Valley News -

By Bonnie Martland
Special to Valley News 

Play ball

 

Last updated 5/31/2019 at 1:37am

Courtesy photo

This picture is of the Dear Bros. baseball team.

As a suffering Angels fan, I was thinking back to the early days of baseball in California when the Los Angeles Angels were a premier team in the old Pacific Coast League. In fact, they were the first professional baseball team in the Golden State playing from the inception of the league in 1903 until 1957. The only connection with the current Angels team is their name. In 1921, the Los Angeles Angels were the 1921 Pacific Coast League champions and the Temecula Indians were Riverside County champs. On March 5, 1922, the two teams played a game on the Murrieta Hot Springs diamond. The Angels beat the locals by a score of 10 to 0; still, according to the LA Times, "The Indians gave the Angels a pretty tough tussle, despite the one-sidedness of the score."

By the 1920s, baseball was well established in California and there is ample evidence it arrived with the Gold Rush. One story is it came thanks to Alexander Cartwright from New York who is often called the "father of baseball." Born in 1820, he played town-ball, an early version of baseball, with the New York Knickerbockers Fire Fighting Brigade. In 1845, he co-founded the Knickerbocker Baseball Club and wrote the first set of rules for the modern game of baseball. The first game played under his new rules was in 1846. After catching gold-fever and a four-month overland journey, Cartwright arrived in Gold Rush country in July 1849.

As the story goes, Cartwright taught the game of baseball to others along his way west and also introduced it to San Francisco. Cartwright's dream of getting rich by prospecting for gold was short-lived, and after a bout with dysentery, he abandoned California for Hawaii. Though parts of Cartwright's story are often disputed, other Knickerbockers came west and did help establish the game. On Feb. 4, 1851, the Alta California said, "A game of baseball was played upon the Plaza yesterday afternoon by a number of the sporting gentlemen about town."

Within eight years, San Francisco had a club called the Eagles whose players sent out challenges to other clubs. Taking up the challenge, the Red Rovers played the Eagles in the first official game of baseball in the city Feb. 22, 1860.

Baseball was popular with soldiers during the Civil War, particularly on the Union side. They played with a softer version of the ball called a "lemon ball" during battlefield lulls and in prison camps. In at least one reported case, the Rebels shot and captured a team's center fielder before the Union troops could repel the surprise attack. After the war the soldiers and others brought their love of the game westward. By 1870, U.S. Cavalry soldiers were playing ball in forts across the west, and the game was even played on some reservations.

Courtesy photo

This picture of the Temecula Indians 1926 team is shared by Rebecca Farnbach.

From the 1870s through the 1890s, local leagues were formed throughout California and teams from major cities played each other. In San Diego the popularity of the game came and went with the success, or lack of, local teams. When the Pacific Coast league was formed in 1903, and San Diego was not awarded a team, interest supposedly lagged. However, the five sons of Parker Dear, who owned the Santa Rosa Rancho, loved the game and formed a team in the Alhambra league after leaving the ranch. They were known as some of the best "slabsters" (pitchers) and "stickers" (hitters) in the league in 1909. I think the current Angels could use a few of those players.

The Temecula Valley Historical Society met May 20, due to Memorial Day weekend, at 6 p.m. at the Little Temecula History Center, the red barn at the corner of Wolf Store Road and Redhawk Parkway. Presentations are free and open to the public. A social time with refreshments begins at 5:30 p.m. For more information about the Temecula Valley Historical Society, visit http://www.temeculavalleyhistoricalsociety.com.

 

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