separation of 13 years, minor league baseball and Sacramento, Calif. were
reunited this season. Fans greeted the return of the Solons with warmth and
exuberance. Attendance on opening day was a rousing 17,318, and since then the
Solons have averaged 3,750 fans a game, tops in the minors this year even
though the team has the worst record in the Pacific Coast League—18 games below
Why all the fans?
Just this: the Solons play in Hughes Stadium, a structure in its fifth decade
of service to football and track. That it was never meant for baseball is what
makes the game so entertaining—or at least different—there. Rising high in left
field to thwart home-run hitters is a 40-foot screen, but it is only 233 feet
from home plate. The outside stadium wall behind the seats behind the screen is
just 311 feet away, four feet nearer than the fabled short left-field wall in
Boston's Fenway Park. The right-field fence is 300 feet off and a poke of 390
feet can clear the farthest wall, an eight-footer in right center. Result: an
average of seven home runs a game. The season's 250th home run was hit at
Hughes Stadium not long ago and a grand total of 500 for 1974 seems well within
It need hardly be
said that some remarkable games have been played. There was the time Sacramento
led Tacoma 9-3 with two out and a man on in the ninth. The visitors then hit
four home runs in a row, a double and finally another homer to win 10-9. Two
nights later the Solons had their revenge with a 22-7 win, a victory notable in
that Sacramento scored 11 straight runs without benefit of a homer. Twice there
have been a dozen home runs in a game and last week Spokane and Sacramento
combined for 13. Once, two Solons hit grand-slam homers in the same inning.
hitters are understandably defensive about their power production in the park
and most of them have taken to dividing their home runs into two
categories—those that would be good anyplace and cheapies. "It's downright
embarrassing when one of my routine pop flies goes for a homer," says Third
Baseman Bill McNulty, who has hit 23 so far.
pitchers are understandably offensive in their comments about their ERAs. The
team ERA is 6.46, worst in the league by nearly a full run. However, big-league
scouts make allowances for pitching performances in Sacramento. When Salt Lake
City visited Hughes Stadium recently, John Cumberland held the Solons to eight
hits. Two were infield singles, six were home runs. That was good enough for
the California Angels, who called Cumberland up.
The manager of
the Solons is Bob Lemon, the former pitching star of the Cleveland Indians.
Though he feels a professional empathy for the plight of his pitchers, Lemon
thinks they should feel sorry for him, too. Managing at Hughes Stadium is a
Because of the
tiny outfield, it often takes two hits to score a runner from second base. Thus
the Solons seldom bunt, almost never hit-and-run and have given up trying to
score from third on fly balls to left. Hughes Stadium is still waiting for its
Runners on first
have been forced at second on clean singles to left. Runners have been unable
to advance from second to third on singles to left. Four or five runners have
been doubled off first on flies to the outfield.
pro basketball," says Lemon. "You call a time-out in the last two
minutes and that's when the game is won. I let them play for eight innings and
then try to win it. You never have it won and you're never out of it."
In a recent home
game a 19-year-old Sacramento pitcher named Roger Miller became a hero of sorts
by not giving up any home runs. He was the first Solon hurler to achieve this
feat. Miller said his next goal was to pitch the first Hughes Stadium