Cool Baseballstuffs #1: Sonoma County Crushers Cap

Let’s take a break from pondering numberz and admiring opposite field dingerz.

This may or may not become a recurring series. I imagine, for the most part, that the few pieces of memorabilia, collectibles, and/or articles of apparel I own are far more interesting to me than they are to anyone else. That said, I do happen upon the occasional treasure from that may be worth sharing – hopefully you will find them enjoyable, as well.

 

BEHOLD!

Sonoma County Crushers Cap
Sonoma County Crushers Cap

This is an original snapback cap of the now defunct Sonoma County Crushers – a member of the now defunct independent Western Baseball League. I had been searching for such a hat for quite some time – I finally stumbled upon one this week and it had to be mine.

The Crushers played their games in Rohnert Park, CA from 1995-2002 at the now-demolished Rohnert Park Stadium. They were the only WBL franchise to endure throughout the entirety of the league’s existence. They were even cool enough to have been documented on Baseball-Reference (OK, that doesn’t actually mean a lot – Baseball-Reference is just insanely thorough)!

Rohnert Park Stadium
A view from behind the plate at Rohnert Park Stadium. -Photo courtesy of The Press Democrat archives.

That’s not a bad view, no?

The Crushers’ mascot was “Crusher,” the Abominable Snowman Sonoman (get it? CLEVAR!).

Crusher
Photo courtesy of Frederic Larson, San Francisco Chronicle

Crusher’s footprint, superimposed with the initials of Sonoma County, formed the primary logo you see depicted on the cap. In conjunction with the name and red-and-purple color-scheme, this logo attempted to honor of Sonoma County’s rich wine-producing and wine-partaking heritage by evoking imagery of crushing grapes; that the Crushers largely failed to crush their competition was but a trifle.

Due to their lack of affiliation with an MLB parent organization, the Crushers were hardly a factory for The Show. That said, pitcher Chad Zerbe did play for the Crushers in 1997 before eventually take his finesse ways to the San Francisco Giants’ organization. Zerbe pitched out of the bullpen for the MLB club throughout parts of the 2000-2003 seasons, and he even earned the win in Game 5 of the 2002 World Series (I’m sure that meant something to me at the time). A few years after Zerbe bolted for Giant grandeur, the Crushers would employ former Giants outfielders Jeffrey Leonard and Kevin Mitchell – the former served as manager in 2000 while the latter took the field for the club in 2000 and 2001 before operating as both player and manager in 2002. The Crushers ultimately lost with much greater frequency they won, though they did coax a WBL Championship out of their 1998 season and almost always drew a nice crowd.

I confess that the bulk of the Crushers’ existence took place before I really embraced baseball in 2000. As such, I was usually “over it” by about the third inning the few times I did actually go to games. By the time I did start following baseball, the Crushers had the “misfortune” of both being beneath the dance floor of MLB happenings (if it wasn’t the big leagues, it didn’t really count, right?) and being right there in my backyard (the things that surround us every day seem to become the most ordinary). In recent years, I have come to regret my lack of appreciation for having a professional baseball team play its home games roughly a 15-minute drive from my house. Of course, baseball is great and I love the costumes, but the rolling hills behind Petaluma Hill Road made for beautiful sight lines, and the Crushers went out of their way to create a lively fan experience (as do many minor league teams). As I previously noted, I had been searching for some manner of Crusher apparel for a number of years now – perhaps in an effort to share the ever-growing sense of pride I take from the area in which I grew up. Here’s hoping the Wine Country will someday have its very own professional baseball team to cherish once again.

 

Update: It would seem independent professional ball has, in fact, made its way back in to the wine country.

Have any memories of local small town ball in general or the Crushers in specificity that you would like to share? Post your thoughts and memories in the comments box below.

 

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