November 7, 2007 > Hayward History
Baseball in Hayward
It is believed that baseball found its way to the San Francisco Bay Area shortly after the state entered the Union in 1850. By 1867, Pacific teams had organized a league and adopted formal rules. After the Cincinnati Red Stockings paid a visit in 1869, more teams sprung up in the area.
It took Haywards a little while longer to get in the game. It was not until 1878 shortly, after the town incorporated, that a team was formed. The Hayward Journal reported, "On Aug. 7 men of Haywards and vicinity met and voted to establish the Haywards Base Ball Club, with Horry Meek president. Its purpose is to promote the immediate physical benefit that may be derived from the exercise, and for the pleasure that is attached to the playing."
Horry Meek, son of William Meek of Cherryland, had played baseball at the University of California. His father owned the field on A Street where the team practiced and played. They played in an open field with their supporters standing around the edge or sitting on the ground. The Journal reported, "Fans attended in large numbers." At first there were no gloves or masks and few substitutions were allowed. Home plate was only 45 feet away from the pitcher, compared to 60 feet 6 inches that is used today.
The team played their first game on Sept. 15 against the Westerners of San Francisco and then the Oakland Mystics, Alameda County Champions. They must have suffered from a lack of uniforms since they held a special dance at the Odd Fellows Hall on B Street to raise money for uniforms. At their next game against the Oakland Caledonians they were well outfitted.
The sport continued to grow in the Haywards, and in the 1890s the Town Plaza, where the Hayward Public Library now sits, was the center where most games were played. From various reports of the Journal, it sounds as if these became quite the community events. "The teams had colorful names, like the Fats and the Leans, and in the off-season they kept a goat tethered to the field to keep the grass down." Eventually, playing fields sprang up on E Street near where Bret Harte School is today and down B Street where Burbank School is located. This field soon had a grandstand and bleachers and was known as Athletic Park. It was the home of local semi-pros.
By the turn of the century, Hayward was known for its competitive town teams. The season started in April and continued until late October. Every Sunday (much to the chagrin of the local clergy) there was a game, as well as on all special holidays. For those special days, teams would come from San Francisco and Oakland. In 1901, the Journal reported on the Palmtag and Heyer's Brewery team playing the Howard Tailoring Co. team of Livermore. The P & H team, with a local dentist, the Fire Chief, a lawyer, and city employees, won the game 5 - 2.
In the spring of 1910 the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League trained in Hayward. They were quartered in the Hayward Hotel and used the practice diamond in front of the present Bret Harte School. Many of the local teams had the thrill of playing against them in scrimmages and occasionally beat them.
The Golden Era in Hayward baseball was the 1910-20 decade. In 1910 Archie McGregor became the manager of a town team called the Hayward Merchants. It flourished and won all kinds of area championships until the First World War came around. Most of the men went off to fight. After the war, to help the community heal, an organization known as the Hayward Boosters was created with the sole aim of supporting and promoting local baseball. They raised several thousands of dollars which we used to upgrade the ball fields to include dressing rooms, showers and a grandstand.
Baseball has never waned for Bay Area audiences. Record numbers of boys and girls are still playing locally in a variety of leagues at all skill levels. Our colleges and universities still have teams that hone those skills to send the best to semi-professional and professional clubs. We are fortunate to have two professional teams to follow and root for in Major League baseball.