The home of the Klamath Falls Gems, Kiger Stadium, is the host site of the 2014 West Coast League All-Star Game to be held on Monday, July 21st. Summer baseball has a long history at Kiger, including hosting the original Gems who played in the Far West League, a “Class D” minor league, from 1948-1951 before the Gems returned and resettled at Kiger in 2011 as a member of the summer collegiate West Coast League.
Gems’ skipper Mitch Karraker of University of Oregon will manage all-stars from the South Division along with all-stars from West Division teams Cowlitz and Kitsap (the South) while veteran head coach Ed Knaggs of Wenatchee guides all-stars from the East Division and West Division members Bellingham and Victoria (the North). All-Star rosters will be announced next week by WCL president Dennis Koho.
Gems and Kiger Stadium share long history
by Bob Webster
westcoastleague.com contributing writer
The original Klamath Falls Gems played in the old Far West League from 1948 through 1951 as an affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies. The Far West League was a “Class D” minor league that had eight teams each year from Southern Oregon, Northern California, and Nevada. The Far West League was one of the many short lived post World War II leagues in the country.
The Gems played at Kiger Stadium, which was originally called “Gems Stadium”. While being labeled “the strongest team in the league”, the Gems never finished lower than third place and won the League Championship in 1951, the final year of the league’s existence.
The 1948 team finished the inaugural season with a 67-58 record, good for 3rd place under Manager Joe Gantenbein. The Gems lost in the League Finals. Gantenbein had some major league playing experience as an infielder for the Philadelphia Athletics.
The most dangerous bat belonged to Tom Mankey, who hit .331 with 11 home runs and 12 triples in 119 games. Gantenbein, the Player/Manager hit .368 with six home runs in 67 games. Leading the team in wins was pitcher Lawrence Guelfo with 15, while John Lopeman won 12 and Joe Nicholas added 11.
Along with Gantenbein, three other players have had major league experience.
Dick Young, from Lincoln High School in Seattle, Washington, played for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1951 and 1952, where he hit .234 in 20 major league games. Lincoln High School has put six players into the majors.
Don Ferrarese played parts of eight years in the major leagues with Baltimore, Cleveland, Chicago White Sox, Philadelphia, and St. Louis, winning 19 games with an even 4.00 career ERA. Don finished his career at age 33 in 1962 with the Cardinals.
Pitcher Niles Jordan of Sedro Woolley, Washington in 1948 and 1949. Jordan had a “cup of coffee” in the MLB with the Phillies in 1951 and the Cincinnati Reds in 1952.
The 1949 Gems, under the leadership of legendary Manager Hub Kittle, finished the season in 2nd place with a 78-46 record, losing in the first round of the playoffs.
Niles Jordan, in his second year with the Gems, posted a 19-7 won-loss record in 213 innings pitched. Three other pitchers won at least ten games: John Lopeman with 16, Stanley Gilson with 15, and Joe Nicholas with 12. Ted Hesse played in all 124 games in the 1949 season, hitting .358 with 9 home runs and 13 triples. William Reese batted .338 and added 14 homers to lead the team.
Hub Kittle lead the 1950 Gems to an 87-52 record and a first place finish, losing in the playoffs in the League Finals.
Seven players played in at least 100 of the team’s 139 games that year. Chet Ashman led that group with a .365 batting average while banging out 20 homes runs in 102 games. George Triandos hit .347 with 183 hits in 527 at bats. Six players collected at least 150 hits to help the Gems hit .299 as a team that year.
Bob Bowman played in 256 games with the Philadelphia Phillies from 1955 through 1959 with a .249 batting average and 17 home runs. Bowman, born in Laytonville, California in 1931, is listed as the only Gem from the ’48 to ’51 teams who made it to the majors that is still living.
New Gems Manager Bill DeCarlo lead the Gems to a 74-54 record, good for 2nd place, and a league championship in the Far West League’s final season in 1951.
Stanley Roseboro 155 hits in only 379 at bats for a .409 batting average. Bill DeCarlo, player and the manager) hit .335 while Bob Bowman hit an even .300. A few players hit over .300 in limited playing time helping the Gems combine for a .302 batting average as a team that year.
Besides Bowman, Troy Herriage was the only other member of the 1951 Gems team to make it to the majors. Troy, from Tipton, Oklahoma, pitched for the Kansas City Athletics in 1956.
Far West League Record Holders from the Klamath Falls Gems
Ted Hesse 188 hits in 1949
Stan Roseboro 21 triples in 1951
Andy Sierra 22 wins in 1950 (tied with Larry Shepard of the Medford Dodgers)
Andy Sierra 258 Strikeouts in 1950