BY David Eskenazi 12:10AM 01/25/2011

Wayback Machine: Jo Jo and Edo show how

Three degrees of separation: Cobb to White to Vanni to Wills

Jo Jo shows how: In this May 16, 1939, scene along the third base line at Sick's Stadium, Jo Jo White instructs Edo Vanni on the finer points of the hook slide. 65 years later, Vanni would still credit White with teaching him all that he needed to know to run the bases well / David Eskenazi Collection

In 1962, Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Maury Wills was the most exciting player in baseball, stealing 104 bases, and leading his team to the National League playoffs.

Wills led the National League with 10 triples, won a Gold Glove, and was awarded the National League’s Most Valuable Player award that year, beating out the great Willie Mays by seven points.

To put this gaudy stolen base sum in perspective, Wills’ swipes in 1962 were more than the total of any other team in the major leagues that year. The 104 thefts broke the great Ty Cobb’s major league record of 96 stolen bases, set in 1915.

And this relates to Seattle…how?

1940 Seattle Rainiers: L to R: Frank Kelleher, Eddie Taylor, Jo Jo White, Edo Vanni, Bill Schuster / David Eskenazi Collection

Jo Jo White, a native of Red Oak, GA., and a Detroit Tiger as a big leaguer, learned the tricks of the base-stealing trade from another Georgia native and Detroit Tiger, Royston’s Ty Cobb.

White came to Seattle from Detroit as part of the Fred Hutchinson deal after the 1938 season in what was then the biggest trade in Seattle pro sports history. On Dec. 12, 1938, the Rainiers sent Hutchinson to the Tigers for Ed Selway (minors), George Archie, Tony Piet, Jo Jo White and cash.

While Hutchinson went on to pitch 10 seasons with the Tigers (won 95 games, lost 71), White became a key cog in the Rainiers’ Pacific Coast League pennant winning trifecta of 1939 to 1941.

White, who played with the Rainiers from 1939 through 1942, and again from 1946 through 1948, became an ignitor for the club, spraying line drives to all fields and commandeering the base paths with skilled abandon. White’s best statistical season with the Rainiers came in 1942, when he hit .297 (175 hits) with 30 doubles and 69 RBIs. He had a high of 47 stolen bases in 1939, leading the PCL that year, and 35 in 1940.

White’s base-stealing protege during the Rainiers’ championship years was a young Edo Vanni, only two years removed from Seattle’s Queen Anne High School (Vanni went on to play 15 seasons at the minor- league level, including 1938 through 1941, 1946, part of 1947, part of 1948 and part of 1950 with the Rainiers).

Edo shows how: At 1955 Rainiers spring training, Edo shares the hook-slide lesson that he had from Jo Jo White 16 years earlier with a young Rainiers prospect./ David Eskenazi Collection

Fast forward to 1957.

Seattle Rainiers coach Edo Vanni, working for legendary PCL manager Lefty O’Doul, pays forward the base-stealing tricks of the trade he’d learned from White nearly 20 years earlier to his protege, 25-year old Rainiers shortstop Maury Wills.

Three degrees of separation: Cobb to White to Vanni to Wills.

Lou Brock shattered Wills’ record 104 steals with 118 swipes in 1974. Ricky Henderson stole 130 bases in 1982.

Wills played for the Rainiers in 1957, stealing 21 bases in 147 games.

Maury Wills races San Francisco's Frank Kellert to the first-base bag during a game in Seals Stadium in 1957 / David Eskenazi Collection

Many of the historic images published on Sportspress Northwest are provided by resident Northwest sports history aficionado, David Eskenazi, who writes “The Wayback Machine” every Tuesday. Check out David’s “Wayback Machine Archive”. David can be reached at (206) 441-1900, or at the following e-mail


(“Wayback Machine” is published every Tuesday as part of Sportspress Northwest’s package of home-page features collectively titled, “The Rotation.”)


  • Ridiculously cynical article.  The talent level on this team is ridiculous.  There is far more reason for optimism than pessimism.

  • Ryan

    Ross is capable?  NBA scouts disagree w/ you.  Wroten is raw?  His shooting, maybe – but his skill set is the perfect match for Romar’s system

    They may struggle early, but this team has a lot of pieces to compete at a really high level.  Terrible article…

  • I think the article is a little cynical.  Not insanely so. 

    I agree that the author will be very pleasantly surprised with the play of Ross this year.  Look for his free throws to go way up too.  He will have the ball in his hand a lot more this year.

    Another thing is that i felt Holiday really faded last year.  I think he put too much of his mental focus on his offense.  He needed to be a defensive demon every single game and let the O come during the games.  He was thinking too much about needing to score to be relevant for scouts imo.  Or according to my W.A.G..

    I don’t expect this team to be quite as good as last year.  Having a legitimate low post presence will be missed.  I do think Wroten’s ability to drive and create will make up for a lot of that, but it will be missed.  And yes i know Amanning was inconsistent.  But he did show up more often than not in his Senior year.

    We will see lots of improvements in the young guys.  And don’t forget how good Gaddy was looking before going down.  This team would have gone farther imo with Gaddy getting most of the minutes Venoy got last year.  He was needed vs. North Carolina.

    Lots of additions.  Gaddy, Wroten, Simmons.  Those three guys should all be big time players for this team.  Might sound like an overstatement for Simmons, but i hear good things and i love his “style”.  Wilcox, Aziz, and Ross should all take big steps forward after one year of Pac play.

  • IF you can go really small, imagine the skill out there with this lineup.  I know there are tons of teams you would probably never want to try this line up against(even against their second unit).  But man it would be fun to see it’s ability to get up and down the court, the 3 pt shooting, and their ability to get to the cup or drive and dish. 

    The amount of minutes Ross can match up against another teams PF might be telling for how many minutes we can go small. A more reasonable small lineup will have someone besides Ross guarding their C. Just sometimes the other teams C really is poor on O and you can stick a little guy on him you know?

    Gaddy   6’3
    Wilcox   6’5
    Wroten  6’5
    Suggs   6’6
    Ross     6’6

  • Joe

    Maybe you should actually see what these guys do on the floor before you write them off as “too heavy, too light, too small, and too raw.”

    Ridiculous article.