Tuesday, December 22, 2009

We're Famous! Sort Of. Oh, and Happy Holidays.

Click image for larger version

Before we sign off for 2009, a couple of blogs have linked to us over the last couple days. The boys at Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness gave us a shout-out at the bottom of their latest post, as did the L.A. Times' Jon Weisman on his Dodger Thoughts blog. A big thanks to both of them, and be sure to check out their excellent stuff (even if you're not a Dodger fan). And if you're wondering about the "Tragic Illness" tag...you're obviously not a Simpsons nerd.

And with that, it's time to do as the Visalia Cubs did for their season ticket holders in 1950, and wish all of you a tremendous holiday season and new year. We'll talk to you in 2010...which, if you hadn't noticed, is not far off at all.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Hawk Harrelson and the 1961 Visalia Athletics

Click image for larger version

Editor's Note: We've been going a bit chronologically with some of our initial posts, but I want to make sure we don't get locked into that as an obligation. So, after talking about the 1949 team, we're going to skip ahead today to 1961. Don't worry; we'll come back to the 40s and 50s later. But like the writers of Lost, we reserve the right to skip forward and backward in time as we see fit.

Ken "Hawk" Harrelson is arguably the most polarizing non-national sports broadcaster in the country. His ultra-homerish call of Chicago White Sox games have become famous around the baseball world, as he refers to the Sox as "the good guys," yells "Hell yes!" whenever something exciting goes their way, and punctuates their home runs with "You can put it on the booaarrrrrd...Yes!" He's spawned reams of internet analysis, both favorable and, well, not so much.

One thing that can't be debated, however, is that his path to fame went through Visalia.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Team Photos: 1949 Visalia Cubs

Click image for larger version

The 1949 Visalia Cubs won few beauty contests and even fewer ballgames; they lost 98 out of 140 contests, finishing last in the California League. But if you can look at this team photo without smiling, you're either having an especially bad day, or you're a robot.

The '49 squad was initially managed by Leon "Red" Treadway (first row, 3rd from right). Treadway was a player-manager who had enjoyed a 2-year stint with the New York Giants during World War II before embarking on an extended tour of the Minor Leagues. Poor defense and an inability to hit with runners on base doomed his career in the bigtime, and poor pitching would be his demise in Visalia.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Programs from the Past: 1950

Click image for larger version

The cover of the 1950 yearbook is a dramatic shift in style from previous editions, and while it may seem a little boring at first, it's actually an impressive piece of modernist art that was well ahead of its time.

First, the pitcher's mechanics are nearly dead-on, which is rare in a baseball illustration (you could argue that the seams of the ball wouldn't really spin that way, but you're forgetting about the knuckleball). Second, the textured blue background is tastefully done. And third, the concept of having the ball flying at the viewer is quite innovative. No camera in the world could have captured this kind of real-life image in 1950; shutter speeds simply weren't fast enough. The artist, then (whom we know nothing about other than the "Shepard" tag at the bottom right corner of the drawing) was working entirely from his or her imagination, and not from an actual still-shot.

Whoever "Shepard" was, we raise a toast to her/him/it, and encourage you to click the link for the rest of the 1950 program.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Visalia's Original Field of Dreams

Click image for larger version

This is not Recreation Ballpark; it's Athletic Park, and it was Visalia's first enclosed baseball diamond.

This picture is not precisely dated, but it appears to be from the early 1920s. If you click the image and look at the enlarged version, you'll see a rich example of early 20th Century small-town America in detail. Notice the cars parked on either side of the grandstands (any classic car enthusiasts out there? Can you give us an exact year on these models?), and the absolutely jam-packed crowd overflowing out of the stands and spilling down either foul line.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Recreation Park and the The Lavatory of Doom

Click image for larger version

Ladies: it's time to play an exciting round of "Would You Use This Restroom?"

This was the ladies' room at Recreation Park in 1962. As far as we know, there was no award for having the fortitude to survive it. Visalia women have always been fearless, after all.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Programs from the Past: 1949

Click image for larger version

The cover of the 1949 Visalia Cubs program features a baseball with an aerial shot of Visalia superimposed on it, which is fairly impressive. The Mouse-Bear has apparently been phased out and replaced with a much tougher-looking cub, albeit one who swings way too hard, doesn't watch the ball, doesn't rotate his hips, and jumps in the air while doing it. It's quite possible that the '49 Visalia team was taking hitting lessons from the cartoon cub, since they finished dead last in the California League with an abysmal 42-98 record.

This edition was also unique in that it doubled as a program and a "civic magazine." Now that's creative branding.

You can view all six (6!) glorious pages of this voluminous "civic magazine" after the jump.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Random Gems: Ski Lessons

Click image for larger version

This 1957 picture shows ski lessons taking place behind the left field wall of Recreation Park. The snowpack was a little light, apparently, but these ladies still seemed to be having a good time.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Programs from the Past: 1948

Click image for larger version

This was the program for the 1948 Visalia Cubs, and it presents a great array of old-time ads.

The dreaded mini-Mouse-Bear makes its return, and is joined by an unnamed radio guy who apparently worked for KTKC. Willys Jeeps and Farm Tools was also a prime sponsor (and that's "Willys," not "Willy's, by the way).

You can look through the complete '48 Yearbook after the jump.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Random Gems: Wild Goose Chase

Click image for larger version
We're not sure exactly what year this picture was taken. It appears to be from the 1950s, and it's certainly no later than 1962 (the last year of the old wooden grandstands seen in the background). But it's definitely Recreation Park, and those are definitely children chasing geese with approving spectators in the background. Make of this what you will.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Featured Photo: Intlekofer, Bryson, and Safety Pins

There's a degree of irony in this 1947 picture, but it takes a little research to uncover it. We'll get to that in due time. Meanwhile, do you notice anything strange in the photo? Go ahead, click on it to see the enlarged version. We'll wait.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Programs from the Past: 1947

This was the front cover of the 1947 Visalia Cubs gameday program. We're not sure who designed the  creature that served as the team's mascot for its first few years; it sure was cute, though. Sort of like Mickey Mouse with bear claws. Admit it: you're intimidated.

Full contents of the '47 program are available for your perusal after the jump.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Team Photos: 1947 Visalia Cubs

Click picture for larger version

Question: Of all the people in this picture of the 1947 Visalia Cubs, which went on to have the longest Major League career? Hint: it wasn't any of the players.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Irish Eyes, the Wild West, and Two Orphans: How Baseball in Visalia Began

Two unidentified members of the Empire Baseball Club of Visalia pose for an 1879 photograph (Click picture for larger version)

It might be a stretch to say that baseball in Visalia has its roots in Northern Ireland. But not much.

When Thomas Fowler was born on March 17, 1829 just outside Belfast, Ireland, his parents couldn't have known that their son would eventually become the patron saint of baseball in a small California rancher town over 5,000 miles away. In fact, they would not have had the slightest idea of what "baseball" was. But Thomas was destined to be first a traveler, then a wanderer, and then a restlessly enthusiastic picture of American frontier success.

A Call to Arms: Welcome to Goshen & Giddings

Baseball has been a part of Visalia's heritage since 1879. Professional, affiliated baseball has been here since 1946. But no one has really taken the time to compile a collection of Visalia baseball history in one place...until now.

Over the coming months and years, we hope to gradually accumulate more and more pictures, stories, and recollections of baseball's rich past in Tulare County. Through research and some generous donations, we have already collected a fair amount of artifacts. We know, however, that there are more of them out there.

If you have old pictures or memorabilia, we'd like to know about it! Contact us at (559) 732-4433 ext. 18, or email Donny@RawhideBaseball.com. You don't have to permanently donate items; most of the pictures and artifacts you'll see on this site were temporarily loaned. We'll work with you. Just don't keep your treasure a secret!

Additionally, if you're an ex-player or a veteran fan with stories to tell, we want to hear from you too. Do you remember watching Vada Pinson or Kirby Puckett play at Recreation Park? Did you attend a memorable, crazy game back in the 19xx's? Oral history is just as important to this project as pictures and memorabilia, and it doesn't matter if your memories are from the 1940s or the 1990s. So contact us, and we'll talk!

Many people don't realize how deep baseball's roots are in the Visalia and Tulare County area. It's time that changed. And it starts here.