Vernon Tigers

Vernon Tigers

Defunct MiLB infobox
name = Vernon Tigers
firstseason = 1909
lastseason = 1925
allyears =
city = Vernon, California

cap
lastclasslevel = Double-A (1909-1925)
pastclasslevel =
lastleague = Pacific Coast League (1909-1925)
conference =
division =
pastleague =
lastmajorleague = None
pastmajorleague =
lastnickname = Vernon Tigers (1909-1912), (1915-1925)
pastnames = Venice Tigers (1913-1914)
lastballpark =
pastparks =
classchamps =
leaguechamps = 1919, 1920
conferencechamps=
divisionchamps =
The Vernon Tigers were a minor league baseball team which played in the Pacific Coast League from 1909 through 1925. Vernon, California was and is a small town in Los Angeles County. The Tigers, together with the Sacramento Solons, joined the PCL as new teams in 1909 as the league expanded from four teams to six. The Tigers effectively were a second team in Los Angeles, rivals of the existing Los Angeles Angels. Why Vernon, a small town? Simply because Vernon was one of only two cities in Los Angeles County that was “wet” (i.e., where the sale and consumption of alcohol was legal)! All other incorporated cities within the county were "dry" by statute, and alcohol was illegal in the unincorporated areas of the county as well.

Vernon used its "wet" distinction to its advantage. The largest enterprise in the town at the time was Doyle's bar, advertised as the "longest bar in the world" with 37 bartenders. Doyle was also a sports promoter, building an arena where world championship boxing matches were held. Tigers owner Edward Maier built Maier Park, home field of the Tigers, next to Doyle's bar, which had its own entrance to the park.

In 1913 and 1914, the Tigers played in the oceanside community of Venice, and were known as the Venice Tigers during those seasons. Not coincidentally, Venice was the only other "wet" city in Los Angeles County. On Sundays and special holidays, in which alcohol sales were not permitted, the Tigers played their home games at Washington Park, which was primarily the Angels' home field. The team did not draw well in Venice, and the Tigers moved back to Vernon in 1915.

In the war-shortened 1918 season, the Tigers finished in first place and arguably won the PCL pennant in 1918, although they were defeated by the Angels in the postseason series. In early 1919, Maier sold a controlling interest in the Tigers to movie actor Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, a superstar in the silent film era. In perhaps a harbinger of things to come many years later, when the team became known as the Hollywood Stars, Hollywood began taking a collective notice of the team as a result of Arbuckle's ownership. And, the season concluded with the Tigers defeating the rival Angels in the last series of the season, winning the pennant by 1½ games.

The year 1919 was that of the "Black Sox" scandal. As with the tainted World Series of that year, rumors were about that opposing players had been bribed to "throw" games against the Tigers. PCL President William McCarthy expelled Tiger first baseman Babe Borton and several other players under suspicion of involvement.

The Tigers seemed unfazed by the scandal, as they finished first for the third year in a row, winning the 1920 pennant by 5½ games over the Seattle Indians. However, that was the beginning of end for this team. The Eighteenth Amendment had been ratified, criminalizing the sale and consumption of alcohol everywhere in the U.S., including Vernon. It took effect in 1920. The small propulation of Vernon became a liability, as few Angelenos were willing to travel the distance to watch a game in a "dry" town.

Moreover, principal owner Arbuckle found ownership of the team more work than he had bargained for, and sold his interest in the team later in 1920. As a result, the Hollywood crowd lost interest in the Tigers. As attendance waned, the caliber of play did also, and the team struggled in its final years. After the 1925 season, the team was sold to San Francisco interests and moved to that city to begin play in 1926 as the Mission Reds.

Coincidentally, after twelve unprofitable seasons in San Francisco, the team moved back to Los Angeles for the 1938 season, were renamed the Hollywood Stars, and established a strong rivalry with the Angels that lasted until the arrival of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1958. As before in Los Angeles for a time, and as in San Francisco, the Stars found themselves being tenants of the more dominant team in the city. However, the Stars would eventually build their own park and achieve a measure of success that the Tigers and the Missions had been unable to achieve.

References

*O'Neal, Bill. "The Pacific Coast League 1903-1988." Eakin Press, Austin TX, 1990. ISBN 0-89015-776-6.
*Snelling, Dennis. "The Pacific Coast League: A Statistical History, 1903-1957" McFarland & Company, Inc., Jefferson, NC, 1995. ISBN 0-7864-0045-5.


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