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Napa County residents have always had an affinity for outdoor activities and especially the sporting lifestyle. Locals from Napa’s past were both avid sports spectators and participants. A collection of Napa Register articles printed in the 1950s substantiate this point. Those reports also revealed the diversity of those events and activities once enjoyed by the area’s sporting enthusiasts.

But, before focusing on those local notes, in the late 1950s the Napa Register reported the details about significant changes in the national sports scene. In 1958, a pair of rival East Coast professional sports franchises moved to California. The New York Giants relocated to the Bay Area to become the San Francisco Giants while the Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles. Those changes forever altered the world of American baseball “fandom” causing great sorrow back East while creating elation in California.

Continuing with baseball, but adding a bit of a twist, a 1954 Register article reported on an upcoming fundraising event that had combined two different types of sports. It announced, “Tonight at the Napa Fairground’s arena it will be wrestling for baseball, with a top card of bouts getting underway at 8:30 o’clock.”

The proceeds of this unique fundraiser were to benefit the “Lighted Baseball Field Fund Drive now under way, “ wrote the Register. As to the particular details regarding the actual baseball field and its possible organizational affiliations, that information was not in the 1954 article.

The Register did report additional information about the fundraising event: “Some of the biggest names in the grappling business will face opponents. Leo Nomellini, Juan Humberto, Rennie Etchison, Lord Blears and Ben Sharpe will all be on hand to compete in Napa’s first all singles show.”

The Register coverage continued, “While all the matches could be termed main events, it will be up to the audience to pick the duet who will climb into the ring for the one-hour, two out of three falls contest for the evening’s highlight.”

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A few years earlier, the Napa fairgrounds, now the Napa Valley Exposition, was the venue for yet another unique and special sporting event. According to a 1951 Register news story, the Napa Motorcycle Club added some extra octane to their annual races at the Third Street race track. The newspaper reported the local bikers’ organization had successfully secured the guest appearance of the celebrated and top biker, Larry Headrick. He was the reigning National Motorcycle Champion. A follow-up article stated that Headrick’s appearance drew substantially larger crowds to the local club’s annual races.

While those sporting events drew thousands of local sporting spectators and fans, another local event required Napa sports enthusiasts to be participants. This for-men-only event capitalized on Napa County residents’ love of golfing and desire to tee off whenever possible. Fortunately for the mid-19th century golf-obsessed area residents, they had numerous annual golf event options to fulfill that addiction. The Napa Valley Country Club’s semi-annual stag dinner and Calcutta Pool was a long-standing favorite with those local, as well as regional, golfers.

According to the Register sports page article, the 1953 sporting event began the evening before the early morning commencement of the golf tournament. At 7:30 p.m. the men gathered at the clubhouse for their stags’ banquet. As part of that evening’s festivities, the Club’s executive officers made a special announcement that evening to the delight of those present. The Register continued, “Cameron Dunn, most recently of the Silverado Country Club, was announced as the new pro of the Napa Valley Country Club.” It added, “Dunn, 40, a member of the famous golfing family, has been a professional since 1931.”

The Register also noted the all male attendees enthusiastically welcomed Dunn into their fold as they enjoyed an indulgent and classic 1950s-style feast.

Based on the information found in these Napa Register news accounts, Napa County residents enjoyed many different and diverse options to chose from to satisfy their quest for the sporting life and lifestyle.

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Email Rebecca Yerger at yegerenterprises@yahoo.com.

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