BEEK'S BLOG: Memories of when the wind blew in

05/06/2013 5:55 PM

05/06/2013 5:56 PM

Sunday’s strange weather brought back some olfactory memories of John Thurman Field - none of them pleasant.

There was no rain during the Nuts’ 6-3 victory over Bakersfield, but there was a rain wind. Instead of the prevailing wind - the Delta breeze that nearly always blows straight out to left field, the wind was steady and blowing in the opposite direction.

Years ago, that wind would have made it a very nasty day for fans of the Modesto A’s, and before them the Modesto Reds.

Until is was closed in 2006, the Tuolumne River bank opposite from Thurman Field was home to a tallow plant - a rendering site and the kind of place where no part of the animal went to waste.

All kinds of raw material came out of that plant, later to be turned into soaps, lotions and who knows what. But there was another by-product of that site, as long-time residents of this neighborhood will remember.

It was the small - a briny, uric stench that probably cost the owners of Modesto’s professional baseball franchise hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years in lost ticket sales and - once in the park - food sales.

To be fair, the plant was there first. It opened in 1917, while the first professional ballpark on the current site was built in 1955.

Some nights it got so bad you couldn’t bear the thought of grabbing a hot dog - with or without mustard.

I asked Nuts’ manager Lenn Sakata last year if he remembered the occasional ballpark smell, and he said he didn’t. He had other things to worry about while at the helm of the 1989 Modesto A’s, but it was still nice to think that the ballpark stench wasn’t a part of his lasting recollections.

Yet every time the wind blows in from left field, those of us around for those days will remember when the players choked up on the bat at the same time the fans choked in the stands.

And on Sunday afternoon, I swear at one point I caught a whiff of that old smell in the middle of a gust.

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