History, San Luis Obispo County, Santa Barbara County, Uncategorized, Ventura County

Local authors chronicle area’s unique baseball history

A New York Giant’s game 100 years ago in downtown Oxnard. Babe Ruth hits home run out of a Santa Barbara park. And an all-female softball team also from Santa Barbara confronting strict cultural roles in 1945. These are just some of the stories featuring our ‘National Pastime’ in books written by local authors.

It’s 1912, and thousands of sports fans fill the stands to watch an exhibition game between the New York Giants and the Chicago White Sox.

This might sound like an Major League Baseball game being played at a stadium in the big city, but this match actually took place at a baseball field right in the heart of Oxnard.

This memorable game is just one of many featured by local author Jeffrey Wayne Maulhardt in two books, Baseball in Ventura and The Day the New York Giants Came to Oxnard.

These books, along with Mexican American Baseball in the Central Coast by Richard A. Santillan, are part of a must-read collection for anyone interested in the history of baseball in the 805 region, especially early history.

The “First Nine” in Ventura to Babe Ruth’s homer in Santa Barbara

In Baseball in Ventura County, Maulhardt takes readers back to 1847 when the New York Volunteer Regiment stationed in Santa Barbara batted around a cowhide-covered ball with a stick made from a mesquite branch.

Twenty-six years later, the original “First Nine” team, captained by newspaperman Ed Sheridan, played their first baseball game on Nov. 29, 1873 at the foot of Palm Street in Ventura.

Many photos are included of the early baseball teams and players, as well as the fun stories behind their rivalries.

Maulhardt writes about the local players, such as Charley “Clolo” Hall, who was the first Ventura County player to make a paying career out of baseball by reaching the major leagues. (He pitched for the Cincinnati Reds in 1906.)

And, also featured is a visit to the area by Babe Ruth, who ended up hitting a home run out of Pershing Park in Santa Barbara.

Probably one of the most famous local players featured prominently in the book is Ventura-native Fredrick Snodgrass, who made his debut with the New York Giants in 1908.

Fred Snodgrass (Photo courtesy of the George Grantham Bain Collection)

(Snodgrass would make the infamous error in the final game of 1912 World Series that cost the Giants the World championship against the Boston Red Sox.)

Oxnard’s day in baseball history

Snodgrass was instrumental in bringing the touring Giants and White Sox to Oxnard for what was an exhibition game, but turned into one of the biggest events the city had seen. (Snodgrass’ ties to Oxnard remained. He ended up moving to the city, where he became mayor in 1937).

Maulhardt’s second book, The Day the New York Giants Came to Oxnard, goes into detail about the city’s preparation for the game and the excitement behind it, play-by-play of the game, and who ultimately was the victor.

Note: The pictures of the game inside the book are fun to see. It’s hard to believe such a big event was held at the Oxnard Athletic Field, later named Haydock Field, off Wooley Road and C Street.

An interesting story is how Maulhardt came to write his books.

While researching at the Ventura County Museum of History and Art about the Oxnard Plain, he said he came across an old photograph, which to his surprise, was of this Giants/White Sox game.

That photo eventually led to him locating Fredrick Snodgrass’ daughter, Betty Snodgrass Garrett, who ended up providing original photos, recordings, and other invaluable documents and mementos from the game.

While researching microfilmed copies of the Oxnard Courier, Maulhardt came across other historical photos of the game. One included his great, great uncle, Dr. A.A. Maulhardt, who served as a local umpire and most likely team doctor for the game.

A Mexican American baseball tribute

In Mexican American Baseball in the Central Coast, Santillan (along with co-authors Christopher Docter, Anna Bemudez, Eddie Navarro, and Alan O’Connor) focuses on the baseball images and stories of Mexican American neighborhoods in the Central Coast.

The book chronicles early teams, such as the Fillmore Merchants, who played games from Santa Barbara to Mexico around 1920-30 and had a reputation as a top club in Southern California.

Santillan writes that most Mexican families lived in barrios, and many men during their leisure hours turned to baseball, a sport they played in Mexico. When Mexican contract laborers (braceros) arrived in Ventura County in 1940s, discrimination intensified, but baseball seemed to be an escape for many.

Included are stories about Woody Ybarra, considered one of the finest local pitchers of the time, but couldn’t play major league baseball because of his ethnicity.

Things would change for Ventura local Charley Hall, a young man of Mexican descent who ended up playing for the Boston Red Sox between 1909-1913 (Very cool fact from the book: Charley won the first game ever played at Fenway Park, and set the record for most consecutive wins at 16, a record that still stands today!)

There are also stories about Rudy Salvador Martinez of Lompoc, who pitched the first game in the 1956 Olympics, and Jesse Orosco of Santa Barbara, who was part of the 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers World Series team.

A pleasant surprise in the book: The many stories and pictures of all-female teams that played over the years in the Central Coast, including the Rock-Etts, a Santa Barbara-based softball team in 1945. Many of those teams were just as competitive as their male counterparts.

As noted in the book: “For women, softball was a social counterbalance to the strict cultural roles by society.”

(Santillan also wrote a follow-up book called Mexican American Baseball in Ventura County.)

An Amazon review:

“I love it. My grandpa, great uncle, and uncle were all featured in it. It was so awesome to see this little bit of history,” said Christine L. Cook in a review on Amazon.

A video about the book by Arcadia Publishing:

An added note: These books are great guides if you are interested in finding historical points of interest, especially related to baseball. They also feature stories about current baseball players and teams in the Central Coast.

We were able to locate Haydock Field (formerly the Oxnard Athletic Field) at Wooley Road and E Street in Oxnard, where the NY Giants/White Sox game took place in 1912.

We also tried to locate the site of the first baseball game in Ventura County, at the base of Palm Street. We think we found the site, but let us know if we are wrong:

A field at the corner of Palm Street and Main Street in Ventura.

And, online we found a very cool video of an interview with Fredrick Snodgrass:

Who knew there was such great local baseball history? Thanks to all the authors for telling the stories so well.

Have you read these books, or plan on doing so? What is your experience or interest in local baseball? Let us know! 

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