished by mediocrity—oh, kind word!—of the so-called opposition, The Pheasants, comprised mostly of pink-cheeked hopefuls just out of high school, were strictly for the feathered creatures as they horrified a fine balmy night at nearby Ukiah with 11 mechanical lapses, consisting of eight errors, two wild pitches and a passed ball.
The Caps fielded a makeshift lineup that had Jim Wert in left-field and Jack Johnson backstopping in place of first stringer Sam Hairston. They collected 10 hits and played smart ball afield.
There were two miscues, one by shortstop Chuck Davis, just in from the Seattle camp, and the other a mental lapse by second sacker Gordie Hernandez.
Hernandez showed good power at the plate with a long triple and a single.

today’s fanfare
Ashford Adds Chapter Two To Negro Baseball Story

By Eric Whitehead
[Vancouver Province, April 4, 1953]
HEALDSBERG—A gleaming new Buick convertible glided up to the ball park Friday morning and pulled to a half outside the players’ club house. Big Negro catcher Sam Hairston, who lounged on the club house steps in his street clothes, flashed a white grin and rose slowly to his feet as a dapper gent in an elegant grey pork pie fedora leaned his head out the window and called “Hiya, Sam.”
Sambo shambled over to the car like a big amiable bear, stuck out his paw, and happily shook the hand of his old friend and organized baseball’s first and only Negro umpire, Emmett Ashford.
Thus began Chapter two in the story of Negros in organized baseball, a yarn launched five years ago by Jackie Robinson.
No, Ashford’s forthcoming season as arbiter in the WIL is not the first season by a Negro umpire, but this step up from class C ball by a Negro umpire is the first official stamp of approval of what was two years ago regarded as a dangerous explosive experiment. Ashford’s sensational groundwork in the Arizona-Texas League has opened the door to others of his race, and has knocked yet another chip off the quivering old block of racial prejudice.
Emmett’s Record in the Book
How did Ashford make the grade against the obvious odds?
By the simple proves of turning in an exceptional job of work. The man is good, both as a fine showman and as a fearless craftsman. How do we know? Because it’s in the book.
In Emmett’s scrap-book, a neatly bound record that he presents as a matter of factly as a business man presenting his calling card.
No false modesty about Ashford. Nor any braggadocio. The lad plays off his record.
His scrap-book is an amazing two-year collection of headlines, eulogies and grand prophecies for the future of baseball’s first Negro arbiter. You get an idea how he is rated within the trade when you note he was chief of the corps of arbiters that handled the recent major league all-star game in L.A.
How did he get his break?
“I was playing semi-pro ball in L.A.,” he recalls, and one day I filled in for an absent umpire. Guess I did a pretty good job because I was asked to repeat, and then a fellow suggests I should fill in an application with the Municipal Umpires Association. I didn’t know whether I should or not,” he grinned, “but I’d invested $4.75 in an umpire’s cap, and danged if I was going to waste the money.
Another deterrent was the fact that Ashford, who holds a B.A. from Chapman College, held a pretty fair clerking job at the Los Angeles post office.
Ashford Miffed Marv in Debut
“Anyhow,” he continued, “I got up to the Association office. The girl I speak to takes a look and says maybe I‘m making a mistake, but finally an official calls me in. He tells me that if I have enough nerve to take a crack at it he’ll have enough nerve to give me a license.
“My first assignment was to the Arizona-Texas League—a real tough border circuit. I go in cold this day to El Paso, the first Negro to work in organized ball, and right away I’m in a spot.
“It’s a tight game, two-two in the ninth, and the bases are loaded for El Paso with two out. The big hitter, Marv Williams, is up there. He’s hit about 40 homers so far this season. The count goes to three and two, and the next pitch is a curve just barely on the corner. I call the third strike.”
Emmett mopped his brow at the memory. “Man,” he said, “I heard names then I never knew existed.”
But since then—sure, squawks aplenty—but just the normal amount.
“The players and fans treat me great,” he says; “And it’s treatment that counts. What some of them may be thinking is none of my business.”
He’ll be worth a look, this 37-year-old trailblazer, imported to the northwest by that great old time ballplayer, Ruby Robert Brown, president of the WIL.

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