Story of the Week
THE HOLLYWOOD STARS
This article is specifically dedicated to Marilyn and Phil Bailey of Westlake Village, CA. They sent me the material I used for this article. Thanks to Marilyn, once a bona-fide cheerleader of the Hollywood Stars.
When I was 13, my parents and I moved from St. Louis to Los Angeles. We lived in West Hollywood for three years. I was used to major league baseball as a pre-teen. But I quickly got used to minor league baseball and the Hollywood Stars of the old Pacific Coast League at beautiful (to me) Gilmore Field in West Hollywood. For lots of detail about the old PCL, please refer to my website article of 2-26-04.
Every night was a carnival at Gilmore Field. Joe E. Brown, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Jack Benny, Cyd Charisse and Tony Martin, George Raft to name a few were Stars fans. Gangster Mickey Cohen was a great fan. It was not unusual for tickets to Hollywood Stars games to sell at a premium.
Bob Cobb of Brown Derby fame mounted a campaign to have the PCL officially made America’s third major league. But MLB owners were unmoved; they didn’t want to cut PCL franchises in on their own profits, or pay to transport their teams over the Rocky Mountains. The Stars drew an average of 600,000 fans a year in the PCL, winning pennants in 1949, 1952 and 1953. The Stars and the league were quite successful, but no major league cigar.
Stories galore about the Stars and fabled Gilmore Field. In one game, the Stars fell hopelessly behind the cross-town Angels. Stars player-manager Bobby Bragan, who liked to smoke long black cigars through his catcher’s mask, sent nine pinch-hitters (mostly pitchers) in for one batter, running in a new hitter on every pitch. The tactic was legal.
On opening day in 1950, the Stars debuted shorts, knee-high socks, and T-shirts as their new uniforms. They heard enough cat-calls from the opposition, and were back in regular uniforms by 1953. Apparently, shorts were a little "too Hollywood."
Jayne Mansfield was "Miss Hollywood Stars" of 1955. When she jogged (or is jiggled more appropriate?) out of the dugout, the male fans showed their distinct approval. And if that wasn’t enough, try Liz Taylor as the Stars batgirl.
The Stars franchise, a farm team of the Pittsburgh Pirates, was the first baseball team to televise home games. And it was still the toughest ticket in town, and deservedly so. But not all was well with the rest of the PCL when MLB games were televised into their domain. This was the forerunner to MLB laying claim to Los Angeles and San Francisco in 1958 with the Dodgers and Giants respectively.
So here’s to Gilmore Field and my favorite team, the Hollywood Stars, and my favorite cheerleader, Marilyn Bailey. To quote another frequent Gilmore Field visitor, Bob Hope, "thanks for the memories."
Last Week’s Trivia
Juan Marichal won 25 or more games three times, and 20 or more games six times, but never won the Cy Young.
Trivia Question of the Week
Who are the only NFL receivers with more than 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns over the past four years? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.