By Dana Stubbs – Special to the Navarro County Gazette
Corsicana’s Baseball Scene
Watching the Corsicana Tigers’ “Wolf Pack” attempt to make history again as they won their first two games of the playoffs for the bid of the 2021 championship reminded me of some past Corsicana baseball scenes.
Corsicana’s Pro Baseball Scene
Without a doubt, at the turn of the twentieth century, baseball was the hottest sport in town. Everyone had baseball fever. The ball park overflowed with energized spectators. This was the era Corsicana was home to one of the most powerful and professional minor league baseball teams in the history of the sport.
Corsicana native, Doke Roberts, organized a team for his hometown in 1902. They were sponsored by the Oil City textile mill and dubbed the “Oilers.” They became part of the Texas League and made history with their outstanding performances.
From opening day, April 26, 1902, they dominated the league. June 8 through July 5 they triumphed with twenty-seven consecutive wins. That streak held the record for forty-six years. 1902 was also the year J. J. Clarke racked up eight homeruns in one game.
That infamous game was a home game for Corsicana against Texarkana to be played on Sunday, June 15. However, Corsicana had an ordinance which prohibited Sunday baseball. The game was moved to Ennis. Ennis’ field was a bit short but both teams agreed beforehand that any ball hit over the fence would be a homerun. The Oilers logged 53 hits which included 16 homeruns (8 for Clarke) and the win, 51-3. A few of the other notable feats of this game came with only five base runners stranded. The Oilers defense did not commit an error and completed four double plays. Clarke’s eight homeruns and the 53 hits with 51 runs are records that still stand today.
The next couple of years the team continued to be at the top of the league. That fact intrigued a couple of members of the stock company who saw dollar signs in their eyes. They began to plot to take over the team. At this time Roberts was able to hold them off. These business men of Corsicana continued to bully until it “grew so intolerable” Roberts decided to sell the franchise. He called around and Oklahoma City was very interested in making a deal.
However, these Corsicana business men heard about the deal and sent a wire to Roberts asking for a meeting. Roberts told them he wanted $1,500 for the team. They countered with $1,250 as they did not want two of the players to stay in Corsicana. Roberts sold the two unwanted players to Beaumont for $750 and took the $1,250 from the Corsicana businessmen. That gave him $2,000 instead of the $1,500 he originally wanted. Roberts then left Corsicana for Temple where he formed a new team.
All this made for some strong animosity between the Corsicana owners and Roberts. The Corsicana team was promised five extra dollars a man for every series they beat Temple. Game day came on the Corsicana diamond. In six innings Corsicana was on top 7-0. Roberts talked to his manager Ben Shelton and they had every Temple player trying to figure out the signals of the Corsicana team.
Finally in the seventh inning it came to them, every time the catcher opened his big mouth it meant a fast ball and he kept his jaw shut for a curve ball. Temple took advantage of the discovery and hammered their way to a 9-7 win. Corsicana never changed the signal and lost the next nine consecutive games and dropped out of the Texas league. Over the next 20 years the Corsicana team was never at its peak again. They muddled through the North Texas State League, the Texas Association, and the Lone Star League until 1928 when they became defunct.
Corsicana’s City Baseball Scene
In 1922 W. E. Jones, YMCA, organized the City Baseball League. Among the charter teams were the Oil City Nine, Dyer’s Dry Goods, the YMHA (Jewish),the American Legion,the Cotton Mill Red Sox, Western Union, Bankers and Insurance and the Railway and Express.
The first game of the City League was played at the baseball park on June 20, 1922 between the Oil City Nine and J. M. Dyer’s. Oil City took the win 8-3. Each game was played at 6:00 p.m. at the park with no admission for spectators. When the Oil City Nine dropped out Coulson’s took their place. The first championship of the City League went to the Cotton Mill Red Sox when they won over Coulson’s in the fourth game of the series, 3-0.
A Church League was formed and many years of good and bad sportsmanship was experienced on a diamond in Corsicana. Camaraderie and rivalry mixed to make a lot of memories between the many churches and businesses within the city limits.
Corsicana’s Little League Scene
The Little League movement started in 1939. By the time Corsicana became interested in the league there were 7,650 teams in the country. In April 1953 the Corsicana Dads Club, with Stewart Beebe as president, held several meetings to organize registration and schedule spring training. However, the Dads Club made it clear this was not a permanent project for their organization.
Registration cards were sent out to schools so “spring training” could get underway. Little League baseball was set up exactly like Major League baseball in every practical way possible. Games started at 5:30 p.m. and each team was limited to 18 games a season.
One hundred seventy-eight boys signed the cards which indicated they wanted to take part in Little League. Jack Sisco served as president with L. A. Johnson, Jr., vice-president; Mitchell Boyd, secretary; Hoyt Moore, treasurer. Beebe acted as player-management agent. Mrs. Marian Beasley was mother-consultant for the League.
After practice games were held at the Textile Park the managers of the teams met at the Tex-Sun Glove Company office for the auction of players. Bidding was spirited, particularly in the early stages of the auction. The adult managers were enthusiastic in their work which was a good influence for the boys to get excited about the League. The 150-odd boys meet at the Textile Park to be assigned to the teams, hear talks by their team managers and to set up a practice schedule.
On June 12, 1953, a large crowd attended the opening preview games. The American Black Sox tied with the National Reds; the National Greens won over the American Blues, 6-3; The National Blues won the third game from the American Greens, 7-5; the fourth was another tie at 2-2 between the American Reds and the National Blacks.
Little League baseball ended the first season in Corsicana on August 26, as the National league All-Stars defeated the American All-Stars, 26-8 to win the All-Stars series at Navarro Junior College Park.
When you are talking the Little League baseball scene of Corsicana you have to honor Mr. James Stuart Beebe. The native Indianan came to Corsicana in the 1940s and made a name for himself on the baseball scene. He pushed them, he growled at them, and sponsored thousands of kids around the baseball diamond. He used his own money, his own time and his own strength for the betterment of the Corsicana youth.
Corsicana’s School Baseball Scene:
Professor F. H. Curtiss of the State University in Austin presented his plan to organize an interscholastic athletic association for Texas at the 1904 Superintendents and Principals’ Association’s annual meeting. His idea was to have a meet of high school athletes in which students’ practice records were used in the selection of participation at the meet.
The preliminary organization with rules and regulations for athletics in school were laid out on December 29, 1904at the convention held at Corsicana, making Corsicana the actual birth place of the UIL. At this meeting the permanent organization was formed by the election of President, Professor F. Homer Curtis of Austin; vice president, Professor R. C. Panthermuehl of Denison; secretary and treasurer, Superintendent J. B. Hubbard of Belton. The executive committee consisted of L. C. Gee, Denison, R. A. Baker of Dallas and a third person named later. Schools that desired membership in the association sent their application with annual dues of $2.50 to Superintendent Hubbard.
Over the years, a couple of Tiger teams have made it to the state playoffs. The 1920 baseball team was honored with the state title.
At the time there was only one league so everyone played everyone in their area and the team with the best records played for the championship. In 1920 it was Corsicana and Waxahachie (both teams undefeated) with Waxahachie winning two consecutive games over Corsicana. During the last game held on May 12, 1920, it seemed everyone from Corsicana was very upset with the way the game was going. Nothing was going right for the local boys and when Dan Comfort went to bat he was hit by the ball. The umpire ruled he intentionally let the ball hit him and called it an out. Comfort disagreed and went to first base anyway.
The crowd cheered him on as chaos broke out and the mob of spectators swarmed the field. After control was taken over by the authorities the umpires’ ruling was upheld. However, during the games the question kept being asked about how old the Indians were. When the scandal came to light Waxahachie had seven “players” who were not even students of the school. The championship was stripped from the Indians and Corsicana was given the title.
In 1958, Frankie Rouse pitched Jesse Cumming’s Tigers to the main event.
There were eight letterman which headed the list of 23 candidates who turned out for workouts at the start of the 1958 Tiger season. One player was Frankie Rouse. He had moved to Corsicana from Wortham before the start of the year. At Wortham he had already made a name for himself as one of the best pitchers in the area. Corsicana and all other teams dreamed of having him on their team, now here he was in Corsicana. Coach Cummings was ecstatic as were everyone else. What could Frankie do for the Tigers?
Brantley Humbert, Kenneth Moore, and Frankie Rouse shared the mound in the first game of the season when the Tigers went down, 4-2.The next fight was with the Hubbard Jaguars with Tiger wins of 12-0 and 6-1. Mart went down to the Tigers 8-0. Next came Waco with a 10-inning, 5-5 stalemate. Wins over Palestine, 3-1; Athens, 5-3; Cleburne, 1-0 and 5-4. At that Cleburne game the Tigers were down 3-4 when Frankie went to bat and his long hit ball fell into the grass at the edge of the left-centerfield fence for a triple and the win.
Tigers beat Palestine 4-0 for the east zone, 8-AAA title in Palestine. Next the Tigers took Henderson the first two of the best three games for the bi-district title; 13-5 and 3-2. Then the fight was with the Ft. Worth Brewer Bears who won the first game of the series 10-1.But, the Tigers came back with a force winning the last two games, 2-0, and 4-0 respectfully.
In Austin the Tigers met Port Neches on Thursday, June 5, 1958, and racked up an 8-0 win sending the coastal Indians back home. In this game the massiveright-handed pitcher Frankie struck out 18 Indians to set a new meet record which still holds today.
The South San Antonio Bobcats closed the door on the dreams of the Tigers championship when they set the bar high and rolled over the Tigers, 11-3, Friday June 7, 1958. However, Frankie was not the only cat to set a record at this meet, Leland Dove did his part at the tournament when he hit five times in six trips for a .833 mark. Dove got three singles and two doubles to drive two runs in the two games.
Corsicana’s Recent Baseball Scene
The Tigers brought back the second place trophy in 2019 with great hopes for 2020. We all know what happened in 2020 so we are now looking at the team of 2021. Coach Autrey, incidentally a Waxahachie native, has had eleven years with the Corsicana Tigers sending them to the playoffs nine times.
Can this be the year, one hundred and one years after the notorious Waxahachie game? Of course it can! Go Tigers!