Sunday, September 18, 2005

1939 Pioneer League Notes

1939 Pioneer League Notes

Note:  Gary Fink recently finished a great piece of work by filling in the gaps in the 1939 Pioneer League, a league, I might add, that severed as a feeder league for the Pacific Coast League.   Fink compiled averages for all the less-than players, plus averages for multi-team players, Here are the notes that accompanied his compilation, which you should find quite interesting.
Elden A. Lorenzen played with three teams in the Pioneer League in 1939.  Lorenzen is listed in the guide as playing in 99 games as a catcher for Pocatello, Lewiston, and Boise, but he actually played LF for 42 games, caught 38 games, played first base for 7 games, third base for 5 games, and RF for 3 games.  The guide also listed him with 349 AB and 67 hits, which works out to a note very impressive .192 BA.  I always thought that was odd because, when I compiled his playing career, he batted .265 in 1938 in the Texas Valley League and .283 in 1940 in the Pioneer League. Of course, he was with three teams in 1939, so that might explain it.  Also, on September 17, the last day of the season, the fans at Boise gave their catcher/outfielder a "baby walker.”  You see, "Pop" Lorenzen had a 3-month-old son living in Los Angeles, whom he had as yet not seen. So, maybe, I reasoned, that was why Elden hit so poorly that year.
I decided to break down the records of the nine players who played for more than one team that year in the Pioneer League. The totals for the box scores pretty much matched the totals that were listed in the guide for 1939.  For pitching there was one game difference for Dearden and one complete game different for Soule. For batting there was one game difference for Dearden and McConnell, and a one at bat difference for Linde, Meyer, and Soule. However, when I got to the hits, I found a one hit difference for Dearden— and a big difference for Lorenzen, some 30 hits more than his official total stated in the 1940 baseball guide.
I then went to the team totals and put in the totals I had compiled for the multi-team players and the totals I had compiled for the players not listed in the guide. For Boise, I put in the 268 at bats and the 79 hits I had compiled for Lorenzen and the guide totals and the guide total for players listed plus the box scores totals of players not listed matched perfectly! The total were 4,453 at bats and 1,325 hits. For Pocatello, I put in the 50 at bats and the 14 hits for Lorenzen plus all the other totals and the hits matched perfectly, while the at bats were one off.  For Lewiston, I put in 31 at bats and 4 hits for Lorenzen plus all the other totals. The at bats were three off and the hits were 10 off. However, the Lewiston's paper had the batting averages listed through out the year and they give Lorenzen 31 at bats and 4 hits.
So while the at bats remain the same, give Elden Lorenzen 97 hits instead of 67 hits. And that raises his batting average from .192 to .278.  Not bad for a catcher.  And in line with his other seasons.
Elden "Pop" Lorenzen died on February 2, 1977, in Glendale, California, so he will never know of this discovery.  
The New SABR Guide to Minor League Statistics states that, for the 1939 Pioneer League, the names of players who played in "less than 10 games" or pitched in "less than 45 innings" are listed.  That turns out to be incorrect, as only the names of players who pitched in less than 45 innings are listed in the guide.
The guide lists 46 players who pitched  less than 45 innings.  I actually found 48 players in that category. Add John Linde and Paul Smith.  Both played for Lewiston. Linde was an outfielder who pitched in 8 games.  Smith, who pitched for Hollywood earlier in the season, pitched in 6 games for Lewiston.
For the less than 10 games batters there are 46 players listed.  There were three players who played 10 or more games, but they were not listed in the batting section. They were: Clarence Beers who played in 52 games, Clarence Federmeyer who played in 10 games, and Elbert White who played in 11 games.  Beers is listed in the pitching section, and White is listed in the position section and the less than 45 IP section of the 1940 Guide.
I was able to get a first name for all the players except for one: a fellow named Oberness.  Oberness pitched one game for Boise on May 12. He was one of four pitchers who pitched for Boise that day and he is credited with the lost. He is not listed in any of the transactions listed for the Pioneer League that year. There is no contract card for him at the Cooperstown's Baseball Library.  There is nothing mentioned on him in any of the six newspapers, except for the box score. There is no listing of an Oberness in the Social Security Death Index, and there is no listing of an Oberness in the 1900, 1910, 1920, and 1930 United States Census.
When I compiled the win and loss totals from the box scores and matched them with the guide, I found out that Rene is listed in the guide with 8 losses; however, I only came up with 7 losses from the review of box scores. Rene is not listed as one of the four pitchers for Boise that day. Is Oberness a phantom player? Could Rene actually be Oberness? Of course, any one who has looked at the transactions for any league during any season knows that they are far from complete. The S.S. Death Index is not complete. The United States Census for each year has never been complete. So who knows?
Harold Ritter started out as a catcher for Boise, he played in 36 games and compiled a .184 batting average.  His last game was on June 22, when he was injured after being hit in the shoulder by a batted ball.  
On July 10 the umpires failed to make it to the game between Ogden and Boise. Ogden's Augie Navarro and Boise's Harold Ritter, both injured catchers, filled in as umpires for the games and called "them right.”  On July 14, it was reported that the President of the Pioneer League Jack Halliwell , who hired Harold Ritter to umpire for the rest of the season.
Phil Sarboe started out as an umpire in the Pioneer League, then on June 24 he submitted his resignation to the League President. On June 28, he appeared in the lineup for Lewiston. He went on to play 25 games for Lewiston, mostly at 2B and 3B and batted .239.  He did not finish out the year with Lewiston, however, as he had to go to his new job as head football coach at a high school in Aberdeen, Washington.
The 2nd Edition of The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball lists Herb Sanders as the manager for the whole year with Lewiston. Actually, he got fired in June, his last game being on June 24. Lou Garland replaced him the very next day, June 25, and remained the manager of the team for the rest of the season.
Gary Fink  
April 23, 2005


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