PCL Redux

Update: 5/15/1939


It’s been a poor start to the season for Portland (10-16) and Hollywood (6-20), but no one else can complain—every other team in the league is at .500 or better and within 3 games of first place. Los Angeles (16-10) squeezed into sole possession of the top spot this week with four wins in six tries, while Sacramento, San Diego, and Seattle (all 15-11) are now in a three-way tie for second, a game behind the Angels. Oakland (14-12) is two games out of first and San Francisco (13-13) is three games back. It’s usually unwise to make predictions about a pennant race before Memorial Day, but it’s shaping up to be another tight race with nearly the entire league in the mix.

Ripper Collins, the Halos’ 35-year-old first baseman, took Player of the Week honors on the strength of a .533 (8-for-15) average, adding three homers and seven runs batted in to his credentials. Collins, acquired in a trade-deadline deal from St. Louis last season, is hitting .333.

Update: 5/8/1939


It was a great beginning of the week for Seattle (12-8), as they beat Oakland (10-9) three times and Los Angeles (12-8) once, but things ended on a sour note as they dropped the next three to the Angels. This dropped them into a second-place tie with the Halos; they both trail San Diego (13-6) by a game and a half. The Rainiers’ uneven performance was certainly not the fault of veteran catcher Biz Mackey, who earned a Player of the Week nod after hitting .500 (12-for-24) with a pair of homers and 5 RBI. The ageless backstop (He turns 42 in July) is hitting .349 this season, his 19th in the Coast League.

The fourth-place Oaks trail the Padres by three games; San Francisco (10-10) is 3½ out; Sacramento (9-10) is four out; Portland (8-12) is 5½ out; Hollywood (4-15), losers of five straight, is already nine games back.

Update: 5/1/1939


San Diego (9-4) rode first baseman Buck Leonard’s hot bat into first place, winning five of seven to skip past Seattle (8-5), who dropped four of seven. The Padres lead the Rainiers by a game, Los Angeles, Oakland, and San Francisco (all 7-6) by two games, Sacramento (6-7) by three games, Portland (5-8) by four games, and Hollywood (3-10) by six.

Leonard, the 31-year-old smooth-swinging slugger from Rocky Mount, North Carolina, hit .560 this week, driving in 12. He leads the league in hitting (.467) and RBI (17). Leonard has not hit a home run yet this season and hit only 12 last year—a far cry from the 47 round-trippers he hit as a P.C.L. rookie in 1934—but the Padres understand that home runs are hard to come by in spacious Lane Field, and feel they will be in good shape indeed if Leonard can duplicate his .346 average from last season. That mark, .346, happens to be his career average as of Sunday.

Update: 4/24/1939


Seattle native Fred Hutchinson turned in a solid rookie campaign for the Rainiers last season, but if his Opening Week performance is any indication, last year was only a hint at what’s to come. In two starts against Portland last week, Hutchinson threw eighteen innings, yielding 17 hits and only two runs, striking out six, walking no one, and of course, picking up two complete-game victories, including a shutout. Hutchinson’s dominance—worthy of the league’s first Player of the Week award for 1939—was an integral component of Seattle’s 5-1 start.

The Rainiers were the only team to log five wins, so they’re all alone on first place with a week in the books. Los Angeles, Oakland, and San Diego are all 4-2 and tied for second place; Hollywood, Sacramento, and San Francisco are 2-4 and tied for fifth, and Portland is in the cellar at 1-5.

1938-1939 Off-Season

The Hollywood Stars will unveil 12,987-seat Gilmore Field on Opening Day. It’s a smaller, more intimate venue than the Angels’ Wrigley Field, where the Stars set up temporary camp last year, but it’s all theirs. For the first time in decades, every team in the league will be playing its home games in a ballpark that no other team calls home.

Gilmore Field

The Stars expect to come close to jamming their new home to near-capacity most days. There is room for the stadium to expand if the demand is there, but for now, the club will be content to build its following at a leisurely pace after playing too many dates in a half-filled stadium last season.

For the moment it appears all eight Coast League franchises have settled into their respective locations, but there will always be talk of relocation whenever a team’s attendance begins to flag. The Sacramento Solons, for all their on-field success in recent years, still occupy a metropolitan area that is tiny by big league standards. The Solons’ ability to thrive in such a market has been impressive, but their ability to continue to do so is far from a certainty.