Ghosts of the Minors finds a mark in this gullible club
Welcome to the silent edition of Ghosts of the Minors, adapted from the segment from The Show Before the Show Podcast that asks you to identify a historical Minor League team hidden among two phonies. Here, we skip the quiz element and speed headlong into the past for a quick
Welcome to the silent edition of Ghosts of the Minors, adapted from the segment from The Show Before the Show Podcast that asks you to identify a historical Minor League team hidden among two phonies. Here, we skip the quiz element and speed headlong into the past for a quick romp through the true story of the real Minors team.
If you're savvy, you already know about the Riverside Rubes. If you're the very picture of innocence, come along on a quest for knowledge guaranteed to make you a little wiser but, hopefully, no sadder.
Out in the glittering cinematographer's light of the West in the middle of the 20th century shone a Minors circuit called the Sunset League. Its teams were scattered around the Golden State, Nevada, Arizona and a couple towns south of the border.
Our Rubes were born unto this league not yesterday, but in the season of 1948, taking a name that had been used by amateur sports teams who played in the shadow of Southern California's Mount Rubidoux at least as early as the 1930s.
Although 1948 was our gullible go-getters' first rodeo, Riverside had been around the block. The town was represented in the Sunset League as the Dons in 1947 (and once again in 1949), but they doffed the Dons unis for the Rubes rags to give some yokel flavor to the loop for two nonconsecutive seasons -- '48 and '50.
In their debut campaign, the Rubes were befuddled when their 74-68 record left them seven games beneath the soaring Mexicali Aguilas. About half the circuit played the Rubes for fools again in ’50, when Riverside finished fourth.
The Rubes had three players who already knew their way around the big city -- that is, the big leagues. George Caster was perhaps fishing for another shot at the Majors when he landed with the Rubes in ’48 at age 40, taking a walk on the Riverside team as a part-time manager and pitcher. When Bud Swartz and Ken Richardson came to the Sunset League in 1950, they, too, were on the sunset side of their careers.
While traveling and industrial league teams known as the Riverside Rubes aw-shucksed their way around diamonds both before and after the slack-jawed nine played in the Minors, the nightfall for the Sunset League meant the end of the naïve franchise as we knew it.
The San Bernardino Sun reported in January 1951 that the Rubes were getting rubbed out with upwards of $10,000 in debt, and other teams in the league were worse off still. With the conflict on the Korean Peninsula raging, the paper relayed, “[Riverside executive] Joe Wilmer has this to say on the Rubes’ el foldo: ‘…With the war factories buzzing and the Army calling, men aren’t going to play for $150 to $300 a month. And the clubs certainly can’t afford to pay more than that.’”
And so, that was that, and believe it or not, that’s the rumpus on the Rubes.
Josh Jackson is an editor for MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @JoshJacksonMiLB.