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Publication Date: Friday, April 05, 2002

Turning 50 Turning 50 (April 05, 2002)

The Palo Alto Little League's Middlefield Ball Park celebrates its golden anniversary on Saturday during Opening Day celebration

by Bill Yarak

The year was 1952 -- King George IV of England dies, his daughter Elizabeth ascends to the throne and becomes Queen of England.

In the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower is elected President; American Bandstand debuts, and Yogi Berra edges Mickey Mantle for the Yankees' team lead in home runs, runs batted in and runs scored.

In Palo Alto, a group of dedicated parents and volunteers complete a labor of love, creating a Little League park that have evolved into the jewel it is today.

Fifty years ago, near the corner of Middlefield Road and Diss Road (now E. Meadow), a group of contractors, local businesses, parents and volunteers carved from the clay soil of suburban Palo Alto a Little League baseball field that became the "field of dreams" for generations of Little Leaguers who followed.

Known then as Palo Alto Little League Park, the baseball stadium now called Middlefield Ball Park turns 50 this season and will be the subject of a community-wide celebration during Palo Alto Little League's Opening Day celebration on Saturday. Festivities begin at 9:30 a.m.

Middlefield Ball Park was a dream of the founders of Palo Alto Little League who chartered the League in 1950. That group, led by Floyd Lowe, Phil Montrouil, Howard Bertelsen, and Bill Alhouse, raised the $100,000 necessary to buy the land and construct the stadium and clubhouse. The design of the field was based on Stanford's Sunken Diamond.

Four contractors - J. McFadden and Son, Verne Freeman, Bahr and Ledoyan, and McCammon and Wunderlich -- donated equipment and personnel to excavate the site (removing 5,000 yards of dirt), while two trucking firms - Wells P. Goodenough and Urban Brothers - donated their trucks and drivers. W. Dean Duisenberg of Redwood Fence Company and Hubbard and Johnson Lumber Company donated time, material and labor to build the fence around the park.

The ballpark was dedicated in 1952 during a ceremony keynoted by then-Mayor J. Pearce Mitchell, which featured two of the greatest sports legends who ever lived - baseball Hall of Famer Ty Cobb and the legendary Glenn (Pop) Warner. Cobb was the first man voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Warner was one of college football's greatest coaches, having been elected to the Coach's Hall of Fame in 1951. His 319 career wins are second only to Bear Bryant's 323 and Eddie Robinson's 408. During his nine year tenure at Stanford, his teams won three Rose Bowls.

Now, 50 years later, Palo Alto Little League once has has reason to celebrate those who built it. Palo Alto Mayor Vic Ojakian will be on hand, along with one of the League's founding fathers, Bill Alhouse, and special surprise celebrities. A parade of past players is planned and birthday cake will be served.

Palo Alto Little League cordially invites any former player to be a part of this parade. Interested former players should plan on arriving at Middlefield Ball Park by 9 a.m. to sign in. The parade begins at 9:30 a.m.


 

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