1911: West End Park Fire Was Serious Money

After 1911 West End fire, principal Buffs franchise owner had a decision to make about staying or going. An unofficial alcohol perk may have may have helped grease the skids on staying.

Galveston Daily News, Dec. 6, 1911

GRANDSTAND IS BURNED

———-

Improvements at West End Park are Destroyed

Loss Will Exceed $5,000

May Rebuild

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Special to The News.

Houston, Tex., Dec. 5 (1911) – The baseball grandstand at West End Park, the scene of the Texas League games every season for several years past, was destroyed by fire about 3 o’clock Tuesday morning. Though the baseball grounds themselves are owned jointly by Mrs. Eugenie Flewellyn [?] of Houston and a Mrs. McFarland of Waco, the Houston Baseball Association, represented by Mr. Otto Sens, owned the improvements, which consisted of the grandstand and the bleachers. These improvements were valued at approximately $5,000. It is exceedingly doubtful if they could be replaced for the sum. The grandstand was built when the ball park was leased by Claude Reilly, a former owner of the franchise.

(Current Houston Buffs principal franchise owner) Otto Sens was hunting near Cypress when word was sent to him that the grandstand in Houston had been destroyed by fire. He quit the field and hastened back to the city and is now planning for the future. The fire may possibly mean that Buffalo fans will see the baseball games of 1912 in a brand new ball park, but Mr. Sens has not definitely decided on that point. He has another year’s lease on West End Park, but if baseball is to be played there next year it will devolve upon the club owners to replace the old grandstand.

Whether the owners will be willing to spend as much as $7,000 or $8,000 in erecting new stands to be used just one season remains to be seen. The chances are that they will lose no time considering the question of beginning work on the new baseball plant, plans for which were drawn months ago.

Should the club owners rebuild the old stand there is a possibility that they will have in their possession a new lease on West End Park before the first nail is driven in the construction. Mrs. Flewellyn [?] declined to say whether she would lease the park or not.

~ Thank you, Darrell Pittman, for this verbatim report on one of the local newspaper coverages of the fire story.

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Ongoing Notes and Thoughts. Otto Sens and the Buffs did pony up the $8,000 to rebuild the fire damage to the grandstands at West End Park in Houston. As Mike Vance implies in his chapter from our multiple author SABR work, Houston Baseball, The Early Years: 1861-1961, the decision by the Buffs to put their money into the repair, rather than go the ultimately more expensive route of going elsewhere anew may have been influenced by the addition of some unofficial amenities that resulted from the reconstruction:

In the fire reconstruction, “seats were raised with concessions set underneath.

“One thing not offered at the concessions when West Park first opened was beer. Management announced a strict policy that just as at the old park, no alcohol would be allowed. How strict the enforcement actually was, however, is open to debate. One memoir describes how an empty bucket lowered from the press box would find its way back up the rope with a load of cold beverages for the ‘thirsty scribes.’ One doubts they meant colas.” (page 102, Early Houston Baseball History, et al)

Otto Sens may not have invented “the art of the deal”, but he surely understood that the fire had given him the leverage to shake the giving tree for a few perks in his working agreement with West End Park that weren’t there originally. After all, a baseball team can play their game anyplace there’s room to scratch out a 90-feet square diamond that has a 300-feet field beyond it. On other hand, a fire charred field of rubble that goes unrepaired is only attractive to rodents and trash dumpers.

____________________


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

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