Monday, July 16, 2007

Mysterious Death

OK, this has only a tenuous link with the Western International League; Spencer Harris left Yakima to manage in the Far West League toward the end of this season. But this tale is an interesting one, so I include it on this blog.
Just one note — some of the wire stories make it out that Wera managed Oroville that year, others say he was the business manager. The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball lists someone else as field manager.

Sleeping Pills Fatal To Ex-Major Leaguer
Oroville, Calif., Sept. 13 — (AP) — Julian Wera, 38-year-old baseball club manager and former big leaguer, took an overdose of sleeping pills early today, wrote farewell notes to his estranged wife, then slumped dead over his telephone as he started to make a call, Sheriff Herb Forward said.
The sheriff said the notes indicated Wera was despondent over his separation from his wife, Ruth, and their daughter, Jerry.
Wera, a former New York Yankee in the American Baseball league and a San Francisco Pacific Coast league player, was a Boston Redsox scout and a business manager of the Oroville club in the Far West baseball league. He played briefly for the Yankees in 1927. In his first major league game at the age of 16, he clouted Walter Johnson for a home run.

Julian Wera Confused at Report of Own Suicide
ROCHESTER, Minn., Sept. 14—(AP)—The man known here as Julian V. Wera, 45, former big league baseball player, was mystified Tuesday over the similar identity given a man whom police said committed suicide in Oroville, Calif.
The Rochester man said someone might have assumed his name "in order to gain my reputation as a ball player."
West coast officials of the Boston Red Sox said the dead man had been with the Boston Red Sox farm organization since the war.
Police Chief A.F. Kessler of Oroville, said Monday night a man who had given the name of Julian Wera, 39, business manager of the Sox' farm organization there, committed suicide by taking an overdose of sleeping tablets.
The Oroville man had given the press to understand he had played with the New York Yankees in 1927, that he had been with the Three Eye league and the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast league.
The man in Rochester told how he had played with the Yankees in 1927, had played with the Seals from 1931-35 and in the Three Eye league with Peoria, Ill., in about 1920, He said he had three brothers in Winona.
The Red Sox farm director, George Toporcer, said that "apparently we were misled."
Toporcer said the identity of the dead man in Oroville hasn't been positively established, "but friends of his in California telephoned me that he was William Wera, a cousin of Julian."
A year ago Toporcer said, he sent a manager to the Oroville team "on the assumption that he was Julian Wera of the Yankees.
All arrangements were carried on by a west coast representative of the Sox and Toporcer didn't see the candidate.
"I knew Julian. We played together with Syracuse. But when I said I didn't recognize the picture it was explained to me that Wera had a terrific war record and his face was all cracked up in the war," Toporcer explained.

This Is Wera, Wera Peculiar, But He Was Good Man
Oroville, Calif., Sept. 15.—(AP)—Some angles in the death of a minor league baseball manager continued to mystify officials today, but a couple of items were clear:
1. He was posed as Julian Wera, representing himself as a former New York Yankee and third baseman for the San. Francisco Seals. But the real Julian Wera is in Rochester, Minn., operating a food store.
2. Whatever the man's name really was, he did a good job managing the Oroville club in the Far West league, a farm of the Boston Red Sox. Oroville won the pennant this year.
Sheriff-Coroner W. H. Forward said the Oroville manger took an overdose of sleeping pills Monday after writing farewell notes to his estranged wife.
Posing as Wera, he was hired as Oroville's manager a year ago. Jerry
Donovan, president of the Far West League, explained the circumstances:
"I played outfield when Julian Wera played third base with the Seals in 1931. This fellow came out here and said a mine had blown up in his face during the war and he had a lot of plastic surgery done on it.
"I wouldn't have recognized him, but he stood up and said 'Hello.' His face sure looked different, but he talked as if he were the real Julian Wera. It's hard to believe."
In Boston, the Red Sox farm director, George Toporcer, said "apparently
we were misled."

Suicide Reveals Cousin Posing as Former Yankee
Oroville, Cal., Sept. 15—(U.P.)—Mrs. Ruth Wera, whose husband committed suicide after posing as a former New York baseball star for several years, admitted Wednesday that he had been secretive about details of his past life.
But she said she was confident that her late husband actually was a cousin of the famed Yankee infielder, Julian Wera.
Mrs. Wera said she thought her husband's true name was William J. Wera.
Her husband was business manager of the Oroville Red Sox. The hoax was revealed Monday after the baseball executive died of a lethal dote of sleeping tablets.
Officials of the Far West league also admitted they were taken in by "Wera." Jerry Donovan, president of the league, said many baseball
men who knew the real Wera during his playing days — including himself — had been fooled by the impostor for more than a year.
Meanwhile, the "real" Julian Wera, in Rochester, Minn., insisted he is "very much alive." He is now 45 years old and manager of a meat market
Mrs. Wera explained that she married the impostor, believing him to be the former major leaguer. She had no doubt of his identity until the genuine Wera revealed he was alive, she said.
The impostor claimed he had been wounded in Italy during the war, and said plastic surgery changed his features beyond recognition.
However, Sheriff-Coroner W. H. Forward said Wera's claims of a brilliant war record proved to be a fabrication by a check with military records.
Donovan revealed that "some doubt" as to whether the Oroville manager was the Yankees' Wera was raised several months ago by old friends.
"We decided to let it go," he said, "because he was doing a good job and that's all that really mattered."
But this suicide changed things embarrassingly, he added.
Records of the Oroville team,owned by the Boston Red Sox were found to be clear, with all funds accounted for. A suicide note hinted at domestic troubles.

1 comment:

Dave Moretti said...

Wera must have been the business manager. The field manager of the Oroville Red Sox was my uncle, Anthony "Nino" Bongiovanni. The next year, Uncle Nino became the manager of the Stockton Ports.