One final Fred David post: My interview with him in 2001

I just got an email from a fellow named Matt, regarding my stories on former Sacramento Solons owner Fred David, who died in October at 100 and whose estate was just liquidated.  Matt wanted to know if he could see the interview I did with David in 2001 for my high school senior project.

David gave me a tour of his warehouse, where he stored memorabilia he recovered after the Solons’ ballpark, Edmonds Field, was torn down in 1964.  Prior to the tour, I provided David a list of written questions, which I still have (Editor’s note: It’s not for sale, though I will happily provide photocopies to anyone who sends me a stamped, addressed envelope.)

Thus, here is the interview:

1. For approximately how long were you an owner of the Sacramento Solons?

1944 Stockholder- 1954- President of Sacramento Baseball assn.  1964 Sold Edmonds Field

2. How much did it cost to buy the team?

Started with $1,000.00 to keep baseball in Sacramento.

3. Why did you buy the Solons?

To keep baseball in Sacramento, of course with the help of the directors, associates and fans.

4. You obviously had to sell a lot of players to the major leagues to stay afloat financially.  At the same time, the amount of fans you drew depended on how good your players were (David wrote “Right. Right,” next to both of these lines.)  How did you deal with your financial dilemnas?

Borrow and Sell.  We had good players, good baseball, too much Major League.

5. I understand the Solons have been affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers and Texas Rangers.  Did you maintain any formal “parental” agreement with any team during your tenure?

No.  We had to sell many good players to the Major Leagues to stay afloat.

6. Describe the working relationship you had with your general manager Dave Kelley.

Very good.

7. How well did you pay your players in comparison to other Coast League owners?

Fairly well, considering the attendance.

8. What was your total payroll for 1954?

N/A

9. How did you get along with other Coast League owners?

Very good.

10. Was there any kind of stigma attached to Sacramento as a baseball town, since it was so small?

Oakland and San Francisco was new Major League out west.  Sacto was too small.

11. Were you apart of any effort to help get the PCL recognized as part of the Major League?

Yes, we were Open Classification shooting for the Majors.  When the Majors came west, we dropped to AAA

12. What were the fans like?  Were attendance figures consistently good, consistently bad or sporadic?

Bad.  We let another group call Solons Inc to operate the team for two years, we rented them the stadium for $15,000.00 per year.  They went bankrupt.

13. How big was the level of public interest in the Solons?

At first fair, then, they wanted Major League.

14. What kind of perks did you enjoy as an owner?

A lot of work– no pay.  But, we kept baseball going & some fun, with good times.

15. Were you friends with any players during your tenure?

Yes managers and players.  Some came to work for me.  Besides other athletes.

16. Was Edmonds Field a fitting place for baseball in Sacramento?

Very much so.  Lots of players were developed here.

17. Did you support or root for the Solons before the time that you owned them?

Yes, also at times I worked in the concession in the lobby when I was fifteen years old.

18. What’s your favorite memory from the time you owned the Solons?

We kept baseball going for 20 years.  1944-1964, good times and bad.

19. When you bought the Solons in 1954, did you think that Major League baseball would make it to the West Coast? (David wrote “Yes” next to this)  On the other hand, did you feel that the Pacific Coast League was a major league in its own right?

Yes, the weak ones were Sacramento & Portland.  As you can see all other 6 teams are Major L. now.

20. Did the Korean War affect the Solons at all?

Yes, it took some of our best players.

21. What drove you out of being an owner?  When did you officially sell?

Poor attendance.  The team in 1960-61.  Stadium 1964.

22. How did you feel in the spring of 1961, when the Solons finally departed for Hawaii, after two years of rumors that they’d leave?  Did you personally try to stop the move?

They sold the team to Hawaii, before we knew it.  Left us an empty stadium.

23. Why do you still have so much memorabilia from Edmonds Field?

After we sold the stadium, I salvaged what I could.  It was a great memory.

24. Why do think it took so long for baseball to return to Sacramento?

Major Leagues out west.  Then after 1965– no stadium.  It took 30 years for someone to decide it was time– including the growth of Sacto.

25. How different is the candy industry from the baseball industry?

Business is business– work.  But I loved baseball.  I guess I was a good fan.

26. Are you a Rivercats fan?

Yes.

More Fred David estate sale pictures

I wanted to post some more pictures that I took at the Fred David estate sale on Friday.  For my initial post here early Saturday morning, I only used the picture I took of Gus Stathos, because I figured it was my best shot of the day, as well as the most original content I could offer, and I didn’t want my entry to get bogged down with too many images.  Most of the other shots I took are similar to what The Sacramento Bee has posted on its Web site.  Still, I offer my selection now for anyone who doesn’t read The Bee.

Continue reading More Fred David estate sale pictures

Day 2 of the estate sale for Sacramento Solons owner Fred David

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SACRAMENTO– It’s as if the old Solon has been transported back more than half a century to his clubhouse at Edmonds Field.

In front of Gus Stathos, in a cavernous warehouse downtown dubbed The Building lie some of the final baseball-related relics from the estate of former Sacramento Solons owner Fred David, who died in October at 100. It’s late on a Friday, the second day of a sale that was busier on its first, with items like the old pitching cage, ticket window and ballpark speakers already long gone.  Not much Solons gear remains: Some orphan field lights, some beat-up folding chairs that served as box seats, tickets from the final exhibition game before the park was torn down in 1964, a ripped stretcher, a heat box and the old whirlpool bath, priced at $200.  The vast majority of the items in stock come from David’s wholesale candy business that he ran for most of his life, up until his final weeks.

As a former Solon outfielder, a replica team hat on his head, the 82-year-old Stathos wants to know if he’s entitled to one of the chairs for free, perhaps so he can have it painted for his grandchildren.  He’ll leave with one within the hour.  First, he surveys the other items that once played a different role in his life as a player.  When asked, he says he remembers being in the whirlpool bath and that he also sat in the red leather heat box “a few times.”  Of the bath, which will sell to another former ballplayer shortly thereafter, Stathos remarks, “Tony Freitas used to say ‘Get in there’,” remembering the words of his former manager.

Memories of this kind are things cherished by Stathos and other Solons old-timers, who still gather frequently and whose ranks thin by the year.  For others who attended the sale, some came out of simple curiosity or to add to collections, others in hopes that the warehouse held their link to a bygone era.

Staff for Schiff Estate Services, who organized and ran the sale, reported their largest first day ever for a sale with the Thursday opening for the event.  The first customers arrived outside the warehouse around 5:30 that morning and lines to the cash register lasted for an hour-and-a-half, Schiff Estate Services owner Gary Schiff said.  Schiff refused to discuss profits from the sale, for the privacy of the David family, though he said this was one of his most-successful sales.

“I’ve done bigger dollar numbers on sales, but it’s been fun,” Schiff said.

Stathos was not the only ex-Solon to partake in the sale, and sales staff said that Alan O’Connor, the author of Solons team history Gold on the Diamond was in and out of the event over the first two days.  Friday, an autographed copy of his book sat on display at the front counter.

Some people left disappointed, though.  Some family members of former Solons players came in hopes they would find personal memorabilia.  Sales staff said, however, that the warehouse had already been picked through by collectors in the four decades since Edmonds Field was torn down, when David salvaged what he could and hauled it back to his storage.  (Editor’s Note: David also seemingly gave freely.  I say this because he gave me an old Solons program when he let me tour the warehouse in 2001.)

“A lot of the sexy baseball stuff wasn’t here,” Schiff said.

No members of David’s family were present either on Friday.  They left the sale to Schiff, who they contacted through a referral.  Only one family member of David’s helped in the planning, and she couldn’t bear to watch it carried out.

“She said this was pretty much his life and this was more emotional than him dying, seeing this get dismantled,” Schiff said.

A couple of waitresses from the Fox & Goose Restaurant, next door to the warehouse, were among the shoppers on Friday.  David owned the building that housed the warehouse and the restaurant.  One of the waitresses, Cindy Baker, said she served David for four years and that he preferred cream of broccoli with cheddar cheese soup.  She could only talk to him through the personal assistant always with him and said he would complain if his dish was wrong.  She said Friday marked the first time she’d been allowed in the warehouse.

Still, she said that people had nice things to say about David at a memorial that was held at the Fox & Goose late last year.

“People were being sincere and acknowledging his efforts for the city, but at the same time, it seemed like a lot of people knew him as a man,” Baker said.

Friday afternoon, in a warehouse due to be sold once finally vacated, the remnants of that life awaited new frontier.

Looks like my weekend plans are set

I was just looking at my Google Analytics stats and saw I had a spike yesterday in the number of people who read my obituary on former Sacramento Solons owner Fred David, who died in October at 100.  I wondered if the Sacramento Bee had finally written anything about him.  They declined to do a standard obituary, because their obit writer learned of David’s death more than two weeks after the fact.  I talked with one of their columnists after my post ran, and he said he was interested in writing something, though I’ve yet to see anything.

After seeing the statistical spike, however, I wondered if the column had finally run.  Instead, I did a Google search on David and found this Craigslist ad from January 30:

We will be liquidating the Estate of longtime Sacramento Businessman and owner of the Sacramento Baseball Solons of the Old PCL Thursday – Sunday Feb. 4th – 7th. Many items from the old stadium on Broadway will be for sale. Also, the remaining contents of David Candy, including Signs, displays, office, racks, memoribilia. Get on our email list www.schiffestateservices.com to get more information and photos on Monday.

David had a warehouse at 10th and R Street in Sacramento, where he stored many items that he salvaged from the Solons ballpark after it was torn down in 1964.  I had wondered what would become of the memorabilia and had first heard through David’s niece last fall that there would be a sale.  The Craigslist ad doesn’t make the location of the sale clear, but the estate service company Web site said it will be held at the warehouse.

Anyhow, it looks like I now have my weekend plans set.  I was already kicking around the idea of going to Sacramento to see my folks, do laundry and return some library books.  This pretty much seals it.  I have some stuff in the Bay Area I need to do today, but will probably get on the road for Sacramento tomorrow morning and maybe stay through Saturday.  Expect pictures and a full description by Sunday.

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A footnote: While I was writing this post, I received a phone call.  As I have noted here in the past, I am interested in writing a book on a former Sacramento baseball player named Joe Marty.  Marty played in the 1930s and ’40s with the Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies and was once thought to be a better prospect than Joe DiMaggio.  That never happened and he wound up running a bar in Sacramento, where he became “his own best customer,” as one old-timer told me.

On a whim last month, I checked the biographies of every one of Marty’s major league teammates (it was a Saturday, I wasn’t doing much, and this totally beats Netflix.)  I found that four of Marty’s teammates were still alive, all in their 90s.  I tried calling all four and didn’t have any luck in getting through and one of the men subsequently died, so I was kind of bummed.  The longer it goes, the greater the likelihood has seemed I won’t get to talk to any of the remaining teammates.

However, I just got a call from the daughter of one of the players.  We talked and I am going to send some written questions which she will review with her dad, who is 96.  She said we could do a follow-up call from there, when her dad is near the phone.  I had called this player’s son a few weeks ago and hadn’t been real encouraged this would lead anywhere, after he gave me the indication his dad is private.  My spirits are lifted now, though.  The daughter asked her dad some questions while we were on the phone, and I could hear him in the background, correctly remembering that Marty was an outfielder.  He sounds lucid.

Former Sacramento Solons owner, Fred David, dead at 100

A pioneering member in Sacramento sports history, Fred David died on October 17, at the age of 100.

David once owned a Pacific Coast League baseball team from my hometown, the Sacramento Solons, and I did my senior project in high school on it. I interviewed a number of former players and people associated with the club, including David who was 91 at the time. David first worked in the concession stand for the Solons at the age of 15 and became a stockholder in the team in 1944. He bought it ten years later at a time of uncertainty for the club, starting with $1,000, as he told me, “to keep baseball in Sacramento.” David owned the Solons from 1954 to 1960, when they moved to Honolulu. Their ballpark Edmonds Field was torn down in 1964, and a Target sits today on the site, with a plaque in the parking lot marking home plate.

A number of relics from Edmonds Field wound up in a warehouse David owned in downtown Sacramento at 10th and R Street for his primary business, The David Candy Company. David let me go inside the warehouse at the time of our interview and even gave me a score book from 1957 that I later got autographed by another interview subject, former Solon and Chicago Cubs catcher Cuno Barragan. Inside David’s warehouse was old seating, PA and scoreboard equipment. I gave David a list of written questions, asking among them why he still had so much of the memorabilia. “After we sold the stadium, I salvaged what I could,” David wrote. “It was a great memory.”

I learned recently from David’s niece, Diana Thomas of Santa Barbara, that he died 16 days after turning 100. He had wanted to make 100, Thomas explained, and after achieving this, his body went downhill rapidly. He was lucid up until the end. She said the warehouse is still in the family, which calls it The Building, and it hasn’t been gone through yet. An estate sale is pending.

Retired baseball scout Ronnie King, 82, knew David as a kid, before either man got into baseball. King last spoke with David about 15 years ago and learned of his passing through a mutual friend.

Asked if David made a meaningful contribution to Sacramento sports, King told Baseball Past and Present, “Oh, sure, sure. In fact if he didn’t buy it (in 1954), they probably would have left then, because there was a couple other cities that wanted the Solons.”

Another Sacramento franchise, the Monarchs of the Women’s National Basketball Association folded on November 20, seven weeks after David died. King didn’t hold back when asked what David would have made of the decision.

“I think he would have been a little shook up about it, because I think he always thought that sports did something for the city,” King said.

When I interviewed David in 2001, I asked him how the candy industry, which he worked in for much of his life differed from baseball. “Business is business– work,” he wrote. “But I loved baseball. I guess I was a good fan.”