Wichita Indians

From BR Bullpen

The Wichita Indians joined the Western League in 1950 as an expansion team, representing Wichita, KS. The St. Louis Browns farm team went 77-77, finishing fourth. They swept the first-place Omaha Cardinals 3 games to 0 in the semifinals then lost 3 games to 1 to the Sioux City Soos in the title match. The team drew 126,729 fans, 5th in the league. Pitcher John J. O'Donnell (16-9, 4.06, .316 at the plate) and OF Bobby Balcena made the All-Star team. Balcena hit .290/~.419/.442 with 119 runs, 32 doubles, 12 triples, 11 homers, 19 steals, 119 walks and 11 times hit by pitch. He was second in the WL in steals, third in triples and runs and tied for second in walks. Bob Turley (11-14, 4.28, third in the WL with 153 strikeouts and 5th with 118 walks) would go on to a fine big-league career, while Don Larsen (6-4, 3.14) is recalled for a single dazzling game.

Switching to the Cleveland Indians as a parent club in 1951, the team went 84-68, finishing in third place, but falling in the playoffs to the Denver Bears 3 games to 1. Manager Joe Schultz and 1B Joe Macko were All-Stars. Attendance fell to 122,060, but was now third in the Western. Macko (.286, 14 HR) was second in the Western with 96 RBI. Lee Carey (.236) led the league with 39 steals and was fourth with 105 walks, OF Jim F. King (.242) was third with 109 walks and Mike Lutz (.247) tied for second with 19 homers. Six pitchers won 10 or more games and Joe Kotrany (13-8, 2.57) was third in the league in ERA. Don Mossi (7-6, 2.29) would go on to the brightest major-league career.

The Indians fell into a tie for sixth at 67-87 and attendance fell to 116,703 and back into 5th place. Ralph Winegarner became the new manager. King (.268/~.425/.426) and 2B-3B Jim Cleverly (.288/~.432/.342) tied for the league lead with 112 walks apiece. Cleverly was second in runs (110) and third in steals (28) as well.

Wichita returned to being a Browns farm team in 1953 and fell further, going to last place at 58-96. Few fans came out (68,683) as attendance was the second-lowest in the loop. Charlie Locke (8-18, 3.31) led the WL in walks (149) and was second in losses and strikeouts (191).

In 1954 the Indians affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles and went 76-77 to improve to sixth place. Attendance improved with the better play as the club drew 87,854 fans, 4th in the Western League. O'Donnell (14-16, 3.00) again was an All-Star despite losing more games than anyone else in the league. Joining him as an All-Star was OF Ted del Guercio (.321/.402/.426), who was third in the league in average.

The 1955 Wichita club finished third at 78-73 after they beat the Des Moines Bruins in a tie-breaker for that spot. They beat the Pueblo Dodgers 3 games to 1 in the semifinals and then beat Des Moines again in the championship, this time winning three of four contests. Pitching a no-hitter in that series was Bob Harrison (14-12, 2.40 in the regular season). Harrison had finished third in the regular season in ERA and led the league with 170 strikeouts. Wichita led the league in attendance (94,862). Joining Harrison as All-Stars were C Miguel Gaspar (.263, 2 HR) and 3B Ed Barbarito (.318, 20 HR, a league-high .957 fielding at the hot corner). Barbarito was fourth in hits (176), fifth with 32 doubles and tied for third in total bases (272). Also playing well on offense were Juan Senties (.330, third in average, hits [180] and RBI [94]) and Bill Springfield (.282, fifth with 86 walks, first with 46 steals). O'Donnell went 11-15 with a 4.61 ERA and again led the league in losses.

In 1956 Wichita moved up to the American Association as the Wichita Braves.

Main source: The Western League by W.C. Madden and Patrick Stewart

Year-by-Year Record[edit]

Year Record Finish Manager Playoffs
1950 77-77 4th Joe Schultz Lost League Finals
1951 84-68 3rd Joe Schultz Lost in 1st round
1952 67-87 6th (t) Ralph Winegarner
1953 58-96 8th George Hausmann (18-30) / George Kovach (1-1) / Mark Christman (39-65)
1954 76-77 6th Herb Brett (12-23) / Les Layton (64-54)
1955 78-73 3rd Buddy Bates League Champs