(from the California
The Golden Game: The Story of California Baseball
By Kevin Nelson
Forward by Hank Greenwald
Heyday Books, Berkeley, CA, 2004
379 pages, softcover, $24.95, ISBN 1-890771-80-5
Reviewed by Dan Rego
From the days of the California Gold Rush to present times,
baseball has played an important part in California history. Kevin Nelson
has given us an opportunity to explore the joy and excitement of the game.
For those who are native Californians and have seen the transition from
minor league ball to the major leagues, this book brings back fond memories.
Nelson has done his researching well. He has a knack for making the
different eras live again.
The book is good reading. No matter what team you rooted for or what part of
California you are from, there is something for you. The Central Valley, the
San Diego area and the San Francisco Bay Area all did their part to make the
game of baseball the “National Pastime,” and Nelson brings this out with
The 341 pages, complete with over 150 pictures of all of the names we have
grown up with, make for delightful reading. The many hours of searching and
interviewing have paid off. Did you know that Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig
brought their teams, the “Bustin’ Babes” and the “Larrupin Lous,” to play at
Oaks Park in Emeryville after the 1927 World Series? During the tour they
played before 250,000 fans in 18 cities, filling every park they visited.
Every one of the 31 chapters is filled with facts that instantly make you
feel young again.
Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and Jackie Robinson are just a few of the great
players who got their start in the Golden State and are featured in the
book. All of the great names that have helped build the game’s fan base have
at one time or another played an important part of the California scene.
Nelson has left no one out.
I can remember my childhood days in Emeryville, going to see the Oaks play
the Seals. My Uncle Avery and I would sneak in after the seventh inning and
watch Les Scarsella, Hugh Luby, Cotton Pippin, Billy Raimondi and “Frenchy”
Uhalt strut their stuff. These were real-life heroes and we were within
touching distance of them.
The park was intimate and friendly. The smell of hot dogs and the lure of
Baffle Bars were irresistible. What more could a teenager want? Every series
was seven games long with games played from Tuesday through Sunday. Sunday
was always a “double header” day.
A particularly sad day came in 1948 when Casey Stengel, after bringing
Oakland its first Coast League pennant in 21 years, left the Oaks to go to
New York to manage the Yankees. He took Billy Martin and Jackie Jensen with
him. This did not lessen feelings for the Oaks but only strengthened our
wish to bring major league ball to the coast.
This book is a must read for all baseball fans, young and old. Every chapter
is a story in its own. It should be a part of everyone’s library.