The title of this column could be taken either of two ways. It’s either the wonderful story of Davis O. Barker of Jacksonville, Texas, an extraordinarily talented researcher of ancient baseball history – or it is the almost gifted-over tale of a one-armed former Texas player who once served as an early business partner of Judge Roy Hofheinz and an ally of the latter’s early 1950 attempt to secure a big league club for Houston. That one led to Hooper’s involvement in a failed attempt to bring the St. Louis Browns franchise to Houston after the 1953 season, a move that actually went to Baltimore in 1954 as the rebirth of the Orioles.
In this case, “A Great Baseball Story” is the one that Davis O. Barker already has written in his careful notes and his own word constructions about “Dick Hooper, A One-Armed Shortstop and An Amazing Texas Entrepreneur”. Barker could now turn this whole column into a treasured greater length and analytically explored book on baseball history – or he could simply rest in the knowledge that he has now written in a cogent time-milestone style format the incredible tale of William Newton “Dick” Hooper in oak-nut form for all time through this one singularly impressive Pecan Park Eagle Column.
Thank you, Davis O. Barker, for all the good things you do for the history of our game of baseball.
Sincerely, Bill McCurdy, The Pecan Park Eagle
“Dick Hooper, A One-Armed Shortstop and An Amazing Texas Entrepreneur”
By Davis O. Barker
It is a baseball story …
It is a Houston-related story …
It is an interesting story …
Dick Hooper was a one-armed baseball player from Conroe who starred at Baylor and UT. He became one of those post-depression Houston oilmen ….
Though I have written a few vignettes concerning his baseball story, I have not written the entire tale (until now*). It was quite by accident that I put the baseball player’s story together with the oilman’s story and they were the same person … to my knowledge, his story hasn’t been told …
The featured photo is a picture from Hooper’s days at UT. The material that follows is a timeline of what I have located in various newspapers over the years.
* Editor’s Note: There isn’t a single timeline feature here in the story of Dick Hooper that could not be greatly expanded in book form – and, in the process, other timeline facts most probably would also find the daylight of discovery. That’s simply the way of all complex story material. As for the essentials, this highlight story of the incredible Mr. Hooper has been ready for some time. And its author is Davis O. Barker.
The Milestone Story Trail ….
WILLIAM NEWTON “Dick” HOOPER
Born: November 17, 1891 in Cass County, Texas
Died: September 4, 1960 in Houston, Texas
Burial: Oakwood Cemetery in Conroe, Texas
Dick Hooper is the son of Dr. William Nelson Hooper who relocated his family to Montgomery County near the turn of the century and set up a very lucrative practice as a physician and surgeon in Conroe. Before his death in 1927, Dr. Hooper was able to acquire substantial parcels of land in the area that would eventually be of great value when a major oil field was discovered. The Dr. Hooper Oil & Royalty Company, still in existence today, was established in his name.
January, 1905: As a young boy, Dick Hooper is seriously wounded by a shotgun blast while hunting. The injury results in the amputation of his left hand and arm below the elbow.
1908-1909: In spite of his injury, Hooper adapts to the loss, and, using his natural skills and personal tenacity as his firing pistons, he soon tars at shortstop for Conroe’s semi-pro team.
1910-11: Hooper attends Baylor University and is selected Captain and Coach of the Bears’ “Scrub Team”; during the summers, he continues to excel in the state’s semi-pro circuits.
1912: Dick Hooper joins the Baylor varsity baseball team and becomes a star outfielder on the conference championship team. He is selected to the All-Conference Team. Again demonstrating his adaptability and his fighting spirit, he supplements his income umpiring semi-pro games and often returns to Conroe during the summer to play with the local semi-pro team.
1913: Hooper transfers to the University of Texas, where he is ineligible to participate on the school’s varsity squad, but he is named captain of the “Texas Outlaws”, and independent team made up of Longhorn baseballers who are not eligible to participate in official games. He also umpires collegiate games in the Austin area. An he often returns to Conroe during the summer to play with the local semi-pro team.
1914-1915: Dick Hooper becomes a star centerfielder for the Longhorns, being chosen All-Conference in the second of those years. During the early summer of 1914, he is hired as a substitute umpire for the Texas League, working games in Austin when the regular umpire was unable to make it. As an umpire, he becomes a fan favorite and receives positive reviews from the players and management. Late in the summer he takes over as the Playing Manager for Lufkin’s team in the independent East Texas Tomato League.
1916: Dick Hooper is chosen by his club as the Longhorn baseball team captain, however, he is declared academically ineligible just two weeks into the season. In June 1916, he is signed as the bench manager for the Lufkin Lumbermen in the Class D East Texas League. Primarily performing as the third base coach, he also appears in a few games as pinch hitter and pinch runner. However, the league folds after about a month of play. It proves to be Hooper’s only professional baseball experience.
1917: During the spring, Hooper is hired as Head Baseball Coach at Southwestern University in Georgetown. During the summer, he is hired as an official umpire by the Texas League.
1918: Hooper serves as a collegiate umpire in games involving Texas colleges.
1919: Dick Hooper continues his umpire service, this time, as an umpire in El Paso in the outlaw Copper League, the El Paso City League, and he also works other semi-pro games in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. During the off season, he takes a job with the Federal government as a deputy collector in southwest region for the Internal Revenue Service.
1921-1923: For three seasons, Dick Hooper manages the semi-pro team in Brenham. He likes the city so much that he makes Brenham his year round residence.
1924: It was a case of natural selection. for the people of his new home town. In the spring of 1924, Dick Hooper is hired as Head Baseball Coach at Brenham High School.
Then, as life so often does, events unfold to alter the course of this Texas dynamo of grass roots baseball. After the death of his father, and the discovery of oil on his most of his father’s extensive land holdings, the family of Dick Hooper talks him into returning to Conroe for the sake of operating the family’s new-found oil business. The business is extremely successful and its resulting Dr. Hooper Oil & Royalty Company still exists today.
At some point, at a time still unknown to us, Dick Hooper moves his main office to Houston.
In the mid-1940’s, Hooper and Judge Roy Hofheinz form a corporation that purchases several radio stations in the region. As technology advances, they consider acquiring a television station. The company is not a success, but the two entrepreneurs became long-time associates.
Early in 1950, Dick Burnett, East Texas oil man and owner of Dallas’ Texas League team, begins a move to create a third major league. Likely a South Texas interests to North Texas interests reaction in response, Hooper, Hofheinz, and other wealthy Texans begin to put together a group to bring a team to Houston.
When Burnett’s plan runs out of steam, a group headed by Hooper and William A. Smith, Houston banker, contractor, and oilman, contact former Houstonian transplant Eddie Dyer – former major league pitcher and current manager of the St. Louis Cardinals – to represent them in negotiations to purchase majority stock in the St. Louis Browns franchise and move it to Houston. The attempt proves fruitless, but when the Browns come up for sale a few years later the group again inquires about the team. Again they fail and the Browns move to Baltimore for the 1954 season. However, the seeds are forever planted in the concept of Houston having a major league team.
Dick Hooper passed away in 1960 and was buried in the family plot in Conroe.
In the late Seventies, his sister Lady Hooper Schaefer donated land worth about $2 mllllon to Baylor University in memory of her brother, Dick Hooper, a Houston oil man, and the Hooper-Schaefer Fine Arts Center was built at Baylor.
Editorial Conclusion, The Pecan Park Eagle. Today, some fifty-five years past the death of Dick Hooper, his name continues to fly well below the radar of large scale public awareness, but the effects of his energies remain intertwined with our everyday lives. Any fan of the Houston Astros, Texas Rangers, Texas Longhorns, Baylor Bears, or Brenham Cubs, just to name his primary connections by direct contact or implied impact, knows him well. As do the lives and contributions of countless others out there who were inspired by this man to overcome their own ideas about personal disadvantage for the sake of reaching their own goals of accomplishment – against all odds – the name of Dick Hooper shall live on through the impact it already has made upon the lives of us all.
It is our job to be good gardeners and giving innovators on the landscape of life that awaited us all when we got here – and to not allow any perception we hold about our personal disadvantage, or the cruel and violent actions of others, to deter us from the beautiful ongoing pursuit of possibility that is the life fully lived.