(KTXL) — Before the River Cats came to the area as the minor league affiliate of the Oakland Athletics and later the San Francisco Giants, Sacramento had a long history of baseball with the Solons, a Minor League team that was founded in 1883.
Just like the River Cats, the Solons competed in the Pacific Coast League, but they did so during several periods, culminating with their final games in 1976.
Origin of the Solons name
The Solons name is derived from Sacramento’s status as California’s capital and political center.
Solon was a renowned Greek lawmaker, and journalists used the term as a type of synonym for the legislators working at the state Capitol.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Solon is defined as “a wise and skillful lawgiver” or “a member of a legislative body.”
The name is also reflected in downtown and midtown Sacramento’s Solons Alley, located between S and T streets.
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Starting in Sacramento, leaving and then returning
While in the early days of the PCL, the ballclub was also known as the Senators (1903, 1919-1935), the Sacts (1909-1913) and the Solons (1936-1960, 1974-76).
The team’s most successful season was in 1942, when the Solons went 105-73 and won the pennant race in the PCL, according to Baseball Reference.
Following the 1960 season, the Solons were sold and relocated to Hawaii, where they played as the Islanders.
The Solons came back to Sacramento in 1974 and played their games at Hughes Stadium at Sacramento City College due to their original ballpark being demolished.
In 1974-75, the Solons were the Triple-A affiliate for Milwaukee Brewers and served as an affiliate ballclub for the Texas Rangers in 1976.
Hughes Stadium was a problem for pitchers whenever a ball went into left field. Lineouts into hits and flyouts were homers.
According to Baseball Reference, the left field dimension was 232 feet in 1974 and later changed to 251 feet in 1975-76.
Although Hughes Stadium was a problem for pitchers, it was a haven for the Solons hitters, with the team having five of the Minors’ top eight home run hitters in 1974.
The team had two 50-home run hitters in Bill McNutty (55 home runs) and Gorman Thomas (51).
The baseball team would move to San Jose following the 1976 season and became known as San Jose Missions until 1981.
The current Minor League Team in San Jose is known as the Giants and is a Single-A affiliate ballclub for San Francisco Giants organization.
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The Solons’ ballfield is recognized to this day
The Solons and previous iterations of the team played their home games at Edmonds Field, a ballpark that once stood at the site where the modern-day Riverside Boulevard and Broadway meet.
The old ballpark was a wooden structure and went under various names since 1910.
The ballpark made baseball history on June 10, 1930, when it hosted the first night game in the history of the PCL.
Known as the Senators at the time, Sacramento defeated the Oakland Oaks 5-0 in the first professional game to be played under the lights in the Western United States, according to Baseball Reference.
The ballpark became known as Edmonds Field in 1945 after Sacramento Union Sports Editor Dick Edmonds, who fought to keep the team in Sacramento a year prior, according to Baseball Reference. Edmonds died in 1945.
In July 1948, the park was destroyed by a fire, causing the Solons to play the rest of the season on the road. Edmonds Field was rebuilt the following year, and the team continued to play there until 1960.
The ballfield no longer exists, as it was demolished in 1964.
A Target is currently located at the site, and the store has a plaque just inside the entrance commemorating the former Edmonds Field.
Legacy in Sacramento
The Solons name has a place at Sutter Health Park, the River Cats’ home ballpark.
The River Cats have served as the Triple-A Minor League affiliate of the Giants since 2015. Prior to joining the Giants franchise, the River Cats were the A’s Triple-A affiliate from when the ball club arrived in West Sacramento in 2000 until 2014.
At the West Sacramento ballpark, there is the “Solon Club,” which is an upper-level space along the right field line. The space provides a view of the field and can be reserved for private parties for up to 150 people.
During the 2023 season, the River Cats paid homage to Sacramento’s baseball history with a “Solons Throwback Night.”
Players, as well as mascot Dinger, wore all-white uniforms with “Solons” across the chest in red letters and a hat with a large “S,” commemorating the team that is forever etched in Sacramento’s history.