Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Capilano Stadium (Finally) Opens

Everyone Was Little Biased
By DAN EKMAN [Vancouver Sun, June 16, 1951]
Because he sort of has a 20-year mortgage on the place, you could expect Emil Sick to be slightly prejudiced in his remarks about the new Capilano Stadium.
But when he stepped to the microphone at last night's opening ceremonies in declaring that “several cities in the major leagues would love to have this stadium,” there was an instant roar of approval from 8000 throats. Which indicates that if Emil is prejudiced, then baseball-loving Vancouver is prejudiced along with him.
The mob that packed every section and spilled over into the aisles just couldn't believe its good fortune. Years of privation at the old Fifth and Hemlock shanty had made them forget that comfort and beauty could mingle with baseball; it will take a while to change their minds.
As early as 4 o'clock it was evident that the biggest crowd in local baseball history not excluding the one that watched Babe Ruth, according to the old-timers, would be there for the first-night pageantry.
By 6:45, when they began to sell the remaining 5500 tickets, patient queues stretched for dozens of yards from each window. Long before game time all the grandstand seats (plus some standing room) were gone, and there was a wild stampede to the bleachers.
Old Bob Made 'Em Laugh
But hundreds didn't make it; a few repaired to the grassy slopes of Little Mountain and caught occasional glimpes of the proceedings from this modern version of the Sixth Avenue rooftops [photo to right; Ted Tilton, Jean Stewart and Jack Devries]. Others caught Hal Rodd's radio description and still others went home vowing to be a little earlier this evening.
So thick was the traffic that officials couldn't produce an exact attendance total last night. They won't have all the stubs counted until late this afternoon, at which time a second wave will be upon them.
• • •
The pros at public speaking had their say in quick, concise fashion, but it remained for Baseball Bob (last name Brown) to get the folks laughing.
In the proudest moment of his life, the old redhead stepped up and allowed as how “I'm just a poor Irishman tryin' to get along here.”
That started it, and Bob kept on fracturing the folks, of gimpy-kneed manager Bill Schuster, for instance, he paraphrased McArthur in note that “old ball players never die, they just join the Vancouver club.”
And when Mayor Fred Hume prepared to toss the ceremonial first ball, he quipped, “We've got about 10 minutes to space for this event and it's a good thing it'll take that long for the mayor to get one across.” [photo to left]
Well, Mr. Hume didn't make a liar of Bob. He tossed one in the general direction of third base and strode back to his box, clutching the souvenir ball which was retrieved for him by Salem manager Hugh Luby.
That Was Just Too Much
With Capilanos president N.C.K. “Chuck” Wills directing traffic, dignitaries filed quickly to the mike and as quickly stepped back.
The crowd saved its best applause for Schuster, who admitted “I'm a brilliant strategist—that's why Bob hired me. But a few minutes ago a photographer came to me and said, 'Mr. Schuster, I have to take a picture of the first batter to get a hit. Would you mind telling me who it's going to be?'
“That,” said Bill, in mock exasperation, “is asking too much, even of a brilliant strategist.”
Here, in brief, is how other guests saw it:
Clarence Rowland, president of the Pacific Coast League—“I've been 42 years away from Vancouver. The last time I was here, Bob Brown was managing the Spokane club in the Northwestern league and I had the little Aberdeen team. I can't tell you how good it is to come back to a park where I know you're going to spend a happy day.”
Bob Abel, president of the WIL—“We're very proud to be associated with this great city.”
Mayor Hume (in direct contradiction to the political rule that your opponants must never be praised) “The building of this park was largely due to the efforts of ex-mayors Thompson and Cornett.”
Salem manager Hugh Luby—“I'm getting used to these opening nights in Vancouver. I was here, remember, on April the 30th, when you opened at the old park. Now, I'm back again, and I want to hear some applause even though I am an 'enemy'.”
Just a Little Strange
Marionette-ish military precision, as displayed by the color guard of the Navy, Army, Air Force and RCMP representatives, was received with acclaim. But each of the lads got a hand, noteably the red-coated Mountie who had plainly just stepped out of a travel folder.
• • •
Surprisingly, the opening ceremony was finished 15 minutes ahead of schedule, which is an astounding tribute to the mike-fright of the guest list. But the Police Pipe Band, complete with three majorettes, took up the slack — a little too well. It was 8:34 p.m. by the time Bob Snyder began to fashion his 12th win of the season.
• • •
When it was all over, somebody asked Bob Brown how he felt.
“Well, sir, just a little strange,” Bob replied. “In the old park I kenw exactly where every nail was. But you know something? In this one, there's at least a half a dozen nails I just can't account for.”

Stadium a Big Hit With Fans, Officials
By ERIC WHITEHEAD [Vancouver Province, June 16, 1951]
At 8:05 p.m., Friday night, Ruby Robert Brown walked out, grinned into an outdoor microphone, and bellowed:
“Well, how do you like it?”
A roar of approval swelled down from 7500 throats and the ageless old Fox of the Western International League pocketed the official, unmistakeable stamp of approval for his brand-new ball-park, an approval delivered by those he loves best: Joe Fan, the paying customer.
In fact, it was the beaming ex-dean of old Athletic Park who stole the magnificent Capilano Stadium opening night show from a galaxy of distinguished performers.
Said Bob, with a twinkle that glittered under the arc-lights:
“I’m just a poor old Irishman up here trying to get along . . .”
Officially heading the all-star christening cast was Mayor Fred Hume, who climaxed a brief oratorical splurge with the official opening pitch — an awesome “nothing” ball that floated high and inside across the third-base foul line.
Supporting Fireball Hume in the orators’ box were:
Brewery tycoon Emil Sick: “. . .if the world had more of this wonderful friendship between neighbor nations . . . there’d be no such thing as war. . .”
Pacific Coast League president Clarence “Pants” Rowland: “This is my first trip back here in 42 years . . . “You have a ball-park that many a major league city would love to have. . .”
Western International League president Bob Abel: “We in the Western International League are tremendously proud to be associated with Vancouver.”
First man to bat in the speaker’s circle was Capilano Baseball President Chuck Wills, but Chuck kept his pride well contained and let the guests toss the bouquets . . . and there were plenty.
The fans tossed their share and there was nary a beef in a car-load. Typical Joe Fan quotes:
Captain C.R. Brewster, harbor pilot, of 2936 West Thirty-sixth: “This is just wonderful. . .”
Mrs. Nellie McLachlan, 2285 West Sixth, “You bet I’m a regular fan. Especially from now on.”
Jack Dixon, turnstile attendant, 839 East Twenty-Sixth: “Didn’t know there were so many people from Vancouver . . . never had such a workout in my life.”
Mr. and Mrs. M. Ross of 692 West Twentieth: “Magnificent. All we need now is a roof and we’ll be happy.”

New Park Just 7 Years Late, Says Rowland
[Vancouver News-Herald, July 16, 1951]
Vancouver’s new Capilano Stadium, which underwent a large and obtrusive christening ceremony Friday night, is just seven years late in being completed.
This was the opinion of Clarence Rowland, president of the Pacific Coast Baseball League, who, along with close to 8,000 other fans, gaped in awe at the Caps’ new home last night.
Rowland, for those who don’t remember, made his first appearance in Vancouver in 1910 as manager of Aberdeen. He played against Caps’ general manager Bob Brown.
“If Vancouver could have had this park in 1943,” Rowland said following the special two-hour opening ceremonies, “they would be a member of the Coast League today.
“That was the year Sacramento was faltering and the only thing that held this city out was the lack of a ball park. Here is the answer to that. It is one of the finest on the Pacific Coast. And with plenty of room to expand.”
The words of Rowland were copied by every man, woman and child who pushed his way into Cap Stadium last night. The part, that is, about it being a beautiful park.
Dunc Andrews, possibly one of the oldest baseball fans in Vancouver and now head usher at the park, compared it with the big league ball yards.
And Andrews has seen them all. He was in Vancouver in 1910 but later moved to Chicago and lived near the home grounds of the Cubs.
The big night for Bob Brown began at exactly 6:40 p.m. At that time, the gate officially opened and the first paying customers walked proudly into the lobby below the stands.
From then until the wickets finally closed, from lack of tickets, the fans poured in a steady stream into the new park. When the gate was shut every seat in the house was taken and people were sitting in the aisles.
Commentary of the dignitaries and players was like a group of mothers admiring a new baby.
Chuck Will, Capilano president: “At least we’re here now.”
Brown, general manager, “How do you like it?”
Emil Sick, president of Sicks Brewery: “A lot of U.S. cities would be delighted to have this.”
Bob Abel, Western International League president: “We are proud to be associated with Vancouver.”
Bill Schuster, a limping Capilano manager: “I thought all the advertising signs in the field were going to be painted green.”
At this last statement a large green blind was pulled down over the offensive white sign in centre field.

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