Few people realize that although the Quakes go back to the start of the 1993 season here in Rancho Cucamonga, the franchise traces its roots back to 1966 and Lodi, California, and had made successive stops in Ventura and San Bernardino before landing in Rancho Cucamonga.
Lodi came into the California League after the 1965 California League season, when the team operating in Salinas folded, leaving only five teams remaining in the league. The league had operated with eight teams in the past and was therefore determined to get three more teams into the fold for the 1966 season.
The franchise in Modesto, which hadn't operated in the 1965 season, was reactivated and run by now-former California League President Joe Gagliardi. Another team in Reno, Nevada was also reactivated, but this still left one opening.
It was then that a group of investors from Lodi cobbled up $2,500- a small sum by today's standards, and decided to start a new franchise in Lodi to be ready to play in 1966. They were known as the Lodi Crushers, and this essentially became the first team in the Quakes' lineage.
The Quakes' franchise had by far the longest stint of its four city existence thus far in Lodi, where from 1966 through 1984 the team called 2,000 seat Lawrence Park (now known as Tony Zupo Field) its home. There were several ownership changes during the teams' existence in Lodi, usually coming about from the town residents collaborating to purchase the team, only to sell it a few years later to another group.
Over 60 alums of the Lodi California League franchise made it to the Major Leagues, including former Angels' General Manager Bill Stoneman (pitched in four games during the inaugural 1966 season), as well as Candy Maldonado, Jeffrey "Hack Man" Leonard, Mike Caldwell, and Fernando Valenzuela. Maldonado had 25 HR and 102 RBI for the 1980 Lodi Dodgers. In the case of Valenzuela, the first professional game he was involved in with a United States-based team was with the Lodi Dodgers in 1979, going 1-2 with a 1.13 ERA in 3 starts.
Through 1984, the franchise had five different affiliations; Chicago Cubs (1966-68), Oakland A's (1969), San Diego Padres (1970-71), Baltimore Orioles (1972-75), Los Angeles Dodgers (1976-83), and the Cubs again, in 1984.
During the span of 19 seasons in Lodi, the team was known by six different nicknames; Crushers (1966-69), Padres (1970-71), Orions (1972), Lions (1973), Orioles (1974-75), Dodgers (1976-83), and again Crushers in 1984. Lodi was the only team in the Quakes' franchise lineage (besides the 1994 Rancho Cucamonga squad) to win a California League Championship, with victories coming in 1973, 1977 and 1981.
Throughout California League history, and especially prior to the mid-1990s, franchises have frequently moved from city to city. For example, the teams now operating in San Bernardino and High Desert can each trace their roots at one times through Salinas, California.However, during the 19 years that Lodi had a California League entry, it was always the same franchise.
After the 1984 season, the Chicago Cubs decided to move all of their Minor League teams east of the Mississippi River and pulled out of Lodi. The owner of the franchise, Lodi resident Michelle Sprague, was unable to find an MLB partner for the 1985 season, so she deactivated the team for the year and eventually sold the team to a group headed by former major leaguer Ken McMullen, who took the team to Southern California. Lodi would never regain professional baseball, although today baseball fans in Lodi only have a short drive to Banner Island Ballpark in Stockton, where they can see the Stockton Ports compete in the California League.
Having left Lodi, the Ventura County Gulls affiliated with the Toronto Blue Jays, and played at Ventura College, which was supposed to be a temporary site. After one season at the college, McMullen could not find a suitable, nearby site to locate the team, and thus sold the franchise to a group of investors headed by Roy Englebrecht and actor Mark Harmon. Former Quakes' majority owner Hank Stickney also became involved and purchased a large portion of the team.
Stickney and his group of investors moved the team to San Bernardino in 1987 and stayed there, at 3,500 seat Fiscalini Field, through the 1992 season, during which time they were known as the San Bernardino Spirit. In 1988, at the tender age of 18, Ken Griffey Jr. played for the club, hitting .338 with 11 HR and 42 RBI in 58 games. The following season, he broke big league camp on the Mariners' roster.
As for the Spirit, when the city of Rancho Cucamonga told Stickney its intention of building a brand-new state-of-the-art ballpark to be ready for play in 1993, it was an offer he couldn't pass up. The ownership sold the rights to the name San Bernardino Spirit to the Salinas franchise, and Stickney and his employees moved into temporary trailers just outside the construction site of the new ballpark. They were known as the Rancho Cucamonga Professional Baseball Club. Construction began on the new ballpark on November 14, 1991. The building of The Epicenter used 400 trucks of concrete, yielding over 4,000 cubic yards worth. Over 95,000 cubic yards of dirt were moved, and 500,000 square feel of asphalt paving was laid, efforts that required the use of more than sixty subcontractors. The Epicenter's price tag after all was said and done was about $20 million, a veritable bargain by today's standards, but at the time, unheard of for a Class-A minor league ballpark.
Fans were asked to select a name for the new team and on September 30, 1992, it was announced that six people had suggested the name "Quakes," which was chosen by the teams' management as the winner from over 200 different choices. A fitting name it is indeed, as the ballpark sits adjacent to a number of earthquake fault lines.
The management stayed in their trailers throughout the construction of the 4,600 seat stadium, nicknamed "The Epicenter," and moved in April 1, 1993, just seven days before opening day. Wet weather made the opening of The Epicenter all the more challenging. It was nearly the case that the last construction worker exited the park just as the gates opened for Opening Night.
The Rancho Cucamonga Quakes' first game at The Epicenter was on April 8, 1993, a 7-3 victory over the High Desert Mavericks.
The Quakes impressed baseball fans and members of the media from around the nation with their grand opening. Demand for tickets was so high that on May 22, 442 temporary bleacher seats were added (221 in left field and 221 in right field).
On July 15, 1993, the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes broke the year-old California League attendance record of 218,444, previously held by the High Desert Mavericks. The Quakes ended the season with a California League attendance record of 331,005. This was better than any Class-AA team in the country and ranked fourth among Class-A teams nationwide.
After the 1993 season the Quakes installed additional seats in the outfield area, bringing the capacity of The Epicenter up over 6,000. While the Quakes expected to break their own attendance record in 1994, they had no idea that the success at the gate would carry over to the field as well, riding a talent-laden roster to a spot in the California League playoffs, where they stunned the surging Modesto A's to win their first California League Championship.
After the championship season, Quakes' attendance boomed in 1995. Total attendance was 446,146, easily the largest figure in California League history. Incredibly, the Quakes played to 97% capacity in 1995; only 12,000 seats went unsold over 70 home games. On the field, the team was unable to repeat its success of 1994, failing to reach the playoffs.
The 1996 Quakes' season was more of the same: The Quakes topped the league in attendance for the fourth straight season, attracting 410,214 visitors and making the playoffs, albeit suffering a first-round loss to the rival Lake Elsinore Storm.
The Quakes reached a pair of milestones during the 1997 season. On August 31, the Quakes Two Millionth Fan entered the Epicenter gates, an amazing figure to reach in just five seasons. Once again the Quakes led the California League in attendance, passing the 400,000 mark for the third straight season. For their five years of success, the Quakes were named by Baseball America magazine as the Class-A winner of the prestigious Bob Freitas award for franchise excellence. The award reaffirmed the Quakes franchise's stature on the map of minor league baseball.
After the completion of the 2009 season, Stickney sold the Quakes to Bobby Brett and his family-led ownership group, who proudly operate the Quakes today.
Led by 19-year old Mike Trout, the Quakes reached the Cal League Finals in 2010, only to fall to the San Jose Giants in an exciting five-game series.
In 2011, the Quakes began a new partnership with the Los Angeles Dodgers, ending a 10-year run as the California League Affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels. That first year as a Dodgers' partner was memorable, with the Quakes setting a franchise record in total wins (80), on their way to winning both the First Half and Second Half South Division Titles.
2012 saw the Quakes fall short of the playoffs, but the season was highlighted by rehab appearances from Dodgers' superstars Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp, who were two of the 14 Dodgers' rehabbers to visit The Epicenter.
In 2013, the Quakes and LoanMart entered into a ten-year partnership that will see the home of the Quakes now be known as LoanMart Field. This partnership is and will be beneficial for the team, the City of Rancho Cucamonga, the fans and everyone that uses the ballpark throughout the year and for years to come!
Dodgers' number-one prospect Corey Seager helped to make the 2014 season one to remember. Despite missing the playoffs, Quakes' fans saw their shortstop put together one of the best seasons in Quakes' history. Consequently, Seager was named the League's MVP.
In their fifth year of affiliation with the Dodgers, the Quakes brought home a Championship to Rancho Cucamonga, seizing just their second Cal League Title and first in 21 years. After winning the First Half South Division crown, the Quakes received a first-round bye before disposing of the High Desert Mavericks in a classic five-game series, with the team advancing to the finals in walk-off fashion after rallying in the decisive game five by plating two runs in the last of the ninth inning. That momentum wasn't slowed at all in the Championship Series, as the Quakes swept the San Jose Giants in three games, clinching the title at San Jose Municipal Stadium on September 19th, 2015. Cody Bellinger, who led the league in RBIs (103) during the regular season, was named the Most Valuable Player of the Championship Series.
The 2016 season marked the second straight year that they made it to the playoffs, but the defending Cal League Champs were bested by the Lancaster JetHawks in the opening round of the South Playoffs, two games to one.
In 2017, the Quakes enjoyed another trip to the postseason, but had the same results as 2016, as they were eliminated by Lancaster for a second straight year, this time, falling in a best-of-five South Division Finals, 3-1.
The Quakes enjoyed their best season in franchise history in 2018, as they finished with the most wins (87) in a season, the most wins in a half (52), a franchise-best 15-game winning streak, and a whopping 202 home runs, also a franchise record. Rancho would cap the year by exacting some revenge on Lancaster for eliminating them in each of the last two seasons, as they dropped the JetHawks 3-1, in the best-of-five South Division Finals. The Quakes would win their final six postseason games in 2018, sweeping the Visalia Rawhide and clinching the Cal League Title at LoanMart Field for the first time since 1994. Infielder Cristian Santana was named the Championship Series MVP, after slugging home runs in the final two games of the three-game sweep. The championship marks Rancho's third overall and second in the Dodgers' era.
In 2019, the Quakes will once again be defending Cal League Champs and hope to see you back at LoanMart Field, for what is certain to be a celebratory season! Go Quakes!