Santa Paula Times

Joe Torres photo shows him holding his Little League t-shirt from 1956 when Union Oil was the team sponsor.

Santa Paula Little League celebrating 50th anniversary

March 08, 2006
Grand Slam: 50th anniversary of SP Little League nostalgic homerun
Santa Paula News
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula Times“GRAND SLAM: 50th Anniversary of the Santa Paula Little League” was a nostalgic homerun for the boys of summer who gathered at the Santa Paula California Oil Museum at a special reception on February 26. The Santa Paula Historical Society exhibit runs through March 19 in the Gallery Room.The reception featured comments from veteran coaches and players, including Joe Jauregui, Richard Ruiz, Rey Frutos and Tony Vasquez, Sr., who spoke about their experiences in the dugout and on the field.The Santa Paula Little League began in 1956 on the playground of Barbara Webster School in Santa Paula, and moved a year later to its present location at George Harding Park, the former longtime grounds for the annual Santa Paula Rodeo. Civic leader George L. Harding and the Santa Paula Junior Chamber of Commerce made the arrangements for the Little League to find a permanent home at Harding Park in 1957.“The exhibit is very nice, good pictures of Dad,” said Beverly Harding, carrying on family tradition as the chairwoman of the commission that oversees the privately owned park. “Joe did a very nice job, a very nice job,” Harding noted of Jauregui’s efforts as guest curator in organizing the exhibit.Featuring vintage uniforms, gear, banners, memorabilia, newspaper clippings and many photographs, baseball is more than a game, said Frutos. “I loved baseball, even as a little kid,” a love that eventually encompassed fast pitch and playing in semi-pro ball. “What position did I play? I played them all… I was best as Field General!” joked Frutos.Many local businesses as well as service clubs and organizations have been longtime Little League supporters, shown through the photos of the sponsor walls featured even at World Series games.Frutos was pleased at how many former Little League players, coaches and umpires attended the reception, where baseball caps were the headwear of choice.The exhibit also honors working together, including the sponsors, said Museum Administrator Mike Nelson, “a real team effort all the way around.”
“Grand Slam” shares with many exhibits a “wonderful way for the community to present the best they of what they do, showcase the best of Santa Paula” to a wide audience of museum visitors.Jauregui noted that the exhibit crowd seemed eager to reflect on the city’s own “Field of Dreams… and field of memories. Some of my fondest memories” are tied to the Little League.Richard Ruiz had a field dedicated in his name after he became involved early on and stayed as a manager/coach, scorekeeper and league jack-of-all-trades. The community always responded when the Little League needed anything, from uniforms to park improvements, he noted.Tony Vasquez was an original member of the park family when he realized the dream of “umpiring for my hometown,” and was an umpire until 2002.Jauregui noted that women were great behind the scene players and invaluable in the snack bar and fundraising, and that it takes a dedicated crew of mothers” to keep the Little League dream alive.The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $4 for adults, $3 for seniors, $1 for children, and free to museum members. For more information call 933-3623, or visit the museum web site at