• Steve Potter

6/24/2020 - Phillies Minor League History - The Bakersfield Bears


Time Period - 1956 & 1958 to 1967


Venue : Sam Lynn Ballpark


City : Bakersfield, CA

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Franchise History :


The longest tenured Bakersfield Pro Baseball club was formed in 1941 as a charter member of the California League - a class C designation at the time. The club remained as a member of the league thru the 2016 season when the franchise disbanded.


Originally playing as the Bakersfield Badgers from 1941 to 1942 the team name changed multiple times over the years ( Indians, Boosters, Bears, Dodgers, Outlaws, Mariners and Blaze ).


Major League affiliations over the years were as follows :


Cleveland Indians - 1946 to 1952

Detroit Tigers - 1953

Philadelphia Phillies - 1956 & 1958 to 1967

Chicago Cubs - 1957

Los Angeles Dodgers - 1968 to 1975 & 1984 to 1994

Seattle Mariners - 1982 to 1983

Co- Op - 1995 to 1996

San Francisco Giants - 1997 to 2000

Tampa Bay Devil Rays - 2001 to 2004

Texas Rangers - 2005 to 2010

Cincinnati Reds - 2011 to 2014

Seattle Mariners - 2015 to 2016

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The Stadium the Phillies teams played in :


Sam Lynn Ballpark :


Location: 4009 Chester Avenue, north of California Avenue.

Capacity: 3,000 (1941); 3,600 (1950); 4,500 (1971); 3,300 (1995)

Dimensions (Left, Center, Right): 330-370-330 (1971); 328-354-328 (1995)


“Sam Lynn, the local Coca Cola distributor, donated the land for the park, and was personally involved in planning and promoting it. Lynn also managed to obtain a franchise in the new California State League for the 1941 season. The park was funded by the community and by the WPA; it was barely completed in time for the home opener. Lynn, apparently worn out by his exertions, died suddenly a few days before the home opener, and the park was named for him.The catcher faces NW. The setting sun is in the eyes of the batters and the catcher; some catchers wear sunglasses beneath their masks.” - Stats Crew


The field has the shortest center field in all of pro baseball at just 354 feet ... the outfield wall is 15 feet high. Because the sun sets in center field an 120 foot wall ( batters eye ) was built behind the center field fence and tall trees were planted in an attempt to alleviate the glare. It didn’t work so well ... games are usually started after sunset occurs to address the issue 🤦‍♂️.


The ballpark remains in use today as the home ballpark of the Bakersfield Train Robbers franchise in the pro independent Pecos League.

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The Seasons :


1956


California League (C) ... Manager : Art Lilly & Dick Wilson ... 48-92, 8th place ... Attendance: 25,085.


42 year old RHP Red Lynn appeared in 24 games and posted a 12-9 record in 140 IP, he had previously played in 3 major league seasons ( 1939, 1940 & 1944 ) with the Giants, Tigers and Cubs ... the 1956 season was the last in his 21 year playing career.


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Note : During the 1957 season the Cubs were listed as the Bakersfield affiliation however the team accepted player assignments from other clubs ... one was 18 year old outfielder Johny Callison ( signed by the White Sox ) - the Bakersfield native hit .340 with 17 home runs and 61 RBIs in 350 AB’s ... during the winter off season in 1959 he was traded to the Phillies for third baseman Gene Freese ... the rest is history 🤓


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1958


California League (C) ... Manager : Paul Owens ... 84-55, 2nd place ... Attendance: 66,785. Lost in playoffs to Visalia Redlegs 2 games to 1.


34 year old team skipper Paul Owens played in 31 games and hit .255 in 98 AB’s ... 19 year old short stop Bobby Wine hit .311 in 440 AB’s with 13 doubles, 11 triples, 11 home runs and 75 RBIs ... he made his big league debut 2 seasons later


1959


California League (C) ... Manager : Paul Owens ... 70-71, 4th place ... Attendance: 56,346.


19 year old first baseman Danny Cater hit .308 with 11 home runs and 99 RBIs in just his second pro season ... he had posted a .345 batting average the year before with Johnson City ... would go on to play in 12 major league seasons


1960


California League (C) ... Manager : Lou Kahn ... 74-66, 3rd place ... Attendance: 44,069.


18 year old RHP Gary Kroll went 17-12 in 35 games ( 257 IP ) with a 2.91 ERA ... he would go on to play in parts of 4 major league seasons ( 1964 to 1966 & 1969 ) with the Phillies, Mets, Astros & Indians


1961


California League (C) ... Manager : Lou Kahn ... 74-66, 2nd place ... Attendance: 45,992.


19 year old outfielder John Upham hit .356 in 491 AB’s with 22 doubles, 12 triples and 24 stolen bases ... he would reach the major leagues in 1967 as a LHP with the Cubs and would pitch in 7 big league contests for Chicago over two seasons


1962


California League (C) ... Manager : Bob Wellman ... 67-72 , 7th place ... Attendance: 40,405.


19 year old shortstop Mike Marshall hit .282 with 15 doubles, 5 homers, 63 RBIs and 24 stolen bases in 521 AB’s ... in 1965 he switched to pitching full time - that led to an illustrious 14 season big league career


1963


California League (A)... Manager : Bob Wellman ... 78-62 , 2nd place ... Attendance: 40,776.


19 year old outfielder John Briggs hit .297 with 20 doubles, 6 triples, 21 home runs, 83 RBIs and 20 stolen bases ... he would make his big league debut in 1964 with the Phillies and play in 12 major league seasons with the Phillies, Brewers and Twins before playing an additional season in Japan ... I got to pitch against him in the Delaware Semi Pro League after he retired from the MLB ... quite an honor for me 😎


1964


California League (A) ... Manager : Moose Johnson ... 56-83, 8th place ... Attendance: 26,725.


20 year old first baseman Gene Stone hit 17 home runs and drove in 73 posting a .273 BA in 397 AB’s ... he played in 18 major league games with the 1969 Phillies making 32 plate appearances


1965


California League (A) ... Manager : Dick Teed ... 66-74, 5th place ... Attendance: 23,234.


22 year old RHP Jackie Brown went 15-11 in 33 games ( 236 IP - 15 complete games ) with a 3.66 ERA ... he would pitch in 7 major league seasons ( 1970 to 1977 ) with the Senators, Rangers, Indians and Expos


1966


California League (A) ... Dick Teed ... 68-72, 6th place ... Attendance: 29,650.


18 year old RHP Billy Champion went 9-5 with a 4.75 ERA in 24 games ( 127 IP ) ... he would be in the major leagues in 1969 and pitched in 8 major league seasons from 1969 to 1976 with the Phillies and Brewers


1967


California League (A) ... Nolan Campbell ... 70-68, 4th place ... Attendance: 27,426.


20 year old 1B/OF Joe Lis led the league in home runs with 33 and RBIs with 90 while hitting .253 in 467 AB’s ... he would hit 236 home runs in 12 minor league seasons with 853 RBIs ... 32 homers and 92 RBIs in 8 big league seasons with the Phillies, Twins, Indians and Mariners ( 1970 to 1978 )


Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️

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