Just when you thought you would never have to endure another vintage, minor league set profile, here is yet another gas station sponsored set. This time we are examining the 1961 Union Oil Hawaii Islanders. This set is special in that it chronicles the first year Hawaii was a member of the Pacific Coast League.
On December 17, 1960, a Salt Lake City businessman-Nick Morgan-purchased the bankrupt Sacramento Solons from the Pacific Coast League. Mr. Morgan set up shop 2,500 miles from the nearest opponent at Honolulu Stadium. The park served as a home for amateur baseball and the University of Hawaii football team. College bowl games were played at the facility as well. Known as the “Termite Palace” the ramshackle, wooden structure would serve as the home of the Islanders until Aloha Stadium opened in 1976.
In 1961, Union Oil produced a total of 67 different cards for six of the eight PCL teams (Vancouver and Salt Lake did not participate). Only the cards that corresponded with the team in a team’s area could be found at the Union 76 gas stations. Due to smaller population areas, Hawaii and Spokane cards are considered short prints, making them more valuable and harder to come by.
The set features borderless, sepia-toned photos that measure 3” X 4”. The backs have an advertisement for the radio station that held each club’s broadcast rights. There are 10 Islanders in the set.
The 1961 Islanders were affiliated with the Kansas City Athletics. The bottom dwelling status of the parent club meant that the Hawaii team was not stocked with top prospects. Only a handful of the players had success at the major league level.
Perhaps the best of the lot is Diego Segui, who forged a long and productive career. His card photo-along with all the other Islanders-was shot at Sicks’ Seattle Stadium. Segui had no idea that eight years hence he would be playing in the big leagues with the Pilots in the same stadium.
Rachel Slider shows up in the set. “Rac” never played in the majors, but he was a long-time coach with the Red Sox.
A player who did log major league time was Bill Werle. The hurler was in the Pirates starting rotation in 1949-50.
Another player with a big-time pedigree is Ray Jablonski, who played for the Cardinals, Reds, Giants and A’s. Ray’s poor defense served as a counterweight to his batting prowess, which derailed a promising career after a promising start.
This photo of Dave Thies features a clear look at an advertisement for the 1962 Century 21 Worlds Fair in Seattle. This exposition put Seattle “on the map” and left the city with its signature structure, the Space Needle.
The Islanders wore colorful uniforms, which foreshadowed those adopted by Athletics owner Charlie Finley. The solid green vest uniforms were used on the road and accessorized with yellow undershirt sleeves and caps. The club donned white vests at home with green undershirt sleeves and caps. Perhaps, Finley remember these togs when he shocked the staid baseball world by decking out the A’s in green and gold for the 1963 season.
PCL players would no longer get a paid, week-long vacation in paradise after the 1987 season. Dwindling attendance and rising travel costs forced the Islanders’ relocation to Edmonton. But you can virtually feel the gentle breezes of paradise by collecting this set and downing a few mai tais.