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 Texas : Features : Columns : Bob Bowman's East Texas

The Longview Cannibals

by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman

Over the years, East Texas have given their hometown baseball teams some oddball names. But none of them had the flair of the Longview Cannibals. which played for 44 years in the Gregg County city.

Now, a book by Jeff Barnhart of Longview, naturally called “The Longview Cannibals,” tells the team’s story from 1895 to 1939.

First of all, about that distinctive name:

The team got it in June of 1895 when the team defeated the San Antonio Missionaries, 7-0, in a hastily scheduled game when the Texas League team missed its train connection at Longview after a series of games in Shreveport.

Longview newspaperman C.B. Cunningham reported that the Missionaries “were eaten up by the Longview cannibals today.” Longview’s baseball fans liked the name so much that it stuck.

But the Longview team had more than just a unique name.

Many of the Cannibals went on to play with major league baseball teams through the years. Among them were Jack Johnston, Sam West, Grady White, Hick Munsell, Ray Flaskamper, Abe Bowman, Merv Conners, and Tex Jeanes.

Intertwined with the Cannibals’ story are blurbs about other East Texas baseball teams, like the Tyler Elbertas and Tyler Governors, the Lufkin Lumbermen, the Henderson Oilers, the Marshall Texas and Pacifics (named for a railroad), the Kilgore Boomers, Gushers and Drillers (all oilfield names), the Jacksonville Jax, the Arkansas Travelers, the Beaumont Exporters, the Big Sandy Maroons, the Cleburne Railroaders, the Nacogdoches Missionaries, the Palestine Pals and the Sulphur Springs Saints.

Alas, the Cannibal name ceased to be used after Longview ’s 1939 minor league season. Local teams were then called by such mundane names as the White Sox, the Texans, the Cherokees and Pirates.

As Van Craddock of the Longview News said in a foreword for Barnhart’s book: “The story of the Cannibals’ nickname is well-known in these parts, but there has been little history written on the team itself...until now. Thanks to Jeff Barnhart’s exhaustive efforts, a valuable slice of East Texas and minor league baseball history has been preserved for future generations.”

The Cannibal books may be ordered from Barnhart’s website: www.longviewcannibals.com.

Baseball has been a rich part of East Texas for decades, and we hope other writers will take the time to explore the stories of other teams in the region.


Bob Bowman's East Texas November 22, 2009 Column
A weekly column syndicated in 109 East Texas newspapers
Copyright Bob Bowman

(Bob Bowman is the author of 42 books about East Texas. He can be reached at bob-bowman.com)
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