In the weeks prior to our new baseball exhibit on Friday, June 1, The Wenatchee Valley Museum is looking back at the Wenatchee Chiefs baseball team. Guest curator Gary Looney has tracked down a handful of guys who settled in Wenatchee after being associated with the Chiefs in the 1940s and ‘50s. They sure have some good stories!
Bill Osborn was a right-handed pitcher for the Chiefs in 1947 when Wenatchee was a farm team for the Sacramento Solons and part of the Western International League. In those days pitchers played every four days but had to pitch for the team’s batting practice, so hardly got any time off. “People weren’t aware of the need to rest the pitcher’s arm or use ice,” he said. “I’d pitch four or five days straight and my arm was sure sore!”
As a kid, Bob Duretto’s hero was Joe DiMaggio. Bob signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1946; the organization moved him around to different minor league teams and he wound up in Wenatchee in 1955 and ’56. He was a catcher and, though he’s too modest to say so, a great hitter. He set the league record in 1956 with a .377 batting average with 143 RBIs, hitting three home runs in one game against Lewiston.
Mike Kanshin (now David Duke) played for several teams in the Western International League: Vancouver in 1950, the Chiefs in ’51 and Victoria in ’54. Most games were at night. “I was a sore-armed right-handed pitcher,” he said with a smile. His pay in 1951 was a whopping $300 a month. He married a Leavenworth gal and settled in the Wenatchee Valley.
Glenn Isringhaus pitched for the Chiefs in 1955-56; the changeup was his best pitch. “Playing with the Chiefs was the most fun I ever had in my life,” he said. “I’d do it again in a heartbeat. We didn’t make any money but had a great time.”
Wes Crossley played pro baseball from 1951-54, then hurt his leg and switched to umpiring professional games. He umped in the Northwest International League, the second league the Chiefs were part of, from 1961 to ’65, then bought a motel in Chelan which he and his wife Marcella ran for 31 years. He remembers his first trip to Wenatchee as an umpire:
“The lights at Rec Park were terrible! They had old rusty reflectors and you couldn’t see a thing. The first two innings, I missed a dozen pitches.” The Chiefs’ catcher, Bucky Bales, was kind and didn’t criticize the ump’s calls. “How’d you like to hit here?!” he quipped to Wes.
12-year-old Ken Spurgeon started as the batboy for the Chiefs in their first year: 1937. He was batboy for three seasons, then became “clubhouse man” and trainer at ages 15 and 16. They paid him 25 cents a game. “I had to be at the field at 4:00 to get the equipment and everything ready for a 7:00 game,” he recalled. After military service he came back to the Chiefs as official scorer. This paid way better: $5 a game. He still maintains friendships with former Chiefs, decades later.
Want to hear more about the Wenatchee Chiefs, the 1930s town league dominated by Morris Hardware, the Leavenworth Cubs of 1910, fast-pitch softball in the 1960s-80s, local high school and college teams, and the AppleSox? Don’t miss “Baseball in Wenatchee,” opening Friday, June 1 at the Wenatchee Valley Museum! The exhibit continues through Sept. 22.