‘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