Boosted by cheers from Hollywood stars supporting the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League, Gilmore Field débuted as a ballpark on May 3, 1939. Among the famous fans: Buster Keaton, Jack Benny, and Rudy Vallee. “Glamour was furnished in the person of beautiful Gail Patrick, star of the cinema and wife of Bob Cobb, the restaurateur, and one of the sponsors of the home team,” reported Read Kendall in the Los Angeles Times. Garbed in a red and white sports outfit, her black hair flowing from beneath a red baseball cap, Miss Patrick threw the first ball. “Comedian Joe E. Brown essayed to catch it and Jane Withers, juvenile screen actress, did her best to try and hit it. But the pitches were wild and their stint was finally halted to allow the game to get under way after all the ceremonies had been completed.”
The Seattle Rainiers beat the home team 8-5. Seattle hurler got pounded for 14 hits, but the Stars couldn’t overcome the deficit, although a ninth inning rally provided a glimmer of hope. Down 8-3, the Stars scored two runs and had the bases loaded with two outs when left fielder George Puccinelli flied out to Seattle centerfielder Bill Lawrence.
Babe Herman—in the waning years of a career that saw stints with the Dodgers, the Reds, the Cubs, the Pirates, and the Tigers—batted .317 in ’39, which was his first of six seasons with the Stars. His batting average stayed above .300 in each season. Herman’s performance in Gilmore Field’s first game was not indicative—he went 0 for 5. Ernie Orsatti, in his last season of playing professional baseball, knocked out a hit and scored a run when he pinch hit for pitcher Jimmie Crandall in the major leagues—all with the Cardinals—and five seasons in the minor leagues. A native of Los Angeles, Orsatti finished his career after the ’39 season: he also played for the Columbus Red Birds that year. Orsatti’s career batting average was .306.
Wayne Osborne, Bill Fleming, and Lou Tost took the mound for the Stars. Osborne got the recorded loss. Their battery mate, Cliff Dapper, was the only .300 hitter for the Stars in ’39. He did not, however, play in the Stars’ first game at Gilmore Field.
1939 was the second season for the Stars, a team previously known as the San Francisco Missions, the only Pacific Coast League team without its own ballpark. While owner Herbert Fleishhacker transported the team to the environs of southern California, his newly hired team president, Don Francisco, sought Gilmore Field as the site for planting the Stars’ flag.
“Plans were announced to convert Gilmore Stadium, owned by oilman Earl Gilmore and used primarily for football and midget car racing, into a home for the team, which had been rechristened the Stars,” wrote Dennis Snelling in his 2012 book The Greatest Minor League: A History of the Pacific Coast League, 1903-1957. “However, as spring training approached, Don Francisco deemed it woefully inadequate.”
Hence, Francisco struck a deal with the Los Angeles Angels to use Wrigley Field for 1938, which also saw the unveiling of the Rainiers’ home field, Sick Stadium, named after owner Emil Sick.
Gilmore Field was demolished in 1951.
A version of this article appeared on www.thesportspost.com on October 11, 2016.