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Did you know that the Stockton Ports minor league baseball team may be the inspiration for the poem "Casey at the Bat?"
The History of Casey
Baseball began in Stockton, California in the 1860s. That is when the first California League was formed. "Casey at the Bat" was penned around 1888 by a San Francisco Examiner journalist named Ernest Thayer. The baseball stadium was located on Banner Island, then called "Mudville." The reason for the name was that the area was subject to flooding. Thayer covered news in the Stockton area for the newspaper. Names of players in the poem on Casey's team (Flynn, Blake, and Cooney) were names of players on the Stockton 1888 team.
In 1999, the new owners of the Ports felt convinced enough by baseball historians that the Stockton team of 1888 was indeed the inspiration for the famous poem that they renamed the team "Mudville Nine" for the 2000 and 2001 baseball seasons.
This makes the history of the poem sound like a "done deal," but the good people of Hollister, Massachusetts, also claim to be the town and ball field represented in the poem. They have a bronze statue of Casey erected in a park. Their rationale? There is an area in Hollister named Mudville. Thayer, the writer, grew up in Worcester, Massachusetts, a town near Hollister. They state that Thayer wrote the poem there in Massachusetts in 1888. Also, Thayer's family owned a mill for wool that is less than a mile from the Mudville, Massachusetts baseball field.
The Ports' Winning History
Back in Stockton, the Ports have been a staple in the Stockton community since their inception in 1941. Sadly, the baseball team had to stop playing for four years, from 1942 to 1946, due to World War II. There just weren't enough men around to have minor league teams. The Ports didn't lose ground, though. They won the California League championship in their first two years after the war closure. In 1947, the Ports made baseball history with a 26-game winning streak that no team has ever topped. Baseball historians have named the 1947 Ports as one of the best minor league baseball teams of all time.
Some of the notable players who graduated from the Ports and went on to the major leagues include Hall of Famers Mike Piazza and Pat Gillick. Other major league greats that came from the Ports include Al Bumbry, Darold Knowles, Davey Johnson, and Dave Henderson.
The Ports were saddened to learn that one of their best players, Elijah "Pumpsie" Green, a California League MVP passed away in July of 2019. Green played for the Ports from 1955 to 1959. In his first year with the Ports, he won the California League MVP award by batting .319 and hitting 31 doubles, 11 triples, and 12 home runs. He had 83 RBIs and stole 31 bases.
Green also contributed to breaking baseball's color barrier. Even though Jackie Robinson was the first African-American player in the major leagues and was called up by Branch Rickey in 1947, some of the teams were far slower to accept players of other races. The Boston Red Sox was a Caucasian-only team until Green was called up in 1959. Green was in the majors for five seasons. He ended up with a .246 batting average. After leaving the majors, Green went on to become a mathematics teacher in Berkeley where he also was a baseball coach.
Best Seating in the Minors
Besides their winning ways and long, proud history in the community, the Ports also offer what ESPN calls the "Top 10 Best Seating" in the minor leagues. Banner Island Ballpark seats 5,200. Fans can sit in the Jackson Rancheria Back Porch area in Adirondack chairs in the shade, eating an all-you-can-eat buffet. The most popular dates on their calendar for those seats fill up six months in advance.
Fans can also sit in the Carrillo Davalos Law Firm Terrace that is a picnic area that holds 300 fans. This area also serves an all-you-can-eat picnic and is located along the third base line.
The small group area is called the Fan Cave. It can comfortably seat 10 to 24 people on luxury patio furniture that includes couches.
Come for the Food
The Ports fans are also the most well-fed fans in minor league baseball. The all-you-can-eat picnic includes entrees of ribs, chicken, pulled pork, hamburgers, and cheeseburgers; sides of coleslaw, baked beans, salad, corn on the cob and oven-roasted potatoes; and the evening's game ticket, hot dogs, cookies, soda, and water.
The Ports today are an affiliate of the Oakland A's organization. Sometimes, Ports fans get to see some of the Oakland A's players don the Ports uniform and come out to play a rehabilitation game when they are recovering from injuries. The Ports are tied for having won the most California League titles.
Today, there is no mud at the Banner Island Ballpark, the home of the Stockton Ports. The stadium has a carefully tended, natural grass ballfield. It is near the Stockton Arena in the Stockton Waterfront area, and a home run can actually plop right into the river. The city owns the ballpark, with the Ports as its tenant.
Let Lawn Love Tend Your Stockton Lawn
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