12 October 2014

Salt Lake City Bees, 1915: "Godsend to the Pacific Coast League"

From The Greatest Minor League: A History of the Pacific Coast League, 1903-1957, by Dennis Snelling (McFarland, 2011), Kindle Loc. 1119-25, 1192-99:
A group of local speculators built a new stadium, called Majestic Park, on the site of the old Salt Palace, an amusement park that had been a major venue for bicycle racing. The Rotary Club handled the opening festivities and encouraged businesses to close for the day, or at least allow some of their employees to have the day off. Ten thousand fans attended the Pacific Coast League's debut in Salt Lake City as the local citizenry celebrated "the transformation of a low swampy field covered with mud, snow and stones into one of the finest baseball fields in the United States."

By the end of May the Bees were averaging three thousand fans per game. When the team was on the road, hundreds of people, including scores of enthusiastic children, gathered around an electronic scoreboard at the ballpark to watch results being posted. In other parts of the city, men with megaphones shouted out the scores. Although many considered it doubtful the level of interest would be maintained through the hot summer, Pacific Coast League owners were nonetheless delighted. [San Francisco Seals owner] Henry Berry said, "Salt Lake City is the salvation of the league."


Meanwhile, the surprising Salt Lake City Bees, which had charged from last place in late July to finish second, reaped the financial rewards Henry Berry must have thought rightfully belonged to him as league champion. The week prior to Berry's bankruptcy court date, the directors of the Bees declared a ten percent dividend for their stockholders. The team was so successful it had not been necessary to issue all of the authorized stock. The Bees drew more than two hundred thousand fans with total gate receipts of $105,000; even after paying out the dividend and purchasing Majestic Park, the team still had $14,000 cash on hand and was debt-free.

It had been another rough season financially for the Pacific Coast League, but the team in the Great Salt Desert had been invaluable in helping the circuit survive another year. Henry Berry had been absolutely correct when he hailed Salt Lake City as the league's savior, especially following the disaster of 1914. [Portland Beavers manager] Walter McCredie called Salt Lake "a godsend to the Pacific Coast League," while league President Baum declared that Salt Lake City ranked with any minor league city in the country. It was impossible to over-emphasize the city's role in the league's survival.

No comments: