Thursday, June 21, 2018

Calling for Help on a Land Line

Louise Lasser on the phone as Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman

Calling for Help

On a Land Line

by Jamie Jobb

This is the caption for a video that runs here
on The Internet Archive, the library of the Internet.
(the scene runs eight minutes, 17 seconds)

"Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" was a broadcasting breakthrough created by Norman Lear and his team in the 1970s for a late night network that snubbed the three-network rule of the time. Lear's "network" had only one show, five nights a week for 30 minutes each night.

Lear relied on word-of-mouth to create an audience that understood the sensational absurdly satiric sendup of daytime soap operas. But the show wasn't always funny as it played out slowly through each scene. Some scenes were brutally futile fare for the tame late-night home entertainment of this time before VCRs and HBO.

Louise Lasser played Mary Hartman and her reputation as Woody Allen's costar and soulmate helped build a loyal audience.  But what propelled the word-of-mouth were the ridiculous story lines.

Woeful as Mary's plight seems as presented in this scene, it fails to account for further woes involving her neighborhood teenaged mass murder, slaughtered goats and chickens, getting tied up with a cop in a Chinese laundry, overtures to open marriage and S.T.E.T., getting the brushoff from the Lackawanda Institute and an eight-year-old evangelist, not to mention Coach Fedders and the chicken soup!

No ... Mary's troubles are so overflowing she barely knows where to begin seeking help. Fortunately, Mary had a land line in her kitchen which connects her to the Help Line Lady.

Veteran tv actor Beverly Sanders plays the Help Line Lady in this scene. Sanders was born in Hollywood and destined for a long career as a tv actor herself. This is a nice scene for young actors to study, if only for clues of comic timing.

Also note each actor is acting without another actor present in her shot, so it's a different kind of "listening"

... For further research, see Sanford Meisner:

This episode, No. 106, aired on 31 May 1976.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Henry Keeps Score

Henry’s scorebook shows Vallejo’s four-run first inning

Henry Keeps Score

by Jamie Jobb

With no programs available and the scoreboard ignoring balls and strikes, Martinez Clippers baseball fans had their work cut out for them as the home squad lost all four games of its inaugural home-stand last weekend at Joe DiMaggio Field 3.

For the most part fans understood their need for patience, knowing Martinez fielded this paraprofessional team from scratch in only eight weeks – after months of negotiations among team owners, City Hall and the Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs, an independent hardball league unattached to MLB.

This weekend, the outmoded softball scoreboard (expected to be replaced soon) could only indicate inning number and current score – which eventually was most unkind to the team now calling refurbished Waterfront Park “home”.

In a pair of two-game series, the Clippers got crushed by Sonoma’s Stompers and dismissed by Vallejo’s Admirals for a combined score of 52-24. After four games, Martinez is alone in the cellar, the only team in the league without a win, while the Admirals sit atop Monday’s standings, unbeaten at 4-0. Sonoma finished the weekend 2-2.

Two of the Clipper losses were tight games with Sonoma winning 12-9 Friday night and Vallejo winning 13-8 on Saturday. If nothing else, the Clippers proved they are a gritty bunch in their spanking-new all-white home uniforms.

Vallejo returns to town for Saturday and Sunday games again this weekend while the new Napa Silverados come to town for games Thursday and Friday nights in the first meeting of these Pacific Association expansion teams.

* * *

Henry in "The Catbird Seat" with scorebook in press box

Martinez’ new paraprofessional team harkens back to days a century ago when scores of local baseball clubs flourished in an area now dominated by Athletics and Giants branding. In those days local leagues were also organized in refineries and other industrial workplaces along the Contra Costa shoreline.

Baseball has moved on, in other words. And so it was that nine-year-old Henry Cao went to the new ballyard with friends on Saturday night, then returned with us Sunday for the Clippers first-ever day game. My wife is Henry’s tutor and we knew about the scoreboard issue. But we also know Henry is good at math, so we figured he could use a scorebook to follow the game.

Most baseball writers – and a lot of serious fans – keep a scorebook as they track their team’s progress through the season. Scorekeeping is a traditional skill that acknowledges the statistical roots of the National Pastime. The scorecard is the chart that leads to a speedy assembly of the game’s final box score.

Scoring is the fan’s game,” writes Paul Dickson in The Joy of Keeping Score. “It does not belong to the owners, players, their union or Major League Baseball. It is literally ours.”

Henry stumps Clipper fan engagement guru Brent Martin

For his first time as a scorekeeper, Henry had the luck of a charmed quark Sunday. As soon as he walked through the gate, Henry was approached by a good-looking tall guy with a beard and a portable microphone. The man is Clippers coordinator of fan engagement Brent Martin whose job is to bring folks onto the field for a bit of fun and mirth between innings.

Martin loves to work with kids and his job was very easy opening night when the ballpark was sold out and full of youngsters who got in free wearing their youth league uniforms. But Sunday afternoon, that deal was off and few children were among the 100 in attendance, so Martin asked Henry onto the field to announce the rally call for ballparks everywhere: “Play ball!”

Henry took the microphone and gave it his best shout, although clearly he’d not rehearsed for his moment of public address. Throughout home games, Martin peppers fans with trivial pursuits – guessing the price of concession stand items or what’s skipper Chris Decker’s favorite holiday. Or he runs young fans in spinning-dizzy sackless sack-races. He even engaged a pair of teenaged boys Sunday to race to first base in hula skirts!

Henry sits between official scorekeeper (L) and podcasters

Vallejo Admiral podcaster Scott Armstrong noticed Henry was keeping score – while sitting in the sun and wilting in the 94-degree heat. So between the second and third innings, Armstrong invited the boy to the press box to sit in the shade with both teams podcast crews, the radar-gun guy, and Official Scorer Jack Higgins who was more than willing to let Henry occupy the vacant seat next to him.

There, Henry could learn right away if a play had been ruled a “wild pitch” (wp) or a “passed ball” (pb) and scored an error charged either to the pitcher or the catcher. Higgins also helped the boy score odd plays like a Clippers pick-off of a slow Admiral baserunner … 9-to-6-to-4 … catching a runner off second base. (This basic ball code will be explained shortly for those who do not know it.)

Higgins is a right-handed pitcher himself, a junior on the San Francisco State squad where he learned to keep team scorecards and stat sheets in the dugout. He considers himself self-taught and he was more than willing to help Henry teach himself how to fill in his own book as the game dragged on.

It’s kinda hard to do,” Henry said. “But when you start, you’ll get better!”

Henry plays third base for the Dodgers in Martinez Youth League. He’s new to the game, so he’s just getting used to The Hot Corner. In fact, he didn’t even know about that jargon before Sunday. But, now sitting in The Catbird Seat, as Red Barber used to say, Henry had the whole field in front of him, shade over his head and his ears were listening to TWO play-by-play callers.

It’s a safe bet that no other Clipper fan in the ballpark was having this much fun keeping track of what’s happening on the field.

* * *

Clipper catcher Wilkyns Jimenez donates his broken bat

Henry’s biggest treat of the day arrived when Higgins suggested that the boy ask for the broken bat of Clipper catcher Wilkyns Jimenez, who had two passed balls during the game which Higgins officially recorded and Henry dutifully marked in his scorebook.

The catcher broke the bat in the bottom of the ninth on a foul ball, before walking to score the Clippers’ fifth and final run.

Jimenez also had the assignment of catching Clipper knuckleball reliever Colin Moberly, who had struck out ten batters in eight innings of relief in the first two games.

A six-foot-two, 215-pound catcher from Falcon Venezuela, Jimenez can seem quite imposing for a four-foot-one, 64-pound third baseman. But Henry walked up to the Clipper dugout after the game and asked through the fence if he could have Wilkyns’ broken bat. The catcher brought it out, gave it to Henry and posed for a picture.

After Jimenez returned to the clubhouse, Henry said “He’s huge!”

In addition to his scorebook, Henry also took home three foul balls, a league schedule brochure and his broken bat.

After the game, the lucky boy said keeping score is “kinda easy” and he will “probably” keep up his scorebook for games he sees in person. His only complaint on the day:

I don’t like the ump. He’s calling the wrong strikes!”

* * *

Official Scorekeeper Jack Higgins shows Henry his book

How to Keep Score: Baseball is the most statistically telling occupation anyone would ever face regarding performance evaluation. A player can be known to hit .346 as a right-handed batter in night games in the rain in American League ballparks in September. For example. No other job withstands such statistical scrutiny. And all the statistics are filtered through the scorebook. Keeping score involves knowing this code:

1. Players have numbers based on their defensive position on the field 1) pitcher; 2) catcher; 3) first base; 4) second base; 5) third base, 6) shortstop; 7) left field; 8) center field; 9) right field.

2. Every at-bat by each player gets recorded in a box based on the team’s batting order that day. The code for these results (“hr” for “home run”, etc.) is listed in the front of most scorebooks and on the charts themselves.

3. At the end of the game, each player’s performance gets totaled on the page – setting down the new stats for that game.

* * *

Don’t pester the talent. A local elected official (not connected to City Hall) was among the 500 in attendance opening night and found himself quite full of inspiration from Five Sons brewers who had a booth offering their local beers on tap.  He was particularly pickled late in the game when most everyone had gone home.

Said public official had been hounding the opposing Stompers verbally, although he’d been picking on one in particular, catcher Daniel Comstock … using the old ballpark slur of pathetically exaggerating the player’s name: “Danny! Danny! ... Danny Boy!”

Some fans never learn! At the crack of the bat, it was clear that Danny’s line drive to left would clear the short 300-foot fence, scoring two more runs and putting the public official back into his seat where he remained silent for the rest of the contest. 

* * *

Pacific Association fans can follow their home team on podcasts and on line.

Keep up with the current scores and stats:

Friday, May 25, 2018

Why Joe Left Town

Although his father and brothers were fisherman, Joe DiMaggio could only fake it.
(posed publicity photo courtesy Julian Frazer)

Why Joe Left Town

by Jamie Jobb

Before he turned three years old, Joe DiMaggio and his family had left Martinez for good. Joe often returned to the town of his birth after he retired from baseball, but San Francisco gets to call itself Joe’s hometown. That’s where Joe and his brothers Vincent and Dominic learned the ropes of professional baseball.

If they’d remained in Martinez, fishing knots would have been the only ropes the DiMaggio boys would have known. Papa didn’t like his sons wasting time playing ball. But few people realize the real reason the DiMaggios had to leave Martinez in the first place.

Their move was the result of an odd accident involving a passing train and Joe’s sister, Frances DiMaggio, who was seven at the time.

The DiMaggios – father Giuseppe and mother Rosalie along with their nine children – lived in a small house at the base of Island Hill at the foot of Grangers Wharf on Foster Street near where Barrellesa crosses the railroad tracks. The house no longer remains, but it’s marked by an historic placard.

Like other Sicilian-American children in the neighborhood at that time, the DiMaggios were accustomed to playing on and around the railroad tracks that ran less than a block from their house. One day young Frances was playing there when she was hit in the eye by a sudden piece of hot charcoal from a passing steam locomotive.

The damage to her eye was so severe that inexperienced local doctor Edwin Merrithew, M.D., could do little more than treat her with bandages in Martinez. Merrithew was known as “Il Dottore del Dichu” – or “the Doctor of The Ditch” – which referred to Alhambra Creek, where no other doctor in town would venture.

So Rosalie had to take her child to San Francisco for proper ocular health care. Bridges to the city would not be build for another two decades, so Frances and her mother had to ferry to the City. That was not an easy commute in 1917.

After a while, those transbay trips became so burdensome that Rosalie convinced her husband to move the family to North Beach where he and his sons could still maintain their fishing boats in Fishermans Wharf from their apartment on Taylor Street.

Little did these parents realize how much The National Pastime would affect their younger sons once they started playing hardball in their fields of dreams on San Francisco streets.

* * *

Ya Gotta Believe!”

Another famous big leaguer, New York Met reliever Tug McGraw, also grew up in Martinez. But Tug’s legacy doesn’t hold the water that the Yankee Clipper held. For one thing, McGraw was born in 1944 and belonged to a generation of ballplayers far removed from the heyday of DiMaggio, Ruth and Shoeless Joe.

McGraw’s dad was know as “Big Mac”, so his mother knew their son needed a nickname. She decided to call him “Tug” because of his particularly aggressive way of breast feeding. The McGraws left Martinez before Tug entered high school, so he never got to play for the Alhambra High Bulldogs.

McGraw is most remembered for minting the phrase “Ya Gotta Believe” – which became the rallying cry for the once hapless Mets as he became the National League’s top closer in the early 1970s.

Tug’s catchphrase might be something Martinez Clippers would want to try as their rallying cry! At least they could claim that the expression has a somewhat local pedigree!

* * *

Martinez author Jamie Jobb has written a play, “Joe Fish Ties the Knot” or “Last Gillnet on Grangers Wharf”, which assumes a guy named Joe never left his hometown, particularly after he met the girl of his dreams named Norma Jean. In this what-if story, Jobb further assumes Norma Jean never knew Hollywood and Joe never played baseball. She worked in the cannery and Joe toughed out his living on a Monterey Clipper hauling in salmon stuck in gillnets.

The play will be read as part of the Dramatists Guild “Footlight Series” on September 1 in San Francisco. For more information, contact: 925 723-1782.

* * *


Joe DiMaggio – The Hero’s Life by Richard Ben Cramer. 2000. Simon & Schuster, New York. p. 18

When's a Clipper Not a Clipper?

Last Monterey Clipper in Martinez at Eagle Marine
(iPhoto by Jamie Jobb)

When’s a Clipper

Not a Clipper?

Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?
A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.”
                                                        – Paul Simon

By Jamie Jobb

Baseball recalls Giuseppe Paolo DiMaggio as “Joltin’ Joe” but he was also famously known as “The Yankee Clipper”. Understanding this background is key to any baseball fan comprehending the significance of that name as it applies to the Martinez Clippers, the new Pacific Association ballclub which plays the Sonoma Stompers in its inaugural game here tomorrow night.

In the 1930s, windy New York sportswriters considered DiMaggio as speedy and graceful in center field as a 19th Century “clipper ship” was on the horizon. Like Joe’s gliding outfield strides that smothered line drives – these tall-masted sailing vessels were capable of making the world’s difficult waters ride easy.

At the time, tall ships had not been seen on the docks of New York City and San Francisco for half a century. But readers knew what the sportswriters meant when they hung that antique maritime nickname onto the lofty Yank.

They thought the term “clipper” honored the man’s fishing heritage. However, the sporting scribes were referring to exactly the wrong “clipper”! “Tall ships” – indeed!

Although his father and older brothers – not to mention their Sicilian ancestors – were commercial fishermen, Joe DiMaggio detested that immigrant lifestyle.  He was lucky to get wrapped up in the national pastime after his family moved from Martinez to San Francisco’s North Beach. Originally these relocated Sicilians fished like their ancient Roman and Greek ancestors – from traditional “feluccas” powered by oar and a single sail known as a “lateen”. The fishing life was not easy on these slow boats.

Eventually, the DiMaggios became professional enough to fish local waters in “Monterey Clippers”. Oddly enough, these low boats had replaced actual tall Clipper ships on the docks of Martinez before the demise of Contra Costa’s grain farms which originally fed Grangers Wharf with wheat bound for Europe.

Monterey Clippers were slow two-man vessels powered by clunky one-stroke motors made and serviced in Benicia. These working wooden fishing boats required constant maintenance and were used by Italian fishermen to set their gillnets, also high-maintenance tools of their trade. A well-preserved fleet of Monterey Clippers still floats in San Francisco Bay, mostly to benefit tourists visiting Fisherman’s Wharf.

Martinez writer Harlan Bailey, a respected fisher poet and salmon fisherman, also believes the term “clipper” was used to describe the unique cut of the bow of these ships, a sharply angled curve climbing quickly out of the water. It “clips” through the water. Bailey points out that the clipper ships of yore had the same cut bow as the Monterey clippers.

Confounding things further is the fact that upon his retirement, the New York Yankees gave their “Clipper” an inboard Chris Craft Cruiser called “The Joltin’ Joe”. Forget the sportswriters, what part of “tall ships” did the Yanks not understand?!?

Joe’s pleasure craft suffered from years of neglect on the local waterfront, but was carefully restored over a period of several months by Sons of Italy and other volunteers for the Hometown Hero Project, which expects to display the refurbished Joltin’ Joe at Clipper home games this season. The last Monterey Clipper residing in Martinez is also out of water – in dry-dock at Eagle Marine.

Public Works Superintendent Bob Cellini with Joe DiMaggio’s restored Chris Craft pleasure boat
(photo by Jamie Jobb)

* * *

Thanks for assistance in research: Harlan Bailey, Julian Frazer and Bob Cellini.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Vernacular Bagmen & Their Ballyard Jargon

Vernacular Bagmen &

Their Ballyard Jargon

by Jamie Jobb

It’s long past time for local baseball fans to update their flashcards, as the Martinez Clippers prepare to pop the cork on their inaugural season in the Pacific Association of Profession Baseball Clubs Thursday (May 31) in newly refurbished Waterfront Park.

On these days before opening night, we conclude our brief crash course in grass-roots baseball jargon. The goal is to help fans comprehend any strange words or other unique catchphrases hurled by these “boys of summer” as they claw through the first season in their spanking new Carquinez Strait ballyard -- until further notice known as “Joe DiMaggio Field Three”.

DISCLAIMER: There are no actual guarantees that players on the Clipper roster will use any of the following arcane expressions on opening night. Indeed, the young team is still trying to figure how to fit catcher Alex Oleszkowicz’s name onto the back of his uniform!

It’s quite probable the Clippers will arrive in town with their own odd way of expressing themselves. After all, this is Martinez – a First Amendment Sister City – and while skipper Chris Decker’s crew may be a bunch of untested rookies, they’ll soon learn that oldtimers around here have their own peculiar way of paraphrasing things. 

Stenciled graffito on old Martinez Train Station - 2017
(iPhone photo by Jamie Jobb)

* * *

The first Eephus Hurler

Eephus ain’t nothing

But a Wild Soft Ball

An “Eephus” is a loopy junk pitch which traces its name back to Biblical times, although its baseball derivation is likewise fabled. The word “efes” is a Hebrew expression that basically means “zero” or “nothing”, but it can also be used to mean “loser”. That’s why pitchers so often avoid this pitch.

Seldom seen in actual games, an Eephus pitch mimics a change-up in that it relies on a surprise delivery and is only thrown in certain gamer situations to catch hitters off guard, causing them to wildly swing and miss. Although it’s not delivered underhand, in flight the ball looks more like a softball pitch.

An Eephus ball is characterized by its very low velocity and its wicked backspin. That’s why it’s also called a “slowball” – one that flutters down onto the batters box, enticing a hitter to swing early.

It’s worth noting that an Eephus should not be confused with a “knuckleball”, which is also characterized by its slow but low arch toward the plate. However, a pitcher can throw a knuckler repeatedly because its flight is so erratic hitters are often baffled. Even the catcher is unsure where any “knuckler” will end up after it leaves the mound!

The main reason an Eephus pitch seldom gets thrown in games is simple: it’s murder on a defense when a hitter clocks wise to the timing of the ball. Kinda like batting practice. Ted Williams notoriously knocked his second of two consecutive Eephus pitches into the seats for a three-run eighth-inning homer in the 1946 All Star Game.

The first major leaguer to hurl an Eephus was Pittsburgh Pirate Rip Sewell – the same guy who served up Ted’s gopher ball, although nobody called it by that name until Rip’s teammate Maurice Van Robays concocted the term. “Eephus ain’t nothing,” he said. “And that’s what that ball is.”

That whole heap of “nothing” only transpired after Sewell applied two loads of buckshot to his big toe in a hunting accident before Christmas, 1941. The toe was attached to Sewell’s right foot which pushed off against the rubber on every pitch. That freak injury forced the right-hander to adjust his throwing motion, eventually leading him to his blooper pitch which caused less pain in the foot on the mound.

In the early 1940s, Sewell relied on his Eephus to craft twin 21-win seasons. He also pitched in four consecutive All-Star games. No other big league pitcher has been able to use Eephus to such dramatic effect. And, it can be surmised, that no other pitcher would ever want to retrace Sewell’s odd outdoorsman's method of achieving success with such a goofball!

* * *

Twangy Bats &

Banjo Hitters

Martinez is a musicians hangout with live music on live stages most nights of the week around town. Armando’s, our eclectic music hall down by the tracks, has a national reputation and often features outstanding talent, including a band with seven banjos!

Baseball does not shy away from its own musical references. And while a banjo is quite useful as a tool to enliven music halls, it’s quite another thing to bring such an instrument with you when you step up to home plate.

A “banjo hitter” lacks punch or power in the batters box, so he usually knocks “Texas League” bloop singles into the shortfields – just beyond the reach of any infielder or outfielder. Or he knocks infield “scratch hits”, “slap hits” or “punch hits”. Or maybe sometimes a surprise “drag bunt”. The point is the batter swings with easy restraint, just enough to get the ball in play somewhere -- anywhere! This is otherwise known as “Hit ‘em where they ain’t!”

The term “banjo hitter” originated for purely sonic reasons – players recalling the sound such a hit makes when ball makes contact with bat to an accompanying country twang.  It remains to be seen if the Clippers develop a team with at least one such sagacious hitter. If they do, you can expect that hitter to also be swift afoot.

* * *

Paint The Black

Any contending ball club needs great pitching. And it helps to have one or two “aces” who can “paint the black”. This term is often tossed between catchers and pitchers. It refers to the black trim around home plate.

These black marks help umpires determine the edges of home in their peripheral vision. A pitcher who “paints the black” is someone who can throw strikes on the extreme right and left sides of the plate. But if a pitcher can’t get these tough inside/outside strikes, batters eventually end up collecting “bags” or “sacks” which sometimes leads to “runs”!

* * *

Around the Horn

A baseball goes “around the horn” after a pitcher’s last warmup toss, or after a strikeout with the bases empty for the first or second out of an inning. The term may also be applied to double or triple plays. “Around the horn” is such a ritual, most infielders participate without thinking much about it.

The term recalls a time long before air flight, when transcontinental travel was long and arduous – like sailing around Africa via Cape Horn, also known to weary steamship travelers as “around The Horn”.

For anyone keeping score, an “around-the-horn” ball often goes “2-to-5-to-6-to-4” – from catcher to third base to shortstop to second base around the infield. This is baseball body language for the defensive team, visibly demonstrating that it is opposed to forward movement of any baserunners, who all must run counter clockwise – against the grain of this basic infielders ritual.

* * *


Ten Bucks for One Field of Dreams

Big League sluggers Babe Ruth and Shoeless Joe Jackson

Ten Bucks for One

Field of Dreams


A Brief History of Pro Ball
in Contra Costa County

by Jamie Jobb

Bush League” – Also see “Bush-leaguers”. Adj.
1) Below good standards, not good or incorrect.
Pitiful, poor, terrible, awful, bad …

Some folks toss out the term “semi-professional baseball” to describe teams like the neophyte Martinez Clippers – hoping to distinguish top-salaried Big League pros from gig ballplayers who play the game for grins and stipends.

But the Clippers don’t care to be known as a “semi-pro” team, and who could blame them? The new local nine consider themselves part of “an independent league” ranked at a “high single-A minor league level” – although the six-team Pacific Association is not connected in any way with Major League Baseball® and its full multitude of contract players, impartial umpires, licensed brands and dedicated minions decorated in team swag.

Paraprofessional baseball is nothing new to Contra Costa. Many so-called “semi-pro” teams existed throughout the county, particularly around the turn of the Twentieth Century and well into the World War years. Like Vaudeville, these ball clubs began to fade away with the advent of television and stay-at-home families diverted by other “post-war” pastimes. Some of them downgraded into adult recreational softball leagues open to anyone who could regularly show up for games.

Urban sophisticates called these underpaid players “bush-leaguers” – implying they were lost in The Sporting Outback somewhere south of Down Under. The term also applied to any minor league team not within the “Big Leagues”.

But on these underfunded local teams, a self-certain attitude always persisted – “If-you-build-it-they-will-come”. Indeed three of these 20th Century “Field-of-Dreams” ballparks have survived to this very day – and that’s half of the Pacific Association’s venues. The Vallejo Admirals still use that town’s charming old wooden ballyard in Wilson Park, the San Rafael Pacifics call venerable Albert Park home and the Sonoma Stompers use Arnold Field just a short walk north of the town square.

* * *

In the old days, if your team couldn’t afford the luxury of a neighborhood ballyard, it used a convenient farmer’s field. Curious, isn’t it, that ballyards are often called “fields” to acknowledge the sport’s grass-roots? “Once in a while,” wrote Nilda Rego, “the farmer would want his field back and the team would have to move.”

Port Costa (current population 228) once was a major West Coast deep-water port that supported teams known as the Tigers, the Wild Cats and the Bull Valleys. In the 1920s, the growing towns of Concord, Pittsburg, Antioch, Richmond joined with Martinez to field semi-pro teams in the Three C League. A hundred years ago, Pacheco (current population 3,685) cheered for its All-Stars.

Rego in her 1988 Contra Costa Times article – “The national pastime was once a local obsession” – quotes Ernie Mangini whose father played for those Pacheco Stars:

You brought in a pitcher, paid him ten dollars. That was big money.”

Rego also wrote that in the 1930s “every major manufacturing plant in the county seemed to have a baseball team”. And plant managers were always scouting for potential employees who also were productive on the basepaths. Shell Oil,
and Union 76 fielded rival teams in the Refinery League. Then, as now, players had colorful names – Louis Ferreira, Poly Northcutt, Coco Commuzzi.

Martinez historian Tom Greerty recalls the Refinery League was filled with a lot of former major leaguers who played “really good baseball”. And they “got paid” for playing ball at night by working for Shell in the daytime.

It was a way to get a good job,” Greerty said. “The refineries were always looking for a worker who could play second base.”

* * *

Thanks to Harriett Burt and Tom Greerty; Andrea Blachman and Richard Patchin at the Martinez Museum; Priscilla Couden and Maxine Brown at the Contra Costa History Center for all their help is preparing this brief report.

* * *

Days Gone By, Vol. 1” by Nilda Rego. Available at the Contra Costa History Museum.