the talk about the Houston Astros in the World Series reminds me
that baseball has been a part of life in Fredericksburg
and Gillespie County
since the beginning of the 20th century.
The Germans who settled the Texas
Hill Country took to baseball. By the 1920's, small towns all
and surrounding counties had adult baseball teams.
There were once 23 different adult baseball teams in Gillespie
Baseball was the perfect game for isolated rural communities in
the Hill Country.
Just about anyone could play. There was no expensive equipment required
- only a bat, a ball and an open space. Maybe a crude leather glove
if one could afford it.
In the early days there was no radio or television in the Hill
Country. Baseball was the biggest show in town from April to
One of the most successful teams in the Hill Country League was
the Fredericksburg Giants.
A surprising number of Giants went on to play professional baseball
at one level or another. Felix Holmig played for the Galveston
Sand Crabs in the Texas League. Carl Kott played in the Evangeline
League, the Texas League and the Texas/Arizona League.
Andy Andrews, who coached at Fredericksburg High School and
managed the Giants in the 1930s, was a catcher in the minors. He
became a minor league umpire and then a scout for the Houston Astros,
Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Max Molberg, manager of the Giants in the 1940s, played for
Abbeville, Louisiana in the Evangeline League and for Gainesville,
Texas in the Big State League.
The Klaerner family of Fredericksburg
was famous for baseball. Brothers Hugo, Chester and Alphons all
played pro ball. So did cousins Elias and Phillip.
Chester "Smokey" Klaerner turned down a contract with the
Cincinnati Reds in 1932 to finish his degree at Rice. He threw 2
no-hitters as a pitcher in the Southwest Conference.
After college Chester played in the New York Giants organization.
In 1935 he won 18 games for Tyler
in the West Dixie League. He came home in 1937 to coach the Battlin'
Billie football team.
Hugo Klaerner won 20 games for the Longview Cardinals in
1933 including a perfect game. The big right-hander won 24 games
for Pine Bluff in the East Dixie League before being called up to
the majors. In 1934 he appeared in 3 games with the White Sox; then
spent 30 years as Gillespie
| The Fredericksburg
Hugo Klaerner is seated on the far right.
Click on image to enlarge
Photo from the Fredericksburg Standard-Radio Post archives. Date unknown
the early days the Giants played at the old fairgrounds. There was
no outfield fence. Unless you were really fast you had to hit one
to the horse track to make it all the way to home plate.
Fans of the Fredericksburg Giants got to see legends play the game.
Clyde Littlefield, renowned football and track coach of the
University of Texas, played for the Giants in the early 20th Century.
One afternoon in the 1920s the San Antonio Public Service team came
for a game with the Giants. The San Antonio pitcher was Van Bibber
- a young army recruit stationed at Fort Sam Houston in San
Antonio. Van Bibber, a flame-throwing Arkansas right-hander
was really Pvt. Jerome "Dizzy" Dean.
The Detroit Tigers once played an exhibition game against the San
Antonio Bears at the old fairgrounds field. Detroit Hall of Famer
Harry "Slug" Heilmann, thrilled the crowd when he hit one that
landed in the middle of the racetrack.
Dizzy Dean's brother, Paul "Daffy" Dean, played there with
a minor league team from Borger.
In the 1940s Coach Billy Disch could often be seen in the
stands, scouting prospects for his Longhorn baseball team.
Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew played at the old fair grounds
field with a barnstorming group before he made it to the big leagues.
A prominent local business now occupies the site of the old fairgrounds
field, where legends and Giants once played the great America game.
Something to think about when pushing your shopping cart across
the crowded parking lot at the Fredericksburg HEB.
© Michael Barr
November 15, 2017 Column
"Grounds Once Served As City Athletic Field," Fredericksburg Standard,
August 20, 1975.
"Hugo Klaerner Honored," The Harper Herald, October 29, 1976.
"Bexar Facts," The San Antonio Light, March 30, 1973.