Houston-Galveston: Echoes of an Ancient Rivalry

The Houston Buffs and Galveston Sand Crabs were still local rivals for years beyond the 1896 campaign. This panorama shows the two clubs on Opening Day at West End Park in 1921.

The Houston Buffs and Galveston Sand Crabs were still local rivals for years beyond the 1896 campaign. This panorama shows the two clubs on Opening Day at West End Park in 1921.

Back in the latter part of the 19th and early 20th centuries, the rivalry between professional base ball teams from Houston and Galveston grew a little heated. All it needed was a newspaper quote from one manager, followed by a rival response from the other club mentor – and countered yet again by a further published response from the original speaker to sizzle things up prior to game time.

Here’s a small example (Thanks again to the file research of our friend and contributor, Darrell Pittman):

Back in 1896, the Houston Buffaloes and Galveston Sand Crabs both were getting ready to begin the new base ball season with high hopes for success in the Class C Texas-Southern League/later renamed Texas Association competition of 1896. Going into the new year, W.G. “Bill” Garson was on deck as the manager at Houston and W.L. “Bill” Work held the corresponding position at Galveston.

It all started this time with an interview of Houston Manager Garson in the April 9, 1986 edition of the Galveston Daily News following his return to Houston from a league pre-season meeting in Fort Worth. Almost everything that Garson was quoted as saying sounded like fairly innocuous good-spin pre-season talk, by today’s standards, but apparently that isn’t the way it was heard by Galveston Manager Work once he read Garson’s remarks.

“I saw the Chicago Colts drop a game in Dallas Monday by the rankest kind of playing and some awful umpiring,” Garson said, talking about one of the side ventures he enjoyed on his trip to North Texas. “I am confident from what I saw and from the opinions expressed by the Chicago players, that we have a stronger team than either Dallas, Fort Worth, or Galveston, and (I also believe) that the other teams in the league are, perhaps, weaker than either of those teams mentioned, unless it be Galveston.”

Houston Manager Garson’s comments did not settle well with Galveston Manager Work. The very next day, April 10, 1896, the Galveston Daily News published Work’s handwritten and angry public letter response to his Houston rival manager:

“Noticing Mr. Garson’s daily ‘Stab’ at advertising his (Houston) baseball aggregation in yesterday’s (Galveston Daily) News and his attempt at diagnosing the strength of my (Galveston) team in a comparison with Fort Worth, Houston, and Dallas, I deem it my business to make some reply. It has been often and truthfully said that the producer of poultry should postpone the census of the juvenile fowls until the period of incubation has fully arrived. Mr. Garson, however, has not paid much attention to this axiom and takes the license to predict, of course, that Houston team is superior to the Galveston team. When did he become a baseball oracle, and how has he so suddenly acquired the knowledge to speak on any subject to the national game? I won’t take up space and waste breath in a reply to Mr. Garson. The sporting people are the people to whom I look to for support, and who must be the sole judges of my team’s strength. I am not afraid of the future, and certainly shall not lose sleep over the reputed phenomenal strength of Mr. Garson’s team. If to-day’s game is a criterion I think the Houstons, when they meet the Galvestons, will be left at the quarter pole.”

Houston Manager Garson responded to Galveston Manager Work the very next day, April 11, 1896, in a public letter by card, but this time, his second round rebuttal was delivered to and published by the Houston Daily Post:

“To the Editor of the (Houston Daily) Post) – In reply to Manager Work’s letter to the Galveston News in which he scores me in a very ungentlemanly manner, for something I don’t believe I ever said or uttered.

“I am not anxious for such cheap notoriety that Manager Work is trying to bring up through the newspapers and have only this to say: I think Work an ass and in regard to playing ball, the coming season will determine who has the strongest team, and I’m very sure Mr. Work will be welcome to criticize me as much as he pleases if he beats me out, but I think he will find his match when he come to Houston.”

Like most most tempests in most teapots, there were no apparent personal winners between Garson of Houston and Work of Galveston. Both were replaced as managers before the year ended. In fact, two men followed Work in succession. The team gold, however, went to Houston for finishing in first place – 12 games ahead of the second place Galveston club that they then defeated 5 games to 2 in a playoff for the league championship of 1896.

This little old play does little to shed any new light on the workings of the human ego, but it does pretty well reenforce what we all should already know. Everything pursued by the human ego carries baggage that is much older than anything ever written by Wee Willie Shakespeare.


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