Monday, March 25, 2019

That's the old ballgame Shreveport -- chapter 10 (the stadium, 1938-85)

Chapter 10
Building a ballpark, part 1

It took Shreveport nearly six years to reenter the Texas League in 1938. It only took about two months to build a new ballpark.
Once the new Shreveport Baseball Association, made up mostly of local oilmen, had raised the money to purchase the Galveston franchise and build a new stadium, things moved quickly.   
    Texas League Park, known as SPAR Stadium for more than half of its 47 years as home of Shreveport's professional baseball team, was dedicated on May 10, 1938. It was a grand day in the city.
    That was the day the 4,500-seat grandstand first was used. Cost estimate of the stands and the areas -- offices, concessions stands, restrooms, storage space, etc. -- was $50,000.
    It was a Tuesday and, thanks to a Chamber of Commerce effort, many downtown Shreveport businesses closed early (at 3 p.m.) to allow fans to go to the ballpark for the celebration/stadium dedication before the 4:30 p.m. Sports game with Oklahoma City.
    But actually, there was Texas League baseball on the grounds before that. Although construction on the park, and preparation of the playing field, had begun by March 1, Opening Day at home was Wednesday, April 13, when the Sports faced the Beaumont Exporters.
    The grandstand wasn't ready, but with bleachers on the left- and right-field sides, reserved box seats, and standing room, a crowd estimated from 5,500 to 7,000 watched the Sports at home for the first time since Biedenharn Park -- in close proximity to this park -- had burned extensively on May 4, 1932.
    Without a Texas League home park from that day, Shreveport soon was out of the league. But when the struggling Galveston franchise became available, Shreveport's leading baseball forces put their plan -- and money -- in play.
    On Jan. 14, they gave the Texas League office a verbal notice to purchase the team, contingent on a plan to raise $55,000 -- for the price of the team, plus construction of a grandstand, bleachers and lights.
    Stock in the Shreveport Baseball Association was $10 a share, and the Shreveport oilmen started the drive with their contributions. But it was Chamber of Commerce president Henry O'Neal who was the driving force, and some 3½ weeks later, about $40,000 had been raised.
    On Feb. 9, the transfer of franchises was made official in Galveston. Sale price of the team: $23,000. The Shreveport Sports were back in business.
    On Feb. 15, a nine-man board of directors for the Shreveport Baseball Association was selected, and Bonneau Peters -- longtime oilfield scout and booster, benefactor, fan of Centenary College athletics and longtime baseball enthusiast -- was soon chosen as team president.
    Walter Morris, the current president of the Evangeline and Cotton States Leagues who much earlier in his 35 years in baseball had been Texas League president and then business manager of the early 1930s Sports, was to return as business manager.
    A couple of weeks later, the stock drive had reached $51,000.
    Plans were announced for a new grandstand, with some 3,000 general admission seats, 600 reserved seats and 720 box seats, plus east- and west-side bleachers totaling about 1,500 seats. So that made for a seating capacity near 6,000.
    On Feb. 23, it was announced that the grandstand would be made of concrete and steel, not wood as the woebegone Biedenharn Park stands had been.
    The Texas League, with president J. Alvin Gardner, then agreed to loan the Shreveport club $20,000 -- to be paid back at 6 percent interest over an eight-year period -- to help fund the club and pay for ballpark construction.
    The league would own the ballpark, with an agreement to sell it to the team for $18,500. (Because attendance and club revenue exceeded expectations, the ballclub was able to repay the TL loan and purchase the ballpark much more quickly than anticipated.)
    The club's revenue was boosted by the sale -- by Gardner's estimate -- for concession rights of $8,000 and radio broadcast rights of $5,000 (to KWKH).
    The Shreveport Times reported that the playing field would get require three weeks' preparation for a game. The outfield needed considerable work; the infield needed dirt filling.     
    On Opening Day, the ballclub took part in a parade through downtown began and ended at Municipal Auditorium, then proceeded to the ballpark for a 3:30 p.m. start -- and the start of 38 seasons in Organized Baseball there.
    The ballpark's first home run, by first baseman Pete Fleming with two men on in the third inning, helped give the Sports a 4-0 lead. But they lost 8-6 to Beaumont.
    The next Opening Day -- for the grandstand -- went much better, a 3-0 victory for Shreveport against Oklahoma City, with Bill Gick, cut by Dallas a few weeks earlier, pitching a five-hitter.
    By 1939, the listed capacity for the ballpark, with added bleachers, was 9,700.
    A little more than 47 years after it opened, it was Closing Night at SPAR Stadium.
    On Aug. 31, 1985, the paid attendance was 1,539 as the Shreveport Captains beat the Arkansas Travelers 9-3 in a wreck of a stadium -- roofless, but the steel beams still (shakily) standing -- as an era closed.
    A new era, at Fair Grounds Field, awaited a few miles away.  
Texas League Park, 1956 (The Shreveport Times photo)


The SPAR Stadium scoreboard in the 1970s and 1980s.
(Shreveport Journal photo)


Monday, March 18, 2019

That's the old ballgame Shreveport, chapter 9 (Mr. Pete)

Chapter 9
Mr. Pete
    Bonneau Peters was Shreveport’s “Mr. Baseball” for more than three decades.
    The shrewd businessman was part of the city’s thriving oil and gas industry for many years, but it was his involvement in athletics that gave him prominence.
      As the general managing partner, he was the driving force of the Shreveport Sports’ franchise from 1938 to 1961.
      An independent operator -- with his team not often tied to one major-league franchise as a “farm team” -- he was one of the minor leagues’ best-known, sturdy and respected leaders.
If he was controversial -- he was a strict segregationist -- it was only because he was a product of his time, before integration. But (our opinion) that does not diminish the role he played in Shreveport-Bossier and North Louisiana athletics.
---
     A native of Fort Jessup in Sabine Parish -- Many is the closest city -- the young Bonneau Peters attended St. John's Catholic School in Shreveport and graduated from Robeline High School (Natchitoches Parish).
    He was hired by Standard Oil of New Jersey in 1909, working first in its pipeline division. He remained with the company and its affiliates for more than 40 years -- most prominently as chief scout for Carter Oil Co.'s southern division. When the oil boom hit Northwest Louisiana, he was the oil field scout during drilling in the area near Trees, Vivian and Oil City (just northwest of Shreveport-Bossier).
     He was in the U.S. Army during World War I, and organized a baseball team while overseas.
     When he returned home, he was manager of a baseball team in the Trees City oil field of Caddo Parish.
      He was one of the prominent boosters/benefactors of Centenary College -- particularly athletics and especially the football program in the late 1920 and early 1930s when it took on some major powers -- and an ardent fan of the Shreveport pro baseball teams in town.
       In 1938, he became more than a fan; he became the team president -- and would remain so until the end of the 1961 season. (Shreveport did not field teams from 1943 to '45, and in 1958.)
       He was one of nine men voted to the board of directors for the local stock company -- Shreveport Baseball Association -- that early in 1938 raised the funds to purchase a Texas League team from Galveston and have a new stadium built near the same area where the previous ballpark had burned down in 1932.
      The team was nicknamed the "Sports," just as it first was in the Texas League in 1925 (the 1915-24 nickname was the Gassers).
      The Shreveport Times sports editor Joe R. Carter, in his "Raspberries and Cream" column on June 5, 1938, wrote about "Bo" -- as his friends knew him -- and his new role. The headline was, "How About His Job?"
      The column began: "Probably the most unhappy man in town is a fellow whose smile and personality radiates happiness. He's a fellow who's always bubbling over with enthusiasm and known as a 'good scout' -- in his line of business and in everyday life. He'll go far out of his way to help a fellow in distress, but now learns that he cannot do anything to relieve his own troubles -- and at present his troubles are also those of his friends."
      The gist was that the Sports were off to an awful start that season, at the bottom of the TL standings. (They would remain there all season.)
      Carter, pointing to Peters' ascendancy to team president and operating partner, wrote "... They wanted a 'red hot' fan as well as a capable business man, and they made no mistake in their selection. They told 'Pete' of their wishes and he fell right in line, after learning it would not interfere with his work as an oil scout. 'Bo' went into the affair with the enthusiasm of a kid partaking of his first ice cream soda and then found himself bogged down. His team in the pennant race went 'south' and stayed there. His enthusiasm is a bit curbed but not his determination."
    Peters would become known as a keen baseball operator who knew how to acquire and sell players, but in 1938, he was learning on the job.
     He told Carter: " 'Gee, I did not know it was such a problem to get players. I know how to sympathize with the club owners now. A few years ago I had a suspicion that all a fellow had to do was push a button and announce he had the price and athletes would come flying in.
       " 'Really, we have spent enough money in telephone calls and telegrams to purchase a player. Our telephone bill alone would astonish you. ... ' "
        But working in the club offices and observing all games from his box seat on the third-base side of Texas League Park, he would learn. By 1942, he had built Shreveport's first TL championship team since 1919.
        After World War II, Shreveport had its first "golden age" of pro baseball -- record attendances from 1947 to 1949, then TL playoff championship teams in 1952 and 1955, and the franchise's first regular-season championship in 1954.
        "He was good to the people around him, once they proved themselves to him. He was a very fair man," said Francis "Salty" Parker, an infielder Peters brought in during the 1938 season and then the player-manager in 1941-42 and from 1946 to '51.
       "He was one of those people whose word was his bond," said Mel McGaha, first a Sports player and then player-manager from 1954 to '57, and -- like Parker -- a longtime resident. "When he said something, he meant it, and he wanted people around him to be like that. He took care of his players and cared for them.
        "He was a horse trader, as interested in players as money. But he knew talent, he had a good idea of what players were worth and what it took to make a major leaguer. And when he set a price to sell a guy to the major leagues, the big clubs took him at his word."
         Typical of Peters' way of dealing and making money for the Sports were two early 1950s pitchers who became big-league relievers:
        He acquired right-hander Bill Tremel from the Boston Braves' organization for $1,000, two years later sold him to the Chicago Cubs for $40,000. He acquired lefty Bill Henry for $1,000, a year later sold him to the Boston Red Sox for $50,000.
---
        Ed Mickelson was one of Peters' favorite players, the Sports' standout first baseman in 1954 and a major leaguer for a brief time, and he devotes a chapter in his book Out of the Park," a 2007 baseball memoir, to the '54 season and Shreveport.
       "Bonneau Peters was to have a 'night' in Shreveport in August of 1954," Mickelson wrote. "He was in his 17th year as president of the Shreveport Sports, a conservative, forthright man and very outspoken. Mr. Peters let you know exactly how he felt about things. On his night, 3,683 fans turned out to pay homage with gifts and many kind words.
    "The country was just starting its social movement toward civil rights and racial equality, though Bonneau Peters had openly stated that no black would ever play on his team. Most clubs in the league had black players, but not us. Our black fans sat in a section down the right-field line demeaningly referred to by some as the 'coal hole.' To me, our black fans were just like any other good baseball fans and were highly supportive of the Shreveport Sports.
        "Bonneau Peters was gruff at times but was basically a kind man. He would do anything for you if he liked you. He was well thought of throughout the Texas League and especially the Shreveport area. Unfortunately, he never changed his stand regarding black players."
        Despite that, the regard for him in the baseball world was such that at the 1959 minor-league meetings in St. Petersburg, Fla., he was crowned "King of Baseball," a ceremonial honor presented annually to a longtime contributor to the game. He was the first team owner to receive the award.
      When the Sports were reborn -- with a Southern Association team -- late in 1958, Shreveport Times sports editor Jack Fiser wrote in his column: "... The principal reason Shreveport is back in baseball is this same brush-haired gent with the salty vocabulary.
       " ... Those who do care can direct their thanks toward the one man who could have gotten us a last chance. And he did it simply because baseball men everywhere respect him highly, and want him in the boat with them for the solidity and respectability he lends to the game.
       "In a sport that has become invested with fly-by-nights, soldiers of fortune, self-promoters and common knaves, he stands out like the Confederate statue  on the courthouse lawn."
---
From The Oil Weekly, Oct. 21, 1922:
    Bonneau Peters, chief scout for the Standard Oil Company of Louisiana in the Shreveport territory, and Miss Irene Hughes of Shreveport were married Sunday at the First Methodist Church at Shreveport. The couple left immediately for a three weeks' trip, after which they will be at home at Shreveport.
     They had one son, Bonneau Peters Jr., who died in an automobile crash (near Abilene, Texas) in 1947 at age 19.
      Irene died in 1973; "Mr. Pete" died August 8, 1974, at age 87.
 Bonneau Peters, right, with other Texas League team operators in 1955
                 (photo from Texas League office files)

Overdosing on basketball this week?

The LSU Tigers take it all in Sunday when they were announced as a No. 3 seed in the South Region of the NCAA Tournament. 
Photo from LSU web site; please note the man on the far right -- sports information guru Kent Lowe (from Shreveport).
     The NCAA Tournament -- men's basketball, that is --is always a helluva lot more interesting if you have a team in it.
     This season, I'm interested. It hasn't been that way all that often the past 26 years.
      At the risk of taking verbal or written shots, considering the past couple of weeks, thank goodness for LSU's team.
      OK, it is what it is, and everyone has their opinion -- and I have heard and read plenty -- but I have enjoyed watching these Tigers. They have not (laugh here) cheated their fans.
      Whether the NCAA, or some of the nation's sports scribes, don't think LSU deserves to be in this NCAA Tournament because of the recruiting/payment allegations is a moot point. The Tigers, as we watched on TV Sunday evening, are in the bracket.
      Which is why, for the first time in four years, I watched the NCAA Tournament Selection Show on CBS. 
      Lot more fun waiting to see where a team you like is seeded, who the first-round opponent is going to be, and the time and place of the game (and hopefully, games).
      Would love to see Louisiana Tech back in the tournament some day; it has been 28 years. Used to be that the Lady Techsters were automatic for the women's tournament, but those days have passed, too.
     I am not the basketball junkie many people are, so without LSU or Tech involved, much of the recent NCAAs have been played without me. Love the game, always have, but it is not 24-7-365 with me. I can take it, or leave it.
     (And, dang it, no "Big Dance" references for me. Sick of it.)
     Do have a rooting interest in the Tennessee Vols because it's the SEC, I like their coach and their players, and mostly because son-in-law cares a lot. Even the non-sports-gene daughter cares some because of son-in-law's job (sports talk radio host in Knoxville). They are Vols.
    Now, about LSU ... as I gently reminded Vols' fans, the regular-season SEC champions (pending investigation).
    Appreciate how these Tigers played -- and won -- so many close games. It is a talented, and fearless, and mostly young team. The point guard (Tremont Waters) is fun to watch. So is the senior second guard (Skyler Mays), a real team leader. The big freshman center (Naz Reid) has a world of potential if -- when -- he harnesses his wild streaks. 
     The suspended head coach? Helluva job, I suppose. But you have to wonder about his ethics, don't you?
     Something else to wonder -- how much did the reported FBI tape of coach talking to agent/runner play into the NCAA Tournament committee's bracket consideration.
     Maybe this is an unfair thought, but going into the Selection Show, my suspicion was that LSU would not get a break. 
     Yale is a very interesting first-round opponent, and not likely a pushover; a second-round game is going to be tougher; and if the Tigers do get to the Sweet Sixteen (no given), likely to face Michigan State and then Duke, that's a difficult route. Of course, no NCAA Tournament route is "easy."
     Quick history lesson: When Dale Brown was the LSU coach, once he got the program rolling, the Tigers were in the NCAAs 13 times in a 15-year stretch -- including 10 in a row. So it became routine.
      Since 1993, this is only the seventh time in 26 seasons LSU is "in." So, enjoy ... no matter what the circumstances.
      An omen? In  2006, when LSU beat Duke, then Texas, in the regional in Atlanta to reach the Final Four, the games in the first two rounds were won in Jacksonville, Fla. That's where these Tigers will tee it up in Thursday's first-of-the-day games (11:40 a.m. tipoff, Central time, TruTV).
---
     More thoughts, including some items gleamed from a recent Basketball Times issue ...
      Tulane is looking for a new men's head coach and, yes, if LSU possibly will be, too, soon, is there a better candidate than the just-fired-at-Texas A&M Billy Kennedy? Grew up in New Orleans, son-in-law of former Jesuit Blue Jays state championship coach Kevin Trower, former Tulane assistant and former head coach at Centenary and Southeastern Louisiana. And, from what everyone says and writes, darned nice guy and pretty successful coach everywhere, including  A&M (except for this season).
       Bob Ryan is one of the most popular and knowledgeable basketball writers ever, an NBA expert.  Writing in his "Journal" for Basketball Times, his topic was seeing games in 200 college gyms/arenas. Here is one paragraph that will interest some of my Fort Worth friends:
     "Being dazed and amazed while watching a game on a stage at UT-Arlington's original Texas Hall. Yes, I said, 'stage.' " 
       A Basketball Times column on women's hoops by Rhiannon Potkey (Knoxville News Sentinel, one of my stops) is about Grambling State senior guard Shakyla Hill and her historic two career quadruple-doubles (double figures in points, rebounds, assists and steals). 
     What I did not know (and maybe you did not either): Hill, who played high school ball in Little Rock, is the younger sister of Raheem Appleby, who as the article noted, passed Karl Malone for seventh place on Louisiana Tech's all-time men's scoring list. Small world.
      Jim Sukup, editor of Collegiate Basketball News and publisher of The RPI Report for 27 years, etc., writing about "other" postseason tournaments, noted that the CIT (Collegeinsider.com Tournament), which began in 2009, calls some of its first-round games "Classics" to honor "coaching greats from the past" for their contributions to the sport.
     One of those honored: The Riley Wallace Classic, in 2017, named for the former Centenary player/assistant coach/head coach and 20-year, 334-wins University of Hawaii head coach. Riley, the redhead-turned-gray, now lives in Las Vegas with time in Hawaii.
      One for Notre Dame and Northwestern (La.) State fans: A long segment from the book Mike Brey: Keeping It Loose, by the longtime Irish head coach who played three seasons for the NSU Demons in the late 1970s. The book was written with John Heisler, the former senior associate athletic director at Notre Dame (started as assistant sports information director).
     Brey has several references to then-NSU coach Tynes Hildebrand, referring to him as "... just a typical southern guy. He was very steady and a really good man." 
     They still have a strong relationship. But Brey also refers, a couple of times, to Tynes being fired from the job in 1980.
      Not correct. 
      Unless I am mistaken and as I remember it (looked it up), Coach Hildebrand -- subject of a five-part blog series here two years ago -- resigned that job after 15 seasons, the last couple difficult ones. He was not forced out. So I think Brey misfired on those shots. 
         Joe Connor wrote about his "365 games in 365 days," his continuing travels around the country attending basketball games. Big deal. Hey, Joe Rhodes -- our friend from Shreveport and for years American traveler and owner/driver of the Traipsmobile -- did that twice more than three and four decades ago.
       

Monday, March 11, 2019

That's the old ballgame Shreveport, chapter 8 (Sports 1925-42)

 Chapter 8
The Sports (1925-42)    
1925 -- After the 1924 season, O.L. "Ollie" Biedenharn Sr. bought the team. He was operator of the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. that his family had founded and had bottling rights in Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi.
      He also bought the ballpark and made two significant changes: (1) the team nickname went from Gassers to Sports; (2) the park -- first known as League Park, then Gasser Park -- became Biedenharn Park.
     R.S. Tarleton was the team business manager from 1925 to 1928.
    1926 -- Sports' total attendance was 143,794, fourth-best in the league -- and the team finished in fourth place.
    1929 -- The Sports came close in the Texas League's first-half season, with a 46-33 record and second-place finish a half game behind Dallas (47-33). Their second-half record almost matched the first (45-33), but again they were second behind Wichita Falls. So the overall record was 91-66, but Dallas and Wichita Falls made the championship series.
    1930 -- Night baseball came to the Texas League, five years before the first major-league night game. Waco was the first TL team to be host for a game under the lights, on June 20, and the night debut in Shreveport's Biedenharn Park was on Thursday, July 10 -- postponed a day because the system was not quite ready.
    The Sports lost that first night to Houston, 9-5, and a little less than 4,000 spectators attended -- the largest weekday crowd in Shreveport in years.
    Six steel towers were erected around the ballpark with a total of 48 bronze weatherproof lamps, each 1,000 watts. The cost of the system was estimated at $22,000 and The Shreveport Times reported that the Sports would pay $25 a night for electricity for a routine game (then about two hours).
    On July 24, Shreveport also played in the first night game in San Antonio. Houston also installed lights that season, and Fort Worth did in 1931.
    The Shreveport ballpark that fall was used for high school and Centenary College football night games.
The season attendance was 76,331, down a little more than 30,000 from 1929.
After the season, Art Phelan resigned as manager after six seasons and Biedenharn sold the team to T.S. Hickman, the secretary-business manager in 1929-30. Biedenharn maintained ownership of the ballpark.
     1931 -- Jake Atz, who had managed the Fort Worth Panthers for 16 years  and seven consecutive TL championships (1919 -- first half of a split season when Shreveport won the playoffs,and then 1920-25), came in as field manager and the team's part owner (with T.S Hickman). But the team's awful play led to Atz resigning after a 66-94 season and sixth-place finish. Attendance suffered again, falling to 57,572.
     1932 -- The team was bought by the Caddo Baseball Association group, headed by B.A. Hardey, with Walter Morris -- once the Texas League president -- operating as business manager. Future Hall of Famer George Sisler, then 39, came in as a player (first baseman) and manager.
      Disaster struck on the night of May 4 when the ballpark burned down after a game with the Galveston Cubs.
      A night watchman, sweeping trash, heard a small explosion, fire quickly spread through the grandstand and all but the umpires' dressing room, the Negro bleachers and the club office was destroyed, including all of the Sports' equipment.
   It was first reported in The Shreveport Times that team officials felt play could be resumed at home in three weeks. But the next day, the estimate became eight weeks.
    Biedenharn was to receive a $35,000 insurance payment for the losses, but -- this was Depression time -- announced on May 10 that he would not rebuild the ballpark, saying he had lost $25,000 on baseball in Shreveport and would lose no more.
     The team's home game with San Antonio on May 6 was moved to Longview, Texas, and drew more than 2,000 spectators. (Longview soon would be take over the floundering Wichita Falls franchise.)
     Tyler -- like Longview and other East Texas towns booming because of the newly found and developing oil fields -- also wanted a team, and the Sports' games with San Antonio on May 7 and 8 were played there, before a reported total of 4,000 fans.
     Then with the Sports' record at 9-21, a disenchanted Sisler quit as manager.
     With the franchise homeless, the Texas League decided to take the offer from a group of Tyler businessmen and moved the team there. Thus ended 18 consecutive seasons of TL ball in Shreveport.
     Pop Kitchens took over as field manager and completed a dismal 57-93 season.
     (From the East Texas Historical Journal, Volume 36, Issue I, Article 10, by Larry G. Bowman, professor of history at University of North Texas, "Cannibals and Sports: The Texas League comes to Longview and Tyler, Texas, 1932")
      1933 -- Shreveport, in a working agreement with the Detroit Tigers, joined the Dixie League and qualified for the championship series by finishing second in the regular season to the Baton Rouge Solons. The Sports won the first two games of the finals series, but Baton Rouge took four of the next five games (one was a tie halted by darkness), winning 2-1 to clinch the title. Shreveport workhorse pitcher Steve Larkin won one game, then lost 1-0 and 2-1 in his final two starts.
     1934 -- With Major B.A. Hardey and R.T. Andress as co-owners, the Sports moved to the six-team East Dixie League (three teams in Mississippi). But it drew little interest in Shreveport and, after a third-place finish (33-31 record) in the season's first half, the league persuaded Hardey to allow the team -- to move to Greenwood, Miss. (the official transfer date was July 17). The team's record was 12-9 then, but the renamed Chiefs faded badly (12-30 to season's end).
     1935 -- With Fred Nicholson as owner-president, Shreveport was part of the  West Dixie League, replacing Lufkin. Most of the league was based in East Texas and again little attention was paid to the Sports. On June 4, they were a dismal 8-30 when the franchise was shifted to Gladewater, Texas.
The team owner there was oilman Dick Burnett, who in 1948 bought the Dallas  franchise in the Texas League. He was one of the top promoters in baseball until his death (at age 57) of a heart attack while with his team in Shreveport on June 1, 1955.
     1938 -- A local stock company, headed by oilman Bonneau Peters, bought the Galveston franchise and players for $23,000. The Shreveport-TL Baseball Corporation, financed by prominent local citizens and businessmen, thus gained re-entry into the Texas League and also made plans for construction of a new stadium -- named Texas League Park -- near the same grounds where the previous park had stood until it burned.
     From 1938 to 1942 and again in 1946, the Sports had a partial working agreement with the Chicago White Sox.
     But, for the most part, from 1938 to 1957, "Mr. Pete" was an independent baseball operator, signing his own players and often keeping the team's finances afloat by selling his better players' contracts to major-league teams for then-hefty sums.    

Top players from the era
    OSCAR TUERO -- A Cuban-born right-handed pitcher, not big at 5-8, 158 pounds, his pro career ran from 1913 to 1941, and included three full seasons (1929-31, with records of 16-5, 17-6 and 7-16) in Shreveport and a few games in three other seasons (1932, one game in 1938, four games in 1941). Before he was with the Sports, he pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1918-20, with a 6-9 record in 58 games (19 starts). In 1921, he was 27-8 for Memphis (Southern Association), and spent seven consecutive full seasons in the Texas League -- four in Waco before Shreveport). Over 25 minor-league seasons, he had a 270-208 record. Died Oct. 21, 1960, in Houston, age 66, and is buried in Bunkie, La.

    EARL “HAP” COLLARD -- In his sixth pro season, 1929, the right-hander’s 10-2 record (.833) for Shreveport was the best winning percentage for a Texas League pitcher. He pitched in 18 games for 96 innings, with a 4.13 ERA, and spent part of that season with Seattle (Pacific Coast League). In came between his two major-league stints -- briefly in 1927 and ‘28 with Cleveland (American League) for a total of five games and 9⅓ innings in relief and no decisions and a full season in 1930 with the Philadelphia Phillies (6-12 record, 30 games, 15 starts, 127 innings). He also was in the Texas League before and after Shreveport -- 1925 with San Antonio, 1931 with Fort Worth. His career ended in 1932. Died July 9, 1968, in Jamestown, Calif., age 69.

     RAYMOND "RIP" RADCLIFF -- A left-handed outfielder from Oklahoma, in his fourth pro season, he was the Texas League batting champion for the Shreveport Sports in 1931, with a .361 average. His 215 hits in 155 games included 41 doubles, seven triples and 12 home runs. By 1934, he had a brief major-league debut with the Chicago White Sox, then played nine full seasons (1935-43) in the majors -- the first five with the White Sox. He was a .311 career hitter (1,267 hits in 1,081 games, 42 home runs, 533 RBI) and five seasons batted better than .300, with a best of .342 with the St. Louis Browns in 1940 when he led the American League with 200 hits. Died May 23, 1962, in Enid, Okla., age 56.

   BUD BATES -- An outfielder, his first full pro season at age 21 was 1933 with Shreveport (Dixie League) and he hit .331 with 163 hits in 123 games, including 14 home runs. He started the next season with the Sports and after 18 games (.246 average) went to Beaumont (Texas League). He played 18 minor-league seasons -- including six Southern Association seasons (1938-39 with Memphis, 1940-41-42-46 with Atlanta)  and his only major-league time was 15 games with the Phillies in 1939 (15 games, .259 average). He then managed in the minors for 11 seasons, including Atlanta (SA, 1957-59). Died April 29, 1987, in Long Beach, Calif., age 75.

      MIKE TRESH -- At age 19, a catcher with the Sports in the Dixie League in 1933 who hit .300 in 70 games, he went on to Beaumont in the Texas League that season and again in 1934-35, then first reached the majors with the Chicago White Sox late in 1938. For the next nine seasons, he was the White Sox's top catcher and then a backup with them in 1948 and Cleveland in 1949, a .249 hitter in 1,027 MLB games. His son, Tom, was a New York Yankees' star (shortstop, then left field) in the 1960s. Mike died Oct 4, 1966, in Detroit, age 52.

    PAUL EASTERLING -- The bulky outfielder, a Texas League legend known as "Pound 'Em Paul," first played for Shreveport at age 27 in 1933 (Dixie League) -- 44 games, .293 average, eight home runs -- and then returned for short periods late in the 1939 season and a couple of weeks to start 1940. He was in the majors in 1929-30, 72 games with the Detroit Tigers (hit home runs in three consecutive games shortly after joining the team), and again in 1938 for four games with the Philadelphia A's; he hit .275 in 219 plate appearances. The bulk of his career was in the Texas League -- 16 seasons in all, 13 for the entire year -- mostly in Beaumont (five seasons, 1929-33) and Oklahoma City (four seasons), but also Tulsa, Dallas, Houston and the Sports. In a 1939 season split between OKC and Shreveport, he led the TL in hits (182); he had 30 and 36 home-run seasons for Beaumont; and hit 203 TL home runs. Died March 15, 1993, in Reidsville, Ga., age 87.

     GEORGE GILL -- A right-handed pitcher from Mississippi College, he broke into pro baseball with Shreveport (Dixie League) as a 24-year-old in 1933, with a 15-11 record and 3.39 ERA in 35 games and 228 innings, and was 6-8, 2.88 ERA, in 25 games and 147 innings for Shreveport/Greenwood in 1934. Reached the majors with Detroit in 1937 and had records of 11-4 and 12-9 his first two years with the Tigers, then was 1-13 in 1939 (briefly with Detroit, 1-12 with the worst St. Louis Browns team ever). Pitched in the minors in 1940-42, and after military service, 1946. MLB totals: 24-26 record, 5.05 ERA, 85 games (45 starts), 395 innings. Died Feb. 21, 1999, in Jackson, Miss., age 90.


    STEVE LARKIN -- A right-hander, he was the Dixie League's winningest pitcher for Shreveport in 1933 with a 22-7 record (.759 percentage) and 2.89 ERA and in 40 games was a workhorse (280 innings). It was easily the best of his seven pro seasons. The next year he pitched in two games (one start, six total innings) for the American League champion Detroit Tigers. He was in the Texas League with Beaumont in 1934 and '35 and Fort Worth in 1937. He served with the U.S. Army in Greenland during World War II, and died May 2, 1969, in Norristown, Pa.,  age 68.

       CLAUDE PASSEAU -- The right-hander from Mississippi (Moss Point and Millsaps College) would become a frontline pitcher (162-150 record, 3.32 ERA, in 13 major-league seasons), a five-time All-Star with some notable moments. In 1933, at age 24 in his second pro season, he was with Shreveport (Dixie League) -- 16 games, 7-4 record, 4.33 ERA, 106 innings. Solid at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, his lack of control led to an early release by Detroit. Picked up by Pittsburgh, he was a 20-game winner for Des Moines (Western League) in 1935 and pitched one game, three innings, for the Pirates that year. A throw-in in a trade to the Phillies, he made the majors to stay in 1936 and averaged 15 wins and 252 innings per year from 1936-39 (Phillies) and 1939-46 (Cubs). Notably, after a complete-game shutout two days earlier, he is best known for giving up -- in his third inning -- Ted Williams' game-winning, three-run homer in the 1941 All-Star Game in Detroit, but also for a one-hit shutout in Game 3 of the 1945 World Series. That season for the National League champion Cubs, he won 17 games (five shutouts) and his 2.46 ERA was second-best in the NL, and he gave up only four home runs in 227 innings. A ruptured disk late in the 1946 season curtailed his career; he managed in the minors in 1948-49, but was a longtime successful farmer and John Deere dealership owner in Lucedale, Miss., and also the county sheriff. Died Aug. 30, 2003, in Lucedale, age 94.

    JAKE WADE -- A left-handed pitcher, he was 21 years old with Shreveport (Dixie League) in 1933, with a 9-9 record and 5.09 ERA in 30 games and 182 innings. He was in the majors for eight seasons (1936-39, 1942-46), all in the American League (six teams). Totals: 27-40 record, 5.00 ERA, 171 games (71 starts), 668 innings. Died Feb. 1, 2006, in Wildwood, N.C., age 93.

       DON ROSS -- A shortstop, his pro career began at age 19 with Shreveport (Dixie League) in 1933 when he hit .286 in 98 games. His 123 hits included 14 doubles, 11 triples, seven home runs. After three years with Beaumont (Texas League), he first made the majors in 1938 with Detroit and after three seasons in Montreal (International League) and a brief stay with the 1940 Brooklyn Dodgers was a mostly backup infielder for seven MLB seasons, 498 games, mostly with Detroit, a .262 hitter. Died March 28, 1996, in Arcadia, Calif., age 81.

     ROY CULLENBINE -- He was the starting right fielder for two World Series teams (1942 Yankees, 1945 champion Tigers), a two-time All-Star with nine full seasons (1939-47) in the majors, 1,072 hits and a .276 average. His pro career began at age 20 in 1934 with the Shreveport Sports (East Dixie League) -- 112 games, 119 hits (30 doubles, 11 triples, 11 home runs), .283 average. He was with six MLB teams, starting and ending with Detroit (in his home state, Michigan). Died May 28, 1991, in Mount Clemens, Mich., age 77.

    BENNY MCCOY -- A second baseman, sometimes outfielder, and a lefty hitter, his first pro season was 1934 with the Shreveport Sports (East Dixie League) -- 126 games, 146 hits (29 doubles, 10 triples, 12 home runs), .281 average. After three years in the Texas League, he was in the majors for a short time with Detroit in 1938 and '39, then full seasons with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1940 and '41. MLB totals: 337 games, .269 average, 16 home runs, 156 RBI. Died Nov. 9, 2011, in Grandville, Mich,  age 96.

      IRV STEIN -- A right-hander who pitched one game in the majors, in his second season (1932) -- three innings for the Philadelphia Athletics. In 1934, he was with Shreveport (East Dixie League) -- 9-10 record, 2.79 ERA, 21 games, 145 innings. He was in the Texas League for five years, Tulsa (1936-39) and Oklahoma City (1940) with a 62-66 record in that period. He pitched some in the International and Pacific Coast Leagues and mostly in the Southern Association and wound up with a 10-10 record for Baton Rouge (Evangeline League) in 1946. Died Jan. 7, 1981, in Covington, La., age 69.

    EDDIE LOPAT -- He became a major-league star in his native city, "Steady Eddie" as one of the New York Yankees' dependable starting pitchers for seven seasons and five consecutive World Series titles (1949-53). His best season was a 21-9 record in 1951. The slow-throwing left-hander -- born Edmund Walter Lopatynski -- also was known as "The Junkman." But he was only 20 and 21 years old when he was a struggling pitcher -- converted from first base -- briefly for the Shreveport Sports in 1938 (1-2 record in three games) and 1940 (0-3 in 15 games). It was a long road to the majors, but he got there as a starter for the Chicago White Sox in 1944. Traded to the Yankees in 1948, he was 109-51 for them in his first seven years -- and 4-1 in the World Series. In 340 regular-season MLB games -- with 318 starts -- he had a 166-112 record. He pitched through 1956 and later managed in the majors, in 1963 and for 52 games in '64 with the Kansas City Athletics. Died June 15, 1992, in Darien, Conn., age 73.

    RUDY YORK -- His Shreveport stay was brief, 12 games in 1933 (Dixie League) as a second baseman from Alabama at age 19, and hit he hit .354. He had a brief major-league debut with Detroit in 1934, was the Texas League's MVP for Beaumont in 1935 and grew into MLB stardom beginning with Detroit in 1937. In 13 seasons -- most with the Tigers -- he hit .275 with 277 home runs (he was the AL champion in 1943 with 34), drove in at least 100 runs in six seasons and had between 87 and 98 four more years, played on three World Series teams (1940 and '45 Tigers, 1946 Red Sox). For Boston in '46, he hit two grand slam in one game (vs. the St. Louis Browns) and hit two game-deciding World Series home runs. He then was a major-league hitting coach and Red Sox interim manager one game in 1959. Died Feb. 5, 1970 (cancer), in Rome, Ga., age 56.

  VALLIE EAVES -- A right-handed pitcher from Oklahoma, he was with Shreveport early in a career that spanned more than 20 seasons. With the Sports, he was 6-8 in 1938 and their ace in 1939 -- 21-10 record, 2.77 ERA, 42 games (36 starts) and a Texas League-best 165 strikeouts. His long journey began in the majors, with the 1935 Philadelphia Athletics when he was 1-2 in three starts (and 14 innings). He returned to the big leagues for bits of four more seasons, all in Chicago -- two with the White Sox, two with the Cubs -- and in 24 games (14 starts) had a 4-8 record. In 18 minor-league seasons, his record was 227-172; he was 25-5 for Texarkana (Big State League) in 1947, 26-10 for Lufkin-Leesville (Gulf Coast) in 1950 and, at 41, 19-11 for Brownsville (Gulf Coast) in 1953. He died April 19, 1960, in Norman, Okla., age 48.

    PETE FLEMING -- In 1938, the outfielder had the best of his nine minor-league seasons, leading the Shreveport Sports in batting average (.299), hits (182), doubles (39), triples (11) and home runs (24). It was his second year in a row in the Texas League; he batted .326 for Galveston in '37. He played in the American Association in his last two seasons, then retired as a player.

   JAKE JONES -- A power-hitting right-handed first baseman born and raised in northeast Louisiana (Epps), he was a Shreveport Sport for three years and 330 regular-season games (1940-42). In 1941, he was the Sports' first Texas League home-run champion (24) in 20 years (and listed as "Murrell" in the league record book). He hit .284 and drove in 82 runs that year, and also made his major-league debut with the Chicago White Sox. In '42, he was in 50 games for the eventual league playoff champion Sports. He played in the majors in parts or all of eight seasons, the best of which was 1947 (19 home runs for the White Sox and, after a trade, Red Sox). On his first day with Boston, he hit home runs in both ends of a doubleheader, ending the second game with a tie-breaking grand slam. But he was already a hero, a highly decorated U.S. Navy pilot in World War II when he shot down seven Japanese airplanes. After his return to baseball, he was in the majors from '46 to '48, then back in the Texas League with San Antonio in 1949. His MLB totals: .229 average, 23 homers, 117 RBI. He was a .289 minor-league hitter. During the Korean War, he was recalled to service and was a flight instructor. Died Dec. 13, 2000, in Delhi, La., age 80.

    GUY CURTRIGHT -- An outfielder from Missouri, he was in his sixth minor-league season (five at Henderson, Texas) when he joined the Shreveport Sports in 1939. He played three seasons for them, then made the major leagues at age 30 with the Chicago White Sox. For Shreveport, he hit .324 in 46 games his first year, then .261 and .291 -- .283 overall in 329 games. In 1941, he totaled 34 doubles and 14 home runs. He set a major-league rookie record with a 26-game hitting streak in 1943, a record that stood for 54 years (Nomar Garciaparra broke it). He was with the White Sox for four seasons, but only as a regular his first year. In 331 MLB games, he hit .276. He came back to Shreveport in 1947 for his final 73 games as a pro, batting .229. He had a long and successful high school coaching career in the Chicago area and died Aug. 23, 1997, in Sun City Center, Fla., age 84.

BOB KENNEDY -- He became a prominent baseball name and the prelude to 15 major-league seasons as a player was 1939 when he was the Shreveport Sports' third baseman. That year he batted .284 (26 doubles, seven triples, eight home runs) in 130 games and was with the Chicago White Sox for three games. He stayed in the majors from 1940 through 1957 -- except for military service in 1943-45 -- mostly as a strong-armed reserve outfielder (switched from third base after World War II), a .254 hitter in 1,484 games.  He was 1-for-2 in the 1948 World Series for the champion Cleveland Indians, and caught the fly ball that ended the Series. He became a scout, farm-system director, "head coach" for the Chicago Cubs' "cradle of coaches" in 1963-64-part of '65 and the first Oakland Athletics' manager (1968). He then was a general manager and front-office executive, and his son Terry was an All-Star MLB catcher. Bob died April 7, 2005, in Mesa, Arizona, age 84.

   HUGO KLAERNER -- A right-handed pitcher, lifetime resident of Fredericksburg, Texas, his pro career got a late start (age 24) and, in his second season (1934), included three starts (0-2 record) for the Chicago White Sox. Near the end of his 10-year career, he was a Shreveport Sports regular in 1939-40-41 (111 games, 626 innings), with records of 9-16, 16-16 and 5-13. He was also in the Texas League with Oklahoma City in 1936 (15-12 record) and 1942 (four games). Died Jan. 3, 1982, in Fredericksburg, age 73.

   JIM BRILLHEART -- Twice a Shreveport pitcher (1923, 1939-42), the left-hander from Virginia -- James Benson --  was a 300-game winner in the minor leagues. His pro career lasted from 1921 to 1951, and in 1,042 regular-season games, he had records of 309-266 in the minor leagues (29 seasons) and 8-9 in the majors. In his second pro season, he was MLB's youngest player (18) for the Washington Senators. The next year, he had a 4-11 record for a woeful Shreveport Gassers team. After two more MLB stints ('27 Cubs, '31 Red Sox), his best seasons were in the Texas League for Oklahoma City from 1935-38 (between 17 and 19 wins each year), then 18 wins in 1939 for OKC and Shreveport. His Sports records (at ages 37-38) included 14-7 for a playoff team in '41 and 12-9 for the TL playoff champs in '42. From 1943 through '47, he pitched for San Diego, then was its manager in 1948. Died Sept. 2, 1972, in Radford, Va., age 68.

      ORVAL GROVE -- A right-handed pitcher from Illinois with good size (6-3, 196) for his era, he came to Shreveport at age 21 during the 1941 season -- sent there from Texas League rival Oklahoma City -- and was the top winner (17-7 record) for a Sports' playoff team. He had a fine 2.73 ERA in 34 regular-season games and 201 innings. He had been with the Chicago White Sox at the start of the 1940 season and also pitched in two 1941 games for them, then spent the entire 1942 to 1948 seasons with them, winning 43 games in the World War II years (1943-45). His MLB totals: 207 games (152 starts), 63-73 record and four saves. He pitched his last four seasons for Sacramento (Pacific Coast League). Died April 20, 1992, in Carmichael, Calif., age 72.

    DAVE PHILLEY -- His brief stint for the 1941 Shreveport Sports (six games, 1-for-10) was no indication of a long and productive baseball career for the East Texas resident. A switch-hitting outfielder, later also a third baseman and first baseman at times, he spent 16 full seasons (1947-62) in the majors with eight teams (a couple twice). After spending most of the 1941 season with Monroe, La., he made his MLB debut with the White Sox that year and, after military service for three years, was back with them for a short time in 1946. He was regarded as a  clutch hitter, and later in his career, one of the majors' best pinch-hitters, a .270 hitter overall with 7,000 plate appearances, 1,700 hits (84 homers, 729 RBI). He was an outfield regular for the 1954 American League champion Cleveland Indians, and went 1-for-8 in the World Series. He was a Class A manager for four years (1963-66), then a longtime baseball scout. Died March 15, 2012, in Paris, Texas -- he made his longtime home near there -- at age 91.

  VERNON "GEORGE" WASHINGTON -- The outfielder from Linden, Texas -- near Texarkana -- was a regular, and a star, for the Shreveport Sports from 1939 to the pennant-winning year of 1942. A lefty batter, he was ages 32-35 in those years, and in 544 regular-season games, he was a .307 hitter (boosted by .349 in 1941; his 181 hits led the Texas League), with 149 doubles, 28 triples and 25 home runs. He first played for Shreveport in his second pro season, 1932 (89 games, 14 homers, .350 average), and was a major leaguer for all of 1935 with the Chicago White Sox (108 games, .268, nine homers, 52 RBI) and 20 games in 1936. After World War II, he finished his 20-year minor-league career with five seasons for teams in east and central Texas (back in the Texas League for 36 games in Dallas in 1950), highlighted by a .404 average, 37 home runs and 143 RBI for Texarkana (Big State League) as player-manager in 1947 and an East Texas League batting title (.387) at age 42 for Gladewater in 1949. Died Feb. 17, 1985, in Linden, age 77.

    GORDON MALTZBERGER -- In 1942, the right-hander -- acquired late in the season in a trade from Dallas -- had one of the great playoff stretches in Shreveport baseball history. He beat Fort Worth in the decisive Game 7 of the first-round playoff series, then in the championship series, he pitched shutouts in Games 5 and 7 (a two-hitter) as Shreveport erased Beaumont's 3-1 lead in games and won its first TL title since 1919. That was his 10th season as a pro (most of them in the Southern Association); his regular-season record that year was 16-12.  In four of the next five seasons, he was a reliever with the Chicago White Sox -- 135 games, 20-13 record, 33 saves, 2.70 ERA, 293⅓ innings. He was 10-5 in 1944. His career ended with six seasons in a seven-year period (1948-54) for Hollywood in the Pacific Coast League; he was 18-10 in 1949. He then was a pitching coach and scout for a couple of major-league organizations. Died Dec. 11, 1974, in Rialto, Calif., age 62.

      FLOYD SPEER -- A right-hander from Booneville, Ark., he was a 17-game winner (17-10, with a strong 2.17 ERA in 224 innings) in the regular season for the 1942 Sports, who wound up as Texas League playoff champions. He pitched two seasons in Shreveport -- 89 regular-season appearances -- going 7-8 in 1941 (159 innings). The next two seasons, 1943 and '44, he briefly made the majors, a total of three games and three innings for the Chicago White Sox. He spent most of his final 10 pro seasons in the minors, including Dallas (TL) for all of 1949 and a short time in 1950. In 16 minor-league seasons, his record was 189-131. Died March 22, 1969, in Little Rock, Ark., age 56.

     MERV CONNORS -- After reaching the big leagues in his fourth pro season and playing in 52 games for the Chicago White Sox in 1937-38 (.279 average, eight home runs, 25 RBI), the lifelong Californian was the Shreveport Sports' first baseman for most of the 1938 and '39 seasons. He batted .292 in 214 games, with 41 doubles, five triples and 38 home runs. His career ran from 1934 to 1953 -- he was back with the Sports for 14 games (.219 average) in 1948 -- and he hit 373 minor-league home runs in 2,019 games over 18 seasons. Died Jan. 8, 2006, in Berkeley, Calif., age 91.

    BOBBY COOMBS -- A small (5-9, 160) right-hander from Maine, he was a durable frontline starter and consistent winner in three seasons (1938-40) for the Shreveport Sports -- records of 12-11, 16-15 and 19-14, consistent ERAs (3.37, 3.22, 3.13). He worked 246 and 273 innings in '39-'40. His pro career began in the majors with the Philadelphia A's in 1933 (21 games in relief, 0-1 record) and he would not return to the majors until 10 years later (1943, New York Giants, nine games, 0-1 record). Most of his years were in the International League (Syracuse, 1934-35, and Jersey City, 1941-43). Died Oct. 21, 1991, in Ogunquit, Maine, age 83.

     JACKIE REED -- The right-hander from Boyd, Texas, was age 44 in 1939 and in the first of three seasons with the Shreveport Sports, he had the best winning percentage (.750, 9-3 record) by a Texas League pitcher. He was 16-16 and 8-11 in the next two years, winding up with Fort Worth in 1941 to complete a 21-year minor-league career in which his record was 294-227. Died Jan. 5, 1971, in his lifelong home area, Wise County, age 75.  

      TONY YORK -- A utility infielder from Texas, he spent the 1934-37 seasons in the Texas League (with Dallas and Tulsa), then came back for the 1940-42 seasons in Shreveport and was the Sports' regular shortstop in 1941. He batted .237, .243 and .255 in his Shreveport seasons -- 441 games, with 81 doubles, 11 triples and 35 home runs. His only major-league team was with the Chicago Cubs in 1944 (.235 in 28 games), and he played 13 minor-league seasons after that, through age 43 in 1956. Died April 18, 1970, in Hillsboro, Texas, age 57.


       JOE VITTER -- A New Orleans native and later longtime resident of Carthage, Texas, he was one of the Shreveport Sports' most popular players from 1938 to 1942. Mostly a utility infielder who also played some outfield, a smallish switch-hitter, he was on Texas League all-star teams in 1938, 1940 and in 1941. In 680 regular-season games for Shreveport, he batted .251 (his best season was .282 his first year). After leaving the Sports, he played for St. Paul for five seasons, then managed Class D teams in 1948-49. Died Feb. 19, 1995, in Denver, age 84.

    JOE GREENBERG -- The younger brother of Detroit Tigers superstar Hank Greenberg played third base in 1940 for the Shreveport Sports, hitting .308 in 91 games with seven home runs. He split the 1941 season between Shreveport and Fort Worth in the Texas League, the last of his five minor-league seasons.