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


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 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.


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.

Technology to the rescue

I interviewed this morning for a sales position with a start-up in Mountain View and got to talking about the upcoming opportunity I have to interview Will Clark upon his induction into the Hitters Hall of Fame at the Ted Williams Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida on February 13.  At this point, I still can’t afford a plane ticket, and I can’t justify taking out a loan or asking my parents for cash.  Thus, my assumption has been that I will probably do a phone interview with Clark, if he’s willing, as well as interviews with the other honorees for the museum this year: Darryl Strawberry, Bert Blyleven and Dave Dravecky.  It would be a major coup for this site, and Clark’s my childhood hero, though I know not to bank on anything.

I got to talking today with my interviewer, though, and she suggested I do a WebEx video conference or Skype video conversation with Clark.  I hadn’t considered those possibilities, and I have to admit it sure beats an interview over my Metro phone.  I also have a friend who works for WebEx and might be able to get me set up technically.  The catch would be getting Clark in front of a web camera, though that might not be impossible.  At the very least, he would have a way to see me during our talk.

Best case scenario, of course, is that I come up with the necessary funds, board a plane to Florida, get six or ten posts for this site out of the event and maybe even cover it for the San Francisco Chronicle.  At least to me, in a perfect world, this is how things would play out.  But I’m open to talking to Clark in any way possible.

Anyone who has ideas I haven’t mentioned is welcome to contact me, asap.

Noah Lowry, and if his comeback has a chance

I read on ESPN this morning that former San Francisco Giants pitcher Noah Lowry has postponed a workout with several prospective teams in his bid to return to the majors after a two-year absence.

“He’s close to where he wants to be,” his agent told The Associated Press on Monday. “We’re confident once Noah throws for teams questions will be answered. Noah’s missed a lot of time and understands the importance of this audition. If he’s at 90 percent now, we’re going to allow him the time to get to 100 percent because we know clubs have questions based on the time he’s missed.”

The skeptic in me thinks: Bullshit.  I’m guessing Lowry is worried his time away from the game has hurt his velocity and is desperate to postpone the inevitable.  It seems akin to asking for more time on a big assignment in college.  Granted, baseball seems like an easier sport to resume playing after a long delay than football, which requires meticulous precision and conditioning that can erode with even a short absence.  Just look what’s happened to Mike Williams or Michael Vick.  Still, it seems like it would be tougher to return to baseball as a pitcher than in another position.

Looking over the annals of baseball history, there aren’t too many pitchers who come to mind who’ve had successful comebacks.  Here are the results of a few:

Jim Palmer: Colossal fail.  Palmer aborted his attempt to return in 1991, after giving up five hits and two runs in two innings of a spring training game.  According to his Wikipedia page, his trainer remarked, “You’ll never get into the Hall of Fame with those mechanics,” to which Palmer replied, “I’m already in the Hall of Fame.”

David Cone: He fared slightly better than Palmer, making it to the regular season after sitting out a year, but quit again with a 1-3 record and 6.50 ERA.

Jim Bouton: He first retired midway through the 1970 season, following the publication of his bestseller Ball Four, but returned to the majors eight years later at the age of 39.  Bouton went 1-3 in five starts with the Atlanta Braves, later saying his motivation was to do something that had never been done before.

Roger Clemens: This return started nicely with Cy Young-caliber pitching, but ended horrifically with Clemens implicating his wife in front of Congress for using Human Growth Hormone.  Short of Barry Bonds, Pete Rose or the Black Sox, Clemens has perhaps the most inglorious exit in baseball history, as well as the all-time greatest excuse for not using performance enhancing drugs: I didn’t, my wife did.

Dazzy Vance: This might not technically be termed a comeback since Vance bounced in and out of the minor leagues after briefly making his major league debut in 1915.  Still, he had to persevere before settling into a Hall of Fame career.

Bob Feller: Another comeback that might not be termed as such, as Feller successfully resumed his Hall of Fame career after seeing combat in the Pacific theater in World War II.  There are a number of other pitchers like him from this era, along with guys like Warren Spahn who got a late start due to military service.

Lowry might be better served to come back as an outfielder.  Lots of former pitchers have transitioned to that successfully, from Smoky Joe Wood to Lefty O’Doul to Rick Ankiel.

Garko, rhymes with Darko

I was a little surprised that Ryan Garko took a $550,000, incentive-laden deal with the Seattle Mariners today, officially ending the chances the San Francisco Giants would bring him back.  Granted, Garko struggled with the Giants last season, collecting only 12 RBI in 40 games after arriving in a trade with the Cleveland Indians.  Still, he hardly fared worse than any first baseman San Francisco has used in recent memory, and his contract seems insanely cheap, even if he hits the additional half million in incentives. I’d also have loved if the Giants had taken full advantage of the marketing purposes with Garko’s name.

I’m referring, with this, to the film Garko’s name correlates with, Donnie Darko (to say nothing of Darko Milicic.)  Every time I’ve read Garko’s name, from the time the Giants picked him up last summer to now, that odd, though well-done film has flashed in my mind.  To anyone who hasn’t seen it, I won’t bother explaining besides to say it involves a six-foot bunny and a troubled, teen title character (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) who has premonitions of apocalypse.  The soundtrack introduced me to Joy Division, which would have made for wonderfully depressing walk-up music for Garko’s at-bats.  And any number of different clips from the film could have been played on the Jumbotron at AT&T Park, like when Donnie stumbles onto a golf course and meets the rabbit, who tells him the world will end in about 28 days.

I’ll admit this all probably would have been rather confusing to fans, though I personally might have had to purchase season tickets for the Giants.  I’ll extend the same possibility now to the Mariners.