Chronological Tour: Stop 193

Spending Time with the Mudville Nine

Interior of Billy Hebert Field, Sep-2000.

Looking out at the ballpark from behind home plate just after sunset.

Quick Facts: Rating: 2 baseballs
Stockton, home of an inland port, is where, legend has it, Ernest Lawrence Thayer saw a game in the spring of 1888 and was moved to pen his classic ballad “Casey at the Bat”. Some historians believe that Thayer’s “Mudville” was an allusion to Boston’s Back Bay (he was a Harvard graduate), but this didn’t stop the Stockton Ports from renaming themselves the Mudville Nine for two seasons and lobbying for a new downtown park, Mudville Stadium, to replace Billy Hebert Field, which has been in use in some form since the late 1920s and has been home to the Ports for all but five years since 1946.

The trouble with Hebert Field is that there’s absolutely nothing classic about it. The “stadium” is a roofless concrete structure behind the plate, with stadium box seats below the concourse and aluminum benches above, flanked by aluminum bleachers on both ends. The press box is only big enough for the official scorer, scoreboard operator, public address announcer, and home radio. The visiting radio announcer had to sit in “press row”, an area in front of the press box where the stands had been removed and tables and chairs had been set up on a wooden platform. And the clubhouse is through a gate in left field. When I attended a game over Labor Day weekend in 2000, the post-game fireworks couldn’t start until the players had all retreated to the safety of the clubhouse.

The ownership groups in Visalia and Stockton swapped clubs and facilities for the 2002 season, and the new occupants of Hebert Field reinstated the venerable Stockton Ports name. John Katz, of the ball club, advised in late March 2002 that the Ports had undertaken a major renovation project at the park as well. And finally, for the 2005 season, the Ports moved into a new facility, Banner Island Ballpark.

Billy Hebert, the field’s namesake, played for the Oakland Oaks in the Pacific Coast League. He was killed at Guadalcanal during the second World War, the first professional ballplayer to lose his life in that war. The field at Oak Park was dedicated to him in 1951.

Game # Date League Level Result
437 Sat 2-Sep-2000 California A STOCKTON 7, Visalia 3
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This page updated 29-Jan-2013