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 (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 (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 (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.
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 (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.