Members of the Riverbank Historical Society and community residents celebrated Memories Day on Saturday, March 29 and focused on Mexican American baseball in Riverbank. The gathering was held at the City Council Chambers on Third Street.
Originally, author Richard Santillan, who wrote “Mexican American Baseball in the Inland Empire” was going to be the special guest speaker but due to issues with the weather he was unable to attend.
A quote from the book indicated that “Mexican roots run deep in Riverbank, with most people tied to the agricultural industry. Like many other California Mexican American communities, residents faced discrimination in housing, education, employment, and recreation. Banned from the city swimming pool, Mexican children swam in the canals. Baseball was an escape from the harsh conditions of racial exclusion.”
Riverbank Historical Society President Paulette Roberson continued with the baseball presentation to not disappoint the guests that took the time to share and remember baseball of years past.
“I thought the Memories Day was great,” expressed Roberson. “It turned out to be just what the purpose of Memories Days is supposed to be, a place for people to share their memories.”
Roberson was the master of ceremonies at the event and was taking notes throughout the afternoon to document the memories that were being shared.
There were approximately 27 people in attendance that brought their own memorabilia to share with other baseball enthusiasts including pictures, posters, books and several stories. The guests that stepped up and shared their stories were Phyllis Perez, Jesse Perez, Leo Carrillo, Ruben Patron, Roy Alverez, Ramon Green, Anita and John Ramos, and Olivia Sandoval, all with memories of baseball in the area.
Some of the speakers at the event were former baseball players, umpires, and coaches.
Sandoval is the wife of Sam Sandoval, who was a baseball player that was featured in the book as are the 1934 Riverbank Merchants team. Several of the people that spoke about their days in baseball added to each other’s stories as well.
Patron was a pitcher in the Cal-Mex League and explained that there was an unwritten rule that each team had to have at least five Mexican players.
Green was an announcer and brought baseball schedules with all the teams in the area from the 1979 Mexican American Baseball League on up to the 80s.
“Wives and children talked of the life as part of the family of a Mexican-American ballplayer and the full commitment the families made of their team,” stated Roberson.
The museum had several pictures and articles on hand that were available for all the attendees to see. There were even a few pictures that were passed around the room with names on the back.
Vice Mayor Cal Campbell and his wife Marina were in the audience enjoying the memories that were being shared.
Light refreshments set up on a table were offered to the guests, the special treats baked by Roberson and local resident Mary Banda.
The special guest speaker that canceled did not stop the Memories Day about baseball from happening, instead, Roberson made sure to stay on track and roll on with it. The show must go on and it did.
Guests shared laughs and followed with applause after attendees shared their stories.
“It would have been really nice if the author had been there as expected, but I feel we had a very successful Memories Day anyway,” exclaimed Roberson.