‘Riverside-Ensenada-Porterville’: An All-Negro Minor League Team

This article was written by Bob Hoie

This article was published in 1979 Baseball Research Journal

   In early February 1952, Harry Leddell, President of the Southwest International League and Ray “Fido” Murphy, the Publicity Director of the League, conceived the idea of an “all-Negro” club. Originally it was Planned as a traveling club, but, in late February, Leddell and Murphy talked with the owners of the inactive Riverside franchise. (It had been dropped when the Sunset and Arizona.Texas Leagues merged into the Southwest International in 1951.)

   On March 4, it was announced that the Negro club would split its season between Riverside, Calif. and Ensenada, Mexico, which is more than 200 miles south of Riverside. Emmett Ashford (later an American League Umpire) was appointed General Manager and two days later former Negro League great Chet Brewer was named manager. Brewer had pitched with Satchel Paige on the Kansas City Monarchs.

   On March 8 the club began spring training in Torrance, Calif. (Evans Park in Riverside was being used by Portland of the Pacific Coast League.) Early in April the club shifted its training site to Ensenada, where it played exhibitions with Mexican teams.

   Shortly before the season opened, Murphy and Bob Crawford, a Santa Monica, Calif. school teacher, became owners of the club which was called the “Riverside-Ensenada Comets” (the uniform had a large R & E across the front). The franchise was still retained by the Rubidoux Baseball Association which said it intended to have a full time team for Riverside in the Southwest International in 1953. For 1952, 30 games (all mid-week night) were scheduled for Riverside and 41 (weekend-days) for Ensenada.

   The Negro players were primarily from Canadian “outlaw leagues” and Panama Winter Leagues.

   The team opened in Mexicali on April 15 and lost the first three games. On the 18th Murphy announced the team would not play in Ensenada because the park there had no dressing rooms, running water or lights. The club now became the “Riverside-Porterville Padres” with 30 home games in Riverside and 35 at Porterville (more than 200 miles north of Riverside). Under the new name they lost three more games in Tijuana-bringing an overall 0-6 record to Riverside on April 22.

   The Padres lost two out of three to Yuma before “crowds” of 202, 40, and 65, and then left for Porterville for four games over the weekend with Tijuana. They were next scheduled to play in Riverside on May 13-14-15 against El Centro.

   On April 26, Crawford gained full ownership of the club and two days later announced that due to small crowds in Riverside the club would now be known only as “Porterville” and would play all of its remaining home games there.

   Things went along fairly well for a few weeks, but the team was not a consistent winner and fan support was not as good as originally anticipated.  Other teams had problems too. El Centro withdrew from the league on July 13, bringing the loop down to five members. Then Porterville folded on August 1.

   Although the club finished with a poor 39-59 record, they had some excellent talent. In addition to Brewer, the pitching staff included another former Negro League All Star, Andy “Pullman” Porter. Other former Negro Leaguers were Willie Gaines (Philadelphia Stars), Bill Powell (Birmingham Black Barons), Bob Turner (Houston Eagles) and Les Witherspoon (Indianapolis Clowns). Two members of the club later played in the Major Leagues, Tom Alston with the Cards and Dave Roberts with Houston and the Pirates before going on to a great career in Japan.