William Huntley, who grew up in Tustin and became mayor, recalled in "Tustin
Scrapbook," which he compiled with his wife, Helen Gulick Huntley, that baseball
was played by the boys at Tustin Grammar School in the 1890s.
Since the school provided no equipment, the boys brought their own bats and
balls to play on their side of the playground, separated from the girls by a
6-foot-high fence, during recess.
Later when a new grammar school replaced the old school, a baseball diamond
was added to the playground. Tustin's adult baseball teams as well as the school
children used this field.
Tustin had a team as early as 1900 and eventually a Tustin District Softball
League formed and played twilight games in summer. Sponsored by local merchants
these teams played teams from Irvine and El Toro as well as each other. Families
would fill the bleachers behind home plate and line up along the side lines to
cheer on their favorites.
Many of Tustin older residents remember the young men who played including Ed
Cox, owner of the Tustin Food Center, George Dearborn, Ev "Junior" Winkler, Al
Kohler, Joe Cornelius, Louie Rhiel Jr. and "Alley"
Reyes. They still chuckle about Reyes hitting a homerun over the fence into
the cars parked along the street and breaking the windshield on his own car.
World War II halted summer baseball, but the games resumed about 1947.
Phil Cox, owner of Cox Plaza where his dad's grocery was once located,
recalls that as an 8 year old he cheered for the Tustin Food Center team
sponsored by his dad.
Bob Gray still remembers being beaned by a ball when he was a toddler tagging
after his dad, Bill Gray, the administrator for the American Legion team.
Gayle Cunningham, who pitched for his employer's team, Carson Golding (tire
distributor), most of the other players on his team and the Tustin Food Center
and American Legion teams, had played ball under coach Ernie Byrnes at Tustin
High. These included Dale Cunningham (Gayle's twin), Gib Bristow, Dean and Paul
Francis, John and Gene Balzer, Ralph Winkler, Larry Monroy, Hal Lilly, Walt
Linker and Jack Handley.
The team sponsors, which also included Sportsman Headquarters (now the
Swinging Door) and Farnsworth Jewelry, provided uniforms which advertised their
Other merchants such as Harvey's Cafe and Ojeda Brothers groceries and meats,
supported the league by advertising in the game schedule. Red Squires was
usually behind the plate as umpire and Louie Rhiel Sr. kept score.
Twilight baseball lost its popularity when Little League came to Tustin, but
many of the players became active participants in organizing youth baseball.
The late Dale Cunningham is recognized by a plaque at the Peppertree Park
field. Many who played baseball on the old Tustin Grammar School diamond now
cheer for their grandchildren and great-grandchildren at Little League games.