When I’m not researching MiLB history, I work with databases, part of the is the infamous Sean Lahman Baseball Database, and that brought up ‘phantom players’ as one of the records that ended up being dropped from an earlier version I had was a dubbed ‘phantom player’. Sadly, I didn’t know what a phantom player was, so a quick google search brought me to the wiki page of a Phantom ballplayer. On that page there is a section titled ‘Real Players who never played’ and the first player listed is Al Olsen, who played for the MiLB San Deigo Padres, not to be confused with the current MLB Padres. The ’45 Solons and their cap are the focus of today’s post.
The Padres used a simple S for their cap, it’s not fancy nor stylish, it doesn’t even use the pinstripes that many teams had back then. It’s a cap that is simple in nature but is neat to look back on. Go to any baseball game today (whether it’s MLB or MiLB) and see the caps they wear. There will be a time when someone else looks back on the modern day hats and relishes the look they present to people.
The San Diego Padres were a MiLB that played in the PCL (Pacific Coast League) from 1936-1968. Their existence came the same year as the PCL in 1903, but they were called the Sacremento Solons. Despite finishing second in the first year of the PCL, poor attendance caused the Solons to move Tacoma following the 1903 season and become the Tacoma Tigers. The Tigers won the PCL pennant and finished high in the first half of the 1905 season. A second half collapse by the Tigers led them to be moved back to Sacremento and revive the Solons. Following the 1905 season, the Solons moved to Fresno and became the Fresno Raisin Eaters, returning to Sacremento in 1907.
The Solons were once again plagued by poor attendance moving to San Fransico in the middle of the 1914 season becoming the San Fransico Missions. Following the 1914 season, the Missions moved to Salt Lake City and became the Salt Lake Bees. Eight years later the Bees moved to LA and became the Hollywood Stars playing their games at Wrigley Field (no, not that Wrigley). When the LA Angels doubled the rent for the Stars in 1935, they packed their bags moved to San Diego and became the Padres.
Going back to Al Olsen, the cause of this post, played 15 seasons in the minors, twelve of with the Padres. Olsen posted a career ERA of 3.82 posting a record of 141-156 striking out 732 and posting 17 shutouts. Olsen’s phantom appearance came on May 16, 1943, when officials credited Olsen as a pinch hitter for the Red Sox. This NY Times article quoted Olsen as saying “It wasn’t me. I was a left-handed pitcher. I couldn’t hit my hat. Besides, I never played a game in the major leagues”.