"The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and that could be again."
- James Earl Jones as Terence Mann in "Field of Dreams"
A Baseball Town
In 1872, a mere two years after the founding of Modesto by the Central Pacific Railroad, the first baseball team was officially formed. An article in the September 22, 1872 Stanislaus News marked the occasion by reporting that although the players as yet had not evidenced much ability, they displayed "considerable muscle" and were "well backed with enthusasm and vim," according to Modesto, Then and Now. A month later, the team distinguished itself by choosing a uniform which featured a red cap, red shirt, white pantaloons and white canvas shoes. The name chosen for the team was the "Red Caps."
The Modesto Red Caps evolved, by the early 1900s, into the Modesto Reds. This would be the team's name for decades. Early on they were part of a league that included Modesto, Merced, Chowchilla and Stockton. According to local historian, Colleen Bare, "the team traveled the circuit in a surrey pulled by four horses."
"The March 23, 1906 issue of the Stanislaus Weekly News announced that the 'unbeaten and invincible Modesto Reds,' were challenging any baseball team in the San Joaquin Valley, even the American Association and the National League. The boys felt that they were 'equal to it' and were 'chuck full of ginger,' said the News, adding, 'bring on your champions from the tall grass of Merced and the mud falts of Stockton, anywhere in fact.' The article also noted that people would be willing to pay 'two-bits' all summer just to watch the Reds 'eat 'em alive.'"
Apparently the Chicago White Sox took notice of the upstart Modesto Reds, and spent eight days on a train traveling to Modesto to take on the Reds. The game took place on March 7, 1910, which the White Sox ended up wining 4-0. Over 2,000 people attended the game at Modesto's Baseball Park.
The Big Time
In 1946, the Modesto Reds became part of the California League as an independent team. The league, which had been formed in 1941, was reorganized after World War II as a minor league organization with A level teams. By 1948, the Reds were part of the St. Louis Browns and from 1949-1952, they were part of the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system. The Milwaukee Braves took over in 1953, and from 1954-1961, the club was part of the New York Yankees minor league system. From 1962-1964, the Reds were part of the Houston Colt .45's.
For the 1965-66 season, there was no team. From 1967-1974, the team was part of the St. Louis Cardinals organization, giving way to the Oakland Athletics from 1975-2004. By 2005, they were the Modesto Nuts, an affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, and starting in 2016, they joined the Seattle Mariners farm system.
The Modesto team has the longest tenure of any California League team, having been part of the league since its inception in 1946, missing only two years in the 70+ years.
Team names over the years have been Modesto Reds (1946-61); Modesto Yankees (1962-69); Modesto Cardinals (1970-74); Modesto A's (1975-2004); Modesto Nuts (2005 to the present).