Paul Irving Fagan
The shrewd businessman knew that major league baseball — strictly an East Coast activity in those days — could not ignore everything west of the Mississippi for much longer, especially the large cities of California. With that in mind, in 1944 he quietly assumed majority interest of the Pacific Coast League’s San Francisco Seals.
Two years later, Fagan set carefully laid plans into motion, which, when completed, would attempt to transform the PCL into the third major league. Fagan made Lefty O’Doul the highest-paid skipper in all of professional ball, rewarded his players with big league salaries and luxury accommodations, and upgraded Seals Stadium into a prominent ballpark in the United States.
His baseball investment paid off handsomely with a PCL pennant in 1946 and a minor league single-season attendance record of 670,563. His fast-track to the big leagues also took on frightening reality to major league owners who suddenly understood the deep-pocketed Fagan meant business.
Basking in the glory of a league crown, Fagan decided to prepare his Seals for the 1947 season at Hana, Maui. Not only would it serve as a combination spring training and reward for the players, but a large group of West Coast writers would accompany the team, affording his resort with free newspaper exposure.
They touched down at Kahului on February 24, 1947 in a Matson Skymaster DC-4, 12 hours and 10 minutes after leaving Oakland Airport; it was the first direct commercial passenger flight to a neighbor island and, in a sense, marked the arrival of the jet age to Hawaii.
The team worked out at an old school field in the shadow of Kauiki cinder cone — home of the demigod Maui, and birthplace of Kaahumanu, arguably the most powerful woman in the history of Hawaii.
The Seals capped their visit with a dress rehearsal for future major league competition — a five-game set against Horace Stoneham’s New York Giants at Honolulu Stadium which would kick off a barnstorming trip across the country. But Fagan’s grandiose plans began to waver on Oahu when the series with the Giants flopped at the gate, prompting both owners to say they would not return to Honolulu.
On the West Coast, fellow PCL owners who had at first embraced Fagan’s plans began jumping ship. Poorer clubs undermined him by signing agreements with major league teams, assuring them financial solvency, but robbing the league of its best talent and, most importantly, bargaining power with the big league owners.
The Seals eventually found themselves the only team in the PCL without the support of a major league franchise. Although they played well in 1947, San Fran slipped in each of the following seasons until 1951 when Fagan, disillusioned and losing interest in baseball, divested himself of a club which had to be rescued by the city in order to prevent it from relocating or going bankrupt.
Fagan soon moved to Maui permanently to keep close tabs on his fabulously successful resort. He lived at Hana until he died in 1960. His wife, Helene Irwin Fagan, and daughter Jane Fagan Olds, relinquished family control of the hotel eight years later.