The West Coast Baseball Association was a short-lived attempt to bring Negro Leagues baseball to California, Oregon and Washington State. Here's a look at two of the teams — Jesse Owens' Portland Rosebuds and the Seattle Steelheads — who barnstormed their way back from spring training, including a trip to El Paso.
We remember sprinter Jesse Owens for his heroics in the 1936 Olympics, winning four gold medals and generally shredding Adolf Hitler's belief that his Aryan Nation of athletes would carry the day against teams from the rest of the world. That alone established Owens as one of the greatest athletes of the last century.
But Owens' life didn't end with those 1936 Olympics; a decade later he was dabbling in sports promotions and was central in the formation of the West Coast Baseball Association, a short-lived attempt to bring Negro Leagues baseball to California, Oregon and Washington State. Despite impending integration of Major League Baseball, Owens and other investors formed a six-team circuit that featured a decent level of Negro League talent, combined with local heroes.
The experiment lasted only a season, despite some heavy promotion (Gov. Earl Warren, later appointed to the Supreme Court, threw out the first pitch at a Los Angeles White Sox game) and some famous named involved; in addition to Owens, one of the founders of the league was Abe Saperstein, a Birmingham Barons owner who would eventually found the Harlem Globetrotter when it was a serious barnstorming team.
The Portland Rosebuds played in Pacific Coast League ballparks, including Portland's Vaughn Street Park (picture above). Before the home opener, the Rosebuds and the Seattle Steelheads spent some time on the road after spring training. Indeed, the Rosebuds' first regular-season game was at El Paso's Dudley Field. It wasn't an auspicious moment: no local newspaper covered the event, and the Rosebuds moved out as quickly as they had arrived in town.
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