Modesto's Field of Dreams - Del Webb Field
A bit ramshackled, worn out around the edges, Del Webb Field, named after the owner of the New York Yankees, and home to their single A ball club from 1954 to 1961, the Modesto Reds, the baseball park was built adjacent to the Municipal Golf Course. The field was constructed in 1949 by the city of Modesto. Businesman Del Webb had been a Modesto Reds player in the 1920s.
John Thurman Field Today - Home of the Modesto Nuts
The city of Modesto saved baseball for the community by upgrading the ballpark in 1997. The California League had threatened to uproot the decades old ball team and move it elsewhere if the facility remained in disrepair. Spending over three million dollars, the ball park was completely rebuil by the city. Eventually, the Oakland A's moved their Advanced A team to Stockton's new ballpark, so the Modesto team was renamed the Nuts and became a Colorado farm club. In 2016, the Seattle Mariners took over.
""These old ballparks are like cathedrals in America. We don't have big old Gothic cathedrals like they do in Europe. But we got baseball parks."
- Jimmy Buffett
It may not have been even close to a cathedral or the likes of Candlestick or the Oakland Coliseum, but Del Webb Field was Modesto's little piece of baseball heaven.
For many years Modesto's various baseball teams had played in open fields and finally had a permanent home during the 1930s. When the club became part of the California League in 1946, the city decided that it was time to build a real baseball park. The site chosen was next to the Municipal Golf Course - a space once occupied by Coffee Field, Modesto's airport. According to Colleen Bare's "Modesto Then and Now," the park was built in 1949.(There is a discrepancy in the dates, since many sources list 1955 as the year, but it may have been that the park was renamed for the Yankee's owner that year.)
At one time, the entire area was going to become the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds, with sports fields and buildings for various agricultural displays and exhibitions, according to Tnkham's "History of Stanislaus County." That plan never materialized (the fair eventually was located in Turlock where it remains to this day). The baseball field and golf course did become reality and in later years were joined by soccer fields used by Modesto High School teams and the nearby Sportsman of Stanislaus Club (now defunct).
The baseball park was named for a former Modesto Reds player and the owner of the New York Yankees. Del Webb was a native of Fresno, and his name became synonomous, not with baseball, but with the construction of retirement communities and his construction firm. Webb's Sun City in Arizona became the first major retirement community in the country. (He also built one of the Japanese internment camps during World War II, also in Arizona.)
Webb was a monumentally successful businessman. It was Webb, through his association with Tom Mellis, a long time friend of Yankees General Manager Roy Hamey, and former president of the Modesto Reds, that resutled in the Giants and Yankees coming to Modesto during the 1962 World Series.
Eventually, all things must change, and as the years went by and Del Webb Field became more and more a detriment to the clubs that played there, the California League issued an ultimatium to Modesto - do something with your ballpark or lose your team.
the Modesto ballpark was renamed for state assemblyman John Thurman in 1983 and underwent over $3.93 million worth of renovations prior to the start of the 1997 season to keep it up to California League standards.