Baseball exhibit at Depot Park Museum may be ‘The Only Game in Town’
With the continued delay of high school athletics, youth sports and Stompers baseball, it looks like the Depot Museum will soon have the only game in town.
“I was pretty proud to come up with that,” said museum director Patricia Cullinan about the title of the next exhibit, “The Only Game in Town,” opening sometime this summer at the former train depot near Arnold Field.
It will be the second of the two-part “Baseball in Sonoma” exhibit, the first of which ran from October to December, 2019. That one emphasized the youth and women’s leagues of the last century.
“We discovered too much information,” said Cullinan. “We had to split the exhibit into two parts.”
This second part will focus on the men playing in the Merchant League and other similar competitive baseball organizations that, at one time, helped make baseball Sonoma’s most popular sport.
Among the artifacts uncovered was a 1970 baseball program, which showed almost 50 teams were playing at Arnold Field – men’s and women’s teams, boys and girls. Conservatively, that’s 500 people playing the game just 40 years ago, before cable TV and digital devices.
“Baseball was huge in Sonoma, everybody played baseball,” said Cullinan, who has lived in Sonoma since she was 2. She relates that Ray Tynan, coach and manager for the Vineburg Cubs in the 1920s, was personal friends with her grandparents. Every town had at least one Merchant League team – San Francisco had several – and they’d compete in area leagues much as the Stompers play in the Pacific Association today.
Like the first exhibit, “The Only Game In Town” will be co-curated by Kate Schertz, former chair of the city Cultural and Fine Arts Commission (and a third-generation Cubs fan). Schertz is a member of the Sonoma Valley Historical Society board of directors, whose president is Cullinan. Both women are in their 70s.
“We were trying to change the demographic of who comes to the museum and who would be interested in the historical society,” said Schertz.
Schertz pointed out the richness of Sonoma’s history. “You could do an exhibit on ice cream in Sonoma.”
Their immediate goal is getting the word out that the Historical Society needs photos, artifacts and other material about Sonoma baseball from earlier generations. It seems that even though they came across “too much information” in the first go-round, they could still use more photos of Sonoma ball players, in and out of uniform; and pictures or programs of the games themselves, from the Merchant League of 1920s to the adult fast-pitch softball teams of the 2000s.
They are also looking for nominations for baseball coaches at all levels – Little League and Babe Ruth, high school and adult men’s and women’s teams – that deserve recognition. “The coaches need to be acknowledged and it is hard to find info on many of them,” said Cullinan.
When it closed down in March due to the shelter-in-place order, the Depot Museum was preparing an exhibit on hats, which may be delayed until fall — or perhaps placed along the museum’s walls, with the baseball exhibit in the center. Understandably, Cullinan worries about maintaining social distancing.
“We’re not a place where there’s a crowd,” she acknowledged, “most people could easily socially-space.” Limiting the number of people in the museum at one time, if it’s ever necessary, would make it “really doable.”