Bakersfield Badgers

The Bakersfield Badgers opened up play at Sam Lynn Ballpark on April 22, 1941. 

Baseball has been an American institution since the mid-1800s and became the country’s first organized professional sport with the founding of the National League in 1876. Beyond the peanuts and Cracker Jacks, there is nothing quite like the excitement of watching your favorite player make a diving catch or send one out of the park.

There is a reason why it is called America’s pastime.

For nearly 80 years, professional baseball has been a part of Bakersfield’s sports tradition. The story of Bakersfield’s foray into professional baseball started in the late 1930s when avid sports fan and businessman Sam Lynn fought to make a great dream of his come true.

Establishing a pro team in town was not an easy task due to various starts and stops over the formation of the California Class C baseball league. But Sam Lynn, owner of the local Coca-Cola Bottling Company, made it his personal mission to see that professional baseball found a home in Bakersfield.

Lynn loved baseball with a passion. It was said in the June 21, 1940, Bakersfield Californian that job applications for his Coca-Cola business included the question, “Can you play baseball?” If the answer was no, you usually needed to “look elsewhere for jobs.”

That is how serious he was about the sport, so when talks started about the creation of the California Class C league to serve as an additional farm system for the majors, Lynn was determined to make Bakersfield a member of that league.

The first team to back the prospect of a Bakersfield club was the San Francisco Seals. As a member of the Pacific Coast League, the club was willing to sponsor the inclusion of Bakersfield’s yet-to-be-named team into the California league.

And if the Seals had any qualms about committing, Mickey Schrader, Cincinnati Reds’ Pacific Coast representative, was more than happy take their place.

Viewing Bakersfield as an ideal location for a spring training camp, he proclaimed, according to the Jan. 13, 1940, Californian: “If you won’t take Bakersfield, I will! ... Even if we have to build our own ballpark.”

On Saturday, Aug. 3, 1940, the official decision was made to form the nine-team Class C league, which the Aug. 5 Californian claimed as “a vibrant, workable piece of machinery with Bakersfield as a strong cog in the setup.”

With Lynn’s financial backing and the Seals’ sponsorship, it was all coming together. But within a matter of weeks things took a turn for the worse.

Sam Lynn began to suffer some serious health issues and his doctor ordered him to sever all connections with baseball.

When he passed away later that year, E. Lee Keyser provided the financial support for the new Bakersfield Badgers. On Tuesday, April 22, 1941, the first pitch was thrown to a Fresno Cardinal batter and thus began Bakersfield’s professional baseball story.

Although he did not get to live to see his dream fulfilled, for the next almost 80 years, future Golden Glovers, Cy Young Award winners, World Series champions and Hall of Famers have taken to the field in the stadium that bares Sam Lynn’s name and helps his dream live on. 

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