Memories of the Game
Published: May 27, 2009
Exploring Rio Vista’s Past
With Phil Pezzaglia
The Construction of Egbert Field: 1958
Next week I will continue the early history of water and sewer. With baseball season under way, and locals filling the bleachers at the local ball park, I thought that I would like to take a moment, to briefly state some of the facts concerning the construction of Egbert Field, located on St. Francis Way.
For many years Rio Vistans first choice of local sports was always baseball. This love affair with the game dates back to the 1890’s when local citizens would gather at the empty lot that would later be turned into the town plaza, and is presently the city park across from St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, on a Sunday afternoon to watch the young men of town play baseball.
Those were the days when Rio Vista, Birds Landing and Collinsville all had teams.
As Rio Vista moved into the twentieth century, the game of baseball continued to gain momentum with the local residents, which now played their games out on Wood Island. Wood Island was located in the middle of the Sacramento River almost directly across from present day City Hall. The island was suction dredged out of the river in 1927, for the deep-water channel.
During those early years of the twentieth century Rio Vista played teams from Antioch, Isleton, Courtland, etc.
Later on some games were played down on the land adjacent to the local cannery, located on River Road, where Dutra and Barrier Systems is presently located. But the majority of the baseball games played for the next few decades were played out on the old St. Joseph’s Military Academy grounds, located were the present day streets of Edgewater Drive and Highland Drive are.
When St. Joseph’s Military Academy was opened, in 1903 and in operation until 1932, the grounds had a ball field, which was used by the cadets and at times the local high school. After the academy was closed the grounds were maintained and continued to be used by the local high school.
Around 1951 Val deFlores, Lee Hack and a Mr. Baker organize two baseball teams, one of which was named the “Indians” so that the youngsters from town could enjoy organized baseball. These teams would be from a “pre-little league” era in Rio Vista’s history.
As the years when by an actual Rio Vista Little League was organized for the youth of Rio Vista. The old ball field was used for a couple of years but then as interest continued to grow, the need arose for the updating of the basepark.
The April 1954 city election ballot had propositions on it that directly concerned the future of baseball in Rio Vista. The propositions that the citizens of Rio Vista voted on that April were:
Shall the City of Rio Vista no longer contribute financially to the construction or maintenance of a baseball park.
Shall the city of Rio Vista attempt to purchase the property upon which it is now located the baseball park and adjoining lot for a sum considered by the City Counsel and failing to negotiate agreeable terms, proceed to acquire the property through condemnation proceedings.
Shall the City of Rio Vista move the present baseball park to a new location and rebuild a park with equal accommodations.
Shall the City of Rio Vista move the present baseball park to a new location, providing minimum accommodations at the outset, and, over a period of years, gradually make improvements.
At that point in time it was agreed upon that if the baseball park was to be moved to a different location it would move to property recently purchased by the Blackwelder Company, on the north side of Highway 12. The 4 acre parcel, surrounded by gum trees on two sides would be a suitable location, as it was located adjacent to the newest subdivision in town.
If this land were not considered suitable a second plan would be to construct on land in the “airport area”. Regarding dollars and cents, the land on which the baseball park, or old military school grounds, was valued at $16,000. Estimates to relocate and provide equal accommodations were valued at $25,000 to $35,000. To relocate with minimum facilities would cost an estimated $15,000.
It would take four years before the dream of a new ballpark would be realized. When the people of Rio Vista put their minds to something it does get done, and that is exactly what happened. A baseball field, that every Rio Vistan could be proud of, was constructed on St. Francis Way, where the present day Egbert Field is located.
On Sunday July 20, 1958, Rio Vista’s “Egbert Field” baseball park was formally dedicated.
The event, which was just one of many local events occurring during the year long Rio Vista Centennial Celebration was sponsored by the Lions Club under the presidency of Jack Diamond.
Master of Ceremonies for the daylong events were Lt. Col. Perry Edwards, Val deFlores, baseball chairman and Hank Cavigli, general chairman.
More than 700 citizens were in attendance that Sunday afternoon. Both Mayor James W. Hamilton and Ernest Blackwelder said a few words with regards to E.S. “Eggie” Egbert’s love of the sport of baseball. The two men stated that “Egbert’s desire to win was only surpassed by his intense desire for clean play and good sportsmanship”. He was referred to as Rio Vista’s “Mr. Baseball”, and that the baseball field would be a fitting memorial to Mr. Egbert who was born in Rio Vista in 1879 and passed away early in 1958.
Mrs. E.S. Egbert was the guest of honor and accepted the plaque, in her late husbands name, from Mayor Hamilton and Mr. Blackwelder. She stated, “She was sure that “Eggie” would be deeply proud of such an honor”.
Rev. Jack Sondericker, of the Union Baptist Church, started things off giving the invocation, followed by the Fort Mason Army band, which performed a variety of appropriate songs, prior to the dedication ceremony.
Following the music a number of old time local ball players, who had played with “Eggie”, were introduced to the crowd. Among them were Harodl Elliott, Sr., Buster Nelson, John Hoffman, Herbert Stevenson, Neil Anderson and Manuel Valine.
A short game of two and one-half innings was played between the Hayden “Hayseeds” and the Hack “Hacksters”, with the Hayseeds forfeiting while leading 4 to 1.
These Hackers were made up of in part by: Filbert, Moniz, Devine, Charlesworth, Adcock, Mills, Brown, while the Hayseeds consisted of in part by: Maxwell, Hanton, Valine, Emigh, Marteniano, deFlores.
After the “old-timers” game some of the younger Little Leaguers were introduced and allowed to demonstrated their abilities with the tee. Following introductions of the Little League and Babe Ruth team’s two short games of minor and majors were played.
The big game of the day was a Junior League seven-inning contest between the Rio Vista team and a Junior League team from Vallejo. Rio Vista won with an 8 to 1 victory, over Vallejo. Highlights of the day for the Rio Vista team were:
RIO VISTA AB R H
Nunes, ss ……….2 2 0
Azevedo, 2b …...3 2 2
Marks, p ……..…4 1 3
Lopes, c ………...2 1 1
All in all it was a very fitting celebration of Rio Vista’s love of baseball, and a fitting memorial to an avid local citizen and baseball fan.
Egbert Field has continued to be used to this day, however the old green walls, scoreboard, dugouts, etc. were torn down during the early 1970’s.
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