This last July 21, on my 83rd birthday, I remembered four good friends that had a birthday also on that day and they were Mel Parker, Carl Franco, Danny Chavira and Marvin Lyons.
Mel Parker was the groundskeeper at Madera High School baseball diamond. I first met Mel Sept. 15, 1947, at Madera High School, when we came to Madera from Laredo, Texas. I asked Mel if my brother Oscar and I could practice baseball there at the J.V. diamond, and he told me yes, as long as we didn’t move his crawling sprinklers.
In 1950 my next door neighbor Mr. Joe L. Flores, gave me a job at Madera High School, and I started working with Mel in the athletic department. In 1975 they named the baseball field Mel Parker Field, and I was so happy because I knew all the good work he had done since 1947 when I first met him.
Mel had a bad leg. I remember it was his right foot, his shoe had thick soles, but he could do more work than two people. In 1982 he asked me if I could take him to San Francisco to the veterans hospital, to go check his right foot, and I took him to San Francisco Veterans Hospital by Golden Gate Bridge.
While working there at the school, I noticed there were lots of boys that couldn’t play high school baseball due to their grades, and that’s when I came up with the town baseball team the Madera Merchants, for all those boys. In 1989 there were too many baseball teams playing at Mel Parker Field: Madera High team, Babe Ruth team, American Legion, Babe Ruth League tournament.
So I went to the Fresno recreation department and talked to Mr. John Nellum, the recreation director, to use Fink-White Park, and also that Mel and I always had done a good job in Madera at Mel Parker Field. So Mel and I went to Fink-White Park, just off Fresno St. on a Saturday before our first league game, and Mel worked on the pitcher’s mound and home plate, and I was dragging the infield with my pickup. While we were coming back to Madera, Mel told me, “you know Eddie, one of these days you are going to have a baseball field named after you.”
And sure enough a new school came, the Madera South High School, and the baseball field was named Eddie Chapa Field.
Thanks to John Peters, Joe L. Flores, Mel Parker, Carles Beckett, Gary J. Adams, and Madera Unified School District in naming the field Eddie Chapa Field.
Mel was born July 21, 1918. He was 12 years older than me; he passed away March 14, 2000. I retired in 1995 and I received a phone call from Shawn Lancaster, whom I had recommended to Mr. Don Kautz to take my job in the athletic department. He told me that Mel didn’t show up for work March 12, and he went to his house on Fourth Street, and found him on the floor, He took him to the hospital where he passed away.
I knew Mel for 53 years. He was a good worker. His wife used to work at Madera Community Hospital, and Mel would go at 3:00 p.m. and pick her up and take her home and come right back to work at the stadium. And that’s what I remember of Mel Parker.
Also Carl Franco, Danny Chavira and Marvin Lyons had a birthday July 21, and I will write a story about them also in the next few weeks.