INTRODUCTION TO GOOD OLD SANDLOT DAYS.COM
Welcome aboard this journey back to yesteryear as we recapture a baseball experience from the turn of the last century, including some memorabilia before 1900, through the decade of the seventies. Given the amount of baseball that was played throughout northern California at a time when almost every town on the map had a team, this unique website will provide hours of viewing. Regular updates will be made as new material is received. This website is a not-for-profit undertaking. The website name was chosen because the term sandlot baseball (see photo of converted sandlot in San Francisco) was often used in the newspapers to describe what most participants in the pre and post-World War II era called semi-pro baseball. Sometimes the label of bush league baseball (see "Where the Bushers Play Today" - Sunday bookings by Al Erle in San Francisco newspapers) was used, but given the connotation few players would describe themselves as "bushers". Regardless of the label, the level of non-professional play drew thousands of fans to local parks after church on Sunday afternoons and well before every household had a television. With the arrival of the San Francisco Giants in 1958, the fan base eroded and with many town teams faded away. Today, you will find a number of cities with teams featuring college players who must compete in summer leagues since there are few, if any, travelling teams playing independent games as was the case in yesteryears.
The website contains many elements and for ease of navigation is divided into geographical areas by county so you can locate town teams from the Oregon border to dividing line between northern and southern California. You will find some 1,500 team pictures, most of which at least in the "modern" era have the names of players identified. Hundreds of individuals, including former players and managers, spouses and offspring, have contributed to the website as well as local history museums and historical societies which provided many classic antique photos from the early 1900s. We welcome your assistance in identifying any of the players whose names are currently missing. If you have a team photo or other memorabilia that would be appropriate for the website please contact us.
Looking back, the center of baseball activity before and after World War II was in San Francisco and surrounding bay area cities. Viewers will want to spend some time checking the many tournament programs displayed. At one time there were more than 200 teams playing in San Francisco alone, with as many as three games being scheduled on all of the city diamonds on a given Sunday and often on Saturdays. Since there were not enough fields to accommodate the numbers, many clubs chose to travel to outlying areas with games booked by Al Erle. Three games were played on both diamonds (Graham and Nealon) at Big Rec in Golden Gate Park, with teams vying for the right to play a 2:00 game. Sponsors of these teams from AAA division to Class D included automobile dealerships, restaurants and taverns, industrial plants, district merchants, funeral parlors and other small businesses among the broad mix. This high level of activity was also true for other communities, with Oakland, Alameda, Richmond and San Jose having a long and rich experience as will be evident to the interested viewer. Please be sure to check out the website section showing tournament programs, including Nealon Benefit Games in San Francisco, Oakland Tribune-sponsored tourneys, excerpts from annual National Baseball Congress publications, and other "rare" finds.
It should be noted that during the forties, fifties and sixties many college-age players from the bay area took summer jobs in saw mills and other work places throughout northern California, playing on town teams along with locals who filled most of the positions. The towns of Dunsmuir, Fort Bragg, McCloud and Willits are only a few examples. These were truly the good old days and it didn't matter whether the field had grass as players competed on many "skin" (all dirt) diamonds, some with more rocks than others, an outfield or two that ran uphill or fell off into a ditch. Sometimes special rules were applied to suit the playing conditions, e.g. ground rule double. Some of the finest fields were maintained by the State, including the Veteran's Home in Yountville, former Mendocino State Hospital at Talmage and Napa State Hospital at Imola, all fielding fine teams to entertain those residing in the facility as well as visitors. You will see many pictures of the old ball parks, some with their classic grandstands still in place. Whenever possible we have included photos which help to put the baseball experience in the context of the times. For example, you will see automobiles parked above or near the ball field with some vintage models that would certainly attract many classic car collectors today.
The website contains a section under team photos for Junior American Legion baseball teams, many of which were highly competitive with adult teams of the day. The great tradition of American Legion baseball continues throughout the nation today. In some cases, the local Legion post sponsored the adult town team as was case in Cloverdale and Occidental among other locales. Due to the size of this website we had to establish some parameters at the outset and could not include pictures of high school or college teams. Sometimes the members of a high school team were able to stay together after graduating with the help of a sponsor who paid for uniforms, balls and bats, as well as insurance in some cases. High school stars, college players and ex-pros, who wanted to play a few more years before hanging up their spikes, could be found in the same team lineup. There are too many great stories to share in this introduction. We were fortunate enough to receive a DVD on the history of the Placer-Nevada League called "For the Love of It," as well as video from a private collection with 8-millimeter film having been converted. We hope you enjoy the action.
Thank you for taking the time to recapture the good old sandlot days. We welcome your feedback.