Trying To Save A Historic Ball Field
Wednesday - August 11, 2010
There’s an old ball field in Ewa that is suddenly much talked about. The field, now used by Little Leaguers, dates back to World War II when amateur historian John Bond says legendary Boston Red Sox star Ted Williams played there.
“Ted Williams was here at the end of the war, flying Corsairs,” Bond says. “He played for different base teams around the country during his time as a pilot. He played for a team here called Fleet Marine Force Pacific in Ewa where the base was huge, massive in 1945. It was like a giant professional-sized field then.”
The Ewa teams played their games at Pride Field, known as Mooring Mast Field in the WWII era. Several other major leaguers, including Joe DiMaggio and PeeWee Reese, were in different branches of the service then and played on other Oahu teams.
Williams, a Navy Marine pilot known by baseball fans as the Splendid Splinter, who was the last player to hit over .400 when he batted .406 in 1941, reportedly spent nearly all of the time when he wasn’t flying playing baseball. “He was obsessed with baseball. He would have me pitch to him every chance he got,” wrote a former serviceman in a published account.
“There was no other field here (in Ewa),” he says. “Back then, baseball was really big for everyone. Massive crowds came out to see these teams play. Major Leaguers like Williams were the rock stars of their day. Everybody would turn out to watch them.”
One of those who watched the games was Theo “Porky” Belic, now 80, who remembers when the Japanese attacked on Dec. 7. “They flew right over our camp and we saw them strafe the field. We saw all kinds of smoke. It made our hair stand up,” Belic recalls.
As a teenager, Belic remembers going to see U.S. servicemen play. “We used to watch all the games,” he says. “They were really good.”
Folks like Bond and others are concerned about the future of Pride Field. They’ve started a group that calls itself Save Ewa Field. The property was recently turned over by the Navy to Hunt Development Group, which leases the land with plans to eventually buy and develop parts of it.
He fears the Navy and Hunt Corporation could throw West Oahu Little League teams off historic 70-year-old Pride Field.
“It upsets me when I read things that say Hunt is going to bulldoze the fields,” says Steve Colon, president of the Hawaii division of Hunt Development Group. “We haven’t shut any ball fields down, and there is a license agreement with the city and county to maintain the ball fields. At some point, we may have to move the fields somewhere. Pride Field may not be ideal for an athletic field, but there will be parks and ball fields and recreation areas.”
Still, the Save Ewa Field group is very concerned. And Bond, a veteran who grew up playing baseball on the Mainland before moving to Oahu when his Army colonel father, was stationed here back in the 1960s, believes that history should mean something.
“Ted Williams was a legend when I was growing up,” he says. “I want to point out that the field was a key part of the history of the base here. It’s one of the oldest ball fields in West Oahu. I just want to make people aware of what’s going on.”
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