Memories of the Game

Exploring Rio Vista’s Past and Egbert Field

Article #414

Published: July 22, 2009
Exploring Rio Vista’s Past 
With Phil Pezzaglia

Rio Vista Baseball: 1919

I have mentioned in past articles that the favorite sport in Rio Vista was the sport of baseball.  Why shouldn’t it be, it is considered to be America’s sport of choice, isn’t it? Rio Vista had baseball teams as far back as the early 1890’s. They would engage in games against teams from Antioch, Birds Landing, Collinsville and Suisun. In the years before the Rio Vista Bridge the team would ride on one of the side or rear wheel steamships down to Antioch to participate in a game or like wise the Antioch team would set sail up river. Games played in the city plaza, down on the St. Joseph’s Military Academy field, out by the cannery, and on Wood Island. The excitement for this sport continued through the turn of the century, and for many years past that.  In this weeks article we shall look at the couple of practice that led up to the first game of the 1919 Rio Vista baseball season.

As spring was approaching, and the month of March 1919 was well under way, it was evident that the young men of Rio Vista were becoming very eager to start the baseball season.  During the recent days the boys and young men of town could be seen practicing out on Wood Island. (Wood Island was located in the middle of the Sacramento River and started just below the Rio Vista Bridge.  A future article will discuss, in depth, the history of this island).

Wood Island was an ideal site for a baseball field.  It was a natural picnic ground, as well as a perfect location for swimming and boating. Quite a few local townsfolk spent many a day enjoying the recreational aspects of the small island. What was also ideal about this location for playing ball was that you could watch from the bridge, which overlooked the field, just as if you were enjoying grand stand seating.

On a bright sunny, March 16, Sunday after noon some of the old time fans gathered on the Rio Vista Bridge and began to watch as the young men gathered together started some preliminary practices. In amongst the group of players that were arming up that day could be seen, Rio Vista regulars: Art Emigh, “Dutch” Ruman, Emil Freitas and Al Hathaway.  Art Emigh, who had been a pitcher in previous seasons, hit balls out to the outfield, never once stepping up to the mount, much to the disappointment of the spectators, on the bridge.  Dutch Ruman had held the position of shortstop two years prior on the local team was standing on the mount practicing some pitches. Those who knew Mr. Ruman, and his previous history in baseball described him as “being a wizard at being walked to first”.

Emil Freitas, a local high school student, was found to be on the field, and easily keeping up with the other more seasoned players.

Unfortunately two former Rio Vista baseball players were missing from the practice.  Leslie Fraser and Walter Adcock were still both overseas, having been serving in the U.S. forces during the Great World War. But the two men would be playing with the other ball players in just a matter of a few days.

With all of the returning players and the many new talents, that had shown up at the practice Both players and spectators were confident that Rio Vista was going to be able to boast the best ball team on the river, during the upcoming season. One of the ball player’s was quoted as saying that “If we don’t win every game of the season, we will surely put up such an argument of base ball, that the fans will witness a good game for their money”.  That was the kind of attitude that the baseball players of town had at that time.  They enjoyed the game and they enjoyed watching the fans have a good time.

The next week a number of local citizens once again gathered on the Rio Vista Bridge as well as Wood Island to watch the local men go through their regular practice, once again. However this Sunday afternoon they enjoyed watching as the players divided into two teams and played a scrimmage game with Constable Adcock umpiring.  It was a highly spirited game, which ended in a draw.  A number of young men had turned out for practice and ended up playing in the game. There were ball players present of all different calibers. Some were semi-professionals, while some were amateurs, which were just eager to play and learn all of the rules.

Many familiar faces were out on the field that day.  C. Wadell, known as a pinch hitter, and he wasn’t disappointing anyone while he was seen driving them out. Leslie Fraser was on the field, holding down first base.  It had been two years since he had played baseball in Rio Vista.  He was one of the young men of town who had served in the U.S. forces fighting overseas in the Great World War.  Even with his lack of practice, over the recent years, it was still easy to see that he was still one of the fastest pitchers on the field. George Spreague did a fine job holding down second base, while Alley Charamuga, an up-river high school student, showed up as a promising backstop.

One player who made his way onto the field was Emil Fratis. Emil was their the previous week, but not in uniform. Unfortunately it was apparent that young Mr. Fratis was still growing and since the previous season he had outgrown his uniform.  This sight caused many a joke to be sent his way.  But he took it in stride and played a fine game.

Those additional players who really stood out during the practice game were Dutch Ruman, Art Emigh, Al Hathaway and a gentleman that went by the moniker of Short Captain.

The first game to be played was scheduled for Sunday April 16, 1919, at 1:30 p.m. It was perceived that a large crowd of fans would be present both on Wood Island, and lining up on the Rio Vista Bridge, for the season opener, which pitted the two Rio Vista teams against one and other. The battling teams were named “Rio Vista” and the “All Stars”. The team “Rio Vista” was made of: Dutch Ruman, pitcher; Frates, short stop; Al Hathaway, catcher; C. Waddill, first base; George Spreague, second base; Miller, third base; Frates, right field; Rose, center field and Frates, left field. The “All Stars” team consisted of: Rose, left field; Art Emigh, first base; Fraser, second base; Leslie Fraser, Pitcher; Yolo, short stop; Alley Charamuga, catcher; Sherman, right field; Brake, center field and Serpa, third base.

Once again Constable Geo Adcock held the position of Umpire and of the fifteen hundred citizens in Rio Vista; a good majority of them were present rooting the young men on. After all it was the favorite sport and pastime in Rio Vista.

Article #406

Published: May 27, 2009
Exploring Rio Vista’s Past
With Phil Pezzaglia

The Construction of Egbert Field: 1958

Next week I will continue the early history of water and sewer.  With baseball season under way, and locals filling the bleachers at the local ball park, I thought that I would like to take a moment, to briefly state some of the facts concerning the construction of Egbert Field, located on St. Francis Way.

For many years Rio Vistans first choice of local sports was always baseball.  This love affair with the game dates back to the 1890’s when local citizens would gather at the empty lot that would later be turned into the town plaza, and is presently the city park across from St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, on a Sunday afternoon to watch the young men of town play baseball.

Those were the days when Rio Vista, Birds Landing and Collinsville all had teams.

As Rio Vista moved into the twentieth century, the game of baseball continued to gain momentum with the local residents, which now played their games out on Wood Island. Wood Island was located in the middle of the Sacramento River almost directly across from present day City Hall. The island was suction dredged out of the river in 1927, for the deep-water channel.

During those early years of the twentieth century Rio Vista played teams from Antioch, Isleton, Courtland, etc.

Later on some games were played down on the land adjacent to the local cannery, located on River Road, where Dutra and Barrier Systems is presently located. But the majority of the baseball games played for the next few decades were played out on the old St. Joseph’s Military Academy grounds, located were the present day streets of Edgewater Drive and Highland Drive are.

When St. Joseph’s Military Academy was opened, in 1903 and in operation until 1932, the grounds had a ball field, which was used by the cadets and at times the local high school. After the academy was closed the grounds were maintained and continued to be used by the local high school.

Around 1951 Val deFlores, Lee Hack and a Mr. Baker organize two baseball teams, one of which was named the “Indians” so that the youngsters from town could enjoy organized baseball. These teams would be from a “pre-little league” era in Rio Vista’s history.

As the years when by an actual Rio Vista Little League was organized for the youth of Rio Vista. The old ball field was used for a couple of years but then as interest continued to grow, the need arose for the updating  of the basepark.

The April 1954 city election ballot had propositions on it that directly concerned the future of baseball in Rio Vista. The propositions that the citizens of Rio Vista voted on that April were:

Shall the City of Rio Vista no longer contribute financially to the construction or maintenance of a baseball park.

Shall the city of Rio Vista attempt to purchase the property upon which it is now located the baseball park and adjoining lot for a sum considered by the City Counsel and failing to negotiate agreeable terms, proceed to acquire the property through condemnation proceedings.

Shall the City of Rio Vista move the present baseball park to a new location and rebuild a park with equal accommodations.

Shall the City of Rio Vista move the present baseball park to a new location, providing minimum accommodations at the outset, and, over a period of years, gradually make improvements.

At that point in time it was agreed upon that if the baseball park was to be moved to a different location it would move to property recently purchased by the Blackwelder Company, on the north side of Highway 12. The 4 acre parcel, surrounded by gum trees on two sides would be a suitable location, as it was located  adjacent to the newest subdivision in town.

If this land were not considered suitable a second plan would be to construct on land in the “airport area”. Regarding dollars and cents, the land on which the baseball park, or old military school grounds, was valued at $16,000. Estimates to relocate and provide equal accommodations were valued at $25,000 to $35,000. To relocate with minimum facilities would cost an estimated $15,000.

It would take four years before the dream of a new ballpark would be realized.  When the people of Rio Vista put their minds to something it does get done, and that is exactly what happened. A baseball field, that every Rio Vistan could be proud of, was constructed on St. Francis Way, where the present day Egbert Field is located.


On Sunday July 20, 1958, Rio Vista’s “Egbert Field” baseball park was formally dedicated.


The event, which was just one of many local events occurring during the year long Rio Vista Centennial Celebration was sponsored by the Lions Club under the presidency of Jack Diamond.

Master of Ceremonies for the daylong events were Lt. Col. Perry Edwards, Val deFlores, baseball chairman and Hank Cavigli, general chairman.

More than 700 citizens were in attendance that Sunday afternoon. Both Mayor James W. Hamilton and Ernest Blackwelder said a few words with regards to E.S. “Eggie” Egbert’s love of the sport of baseball. The two men stated that “Egbert’s desire to win was only surpassed by his intense desire for clean play and good sportsmanship”. He was referred to as Rio Vista’s “Mr. Baseball”, and that the baseball field would be a fitting memorial to Mr. Egbert who was born in Rio Vista in 1879 and passed away early in 1958.

Mrs. E.S. Egbert was the guest of honor and accepted the plaque, in her late husbands name, from Mayor Hamilton and Mr. Blackwelder.  She stated, “She was sure that “Eggie” would be deeply proud of such an honor”.

Rev. Jack Sondericker, of the Union Baptist Church, started things off giving the invocation, followed by the Fort Mason Army band, which performed a variety of appropriate songs, prior to the dedication ceremony.

Following the music a number of old time local ball players, who had played with “Eggie”, were introduced to the crowd. Among them were Harodl Elliott, Sr., Buster Nelson, John Hoffman, Herbert Stevenson, Neil Anderson and Manuel Valine.

A short game of two and one-half innings was played between the Hayden “Hayseeds” and the Hack “Hacksters”, with the Hayseeds forfeiting while leading 4 to 1.

These Hackers were made up of in part by: Filbert, Moniz, Devine, Charlesworth, Adcock, Mills, Brown, while the Hayseeds consisted of in part by: Maxwell, Hanton, Valine, Emigh, Marteniano, deFlores.

After the “old-timers” game some of the younger Little Leaguers were introduced and allowed to demonstrated their abilities with the tee.  Following introductions of the Little League and Babe Ruth team’s two short games of minor and majors were played.

The big game of the day was a Junior League seven-inning contest between the Rio Vista team and a Junior League team from Vallejo. Rio Vista won with an 8 to 1 victory, over Vallejo. Highlights of the day for the Rio Vista team were:

RIO VISTA      AB   R   H
Nunes, ss ……….2    2    0
Azevedo, 2b …...3    2    2
Marks, p ……..…4    1    3
Lopes, c ………...2    1    1

All in all it was a very fitting celebration of Rio Vista’s love of baseball, and a fitting memorial to an avid local citizen and baseball fan.

Egbert Field has continued to be used to this day, however the old green walls, scoreboard, dugouts, etc. were torn down during the early 1970’s.





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