A Veteran’s Day Special: The Story of Sonoma Stack

Youth baseball in Sonoma Valley has received a boost in recent years. Not only has the talent level increased, as evidenced by success in competition with other leagues, but also the opportunity to improve and develop has been fostered by a new organization in the Valley, Sonoma Stack.

Sonoma Stack, a non-profit organization, was founded with the intent of fostering the development of youth baseball in the Sonoma Valley and providing the opportunity for those with a love of the game to continue to participate at the highest level.

Stack has had great success in regional tournaments and the program has been responsible for the development of current members of the Sonoma Valley High varsity baseball program by giving local athletes a chance to be exposed to top-flight competition within Northern California.

However, despite its success, there still exists some confusion as to the origin of the “Stack” name. Fittingly, on Veterans Day, the following is the story of William Moore Stack, the individual for which the program is named as authored by local resident and a descendant of Mr. Stack, James Natuzzi.

By James Natuzzi
Young William Moore Stack was born in Tralee, Co. Kerry, Ireland and came to the United States with his parents and older sister Maura as a toddler of 2 1/2. Over the years Billy became “big brother” to all the American born children in his family and with his generous nature an  keen wit kept them laughing through many a bad time. He attended John Adams High School, but never graduated because in February of 1942, upon reaching his 17th birthday, Billy got his parents to agree to his enlistment in the United States Navy. As was the case in those early years of World War II, he was rushed off to boot camp where he received a bare minimum of training before being assigned to the fleet. He was placed aboard the heavy cruiser USS Quincy in fire control then later to the Brooklyn Navy yard for overhaul. 

The Quincy got underway for the South Pacific in July with other vessels assembling for the invasion of Guadalcanal. Prior to the Marine assault on Guadalcanal on August 7th the Quincy destroyed several Japanese installations and an oil depot during her bombardment of Lunga Point. She later provided close fire support for the Marines during their landing. 

While on patrol in the channel between Florida Island and Savo Island in the early hours of August 9 1942, the Quincy, along with heavy cruisers Vincennes and Astoria, was attacked by a large Japanese force and sank after sustaining many direct hits with all guns out of action. It was blight on United States Naval history, with faults in planning and command. Crews were poorly trained, radar ill-used, and the capability of the Japanese Navy underestimated. All three cruisers, with tar decks and exposed fuel and ordinance, were not battle worthy.

William Moore Stack was my uncle. Growing up I never met him, but because of a strong historical and close-knit family I felt like I did. He died when he was 17 years old. Did he like baseball? I don’t know, but if he was like any of his two brothers, yes he would have. Did he play baseball? I don’t know. Maybe he played some stickball on a stoop in his neighborhood with his family and friends. Would he have liked Sonoma? I don’t know, but again if he was anything like his brothers and sisters he would have.

Three years ago Sonoma started a travel baseball team that bears his name and initials WMS. The program was started by the players, coaches and some very dedicated families. That summer the original group met in the parking lot of a batting cage the night before they played their first tournament. They received their uniforms and they found out that they would be named after a 17 year old who grew up long before even their parents did. The uniform colors and logo were chosen to honor the branch of service he was in. Gray pants and a navy blue and white jersey. The manager read to them his story. Did they all listen? Yes. Did they all get what it meant? Some did more than others and some not until later on. The uniforms and equipment had been purchased with the money donated in his name by a niece of Billy’s. The foundation she started several years previous in his name: The William Moore Stack Foundation did not donate money. She did in Billy’s name because she has nephews who love to play baseball and she wanted to help give our young community a chance to have a significant and competitive experience and to help teach the importance of family and our country’s history. The decision to name the original team “Stack” was decided upon by those original players and coaches. It has been quite successful and thrives because of the dedication they have shown. The Stack family is honored to have their brother’s name and initials associated with youth, community, and national spirit. When an umpire presented a game ball to Billy’s younger sister Nan after a game, she was honored. The entire Under 13 team signed it and it sits on her book shelf on proud display. Those original objective have been met and thrive because (again) of some very generous and dedicated people in Sonoma.

The original Sonoma Stack under 16’s team understands the significance of “Billy Stack on Three”. Some may even know where the Salvo Islands are. The baseball ‘program’ is now being run by some dedicated people who love the game. I personally, have not been involved due to work and time factors, but my sons continue to play. They know it is a community/ volunteer run ‘program,’ they know the history of the name, and the importance of community and family. On this Veteran’s day please take time to say thanks and recognize the story’s of the past and present and make some for the future!

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