California League (1964-1967)
Born: 1964 – Re-branded from Santa Barbara Rancheros.
Moved: October 18, 1967 (Bakersfield Dodgers)
Stadium: Laguna Park
Owner: Los Angeles Dodgers
The Class A Santa Barbara Dodgers (1964-1967) were the last pro baseball team to make their home in the coastal California city. The franchise entered the California League in 1964 as a replacement for the short-lived Santa Barbara Rancheros (1962-1963), a former New York Mets farm club.
During the four summers that Santa Barbara fed the Los Angeles Dodgers farm system in the mid-60’s, a handful of notables played at the city’s Laguna Park on their way to the Majors. Jack Billingham, who pitched for Santa Barbara in 1964 as a 21-year old, went on to win 145 games in the Majors between 1968 and 1980. Don Sutton (Santa Barbara ’65) won 324 games in the Majors. The Baseball Hall of Fame enshrined Sutton in 1998. Charlie Hough won 14 games for Santa Barbara in 1967. Hough went to pitch an incredible 25 seasons in The Show between 1970 and 1994. The knuckleballer retired at age 46 with 215 career victories.
Mike Kekich was another Santa Barbara Dodgers alum. Kekich, who spent parts of three seasons in Santa Barbara, was a pitcher of more modest accomplishment (39 career wins versus 51 losses) than Billingham, Sutton or Hough. He is remembered largely for swapping wives and children with New York Yankees teammate Fritz Peterson in 1973 in one of the most scandalous trades in Major League history. (Also one of the most lopsided …. Peterson is still married to the former Mrs. Kekich some forty years later. Kekich and Marilyn Peterson broke up soon after the swap.)
Low attendance plagued the Dodgers in Santa Barbara. At the end of the 1967 season, the Los Angeles Dodgers, who owned and operated the ball club directly, moved their California League franchise to Bakersfield, California. Pro baseball has never returned to Santa Barbara. The city demolished Laguna Park, the home of the Dodgers, in 1970.