Summer baseball was an important pastime for the local year-round residents living in Palm Springs during the 1930s and 1940s. Business owners and workers were generally too busy until the close of the winter season to even think about leisurely recreation.
In 1936, the Palm Springs Polo Club was formed and the members raised money to buy the northeast corner of Ramon Road and Sunrise Way to become the site of the Field Club. In 1938, the grounds were given to the newly incorporated city of Palm Springs by the members of the club. A baseball diamond was laid out on part of the land that had been gifted to the city and the evening baseball games of summer began.
At first, baseball enthusiasts, men, women and children would come to the Field Club bringing orange crates to sit on. A few years later, the city built bleachers and installed lights. Interested spectators parked their cars on the grounds and they strolled onto the baseball field picking a seat in whatever shade was available, hoping to get a little relief from the summer heat.
As the evening progressed, sometimes a soft desert breeze would cool the air as the sun would set behind Mt. San Jacinto. This would create a comfortable spot to watch as many of the local teams played ball well into the night. In these summer baseball games, men played, women played, and even movie stars played including Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, and the Ritz Brothers.
After World War II, there were over 800 men, women, and children who would regularly turn out to see an important game. The teams were made up from various groups like the Junior Chamber of Commerce and the American Legion. Team names included Nine Old Men and the Mexican Colony. Teams from Desert Hot Springs and other surrounding cities came to play in the Palm Springs League.
Mexican-Americans who lived on Section 14, part of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians reservation, formed their own men’s baseball team called the Mexican Colony Club. Sid Canales was a well-respected catcher on the Mexican Colony team. He brought his team to one victory after another capturing many league championships.
Frank Devers, another outstanding local player, turned down a spot on the Sioux City Ghosts, a famous all-black, fast-pitch traveling softball team to remain in Palm Springs. He also played in the local league. Many local businessmen, policemen, firemen, construction workers and hotel workers were all eager to play baseball during the slower months of summer.
During the games, sometimes more than 20 cases of soft drinks were sold as well as other refreshments. The funds were pooled together to buy baseballs and other necessities to make the summer league successful. Umpires calling “you’re out” would be met with a great howl coming from spectators and sometimes even well-aimed blows if their calls met with disapproval. Roland Vaile of KCMJ sometimes broadcast the games over the radio.
There is a multitude of ways to learn more about Palm Springs, which turned 82 in 2020. One of the more intriguing methods is by exploring the city’s history.
The Palm Springs Historical Society will share a story whose time and place corresponds with today.
For more information, visit pshistoricalsociety.org, or their location at 221 S. Palm Canyon Drive.