DRINKING IN STATE LEGION TRADITION.
From the stories that the old veterans tell, you would think this Northern California town was home to a casino, not the state's American Legion baseball playoffs.
Drinking, smoking, gambling . . . and baseball. There was plenty of action on the field but even more in the stands.
Although the men and women who live in the nearby Veterans Home of California don't come out as much as they used to, there are still some who look forward to every pitch.
Richard Paulson, 78, has lived in the home for the past six months. When he moved here, he didn't know of the baseball tournament.
``I thought it was superb,'' he said from his patio chair behind home plate between games on Sunday morning. ``I watch (the games) in the morning and then I go take a nap and come back later.''
It was just past 11 a.m., and Paulson had finished a beer. Visitors to Borman Field - home to the state playoffs since 1961 - must get accustomed to the veterans who drink their first brew at 10 a.m. and chain-smoke cigarettes and cigars.
The smoking and drinking this weekend are tame compared to what happened in the past.
``They used to serve the beer in cans,'' said Bea McKinstry, who has come to the state tournament every year since 1962 with her husband Ray. ``After the games, they had to clean the stands with shovels. I had never seen so many beer cans in my life.
``They would drink until they couldn't walk. The ones in the wheelchairs were lucky.''
Smoking and drinking haven't been the only vices to grace the state tournament. Gambling used to be huge.
``Oh, there used was big money changed here,'' said George Sandborn, who has attended the state playoffs since 1965. ``You talk about betting - yes, sir.''
Ray McKinstry remembered one fellow who took bets all tournament.
``That was all he did, take bets,'' he said.
McKinstry, an 87-year-old veteran of World War II, is the official scorer. He coached Legion baseball for a quarter-century and led Long Beach to a national championship in 1963.
He remembers the old days when Borman Field didn't have the ivy-covered chain link fence in center field. Back then a vineyard stood beyond the outfield.
``We told our outfielders that if a ball went into the grapevines, don't run after it,'' he said, ``because you'll run into a rattlesnake.''
Through the years, volunteer legionnaires like Ray McKinstry and George Sandborn have seen some of California's top baseball players. Robin Yount, who played for Taft High and in District 20, played here. So did Dennis Eckersley, Reggie Jackson and Rollie Fingers.
Like so many of the playoff organizers, Julio Yniguez, co-chairman of Area 6, has faithfully made the annual trip to Borman Field. He's done it since 1966.
Harold Hall, who represents Area 5, has made it every year since 1971. These volunteers show the same dedication to American Legion baseball as the disabled veterans - even the ones who arrived on motorized carts - who rise to their feet when the national anthem is played.
Sure, some of the Borman Field traditions are corny. Before each game, all the players are told to recite every word of the ``Code of Sportsmanship.''
Each player who hits a home run is rewarded with two liters of soda and a case of sweet potatoes.
But it is baseball with no mascot races. The crowd has never performed the ``YMCA'' at Borman Field.
``There's no better place in the world,'' Richard Paulson said. ``You can't ask for anything more.''
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Aug 4, 1998|
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