As the calendar flipped to 1920 100 years ago, the Vernon Tigers were poised to establish an early Pacific Coast League dynasty. They’d finished the World War I-abbreviated 1918 season with a league-best 59-45 record, but the second-place Angels beat them in five games of an ad-hoc seven-game championship series that July. Entering 1919 with their eyes on the prize, they were purchased by a celebrity who imbued the already raucous atmosphere of their games with an outrageous sense of humor. They started slow but stormed to a league title — the first in franchise history — and a national championship.

In January 1920, the Los Angeles Times was confident in the Tigers’ posting the PCL’s best record for the third straight season, even though they’d lost two valuable third basemen — Bob Meusel (who signed with the Yankees after putting up a .337 average) and Zinn Beck (who left to take a job managing the Charleston Palmettos of the South Atlantic League). The club representing the small city just southeast of Downtown Los Angeles would be fine, the paper suggested, because manager Bill Essick — who years later became a scout for the Yankees and inked a Coast Leaguer named Joe DiMaggio — was “something of a shark at selecting third sackers.”

This page was last updated January 10, 2020 at 12:24 am MST.

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