A gouged and splintered Louisville Slugger lay near home plate with some other debris this week at Blair Field, the charming baseball park at Park Avenue and 10th Street in Long Beach undergoing its first major renovation.
Trucks and dumpsters sat on the infield. Hammering echoed through the grandstand as new blue aluminum bleachers were fastened. The old green wooden seats, ripped out during the last few weeks, are now in Tijuana awaiting recycling. They had been in place since Blair Field was built in 1958.
There is a new roof over the grandstand, and it, too, is blue. A drainage system has been installed, and a new backstop will be erected soon. The metal deck, risers and beams have all been sandblasted and painted.
This is the first phase of a $1-million project, according to Phil Hester, manager of the parks division of the Long Beach Parks and Recreation Department. He said that in the second phase, scheduled for fall, the turf will be replaced and an irrigation system will be put in. Restrooms, locker rooms and offices will be refurbished in a third phase.
Blair Field, which seats about 3,000, has long been a showcase for amateur baseball talent, including many future major leaguers. In 1965 it was the spring-training home of the Chicago Cubs, who had been forced from their Catalina Island facility by rodents.
Former Angels star Bobby Grich, who had attended Wilson High School across the street from Blair, once said, "I always felt like it was like a Big-League, or at least a Triple-A park."
The work is expected to be finished by March 1, when games start and continue almost every day through the fall.
"We should be wrapping up this week," said Larry Shea, superintendent of the project, as he tossed some broken boards into a wheelbarrow Tuesday morning. He looked out at the lush diamond that so many great players have graced and added, "A nice stadium, real nice. Now it's got a real nice face lift."
UNLV to Invade Long Beach Arena
The drawing power of Nevada Las Vegas, the nation's No. 1-ranked college basketball team, should be evident Monday night when the Rebels play Cal State Long Beach at 9 p.m. in the Long Beach Arena.
Paul Stalma, CSULB ticket manager, said he expects a crowd of more than 10,000. On Tuesday, only 4,000 balcony general admission tickets were left.
The largest Long Beach home crowd was 12,987 in 1973 for a game against Marquette. The only other crowd of more than 10,000 was in 1979, when 10,737 watched the 49ers play Cal State Fullerton.
UNLV will bring a 33-game winning streak if it defeats UC Santa Barbara and New Mexico State this week.
49ers Keep Losing the Close Ones
Among the weaknesses exhibited by the Cal State Long Beach men's basketball team has been the inability to come through under pressure.
The 49ers, 8-13 overall and 4-8 in the Big West Conference, are 1-7 in games decided by 4 points or less.
The latest close defeat came Monday night at San Jose State, 71-68, and followed last Saturday night's 60-59 loss at UC Santa Barbara.
Losing to San Jose (6-16, 4-9) for the second time this season was particularly embarrassing to Coach Seth Greenberg, who now has to worry about making the Big West tournament.
The first eight teams in the 10-team league qualify for the tournament March 6 to 9 in the Long Beach Arena, and the 49ers and San Jose are battling for eighth place.
The 49ers will play five of their remaining six games at home, while San Jose plays four of its last five games on the road.
Long Beach will play Cal State Fullerton at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the university gym.
Glenn Girls Get Their Revenge
In a stunning turnaround, the Glenn High School girls basketball team routed Artesia, 82-31, last Friday night, avenging an 80-64 loss earlier in the season. The teams finished in a tie for the Suburban League title.
"We put it all together," Glenn Coach Richard Drake said. "We exploited all of their weaknesses."
Before a crowd of about 700 in the Glenn gym, senior Angelina Marin led the Eagles (20-4) with 24 points. Junior Faye Hagan scored 14 points and grabbed 15 rebounds.
Glenn's first playoff game will be Saturday night at home against the winner of Wednesday night's Norte Vista-La Puente game.
"They put us in a tough bracket," Drake said, "but there isn't anyone playing better than us. Our emphasis is on defense. If we can hold a team under 50 points, we'll win."
New Sport: May Best Thumb Win
Terri Taylor's thumbnail flew off, astonishing the crowd at Barwinkle's in Long Beach during a thumb wrestling match that was part of last week's Jose Cuervo Barcathlon.
"It was quite embarrassing, but probably gave me an advantage," said Taylor, 29, of Lakewood, who was the overall winner among the women.
The Barcathlon, which benefitted the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, drew more than 70 competitors. It consists of thumb wrestling, knee volleyball, basketball shooting and a game in which contestants tried to toss a ring around a statue of a coyote.