More than sixty years later, folks still remember the California Mohawks.
The college kids left home June 9th, 1950 on a barnstorming tour which took them from California to Kamsack to Alaska with dozens and dozens of stops in between.
The club's owner was an enterprising California businessman, S.L. 'Brick' Swegle (left) who would later attempt to use his college connections to stock teams in the Western Canada and ManDak Baseball
Swegle convinced Peter Beiden (left), the Fresno State baseball coach, to head up the team with Roy Taylor (right), the coach at College of Sequoias, as his lieutenant and second baseman.
"Brick probably made a lot of money", says Taylor "but we never got a cent." Swegle took care of expenses and gave the players meal money but pocketed the rest.
Using two, eight passenger, Chryslers the team would cover thousands of miles and play 600 to 700 innings of baseball in tournaments and exhibitions in Idaho, Washington, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Alaska.
Pete Beiden, Fresno State College baseball coach, will again head a California College All-Star amateur baseball team on its second annual 9,000-mile tour of Canada this summer. Last season Beiden's team won 48 games in 54 starts. The players, who will be competing under the California Mohawk banner from Walnut Creek, are being selected from various California colleges and universities. This year's schedule calls for some 65 exhibition games with top clubs in California, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Washington, Oregon and the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. (Oakland Tribune, April 25, 1950, p.37)
Among the collegians was pitcher Don Barnett (right) , California Collegiate Athletic Association All-Star in 1950 and 1951, All-West All-Star and first team All-American in 1951. Barnett was Fresno State's first All-American selection.
The journey began with a victory as Jake Abbott, a Fresno State star, hurled a six-hitter for a 12-3 win over Auburn, Washington. Then, a stumble -- dropping two of three (4-5, 3-5, 4-3) in Nampa, Idaho. (Roy Taylor went 6-12 in the Nampa series.) Then a 7-4 defeat in Payette, Idaho.
After dropping three of their first five games, the college kids went on a seven game winning streak and improved to nine and four overall.
The Mohawks were almost always on the move. One report, of a game on the schedule in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, noted that this was the second time the team had played in the province. Later in the week they were to travel to Saskatoon for the Optimist Tournament and an exhibition double-header against the powerful Delisle Gems (they beat the Gems 9-3 pounding out 12 hits off Murray Coben and Bennie Griggs, the second game was rained out).
The college kids were winning games and money -- they won their third tournament (the Foam Lake event) with four straight wins, including a 5-3 victory over Indian Head in the final. Jake Abbott went the route on the hill for the Mohawks besting the Rockets' Jim Morrow. The California collegians trounced the Carrot River Loggers 11-0 in the semi-finals as Lawrence Bolger tossed the shutout.
A highlight of their tour was the tournament in Lacombe. The Mohawks pulled out a dramatic 6-4 semi-final victory. Down 4-1 in the 7th inning to the Alaska Command, Bob Donkersley (right) belted a three-run homer to tie, and in the 9th, Roy Taylor's (left) two-run homer won it. (Edmonton Bulletin, June 22, 1950) Rain washed out the highly anticipated final between the 'Hawks' and Sceptre. They split $2,500 in prize money.
That triumph marked a sweet victory for Taylor over Swegle (whose imbibing ways were not much of a secret). When the Mohawks had fallen behind 4-1 in the match with Alaska, Swegle had headed off to the nearest saloon with a parting shot, "You guys can't play ball at all." Upon his return -- with a victory and, of course, some prize money -- Swegle was apologetic. 'How can I make it up?" Swegle asked Taylor. Roy, who had to be back in Visalia to coach football, wasn't looking forward to a bumpy bus ride home. He asked for a plane ticket. He got it.
The next day, at Renfrew Park in Edmonton, the 'Hawks' pounded the Alaskans 15-2. The same day they took a special flight to Dawson Creek, B.C. for a five-game series before heading to Melfort for another tournament. The club had already planned a return to Edmonton in July to meet Eddie Morris' Eskimos.
Early on, it was reported the Mohawks had lost just two games since crossing the border, one to the Purity 99s in Calgary, and the other to Sceptre in the Melfort Tournament. Later, following a series against the Regina Red Sox, the paper put the 'Hawks' record in Canada at 24-4.
(June 14) The Mohawks shaded Payette Packers 3 to 2 as lefty Jake Abbott fanned 12 and catcher Don Bricker belted a two-run triple in the 8th inning.
Earlier, the California collegians downed Burley Aces 12-6 and the Nampa Clippers 4-3.
(June 15) The Mohawks topped the Walla Walla Bears 3-1 in spite of giving up 13 hits while Jim Forsyth tossed a four-hitter for the Bears.
(June 18) The touring California Mohawks won a pair Sunday from teams in the Crow's Nest Pass League, downing Coleman Cubs 12-2 and Hillcrest Miners 15-5. Bud Bauhofer went seven innings for the win in the first game topped Lefty Kimoto. Catcher Don Bricker had the only homer. Larry Bolger belted a pair of home runs in the second game for the Mohawks. Starter Lou Pisani went five innings to capture the pitching win in the second game.
Bauhofer (W), Taylor (8) and Bricker
Lefty Kimoto, Kitaguchi (7) and Yoshinaka
Pisani (W), Rubcic and Beiden, Bricker
Ken Williams (L), Granger, Unilowski and Alee
(June 19) Harry Nygard's two-run single in the bottom of the ninth sent the Mohawks down to a 5-4 defeat in Calgary. The exhibition game against the Purity 99'ers drew 11-hundred fans. Jack Abbott had the game well in hand until the ninth when the home club scored three times. Mohawks had just five hits, including a triple by Roy Taylor and a double by Fred Sommers.
J Abbott, Watkins (9) and Bricker
Curby and D Abbott
(June 21) California Mohawks split top money with Sceptre in the Lacombe tournament as rain prevented the final match. Mohawks advanced to the final with an easy, 15-0 win over Stettler. The collegians scored 13 runs in the first inning and coasted through the five inning contest.
Watkins, Bauhofer (1), Pisani (4), Makras (5) and Bricker
Gatin, Prockiu (1), Stevenson (1), Al Chapman (1), Pat Chapman (1) and Wick
In was in stark contrast to their dramatic win over Alaska Command. Down 4-1 in the last of the 8th, Mohawks rallied with a walk, single and Bob Donkersley's three-run homer to tie. Then, in the bottom of the 9th, Don Bricker reached on a walk and Roy Taylor blasted one over the left field fence to give the Mohawks a 6-4 victory.
Morse and Brown
Barnett and Beiden
(June 22) The Mohawks unelashed an 18-hit attack to crush Alaska Command 15-2 at Renfrew Park at Edmonton. Roy Taylor knocked in five runs with a three-run homer, double and single. Ed Milano rapped two doubles and two singles and Don Bricker added a homer and a triple. Don Barnett was on base five times with a double, two singles and a pair of walks. Jake Abbott held the Alaskans in check with a four-hitter, one a homer to Lew Moore. Paul Nicholls took the loss.
Abbott (W) and Bricker
Nicholls (L), Dverney (5), Hutchings (8) and Brown
(June 29) Mohawks dropped a 4-1 decision to Sceptre in the opening round of the Melfort tournament.
(July 5) California Mohawks beat Indian Head 5-2 to capture first prize money of $1,000 in the Foam Lake tournament. Jake Abbott went the route on the hill for the Mohawks besting the Rockets' Jim Morrow.
Abbott (W) and xxx
Morrow (L) and xxx
The California collegians trounced the Carrot River Loggers 11-0 in a semi-final as Lawrence Bolger tossed the shutout. In opening rounds, Mohawks trounced the Ligon All-Stars 15-7 and got by Quill Lake 5-3.
(July 7) Mike Rubcic pitched a two-hitter and fanned seven as the Mohawks beat the Weyburn Beavers 5-2 in a game called after five innings by dust AND rain.
Rubcic and xxx
Ron Jansen, Covert (5) and Covert, xxx (5)
(July 8) Don Barnett allowed just five hits in pitching the Mohawks to a 3-0 shutout over the Regina Red Sox in the first game of a twin-bill. Larry Bolger and Bud Watkins combined on an eight-hitter in the nightcap as the Mohawks scored a 4-2 victory. The California kids scored three in the 3rd inning to salt away the victory. Fred Sommers walked to open the frame, stole second and scored on Ed Milano's single. Milano came home on Roy Taylor's triple and Taylor came on to score on an error.
Barnett and Bricker, Sommers (2)
Telles and Kielman
Bolger, Watkins (7) and Sommers
Clary and Kielman
(July 9) Regina Red Sox salvaged one game in their exhibition series with a 7-4 win over the Mohawks before more than 2-thousand fans in Regina. Sox jumped on Jake Abbott for four runs in the first inning.
(July 10) "It started out to be just a run-of-the-mill ball game but by the time California Mohawks and Regina Caps had played the full nine innings, the 1,500 Taylor Field customers all agreed they had seen a whale of a game. It undoubtedly surpassed anything the fans had ever seen as yet this season." (Regina Leader-Post, July 11, 1950)
Mohawks won 5-4 as Bob Donkersley drove in four runs and scored the other. One of his hits was a two-run homer. Bud Watkins preserved the win striking out the side on 11 pitches in the bottom of the ninth.
Abbott and Sommers
Pirack and Kielman, Mitton (7)
(July 12) The classy California Mohawks edged the Saskatoon All-Stars 1 - 0 in a highly entertaining exhibition game at Cairns Field. Don Barnett, a sturdy right hander who attends Fresno State, handcuffed the Cubs-Selects with a neat two-hitter. In addition, he collected half the six hits the Californians were able to muster off Saskatoon's Bob Herron and Lefty Arnold.
Barnett (W) and Bricker
Herron, Arnold (5) (L) and Dubyk
(July 13) Edmonton Eskimos of the Big Four League erupted for five runs in the seventh inning en route to an 8-3 win over the California Mohawks. Four hits, an error and two walks did the damage. Len Karlson, Cliff Johnston and Fred Granato each drove in a pair for the winners. Three Eskimo hurlers combined to hold the visitors to five hits.
Bolger (L), Rubcic (2), Abbott (7), Watkins (7) and Bricker
Belter, Seaman (W), Peterson and MacNab
(July 17) Les Dean's clutch 9th inning relief pitching gave the North Battleford Beavers a 5 - 2 win over the touring California Mohawks. Dean took over mound chores in the 9th inning with the bases loaded and none out. He struck out the first batter he faced and then enticed the second one to hit into a double play to end the game. Starter Doug Dodd had a three-hitter for the win. Mohawks' John Rubcic was the loser. Roy Dean smashed a four-bagger for the Beavers.
Dodd (W), LDean (9) and xxx
Rubcic (L) and xxx
(July 19) A three-hit performance by Don Barnett led the Mohawks to an upset over Delisle in the opening round of the Nipawin tournament.
Barnett (W) and xxx
Gostlin (L), Coben (4) and xxx
(July 21) Mohawks went all the way to the final in the huge Indian Head tournament before dropping a 5-1 decision to the home town Rockets. The college kids had advanced defeating two of the province's top teams. They shaded Swift Current 7-6 in the semi-finals as Fred Bartels (left) and Ed Milano hit homers. In the opening round, Bud Bauhofer and Milano cracked homers as the Mohawks whipped Sceptre 16-2.
Mohawks 1 Indian Head 5
Bauhofer, Abbott (7) and Beiden
Gray and Green
Swift Current 6 Mohawks 7
Thompson, Wylie (8) and Powell
Bolger, Barnett (9) and Bricker
Mohawks 11 Eston 3
Rubcic and Beiden
Toles, Mason (7), Jacobson (8) and Blakely
Sceptre 2 California Mohawks 16
Price, Johnson (1), Shaw (2) and Serpa
Bolger and Beiden, Bricker (3)
(July 22) Fred Bartels tossed a four-hit shutout as California Mohawks downed Swift Current Indians 4-0. Bartels fanned seven. Mohawks took advantage of four errors and five walks. Vic Wall was the loser.
(July 23) "Hard-hitting Matt Slavich provided the most dramatic ending of any ball game played in Adams Park in many a moon ... when he walloped a 350-foot homer run over the left field fence in the bottom of the 10th inning and with two down to give the Miners a thrill-soaked 3-2 victory over the touring California Mohawks in the opening of a three-game exhibition series." (Lethbridge Herald, July 24, 1950)
Bill Kucheran turned back the Mohawks on six hits. Bud Watkins was brilliant on the hill for the Mohawks allowing just seven hits and fanning 16. In the second game of the twin-bill, lefty Jack Abbott whiffed 12 and set the Miners down on seven hits as the Mohawks won 5-2.
Watkins and Beiden
Kucheran and Deak
(July 24) The California college kids jumped into a 6-2 lead and held off a late Lethbridge rally to shade the Miners 6-5. Don Barnett and Ed Milano each had two hits for the winners. 17-year-old Jocko Tarnava belted a triple and two singles for the Miners.
Pisani, Rubcic (7) and Bricker
Slavich, Negrello (6) and Tarnava
(July 26) Mohawks were forced to withdraw from the Moose Jaw tournament when a number of the players were suddenly taken ill at Lethbridge.
(July 27) vs Walla Walla.
They played in Regina against both the Red Sox and the Caps, and in Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Weyburn, Nipawin, Saskatoon, Indian Head, Edmonton, Trail, Kimberley B.C., Burley, Idaho, Walla Walla, Washington, Sandpoint, Idaho, Coleman, Hillcrest and dozens of cities, towns and villages in between.
The team was to have made it home by August 28th. There was a trip planned to Hawaii.
The travelin' Mohawks would be the forerunner of Roy Taylor's barnstorming college teams in Kamsack and set the stage for an influx of college players on the prairies.
The Mohawks had first hit the road in 1949 on a 50+game tour of the US, Western Canada and Alaska.
The 1950 edition of the club featured at least four members of the original team -- Don Barnett, Jake Abbott, Bud Watkins, and playing-coach Pete Beiden.
(June 14) The barnstorming California Mohawks kicked off the Canadian leg of their exhibition tour with a thrilling ninth inning rally to defeat the Kelowna Elks Red Sox 7-5 Tuesday at Elks' Stadium. Down 5-3 after eight innings, the Mohawks scored four runs in the top of the ninth then blanked the locals in the bottom of the frame for the victory in a wind-swept conditions. Despite day-long efforts to soak the dirt diamond, the strong winds kept whipping up clouds of dust. The Mohawks made the 300-mile trip by car from near the Oregon border where the club whipped Goldendale, Washington, 21-1 Monday night. Dick Caesaren, from San Matro College, drove in the winning run and scored the insurance marker after doubling to deep centre. Caesaren, Sonny Adkins, Wally Kincaid and Jack Welton each had two hits for the winners. Glen O'Shaugnnessy led the Sox with three hits. Don Wilson went eight innings for the win.
Wilson (W), Clayton (9) and Bryeans
Strom (L), Lesmeister (9) and Newton
(June 16) The barnstorming collegians, the California Mohawks, ran up an early lead and downed Kamloops Legion 7-4 in an exhibition match at Riverside Park. In the second inning with none out and two aboard, Kamloops catcher Ray Ottem threw to third to try and catch the base runner but no-one was covering the sack. The next batter struck out but Ottem dropped the ball and then threw wildly to first allowing a second man to score. Two walks loaded the bases and Parker singled to plate another and Pete Beiden stole home for the 4th marker. In the 3rd, three straight hits by the Mohawks chased started Wilf Johnston in favour of Pete Plasteras. An outfield error resulted in the 5th Mohawks' run and a single brought home two more. Kamloops rallied in the 8th inning. George Wyse sent one through to left and Ottem followed with another single. Ash Mayson walked to load the bases and Don Barnett issued his sixth base on balls to force in the second Kamloops run. A wild pitch allowed Ottem to cross the plate and Swaine's ground out scored another. Barnett allowed eight hits in pitching the win. He fanned 10, walked 7, threw two wild pitches and was called for a balk.
Barnett (W) and Beiden
Johnston (L), Plasteras (3) and Ottem
(June 27, 1949) The Mohawks, with Don Wilson, of Whittier College, on the hill, shutout Medicine Hat City League All-Stars 11-0. It was reported to be the club's 13th straight win on a 51-game tour.
Wilson (W) and xxx
xxx (L) and xxx
(June 28, 1949) The college kids belted out 22 hits and whipped the Medicine Hat Tigers 21-1. Walter Clayton tossed a 6-hitter for the win.
Clayton (W) and Bryeans
Sailer (L), Knight, Kapp, J. Toole and Long
(June 29, 1949) The collegians ran their win streak to 15 games with a 15-3 victory over the City League All-Stars of Medicine Hat. Don Wilson, who had tossed a no-hitter two nights previous, was driven from the mound in the second inning as the locals took a 3-0 lead.
(July 2, 1949) "Lethbridge Miners dropped three decisions over the Dominion Day holiday but they were licked by just about the classiest band of baseballers to show in these parts in many a year." (Lethbridge Herald, July 2, 1949)
Don Barnett hurled a six-hitter as the Mohawks won the opener 6-2. Matt Slavich provided the highlight for the Miners with a second inning homer.
Two-run homers by Sonny Adkins and Walter Clayton paced the Mohawks to an 8-3 win in the second contest. Jack Welton got the win while Bill Kucheran took the loss. Frank Deak led the Miners with a triple, double and two singles.
In the finale, Mohawks were outhit 13-8 but pulled out a 10-8 victory. Jack Welton and Calan Bowman each had round trippers.
Barnett (W) and Beiden
Petrie (L) and Cook
Welton (W) and Beiden
Kucheran (L) and Deak
Bauhofer (W) and Beiden
Huddleston (L) and Deak
(July 18, 1949) The California kids returned to Lethbridge and added three more wins to their record. They dumped the Miners 10-8, 7-0 and 9-5. It gave the Mohawks 38 wins in 39 games.
Don Wilson provided the pitching highlight of the series with a two-hit shutout in the second game.
The Miners' Matt Slavich again was the hitting star with a grand slam homer, double and two singles in the final game of the set.
(July 22) California Mohawks returned to Riverside Park in Kamloops a month after their last appearance and basically replicated their earlier result. The California collegians defeated Kamloops Legion 9-6 with a 12-hit attack, three by second baseman Franny Oneto. Winning pitcher Don Wilson helped the offense with a 6th inning homer which proved to be the winning run. The Mohawks jumped out to an early lead with four runs in the top of the first inning and were never headed. Jake Abbott knocked in three runs for the winners with a double. Harry Maralia had a pair of two-baggers and drove in two for the Legion.
Welton, Wilson (W) (3), Clayton (7) and Bryeans
Plasteras (L), Keeley (8) and E.Garay