Let’s talk Clovis: A history of Clovis baseball

April 24, 1904 Clovis baseball team (Photo courtesy of Clovis Museum)

In 1845, the first baseball rules were published in the U.S. for the New York City Knickerbockers team. The first documented baseball team in Clovis is captured in an 1895 photograph of team members posing with the Mayo family at the side of the original 1891 San Joaquin Valley Railroad depot. The depot was located on Fourth Street and Fulton, now Clovis Avenue.

The included 1904 photo displays our handsome Clovis baseball team. By 1907, there were 10 Clovis High team members and nine in 1909 in addition to their mascot, Bruce Parker.

The 1911 Clovis High Argus (now the Cavalcade) identified Carl Merriman as athletic manager, tennis captain, baseball captain and basketball captain. He would marry Bessie Prussing. Their only son, Lloyd Merriman, became a baseball legend.

Lloyd graduated from Clovis High in 1942. In 1943, he played freshman football and baseball for Stanford University. He enlisted in the Marine Air Corp in 1944 and returned to Stanford in 1946, where he scored the first post-war touchdown while continuing to excel in baseball.

In 1947, Lloyd signed a bonus contract with the Cincinnati Reds. He entered the Major League in 1949 and hit a triple and homer in his first times at bat. Lloyd was recalled to active duty during the Korean War from 1951-53, and returned to the Reds in 1954. He was traded in 1955 to Chicago White Sox and then to the Cubs. He ended his career in 1956.

In 1993, the Clovis High Baseball field was named in his honor.

The 1912 Argus described their game against Sanger: “This is where we lost our fame as baseball players—everything went wrong, the bats broke, the balls were lop-sided, wind was from the wrong direction, the sun shone in our eyes—well to make it short, we lost the game. Don’t remember the score just now.”

Clovis families were loyal supporters of their local teams. Many merchants sponsored summer baseball teams. The Clovis Volunteer Fire Department (my grandfather was Chief Harry Whiton) played in the Raisin Belt League in the mid ‘20s. Clovis Confectionary (my father, Bob Rogers) sponsored a team. Any player that hit a home run received a free beer served in a large copper jug.

Ping Thayer’s team won the league in 1934. Three Mesple brothers, Eli, Edward and Ivan, and Sam Lamonica, father of Oakland Raider quarterback Daryle Lamonica, were members of that team.

“Donkey” baseball games always drew large crowds. The unexpected always occurred and no one seemed upset over the antics of the “beasts,” Players were not injured; there were usually just a few bruised egos.

The Clovis District Little League was formed in 1952. Officers were Loris Grossi, president; Carl Merriman, vice president; Duane Long, secretary and Rex Phebus, treasurer. Twenty-one men served on the board of directors.

Four teams were formed. The Giants were sponsored by Pinedale Boosters with Manager Ray Sturgill, the Pinedale principal, and Coach Paul Chavez. The Yankees were sponsored by D.F. Hallowell Chevrolet Co. with Manager E. Rossi and Coach Bob Davis.

Clovis Boosters sponsored the Dodgers with brothers Manager Jerry Sharer and Coach Bill Sharer. Members of Legion Post 147 sponsored the Pirates with Manager H. Nelson and Coach Jim Pavich.

The 1993 Clovis High baseball program identified three Clovis High graduates that had entered the professional ranks: Pat Ruth, class of 1987, was with the Philadelphia Phillies from 1991-1994. John Gross, class of 1988, played for the Baseball City Royals, and Chris Saunders, class of 1989, played for the Pittsfield Mets.

Baseball remains a part of our rich history.

Peg Bos is the president of the Clovis Museum on 4th and Pollasky avenues in Old Town Clovis. She not only manages the museum but she also writes her Let's Talk Clovis column in our publication which features and highlight the amazing history of our city and culture. One fun fact about Peg Bos, she was the first female mayor of Clovis from 1984-86.