It’s no secret that we here in Bakersfield love our local sports teams, and baseball games are definitely one of our favorite pastimes. That being said, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the history of this long love affair surrounding local baseball is, much like the game, nothing short of fun and interesting.
When you take a closer look at the history of Bakersfield baseball, you can see the mindset of locals during those times. According to Michael Benson’s book, Ballparks of North America, dating back as far as July of 1879, The Visalia Delta reported a game between the Visalia Empires amateur baseball team and Bakersfield. Though a team name isn’t mentioned, one situation was noted. “During the game, an Irishman stole the umpire’s coat and 50 men went after him. They stopped at the Willows with him and we thought we were going to see some ‘Bakersfield justice.’” One can only imagine.
Bakersfield may have lost that game, but a few years later, in 1902, The Daily Californian announced that “Fresno, Visalia, Hanford and Bakersfield [were] to Revive Baseball in the Valley.” Indeed, these towns were coming together to form a league, with a promising prospect or two to be joining our home team. To keep things engaging, they made tryouts a public affair by announcing when the game “determining who shall play in the league team” would be. (Interestingly enough, the article also noted that “Arrangements have been made to suppress all boisterous conduct, and those who attend are assured that nothing to offend will be permitted.”)
In 1913, though, things appeared bleak. “It seems rather a pity that Bakersfield not have sufficiently supported a ball team to justify this place remaining in the valley league…Away back in the early eighties [meaning 1880s!], Bakersfield was enthusiastic over baseball and there was the keenest rivalry between this and other towns in the valley,” reported The Bakersfield Californian.
Fortunately, things were not as bad as the reporter had surmised, as it didn’t seem to drop off until the 1920s. Another article from The Bakersfield Californian reported that in January of 1941, baseball had returned to town. “The California Baseball League was formed that spring, and Bakersfield was one of the sites picked.” Apparently, back then, locals saw it as a snub to wartime foes, as the same publication had printed, “the Fuehrers and Duces will be astonished when they learn of this great nation at play…the diamond not the battlefield will be the scene of peaceful struggle…”
In its existence, Bakersfield has been known as the Badgers, Indians, Boosters, Bears, Outlaws, Dodgers, Mariners, Dodgers (again), and are currently the Blaze. One thing is for certain: so long as there are Cracker Jack and hotdogs to be consumed and so long as Bakersfield has boys on the diamond, it will have a passionate following and one long and fascinating history.