Sacramento River Cats

Area Baseball Beat: National pastime has deep roots in Sacramento

Professional baseball has a long, storied and checkered history in Sacramento.

Nearly 100 years before the River Cats starting playing at Raley Field in 2000, a Pacific Coast League team played a game in Sacramento for the first time.

In 1903, the Sacramento Sacts beat the Oakland Oaks 7-4 in that PCL debut in Oak Park, and went on to finish in second place with a 105-105 record.

But Sacramento’s small-market franchise suffered financially competing against teams from the larger San Francisco, Los Angeles and Oakland markets. In search of a more lucrative location, the team was moved to Tacoma the next season and became the Tigers. Much to the chagrin of Sacramento baseball fans, the Tigers won the PCL championship.

In 1909, former major-league catcher Charlie Graham brought the Senators/Solons back to the PCL. But due to its dismal attendance figures, the team announced on Sept. 1, 1914, that it would relocate to San Francisco. On Sept. 6, the new San Francisco Missions played their first game, but in 1915 the Missions moved to Salt Lake City to become the Bees.

Despite local efforts to bring professional baseball back to the River City, the Senators/Solons didn’t return until the 1918 season.

The team, which played in Sacramento through the 1960 season, called Edmonds Field home for 50 years before it was sold and moved to Hawaii for the 1961 season.

For those 50 years, the ballpark was at the corner of Riverside and Broadway. Through the years, it had various names, including Buffalo Park (1910-14, 1918-21), Moreing Field (1922-35), Cardinal Field (1935-44) and Doubleday Park (1944-45).

On Sept. 9, 1945, in between games of a doubleheader, Doubleday Park was renamed Edmonds Field after former Sacramento Union sports editor Dick Edmonds.

A fire on July 18, 1948, nearly destroyed the park, and the Solons were forced to play the rest of the season on the road. The park was reconstructed almost entirely of concrete and reopened for the 1949 season.

The New York Yankees made their only visit to Edmonds Field in March 1951. Although the game was nothing more than a spring tuneup, it was a pivotal year for the Yankees – it was the final season of Joe DiMaggio’s illustrious career and the first season for 19-year-old rookie Mickey Mantle.

The last baseball game played at Edmonds Field was an April 12, 1964, exhibition between the Giants and Cleveland Indians. It featured back-to-back home runs by Willie Mays and Willie McCovey over wall in right-center field.

Eighteen days later, Edmonds Field was demolished and replaced by a Gemco store (now a Target). The only remembrance of the historic stadium is a plaque in the parking lot where home plate used to be.

The Solons made a short-lived return to Sacramento for the 1974-76 seasons, playing at Hughes Stadium, a football facility with dimensions that made it a hitter’s paradise.

The Solons left after the 1976 season, and it was 24 years before professional baseball returned to the state capital.

Buck’s bucket list

Scratch one item off Buck Martinez’s bucket list.

On the Toronto Blue Jays’ list of “100 things Blue Jays fans should know and do before they die,” No. 54 is to watch a game from CN Tower.

The twist is you watch the game dangling from EdgeWalk, a 5-foot-wide platform 1,168 feet off the ground, the world’s highest full-circle and hands-free outdoor walk and a Toronto attraction since it opened in 2010. When the roof is open at Rogers Centre, the Blue Jays’ ballpark, you can see the game from there.

Martinez (Elk Grove High School, Sacramento City College), 65, braved EdgeWalk on July 25, 2012. The former major-league catcher and manager and current Blue Jays play-by-play announcer did it along with broadcast partner Pat Tabler. Together they raised $10,000 for the Jays Care Foundation.

Weekly honors

Six area players were named Player or Pitcher of the Week this season:

• Pitcher Scott Lyman (UC Davis), Jupiter (Fla.) Hammerheads, Florida State League, May 19.

• Outfielder Ryan Cordell (Valley Christian), Hickory (N.C.) Crawdads, South Atlantic League, May 26, and Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Pelicans, Carolina League, Sept. 2.

• Pitcher Justin Haley (Bella Vista, Sierra), Portland (Maine) Seadogs, Eastern League, Sept. 2, and Salem (Mass.) Red Sox, Carolina League, June 9.

• Third baseman J.D. Davis (Elk Grove), Tri-City (N.Y.) ValleyCats, New York-Penn League, July 7.

• Pitcher Ben Eckels (Davis), Hillsboro (Ore.) Hops, Northwest League, July 21.

• Shortstop Mauricio Dubon (Capital Christian), Lowell (Mass.) Spinners, New York-Penn League, July 28.