From the bleachers:by
the Baseball All Star game just ahead it is time to do some serious reflections
of my life in the bleachers.|
While a student at the Southwestern Baptist
Theological Seminary, the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago White Sox came through
Fort Worth, on what was then called
a barnstorming tour.
Back then, following spring training in Florida,
major league baseball clubs headed into the new season by playing their farm teams
or each other in exhibition games.
Barnstorming, like so many good things,
is a distant memory; when football players played offense and defense; and basketball
was artistic, not bombastic. So wander back with me to the time sports were fun,
not dictated by agents, millionaire bench-warmers and back-up quarterbacks; and
“look at me!” showoffs.
I may sound like an old grouch at a hot-stove
league gathering, but I think baseball announcers should cease using the stupid
term: “a walk-off home run.” It is merely a home run that won the game. The San
Angelo Colts announcers have not used the term as far as I know. (We are fortunate
to have such professional sports announcers.)
It was the spring of 1954
when we drove over to North Fort Worth’s LaGrave Field, home of the minor league
Fort Worth Cats. The White Sox and Indians of the American League were playing
an exhibition game.
Exhibition games as a rule are boring. Not this game.
Seeing Bobby Feller on the mound “live” was well worth the high-priced fifty cent
tickets. During his 18-year career “Rapid Robert” struck out over 2500 batters.
The Indians Al Rosen, a favorite of mine at third base, had won the American League
Most Valuable Player award a year earlier. Al, sometimes called the “Hebrew Hammer,”
was four times an All Star.
Cleveland also had Larry Doby in center field,
the second black to make the major leagues. Which is proof that coming second
in anything is soon forgotten. Jackie Robinson made the history books by being
hired a few months ahead of Larry Doby. Early Wynn, and Bob Lemon along with veteran
Bob Feller went on to the 1954 World Series (with 111wins), against the New York
Giants, the National League champions.
The underdog Giants swept the Series
in four games defeating the heavily favored Indians, who had won an American League
record 111 games during the regular season. It was the Giants first championship
since I was three years old (1933), a season I have no memory about.
was the first World Series we saw on our black and white Admiral TV (remember
those) in the parsonage of the First Baptist Church in Eustace,
Texas. In the very first game we still remember “The Catch,” as it has been
dubbed by sports writers ever since. That was the running catch made by Giants
center fielder Willie Mays. With his back to the infield, Willie snared Vic Wertz’s
long drive near the outfield wall.
- I had been to LaGrave Field once
earlier when the Cats were in the Dixie Series, a best-of-seven-games contest
between the champions of the Texas League and the Southern Association. Not having
the money for a ticket, us boys sat on the outfield fence and had a great view
until a big fellow with a bigger stick spotted us.
The Dallas Rebels set
an all-time Texas League attendance record of 53,578 for a baseball game in the
Cotton Bowl in 1950. By 1960 the Dallas Eagles (they had many names and owners)
and archrival Fort Worth Cats, were combined into one team as the Dallas-Fort
Worth Rangers, later called the Dallas-Fort Worth Spurs in a revived and short-lived
When the American League Washington Senators moved into the
ballpark in Arlington,
Texas minor league baseball went on hard times. The Spurs are now basketballers
in San Antonio and a bunch of rowdy
Cowboys cornered the market in the metroplex. That’s the view from the bleachers
Copyright Britt Towery
the Way with Britt
Britt Towery, former Sports Editor of the Howard Payne College
Yellowjacket, and Brownwood resident. Comments and corrections: firstname.lastname@example.org