Thursday, January 21, 2016

Pendleton ends 1914 baseball season in true western style

This week’s historical oddity came about thanks to a tweet by Tim Hagerty, a Triple-A baseball broadcaster, Sporting News contributor and author of “Root for the Home Team: Minor League Baseball’s Most Off-The-Wall Team Names and the Stories Behind Them.” The tweet included a photo of the 1914 Pendleton Buckaroos, champions of the Western Tri-State League, wearing rodeo attire with the comment “Class D Pendleton Buckaroos actually took the field wearing these hats.”

The city of Pendleton fielded a minor league baseball team between 1908 and 1914. The Pendleton Pets were part of the Inland Empire League in 1908, and when Pendleton joined the new Western Tri-State League in 1912, the team changed its name to Buckaroos, honoring Pendleton’s singular rodeo and western heritage. The league also boasted teams from Boise (Irrigators), La Grande (Pippins/Spuds), Walla Walla (Bears), Baker City (Golddiggers/Miners) and North Yakima (Braves) during its three-year existence.

Pendleton won the 1912 pennant with a .622 percentage, but dropped to the bottom of the pack in a 1913 season that split into two halves due to financial difficulties. Even before play started in 1914, there were rumblings that Pendleton might be dropped from the league for lack of funds, but the Buckaroos rallied and fielded a team that ended at the top of the standings for the second time in three years.

Pendleton’s last game of the 1914 season was played at Round-Up Stadium against North Yakima. Because Pendleton had already sewn up the pennant race, neither team felt the need to perform to the highest of baseball standards. And, according to the July 27 East Oregonian article, the fans weren’t expecting high quality play either: “Baseball as she is not played was the way Pendleton and North Yakima showed up yesterday in the great American game but despite the comedy of the contest a good gallery of fans enjoyed themselves immensely. Nobody wanted to see a good game, it seemed, but were pleased to watch the antics of such prominent comedians also both teams presented who succeeded in keeping the grand stand in roars most of the time.”

Though the EO didn’t print a photo from the game, a team photo showed up in the Oregonian on Aug. 9 showing the league champions decked out in the best rodeo wear: cowboy hats, neckerchiefs, and fuzzy chaps a la Jackson Sundown. The caption states the team “was photographed in uniforms slightly different from the conventional baseball outfit” at the conclusion of the game. There was no mention of any non-standard garb worn by the Braves.
Oregonian photo, Aug. 9, 1914

In 1915 the league failed to raise enough money to operate and was disbanded. League president R.W. Ritner claimed the failure was due to the North Yakima and Walla Walla clubs not wanting to work together.

Three players from the various Pendleton rosters went on to play in the majors: Homer “Howie” Haworth played seven games at catcher for the Cleveland Indians during the 1915 season; Don Rader played shortstop for the Chicago White Sox in 1913 and ended his career with the Phillies in 1921; and Ed “The Midget” Mensor played outfield for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1912-1914.

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