The Bolsa Knolls Boys of Summer

My memories of summer as a child must, of necessity, include baseball. As I look back to days spent from daylight to dark I can see, feel, and remember the warmth of the sun  and the longer days. The smell of fresh mowed lawns and the Earth beginning to stir from its long winters sleep. Farmers tilling the soil and planting, after days of preparation and repair of their equipment.  It was a very busy time of renewal. Many of the men of our area had just returned from fighting in two Wars, WW2 and the Korean conflict. It was a time of unbelievable growth in America in every possible way. The structure of our country was changed forever from small family farms to bedroom communities, used only to sleep and eat and then commute to work. Out of practicality, during the war many folks moved into the city to be close to work and the small family farms many times were absorbed by larger farms.

Enough of that- now Baseball. I will always remember the smell of new gloves and new baseballs. Of hours spent oiling and slapping balls in new gloves to form that perfect pocket which made a very thin place in which to catch hot line drives.  Embers of memory, that sometimes fanned by the mind, stir ashes of youth past and flame briefly, causing me to cherish those days which grow in importance as I enter the dusk of my life.

Well that was deep and wandering so lets get to the point. There are few things in a persons life that he or she can say, with confidence, that they have put a footprint in time. Children are some of the marks we can leave in the sands of time but we must wait to see how those marks will be acknowledged by history. We move through this vapor of life, and for the most part, leave few marks that would let those, who sift through them, identify the person or persons who  past this way. Today we’ll recall one such mark placed in the little community I grew up in called Bolsa Knolls. Oh, Bolsa Knolls is on the map for some reason. Maybe someone who grew up there works for Rand MacNally.  If  you look on most road maps you will see “Bolsa Knolls” just outside of Salinas California. Looking back all those years Bolsa Knolls was our ‘Shire’. You see that is where the Boys of Bolsa Knolls left their mark. Unknowingly and without any other reason than their quest to play baseball.

Sports in the 1950′s were, in many ways, at their pinnacle of popularity in American culture and were part of the main stream fabric. In some ways, much more than it is today. We pretty well knew all there was to know about our local Minor League Teams. Our Minor league team was called the ‘Salinas Packers’ and like the Greenbay Packers were sponsored by some of the local vegetable packing sheds and farm conglomerates.  Everyone  who was interested in sports were besides themselves thinking and talking about the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers moving out west. You see we had no Major League teams on the West Coast so World Series West was not even a pipe dream of the most ardent baseball fans. We could not have fathomed a Battle of the Bay. What? The San Francisco Giants vs. The Oakland Athletics? Most would of thought you had been in the sun too long.  Most folk that I knew were dust bowl people that had left all behind and moved to California in the ’30s and ’40s. Good people. Hard working people and most raised good kids. Our baseball was a reflection of fair play and honest effort taught to us by those who had values that are becoming rare these days.

Now to the mark.  Bolsa Knolls is about 7 miles from the closest Little League Park in the town of Salinas. Many of my friends were on teams and rode their bikes into town for practice and for games. Ours was a rural farm type community that had become one of the first bedroom communities that grew up all around Salinas.   There were no sidewalks, no parks or school ground close enough to consider ours. We would play all our sports in the street with all its perils and “broken window” run homes. I remember one afternoon some of the older boys and us kids were playing in and down around Gabilan creek.  After crossing it, someone, I can’t remember who, said  that  maybe we could build our own ball field by using just the corner of the Ferraci’s bean field. This was trespassing in the first degree. California Farmers were not known for their benevolence to ‘The Arkies and Oakies’ that were forced to leave home and migrate West. See The Grapes of Wrath

I remember that the field was freshly plowed, loose, loamy soil and if I recall planted with white navy beans. The older boys names that  I can recall were Joe Dotson and Mike Pierce. The ‘kids’ were me, Jerry and Steve Parrott, Danny Macauly (cousin to Bobby Bare)  Jimmy Tyner, James Cox, Steven Poe, Gary Harris, and others that I’m sure will be left out because their names fail me. The bigger kids stepped off and measured the shape of the field and we began stomping the freshly plowed field into a hard packed Baseball Diamond. The farmer, Mr. Ferracsi, wasn’t too happy about what we were doing to ‘his’ field by all rights would come down in his pickup to the top of a low ridge West of us and  shout at us to ‘get off his land’ and if we didn’t  he would call the sheriff and have us arrested. We would retreat back across the creek and at a reasonable distance, wait until he left. Once he was out of sight we then would resume the compacting of our diamond. If I remember the sheriff did show up a few times and we would skedaddle  until they left. I can imagine the Monterey Sheriffs department would tire of getting calls from an irate farmer about the “Boys of Bolas Knolls”  trespassing on his land. The section of land was never posted or fenced off and for the most part we were left alone to build our field.  I hesitate to use the phrase “field of dreams” here since things have a way of changing very quickly.

For some reason the fact that we were building a ball field was never mentioned to busy parents and no concern was ever shown about what was taking place. You see Mr. Ferracsi was a full time farmer and had lots of other chores to do while we were full time kids and were about the business of being kids and of purloining a Baseball field. He would have to leave to attend to other matters, but we would return to our mission. Stomp, stomp, stomp. We stomped and we stomped. First the home plate area then the base paths. Finally, the pitchers mound was raised but slightly, since we found it hard to move a lot of dirt.  The scale of the field wasn’t a  little league field. Many of the older boys were playing in the Babe Ruth League on full sized diamonds, but allowances were made so that Little Leaguers could play and not be penalized by pitching the full 60 feet 6 inches to home plate. You still had to run the full distance to the bases. If you could hit the ball out of the infield of a regular ball diamond that was a home run in little league but just a long out on this field. We learned to hit to the gaps in the infield and on the line to first or third.( more on this later)

Our persistence was admirable. We had the “stick to” of laborers who, although put in long hours of sweat and toil,  could see their goal being accomplished and were inspired by the doing of it. So, we pressed on. We had laid out and prepped the soil and pulled up some offending bean shoots, (uh they weren’t compatible with playing ball). After many hours of stomping the outfield, we held our first game.

The rules we used to play our first games were very much like those used when baseball was first played. (See Baseball Reader) We would play with as many as showed up to play. At times we could have 12 to 15 players on the field and at bat. The rules were simple each player was to take a position, according to the number of players, that would mean beginning at right field (the least desired of the positions due to so many Right handed players) to buck short, centerfield, short centerfield, leftfield, shortstop, third base, second base, first base, pitcher, and the catcher was one of the batters unless all the batters were on base. In that case we would rotate up and the pitcher would be the catcher and the first baseman would pitch and everyone would move up. You could be up to bat until you either struck out, flied out, or were called out on the bases. Whoever caught a fly ball for an out would be up to bat. This rule was bent by the older boys and when they were tired of hitting they would try to fly out to one of their friends. It just made us younger kids try harder to get to the ball.

Days and in fact several years of real baseball went by and the field was allowed by Mr. Ferrasci. In fact he didn’t plant that section of ground after our field was in and packed down. I remember, and can almost see, him setting in his pickup on the ridge-line watching us boys play while he took his lunch. We kept an eye on him but he stayed a distance from us and no longer tried to keep us away.

One day we showed up to play and a construction crew had showed up with heavy equipment and were building a bridge across Gabilan Creek extending Cornwall Street into a staked and flagged subdivision. Our field was being used as a parking lot for the bulldozers, backhoes and earth-movers. We had lost our field. That summer was one of going to town to try out for Little League and the older boys were into Babe Ruth ball. We were a desired commodity by the coaches and were  scouted by some of them because of our reputation of being good fielders and hitters.  Others Bolsa Knolls Boys would tell their coaches that we were good players, and that’s how we were picked. It was a busy time and a good time of playing ball and growing.

One day while we were playing some catch down around where they were parking the construction equipment, Mr. Ferracsi’s son Bill pulled up in his truck and looked at us for awhile. He motioned to us to come over and talk. We went over to his truck and we heard him say something that I still get emotional about. Bill said, “I just wanted to stop by and tell you boys that my dad has set aside a section of land that will become a Little League Park so you boys can continue to have a place to play ball.”It was great news and we felt good about what he said but I don’t think we really understood what a wonderful and generous man his dad was to set aside a parcel of land for the “Bolsa Knolls Boys”. I look back and realize we failed to thank him for his gift. Mr. Ferracsi its late, and you are gone, but, “thank you” from The Bolsa Knolls Boy who grew up playing ball on your field and for the Field that is still in use today. I can see you in your pick truck watching us play and know now in some way you were thinking of us, and maybe, could see us playing on the field you had in mind for us. We can take a lesson from you.

Thank you.

About Gerald Lingo

"Old Dude" with a view of things from outside of the forest most of you young guys are in which is why you can't see the forest for the trees. I grew up playing all sports until it got too dark to see the ball. I played High School football in the '60s and pitched some baseball in Junior High and High School. In High School I pitched for 3 days of try outs and then was cut. I should of known since the coach didn't like me. I have seen things and done some of the 'good old days' events that are frowned upon now. I know how to climb a fence and know which side of the turf goes up. Born 1944.

Comments

  1. This is exactly why I take so much pride in Ferrasci Park Little League, this story is about the beginning of the Boys Stadium of Salinas (Ferrasci Parks original name). We ARE Ferrasci Park Little league and it’s where “our” kids Play!

  2. As a little girl growing up in North Salinas, I remember well hanging out at Ferrasci Park! We little kids pretty much ran wild and played with any ball we could find, while older brothers and friends played ball. (Ah, that was a different era!) Parents ran concessions, or watched games – depending on their shift. For me, baseball is as intertwined with growing up in Salinas as the ripe smell of freshly fertilized fields or the dense fog that feels like rain…

    • Corey, I feel the same way when I drive by to visit my sister. Wonderful memories of great times and a very generous man. Mr. Frerrasci made it all happen. Many many parents built the park and maintained it so other generations could have a chance to play ball.

      • Gerald, today we had our 2nd annual tee-ball and pee wee day at Ferrasci Park and you all would be so proud in what we are doing to keep the future of Ferrasci Park LL going. We dedicated the day to those kids with jump houses, carnival games and skills competitions. It was an awesome day. As the current and hopefully future president I hope all the men who helped make our park can come back and visit us to see just how much pride is still involved in what we do here. We are so grateful for the passion you had back in the day to have Mr. Ferrasci decide to make part of his land the park it is today and I can promise you we will keep the park going and pass on the passion we have now realized from the story you have written.

        • Corey Rock, Just saw that you have some Champs to be very proud of. Wonderful that with all the hard work parents have put in that they can celebrate the Championship with the players. The desire lives on in those who share the dream. Thank you for being there for them.

    • Monique, you bring to mind those very things that made growing up in Bolsa Knolls special. We used to have crop dusting airplanes fly along side our house on Russel road and the dust would fog the house! I don’t think it hurt me but that was 60 years ago so we will just have to see.

  3. What a wonderful story and an insight to the origin of Ferrasci Park. I and most all of my friends played at Ferrasci from 1965 thru 1970 and we have so many great memories of that era. The batting stance of Willie Mays was always displayed and every moring during the summer you would find on that field: Steve Sims, Willie Garibay, Joe, Jeff and Ken Vermurlen, Percy VonWinning,Rick Albarran,Doug and Troy MacDonald, Ron and Don Pence, Jerry O’Connor, Mike Roberts, Kyle Kimm,Mike Nance and Doug Cask…rounding all of these guy’s up in the morning was easy and we would play all day long stopping only to go home for a peanut butter sandwich, blue(instant) milk and a fresh picked nectarine from a tree in the backyard. meeting back after lunch someone would have snowballs(pink and whie) or a moonpie and a grape nehi that everybody would drink off of(save for me…germs you know) what great memories

    • Joe we used to play with a ball till the cover came off and then wrap it in black ‘friction tape’. One of the things that the black tape caused was when it got too dark to see if you hit the ball in the air you were out! Wonderful times those were. Baseball kept many kids off the wanted list.

      • Gerald that is exactly what we did, the black tape graced many a ball and bat. We used to find water logged balls in the creek when we had to jump the fence to retrieve another “Garibay” home run and we would dry them out and use them. after a bat was cracked ( after complaints of “Hey man turn the label up next time”) we would Elmer’s glue it, then drive a couple nails in it then wrap it with the black tape. We did not have aluminum bats back then. I remember the songs “In the year 2525″ or” Crystal blue persuasion” playin on a small hand held transistor that you would always have to turn a certain way to get better reception. The crop dustors would spray the fields behind out house on Locarno ( we moved there in ’64 and my dad still lives in the very same house) and the poison would sit over our home. I am sure it had something to do with our mother’s fatal cancer as she always did her gardening in that mess. I remember the big wooden scoreboard in left field that had the wooden plates you would slide in to update score and outs, Joe Guiterez was the home plate umpire, Mr. BoBo lived in the little blue house across from center field. I remember his wife walking up and down Cornwall in black I think she passed away in the late ’60′s I coached there for 7 years in the 80′s and glance a “memory look” every time I pass by to visit my dad. Our group “owned” that ballpark in the late 60′s as we were the kid’s that were always there.

  4. Never really thought about how many boys are linked through the long history of that ball park. I have many stories and a few scars from there as well. Would be interesting to put together a batch of those stories. I’ll write up some of mine if we can get others to do the same. My most vivid memories are gophers and frogs, getting hit in the eye by a wild throw from the 3rd base, a pipe that would give you enough shock when you grabbed it to make your muscles flex, long striped socks and a visit from one of the Oakland A’s.

    • Bjorn, Great idea about having others share their stories about the park and life in Bolsa Knolls. I remember meeting Alvin Dark years after he retired. I hope others will share their memories before they dim. We used to play towards the fields but when the houses went in the field was reversed. Like Joe mentioned we would fish for lost balls in the creek. It seems the water logged ones didn’t go as far but later on if you hit one in the creek we would all groan and you were out. I remember a few times kids would go home with their ball and the game would be over.

      Please feel free to add your part in the history of the field.

  5. Harold Dillard says:

    I remember watching my brother Roy play for Williams food center.hitting home run after home run.15 -17 a year.i played farm team to uniform team there. and coached a year while in high school.My brothers and my cousins played ball there.Even watched my mom play on the parents team a year or two.Our family name is still in the cement to this day.what a joy it was to play ball and make friends at that park.

  6. Harold its hard to imagine what we would of missed if there wasn’t a ball park to grow up playing on. Wonderful memories.

  7. Robert W Dunn says:

    Learned alot about teamwork on that field and learned how to chew there also. made alot of long life friends being one of the Bolsa knolls boys

  8. Cindy Jorgensen says:

    Uncle Jerry, I couldn’t keep my old sentimental self from shedding many tears reading this wonderful story. You write like you have lived your life with so much heart! Thank-you for reviving so many memories of my childhood. I love you my dear Uncle Jerry!

    • Jer Lingo says:

      Cindy, You know you are my favorite Niece, don’t tell the rest of them please! I remember many things sometimes that others have forgotten. I think I paid close attention because I stuttered. When you have a speech problem its like you are trapped inside yourself and as a result you become an observer. I still have memories that I find hard to put into words. Its just my understanding of the things that happened while growing up in Bolsa Knolls. I feel fortunate to have known the “Boys”. Some turned out for the worse but many turned out the better as we grew and shared our dreams and our hopes.
      Maybe someday your Great Great Grandchild will play there? He/she will be better for it. Unc.

  9. İsmail Oğuz says:

    I have attended in baseball competition in Minnesota when I was in US as visiting scientist, but I could not figure out the rules of baseball game .

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