One of the Sacramento region’s oldest semipro leagues was the Placer-Nevada League, founded by Allen “Scoop” Thurman of Colfax in 1923 and run by him until its demise in 1968.
Six teams competed in its inaugural season: Lincoln, Roseville, Colfax, Auburn-Newcastle, Grass Valley North Star Mine and Grass Valley Empire Mine.
The league had its share of memorable characters and moments.
▪ In 1950, Tommy Glaviano (Sacramento High School) hit three home runs in one game for the Lincoln Potters against the Placerville Bartletts. After the third homer, pitcher Edwin Jack Carpender (El Dorado) met him at home plate and shook his hand. Glaviano just completed his rookie season with the St. Louis Cardinals, hitting .267 in 87 games.
Carpender was a dominant pitcher for 15 seasons in the PNL, including a no-hitter against Colfax and a record 21 strikeouts against Grass Valley – until Hal Perry (Grant Union) had 24 strikeouts in 1962. Carpender was called “Smiling Jack” because he’d give the batter a big grin and let it rip. He threw hard and didn’t hesitate to brush back a batter.
In the 1940s, Carpender had two strikes on Truckee’s Joe Korich and reached back for a little extra, but the pitch was a bit inside.
“I hit him in the donker and knocked him out colder than a witch,” Carpender said in a Good Old Sandlot Days video in 2010. “We had to wait five or 10 minutes before the meat wagon rolls up to home plate and loads Korich up and takes him away. About the seventh inning, here comes the meat wagon. It pulls up to home plate and out walks Korich. He was allowed back in the game to catch.”
Carpender, who died in 2011, called it “the hardest head I ever hit.”
▪ Controversy erupted in 1953 when Lincoln and Roseville Happy Hour squared off in a game to decide first place. The Potters went with Leroy Stevens (Lincoln) on the mound, but earlier in the week, they loaded up by signing left-hander Fred Besana (Lincoln, Placer Junior College). Besana, under contract with the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League, was pitching for the Marysville Giants to stay in shape while serving in the military at Travis Air Force Base. Besana, now 85, lives in Roseville.
Midway through the game, Besana was summoned, and he shut down Roseville to save the game for the Potters.
“When they came to me and asked if I’d pitch, I said, ‘I don’t really want to, but I will,’” said Besana, whose father, Cedo Besana (Lincoln), pitched the Lincoln Cubs to the 1926 PNL championship as a 17-year-old.
Besana, who made his major-league debut in 1956 with the Baltimore Orioles, didn’t pitch again that season.
Stevens, a regular on the mound for the Potters in the 1950s, joined the club after pitching four seasons in the minor leagues. The left-hander hurled 55 consecutive scoreless innings in 1953.
▪ In 1947, Pete Moon (Roseville) returned from military duty and was signed by Roseville Wolf & Royer manager Charlie Perry.
In his debut, the left-handed hitter struck out three times. For a week, Perry got an earful from the Roseville faithful about the team’s newest addition.
The unhappiness didn’t last long. The following Sunday, Moon hit three home runs over the right-field fence.
This and that
▪ Dunedin (Fla.) Blue Jays first baseman Rowdy Tellez (Elk Grove) was named Florida State League Player of the Week for June 28. He was 9 for 18 with three homers, five runs and seven RBIs.
▪ Catcher Nate Esposito (Granite Bay), a 33rd-round draft pick out of Concordia in Portland, Ore., signed with Kansas City, and right-hander Max Cordy (McClatchy, UC Davis), a 40th-round pick, signed with Minnesota.
▪ Charlotte (N.C.) Knights left-hander Zach Phillips (Galt, Sacramento City) was named to the International League All-Star team.
▪ Right-hander Cole Brocker (Sacramento City) was released by Atlanta.
Mark McDermott: email@example.com