Monday, June 22, 2009

Aberdeen Black Cats 1918 Home

For our first Flannel of the Month feature, the letter A has a certain logic, as does featuring a team from our home state of Washington. So ladies and gentlemen, we give you the Aberdeen Black Cats.

I happened to drive through Kurt Cobain's hometown of Aberdeen last week (it is unavoidable if one wants to get from Seattle to Washington's Pacific Coast beaches), and it reminded me that professional baseball once flourished in these lumber towns of the Pacific Northwest. Aberdeen (then known as the Pippins) first made an appearance in the Class-D Southwest Washington league of 1903, together with the Hoquiam Perfect Gentleman, Centralia Midgets and Olympia Senators. In a curious footnoot to the SWL, teams played six times a week, but only weekend games counted in league standings. Games were played at Electric park, which fans reached by trolley.

In 1907 the now-Aberdeen Black Cats took the Northestern League crown led by Ed Householder's .347 batting average and pitcher Ed Higginbotham's 295 strikeouts. The 1909 club was managed by C.H. "Pants" Rowland, who went on to manage Shoeless Joe Jackson and the rest of the White Sox to a World Series victory in 1917. Rowland later went on to become president of the Pacific Coast League, and worked tirelessly in the post-war years to have the PCL recognized as a third Major League (for you uniform buffs, notice how in the photo Rowland has a square patch sewn onto his shirt with the Cats emblem reversed).

Aberdeen's last year in organized ball was in the Pacific Coast International League in 1918, but the team continued to play in semi-pro timber leagues until the early 1940s. There must have still been fertile ground for baseball in Aberdeen in 1924, as Yankee stars Babe Ruth and Bob Meusel visited the Black Cats on a barnstorming tour that year (scroll down to see a picture of The Babe with the Black Cats).

This just in from two readers: The arched cat logo was known as "Hoo-Hoo" and was a good luck charm that used to be posted at logging camps around the Pacific Northwest. The symbol was also used by the radical labor movent, the IWW, and known as the "Ag Cat" (for agitation).

The jersey itself is fairly typical of the era, a pullover with a byron collar and five-button placket. The sillouetted cat design, cut out of felt, is fairly imaginative for a time when single-letter crests or simple block lettering was the norm. Jersey numerals were not worn in this era, so our Black Cats shirt is numberless. It is available now for the special Flannel of the Month price of $99.

Every month we will pick one baseball shirt and tell the story behind it. This is our first entry. We welcome your comments.

Thanks to Dave Eskenazi for his contributions to this article.