First Night Game in Houston History: 1892

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The following delicious excerpt from “Houston Baseball: The Early Years, 1861-1961” is simply one among a thousand or so reasons to read the only comprehensive and accurate history of baseball in the Bayou City – all the way back to its earliest discernible roots in the 19th century. Originally titled and put into preliminary research motion by yours truly, years ago, and then finally written and exhaustively researched by several of us from the Larry Dierker Chapter of SABR* – from 2011 to 2014 – this work rose as testimony to the fact that there truly are steep mountains in social research that we do not climb alone. Thanks to the great team effort by our working group, and the indomitable force that Mike Vance provided all of us as our tireless managing editor, the factual bones of Houston’s earliest baseball history now join together much better under the flesh and blood of documented content.  And if that were not enough, the whole thing soars in the mind’s eye from a plethora of historic photographs and the inspired artwork of Patrick Lopez – who recreated in watercolor inclusions how all of Houston’s earliest ballparks appeared from newspaper details of their constructions. You say you want more? – Iconic Houston sports writer Mickey Herskowitz, who was around as both an observer and a participant in the transition of Houston from a minor league town into a major league city in 1961-1962, gave the book its glorious passage to the future by writing the epilogue chapter.

Our work was beautifully published by Bright Sky Press of Houston as a 368-page hard copy with dust jacket. If you would like to order a copy, please contact our Larry Dierker Chapter President of SABR*, Mr. Bob Dorrill,

By e-mail at: BDorrill@aol.com

Or by phone at: 281-361-7874

SABR stands for the “Society for American Baseball Research”. It doesn’t cost much to join and your only qualification for membership is that you have a deep love for the game of baseball and its history. We meet once a month for a “buy your own dinner” and presentation by some of the biggest names in Houston baseball. As a member, you will also receive a number of quality production baseball magazines during the year – and it is low cost too. Seniors and everyone under 30 pays only $45 a year. Everyone else pays $65 a year. – What a deal!

If you call Bob Dorrill, talk to him about SABR memberships. They are even cheaper with 3-year memberships. Bob will be happy to sign you up, if you are interested.

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First Night Game in Houston History: July 22, 1892

Although the first Houston regular season night baseball game played under permanently installed arc lights did not occur until July 22, 1930, the very first night game in Houston wasn’t even played as late as the 20th century. With the help of a primitive portable rig of arc lights, the actual first night game in Houston was played on May 21, 1892 as an exhibition of night baseball. (Houston Post, July 23, 1892.)

” (July 22, 1892) …. this was also the year of the first night game in the history of Texas or southern baseball. It took place at the park at Travis and McGowen. * Houston had gotten electricity more than a dozen years before, and when the between-the-halves series with Galveston had ended, (Houston manager) John McCloskey cooked up a plan to follow the lead of several other cities around the nation and try an exhibition under the lights.

“The momentous evening came on July 22, 1892. For three days previous, workers had been installing nine arc lights on poles at ‘different parts of the field’ to make the diamond as bright as daytime. Herb’s Light Guard Band, one of the top musical acts in town, was hired, and numerous other entertainments were planned for the circus-like event.

“About a thousand people bought tickets for the extravaganza. They were treated to multiple foot races between well matched players from each team, including a 50-yard dash by the two beefiest of the lot, first baseman Charley Isaacson of Galveston and Houston’s catcher, Tub Welch. There was a goat race, a potato race, a watermelon eating contest in which James H. Bostick consumed his entire melon in 28 seconds, and of course, a brief baseball game.

“The (Galveston) Sandcrabs wore their normal uniforms, but the (Houston) Mud Cats were attired in the widest variety of garb. Their ballplayers clad as clowns, vaudevillians, and jockeys. Manager McCloskey was dressed as the Uncle Sam-like cartoon character Brother Jonathan, and utility man Neil Donahue was decked our as Annie Rooney, a character from a popular song, complete with a dress and blond wig, which didn’t slow him down in a 100-yard race. Deemed a success, the whole affair was repeated in Galveston later in the year.”

  • On February 20, 2016, the site of Houston’s first full league professional base ball team in 1888 – and referenced in our book as “the park at Travis and McGowen” – was formerly noted by an historical plaque at the site by The State of Texas Historical Commission, in full support from the Harris County Historical Commission, by the name now determined to have been its most common identity reference – the Fairgrounds Base Ball Park. – Had it not been for the bulldog determination of our SABR editor, Mike Vance, this proper recognition, as well as the one achieved last year in behalf of West End Park as Houston’s second professional baseball venue – never would have happened. Thank you, Mike Vance, for all you’ve done and continue to do in behalf of historical discovery and preservation. The City of Houston and the State of Texas both owe you a debt of gratitude. Just be sure you prepare a small cadre of apprentices along the way. As you well know, this challenge runs forever beyond our lifetimes – and it all falls down the unguarded moment this culture wakes up to find that no one is left to care.

~ Houston Baseball: The Early Years, 1861-1961; Bright Sky Press; 2014; Mike Vance Editor; Chapter Four: Early Professional Ball, 1888-1904; By Mike Vance and Bill McCurdy; Page 76.

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 eagle-0rangeBill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

https://bill37mccurdy.com/

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One Response to “First Night Game in Houston History: 1892”

  1. materene Says:

    Excellent write up Bill, enjoyed learning the history

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