‘Baseball gang’ fondly remembers the days of old

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.”

lance@valcomnews.com

Noah’s Bagels Baseball Gang is a hit in Town and Country Village

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.

The Noah’s Bagel’s Baseball Gang meets weekly at Noah’s Bagels in Town and Country Village. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

The Noah’s Bagel’s Baseball Gang meets weekly at Noah’s Bagels in Town and Country Village. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

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.”

Members of the “bagel boys,” as the group is sometimes called, enjoy a moment during a recent gathering at Noah’s Bagels. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Members of the “bagel boys,” as the group is sometimes called, enjoy a moment during a recent gathering at Noah’s Bagels. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

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).”

Cuno Barragan, a member of the Noah’s Bagel’s Baseball Gang, played baseball for the Chicago Cubs from 1961 to 1963. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Cuno Barragan, a member of the Noah’s Bagel’s Baseball Gang, played baseball for the Chicago Cubs from 1961 to 1963. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

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.”

The group had its own T-shirts printed to wear at their meetings and to present to some of their friends. Shown above is a close-up view of the front, center part of one of the shirts. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

The group had its own T-shirts printed to wear at their meetings and to present to some of their friends. Shown above is a close-up view of the front, center part of one of the shirts. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong