I graduated from Sacramento High School in 1964, and immediately enrolled at Sacramento City College. I took two classes that summer and all went well. Then, over the next two years I completed nearly 60 units at the college.
At the same time, big things were taking place in the world. The United States became involved in a serious conflict in the small country of Viet Nam. Soon, a seemingly small conflict became a very big conflict, but I did not realize the seriousness of it all then.
I continued my schooling and transferred to Sacramento State College in 1966. I had registered with the draft board when I turned 18, but because I attended college, they gave me a student deferment. So, I continued my studies and gave little thought to the ramifications of military service. My friends were not so lucky. Jim Ducray volunteered to join the Army in 1966, and served a one-year tour of duty in Viet Nam. My friend Dick Kinzel went in a little after Jim did. One by one, almost all my friends were called for service, but as long as I stayed in school, I had no contact from the draft board. In 1968, that all changed.
By that time, I began having academic problems at Sacramento State College. I had done fine at City College, but I found the University curriculum considerably more challenging. In three semesters, I landed on probation and dropped out.
This worked out fine at first. I went to work for my uncle Ross Relles at his florist. Everything seemed fine. But, as the Viet Nam war continued to escalate, more and more foot soldiers were needed. Soon, they came after me.
In October of 1968, I received a letter instructing me to take a military physical. That month, I went to the Oakland Induction Center and completed a medical exam. By December, I got letter notifying me I had passed my physical and was physically able for medical service. In February 1969, I received my draft notice. I had to report for service in April.
So, on April 14, 1969, I showed up at the Federal Building down town to take the bus to Oakland for my induction. Oh man, I was not ready for this. Incredibly, my cousin Pam’s fiancé Alan was there too. The two of us somberly headed off to join the Army.
I thought it would be a no hassle process, little did I know. When I walked up to the desk to accept my induction, the sergeant said, Mr. Relles, you are being inducted into the U. S. Marines. Then I said, “no, I am not.” The sergeant replied, “but you have to,” and I replied, “no, I do not.” So, the perplexed sergeant sent me up to the 2nd floor to speak with the marine recruiter. There, I waited for about 2 hours to speak with a Lieutenant. When I finally got to see him, he asked why I didn’t want to go into the marines. I told him, “I am 22 years old, not some young hot head. I am okay with the army, but not ready for the gung ho marines.” Eventually, he sent me out to wait on the “group w” bench. There I waited, and waited.
Finally, the marine corporal at the front desk came over and said, “Mr. Relles, you can go down and join the army now, we have our quota for the day.”
The rest is history. I was inducted into the U.S. Army that day, and served my 2-year military commitment to my country honorably; now, the day I was almost inducted into the U. S. Marines is a harrowing Janey Way memory.
I graduated from Sacramento High School in 1964, and immediately enrolled at Sacramento City College. I took two classes that summer and all went well. Then, over the next two years I completed nearly 60 units at the college.
Editor’s note: This is part two of a two-part series highlighting local baseball players who live in the publishing area of Valley Community Newspapers. Read the first part of this story at www.valcomnews.com.
The Noah’s Bagels Baseball Gang, as described in part one of this series, meets weekly at Noah’s Bagels in Town and Country Village and features a variety of local baseball players of the past.
Below are the names and memories of some of these former players.
Walt Fitzpatrick: “I grew up in Napa and I went to California Concordia College (in Oakland), which is really a combination of high school and college. I played baseball there from 1949 to 1953. My mom (Elsie Fitzpatrick) moved (to Sacramento) in 1949 and I played here in the summers of 1949, 1950 and 1951 in the 100-pound league. That’s when I met most of these guys (in the group). I wanted to play for Southside Legion, but I didn’t go to Christian Brothers (High School). I played on the Bill Irwin team down in Oakland and the Sacramento Solons Rookies in 1952 through 1954. I played in the County League, Rural League and the Tri-County (League). I played a total of 10 years of semi-pro ball, and also in the Army.”
Joe Sheehan: “When I was a kid, I was born and raised down by McKinley Park and (the notable local baseball family) the McNamaras lived right around the corner from me, and we played on all the youth teams at McKinley Park. I played third base. I played (baseball) for Christian Brothers High School, Southside Legion, Sacramento (Junior) College, and after college, I played in the Army in 1955 and 1956. The best team I ever played on was the Sacramento (Junior) College team. We were state champions in 1952. I played on the team with some of these guys (in the group), including Cuno Barragan.”
Mike Lateano: “I was an Oak Park boy and I graduated from Sac High in June 1950 and I played football, basketball and baseball at Sac High. I was all-city in football, but baseball was actually my first choice as far as what I really liked. And when I went to Sacramento Junior College, I played football, basketball and baseball there. I was drafted during the Korean War and went overseas and played service ball. When I came out to Sacramento State, we won a championship there in about 1957 or 1958. I also played bush baseball, the county league and the Rural League, and played for the Solons Rookies and such.”
Gary Mason: “From 7 or 8 years old, most of us started playing the sand lot ball. If there was a vacant lot on the corner, we made a baseball diamond out of it. We used to play in Oak Park at McClatchy Field, Land Park, 21st and C (streets), McKinley. We played at all the places. I played until about 14 or 15 and then I got out of it and went into other things. Growing up, I really liked (Joe) Dimaggio and later on, (Mickey) Mantle. A good friend of mine was Harry Bright, who played for the (New York) Yankees, then came out here and managed the Solons.”
Tony Latino: “I grew up in Oak Park. I played on a lot of teams and I could play anywhere. I caught, played shortstop, I pitched. Whatever they needed, I did. I had an uncle who played for the Brooklyn Dodgers. After I played sports, I got into fast-pitch softball and coached for years. In the old times, things were tough, we were all together, we all knew each other. It was a lot of fun. I really like being a part of the (Noah’s Bagels) group. There are a lot of good stories, a lot of good memories.”
Jim Barudoni said that he briefly played baseball for the Sacramento Solons and enjoyed his greatest success in baseball as a member of the national champion University of Southern California team of 1958 and the following year’s team, both of which were led by the legendary coach, Rod Dedeaux.
Jim Westlake: “I grew up at 2331 P St. Probably my favorite player growing up was my cousin, Wally (Westake). He was in the majors (from 1947 to 1956). He spent most of his years with Pittsburgh and then he played in the 1954 World Series with the Cleveland Indians against the New York Giants. I played high school baseball (at Christian Brothers High School) and then I played on the junior college team in 1952 and 1953 and in 1953, we won the state championship and Nick Capachi (another member of the “baseball gang”) was on that team. And the year before that, I played with Cuno (Barragan of the “baseball gang”) for Sacramento Junior College. I played a lot of bush (league) baseball around town in all the leagues. I met a lot of great guys. I think that’s the real joy, the real benefit at any level in baseball is the guys who you meet. You form lifelong relationships.”
Rick Costello: “I pitched at Chico State in 1953 and I played softball in the service and we got in this tournament (in Alaska) and then I came out (of the Army) and played one more year at Chico State and after graduation, I went down to Southern California and played for the El Monte Indians. It was kind of like semi-pro. I had a tryout with the L.A. Angels of the Pacific Coast League. It was a three-day tryout and I made it all the way to the third day. In 1965, I came to Sacramento and I played in the Mexican league. We (were sponsored by) the C and C Club (at 326 15th St.).”
Bill Werry: “I grew up in Oak Park playing in the youth leagues and city league and I played (American) Legion ball for Post 61 for three years and I played high school ball at McClatchy High for three years. (While with Post 61), we played the state championship finals at Edmonds Field (at Riverside Boulevard and Broadway) against a team from Los Angeles called Crenshaw Post and they had some pretty good players, who went up to (play) Major League ball. Over the course of two seasons (at McClatchy High), we won 41 or 43 straight ball games. I made all-city as a catcher for three years and when I got out of high school, I signed with the Dodgers organization, which at that time was the Brooklyn Dodgers. It was a minor league contract and I played three years of minor league ball. My first year was in 1955 with Bakersfield in the California state League.”
Good times as a group
Fitzpatrick said that reliving baseball memories is an enjoyable experience for members of the group, which also includes Bob Alejo, Pete Campos and Ron Pyle.
“The common denominator is baseball and this goes back 60 years and we all kind of grew up together,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s always a good time (meeting with the group).”
Agreeing with Fitzpatrick, Lateano added, “We have a lot in common – not just baseball – because we grew up in this town. We like to reminisce. Hopefully we can continue this (group) for several more years.”
Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-part series highlighting local baseball players who live in the publishing area of Valley Community Newspapers.
For a group of mostly Sacramento natives who grew up playing baseball in this very rich baseball city and a few other places, a tradition was born about five years ago.
It was around this time that a group of seniors calling themselves the Noah’s Bagels Baseball Gang began meeting once a week at Noah’s Bagels in Town and Country Village.
Continuing their weekly gatherings since this time, this social group has grown to include 18 members.
The very first members of the group were Jim Westlake, Dick Alejo and the late Danny Mooradian, who are considered the founders of the group.
In speaking about the formation of the group, Dick said, “We just felt like every time we would go out and see some guy, we would say, ‘Hey, we meet here for coffee. Why don’t you join us.’ Pretty soon, here we are (as a large group).”
Joe Duarte, one of the earliest members to join the group, said that there are various ways that one can be eligible to become a member of the group.
“(To join the group, one should) know somebody, played ball with somebody (or) went to school with them and played ball with them,” Duarte said. “Some of these guys played minor league baseball. Only one – Cuno Barragan – played in the big leagues. He caught for the (Chicago) Cubs for (three) years. Almost all of them, except for two or three, played high school baseball. I never played high school baseball, because I went in the merchant Marines in 1944, when I was 15 years old.”
Duarte said that he eventually became a baker, but chuckled when asked about bagels, saying (back then, in the 1940s), I’d never heard of them.”
During one of the group’s recent gatherings, the following members of the group in attendance shared information about their connections to baseball.
Barragan: “I was born (on June 20, 1932) and raised in Sacramento. I graduated from Sacramento High School in January 1950, and I played football and baseball at Sacramento Junior College. I signed a contract with the Sacramento Solons in 1952, and I played my first year of professional baseball in 1953 for Idaho Falls and then came back and went in the service in 1954 and 1955. I did two years of active duty in the Navy. I went to spring training with the Solons in 1956, was optioned to Amarillo, Texas, Western League, and had a reasonably good year there, and played with the Sacramento Solons in 1957.”
Barragan added that after a brief retirement in 1958, he eventually was drafted from the Solons by the Chicago Cubs in 1961.
“My first at bat was (at Wrigley Field on) Sept. 1 against the San Francisco Giants and I hit a home run off of Dick LeMay on the first pitch. It was pretty exciting.”
Dick Alejo: “I was born in 1936. My professional career was not that big. I just went down to Mexico and played for a team, called Puebla, with Cuno Barragan and Sparky Anderson (who later played and managed in Major League Baseball). Besides that, I played for the American Legion Post 61, McClatchy High School and in the Winter League and at Sacramento Junior College. I did well, but I’m not going to (the National Baseball Hall of Fame in) Cooperstown!”
Nick Capachi: “I played on all the city leagues growing up – the 125-pound, 75-pound leagues – then I played for (American) Legion, high school, county leagues, the Placer-Nevada League and the KFBK all-star team,” said Capachi, who turned 77 last April. “I also played on the (Sacramento Junior) College team. We won the state championship in 1953. We beat Long Beach for the state championship right here at (William) Land Park. I also played in the Army, while I was stationed in the Presidio (in San Francisco).”
Augie Amorena: “I went to Sacramento High School and graduated in 1948. My parents (Amelia and Augustine Amorena) were immigrants from Spain. I started playing baseball when I was about 14. I played Summer League in the different weight divisions. I played (American) Legion, Sac JC and local Winter League, Spring League. We had a team in the Winter League, Julius Style Shop, and Joe Freitas was the manager. We were all young kids, just out of high school. The enthusiasm, the fun, we could hardly wait until Sunday to play ball. We did okay. We won a championship one year. And I played minor league baseball four years (including his time in the International League with the Edmonton Eskimos). I also played in the service for the Army team (in Hawaii).”
Mike Bakarich: “I was born on Mother’s Day, 1944, at Sacramento County Hospital. When we were younger, there was no Little League. You played in the 100-pound league, got weighed. I grew up in West Sacramento and I had to take the Gibson bus and the streetcar to go to McClatchy Park to play baseball. They couldn’t remember my name, so they called me ‘the kid from across the river.’ I played with these guys since I was in the 7th grade, probably. I went to Grant Tech (College, which was located across the street from Grant High School) and I played all three sports there. Then I played baseball in the Winter League, in the National Division, played in the County League and the Rural League and I quit playing hard ball in 1960 or 1961, because I like to play fast-pitch softball. We were playing maybe 75 or 80 ball games a summer, and trying to play baseball and softball was kind of tough. With the fast-pitch softball, I’ve been to two world tournaments and two national tournaments. I played all over the United States. I’m in the fast-pitch hall of fame and the baseball hall of fame in Sacramento.”
Oddly, however, it was not until last week that Genevieve, who last June turned 102 years old, was aware that she had these photographs in her possession.
Explaining that she had never had any children and that it was her belief that no one would ever want her old photographs, Genevieve made the decision to throw away her old, family photographs about two years ago.
Forgotten photo album
Last week, while looking through a photo album from her 99th birthday celebration, she was surprised to come across a dozen black and white, family photographs, ranging from 1908, which was the year of her birth, to 1948, the year she married her now-late husband, Rodney Cobb.
“I was surprised that I had these (photographs) and that they hadn’t been in the ‘throw outs,’” Genevieve said. “If they had been in the drawer where I had all my other pictures, they would have been thrown out. Nobody wants them, so finally I just went through the drawer and tossed them out.”
When asked why she had not valued her old, family photographs for her own remembrance, Genevieve quickly responded, “Well, I don’t ever look at them. I hadn’t looked at this (99th birthday photo album) for so long, I didn’t know these (old family photographs) were in (the album).”
Early childhood years
Genevieve, who was the first born of the five children of Delbert Howard Moore and Effie Belle (Wotring) Moore, lived the first three years of her life in Greeley, Colo.
Although Genevieve said that she does not have any memory of residing in Colorado, she can now observe five different photographs from this time in her life.
The photograph is especially significant, since Genevieve believes it represents the only existing photograph of any of her grandparents.
After leaving Colorado, Genevieve resided with her family in Roseburg, Ore. from about 1911 to about
While in Oregon, Delbert, a former railroad worker, supported his family by cutting wood in the forest.
In Roseburg, the family had a farm. And to help the financial stability of the family, who Genevieve said was poor, Effie, in Genevieve’s words, “canned fruit like mad.”
Oklahoma in the 1920s
With hope of improving their finances, the family relocated to Oklahoma, first residing in Skiatook and then moving about 20 miles away to the town of Bigheart.
Delbert was able to obtain employment in Oklahoma as an oil field worker.
Genevieve said that she remembers when Bigheart was renamed Barnsdall in 1922.
“They changed the name to Barnsdall, because the Barnsdall (oil) refinery was there,” Genevieve said.
The traveling years
Soon after Genevieve’s marriage, she was left alone, as Rodney served in the Army in Panama for 13 months.
Eventually, Genevieve moved to Fresno, where Rodney was stationed.
Following the war, on Dec. 24, 1945, Genevieve and Rodney moved to Colorado Springs.
The suitcases were packed once more, when Rodney, after earning his master’s degree, obtained employment at the world-famous seed supplier, W. Atlee Burpee and Co., in Lompoc, Calif.
After residing for 10 months in downtown Sacramento, Rodney and Genevieve purchased a house at 89 Coloma Way, off Elvas Avenue, in East Sacramento in November 1953.
Genevieve also became employed by the state, first working for the Division of Highways. For the majority of her 13 years with the state, she worked for the California Public Employees’ Retirement System.
Both Rodney and Genevieve retired from the state on July 1, 1969.
Mercy McMahon Terrace
In 1995, Genevieve and Rodney moved into Mercy McMahon Terrace, an independent and assisted living facility at 3865 J St., near Mercy General Hospital.
Although Rodney passed away at the age of 93 in 2000, Genevieve has continued to live at Mercy McMahon and has a reputation of being an outstanding person, as well as an excellent bridge player.
Genevieve, who is of Dutch and Irish ancestry and is related to the second U.S. president, John Adams, said that she appreciates the opportunity she has had to live such a long life.
Good genes and good food
She added that she mainly attributes her family’s genes to her longevity.
“My mother lived to be quite old,” Genevieve said. “She didn’t live to be 100, but she was in the upper 90s and her family was long-lived. My father died young, 65, but he had some health problems. His sister lived, I guess, to be in her 90s and my sisters are in their 90s. But I know genes are what do it. Also, I never smoked or drank and (growing up) I just had the food that our family could raise or buy. It was quality food and never junk food.”
Genevieve, who has been very active in the resident council and is Mercy McMahon’s only centenarian, is well known among residents and staff at Mercy McMahon as a model of longevity and one of the facility’s most kind-hearted and friendly people.
Among the residents who are most impressed with Genevieve is Sheila Mahoney.
“You wouldn’t even know she’s 102,” Maloney said. “She does everything. She does her own laundry. I’m 92 and I don’t even do my own laundry. She is quite a lady.”
Nicki Bagley, assistant administrator at Mercy McMahon, said that she is also very impressed with Genevieve.
“She is a very amazing woman,” Bagley said. “She represents her generation quite well. She’s a very classy woman and kind of old-fashioned in her being. She’s also very bright and still very alert mentally. She is certainly as bright as anyone 20 years younger. We are so fortunate to have Mrs. Cobb here at Mercy McMahon.”
One of the Carmichael Recreation and Park District’s most unique parks, Patriots Park, will add one more name to its Wall of Honor during a special ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 6 at 10 a.m.
Although the park is only three years old, many who are familiar with this 3.68-acre neighborhood park know that it is far from an ordinary recreation and leisure spot.
At the center of the park sits a 20-foot-long by 3-foot-tall by 3-foot-wide concrete and stone wall with much more significance than its durable materials.
Recognized as the Wall of Honor, the wall is so significant, in fact, that when the park was dedicated on Nov. 15, 2008, an entirely separate dedication was held on the same day to present the Wall of Honor and its first inductees to the public.
The park, which is located just east of the Carmichael-Fair Oaks border at 6827 Palm Avenue, off Dewey Drive, features the latest in park designs with walking paths, a playground, a picnic area, a basketball court and a butterfly garden.
But it is the Wall of Honor, which is the park’s most treasured feature.
The wall features 11 plaques with the names of local heroes, who gave their lives serving their country or community.
The Nov. 6 ceremony will honor former Navy pilot, Lt. j.g. David A. Warne, who was lost at sea at the age of 27 on Jan. 12, 1991 during a nighttime training mission over the Mediterranean Sea.
Tracy Kerth, recreation services manager of the Carmichael Recreation and Park District, explained the background of the creation of the Wall of Honor.
“We were trying to name the park and the community came forward and they said, ‘Well, how about we name it after this young man (the late Army Sgt. Ronald L. Coffelt), who grew up in the area and his family still lives here.’ But then we started thinking about all of our heroes. So, then we thought about naming (the park) Patriots Park and having a Wall of Honor and that would include not only military people, but it would include firefighters and police and CHP and Sheriffs and civilians who died in the line of duty.”
With the creation of the wall, such local heroes who resided, worked in or served the community within the park district boundaries could be honored as part of this lasting monument.
This honor is available to those who showed acts of courage beginning as early as 1945, when the district was established.
Nominations for candidates for the Wall of Honor are accepted until July 31 every year.
Official nomination forms are available through the district’s Web site www.carmichaelpark.com or by calling (916) 485-5322 to arrange for a form to be mailed via the United States Postal Service.
The first inductees
The first inductees to have their names placed on plaques and displayed on the Wall of Honor were:: As previously mentioned, Coffelt was the inspiration for the Wall of Honor.
Army Sgt. Ronald L. Coffelt
Raised within walking distance from the park, Coffelt, a graduate of Del Campo High School, died on July 19, 2007 from wounds that he suffered as a result of a bomb that exploded near him in Baghdad.
Army Spc. Raymond Nigel Spencer, Jr.: Spencer, who was raised in Carmichael and excelled in hockey during his youth, was killed less than a month prior to Coffelt’s death when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device and small arms fire.
Sheriff Deputies Kevin Patrick Blount and Joseph Kievernagel: Blount and Kievernagel, who worked as partners in the North Division serving Carmichael, lost their lives during a burglary call on July 15, 2005, when the engine of the helicopter they were flying failed and the helicopter crashed.
CHP Officer Ronald Eugene Davis: Following his graduation from the California Highway Patrol academy, Davis moved his family from Carmichael to Barstow.
Davis died at the age of 25 when he was driving about 100 miles per hour while en route to a traffic accident.
When a pair of motorists failed to heed his siren, Davis, in order to avoid a collision, died when he drove off the highway into the desert.
Army 1st Lt. Robert Scott Byrnes: A graduate of La Sierra High School, Byrnes, a former lifeguard and swimming instructor at Carmichael Park, lost his life in Vietnam.
Firefighter Dean Wesley Rhoades: An El Camino High School graduate, Rhoades died shortly after fighting a house fire in Carmichael on Jan. 6, 1981.
The second inductees
Last year, plaques for the following inductees were also added to the wall:
Army Spc. James Edward Schlottman: An El Camino High School graduate, Schlottman was killed by a booby trap while on patrol in Vietnam on Aug. 22, 1967.
Sgt. Brian E. Dunlap: A graduate of Del Campo High School, Dunlap was killed at the age of 38 on Sept. 24, 2005, when a roadside bomb exploded during his patrol in northern Baghdad.
Sgt. Larry Morford: The courage of Morford is recognized in the book, “The Least Beastly,” by Bernard “Burn” Loeffke.
Within a memorial tribute to Morford in this book, it is explained that despite being a young man who did not believe in war as a method of resolving disputes, Morford felt that he could not stay at home knowing that other young men were fighting for his country.
On Feb. 12, 1970, Morford, a graduate of La Sierra High School, was killed at the age of 21 in Vietnam while serving in his patrol just a few days prior to when he was scheduled to return home.
Cpt. Olin E. Gilbert, Jr.: While flying an F-106 in a training mission at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida on June 11, 1968, Gilbert was met with the plane’s sudden mechanical difficulties.
Instead of parachuting to safety, Gilbert, a Vietnam veteran, piloted the plane out to sea and away from coastline homes in Port St. Joe, Fla.
This act of heroism cost Gilbert his life, but in turn saved the lives of many other people.
A special honor for a local heroUnlike the previous two Wall of Honor ceremonies, the upcoming Nov. 6 ceremony will honor only one inductee.
This year’s inductee, David A. Warne, formerly resided in Fair Oaks and graduated from Sacramento State University in 1985 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.
David, who enjoyed skiing and fishing and briefly worked at Aerojet prior to entering active duty in the Navy in 1987, completed his pilot training two years later and was assigned as an F/A-18 pilot.
Although David has a marker in the Arlington National Cemetery, since his body was never recovered after he was lost at sea, it was not possible for his remains to be buried in a local cemetery.
Because of this fact, David’s family and some of his closest friends, who will be attending the event, are additionally appreciative that David will have his name officially placed on the Wall of Honor.
David’s mother, Betty Warne, recently expressed her appreciation that her son will have a local memorial to honor him.
“We don’t have the grave marker here in the area for him, so that’s really nice to have (David’s name on the Wall of Honor) here in this area,” Betty said.
David’s father, Evans Warne, a retired Air Force colonel, pilot and Vietnam veteran, also expressed his appreciation that his son’s name will be placed on the wall.
“(Having David honored on the wall) means an awful lot to me,” Evans said. “It means that somebody is recognizing his service and that whoever goes to that park will realize what a sacrifice he made and recognize what he did.”
Lee Ann Yarber, administrative analyst of the park district, said that the ceremony, which will also be attended by park district advisory board members and Sacramento County District 3 Supervisor Susan Peters, is a great opportunity for the community to show appreciation for David, as well as other heroes of the Wall of Honor.
“We absolutely invite all the community to come out – anybody who ever lost a loved one or anybody who wants to pay honor to the family of the fallen hero,” Yarber said. “It’s just a nice ceremony, so come on out and honor our local heroes.”