Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Northwest League, 1935

This picture has long reposed in our family album, depicting my grandparents Aileen UNDERWOOD and Vinis “Red” BROSIUS. Although the identity of the subjects has always been apparent, the date has been more uncertain. We knew that it had been taken before they were married, that is, before November of 1940, but a more precise date was undetermined. On the back of the photo, Aileen had written that Red played for the “Bradford Clothiers,” but it seems that the now-defunct team has no presence on the internet whatsoever. Such a discovery is not surprising, of course, considering that it was not a professional team, and that any interest in its history would be extremely localized, but it is still disappointing. Apart from the desire to date the photograph, I am something of a baseball fan and wanted to learn more about my grandfather’s ball-playing years.

Finally one day, while doing a cursory search for the BROSIUS surname in the Oregonian newspaper’s historical archives, I stumbled across the phrase “Brosius and Spears forming the Bradfords’ battery.” This sent me running to the library for the microfilm, in which to my delight I traced the entire 1935 summer season.

The summer season was really not a season in itself, but the second half of the 1935 baseball season. However, the teams’ rankings were reset, and every team had a fresh start to work for the second-half pennant. At the end, the winners of the first- and second-half pennants would compete for the championship. There also seems to have been some changes in the team rosters. As I am primarily concerned with genealogy and my grandfather does not appear to have played in the first half of the season, I will leave the reconstruction of that half to another researcher.

The Bradford Clothiers, or Bradford’s Clothes Shop as it usually appears in the papers, was a team belonging to what was known as the Northwest League. This bush league consisted of eight teams, most of which seemed to be named after a sponsor. The exception was Linnton, a community near Sauvie Island, but the name was probably the abbreviation of a business name. In alphabetical order, the teams and their known players in the summer season of 1935 were:

Bradford’s Clothes Shop (alternately the Bradford Clothiers)
Unknown position: Ray LINN

Bridal Veil Timber Company

Building Labor Union of Vancouver (alternately the Unionites)

Hammel’s Pharmacy (alternately the Drugmen)
Catchers: Pete GETTE, LAWLER


Other teammates: Eddie FOSS

Mantle Club
Catchers: BARKER
Other teammates: KELDNER

V. & V. Coffee Shop
Catchers: McGUIRE or MacGUIRE
Outfielder: LEVEY
Other teammates: LESLIE
I can attempt no more than a partial reconstruction of the 1935 summer season, as all of my information is gleaned from the sports pages of the Oregonian. Never is there a complete list of the players, and only the highlights and final scores of the games are reported. However, in addition to the above list of teams and incomplete list of players, I can provide a chronology of the games played.

The 1935 summer season opened on June 16th, with Bridal Veil visiting Sellwood Park to play against Bradford’s. Bridal Veil won the game with a final score of 5-4. Three other games were also played that day, with Hammel’s beating the Building Union 6-3, the Journal massacring Linnton 16-3, and V & V beating Mantle 4-3.

The following week, Bradford’s lost a humiliating 23-7 to V & V Coffee Shop. Meanwhile, the Journal beat the Mantle Club 10-4; Hammel’s won over Bridal Veil 4-3, and the Building Labor Union beat Linnton 7-4.

The Bradford Clothiers must have hoped to redeem themselves in the following week’s game against the Building Labor Union, however the game was rained out, and the scores stood as they were another week. The following week, they were scheduled to meet the Journal, but that game, too, was postponed due to rain. Finally, on July 14th, they faced the undefeated Drugmen of Hammel’s Pharmacy at Montavilla Park, and lost. The final score was 5-3, and put Hammel’s into a tie with the Journal for the lead of the league.

In the other league games of that day, the Journal won 8-7 against the V & V Coffee Shop, Bridal Veil won against the Building Labor Union 10-9, and Linnton and the Mantle Club met in a game described as “wild, but exciting,” and ended in a score of 12-11, with Linnton winning.

The following week, July 21st, Bradford’s faced a more equal opponent: the Mantle Club. It was called a “cellar game” because neither team had yet won a game. Unfortunately, one of the teams had to remain in the cellar. That team was the Bradford Clothes Shop. At least they made a fair showing, ending the game a single run behind. The final score was 7-6. The other games of the day had Hammel’s taking the league lead after their 8-1 win against Linnton, V & V winning 6-2 over Bridal Veil, and the Building Labor Union beating the Journal 8-6.

Bradford’s was, naturally, out of the running for the league pennant at this point, but they met Linnton, another team out of the running, at Pier Park on July 28th. Now that it no longer mattered, the Clothiers finally won a game. And I can say with pride that my grandfather was responsible for at least one of the team’s seven runs.

As for the other games that day, Hammel’s beat Mantle Club 4-1. The other two games are mysteriously omitted from the newspaper article. The final scores, therefore, cannot be known, but the winners can be deduced from the team standings the following week: the Journal won over Bridal Veil and V & V beat the Building Labor Union.

The following week, Bradford’s traveled to Vancouver to play against the Building Labor Union. The results are omitted from the next day’s paper, but through the same process of deduction used above, it is clear that Bradford’s, once again, lost. The Journal played Hammel’s Pharmacy, losing 4-2; V & V Coffee Shop opposed Linnton winning 8-2; and Bridal Veil played the Mantle Club, ending with a close score of 2-1, Mantle Club the winners.

The games scheduled for August 11th were Hammel’s vs. V & V, Linnton vs. Bridal Veil, Mantle Club vs. Building Labor Union, and Bradford’s vs. the Journal. V & V beat Hammel’s in what must have been a very tense game, with a final score of just one run, bringing them to an even score and therefore requiring a tie-breaking game. The Journal beat Bradford’s with a score of 6-5, and the Building Labor Union won out over the Mantle Club 1-0. The score is not listed for the Linnton vs. Bridal Veil game, but it can be deduced that the winner was Bridal Veil.

Hammel’s and V & V played their tie-breaking game on August 18th, with Hammel’s taking home the pennant for the second half of the season. V & V had won the pennant for the first half, so they had to play one more game for the championship. Oddly, I have been unable to find the results of this final game. However, whichever team took home the championship went on to play in the Oregon fall baseball tournament, competing against ten other league champions for the title.

Inez UNDERWOOD, Ray LINN, and Red BROSIUS. The driver of the car is unknown.
Despite the fact that the Bradford Clothiers fared very poorly in the 1935 summer season, it has been an interesting project to look at them and their league. Perhaps, too, this will assist other researchers. If anyone has any further information to offer, or other photos of players in the Bradford Clothiers or any of the Northwest league teams of 1935, I would be happy to post them as well.

Now… if only I could identify the teams and dates of the other pictures in which Red BROSIUS appears in a baseball uniform!

(All of these articles—with the exception of that dated 15 July—may also be viewed online for a fee through News Bank, or for free with a Multnomah County Library card.)
Found on Microfilm. Oregonian: Portland Oregon 566 (1946): Jun 9, 1935 thru Jul 5, 1935. 
  • “Northwest Nines to Start Round.” Oregonian [Portland] 16 June 1935, Sunday ed., Sports sec.: 2.
  • “V and V Coffee Shoppers Hold to Bush Loop Lead.” Oregonian [Portland] 17 June 1935, Morning ed: 16. 
  •  “Two Undefeated Teams to Meet.” Oregonian [Portland] 23 June 1935, Sunday ed., Sports sec.: 3. 
  •  “Bradfords Fail to Stop Hitting of the V & V Team.” Oregonian [Portland] 24 June 1935, Morning ed: 11. 
  •  “Loop Lead Goal of Three Teams.” Oregonian [Portland] 30 June 1935, Sunday ed., Sports sec.: 3. 
  •  “Tilts Halted by Rainy Conditions.” Oregonian [Portland] 1 July 1935, Morning ed: 12. 

 Found on Microfilm. Oregonian: Portland Oregon 567 (1946): Jul 6, 1935 thru Aug 2, 1935.

  • “League Leaders Will Vie Today.” Oregonian [Portland] 7 July 1935, Sunday ed., Sports sec.: 3. 
  •  “Rain Stops Games.” Oregonian [Portland] 8 July 1935, Morning ed: 14. 
  •  “Unbeaten Teams to Resume Play.” Oregonian [Portland] 14 July 1935, Sunday ed., Sports sec.: 3. 
  •  “Hammel Pharmacy Team Goes Into First Place Tie.” Oregonian [Portland] 15 July 1935, Morning ed: 16. 
  •  “Lead Northwest Nine Lists Union.” Oregonian [Portland] 21 July 1935, Sunday ed., Sports sec.: 3. 
  •  “Hammels Capture Top Position in Northwest Loop.” Oregonian [Portland] 22 July 1935, Morning ed: 16. 
  •  “Hammel to Play Mantle Club Nine.” Oregonian [Portland] 28 July 1935, Sunday ed., Sports sec.: 3. 
  •  “Hammel’s Pharmacy Adds to Loop Lead.” Oregonian [Portland] 29 July 1935, Morning ed: 16. 

 Found on Microfilm. Oregonian: Portland Oregon 568 (1946): Aug 3, 1935 thru Aug 31, 1935.

  • “Hammel’s Needs Win to Hold Top.” Oregonian [Portland] 4 Aug 1935, Sunday ed., Sports sec.: 3. 
  •  “Close Contests Seen in North-West Ball Loop.” Oregonian [Portland] 5 Aug 1935, Morning ed.:12. 
  •  “Win By Hammel’s Will Clinch Flag.” Oregonian [Portland] 11 Aug 1935, Sunday ed., Sports sec.: 3. 
  •  “Northwest Nines End Second Half in Top-Place Tie.” Oregonian [Portland] 12 Aug 1935, Morning ed.:15. 
  •  “Northwest Nines Arrange Playoff.” Oregonian [Portland] 18 Aug 1935, Sunday ed., Sports sec.: 3. 
  •  “Hammel’s Team Defeats V. & V. for Half Crown.” Oregonian [Portland] 19 Aug 1935, Morning ed.:15. 
  •  “Fall Tournament Dates Scheduled.” Oregonian [Portland] 25 Aug 1935, Sunday ed., Sports sec.: 2. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Capricious Credibility of Oral History

Let me begin by saying I love oral history. It is one of the first things that interested me in my family history and genealogy. I was never one those children who groan and seek escape when a grown-up would intone, “When I was your age…” Instead, I would sit in rapt attention, eager to hear what would follow. The stories helped me to understand the speaker as a person, to realize that he had once been as young and ignorant as I. My family’s stories became my stories, wrapping themselves around my heart and subtly guiding me in my own life.

And, of course, there were those evanescent stories of people long dead, whom I had never met. These stories were wonders, enveloping dusty bones with living flesh and blood. People who had died even before my parents were born became known to me. I learned to love them almost as well as I loved those whom I had really met.

Of course, it helped that I had some talented storytellers in my family—and ones who loved to reminisce. But as my study of genealogy became more serious, and I myself grew older and more discerning, I began to realize that only some of the “facts” recalled really were quite reliable, but others were often speculation or wishful thinking cemented into belief through the years.

It is interesting to look at different branches of the family and see how the oral tradition has affected my genealogical research. For instance, my great-aunt Elsie CROCKER had an amazingly accurate memory, and the foresight to type out a memoir of her childhood. She wrote of her parents’ families back in England, so that despite the relatively common surnames of UNDERWOOD and AMOS, it was a simple task to find the correct families in the census records: all I had to do was find the family in the right area with the right children. Though she made occasional mistakes, I am often astounded by her accuracy. For instance, in a 1999 conversation, when Elsie was almost 92 years old, she told me that her parents and older brother came to America on a ship called the Mayflower (not the famous one), which left England 6 May 1903 and arrived in Boston 20 May 1903. When I found the ship’s manifest, it turned out that the ship was indeed called the Mayflower, and it departed from Liverpool, England on 7 May 1903 and arrived in Boston 16 May 1903. I only hope that when I am in my nineties I can remember the date (within four days) of an event that happened before my birth!

Ship manifest of the Mayflower, 1903
The BROSIUS ancestors, by contrast, are much harder to trace, due partly to the inaccuracy of the oral tradition. The sons of John S. BROSIUS, or at least some of them, believed that their father had come from a town called Sedan in the Alsace-Lorraine region of France, and given the name of his hometown to the town of Sedan, Kansas. While it is true that Sedan, Kansas is supposedly named after Sedan, France, and it is possible, and even probable, that the BROSIUS family originated in the Alsace-Lorraine, John S. BROSIUS was born in Crawford County, Pennsylvania, and had probably never even visited France. According to the 1860 census of the United States, his father, Adam BROCIUS, was also born in Pennsylvania. I have thus far been unable to trace the BROSIUS family prior to their appearance in Crawford County.

Perhaps my favorite exaggeration, however, is the BROSIUS boys belief that their maternal grandmother, Angelina (EVANS) WADE, was an American Indian. The idea, as far as I can tell, seems to derive solely from her habit of sitting under a tree and smoking a pipe after dinner!