Willie in Puerto Rico. The Spaceman in Alaska. Billy Dies. Charlie Hustle in SD. PCL Stars in Boston.
October 19th, 1954. Willie Mays and fellow New York Giant teammate Ruben Gomez during their time in the Puerto Rican Winter League. I found this cool little excerpt regarding Willie’s time in Puerto Rico on his SABR Baseball Biography Project Page (HERE):
Between the 1954 and 1955 seasons, Willie played in the Puerto Rican League for the Santurce Crabbers, managed by Giants coach Herman Franks. He was in the same outfield as the young and relatively unknown Roberto Clemente, a daunting prospect for opposing pitchers and base runners. Mays batted a league-leading .393 for the Crabbers, who won the Caribbean Series for Puerto Rico that year. Willie recounts that he played for the team as a favor to Franks and Giants owner Horace Stoneham, whose friend owned the team. However, Mays had grown tired after playing 250 games in 10 months and took six weeks off to rest before the Giants’ spring training in 1955.
Both Clemente and Mays in the same Outfield, so amazing. Oh yeah, a little trivia about Ruben Gomez is that he was the first Pitcher to win a Major League game on the West Coast as he was the winning Pitcher for the San Francisco Giants on opening day of 1958.
Bill “The Spaceman” Lee played for the Alaska Goldpanners in both 1966 and 1967. The Goldpanners began as a barnstorming team in 1960 and ended up joining the summer collegiate Alaska Baseball League in 1974. The Goldpanners have a rich history and in addition to Lee have had many future big leaguers play for the team such as Bob Boone, Tom Seaver, Dave Winfield, and even Barry Bonds.
If you have never heard of the Goldpanners, I suggest you check out their official site (HERE) as it is incredibly informative and has a page dedicated to literally every single team they have had from 1960 to present. In addition, it should be known that the Goldpanners are the hosts of the Midnight Sun Game. This annual event is a late-night Baseball game held on the summer solstice. The first pitch of the game is thrown at 10:30pm and the game is played late into the night. Due to the sun staying out so late it remains light outside during the game. This supposedly makes for an incredible experience.
In 2008, then 61 year old Bill Lee came back to Alaska to pitch in the game and actually got the win. Afterwards he proclaimed that the Goldpanners are “the number one amateur baseball organization in history.” As a proud Lee follower, I gotta admit that I agree with him 100%.
Christmas Day, 1989. I remember this day perfectly not for the holiday celebrations but for the news on ESPN that Billy had been killed in an accident. I truthfully have no recollection of what I got that year for Christmas but for some reason Billy’s death stands out vividly. It just goes to show what kind of Baseball obsessed freak I was even in the 4th grade.
Something odd to think about: If Billy was still around today, he’d be 83 years old. For some reason that’s crazy sounding to me. That’s a few years older than Jack McKeon but something tells me that if Billy were still alive that he would still be involved with the game. Possibly on his 10th or so stint managing the Yankees.
Something doesn’t seem right about this photo. Oh yeah, it’s Pete Rose wearing a San Diego Padres cap. I found this photo a year or two ago and the description said that Rose had to wear the cap for sizing during a portrait.
While this is weird, Rose almost DID play for the Padres while they were still a PCL team in 1962. This is due to the fact that the Padres were an affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds from 1962 to 1965. Rose was actually featured in the official program for the 1962 season while wearing a Padres cap. I assume he was expected to play for the team that year? I scanned a photo of it (HERE) from Bill Swank’s incredible book “Baseball In San Diego – From The Padres To Petco” which is the 2nd volume he wrote that chronicles the history of the game in the city of San Diego.
I love this photo as it features 3 of my favorite American League players from yesteryear: Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, and Dom DiMaggio of the Boston Red Sox.
Or as I also see them: Ted Williams of the San Diego Padres, Bobby Doerr of the San Diego Padres & Hollywood Stars and Dom DiMaggio of the San Francisco Seals.