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An iconic name is lost as minor leagues are reorganized

Reality set in this week when a click on the Pacific Coast League’s website was redirected to Triple-A West, one of two top-level leagues formed during Major League Baseball’s recent reorganization of the minors.

“It’s gone,” Aviators president Don Logan said in issuing a two-word obituary for a league founded in 1903 that produced Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio and during its glory days often was referred to as the third major league.

Las Vegan Howie Reed hawked soda and programs at ramshackle Oaks Park in Emeryville, California, home of the PCL’s Oakland Oaks before they moved to Vancouver. “In 1948, the Oaks won the pennant. They were called the Nine Old Men and Billy (Martin, who played second base). The ninth old man was Casey Stengel,” Reed said of the team’s manager.

He spoke of sultry Sundays when PCL teams featuring prominent black players would visit for doubleheaders and part of left field would be cordoned off so more people could watch them play. But one of his most vivid recollections was of a night when Steve Bilko, who once hit .360 with 55 home runs and 164 RBIs for the PCL’s Los Angeles Angels and had the lead character Sgt. Bilko of “The Phil Silvers Show” named in his honor, came to bat.

“It was so cold I sold soup in the center field bleachers to three guys who were betting on every pitch [and] Bilko hit a ball that went over the top of the stands. At the time they said it was the longest home run ever hit in the Pacific Coast League,” Reed said of a memory, now melancholy, that will never be reorganized by MLB.

Around the horn

— This year’s smaller than usual list of Las Vegas area natives and former UNLV players on major league opening day rosters: Dean Kremer, Orioles; Kyle Isbel, Royals; Joey Gallo, Rangers; Erick Fedde, Nationals; Brandon Kintzler, Phillies; Bryce Harper, Phillies; Kris Bryant, Cubs; Tyler Anderson, Pirates; Tommy Pham, Padres.

— Last Sunday’s note about Jason Hanson’s record 62-yard field goal at Sam Boyd Stadium and reference to former Raiders and San Jose State kicker Joe Nedney by former UNLV counterpart Nick Garritano solicited an email from Lawrence Fan, SJSU’s longtime sports information director, who wrote about Nedney’s 60-yard FG “that never touched the ground.”

“Thanks for mentioning Joe Nedney in the same breath as Nick Garritano,”Fan said. “Shows kickers come in all shapes and sizes. (Nedney was reed-thin; Garritano was not.)

“My hook on Nedney’s 60-yard field goal to beat Wyoming in 1992 is the ball never hit the ground after it sailed through the uprights and landed in the bleachers. The ball was retrieved by a student equipment manager before anyone else could get to it. That’s why I’ve been able to share the story (about) the 60-yard field goal that never hit the ground.”

— Monday marked the 37th anniversary of Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sinking a sky hook over Mark Eaton to break Wilt Chamberlain’s NBA’s career scoring record at the Thomas & Mack Center during the 1983-84 season when the Utah Jazz played 11 home games in Las Vegas. … Tuesday was the 25th commemoration of the first Major League Soccer game and first MLS goal scored by former Las Vegas Lights manager Eric Wynalda for the San Jose Clash against D.C. United on April 6, 1996. … On the heels of last weekend’s RJ story about a boom in sports card collecting, a Tom Brady rookie card sold for $2.25 million — believed to be the record for a football card.

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When asked by the Charlotte Observer to comment on the polarizing nature of Las Vegas’ Xfinity Series driver Noah Gragson of Las Vegas and why his behavior has become such a hot button topic, NASCAR fan Jenny Lloyd mentioned another Las Vegas lead foot who has been known to ruffle the occasional feather.

“There are only so many times that you can complain about Kyle Busch.”

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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