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The Trolley League

Once upon a time, in a land not far from the Pacific Coast League was a breeding ground for future ballplayers as well as ballplayers that were past their prime. Towns such as Colusa, Marysville, Oroville and Woodland were starving for attention and decided to create their own league in hopes of raising interest from larger markets.

The Trolley League had a couple of different "beginnings", starting with 1908 when the Marysville Giants easily took the league title. It was named the Trolley League because so many used the trolley system to get to the games. Finances and poor attendance forced the lague to close its doors at the end of the year but a more permanent version of the league began in 1913. Also known as the Sacramento Valley Trolley League, Richard Belcher, a Marysville barrister, was the league's first president. The league was founded on games only being played on Sundays and gate receipts being split 60/40 with the visitors receiving at least $125 per game.

The Oroville Olives were a dominant bunch in 1913, hitting twice as many home runs as any other team in the league and easily captured the league's first championship. It featured a truly dominant battery including Lou Guisto (.436), Blaine "Kid" Durbin (.406), Oscar Lohman (.333), Howard "Swat" Wasley (.323) and Clarence Scruggs (.316).

However, trouble was brewing. While the local Pacific Coast League teams had poached several players from the Trolley League, it bristled when two of its players, Carl Zamlock and Al Heiser went to the lesser of the two leagues for more money. Due to the squabble, Trolley League teams ended up overpaying players to stay with the league, thus putting them in a precarious financial bind. By the middle of August of 1914, teams were bleeding money and the only option was to shut it all down. On August 14, 1914, with Colusa ahead in the standings, the Trolley League suspended operations and folded for the rest of the season.

The Trolley League returned in 1915 with a whimper, featuring just four teams in Marysville, Oroville, Woodland and Chico. The odd season ended with Oroville and Woodland tied for first and seemingly headed towards a playoff. However, Oroville balked at the notion of playing in a playoff game and disbanded, thus forfeiting the league pennant to Woodland.

In an effort to increase attendance, the Trolley League spent much of 1916 signing players from the Major Leagues, the Pacific Coast League and the Northwestern League. Marysville and Colusa gained the most from this spending spree, with the Giants getting Al Sears, Babe Pinelli and Tommy Scanlon while the Colusa Prune Pickers signed Bill Tozer, Eddie Reed and Len Hollywood.

The Giants started off strong but were caught off guard when their manager Dolly Gray abruptly resigned and the team soon went into a three game slump. However, after hiring Pete Smith as their new manager, they rebounded and soon found themselves with a chance at the league pennant with two games remaining against Colusa. The Prune Pickers won the first game of the series 9-6 setting up a winner-take-all final game of the season. Though Colusa was ahead 1-0 for much of the game, the Giants came back with a 3-run homer by Carl Zamlock in the seventh inning and a 5-run assault in the eighth inning to win the Trolley League pennant. The following week, Marysville defeated the Richmond Elks to claim the California State "Bushers" championship, a semi-pro championship game.

The end came swiftly for the Trolley League. The following year, the last place Gridley Rice Millers folded and soon other teams were complaining of financial distress and threatening to fold as well. Finally, by the middle of the summer of 1917 with World War I raging and league president Jack Dooley overseas serving in America's war effort, the Trolley League shut down. While a number of the more successful teams such as Marysville continued as independents until finding a new league, the Trolley League was never revived in Northern California.

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