Writer’s picks: Sports & Recreation
SN&R writers share their favorite sporty and outdoorsy things about Sacramento
Best out-of-work local sports figure
OK, technically, Dusty Baker is currently employed. The local baseball legend, who lives in Granite Bay, was hired this spring as a special adviser to Larry Baer, CEO of the San Francisco Giants. Baker also dabbles in the solar energy industry. But he could be doing something more high-profile. Baker was inexplicably fired as manager of the Washington Nationals last year after going 95-67 and winning the National League East. It was his seventh division title in 22 years managing. At 69, Baker’s past the age most managers retire. But others, like Casey Stengel, Jack McKeon and Connie Mack, have managed well beyond. G.W.
Best unexpected place to connect with local sports history
St. Mary Cemetery & FUNERAL CENTER
Much of Sacramento’s baseball history rests in St. Mary Catholic Cemetery & Funeral Center, where 19 former major leaguers are buried according to the website Baseball-Reference.com. That’s by far the most of any cemetery in town. Some of the best ballplayers in city history also rest at St. Mary. They include Joe Marty, once considered a better prospect than his Pacific Coast League teammate Joe DiMaggio. There’s Tony Freitas, longtime ace of the Sacramento Solons, who pitched only briefly in the majors. Others in the cemetery carved out longer big league careers, such as Merv Shea, Tiny Bonham and Alex Kampouris. 6509 Fruitridge Road; (916) 452-3831. G.W.
Best primordial team spirit
Tower Bridge Battalion
“We are the Battalion / Tower Bridge Battalion / We are the Battalion / Who are you?!?!” I don’t know who I am, but I do know that all of a sudden, I like soccer? Even if you’re not a rabid fan of the Republic FC or the world-famous sport, the Battalion’s enthusiasm is undeniably infectious and one of the main draws of attending a home game. With its perpetual flag-waving, drumbeating and primordial chanting, this is an army with a level of organization that goes beyond any other local sports fandom. Last December, they flew all the way to New York City in solidarity with the boys in red when Sacramento was considered for a Major League Soccer expansion. While the Republic lost the bid to Cincinnati, the team’s indomitable spirit remains in the hearts of its most dedicated supporters. tbbattalion.com. R.M.
Best player-run rec sports league
Sacramento Ultimate Players Association
Plastic discs hurtling across the sky are a pretty whimsical sight; that’s probably why the frisbee sport compensates by calling itself “Ultimate.” Pretty badass. The Sacramento Ultimate Players Association has been a city staple for 15 years, and it’s continued to build community all along the way. This summer, they started up an incredibly affordable youth league, $10 for eight weeks of games, lessons and a free disc. That’s an absurdly good deal—you can’t buy a frisbee for that price, and the youth league continues in the fall. SUPA is an incredible addition to the city, whether you’re an adult looking to chuck some plastic or a kid learning a new sport. sacultimate.org. M.M.
Best bar to see (living) former ballplayers
Numbers have dwindled in recent years of living ballplayers active with the Sacramento Solons before the Giants and Dodgers moved west in 1958. Sam Kanelos, 87, owns a fine spot to catch the remaining old-timers, Old Ironsides. Kanelos, who played infield for the Solons from 1950 to 1951, is at the bar at lunchtime most weekdays. Other former ballplayers who visit regularly include Solons and Chicago Cubs catcher Cuno Barragan; longtime Major League Baseball coach Harry Dunlop; and 89-year-old Don Larsen, who pitched a perfect game in the 1956 World Series and generally makes two trips a year from his Idaho home to Old Ironsides. 1901 10th Street; (916) 443-9751; theoldironsides.com. G.W.
Best illustration that men are primates
Playing pool at Sutter Club Sports Bar
Sutter Club is not a pool hall. (It’s not even really a club, if you want to know the truth.) But the Ol’ Fol’ legacy establishment in the city’s quaint historic district does have a pool table. The green beast stands just past the doorman-guarded entrance under hanging lights. It has a subtle lean, loose pocket liners and a lockjawed coin slot that doesn’t always spit out every ball. It’s a beautiful old nag, in other words. And, at the moment, my friend Dave and I are riding high in the saddle.
Dave is a pretty good stickman. I’m streaky at best. But we’re having one of those nights where our loose change adds up to more than enough. Smug suburbanites, hillbilly hustlers, a staggering drunk who throws cash on the table—they all come up short. This one table starts to take on a totemic status. It is the lone adult female in a tribe of mountain gorillas. Primates wooed by her strange gravity try to kill off our billiard-ball babies so that only their offspring survives.
OK, it’s not a perfect metaphor, but you get the gist.
Finally, we’re dispatched by two easygoing buds. In billiards, it’s the polite assassins you have to worry about. Someone else has quarters down, so we exit with a 7-1 record. We figure it’s better to leave while this is still just a game and we’re still mostly upright homo sapiens. 720 Sutter Street in Folsom; (916) 351-1070. RFH