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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.


Edith Ann said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Edith Ann said...

Nice recollection, Mike.

I do believe the park activity has declined over the years. I know some on City Council want to believe it is crowded, but I have yet to find it in that condition. Weekend, weekday, it doesn't matter.

Mike said...

There may be nothing we can do about it, but I think it's a shame that we don't take advantage of our natural resource. I didn't know that some on the City Council think that the city park is being utilized. Sure the golf course and the ball parks are, but that is seasonal, and it doesn't generate interest in other parts of the park....IMO

One of my grandsons attends Texas State in San Marcos... That little city built concrete steps for people wanting to enjoy the Guadalupe river. I'm surprised that San Marcos can support the outlet malls, but we are having trouble retaining National Stores in our mall.

BTW I thought of you yesterday, when I saw a man outside the entrance of Citizens Memorial(on the U.S. 59 side) holding up a sign proclaiming that " abortion leads to breast cancer.".... I think I remember you said that there was no evidence of that... I don't know what Mr. Tasin looks like, but it was the same fellow who startled me as I was existing Our Lady of Victory church last year... I was coming down the steps(probably daydreaming) head down, looked up and there was a man holding up a poster picture of an aborted fetus and a sign that read" Catholics, who voted for Obama are guilty of murder" or something, to that effect. That stayed with me for about three hours.

Have a good one

Edith Ann said...

Well, perhaps while the city is paving the way for the Patillo Pumphouse patrons to park their cars, someone will decide the banks of the river could be reappropriated for recreational purposes. The entrance steps could be right there by the Pumphouse, which could only enhance the ambiance of the facility.

You're not the only one who has thought of Edith Ann when they see Paul Tasin or Sam Vivalda protesting! You know, the video posted by Kyle about the abortion protesters is very thought provoking. They want to criminalize abortion, but do not want to punish the resulting 'criminals'. Go figure...

Legion said...

All the crazy members of the community aside, my dad is one of the ones that claims to have seen Frank Howards home run, he said they found the ball at about the 200' mark on the driving range.

Anyway, Little Big Man is on TMC, it reminded me of this blog, I remember seeing it as a new release at the El Rancho, though it could have been the Uptown, theater.

Mike said...

I would believe your dad because as I recall the story, the ball went over to center field wall, so it had to land at the Riverside golf course. I remember reading about the distance in Baseball Digest...I can't recall all the details but I think an old first baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Dick Stuart hit one a little further, according to baseball legend.

Little Big Man is about Crazy Horse and Custard, how did you see the connection between this blog?