As Tracyites continue to discuss the proposal to rename
Peter B. Kyne Field for former Bulldog coach Wayne Schneider, I have received a
number of e-mail messages. Two of those in particular are worth noting, as the
issue continues to draw public attention.
One comes from an e-mailer signing his message only as
“Billy B.” He wrote, “As a former student at Tracy High, I always thought the
name Peter B. Kyne was a ‘tongue in cheek’ name given as a hoax at the time the
field was named. Silly me. There was a real Kyne, Peter B. Really? Foolish me to think otherwise.”
Billy B. may be in the minority believing that Peter B. Kyne
did not exist, but he is not alone among many members of our community who know
little, if anything, about the person for whom the high school football field
was named in 1927.
One longtime Tracyite told me just a few days ago that he
had always assumed Peter B. Kyne was a member of an old Tracy family who did
something special for Tracy High football, or at least the school.
Yes, there was really a Peter B. Kyne, and no, he wasn’t a
member of an old Tracy family. So who was Peter B. Kyne, anyway?
Peter B. Kyne was a San Francisco author of adventure novels
and magazine articles. His most popular books were the “Cappy Ricks” adventure
series of life out to sea, mostly in Alaskan waters. The books had a degree of
popularity in the early years of the 20th century, at a time when Americans
were curious about far-off Alaska, but the novels were never considered
Kyne was a member of the exclusive Bohemian Club, whose
wealthy and powerful members have always thought of themselves as people either
involved in the arts or supportive of artistic endeavors. Among Kyne’s friends
in the exclusive men’s club were A.J. “Gus” Russell and R. Stanley Dollar.
Dollar was a member of the family who owned and operated the
Dollar Steamship Line, a major sea carrier headquartered in San Francisco.
Russell was president of the Santa Fe Lumber Co., which owned and operated
Tracy Lumber Co. He was the key in making the connection to Tracy.
So why did a bunch of big-city guys from San Francisco adopt
the Tracy High football team in 1927 and get the stadium named for one of them?
Russell’s ties to Tracy and friendship with Bill Nichelman,
a former Cal Bear standout footballer and Tracy High coach of that era, are two
reasons often cited. But along with that was the opening of the Tracy Inn in
January 1927. This was in the middle of the prohibition era, when booze was
outlawed. Tracy didn’t enforce the Volstead Act with any vigor (to say the very
least), so liquor always flowed in our town.
The Bohemian Club guys would trek out to Tracy for the
weekend, establish headquarters in the Tracy Inn and attend a high school
football game. What went on in the Tracy Inn after the game has been the
subject of some conjecture. In those days, Tracy was known as a wide-open town,
so we can only guess.
In fact, O.S. Imhof, then superintendent-principal at Tracy
High, wanted nothing to do with the hard-partying guys from San Francisco who
had adopted the Tracy High football team, then in its third season. But most
everyone else in town thought the adoption was great.
In May 1927, Russell, with Kyne in tow, organized a one-day
volunteer project to build a fence around the Tracy High field, then mostly
dirt (some things never change). About 100 participants paraded from the Tracy
Lumber Co. at Sixth Street and MacArthur Drive (then Orient Street) to the high
school field, carrying saws and hammers. Kyne himself drove the last nail into
the last board. By noon, the fence was up.
At a luncheon in the Tracy Inn following the completion of
the fence, it was announced that the field would be called Peter B. Kyne Field
in honor of the author.
The Tracy Press, which headlined its front-page story of the
event with “High School Field Is Named for Famous Man,” reported: “The noted
author ‘confessed’ that he had never enjoyed the privileges of a high school or
college education, and in that connection that he had necessarily missed the
hoopla school days the boy and girl of modern times enjoy. He spoke on what can
result from the proper school spirit and then stated that he will present a cup
to Tracy High (for the most-valuable player) which is to remain with the school
Kyne, Russell and Dollar commissioned Haig Patigian, a noted
San Francisco sculptor and fellow Bohemian Club member, to create the perpetual
trophy. It is more than a trophy, in fact a very handsome statue that stands
heads and shoulders above any other trophy in the Tracy High collection.
Winners are still announced annually.
The involvement of the Bohemians in Tracy High football
continued four or five more years into the 1930s. Dollar offered a trophy to
the winner of the annual Tracy-Patterson football game. Despite the waning
involvement of the Bohemians over the years, the name of the football field and
the trophy remained as their legacy. Kyne died in 1957 at the age of 77.
That brings us to the second e-mail. It came from Perry
Allread, who was the spirited public-address voice of the West High Wolf Pack
football teams during the first years West played home games at Peter B. Kyne
Perry wrote, “In order to honor Mr. Schneider and continue
to honor Mr. Kyne, I would suggest that retaining the Peter B. Kyne Field
appellation would maintain the historical perspective. In addition, naming the
stadium Wayne Schneider Stadium would show the respect many feel deserves to be
expressed. Thus, Peter B. Kyne Field at Wayne Schneider Stadium may offer a
satisfactory alternative to all concerned.”
When I read Perry’s suggestion, it struck me as an idea that
deserves serious consideration. Earlier, Steve Davanis had suggested making it
Wayne Schneider Field at Peter B. Kyne Stadium, but Perry reversed the order,
and that makes more sense to give greater prominence to Wayne.
When the field was named for Kyne in May 1927, it was just a
field, called a “lot” in many newspaper stories. Over the years, it has become
a stadium with aluminum bleachers, quality lighting, snack stands and a press
If Perry’s idea is carried out, the sports complex at Tracy
High would certainly be called Schneider Stadium (it does have a good ring to
it), but the actual football field would remain Peter B. Kyne Field. While
diminished in prominence, the field name would still preserve the most visible
connection to Tracy High’s football history of a San Francisco author and his
Bohemian Club pals.
• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be
reached at 830-4234 or by e-mail at email@example.com.