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.”