And there used to be a ballpark where the field was warm and green
And the people played their crazy game with a joy I’d never seen
And the air was such a wonder from the hot dogs and the beer
Yes, there used a ballpark right here
- Frank Sinatra, “There Use to be a Ball Park”
It was the height of the Great Depression.
War was raising its ugly head in Europe.
Postal worker Bill Perry knew just what Manteca needed to ease the heaviness of the times. He was going to build his dream. Build he did. And they came. The young and the old at heart gathered. Sometimes it seemed like all of Manteca was within the confines of the ball park that Bill Perry built.
It was that ball park depicted in a mural where Mantecans once pursued America’s pastime in what is now Library Park that was dedicated Sunday as the Manteca Mural Society’s 16th downtown mural completed since 2002. It is one of five that were commissioned as part of the Library Park expansion and renovation that included a mural walk.
The 95-foot by 7-foot-6 “Last at Bat” mural by Dave Gordon features 92 spectators. Each face is of a Manteca resident — past and present —on the mural Each person depicted is about two feet from the waist to the top of their head.
Perry took a sabbatical from working at the Post Office in 1935 to build Manteca’s version of the Field of Dreams on a vacant downtown lot where Library Park is today.
Perry financed and built the bleachers and field as a way to provide a place of entertainment, recreation, and pride for the community that was reeling in the depths of the Great Depression.
The mural depicts the final inning of a girls’ game. Lined up alongside the third base fence line are the boys who are waiting to take the field next. On the other opposite fence line are more spectators as well as a passing engine of a Tidewater Southern Railway train.
A runner is positioned to score from third while a right-handed batter is awaiting a pitch.
“It (the mural) conjures up memories for people even if they weren’t raised in Manteca,” noted Tom Wilson of the mural society.
Wilson believes it will be as universally popular as “The Cruise” mural in the 100 block of South Main Street that depicts the actual Manteca cruise down Yosemite