Early Baseball In Reno

Mar 28, 2018

Baseball season is just around the corner, along with opening day for our local Triple-A team, the Reno Aces. Historian Alicia Barber looks back at our region’s long love affair with baseball in this episode of “Time and Place.”

By the early twentieth century, baseball was firmly established as the national pastime. Some of the most iconic ballparks opened between 1910 and 1930—including Boston’s Fenway Park, Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, and the original Yankee Stadium. Things were operating on a slightly smaller scale in Reno. The town had a number of baseball diamonds, but they were pretty primitive until one local businessman took matters into his own hands.

Jack Threlkel owned an auto repair shop called the Reno Garage. He had sponsored a number of local baseball teams in the twenties, and in 1930, he bought four acres way out on East Fourth Street between Reno and Sparks and opened his own ballpark complete with a wooden grandstand. Bud Beasley played ball for Threlkel in the early thirties when he was still in college. He recalled one of the field’s quirkier features in a 2001 interview.

“That playing field was great. Although, in the right field corner there was a chicken and turkey pen, and every now and then you’d hit a home run into the chicken pens.”

Threlkel later improved the grandstand and added lights for night games. His semi-pro team played the best teams from the region, and the games would regularly draw 500 spectators, which was good for Threlkel and for the players’ pocketbooks.

“I don’t remember what admission was. I think fifty cents or a dollar at that time. And the players weren’t paid, but they were given jobs. Then all the gate receipts went into a bucket, and at the end of the season the players split the gate receipts. So they’d come out with two or three hundred dollars, which was good money in those days.”

The ballpark was a community fixture for thirty years, until Jack Threlkel’s death in 1960, when the land was sold and the grandstand was torn down. By then, most of the action had moved to Moana Stadium, Reno’s home for professional baseball through the early nineties. Since 2009, the Reno Aces have played in a stadium with a capacity of more than 9,000 and no chickens or turkeys in sight. For Reno Public Radio, I’m Alicia Barber.

Historian Alicia Barber is the editor of the website and smart phone app Reno Historical. Oral history clips for this segment were provided by the Special Collections Department of the University of Nevada, Reno Libraries.