Monday, April 13, 2015

Opening of Base Ball Season 1912, Recreation Park, San Francisco, Cal. April 2 1912, Seals vs Oaks.

Opening of Base Ball Season 1912, Recreation Park, San Francisco, Cal. April 2 1912, Seals vs Oaks, Dick Dobbins Collection on the Pacific Coast League, courtesy, California Historical Society, MS 4031.020
Opening of Base Ball Season 1912, Recreation Park, San Francisco, Cal. April 2 1912, Seals vs Oaks, Dick Dobbins Collection on the Pacific Coast League, courtesy, California Historical Society, MS 4031.020 

By Shelly Kale

Before the major leagues arrived in California in 1958—and before the San Francisco Giants played their home opener in the West Coast’s first major league baseball game on April 15 that year—there was the Pacific Coast League. As the world champion Giants’ new season begins, we remember the old PCL and its contributions to the game.

The PCL had ambitious goals from its establishment in 1903. On the field, as PCL historian Dick Dobbins wrote, the league “became known for its exciting and wide-open style of play, and for developing its stars . . . and its characters.” (1) Early on, San Francisco was the PCL’s keystone franchise; the city’s team, the San Francisco Seals, was later matched by other California charter teams—the Sacramento Solons, Hollywood Stars, Oakland Oaks, and Los Angeles Angels. The league’s famous alumni include Joe DiMaggio, Lefty O’Doul, and Ted Williams. 

Seals Stadium, 15 September 1957, the last afternoon of P.C.L. baseball in San Francisco, Dick Dobbins Collection on the Pacific Coast League, California Historical Society, MS 4031.021
Seals Stadium, 15 September 1957, the last afternoon of P.C.L. baseball in San Francisco, Dick Dobbins Collection on the Pacific Coast League, California Historical Society, MS 4031.021
By 1946 California’s population boom expanded baseball’s potential and plans took shape for the PCL to become a third major league. As league president Clarence H. “Pants” Rowland observed, “This is big league territory. We have big league fans and big league players and a big league population.”(2)

The plan, however, was abandoned when major league owners saw the West Coast’s promise and made it their new playing field. The independent league that at times rivaled the American and National leagues “for talent and excitement” (3) over the course of a century continues today as a minor league organization with franchises in the West, Midwest, and Southeast.

The finding aid to CHS’s Dick Dobbins Collection on the Pacific Coast League—which includes such PCL memorabilia as programs, scorecards, yearbooks, player sketches, administrative records, baseball cards, and photographs—is available on the Online Archive of California: http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/kt7c6037n5/?query=dick+dobbins.

Additional Pacific Coast League photographs from our collections can be viewed on our Flickr Commons page: https://www.flickr.com/photos/chs_commons/sets/72157635305185070/.
  1. Dick Dobbins, The Grand Minor League: An Oral History of the Old Pacific Coast League (Emeryville, CA: Woodford Press, 1999), 12, 13.
  2. Baseball in the Pacific Coast League, promotional film produced by the Pacific Coast League, 1946, directed and photographed by Harry F. Burrell, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPv41VZ68yE; Paul J. Zingg and Mark D. Medeiros, Runs, Hits, and an Era: The Pacific Coast League, 1903–58 (Urbana & Chicago: University of Illinois Press for the Oakland Museum, 1994), viii.
Shelly Kale 
Publications and Strategic Projects Manager 

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