Memories of the Game
Published: July 22, 2009
Exploring Rio Vista’s Past
With Phil Pezzaglia
Rio Vista Baseball: 1919
I have mentioned in past articles that the favorite sport in Rio Vista was the sport of baseball. Why shouldn’t it be, it is considered to be America’s sport of choice, isn’t it? Rio Vista had baseball teams as far back as the early 1890’s. They would engage in games against teams from Antioch, Birds Landing, Collinsville and Suisun. In the years before the Rio Vista Bridge the team would ride on one of the side or rear wheel steamships down to Antioch to participate in a game or like wise the Antioch team would set sail up river. Games played in the city plaza, down on the St. Joseph’s Military Academy field, out by the cannery, and on Wood Island. The excitement for this sport continued through the turn of the century, and for many years past that. In this weeks article we shall look at the couple of practice that led up to the first game of the 1919 Rio Vista baseball season.
As spring was approaching, and the month of March 1919 was well under way, it was evident that the young men of Rio Vista were becoming very eager to start the baseball season. During the recent days the boys and young men of town could be seen practicing out on Wood Island. (Wood Island was located in the middle of the Sacramento River and started just below the Rio Vista Bridge. A future article will discuss, in depth, the history of this island).
Wood Island was an ideal site for a baseball field. It was a natural picnic ground, as well as a perfect location for swimming and boating. Quite a few local townsfolk spent many a day enjoying the recreational aspects of the small island. What was also ideal about this location for playing ball was that you could watch from the bridge, which overlooked the field, just as if you were enjoying grand stand seating.
On a bright sunny, March 16, Sunday after noon some of the old time fans gathered on the Rio Vista Bridge and began to watch as the young men gathered together started some preliminary practices. In amongst the group of players that were arming up that day could be seen, Rio Vista regulars: Art Emigh, “Dutch” Ruman, Emil Freitas and Al Hathaway. Art Emigh, who had been a pitcher in previous seasons, hit balls out to the outfield, never once stepping up to the mount, much to the disappointment of the spectators, on the bridge. Dutch Ruman had held the position of shortstop two years prior on the local team was standing on the mount practicing some pitches. Those who knew Mr. Ruman, and his previous history in baseball described him as “being a wizard at being walked to first”.
Emil Freitas, a local high school student, was found to be on the field, and easily keeping up with the other more seasoned players.
Unfortunately two former Rio Vista baseball players were missing from the practice. Leslie Fraser and Walter Adcock were still both overseas, having been serving in the U.S. forces during the Great World War. But the two men would be playing with the other ball players in just a matter of a few days.
With all of the returning players and the many new talents, that had shown up at the practice Both players and spectators were confident that Rio Vista was going to be able to boast the best ball team on the river, during the upcoming season. One of the ball player’s was quoted as saying that “If we don’t win every game of the season, we will surely put up such an argument of base ball, that the fans will witness a good game for their money”. That was the kind of attitude that the baseball players of town had at that time. They enjoyed the game and they enjoyed watching the fans have a good time.
The next week a number of local citizens once again gathered on the Rio Vista Bridge as well as Wood Island to watch the local men go through their regular practice, once again. However this Sunday afternoon they enjoyed watching as the players divided into two teams and played a scrimmage game with Constable Adcock umpiring. It was a highly spirited game, which ended in a draw. A number of young men had turned out for practice and ended up playing in the game. There were ball players present of all different calibers. Some were semi-professionals, while some were amateurs, which were just eager to play and learn all of the rules.
Many familiar faces were out on the field that day. C. Wadell, known as a pinch hitter, and he wasn’t disappointing anyone while he was seen driving them out. Leslie Fraser was on the field, holding down first base. It had been two years since he had played baseball in Rio Vista. He was one of the young men of town who had served in the U.S. forces fighting overseas in the Great World War. Even with his lack of practice, over the recent years, it was still easy to see that he was still one of the fastest pitchers on the field. George Spreague did a fine job holding down second base, while Alley Charamuga, an up-river high school student, showed up as a promising backstop.
One player who made his way onto the field was Emil Fratis. Emil was their the previous week, but not in uniform. Unfortunately it was apparent that young Mr. Fratis was still growing and since the previous season he had outgrown his uniform. This sight caused many a joke to be sent his way. But he took it in stride and played a fine game.
Those additional players who really stood out during the practice game were Dutch Ruman, Art Emigh, Al Hathaway and a gentleman that went by the moniker of Short Captain.
The first game to be played was scheduled for Sunday April 16, 1919, at 1:30 p.m. It was perceived that a large crowd of fans would be present both on Wood Island, and lining up on the Rio Vista Bridge, for the season opener, which pitted the two Rio Vista teams against one and other. The battling teams were named “Rio Vista” and the “All Stars”. The team “Rio Vista” was made of: Dutch Ruman, pitcher; Frates, short stop; Al Hathaway, catcher; C. Waddill, first base; George Spreague, second base; Miller, third base; Frates, right field; Rose, center field and Frates, left field. The “All Stars” team consisted of: Rose, left field; Art Emigh, first base; Fraser, second base; Leslie Fraser, Pitcher; Yolo, short stop; Alley Charamuga, catcher; Sherman, right field; Brake, center field and Serpa, third base.
Once again Constable Geo Adcock held the position of Umpire and of the fifteen hundred citizens in Rio Vista; a good majority of them were present rooting the young men on. After all it was the favorite sport and pastime in Rio Vista.
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