Des Moines Demons

From BR Bullpen

In 1925 the Des Moines Boosters of the Western League became the Des Moines Demons. The club from Des Moines, IA broke in in fine form, winning the pennant with a 98-70 record, one game ahead of the Denver Bears. The Demons had six representatives on the All-Star team - 1B Charles Stuvengen (.349, 5th in the WL with 18 triples and 229 hits), OF Sam Langford (.339, league leader with 160 runs), OF Pug Griffin (.320, 23 HR), C Homer Haworth (.295), P Herm Holzhouser (19-8) and P Claude Thomas (19-6). Leo Moon (22-13) tied for third in the league in wins and strikeouts (127). Left off of the All-Star team was the most productive hitter in the Triple Crown categories, Dutch Wetzel, who batted .353 and was second in the league with 32 homers.

The Demons repeated as champions in 1926, winning another close race. Their 99-64 record gave them fewer wins than the Oklahoma City Indians, though they finished with two fewer losses and a half-game margin of victory overall. Oklahoma City claimed that other clubs (the Wichita Izzies, Lincoln Links and Tulsa Oilers) threw games to Des Moines but WL president Mike Sexton cleared all involved parties. Des Moines lost a Mid-Western Championship to the Three-I League champion Springfield team by a 3 games to 1 margin. The Demons had been led by Moon (an All-Star with a 24-8 record) and Pat Malone (28-13, second in the league in wins and first with 190 strikeouts) on the mound and Wetzel (.352, 18 HR, 6th in average, tied for third with 394 total bases) and Griffin (an All-Star again with a .345 average and 18 homers). 40-year-old player-manager Shano Collins batted .315 with 14 home runs.

Collins tied for the team lead with 11 homers and hit .331 at age 41 in 1927 but the team fell to third at 82-72. Langford returned and led the league in hitting (.409), triples (28) and steals (31, tied for the lead with Wilbur Swansboro). He was tied for fourth in doubles (47), second in hits (250) and fourth in total bases (377). Joining him on the All-Star team were C Joe Sprinz (.314), utility man Al Van Camp (.309, 11 HR) and pitcher Fred Ortman (21-11). Claude Davenport (21-10) and Ortman tied for second in the league in wins; Davenport was also second in innings worked (289).

The bottom fell out for Des Moines in 1928 as they finished last in the first half (28-50) and last overall (62-98). The one bright spot was Van Camp's hitting, as he was 5th in the league with 19 triples, hit .351 and led the club with 15 homers. Three pitchers lost 16 or more games. The next year brought a slight improvement to 72-86 and 7th place in the 8-team Western League. A player named Circle hit 26 homers, fifth in the WL. The 1930 campaign saw Des Moines return to the first division with a 77-71 record and fourth-place finish. Van Camp was fourth in the circuit with a .344 average and fifth with 18 homers. All-Stars were 1B Jim Oglesby (.308, 100 RBI), OF Stan Keyes (.340, 35 HR, 358 total bases, 140 RBI, 6th in average, first in homers, RBI and total bases, fifth in runs with 123, tied for third with 18 triples) and P Bud Tinning (16-11, 4.39).

Des Moines duked it out with the Wichita Aviators throughout the 1931 season. The Demons went 39-26 to finish second in the first half, 3 games behind Wichita, then won 55 of 80 second-half contests to finish 6 and a half games ahead of the Aviators. In the championship, the Demons won 4 of 6 games. All three 1930 All-Stars returned and again made the All-Star team - Oglesby hit .341 (5th in the league) with 119 runs, 106 RBI, 200 hits (second-most) and 278 total bases (5th); Tinning went 24-2 with a league-leading 3.11 ERA and was second in wins and first in winning percentage; Keyes won the Triple Crown with a .369 average, 38 homers and 160 RBI (22 more than anyone else). He also led with 401 total bases (111 more than the next player) and 203 hits. Joining them as All-Stars were OF Mike Kreevich (.329) and P Jack Knight (17-7, 3.30, second in ERA). Jim Grant went 12-11 with a 3.48 ERA, the fifth-best mark, while Johnny Niggeling was 17-12 with a 3.65 mark.

The 1932 Demons finished third in the first half (36-30) but skidded down to 35-42 in the concluding segment of the season. Oglesby made his third All-Star team in a row and finished 5th in the league with 19 triples. Jim hit .385 with 9 homers and 86 RBI. Des Moines won the most games in the Western League in 1933 at 81-47 but finished one and a half games behind the leader in both halves of the season. All-Star OF Leo Ogorek (.321) led the league with 60 stolen bases and was fourth with 108 runs scored. Pitcher Al Gizelbach went 18-10, placing him fifth in wins, fourth in winning percentage and third with 203 strikeouts. Roy Hudson (.348, 16 HR) and Mort Cooper (7-5) both split the season between Des Moines and the Muskogee Oilers.

An unusual situation occurred in 1934 when Des Moines, the St. Joseph Saints and Sioux City Cowboys all posted identical 36-23 first-half records and none won the second half (Des Moines was 32-33, behind St. Joseph and ahead of Sioux City). A four-team playoff resulted with Des Moines facing the second-half champion Davenport Blue Sox while the Saints and Cowboys squared off. Davenport beat the Demons three games to one to advance to the finals. Ogorek (.316) again stole the most bases (38), tied for the hit lead (164, also a 3-way tie) and was tied for second with 108 runs. Hudson (.318) led the loop with 94 RBI and Fabian Gaffke (.311) was second with 93 RBI, tied for fourth with 163 hits, second with 17 triples, tied for fourth with 15 homers and first with 269 total bases.

The Western League eliminated the split-season format in 1935 and the Demons finished third at 58-55. In the playoffs they were swept in three games by the Saints. Ogorek hit .317 and was among the leaders in outfield fielding percentage (.984, third-best), steals (25, 2 behind the leader), hits (144, third-best) and runs (92, one behind the leader) while August Luther (.306) was third in homers (15) and second with 14 triples. Claude Passeau was the staff ace at 20-11 and led the Western in wins, strikeouts (239) and innings hurled (244).

The 1936 edition of the Des Moines Demons went 33-33 to finish fifth in the first half of the revived split-season system. They were 31-31 and third in the second half in the six-team Western. All-Stars were P Hal Turpin (20-10, 2.74), CF Jim Asbell (.284) and C Hack Wilson (.267). Asbell tied for fourth with 13 homers. Keyes returned to blast 20 homers (second-best in the loop) with 233 total bases (fourth). Van Camp came back with 148 hits (5th) and tied for the league lead with 14 triples. Turpin led the league in complete games (28) and wins, was second in innings (259), third in ERA and 5th with 124 Ks. Julio Bonnetti (14-13, 2.56) had the best ERA in the Western League that year.

In 1937 Des Moines went 32-31 to finish second in the first half then went 25-31 in the second half as the league was crumbling. All-Stars were catcher Bus Payton (.276), utility man Walt Menke (.293) and southpaw pitcher Art McDougall (16-11, 4.02). McDougall led the WL in complete games (24) and innings (233) and was third in wins while teammate Gil Gebo (11-15, 4.63) was fourth in innings (216), games pitched (36) and losses. Henry Martinez hit just .216 but led the team in homers (12, 5th in the WL) and steals (28, third-most). He struck out the most (107 times). Bob Allaire (.284) was among the leaders in walks (95, tied for second) and runs (94, fourth-most) while leading with 34 steals. Harry Hughes (.303) drew 109 walks, the most in the circuit.

After the Western League collapsed, Des Moines was without baseball for its longest stretch in the 20th century as the professional game did not return until 1947.

In 1959, the Demons name was revived after 31 years of non-usage. The new Des Moines Demons were a Philadelphia Phillies farm club in the Three-I League. Managed by Chuck Kress, they finished second in the first half (38-26) then won the second-half pennant (40-29) before falling to the first-half champion Green Bay Bluejays in the championship 3 games to 1. Cal Emery (.323) led the league with 281 total bases, 27 homers and 129 RBI. The next season Andy Seminick took over as manager and the Demons went 64-74, tied for last in the Three-I. Gerry Reimer (.331, 18 HR) led the league with 179 hits and 294 total bases. Ray Culp (6-7) had a 6.59 ERA, not indicative of his future big-league performance.

The final year was a poor one. Kress was managing again and Des Moines finished last - by a wide margin, with a pitiful 37-93 record. They were so bad every other team in the Three-I's last year of existence finished .500 or better. Five pitchers lost in double digits while no one won more than six contests. Dick Haines led the league with a .355 average while future big-leaguer Pat Corrales batted .309. The Demons name has not been used since that time by the Des Moines teams - when Organized Baseball returned to the city in 1969 the club was called the Iowa Oaks.

Sources: Three-I League website by Bill Steinbacher-Kamp, The Western League by W.C. Madden and Patrick Stewart, Pat Doyle's Professional Baseball Player Database

Year-by-Year Record[edit]

Year Record Finish Manager Playoffs
1925 98-70 1st Joe Mathes none League Champs
1926 99-64 1st Shano Collins none League Champs
1927 82-72 3rd Shano Collins none
1928 63-98 8th Lute Boone / Archie Yelle / Lee Fohl
1929 72-86 7th Lee Fohl (24-41) / Claude Davenport (48-45) none
1930 77-71 4th Claude Davenport (26-32) / Shano Collins (51-39) none
1931 94-51 1st Bill Rodgers League Champs
1932 71-72 4th Bill Rodgers
1933 81-47 1st Johnny Butler
1934 68-56 3rd Hal Irelan (0-1) / Alex Gaston (68-55) Lost in 1st round
1935 58-55 3rd Doc Crandall Lost in 1st round
1936 64-64 3rd Spencer Abbott none
1937 57-62 4th Del Bissonette none
1959 78-48 1st Chuck Kress Lost League Finals
1960 64-74 7th (t) Andy Seminick none
1961 37-93 6th Chuck Kress none