Posts Tagged ‘Beeville’

Beeville Orange Growers: Another Photo Mystery.

March 24, 2010

1910 Beeville Orange Growers: Photo Courtesy of the Randy Foltin Collection.

Research colleague Randy Foltin sent me this photo yesterday of the 1910 Beeville Orange Growers because he knew I was born in that little South Texas town and that I hold special interests in the baseball history of the area. As often is the case, the photo came with its own historical mysteries. These all mainly spin around the presence of the most famous player in the shot, number 6 on the back row, Beeville native and future major league pitcher Bert Gallia.

First let’s cover a little background on the brief history of the Beeville Orange Growers. They didn’t last very long, but then again, neither did the agricultural course of raising oranges or any other citrus fruit crop in Beeville. Located fifty miles north of Corpus Christi, the Beeville winters were simply too cold and too filled with freezing temperature days ro make the industry practical for that too-far-north region of the state. Still, playing minor league baseball and raising oranges had a parallel run in the Beeville area until both got frosted away in the second decade of the twentieth century.

The Beeville baseball-playing Orange Growers were members of the two-season, six-team Southwest Texas League in 1910-11. Other league members included the Brownsville Brownies, the Corpus Christi Pelicans, the Laredo Bermudas, the Bay City Rice Eaters, and the Victoria Rosebuds. Second Place Brownsville won the first of the league’s only two pennants in 1910 by taking a 3-2 series playoff with First Place Victoria. Third Place Beeville was awarded the other pennant in 1911 when First Place Bay City refused to participate in their scheduled championship playoff series.

After 1911, the Southwest Texas League was no more and Beeville went back to raising cattle, harvesting broom corn, and playing their amateur town ball games of baseball. Make no mistake, the failure of the Southwest Texas League was no barometer on the levels of Beeville’s interest in and talent for baseball. By 1925, this small community of a few hundred people had sent their third native son to the big leagues in the form of Lefty Lloyd Brown. Pitcher Bert Gallia went first, joining the Washington Senators in 1912. Outfielder Curt Walker was second, coming up with the New York Yankees at the tail end of the 1919 season before going on to twelve successful years with the Giants, Phillies, and Reds. Walker’s lifetime .304 batting average helped earn him an induction into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame back in 2001.

Now to the mysteries.

Bert Gallia is shown in the photo with the 1910 Beeville Orange Growers, but his Baseball Reference minor league record indicates that he did not begin his playing career until 1911, and that he then started with Laredo before shifting over to Beeville before season’s end. The next year, 1912, found Melvin “Bert” Gallia ascending all the way up to the roster of the Washington Senators.

I’ve checked the photos against the team records maintained by Baseball Reference.Com. That’s definitely the 1910 club. Except for Gallia, all of the other players in the photo are represented in the Baseball Reference database as players for the 1910 Beeville club,

The other mystery concerns the ‘S’ letter that appears on Bert Gallia’s jersey. The letter has nothing to do with Beeville – nor with the Laredo Bermudas that apparently broke him in at the start of the 1911 season.

One more incidental comment on the 1911 Beeville club: Ted Schultz began the (63-54, .538) season as the team’s manager, but he was replaced during the year by Billy Disch, a young man who would go on from Beeville to become the baseball coaching icon at the University of Texas.

Any ideas you may have on the subject’s two mystery questions are most welcome as comments here in the section below this article.

Have a nice Wednesday, everybody, and keep the spring hope watered and green. The 2010 baseball season is almost here.

Beeville’s Five Native Big Leaguers, Part 2.

February 26, 2010

Beeville's roots as a community go back to the 1830s. It had a population of 2,500 in 1909.

The South Texas city of 13,000 now known as Beeville was first settled in the 1830s by by the Heffernan family, The Heffernans lost their lives in a Native American attack, but other European settlers soon came in sufficient numbers to survive the objections of local tribes. An infusion of immigrants from Mexico also fed the population pipeline and the place began to thrive.

After several name trials, the community settled on “Beeville” in honor of Bernard E. Bee., Sr. the Secretary of State and Secretary of War for the Republic of Texas. By 1859, the town had its own post office. The first newspaper was started by 20-year old W.O. McCurdy of Claiborne, Mississippi in 1886, the same year that the city got its first railroad. There were only 300 people in town in 1880, but the railroad and the growth of agriculture and cattle ranching soon enough changed all that. By 1908, the city reincorporated with a population nearing 2,500. The city had first incorporated in 1890, but that soon fell apart. The city wasn’t ready for that much organization. By 1908, they were big enough to require it.

The oil field boom of the 1920s caused a leap in growth and a demand for new services and forms of social entertainment. The streets were paved in 1921. The Rialto movie theatre (“picture show”) was built and opened in 1922. And a lot of people were playing forms of organized baseball.

For two seasons, the Beeville Orange Growers played baseball as members of the short-lived Southwest Texas League. It was an appropriate outcome for a team so-named. The attempt to grow oranges in Beeville also soon ended on the bitter cold realization that the winter climate of Beeville was too frigid for citrus crop survival most years.

Beeville next attempted professional ball as the Beeville Bees of the Gulf Coast League in 1926, but they moved to Laredo after getting off to a 4-9 start before sparse crowds. Beeville loved baseball, but the people weren’t spectators. They preferred playing the game for free to watching the game for pay.

A half century later, the Beeville Bees returned as members of the new independent Gulf Coast League for two seasons (1977-78). This time the club was wildly popular as an attraction at Joe Hunter Field, but the overall insolvency and lack of planning by the league sadly ended Beeville’s last venture into professional play.

Over the years, the vitality of Beeville’s love of the game is best measured by the fact it has sent four men to the major leagues as players and another as an esteemed batting coach. Here’s brief capsule on each:

Melvin "Bert" Gallia, (MLB 1912-20)

Melvin “Bert” Gallia (BR/TR), born 10/14/1891 in Beeville, Texas,  posted a pitching record of 66 wind and 68 losses, with an earned run average of 3.14 for his nine MLB seasons with the Washington Senators, St. Louis Browns, and Philadelphia Phillies. He struck out 550 and walked 494 in 1,277 innings of work. He completed 61 of his 135 starts and he is credited with 10 saves in relief.

Curt Walker (MLB 1919-30)

Curt Walker (BL/TR), born in Beeville, Texas on July 3, 1896, was a speedy outfielder with a strong arm. Over his twelve-season career with the New York Yankees, New York Giants, Philadelphia Phillies, and Cincinnati Reds, Curt batted .304, striking out only 254 times in 4,858 official times at bat. He collected 235 doubles, 117 triples, and 64 home runs, and once hit two triples in the same inning against the Braves in 1926.  Walker also had 20 triples for the year in 1926. In 2001, Curt Walker was inducted into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame.

Lefty Lloyd Brown (MLB 1925, 1928-37, 1940)

Lefty Lloyd Brown (BL/TL), born in Beeville, Texas on December 25, 1904, won 91 games, lost 105, and recorded an earned run average of 4.20 in twelve seasons of work for the Brooklyn Robins, St. Louis Browns, Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, and Philadelphia Phillies. He struck out 510 and walked 590 in 1,693 innings, completing 77 of the 181 games he started. He also is retroactively credited with 21 saves in relief, a stat they didn’t keep back in those days. Brown also holds the ignominious record of having surrendered four of the twenty-three record grand slam homers belted by the great Lou Gehrig.

Eddie Taubensee (MLB 1991-2001)

In his eleven big league seasons, Eddie Taubensee (BL/TR) was born in Beeville, Texas on October 31, 1968. Eddie was a good hitting catcher, posting a career batting average of .273 with 151 doubles, 9 triples, and 94 homers. He struck out 574 times in 2,874 times at bat, walking 255 times. He played for the Cleveland Indians, the Houston Astros, the Cincinnati Reds, and a final short season again with the Indians, the club that gave him his start.

Rudy Jaramillo (Minor Leagues, 1973-76)

Rudy Jaramillo (BL/TR) is a Beevillian by family background, but he actually was born in Dallas, Texas on September 20, 1950. After a so-so four seasons as a .258 minor league hitter, Rudy and others discovered that he had a personal talent for teaching others what he had not been able to do himself. He became a successful hitting coach for the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers and will now serve in that same capacity for the 2010 Chicago Cubs. The list of men who were actually better teachers of hitting than they were producers of hits is a long and interesting one – and Beevillian Rudy Jaramillo deserves an honored place in that company. He’s already done well enough teaching others to have been inducted into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002.

Overall, these men speak for a pretty fair record of baseball achievement for a small Texas town. For these and many other reasons, I’ll always be proud of my birthplace. Second to Houston, Beeville once was home.

Beeville’s Five Native Big Leaguers, Part 1.

February 25, 2010

Beeville Bee Publisher/Editor W.O. McCurdy Took This Photo Around 1896.

My grandfather took this photo of Beeville, Texas about 9:30 AM, judging from the shadows. When I retraced the location of this shot, this is the perspective he would have had from the front door of his newspaper office on Washington Street, the main street in Beeville. I’m guessing the year must have been around 1896, but it could have been slightly later. I doubt it was anywhere close to 1906. Beeville had a few automobiles by that time. These would have been visible on market day. The big banner announcing “BASE BALL TO DAY” would have been a big deal back then, but I’ve never had the time in recent years to go to Beeville long enough to search the old newspaper files at the local library. I simply inherited this photo through my late father several years ago.

Here's the same perspective from above. I took this one in 1997,

Notice all the change in things over a century passage of time. Somewhere along the way, someone removed the ornate architectural street facing atop the drugstore up in the far right corner and, of course, there are no more horses and wagon wheels on Washington, except on the annual Western Days rodeo parade each October,

Beeville is my birthplace, but it’s also the birthplace of five former major leaguers who played a heck of a lot better than I ever did. Four of them played in the big leagues for extended career time. The other never played in the big leagues, but he’s made an active career for himself over recent years as a respected team batting coach.

Tomorrow I will continue this little trip to the place of my birth with some capsule information about Beeville’s five big leaguers: Bert Gallia, Curt Walker, Lefty Lloyd Brown, Eddie Taubensee, and Rudy Jaramillo.

Five major leaguers? That’s pretty good production for the sleepy little oil and cattle town that rests 53 miles west of Victoria and 50 miles north of Corpus Christi. Back in 1920, at the heart of the time that one of them was wrapping up a big league career and two others were just starting, Beeville only had a city population of 3,062 hardy souls and there were only 16 major league clubs.

More tomorrow.

Joe Hunter Field, Beeville, Texas.

February 23, 2010

Joe Hunter Field, Beeville, Texas.

When Coastal Bend College first opened as Bee County College in Beeville, Texas back in 1967, funds for an athletic department of any kind did not exist beyond marginal money for basketball and baseball. The first “Cougar” teams had to share the playing facilities of A.C. Jones High School, home of the mighty Beeville Trojans.

In case you’ve never heard of it, Beeville is located about fifty-three miles west of Victoria and fifty miles north of Corpus Christi. It’s special to me as the original home of my family, the place I was born. My brother and sister live there and my parents are buried there. It’s just not all the way home for me. Home for me is Houston, the place where I grew up from age five, the place where my old bones will someday be interred. I’m still attached to Beeville as the home of my people since the 19th century.

Beeville also is the birthplace of four former major leaguers: outfielder Curt Walker (1919-30) .304 lifetime, struck out only 254 times in 4,858 times at bat, Texas Baseball Hall of Fame, 2001; pitcher Melvin “Bert” Gallia (1912-20) 66-68, 3.14 ERA; pitcher “Lefty” Lloyd Brown (1925, 1928-37, 1940) 91-105, 4.20; and Eddie Taubensee (1991-2001) .273 BA, 94 HR. Major league hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo also is a native of Beeville. That’s a pretty good baseball production record for a little cattle, oil and gas, and now penitentiary town in South Texas. Don’t you think?

Joe Hunter Field was a Ranching Widow’s Gift.

The college acquired its beautiful baseball park in the early 1970s as a construction gift on land they owned at campus site north of Beeville. The Joe Hunter family donated the funds needed to construct the stands and cultivate the playing field, but the oral history of how the gift took shape is even richer as a gift.

The story is that Mrs. Joe Hunter went to the college after her rancher husband died, saying that she wanted to make a contribution to the school in her husband’s name. Someone from the college suggested that she consider donating money for the construction of a college library, but Mrs. Hunter apparently killed that idea right off the bat and then got down to business on what she really wanted to do.

“Old Joe never read a book or went near a library in his whole life,” she supposedly said, “but he loved baseball. I’d love to build you a baseball park and put Joe’s name on it.” And that’s exactly what she did.

For years, “Bee County College” operated from one of the finest small school baseball parks in the nation. They even leased Joe Hunter Field for use by the professional Beeville Bees in the short-lived independent Gulf Coast League (1976-77) and also made it available to Jones High School and various spring high school playoff games. The place had an enclosed press box, a PA system, and seating capacity for about 1,000 fans.

Unfortunately, the first recession in the oil market of 1983 soon took its economic toll on what the college could afford and they dropped both their baseball and basketball programs. The ballpark stayed afloat as the Home of the Beeville Trojan high school team and an occasional playoff game. In spite of the missing college program, Coastal Bend College maintained the field and protected “Joe Hunter” from going to seed.

The left field line is 26 feet further than Minute Maid Park.

Joe Hunter was and is – a pitcher’s park. Facing southeast, the springtime winds from Copano Bay only have about thirty crow-fly miles to travel before they blow in over the outfield walls in center and right, and these distances aren’t cheap. The distances are about 341 down the line, 375 in the power alleys, and 400 in straight away center.

The good news is that junior college baseball may be returning soon to Joe Hunter Field. I’m not sure if that means we’re looking at a patch of blue in the gray skies of this economic recession – or if it means that Beevillians are just tired of missing their baseball. Maybe it’s a little of both.

Beeville has always been a baseball town.