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Remember When …

A column by Rick Cabral

9/28/14

Remember When -- 1949

CASEY AT THE BAT MURAL ON VIEW OCTOBER 11

RememberWhen

From Edmonds Field To Center For Sacramento History

by Editor Rick Cabral

~ ~ ~

Spring 1949 was a rebuilding year for the Sacramento Solons.

Literally.

In July the previous summer, most of the old ballpark named Edmonds Field had burned to the ground. A smoldering cigarette is presumed to have ignited hot dog wrappers or peanut shells below the home grandstands, thus starting the fire (and if you ever heard former Sacramento Bee columnist Stan Gilliam tell it, he was the unwitting perpetrator, not wishing to waste more than a few ounces of beer on the glowing embers below his shoes). 

The Solons owners rebuilt their ballpark on a concrete foundation, forever eliminating the wooden bleachers of days gone by. They decided to add a bit of color to spruce up the drab gray concrete ballyard by commissioning a mural that depicted the final stanza from the poem, “Casey At the Bat.”*  

 Mugartegui_Casey

George Mugartegui painting the mural
"Casey At the Bat" March, 1949
Courtesy of Frank Mugartegui Collection

The Solons hired George Bowman to design the attraction and George Mugartegui to paint it. While we know little about Bowman’s background, Mugartegui was a Spaniard who studied art in Barcelona and apprenticed for nine years before immigrating to the U.S. around 1920. Eventually he landed in Sacramento in the mid-1920s, according to his son, Frank.

During the Depression, Mugartegui had no trouble finding work, where his specialty of gold gilding was employed on the cross atop the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament and parts of the Alhambra Theatre, among other projects. He also painted murals at the old State Fairgrounds. 

The mural of Casey at the Bat was painted on three vertical pieces of plywood measuring 118 inches tall by 136 inches wide (nearly 10’ x 11’4”) when assembled. The mural was mounted on the interior wall of Edmonds Field to the right of the main entrance (as you were leaving the building). 

The Solons left Sacramento after the 1960 season, but the ballpark remained until 1964, when the owners sold the property to Lucky Stores, which razed it for a GEMCO superstore. Owner Fred David dissembled the mural and stored it in the basement of his business, David Candy.  

David bequeathed the Casey mural to local historian and collector Alan O’Connor, who in turn donated it to the Center for Sacramento History.

The mural, along with many other historical artifacts, photographs, documents, and other ephemera will be on display Saturday October 11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. as part of the 4th Annual Sacramento Archive Crawl. On that day, four of Sacramento’s historical museums will open its doors to visitors for the free event.

The four locations include: California State Archives, California State Library, Center for Sacramento History and Sacramento Room, Central Library (Tsakopoulos Library Galleria).

* Ernest Thayer wrote the poem and released it in 1888, around the time he covered baseball for the San Francisco Examiner. This included a stint covering the California League team in Stockton, which had earned the appellation “Mudville” in the mid-19th Century.

--

 


 Casey Plague

A portion of Thayer's poem was printed on the mural of Casey At the Bat




9/1/14

Remember When...

 WL_Trophy_REHM

In the 1933-34 Winter League National Division, Kendall-Upson repeated as champions, earning the privilege of having the team's name forever etched in the trophy shown above.

The trophy is now owned by Dan Rehm, a Sacramento native, who inherited the collector's item from his father Bob Rehm, who served as the team's batboy that season. His uncle "Murph" Rehm--the team's manager--presented the trophy mounted on the wooden stand with a nameplate inscribed: Bobbie Rehm "My Bat Boy," (from) Uncle Mike "Murph."

The trophy was passed along to the winning team of the National Division each year, and obviously was "retired" in 1934, the property of Kendall-Upson, which is how Murph Rehm acquired it. The previous winners denoted on the trophy followed by the year they won the championship were: Zemansky's 1926 and 1927; Eastern Outfitting 1928; Dante Club 1929; Great Western Power 1930; Capitol Stores, Ltd. 1931; Julius Haberdashery 1932; Kendall-Upson 1933 and 1934.

Below is a newspaper photo of the 1934 champions, which included a future major leaguer Bill Salkeld, then a 17-year-0ld high school catching prospect. Just a few weeks after this photo was taken in March he would sign a contract to play with the hometown Sacramento Solons.

For more on Salkeld's career, read his SABR Bio:  
http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/5bc00ea9

 


09/02/2012

Myril Hoag (Davis, Calif.) and another player from the New York Yankees were accused of one of the most heinous infractions ever lodged in baseball: “indifferent base running.”

The incident occurred on August 5, 1935 at Boston’s Fenway Park in a game pitting the Yankees and Red Sox. In the fifth inning, New York led 8-2 with rain threatening. Showers had already interrupted play in the fourth inning, and with another rainstorm potentially on the way, the two clubs took opposite actions. The Yankees wanted to play five full innings to make it an official contest, while the Red Sox, sensing six runs too much to overcome, wished to stall and cancel the game. Thus, the infractions ensued.

In the top of the fifth, New York’s Ben Chapman doubled with one out. Yankees manager Joe McCarthy, who was ailing that day with a bad cold, knew that Lou Gehrig was suffering another lumbago attack, “which had him crippled and playing under difficulties” reported the New York Times.

McCarthy called on Hoag, his only available bench player, to pinch-hit for Gehrig. But before Hoag could swing the bat, Boston manager Joe Cronin signaled for a new relief pitcher, Gordon “Dusty” Rhodes. When play resumed, Chapman immediately took off for third base with less than stealthy intentions, hoping to be tagged out. Instead, when Red Sox third baseman Bill Werber received the throw from the catcher, he purposefully did not apply the tag, allowing Chapman to take third standing up.

Hoag then singled off Rhodes, driving in Chapman to extend the Yankees’ lead to 9-2.

Cronin changed pitchers once again, in what appeared an obvious stall tactic. With Tony Lazzeri at the plate, and the skies threatening rain, Hoag broke for second in an attempt to be tagged out. But Boston just watched as reached base safely. On Lazzeri’s tapper to the mound, Hoag advanced to third. He then promptly broke for home in a final attempt at being tagged out, but Boston allowed him to score standing up.

Mercifully, the rains came with New York batting in the sixth inning. The game was called and the Yankees were awarded the 10-2 victory. The result gave Charley “Red” Ruffing—a former Red Sox pitcher—his ninth victory on the year, and extended Gehrig’s consecutive games streak at 1,597.

But the display of poor sportsmanship did not go unnoticed.

One week later, American League President William Harridge blasted both managers and several players and for employing “stalling” tactics and other questionable actions. Harridge fined McCarthy and Cronin $100 each and chastised Chapman and Hoag for “indifferent base running” and Werber for intentionally avoiding to apply the tag on Chapman at third.

“The actions of both teams is highly reprehensible and a gross imposition to the fans who had paid their money with the expectation of witnessing a major league ballgame,” AL President Harridge was quoted.

Hoag, who played 13 seasons in the big leagues, won four world series championships during his seven years on the Yankees. In the 1938 World Series against Chicago, Hoag played against three Cubs players from the greater Sacramento area: Joe Marty, Frank Demaree and Stan Hack, who was voted #1 on our All-Time Top 50 Players list.

 

08/20/12

As a kid growing up watching the Game of the Week, and listening to Giants game at night on the radio, my favorite umpire was Augie Donatelli. Simply because of the mellifluous last name, I suppose.

augie

His name came up recently after watching a fascinating documentary called “The Curious Case of Curt Flood.” Flood, as you may recall, challenged major league baseball’s “reserve clause” in court. His case was eventually heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld the “reserve clause” and denied Flood the freedom to choose which team he wished to play for. In 1970, the St. Louis Cardinals had traded flood to Philadelphia, but Flood refused to report. Flood is generally viewed as a trailblazer in the mode of his hero, Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier. Flood succeeded in raising awareness for the player’s union, and its desire to rescind the reserve clause and earn players the right to free agency.

All of that preamble is simply to set up the documentary, which also showed how Flood was a great player. He earned seven consecutive Gold Glove awards from 1963 to 1969 as the center fielder for the Cardinals, which appeared in three World Series and took home two championship trophies (1964, 1967).

During the section on the Cardinals’ Game 7 victory in the 1967 World Series the documentary showed the team celebrating around their hero, pitcher Bob Gibson. As the fielders jumped in a circle around the pitcher’s mound, I spotted something unusual occur on the periphery of their circle. And it was gone in a flash.

Replaying the video, I spotted an umpire charging in from the left side of the diamond, swoop in and snatch the cap off of a Cardinals’ player. As he was running away, the ump looked back, raised the hand with a cap, as if to signal to the player “Thanks for the souvenir.” And he ran out of the frame.

Imagine, an umpire stealing a player’s cap in plain view of the 35,188 Fenway Park fans, plus a nationwide audience watching on television.


augie cards caps

Associated Press photo of Donatelli running off with Cardinals caps
after the Game 7 1967 World Series victory.



I re-ran the footage again and noticed this time that when the umpire raced in he was already holding one Cardinals cap in his left hand (shortstop Dal Maxvill had already lost his hat near the infield grass). So, he made off with two. In the replay, I spotted the player’s number 25: second baseman, Julian Javier.

After a little more digging I found this story was no secret. In fact, the Associated Press ran a photo of the umpire running off with Javier’s cap in its story that day. The culprit? You guessed it, Augie Donatelli, who was the third base umpire that afternoon.

A Los Angeles Times reporter asked Donatelli in 1987 about the incident. “It was just a spur-of-the-moment thing,” said Donatelli, who at the time was an umpiring consultant for the National League. “The one fellow's cap was falling off, and I just kind of grabbed it (Maxvill). And then I reached in and grabbed another.”

Asked for his reaction Gary Darling, Sacramento’s lone representative among today’s major league umpires, admitted he had never heard the story. “I'm sure MLB wouldn't be thrilled if one of us scooped up a player’s hat or any other equipment,” he said. “I doubt any of our guys would even consider it.”

Darling, who is president of the board of UMPScare, noted that Donatelli had umpired in the big leagues for 24 years and appeared in five World Series. He also pointed out Augie spent 15 months in a German prisoner of war camp during World War II. The Blue Crew brethren is a tight bunch.

Donatelli also was known for another unusual World Series moment that involved a Sacramento-related player.

Ten years before the cap snatching incident, in the 10th inning of Game 4

solons

Solons President Eddie Mulligan (left) with Nippy Jones who had three different stints with Sacramento.

of the 1957 World Series home plate umpire Donatelli called a close pitch to Milwaukee Braves pinch-hitter Nippy Jones a ball. Jones vehemently objected, claiming the baseball had hit his shoe. He convinced Donatelli to check and sure enough, the umpire found a black smudge on the ball and awarded Jones first base. A pinch runner scored the game-tying run and the Braves won both the game and the series from the New York Yankees.

A native southern Californian, Sacramento had adopted Jones after playing for the Solons from 1953 through early ’57, when the Braves purchased his contract. He had also played for the Solons in 1943 when Sacramento was affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals organization.

After the '57 World Series, the Braves released Jones, who played two more seasons for the Solons and finished up his playing career with the Portland Beavers in 1960. He retired in Sacramento and lived the rest of his life here.

And the two Cardinals caps pilfered by Donatelli that day? Still a mystery.

 

Thanks to roundballroundbat.com which contributed to this report .

06/23/12

Philadelphia’s recent signing of Jesuit shortstop Zach Green (picked in the 3rd Round) is reminiscent of the Larry Bowa story. 

 

Both made their mark around town at shortstop and signed with the same team. But the similarities pretty much end there.

Green Scores Snarls
Zach Green snarling after scoring the go-ahead run for Jesuit in the top of the seventh inning against Pleasant Grove.

Green, who started at shortstop all three years at Jesuit, was twice selected All-Metro by the Bee and All-Capitol Team by BaseballSacramento.com. He played nationally on competitive travel teams and starred on the 16U USA National team. He was rewarded for his years of hard work by being selected in the third round of the 2012 MLB draft. He received a bonus of $420,000 from the Phillies, plus big money for college.

 

Bowa not only wasn’t drafted out of high school, he never played one inning of varsity ball at McClatchy (the theories vary on why he was passed over (To read them in last year’s Spotlight feature go here).

 
He played two years at Sacramento City College, making All-Conference in 1965. That summer, he was passed over in the first-ever MLB First-Year Player Draft. But Larry wouldn’t be denied.


At that point in his fledgling baseball career, he was known as the feisty, temperamental shortstop with the soft hands and still perceived by “baseball men” as no sure bet to make the majors.


One man who remained steadfast in his belief in Bowa was Phillies scout, Eddie Bockman, who passed away nearly one year ago. Bockman played 20 years of professional ball, including a four-year stint in the big leagues with the New York Yankees, Cleveland and Pittsburgh from 1946-1949. He also played for the Sacramento Solons from 1952-1954, which is where he established ties with the Capital City.


Bockman came out to watch Bowa play for the first time at a Julius Winter League game. Around town, Bowa was well known for his hot-headed temper, but on this day, he topped himself by getting thrown out of both ends of the double header for arguing with the umpires. When Bockman filed his report, he said tongue-in-cheek, “I didn’t really see much of him that day.”

 

Bowa_Fielding
Larry Bowa

Undeterred, Bockman pressed the Phillies to consider signing Bowa. According to writer Tracy Ringolsby, he went so far as to show films of Bowa to Phillies executives on a sheet in a hotel room. They relented.

 


When he came to the Bowa family house that evening, Bockman told Larry to fetch something from the glove box of his car. Bowa of course knew what it was and raced to the vehicle. He returned with a contract that included a $2,000 bonus. Despite protestations from his father, Paul Bowa, a former St. Louis Cardinals’ farmhand, who advised him to hold out for a larger sum, Larry signed.

 
He told his parents he wanted to start his pro career immediately. His mother Mary asked what made him think he could make it.

I'm going to make it, there is no doubt," Larry told his mother. "I'm going to play in the big leagues.

He did.

After three years in Philadelphia’s minor league system, he debuted in 1970 as the Phillies starting shortstop, garnering a third-place finish in Rookie of the Year Award voting. He played 16 seasons in the majors, made All-Stars three times and culminated his career in Philadelphia with a World Series ring in 1980.

In the All-Time Top 50, Bowa was tabbed the third best player from Sacramento.

To achieve his dream, Zach Green might borrow from Larry Bowa's playbook, especially the dog-eared pages on self-confidence and tenacity.

 Uploaded 09/28/14
All contents © Rick Cabral 2012

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