Jackson: California League’s northern teams carry rich history into new year

From SABR member Josh Jackson at MiLB.com on January 28, 2019:

On Memorial Day 1943, with war raging in Europe and Asia and California League baseball on hold, a small crowd assembled at Stockton’s Oak Park. A military band played as a flag in center field was raised to half mast and a bronze plaque was unveiled in a ceremony honoring Billy Hebert, the first professional ballplayer killed in World War II.

Hebert was a Stockton native who played for the Merced Bears in the Cal League’s inaugural year of 1941, making the first All-Star team and batting .328 in 130 games at the age of 21. At season’s end — more than two months before the attack on Pearl Harbor — he enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve to serve as an aviation metalsmith. Sent to Guadalcanal near the end of the summer of ’42, Hebert was wounded in the Japanese bombing of an airstrip in mid-October. He died by the end of the month.


His sacrifice was covered nationally and commemorated in lasting fashion. In 1950, the 60-year-old baseball grounds at Oak Park were officially renamed Billy Hebert Field.

The Cal League was still young, and its early years were defined by the war and its aftermath. Despite dramatic changes to the game and the state, that legacy lives on in half of today’s Cal League teams.

Read the full article here: https://www.milb.com/milb/news/early-california-league-was-shaped-by-world-war-ii/c-302549574

Originally published: January 29, 2019. Last Updated: January 29, 2019.