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Old-Time Heroes Mingle With Still-Devoted Fans

February 12, 1988|JAY BERMAN

The San Francisco Seals were in town the other day.

So were the Oakland Oaks, Sacramento Solons, Hollywood Stars and Los Angeles Angels.

About a dozen former Pacific Coast League players attended Saturday's annual meeting of the PCL Historical Society, a group headed by Placentia resident and longtime baseball fan Richard Beverage.

Also attending the event, at an Anaheim hotel, were the daughters of two other PCL greats from the early years of the century, along with two umpires and about 100 fans of the league, which operated in Los Angeles in 1903-57.

Among the players were Gene Lillard, whose 56 home runs for the 1935 Angels is still good for a share of the league record for one year, and Charlie English, who drove in 143 runs for the Angels three years later. Lillard, 74, played professional baseball in 1932-54.

Helen Hannah Campbell of Fountain Valley, daughter of the late Harry (Truck) Hannah, brought photographs, scrapbooks and trophies relating to her father's 22 years in the league as a catcher and manager.

Janie Statz Hovious and Jessica Statz, daughter and granddaughter of Arnold (Jigger) Statz, brought his scrapbooks, glove, uniform and other memorabilia. Statz, now 90, joined the Angels as a center fielder in 1920 and spent 18 years with that club, a minor league record.

Collectors of PCL memorabilia displayed programs, score cards and baseball cards, and the umpires--Cecil Carlucci and Chris Valenti--were booed as they were introduced, in a flashback to their days behind the plate and on the bases.

Current Chicago White Sox pitching coach Don Rowe, winning pitcher in the last game played by the Hollywood Stars, spoke fondly of his days in the PCL:

"When you're from the Pacific Coast and you're 21 and playing for the Hollywood Stars, you're already in the big leagues."

Rowe may have received the biggest laugh of the day--old ballplayers all try to outdo one another in the quest for jokes at such events--when he told of striking out Ted Williams in an exhibition game:

"I had two strikes on him, went into my windup, and, halfway through my delivery, I choked. I thought, 'That's Ted Williams up there.' I struck him out on a nothing pitch, and my career was all downhill after that. They say you get 15 minutes of glory. That was mine."

Carlucci, who umpired in the league more than a decade, told of ejecting San Diego manager Frank (Lefty) O'Doul during Lefty O'Doul Night in San Francisco, where he had managed for many years.

"A manager can't argue a ball-and-strike call," Carlucci said, "and I called a ball that the San Diego pitcher, Guy Fletcher, thought was a strike. I didn't want to throw Lefty out on his night, and I saw him get up to the top of the dugout steps. He was heading toward me, and I walked toward him to head him off. He just walked right past me to the plate. I had to throw him out.

"I was getting threats from O'Doul's fans for days."

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