Humboldt Del Norte High School - Lou Bonomini.
Humboldt's Mr. Baseball remembered
December 21, 2000
By Jack Rux
EUREKA -- One of the people who knew Lou Bonomini the best, lifelong friend and baseball player Reco Pastori, also knew the secret of
Hard work, nothing but.
When asked how two guys who grew up together in the same neighborhood of Eureka wound up being two of the best players ever to come out of
the area, Pastori had a quick reply on Wednesday.
"We worked the hardest," Pastori said. "We never had a dime in those days. Our folks were some of the poorest in Humboldt County."
Both Bonomini and Pastorini were first-generation Americans, their parents coming over from Italy early this past century and settling in the same part
Mass of Christian Burial will be held today at 10 a.m. at St. Bernard Catholic Church in Eureka for the 84-year-old Bonomini, who died Sunday.
He was known simply as Mr. Baseball in Humboldt County.
Thanks to Bonomini's long reign as manager of the Crabs (1945-86), growing up to play for that team became a dream of young boys all over the
North Coast of California.
Pastori had a simple answer for how Bonomini was able to create that.
"You don't raise 10 children and run a ballclub for 50 years and run a grocery store all those years except with hard work," Bonomini's longtime friend
said. "It wasn't easy."
So baseball was not the only part of his life. But it was a big part. For instance, he often put Crabs players up in the warehouse behind his grocery,
Bonomini also was an active supporter of St. Bernard School since its inception in the 1950s. And in the fall, he loved to go deer hunting in the mountains.
"He'd go up in the mountains and stay the whole (deer) season," Pastori said. "He didn't care if he got any deer, he just loved being up in the
There was a nostalgic coming-of-age film many years called the "Summer of '42." A movie on Bonomini's life could called "Summers of 42," and that
would cover only the summers he managed the Humboldt Crabs.
For 42 summers, he guided the semi-pro team that he personally saw got started in 1945 as the Palladini Humboldt Crabs. And he carried on in the
Crabs dugout through the summer of 1986, but Bonomini had many, many more seasons in the sun.
As Pastori recalled, "When Lou was only in the eighth grade, he was managing a team. He managed the Bayview Cubs." That was the 1930 rough
equivalent to a Little League today.
So all through high school and for a decade after he got out of Eureka High in 1935, Bonomini was not only an outstanding player on the field but also
a leader on the field, sometimes managing.
"In the early part of the war, Chicago Bridge and Ironworks had a yard out here, and they had a team that Lou managed," Reco recalled Wednesday.
"He managed clubs all his life."
Crabs in the summertime, however, were the highlight, his teams compiling a won-loss record of 1,307-475, a winning percentage of .733.
Unlike in the later years when the Crabs, because of their popularity with their home crowd, played all home games, in the early years the Crabs
played home and away, and often went to the state National Baseball Congress playoffs in Atwater for semi-pro teams, with the winner going on the
national tournament in Wichita, Kan.
More than three dozen players Bonomini managed with the Crabs over the years went on to play in the major leagues including Dane Iorg, Bruce
Bochte, Craig Lefferts, Rick Miller and Joe Price.
"He was an exceptional manager who had a keen mind for running a game," said Carl Del Grande, a veteran sports observer who now is secretary of
Humboldt Crabs, Inc. "He was able to take the best local talent and recruit some of the best college talent and meld it into a great team."
Appropriately, when the new youth baseball complex in Cutten was formally dedicated last April, it was christened Lou Bonomini Field.
Pastori recalled those early days when it all started as boys playing baseball. Reco was two years younger than Bonomini.
"You played in empty lots in those days," Pastori recalled, "with a taped-up bat and a taped-up ball."
Bonomini was an outstanding hitter who could play any position, but Pastori said Bonomini's best position was left field. Pastori was an outstanding
"Lou didn't have a lot of speed, but from the time the ball came off the bat, he knew where it was going and went there. He had a great knack,"
Bonomini was of the same era as perhaps the greatest pure ballplayer of them all, Joltin' Joe DiMaggio. Only while the DiMaggio brothers were
growing up on the streets of Martinez and San Francisco, Bonomini was growing up on the streets of Eureka. If it had been the other way around, you
have to wonder if Bonomini might have been the major league star.
DiMaggio was less than two years out of high school when he was a rookie with the New York Yankees in 1936. And he went to the Big Show only
after starring for the San Francisco Seals in the Pacific Coast League, the Yankees buying up his contract.
About this time, both the Oakland Acorns and the Seals expressed interest in Bonomini, but Pastori, who knew of the situation, said, "They paid you
nothing, $150 a month. But Joe DiMaggio was playing for them for $450 a month."
Another part of the equation: In those days, Pastori said, "San Francisco was 800,000 miles away."
So Bonomini stayed, and played, and managed, and baseball in Humboldt County was the great benefactor.