Note: This is part two of a two-part series regarding Land Park resident Lou Coppola.
Land Park’s longtime resident Lou Coppola has certainly drawn much attention for his ongoing work with the Nor Cal Big Bands Preservation Society and his longtime career in radio. Another detail about his life was his involvement in sports, both on and off the radio airwaves.
Voice of the Solons
Many former fans of the Sacramento Solons – the Pacific Coast League baseball team that provided entertainment for local sports fans long before the 2000 debut of the Sacramento River Cats – remember Lou. Or they at least remember his voice.
It was Lou’s voice that was heard at Edmonds Field at Riverside Boulevard and Broadway during the Solons’ latter years in Sacramento.
The son of Italian immigrants Emilio and Rosa Coppola, Lou worked at the stadium as the Solons’ public address announcer from 1956 to 1958 and in 1960.
Obtaining the job was a self-motivated endeavor, Lou recalled.
“I had heard that (Solons co-owner) Fred David was not happy with the guy who was doing the PA, so I went over there and I said, ‘Hey, I do PA, no problem. I’m at home and I’ve done it at all these places. I’ve done radio in Korea and I’ve done radio in Pittsburg and in Oroville and I’ve covered every sport.’ He said, ‘Would you like to go to work?’ And I said, ‘Sure.’ He said, ‘I’ll pay you $10 a night.’ That was a smile. Boy, $10 a night to do the PA!’”
Lou noted that that amount of money was a large upgrade from his former days of being paid $2 per night as the PA man for city softball games in Concord.
He added, “To get the $2 a night, I had to drag the field and line it for the games. In those days, $2 just went so far.”
Lou’s career also included providing play-by-play radio coverage for Sacramento State College (today’s Sacramento State University) and Christian Brothers, El Camino and Woodland high school sports, promoter J. C. Agajanian’s 200-Miler at the old State Fairgrounds, an LPGA tournament at Valley Hi Country Club and local tennis and boxing competitions. He also interviewed many Major League Baseball players during spring trainings in Tucson, Ariz.
Crafting an image
In 1959, Lou helped create mental images for many radio listeners who tuned into KCRA’s AM radio station for Solons home and away games. KCRA later added the FM station, KCTC.
During one of his recent interviews with this publication, Lou described his memories of that year.
“Only one year did (KCRA owners, the) Kellys decide, ‘We want to take (Solons radio broadcasts) away from KFBK,’ and they made a bid and got it,” Lou said. “I think they paid $32,000. (At Edmonds Field,) I did the engineering, but (Stu Nahan) would do the play-by-play for maybe the first six innings and then he’d have to leave to go do the 10:30 (p.m.) sports on (KCRA) Channel 3 for the TV side. I continued (the play-by-play) by myself, finishing up the game. I also was the official scorekeeper at the same time. I had to score while Stu did the play-by-play and then I did the play-by-play and continued scoring.”
Lou also shared his memories about providing re-creations of Solons away games for the KCRA radio station.
“The re-creations were fun,” Lou recalled. “We borrowed a lot of the things that we heard from other people doing re-creations and the fact that you had to have a certain kind of crowd noise there to emphasize whether it was an important play during the course of the game. We would have to make it sound special that the ball hit the bat and it was going to be a good hit. You had to make that sound. And you would have a little mallet and the mallet would make the sound of the ball hitting the bat. We would have a little hanging bat with a flat surface and one side had been shaved, so when you hit it, it wouldn’t bounce off. The catcher was so close to our microphone – we pretended he was – ball one, outside, ball two. We wouldn’t call curve balls. We could say, high and inside, we could say high and outside, we could say low. From our vantage point, we couldn’t tell really what were the breaking pitches. We could only tell by the speed of the pitch which was a fast ball, which was a breaking pitch. And there weren’t too many pitches in the dirt. The pitchers for the Solons were all very, very accurate. I don’t think they gave a lot of walks, as I remember.”
And in recently re-creating one of his often-used re-creations, Lou slapped the inside of one of his thighs. He then explained that the sound made by this action was used to simulate the sound of a hardball hitting a catcher’s glove.
Although Lou and Nahan provided radio play-by-play in 1959, the most notable play-by-play Solons game announcer was KFBK’s Tony Koester, who spent about 20 years working in that role.
During the Solons’ final season in 1960, Lou returned to his former position as the Solons’ public address announcer.
Met Solons players
Lou said that he had the opportunity to see many notable Solons players, including infielders Harry Bright, Milt Smith, Nippy Jones and Leo Righetti, catchers Cuno Barragan and Bob Roselli, centerfielder Al Heist and pitchers, Bud Beasley, Marshall Bridges, Roger Osenbaugh and Bud Watkins.
These players played under the managerial direction of the rotund and jovial Tommy Heath.
Unique baseball memory
Although Lou has a great number of baseball-related memories regarding Edmonds Field, when asked to describe one of his favorite moments at the old ballpark, he shared a memory that was not directly associated with the game itself or anyone on the playing field.
“One of the best things that I can say about Edmonds Field is that my son attended a lot of ballgames (at the stadium) – actually before he was born,” Lou said. “The year was 1957 and it was my second year at the PA. I had a box seat for my wife (Betty) given to me by Fred David along the first base line and she was allowed to sit there with Charlie slowly growing inside (of her). And on the night of July the 4th, 1957, Mrs. Coppola, Betty, was saying, ‘I don’t feel good and will you tell Lou, I’m going home?’ And she told the usher to tell me that and he said, ‘She’ll see you at home.’ She got home and I had to do an extra inning ballgame that kept me up past midnight. So, when I got home, it was about 12:15 (a.m.) – we lived in Hollywood Park then – and about a half an hour later, she said, ‘I think we’ve got to go to the hospital. I think the time has come.’ We got over in about 15 minutes to Sutter Memorial (Hospital) and we had in 35 or 40 minutes a new boy, a new son, Charles Christopher Coppola.”
And as a sort of icing on the cake, Lou added that the Solons won the extra inning affair, 2-1.
Unfortunately for the baseball city of Sacramento, after the 1960 departure of the Solons, it was without a professional ballclub until 1974, when another PCL team, which was also known as the Sacramento Solons, began the first of its three years playing at Hughes Stadium.
Another professional baseball drought followed until the arrival of the River Cats.
Lou, who also played as the catcher for the Concord Athletic Club’s traveling team from 1947 to 1950 and spent 19 years playing on a Golden Seniors Softball Club of Sacramento team, said that he fondly looks back on his days of working for the Solons.
“It was low key, compact and kind of challenging (working in the PA box), but it was just enriching,” Lou said. “For a baseball guy who played in high school and semipro for about 10 years in the Bay Area, it was a great experience working for the so-called ‘open league.’ It gave me thrills galore. It was good baseball, good offense and defense and good guys.”