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In the Pipeline: Author touches all the bases

"H.B. Champion Standards Win 3 to 2! Fastest Game of Baseball Witnessed Here! 2000 See Game! Gate receipts over $609!"

So trumpeted the local headlines one summer day in the late 1920s after a ballgame in Huntington Beach.

For many fans, baseball history in Orange County begins and ends with the Angels, be they from California, Anaheim or Los Angeles. But the roots of the sport run much deeper and wider, extending throughout the county and carrying with them stories, myths, legacies and everything else we attach to this marvelous sport.

I am an unabashed baseball fan, and my passion for the game's history has led me to write a number of books on the subject. This week, my latest title was released, and it is something I am very proud of.

Simply titled "Baseball in Orange County," (Arcadia Publishing) it represents my desire to tell the most complete story of how important the sport has been to Orange County — and vice versa.

Did you know that baseball in the OC goes back to the 1880s, when oil company teams began forming? Or that Walter Johnson, one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history, learned to play baseball in Orange County and actually started his career here? And there is much more to Orange County baseball history.

There was Jackie Robinson coming to Anaheim to film the story of his life at a little ballpark called La Palma. Which is also the place where Joe DiMaggio played while stationed in the Army. And also where manager Connie Mack brought his Philadelphia Athletics for spring training in the early 1940s.

There was the Trolley League from 1910, featuring teams who were joined by the trolleys that ran between their cities. Orange County's Trolley League entry was the Santa Ana Yellow Sox, joined by the Redondo Beach Wharf Rats, Long Beach Sand Crabs, Los Angeles McCormicks, Pasadena Silk Sox and Los Angeles Maiers.

There were the local Mexican players who, shamefully, were not allowed to play with the white teams due to segregation. So they formed their own teams, like Los Juveniles, and played in their own leagues.

There was the legendary female team the Orange Lionettes, and famed ballparks like the aforementioned La Palma Park, Amerige Park in Fullerton and Hawley Park in Santa Ana.

Or how about the day Yankee legends Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig came to Orange County to do some hunting? And did you know the man who wrote "Take Me Out To the Ball Game" lived, died and is laid to rest in Orange County?

Speaking of Ruth, his last-ever home run ball is located in the Newport Sports Museum, which features one of the world's greatest collections of baseball artifacts.

And yes, Huntington Beach was another early hotbed of Orange County baseball. After oil was discovered in here in the early 1920s, company teams began to form, including the Standard Oil team, which built its own ballpark at the corner of 23rd and Goldenwest streets. And like many cities and towns, Huntington Beach featured amateur league baseball teams sponsored by local merchants.

The National League MVP in 2000 was infielder Jeff Kent, who graduated from Edison High School. And who will ever forget what Huntington Beach's Ocean View Little League did last year in becoming the first Orange County team ever to win the Little League Baseball World Series? Nobody, I hope.

My new book features hundreds of rare images and many more stories and bits of trivia (including a series of extremely rare, never-before-published images of Ruth playing baseball in Orange County).

I'll be signing and discussing the book at 11:30 a.m. this Saturday at the OC Dugout, located at 1238 S. Beach Boulevard in Anaheim. Joining me will be Ocean View Little League manager Jeff Pratto and members of that championship team. Angels slugger Kendrys Morales will be signing earlier that morning, so please join us if you can.

I will also be at the Barnes & Noble at Bella Terra next at 7 p.m. June 20 for a discussion/signing. Look forward to seeing you!

CHRIS EPTING is the author of 18 books, including the new "Hello, It's Me: Dispatches from a Pop Culture Junkie." You can chat with him on Twitter @chrisepting or follow his column at http://www.facebook.com/hbindependent.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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