Opening Day has passed and so have the hopes of Cubs fans everywhere, but this isn’t about curses, goats or cheeseburgers. This is about REAL West Coast baseball. Ask most people when organized, professional baseball started on the West Coast and, if you got an answer, they’d probably answer 1958, when the Dodgers moved to LA. That would be wrong. Pro and semi-pro teams played each other up and down the coast starting in the late 1860s; but organized pro ball started in 1905, when the Pacific Coast League was formed. The PCL is still around, but its quite different from what it was in its heyday in the 30s, 40s, and 50’s.
The heart of the historical league withered away after 1958, as eastern big league teams moved into the prime territories: LA, SF and Oakland, leaving San Diego to carry on playing against small town teams, several of which had trouble filling the seats without the big name clubs to attract patrons. Major League Baseball was here, but it had the residue of the Eastern Seaboard attached to it. Where were the West Coast teams?
The first one finally showed up in 1961, when the PCL Los Angeles Angels made the leap to the bigs, followed by my San Diego Padres in 1969. The non-PCL, expansion team Seattle Mariners started Major League play in 1977. That’s it; three home grown West Coast Teams. Only two of them have anything to do with the golden age of the PCL. The East Coastness of the other teams is enough to make me want to scream “Yankee go home!” The transplants might have the World Series rings, but the natives have authenticity.
So if anyone ever asks you where the most authentic baseball on the West Coast can be found, you can answer: San Diego. You may ask: “What about the Angels or the Mariners?” They’re in the American League; and everyone knows that the designated hitter isn’t authentic. Play ball!
Doug Abramson lives in Southern California and is waiting for his Padres to win the World Series so he can die happy. He doesn’t want to die, but he figures that the shock would kill him.