Men who play softball for Liter O’ Cola have been doing slow-pitch in costume since the early 2000s, and Thursday evening they dressed up in garb from the 1920s and 1930s to promote Prohibition Night, their tongue-in-cheek protest urging Tuolumne County to hurry up and open a new concession that will bring beer and wine back to Standard Park.
Liter O’ Cola softballers wore old-style fedoras, bowlers, snap-brim caps, suspenders, vests, bow ties, straight ties, collared shirts, T-shirts and trousers, to try to evoke what people dressed like during the real Prohibition Era, when there was a constitutional ban on production, importation, transportation and sale of alcoholic beverages across the U.S. from 1920 to 1933.
They brought signs that said “We Want Beer.” They played ball in their old-time getups. They lost 7-4 to the Chicken Ranch Casino team, but they’re glad they had their say.
“We wanted to make a statement, having fun with it, not poking too much at the county,” Orrin Banks, the Liter O’ Cola pitcher and team manager, said Friday in a phone interview. “At the same time, yes, we’re saying ‘ok we’re ready, when do we get to start serving beer here?’”
Greg Pearce, the recreation supervisor who oversees the county-owned, county-operated Standard Park Sports Complex at Tuolumne Road and Standard Road, laughed out loud Friday as he recounted how he heard about the Liter O’ Cola protest.
“They’re a great group of guys,” Pearce said. “They bring a lot of excitement to the park. People look forward every week to see how they’re going to dress. They have a lot of fun and they bring a lot of fun and energy.”
The background on this beer-at-the-ballpark brouhaha is that 12-acre Standard Park has been around since at least 1981. It’s been a multi-use facility for decades, primarily for baseball, softball and soccer, for adults and youth of both genders and co-ed teams. It’s a community sports venue so popular Pearce says the county expects a hundred thousand to come through the gates each year.
Beer and wine were always available from the concessioner until October-November 2017, when the former concessioner’s contract ended and the county decided to take apart the old concession stand and have it renovated.
Now the new concessioner, Field 5, run by Joe and Jennifer Webber, owners of the St. Charles Saloon in Columbia, have their new kitchen ready to open, a new food menu, and an application to sell alcoholic beverages awaiting issue by the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
“We had to go in and remodel the concession, for ADA, plumbing, electrical,” Pearce said Friday in a phone interview. “It’s nearing completion. They always had a concessioner in there, always sold beer and wine at adult events only.”
Asked when the new concession at Standard Park will be open and selling beer and wine and food, Pearce said he couldn’t give an exact date but it’s coming soon.
“We’re waiting for county environmental health to come out and do final inspection. We hope they’ll be open and fully operational sometime in July.”
Beer and wine will be available at Standard Park only during adult team sports events, Pearce said. No beer and wine will be sold whenever youth teams are present.
Joe Webber said Friday he heard about Liter O’ Cola players’ protest and he knows it was all in fun, part of the team’s schtick. Webber said he used to be on the team himself but he’s too busy these days.
“It’s really mostly for fun, they’re having fun with it, nobody’s upset,” Webber said in a phone interview. “
Webber said the new concession menu at Standard Park will not include pizzas St. Charles Saloon is well-known for. The new kitchen will include panini presses for hot sandwiches like hot pastrami, tri-tip and pulled pork, and healthy options like salads, parfaits and fresh fruits.
Webber said he plans to have eight taps, serving a mix of domestic, local brews and some better IPAs, with Bear Tent in Jamestown expected to be one of the local brewers on-tap. Webber said he also plans to do breakfast burritos when the county youth soccer season starts in August.
Webber said he was born and raised in Tuolumne County and he grew up playing sports at Standard Park, baseball and soccer, and he’s excited to be a part of revamping the Standard Park concession to a standard people will appreciate.
“Most people expect to go there and get a crappy hot dog or some average nachos,” Webber said, “and I want to change that.”
Pearce said he and the rest of the people who work for Tuolumne County’s recreation department are “extremely excited and very happy that we have Joe and Jennifer Webber coming out to be the concessionaire. They have a great reputation in the community at St. Charles Saloon. People at the park will be excited with what they’ll get with food and service.”
Contact Guy McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.