Thursday, January 27, 2011
Memories of Riverside Park
Since spring training is just around the corner,I thought I would recycle(with a few changes)this blog I posted in our local papers’ on line forum.
Last year my wife and I decided to break up the monotony of a lazy Sunday afternoon, to just cruise Riverside Park like we used to, in the olden days. We remembered that after I completed my military obligation in El Paso, we got on a bus to take the 900 mile trip to what would be our permanent home. I brought my brand new wife to my home city. On arriving in Victoria, I remember Riverside Park being one of the first points of interest I showed my new wife, only to hear her say “Is this it?” Believe it or not, it was very hard to get a bench for that Saturday or Sunday outing at Riverside Park back in the 1950s. I don't recall if he had to have a special permit back then, but I remember my stepfather getting up in the wee hours just to reserve a table for the day. Perhaps he knew a man; who knew someone. My wife and I recalled all the birthday parties and other special events; we either attended or arranged at Riverside Park for our friends and families. It all came to an abrupt halt in the early seventies, but we could not remember why.
Shortly after entering the Vine Street entrance into Riverside Park, I noticed that all the fences were removed from the little league fields. My mind drifted back to that day I received my first wrinkled, button up baseball jersey, pant, cap and stockings with a sponsor's name across the front. I still remember some of those sponsors being Dicks Food Stores, Zarsky Lumber, Coca-Cola, York Oil, and Dr. Pepper.. Those old faded out black and white pictures revealed that I played for Zarskys; wearing a cap with the stitched on letter Z. I remember playing at Scott Field but little else.
We drove around the bend and up to the road until we reached Riverside Park stadium. I still remember when the ballpark was named Riverside Park, home of the Victoria Rosebuds. I can still remember flashy Don Miles wearing an immaculate uniform and spit shined cleats. It didn't keep him from hitting the ball over the right field fence into the rodeo arena across the street from the ball park. Mr. Miles married the town’s wealthiest daughter but rumor has it, he was paid to get out of town without Tom O’Conner’s daughter. The main attraction was Frank Howard, who always seems to have trouble keeping his shirttail in, but his time a bat was always worth the price of admission.Mr. Howard, as we called him, was 6 foot 7 inches tall and weighed about 250 pounds.. He always seemed to hit three or four 400 foot foul balls, and then he would either hit a home run or miss the ball completely for a strikeout. I think every old baseball fan in Victoria saw Frank hit that record breaking long distance home run. The stadium held a little over a thousand but it seems more than that saw the record breaking event. Some say it went over 500 feet. There was that rare occasion when he played 3rd base and after a few plays, you wouldn’t have to wonder why playing 3rd base was a rare occasion. He wasn’t a defensive stalwart but he might have kept the opposition from stealing third. Can you imagine the hurt if he landed on you?On the other side,it was pretty funny watching him trying to field a bunt. Memories always defy logic. I don't remember if I stood or sat to watch a game, but I know I never sat behind home plate because they were reserved for the movers and shakers. Perhaps that's why I like to sit in those seats today.
As we left in the near empty Riverside Park, we could not help but wonder what a difference 40 to 55 years makes.