1947-1952 Edgewood, K Street and Olde Pilsner Baseball Teams

 

It was a “golden era” of amateur and semi-pro baseball in Tacoma and Pierce County in the late 40s and early 50s and K Street was the “king of the hill.” Edgewood was the spawning ground and the Olde Pilsner team provided a finale for many of the top stars from that K Street “gang,” but the championships and headlines belonged to a nucleus of players who are being recog­nized today.

In 1949 the Tacoma City League was the talk of the town. K Street, Sixth Avenue, 26th and Procter, 38th Street, South Tacoma and McKinley Avenue all had teams laden with star high school, col­lege, semi-pro and ex-­professional players.

Games were played in Lincoln Bowl and some of the league games produced crowds in the neighborhood of 4,000 fans. Ex-major leaguer star Bob Johnson, and several former Tacoma Tigers were featured on the various teams. Catcher Earl Kuper, who was the leading hitter for the Tigers a season or two earlier, was a playing-coach.

Rising stars Mike Dillon of Stadium and Tony Banaszak of Puyallup were welcomed to the league with large crowds after impressive high school pitching careers which led to professional signings. Lefty Pete Sabutis was the ace of K Street’s cham­pionship team but the com­petition was fierce all sea­son, and there was plenty of excitement.

WSU star Don Paul and college stars from PLC and CPS, the top two Evergreen Conference teams of that year, joined the various teams in June, add­ing to the stature of the league and the nature of the struggle for first place.

The Tigers still played in the Western Interna­tional League but City League games sometimes outdrew the professionals who played at Tiger Park at 38th and Lawrence. The baseball history at Lincoln Bowl was electric and the publicity given the City League games coupled with the familiar­ity of the majority of the players (most of whom played in the Tacoma area as prepsters and collegians) proved to be most attractive to Tacoma’s baseball faithful.

The nucleus of the K Street team included  Sabutis, Hal Schimling, Cliff Schiesz, Frank Morrone, Dave Minnitti, Ed Yusko, Gus Paine, Frank Bonaro, Earl Birnel, Dick Browse, Fred Rickert, Larry Rask, HankSemmern, DickSalatino, Frank Osborne and Vic and Vern Martineau. They were dominating in terms of winning although the rival teams in the city managed to provide plenty of game-after-game opposition.

Sabutis, Vic Martineau, Osborne and Semmern were the pitchers and Sabutis rarely lost a game. He was good enough to pitch for Tacoma in the WI League and was a “master” in semi-pro and amateur competition. Yusko and Schiesz were a great double-play combination and both had professional opportunities, Schiesz with the Tigers, Yusko with Seattle. Earl Birnel was another fine in­fielder who earned a professional contract while first-baseman Dave Minnitti likewise had a shot with the Tigers. Morrone and Bonaro were both star outfielders who also played third base while Browse and Rickert gave the team speed afield and some solid hitting. Vern Martineau and Schimling were behind the plate on a team which had no weakness.

Some younger players also joined the K Street aggregation. Dick Colombini, Art Viafore, Al Otto, and Gene Reiber, all standout Lincoln high prod­ucts, were added to the roster, and the team played under the sponsorship of Madigan Hospi­tal on Sunday in the Valley League.

The Edgewood team which evolved during K Street’s reign began as Phil’s Tavern, an upshoot from Grange teams which played at Edgewood Grange for years. Phil Lelli played on some of the Grange teams with his brother and decided to form a Valley League entry called “Phil’s, utilizing some of the other Grange players.

Schimling’s sister was married to Phil, so Hal came out to play for Phil and soon recruited some of the K Street team. Guess what? Edgewood be­gan to dominate the Valley League just as K Street prevailed in the City League and many of the same players represented both teams.

The team drew big crowds in Edgewood. It was an era when community pride was clearly im­portant and, without the competition of television, Sunday baseball in the Valley league was the big­gest thing in town in places like Morton, Mineral, Spanaway, South Prairie, Fife, Puyallup, and Orting. There were four divisions and 28 teams compet­ing at one time in Valley play.

As some of the K Street/Edgewood players decided to call baseball “a day” another team emerged in the Tacoma City League, Olde Pilsner.

Les Herzog, who later would assemble Portland Avenue teams in the same circuit put together a title-contender with Schimling, Sabutis, Rickert, Semmern and Scheisz as his nucleus.

Dale Bloom, Tom Absher, PLC stars Ron Bill­ings, Gerry Hefty, and Frank Karwoski, along with Eddie Wheeler, Jim Stanton and Bob Jamison all joined the team plus Bob Johnson, veteran major-league standout and ex-Tacoma Tiger manager.

Their 1952 season was one of the most con­tested in league history because Fort Lewis entered the ranks with a team of players who had much professional experience. Ken Lehman, a Brooklyn Dodger farmhand and AM pitching star, was the ace of a strong mound staff.

Fort Lewis won the first-half of the city chase with a 7—0 record but Olde Pilsner came back to claim the second-half title in a lengthier schedule with a 13—1 record. The playoff series was a dandy

Olde Pilsner won the opening game, part of opening ceremonies for the new-acquired Cheney Field (formerly Tiger Park), by a 4—3 margin. Doubles by Dale Bloom and Fred Rickert sparked one rally

Bob Jomison, who was 2-for-2, singled and stole second late in the game to set the stage for Hal Schimling. The playing-manager came through with the game winning base blow.

Bloom was the win­ning pitcher. After allow­ing a first-inning run he pitched seven scoreless innings before tiring in the final frame. He carried a five-hitter to the 9th but yielded four safeties and two runs before getting an infield grounder for the final out.

The second game was even closer, a 6—6 tie played at Fort Lewis Sta­dium where a mid­night curfew at the base halted the con­test after 11 innings. A scheduled replay then was rained out.

The second re­play was all Olde Pilsner with Pete Sabutis on the mound. His one-hit perfor­mance resulted in an 8—1 victory and the cov­eted city crown. The crafty left-hander struckout 10 and lost his no-hit game in the 9th on a bloop single with two out.

Leadoff batter Frank Karwoski scored four runs for the champs and Rickert provided much of the offense with three solid base-hits. It was a glori­ous win for the City Leaguers because of the strength of that Fort Lewis team.

In those days the Tacoma News Tribune had a policy that no sponsor would benefit from attaching a business name to a team, so Olde Pil­sner, realized little in way of recognition for the se­ries. The “Brewers” were credited with the wins in the TNT, but the Olde Pilsner name became quite an overnight sensation among area baseball fans.

Those were the days!