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In the Pipeline: Author touches all the bases

June 11, 2012|By Chris Epting
(Courtesy Chris…)

"H.B. Champion Standards Win 3 to 2! Fastest Game of Baseball Witnessed Here! 2000 See Game! Gate receipts over $609!"

So trumpeted the local headlines one summer day in the late 1920s after a ballgame in Huntington Beach.

For many fans, baseball history in Orange County begins and ends with the Angels, be they from California, Anaheim or Los Angeles. But the roots of the sport run much deeper and wider, extending throughout the county and carrying with them stories, myths, legacies and everything else we attach to this marvelous sport.

I am an unabashed baseball fan, and my passion for the game's history has led me to write a number of books on the subject. This week, my latest title was released, and it is something I am very proud of.

Simply titled "Baseball in Orange County," (Arcadia Publishing) it represents my desire to tell the most complete story of how important the sport has been to Orange County — and vice versa.

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Did you know that baseball in the OC goes back to the 1880s, when oil company teams began forming? Or that Walter Johnson, one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history, learned to play baseball in Orange County and actually started his career here? And there is much more to Orange County baseball history.

There was Jackie Robinson coming to Anaheim to film the story of his life at a little ballpark called La Palma. Which is also the place where Joe DiMaggio played while stationed in the Army. And also where manager Connie Mack brought his Philadelphia Athletics for spring training in the early 1940s.

There was the Trolley League from 1910, featuring teams who were joined by the trolleys that ran between their cities. Orange County's Trolley League entry was the Santa Ana Yellow Sox, joined by the Redondo Beach Wharf Rats, Long Beach Sand Crabs, Los Angeles McCormicks, Pasadena Silk Sox and Los Angeles Maiers.

There were the local Mexican players who, shamefully, were not allowed to play with the white teams due to segregation. So they formed their own teams, like Los Juveniles, and played in their own leagues.

There was the legendary female team the Orange Lionettes, and famed ballparks like the aforementioned La Palma Park, Amerige Park in Fullerton and Hawley Park in Santa Ana.

Or how about the day Yankee legends Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig came to Orange County to do some hunting? And did you know the man who wrote "Take Me Out To the Ball Game" lived, died and is laid to rest in Orange County?

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