Semi-pro baseball was incredibly popular in Carpinteria in the 1930s. It was basically also a segregated sport. However, as the decade progressed, teams evolved and integrated year after year. Sport has a way of breaking down racial barriers when players get to know each other on and off the court. Some of them shine and become local heroes. The newspapers of the time – the Carpinteria Herald and the Carpinteria Chronicle – can rely on publishing book series religiously, with a summary of the game usually added. Chronicle even dedicated sporadic columns in the years 1932-34 and put the spotlight on the individual players.
Cy Treloar, one of the Carpinteria Merchants, recalled on a card kept in a photo file at the Carpinteria Valley Museum of History to compete in the Tri-County League. It consisted of teams from local communities such as Santa Paula, Ojai, Goleta, Piru, etc., “of great interest to the anchors of the Carpinteria Valley.” We “won more than we lost that year,” said Treloar from the 1930 baseball season. What kind of baseball? He added: “Sorted sand lot, semi-pro Sunday ball.”
A Mexican team sponsored by the beach club Cerca del Mar played teams from the same three-county communities, and also teams from the Los Angeles area. Los Angeles-based Spanish newspapers covered some of these games. A team from Carpinteria, most likely Cerca del Mar, was called “Los Carpinteros“- The carpenters – naturally enough. An existing newspaper clipping describes a game between Los Carpinteros and “Los Zapateros”- The shoemakers – a fantastic LA team. One of the Carpinteria players in that game was drawn to provide outstanding expertise and hailed as “El Surdo Sanchez.” Surdo means “lefty” or “southpaw.” More on Sanchez, later.
The team photos that follow this week’s column are both from the year 1930. As you can see, Carpinteria Merchants has no Mexican players. The Cerca del Mar team has no white players. To put this in perspective, in 1929, the Carpinteria Herald announced the formation of a Carpinteria five-team league for all American players, meaning that no Mexicans were allowed. Within a few years of that announcement, the best of the Mexican-American players were recruited to represent Carpinteria baseball by their white counterparts. And in 1947, when school integration was achieved as a result of the Westminster Court case in Orange County, and the Mexican-American military returned from World War II, the former all-white Carpinteria Merchants team would consist of almost all Mexican-American players.
Clarence Peterson, one of Carpinteria’s best ball players in the late 30’s – said he was offered a contract by a Brooklyn Dodgers baseball scout! – said that the Mexican players were much more serious about the game of baseball than his own white sand lot teammates. In fact, Sunday Baseball was a festive family gathering for Mexican society. Games were followed by pot-luck picnics on an Aliso School basis. Peterson liked the baseball mark they played and would come out to watch. Asked if he ever played against the local Mexican team, he said “no”, it was not allowed.
One of the most famous of the Carpinteria ball players was Pete Sanchez who played through parts of four decades! He is the “Surdo Sanchez“Mentioned above. Like the coveted Peterson, Sanchez was on the radar screen of major league baseball scouts. There’s a telegram confirming that Oakland Oaks kept an eye on him. (The Oaks and other high-profile California teams such as the San Francisco Seals, Hollywood Stars and Los Angeles Angels served as wires for baseball clubs in major leagues that in the 1930s played teams as far west as Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit and St. Louis to the East Coast cities of New York, Boston, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, etc.) Sanchez can be seen in the Cerca del Mar team photo of this column in all its youthful joy. Dozens of newspaper clippings of his companies on the baseball field still exist in scrapbooks kept by the Ed Arellano family, as well as CVN’s former sports reporter Al Orozco from Carpinteria.
Sanchez was a fantastic left-handed thrower who kept strikers out of balance with a variety of cornering balls and sliders. In the early 30’s, all the baseball teams in Carpinteria had room for a player like Sanchez on the list. The same can be said about another of the Cerca del Mar pitchers, Manuel Bennett, he with the Anglo surname. Others who quickly became integrated were their battery mates – that is, their captors – Joe Granada and Val Alonzo. It makes sense. Cans and trappers needed to communicate well to be effective, but Granada and Alonzo were also strong hitters. Second baseman, Martin “Chicho” Moreno, also frequently appeared in the box on the integrated Carpinteria teams that were featured in local newspapers in the 1930s.
One of the most memorable moments involving Sanchez took place late in his playing days, in 1949. An “Old Timers” All-Star game by the best baseball players in Santa Barbara County was played at the now defunct Laguna Ballpark in Santa Barbara. Early in the game, one of the starting jugs was shaken by a number of hits and knocked out of the competition. From the excavation, Sanchez was wheeled out to the pitching mound for a light look. The crowd roared in approval as Old Pete rolled back in the wheel, took a few warm-up shots and continued to restore order. He kept the opposing team in check, and his side rallied for the victory.
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