Monday, 10 March 2008

Why Calgary & Edmonton Now?

By Jim Tang
[Victoria Colonist, Sept. 21, 1952]
Like drowning clutching at straws, W.I.L. owners are buoyed up with the hope that Calgary and Edmonton will save them from going under. Faced with a situation so serious that there is nothing unreasonable in the belief that the league might not be able to operate next season, they are now almost unanimous in the opinion that the Alberta cities would make fine additions.
It’s an excellent idea. The only trouble is that the late converts saw the light about two seasons too late.
That Calgary and Edmonton would be fine additions despite geographical, weather and schedule difficulties seems obvious. That Calgary and Edmonton might want to join a league as shaky as the W.I.L. is today another thought.
Take a look at the record. It is doubtful if Tri-City and Wenatchee can raise enough money to pay their bills and have enough left over to start next season. The same situation exists in Victoria despite all the whistling in the park. Lewiston is ready for 1953 but no one can be certain that the Idaho city can stand another bad year.
That’s half the league in the extremely doubtful class and one wonders how much longer Yakima and Salem can go on taking financial setbacks. Vancouver and Spokane, the league’s two largest population centres, are also unable to show a profit. In fact, Spokane reported a $35,000 loss this season, Vancouver must have lost almost as much, if not more, after a 1951 season in which it is reported to have shown as $50,000 deficit.
Any way you look at it, it doesn’t look at all hopeful. Sure, Calgary and Edmonton would help, but they are in the driver’s seat and know it. The W.I.L., led by Vancouver’s Bob Brown and Spokane’s Roy Hotchkiss, both recent converts, though it a ridiculous idea when the Alberta centres approached the W.I.L. three years ago. Now the W.I.L. has to come with hat in hand and it will consider itself fortunate if it can give away two franchises. There is little hope that they can be sold.
Owners to Blame
Minor-league baseball at its best is a financial risk and it is true that the W.I.L. has its problems with an unbalanced league which has more than half the population centred in two cities but there is no good reason why matters should be as bad as they are. No reason except club owners themselves.
League-president Bob Abel has taken the brunt of the blame and he, it must be admitted, has shown no firm hand in guiding the league. But is must be remembered that he is only a part-time president getting a part-time salary and that the biggest reason he has held the job for so long is that the owners actually didn’t want anyone with convictions of his own.
For instance, two of the big problems in the W.I.L. are bad scheduling and bad umpiring. Both have been with the league ever since it was organized in 1946 and both are the fault of the owners.
The W.I.L. schedule is always a joke. This season, for instance, Spokane played 155 games, Vancouver played 141. This, too, is the fault of the owners. As soon as a scheule is accepted they get together to make private deals and rearrange everything. At least six games were added this season after the “official” schedule was mailed out because certain clubs thought they saw a chance to make a little extra by passing up an off day. Then when bad weather, which must always be expected, forced numerous postponements, these same owners, Victoria included, refused to try to make up these games. And they hollered that the schedule was too long—after lengthening it themselves.
Bad umpiring has cost a lot of fans but the only thing that club owners have done about it in six tears is to get on the telephone every time they think their cause has been hurt by a game official and raise merry cain with Abel. At least there is no evidence of any other move.
Public relations are bad in most cities, almost non-existent in some. Too many club officials have no idea of what constitutes public relations. And too many club officials could never have any. It’s the little things that count, which brings to mind a recent example of what is meant. A Victoria restaurant owner tossed a dinner for the Tyees near the end of the season. Only most of the players attended. Neither the field manager or the business manager was there. That does more harm than a losing season.
The W.I.L. can stay in business—but only if the club owners will go out and get someone to run their business for them. So far, they haven’t been able to do it themselves.

No comments: