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Inside the Runyon Field Sports Complex Part VI

Hobbs Field drew thousands of fans for the Pueblo team that played in the Western League from 1947 to 1958 (COURTESY PHOTO)Hobbs Field drew thousands of fans for the Pueblo team that played in the Western League from 1947 to 1958 (COURTESY PHOTO)

 


If those bleachers could talk: The 80-year history of Hobbs Field

This is the fiinal in a six-part series taking an in-depth look at the six fields at the Runyon Field Sports Complex. Chieftain sports writer Austin White will be providing a history of each field as well as how it was named and what events take place on each of the six fields at the complex during the year.

BY AUSTIN WHITE | The Pueblo Chieftain | JUL 29, 2018

Sometimes the smallest of actions can create an immeasurable change. Lending your ear to listen to someone in pain or holding a door for someone with their hands full.

These small actions mostly go unnoticed, but they can change perspectives and give hope to individuals who received the gestures.

And one tiny change occurred in 1934 in Pueblo that would turn this city into the baseball-loving town that it has become. A group of Puebloans moved some bleachers over to an unnamed field to watch a game and now, 80 years later, that field has turned into one of the greatest sites for baseball in the entire country, and, more importantly, one of Pueblo's best places of community.

"These are the things that Hobbs brings to you, the history, the memories," former Runyon Sport Complex general manager Joe Latino said. "When I was kid playing ball in high school, playing at Hobbs and the memories in the summer of playing at Hobbs, those are the great things that bring the Pueblo lore."

Hobbs Field at the Runyon Sports Complex is one of the most historic spots in all of Pueblo. Following the movement of the bleachers in 1934, the field was officially established in 1938 as County Park and Babe Ruth famously played an exhibition game in the same year.

The game must have gone over well with the Bambino because the field received a minor league team three years later in 1941. They played one season before World War II broke out, but a Class A team would come back in 1948 for 11 years of ball in Pueblo.

Being an affiliate of the Brooklyn Dodgers, some legendary players made the trip through Pueblo like Sparky Anderson, Preston Ward, Roger Craig and even the famous manager Walter Alston, to name a few.

Several more bleachers were added around the field from the initial movement in 1934. The Pueblo Dodgers averaged a total of 92,000 fans a year for around 80 home games and drew over one million fans in the 11-year span under the Dodgers organization.

Before the league really started to get going though, Pueblo had its eyes on one of its own in the form of Damon Runyon. The sports reporter/playwrite grew up in the Steel City and covered sports across many Colorado newspapers, including The Pueblo Chieftain

His work eventually took him to New York where he covered the New York Giants baseball team and eventually started writing poems and plays, some of which appeared on Broadway.

"Back in the day, (Hobbs field) was an opportunity for us because of the fact we didn't have resources to go to games very often," Latino said. "Knowing the history of Damon Runyon and what he was and the fact that he was raised in Pueblo and ended up in the baseball writers hall of fame (gave us hope)."

Being an affiliate of the Brooklyn Dodgers, some legendary players made the trip through Pueblo like Sparky Anderson, Preston Ward, Roger Craig and even the famous manager Walter Alston, to name a few.

Several more bleachers were added around the field from the initial movement in 1934. The Pueblo Dodgers averaged a total of 92,000 fans a year for around 80 home games and drew over one million fans in the 11-year span under the Dodgers organization.

Before the league really started to get going though, Pueblo had its eyes on one of its own in the form of Damon Runyon. The sports reporter/playwrite grew up in the Steel City and covered sports across many Colorado newspapers, including The Pueblo Chieftain

His work eventually took him to New York where he covered the New York Giants baseball team and eventually started writing poems and plays, some of which appeared on Broadway.

"Back in the day, (Hobbs field) was an opportunity for us because of the fact we didn't have resources to go to games very often," Latino said. "Knowing the history of Damon Runyon and what he was and the fact that he was raised in Pueblo and ended up in the baseball writers hall of fame (gave us hope)."

A plaque at the entrance of Hobbs Field at the Runyon Sports Complex gives props to the man the field is named afterA plaque at the entrance of Hobbs Field at the Runyon Sports Complex gives props to the man the field is named afterClearing out the minor league stands made way for the new direction of Runyon Field, which was to host numerous baseball events for Pueblo, specifically for children. National tournaments were held at Runyon in 1976 and 1991 as a part of Babe Ruth little leagues and the field became the home for every Pueblo team.

Hosting those events did not always mean profits though. Several times throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s, the field faced the potential of being shut down. Every time that came up, however, the people of Pueblo stood up for the field and kept the mystique alive.

"It was mostly us kids, we walked around the neighborhood with cans collecting money to save the field, so it's been through a lot of steps," said Dave Dudley, Runyon general manager.

Runyon could not be closed because of the way it has woven itself into the fabric of Pueblo's culture. Sitting in the bleachers around Hobbs Field is almost as big of a pastime as the game fans watch. One can't grow up in Pueblo without spending some time at Runyon watching a ball game because it is more than just that.

Those seats give a place for community to happen, for friends and family to unwind and connect over the course of seven or so innings. Even some of the biggest names in the sport have come by to take a seat, including the greats like Yogi Berra and Ernie Banks.

"I remember Tippy Martinez, who pitched for the Orioles, he was from La Junta and he beat the Boulder Collegians and I think he hit the home run that (won them the game)," Dudley describes as one of his best memories at Hobbs. "There is just so many things."

For the boys who played on it growing up, the field was their main stage and gave them a glimpse into what it took to be like one of the pro players who crossed those lines. And their families were always behind the fence to cheer them on.

"I think some of the great memories for me are when I was playing ball and my mother and father would come to game and I could hear my mom above everyone else cheering," Latino said. "Whether it was playing the game or having a hot dog and just talking. Those are the memories that mean a lot to me."

Not only has it become a beacon for Puebloans, but the entire complex is a home to some of the best youth baseball in the country.

The biggest example is the yearly Tony Andenucio Memorial Tournament, which brings in high school teams from all over the country. The 39th rendition took place in June and the tournament is held on Hobbs and Andenucio fields..


"TThese are the things that Hobbs brings to you, the history, the memories. When I was kid playing ball in high school, playing at Hobbs and the memories in the summer of playing at Hobbs, those are the great things that bring the Pueblo lore."
JOE LATINO 
FORMER RUNYON GENERAL MANAGER


Coaches and families from around the states know about how great a facility that Runyon has become and getting back home to tell their friends and family they played on a field where the Sultan of Swat once played is an annual tradition.

"Whether they are youth teams, high school teams, college teams (playing at Hobbs), there is tradition there," Latino said. "You can't replace the tradition. You can build upon it, but you can't replace it."

The last major renovation completed on the field occured in 1999, when the outfield fence was replaced with what stands today. Part of the money for that project could be what led to the name change to Hobbs Field from Runyon in 1995.

Oneal Hobbs is the one whose name marks the field since he was the Pueblo Dodgers/Bruins' general manager during their 12-year span at Runyon. Dudley is not 100 percent sure since the name change happened before he took over in 2005, but he believes Hobbs' wife donated around $70,000 to help build the fence and the name came as a thank you.

"It was a really old fence, just kind of like short telephone poles," Dudley said. "At that time they were rotted out, they needed to do something different so they did that."

No matter the name, Hobbs Field and the entire complex is a source of pride for generations of Puebloans. Whether it was the original bleachers moved in 1934 or tFor the boys who played on it growing up, the field was their main stage and gave them a glimpse into what it took to be like one of the pro players who crossed those lines. And their families were always behind the fence to cheer them on.

"I think some of the great memories for me are when I was playing ball and my mother and father would come to game and I could hear my mom above everyone else cheering," Latino said. "Whether it was playing the game or having a hot dog and just talking. Those are the memories that mean a lot to me."

Not only has it become a beacon for Puebloans, but the entire complex is a home to some of the best youth baseball in the country.

The biggest example is the yearly Tony Andenucio Memorial Tournament, which brings in high school teams from all over the country. The 39th rendition took place in June and the tournament is held on Hobbs and Andenucio fields.

Coaches and families from around the states know about how great a facility that Runyon has become and getting back home to tell their friends and family they played on a field where the Sultan of Swat once played is an annual tradition.

"Whether they are youth teams, high school teams, college teams (playing at Hobbs), there is tradition there," Latino said. "You can't replace the tradition. You can build upon it, but you can't replace it."

The last major renovation completed on the field occured in 1999, when the outfield fence was replaced with what stands today. Part of the money for that project could be what led to the name change to Hobbs Field from Runyon in 1995.

Oneal Hobbs is the one whose name marks the field since he was the Pueblo Dodgers/Bruins' general manager during their 12-year span at Runyon. Dudley is not 100 percent sure since the name change happened before he took over in 2005, but he believes Hobbs' wife donated around $70,000 to help build the fence and the name came as a thank you.

"It was a really old fence, just kind of like short telephone poles," Dudley said. "At that time they were rotted out, they needed to do something different so they did that."

No matter the name, Hobbs Field and the entire complex is a source of pride for generations of Puebloans. Whether it was the original bleachers moved in 1934 or the stands of today, the stories and memories those seats could tell will always be the true treasure of Runyon.

awhite@chieftain.com

An arch welcomes coaches, teams and spectators to the main field at the Runyon Sports Complex, Hobbs Field (CHIEFTAIN PHOTO/CHRIS MCLEAN)An arch welcomes coaches, teams and spectators to the main field at the Runyon Sports Complex, Hobbs Field (CHIEFTAIN PHOTO/CHRIS MCLEAN)

The Loaf 'N Jug 16-under squad battled Cherry Creek in June at Hobbs Field at the Runyon Sports Complex (CHIEFTAIN PHOTO/CHRIS MCLEAN)The Loaf 'N Jug 16-under squad battled Cherry Creek in June at Hobbs Field at the Runyon Sports Complex (CHIEFTAIN PHOTO/CHRIS MCLEAN)

Runyon Field Series

Inside the Runyon Sports Complex

A series of six stories on the fields at Runyon Field Sports Complex written by Austin White of The Pueblo Chieftain Sports Dept.

Oneal Hobbs Field (July 29)
Ray Pusedu (July 22)
Max Salas Field (July 15)

Jim DiIorio Field (July 8)
Sam Corsentino Field (June 30)
Tony Andenucio Field (June 23)