Monday, August 29, 2005

The 1899 California League

The 1899 California League

By 1899, the State of California had pulled itself out of the deepest depression this country has ever faced, and baseball— which had virtually died out here in California— began its slow rise out of the ashbin of history.  Baseball had been very strong through the 1892 season, with the California League the premier league on the Pacific Slope.  The first California League began play in 1879.  In 1893, the league stumbled through the first half of the season, but gave up the ghost on August 14, when two clubs of the four-team league disbanded, making the league unsustainable.

There were two failed attempts revive baseball in California over the following four years.  In 1894, many players waited around all season for owners to get their act together, but none wanted to throw good money after bad, and in mid-September, the players organized a league of their own, the California Players’ League.  That “league” lasted all of six weeks.  Two years after that, Col. Tom Robinson, long-time owner of the Oakland franchise in the previous Cal League, organized a six-team league, with four teams in the Bay Area, and two “in the country,” as they used to say.  The league got off to a late start, June 28, but managed to finish the season with only one club, San Jose, failing.   But, as  it turned out, most— if not all— club magnates took a financial bath, and none wanted to repeat the same exercise in 1897.

By 1898 the economy on the Pacific Slope had improved so much that two rival leagues were formed.  The Pacific States League battled the new California League for nearly a month before the two leagues combined, jettisoning the weaker franchises.  That league was called the Pacific Coast League.  The eight-team league finished the season with only one club having to be replaced.  

For 1899 the league was reorganized into a more compact six-team circuit. Four of the six clubs remained financially strong during most of the season.  But then disaster struck:
San Jose disbanded on August 28, and Watsonville— which had been supported by the league all season— was dropped for scheduling purposes.  The California League finished the season as a four-team league, and remained a four-team circuit until it created two more franchises in the Pacific Northwest, and changed its name to the Pacific Coast League.

Final Team Standings    Games Played   Wins  Lost    Ties  Games Behind
Sacramento Gilt Edge          81             46      31          4            ….
San Francisco Wasps                 89                45      41       3              5½
Oakland Dudes                       95                45      47       3               9½
Santa Cruz Beachcombers     85                35      48       2             13

The Two Team that dropped out:

Team Record              Games Played   Wins  Lost    Ties  
Watsonville Babies/Hayseeds           49              25      24       0
San Jose Prune Pickers                51             23       28       0
Until Allan T. Baum became president of the Pacific Coast League, league officials dated the formation of the PCL to the 1899 season, when President Baum changed it to 1903.


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