Saturday, July 22, 2017

South Belt Spot: The Sagemont Beverly Hills Little League Fields

There are actually three "spots" in our historical time frame of the 60's to the 90's where the United Sports Association (USA) built and maintained ball fields for the community's Little League. The third spot remains today, as of this writing, near its 25th season, well surpassing the 8 seasons at spot #1 and the 15 seasons at spot #2.


The first was directly off the Gulf Freeway at the South Belt exit, on the southwest corner.

You can see the cars along the freeway behind one of the fields in this photo:



There is some debate over when the first teams played on these fields. The earliest photographic evidence is of team photos from 1968.  But one 1971 sign suggests we can at least dial that back to 1967, with the sign reading "CHAMPS 1967 - 68 - 69 - & 1970"



The standard uniform with press on letters on a solid color t-shirt, a single lettered baseball hat, white baseball pants, striped socks, and Chuck Taylors, if you had 'em,  were typical of the day. Two dads to manage the team on the field, two moms to wrangle the dugout, and a sister sweetheart rounded out the team.

The team's provided their own singage, which ranged from the most basic handwritten ones to some that featured team mascot artwork.

The all-important sponsor was responsible for ponying up the money for the shirts and hats and sometimes socks. So Freeland's Pet Shops really went all out for their Cubbies 


baseball pants were not required.

this sweetheart wins the dress prize, and Powell Electrical had some deep pockets to keep their team in style, year after year.

Squeaky's Barbershop featured the Playboy Bunny





Click here to view the full set of team photos found a couple of years ago at the Leader offices.

 











 
















































In June 1974 the league was alerted by the owner of the land that they would need to find other accommodations following the end of the baseball season. The memories of why this became an issue are vague, with some discussion of liability and squatters rights after a certain number of years causing the owner to request a change of venue.

The first step was the formation of USA, United Sports Association, with membership dues of $30. (In today's dollars that's approaching $150.)

The new land for the fields, 20 acres worth, was purchased September 1974, "out in the boon docks" just past the Brio Refinery on Choate Road (whose name would change years later.) Football season, then soccer, then the holidays meant very little was done the rest of that year to prepare what had been rice paddies into playable fields.


1975

On March 15, 1975, the Seabees and 120 local men turned out to erect 54 light poles between sun-up and sundown that day. The pole-setting day was one month to the day ahead of opening day on the four new fields. 

Things are getting dismantled in the photo below, with two of the four gas stations' signs, Gulf and Texaco, visible in the background.


























April 15, 1975 the baseball fields opened for 750 kids to play ball
and this new space would host the Sagemont Beverly Hills Little League for the next 15 seasons.





1976

The South Belt Press' first issue Feb. 5, 1976, featured a photo of Little League sign-ups



And an editorial by Marie was featured, praising the community for its efforts in securing a new place for the kids to play ball at the start of the 1975 season and begging for more community help for the coming year. 








Also that year, the rise of the Goat Man...








  






your's truly at 3rd base

(and in my normal spot in the outfield)


Around the early 80s, the All Star shirts switched to SBA or South Belt Area, before switching back to Sagemont Beverly Hills by 1983.






  









bb
















 












  
  






  













 












  

It was this year that headlines in the Leader began to cover meetings about the clean-up at Brio, seen here right behind the field.

By 1989, Brio dominated the headlines and USA began to question whether they could continue to play on ground now revealed to have been the receptacle of runoff back when the fields were being constructed in 1975. It was the end of the line for the second SBH ballpark.


For years the EPA saw no need to test the United Sports Association ball fields for contamination. . . .

South Belt area residents who helped build the fields 15 years ago expressed alarm that the EPA was only going to test the first few inches of top soil. Bob Miller, vice president of USA in 1975 said since large amounts of top soil has been brought in to build the fields up, "testing a few inches down, wouldn't do a damn bit of good." . . . .

Miller said when he first started working the fields and discovered it used to be a rice field he also found four six-inch pipes running from the DOP property onto the boggy ground draining some type of chemical.

"We didn't know to be concerned back then. I plowed the pipes under to stop the draining. I also don't understand why the EPA waited until now to do the testing. They should have made sure no problems existed a long time ago considering the utilization of the property. The should have taken the kids into consideration before now," said Miller.






the caption under the top left photo: "Former United Sports Association board member in 1975, Bobby Miller, believes he located several pipes he first discovered while clearing and cleaning the ballpark after the property was first purchased. Miller has stated the pipes were draining liquids onto the ballfield property when he found them."



Community leaders concerned for area children have worried about the consequences of the children playing at the ballpark or in and around both Brio and DOP. EPA public relations spokesman Roger Meachern said the areas were fenced and posted warning people to stay away and that both sites are secure. 


"I'll tell you what, we can't function as guardians of the neighborhood children. People, parents to start with, and other people who are concerned with this contamination must make some effort to keep those children away from that stuff."

And so, that's exactly what the community decided to do. It was the end of the ballfields next to Brio. 






oil tars oozing from Brio, with the ballfields in back
  

The original fields hosted some 8 seasons of baseball. The second home hosted 15 seasons.



It would be a slog to get a third home up and running for all the teams. The next few years were rough going. 

1990s



In the spring of 1990, plans to construct a new sports complex on Blackhawk were finalized. These years were marked by an upheaval in leadership and difficult decisions on how to raise the funds necessary to create a new space not in the shadow of Brio's toxins.

That year, they played on whatever fields could host them, all over the place, even vacant lots.





1993

the preliminary plans for the ballfields at El Franco Lee Park were published




1994




1995


1996