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Think of Yorba Hills as Nowheresville : Baseball: The O.C. Little League team playing in the World Series actually lives in Yorba Linda.

August 23, 1995|J.R. MOEHRINGER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

YORBA HILLS? The hills are alive with the sound of Yorba.

It's Yorba this and Yorba that as the 1995 Little League World Series gets under way, thanks to a team of 12-year-old Cinderellas tugging at the nation's heartstrings and putting their hometown of Yorba Hills on the map.

Just one problem. There is no Yorba Hills. There are no Yorba Hills. Yes, we have no Yorba Hills.

Pay no mind to those classic cracker-barrel stories you've been hearing about Yorba Hills residents rooting for their little boys of summer.

Simply put, Yorba Hills is No Place, U.S.A.

Yorba Hills is Orange County's answer to Atlantis, Lake Wobegon or Oz.

Yorba Hills is sheer myth, a spot that shimmers in the mind's eye but doesn't exist in reality, like a convenient parking space or the perfect relationship.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday August 29, 1995 Orange County Edition Part A Page 3 Metro Desk 1 inches; 34 words Type of Material: Correction
Yorba Hills--A typographical error in a Wednesday story about nonexistent "Yorba Hills" incorrectly left the impression that local barber Mike Ruocco had used a profanity in reference to certain residents. Ruocco did not use such language.

Who are those milk-fed, apple-cheeked boys who won that late-inning thriller in last Friday's Western Regional finals, earning themselves this coveted trip to Williamsport, Pa.? Sportscasters tell us, assure us, promise us, in their best Vin Scully voices:

"These earnest youngsters are from the sleepy little hamlet of Yorba Hills, in Orange County, California!"

In fact, they hail from Yorba Linda, population 58,000, a suburb abutting Anaheim Hills and boasting at least 28 churches, 27 parks, 30 miles of bicycle paths, two newspapers, one public library--but not one hill named Yorba.

*

What's more confusing, Yorba Linda residents aren't quite sure how their team became the famed Yorba Hills nine, or what to do about it. Asked what the boys will do when folks back East ask where they're from, Yorba Linda Mayor Daniel T. Welch hesitated before hazarding a guess:

"They'll probably say, 'Where the Nixon Library is?' "

Oops, he thought. Wait a second. That doesn't sound right, because everyone knows the Richard Nixon Library is in Yorba Linda, birthplace of the 37th President.

He tendered a second suggestion.

"By Disneyland!?"

Nope, too vague. Half the blessed county is "by Disneyland."

It hardly ever comes up, he muttered.

But it does come up, every time the team wins, which it did in grand style Monday night, 17-5, advancing a step further down the road to baseball glory and geographical ambiguity.

Sadly, the boys lost 8-2 Tuesday night, dimming their hopes of a title, but still. Folks in this prideful city would like a little credit for what's been accomplished so far, thank you.

Mike Ruocco, owner of the local barber shop, said the fault lies with those uppity Yorba Hills residents, who are using this team to divide the community.

"It's like they want to secede from the union, become a separate entity," he said of the sobs in Yorba Hills.

Just one problem with that theory. Yorba Hills doesn't exist.

Welch offered to clear up the mix up.

Yorba Linda has three baseball teams, he said, and all three can't be called the Yorba Linda Whatevers. So one team plays for East Yorba Linda, which doesn't exist, another plays for West Yorba Linda, which doesn't exist, and the third team is called the Yorba Hills All-Stars.

If you think you saw Abbott and Costello do this same routine some years ago, you're not alone.

For years the Yorba Hills name never posed a problem, Welch insisted, until these Yorba Hills boys went out and became a national story.

In conclusion, Welch vowed with great hizzoner-like harrumph: "The whole community is behind this team. And that is the entirety of Yorba Linda."

Not so fast.

Yorba Linda residents who know about the team tend to call themselves fans. But many scan the hills for signs of a different Yorba, like befuddled Greeks seeking the mythical Zorba.

So says Mary Fry, a real estate broker at the oldest realty office in town, who spent a valuable chunk of her Tuesday morning trying to explain the history of Yorba Hills to a sweet Yorba Linda couple.

"This morning, we had the Houses here," she confided.

Been here 50 years, the Houses. Poor folks had no idea what to make of this Yorba Hills business. As she talked, you could almost hear Mr. House scratching his gray pate.

"There's no such thing as Yorba Hills," Fry said, with the kind of exasperation typically reserved for an explanation one has been forced to repeat 1,000 times. "There's not a Yorba Hills station, there's not a Yorba Hills housing tract, there's not a Yorba Hills school, there's not a Yorba Hills shopping center."

She exhaled--a deep, cleansing breath.

Just then, her father walked into the office. The local library lists him as a founding father of Yorba Linda, which incorporated in November, 1967. He was likely there when the place chose "Land of Gracious Living" as its slogan, there when the avocado was voted Yorba Linda's official tree.

Surely, Bill Ross understands the complexities of this tricky Yorba Hills-Yorba Linda business.

"Yorba Hills?" he scowled. "No, there's no Yorba Hills. I been here 35 years and there's no Yorba Hills. Why not have a headline that says, 'Where the hell is Yorba Hills?' "

*

Out on "the street"--the one, quaint Main Street about as wide as a base path--the talk was the same.

Pardon me, do you know the way to Yorba Hills?

One might as well ask for Mr. Yorba, or the real Linda.

"It's in the hills out there," said Debbie Tocco, waving her hand uncertainly at the misty purple lumps in the distance.

If anyone can get you to Yorba Hills it ought to be Tocco, who touts her connections with the Little League elite.

"One of the boys on the team's brother dated my daughter's friend," she said, not trying to be funny.

Look, so what if there is no Yorba Hills, said Sandra Reiley, who owns the local hardware store with her husband Leo.

If you want to raise a little Cain in Yorba Linda, she said, forget the poor Little Leaguers. Folks may not know where the boys are from, but everyone agrees they're something special.

"If you want to stir up controversy," she said confidentially, "talk about Nixon."

* STREAK SNAPPED: Yorba Hills loses to Texas team in second round. C1

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