In This Corner
By DICK ZEHMS
Long Beach Press-Telegram Sports Editor [from March 28, 1953]
A touch of the past will be linked with the present and future Sunday in Cressey Park, Compton, when the brand new Edmonton, Canada, Eskimos of the Class A Western-International League play the Compton Pacemakers in an exhibition baseball game.
The touch of the past is John Grady of Gardena. who way back in 1910 helped pitch Edmonton to a league championship. He will throw out the first ball as the Eskimos, out of organized baseball since 1922, return to the great game in this, their first competition with a new club new ownership.
Today the Eskimos wound up their first week of practice under the watchful eye of Manager Bobby Sturgeon at Cressey Park. Tomorrow they embark on a competitive program which will bring them into Recreation Park a week from Sunday for an exhibition game with the Long Beach Rockets.
Mayor Harry Laughran of Compton will catch Grady's first pitch as the new Edmonton club is born.
John Ducey, general manager of the Eskimos and real estate and insurance man in Edmonton, a boom town in the province of Alberta, isn't exactly a stranger in the Southland although he's thousands of miles from home. Ducey, you see, saw John (Beans) Reardon break into baseball as an umpire in the old Canadian League when Edmonton was a member way back in 1920. He recalls avidly how “Beans” started his long and successful career in the officiating game when only one umpire worked a game.
John even goes on to recall how an Edmonton newspaper wrote an editorial on its editorial page predicting a great future for Reardon as an umpire, including a career in the majors. That was 1920. Well, “Beans” retired only a couple of years ago after valiant and faithful service as a National League arbiter.
So perhaps there is a kinship between Edmonton and Long Beach. Ducey also recalls the days of Mike Romero, active in American Legion and kid baseball affairs here for two decades, as a player around 1920-21 for Moose Jaw.
The present Edmonton-Long Beach link is even closer, what with the manager and a number of local boys as candidates for the club.
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EDMONTON'S ESKIMOS WERE ORGANIZED LAST FALL BY DUCEY AND 24 STOCKHOLDERS, each pitching in with enough cash for a 850,000 bank roll. The club was starting from scratch, except that Ducey held a lease for 20 years on the city's 6000-seat stadium, home park of the Eskimos.
“We'll have to do about $150,000 worth of business at the turnstiles to make a go of it this season,” Ducey offered. “I think we will. Edmonton is a good sports town. It's booming. The population is 180,000, and it's growing because of the oil and industrial boom. Our football team, which was coached by Frank Filchok, had a fine year in the pro league, so I can't see any reason why we shouldn't succeed too.
“I think one of our more important advantages is that we are geographically isolated from other population centers so that we will not be competing with counter-attractions. We don't have television as a challenge, and we don't have attractions of other cities to worry about.
“When Bob Sturgeon visited us a few weeks ago he made a fine impression. I think he will give the Edmonton fans a good ball club, good enough to make our first year a successful one even if there are no championships coming our way.”
• • •
ALL THE TIME DUCEY AND I WERE TRADING THOUGHTS, OPINIONS AND SPECULATIONS in the dugout at Cressey Park, "Sturge" was out on the field herding his Eskimo candidates through four hours of drills.
Bob's crew of candidates looks something like this:
Pitchers—Larry Manier, 27 victories with Billings in 1951, and 5-4 record with Denver a:nd Billings last season; Jack Widner, 6-4 with Binghamton last year; John Conant, 18-10 with Spokane in '52; Don Tisnerat, a free agent who pitched for Vancouver in 1951; Jim Eskenberry, in the Pioneer League in '50-51, the armed services last year; Len Chenard, a 19-year-old rookie; George Brown, signed by Babe Herman for Boise, and Vance Thurston, Brooklyn farmhand taking special training witn Edmonton.
Catchers—Dick Morgan, brother of the New York Yankees' Tom Morgan, who was inactive in '52 after serving with Beaumont and Norfolk in '51; Vince Pisani, signed by Paddy Cottrell, Yankees' northern scout, alter serving in the Coast Guard in '52.
Infielders—Bob (Whitey) Thomson, Beaumont in '52; Sam Kenelos [sic], hit .296 as switch hitter for Spokane last year and two years ago played with Sacramento; Fred Downing, 1950-51 Poly High star; Sturgeon, and a first baseman, possibly Babe Herman's son, Don. Babe, incidentally, played with Edmonton in 1921.
Outfielders—Vern Campbell, .270 hitter with Quincy last year; “Lucky” Vital, with the '52 Evansville flag winners; Jim Lytall, free agent; Dan Prentice, who belongs to Pocatello, and Jerry Watts, a rookie who will be released from the Army in three months.
Helping Bob is none other than George Caster, veteran major league pitcher who might serve as a relief pitcher, pitching coach and all-around handyman.