Research colleague Randy Foltin sent me this photo yesterday of the 1910 Beeville Orange Growers because he knew I was born in that little South Texas town and that I hold special interests in the baseball history of the area. As often is the case, the photo came with its own historical mysteries. These all mainly spin around the presence of the most famous player in the shot, number 6 on the back row, Beeville native and future major league pitcher Bert Gallia.
First let’s cover a little background on the brief history of the Beeville Orange Growers. They didn’t last very long, but then again, neither did the agricultural course of raising oranges or any other citrus fruit crop in Beeville. Located fifty miles north of Corpus Christi, the Beeville winters were simply too cold and too filled with freezing temperature days ro make the industry practical for that too-far-north region of the state. Still, playing minor league baseball and raising oranges had a parallel run in the Beeville area until both got frosted away in the second decade of the twentieth century.
The Beeville baseball-playing Orange Growers were members of the two-season, six-team Southwest Texas League in 1910-11. Other league members included the Brownsville Brownies, the Corpus Christi Pelicans, the Laredo Bermudas, the Bay City Rice Eaters, and the Victoria Rosebuds. Second Place Brownsville won the first of the league’s only two pennants in 1910 by taking a 3-2 series playoff with First Place Victoria. Third Place Beeville was awarded the other pennant in 1911 when First Place Bay City refused to participate in their scheduled championship playoff series.
After 1911, the Southwest Texas League was no more and Beeville went back to raising cattle, harvesting broom corn, and playing their amateur town ball games of baseball. Make no mistake, the failure of the Southwest Texas League was no barometer on the levels of Beeville’s interest in and talent for baseball. By 1925, this small community of a few hundred people had sent their third native son to the big leagues in the form of Lefty Lloyd Brown. Pitcher Bert Gallia went first, joining the Washington Senators in 1912. Outfielder Curt Walker was second, coming up with the New York Yankees at the tail end of the 1919 season before going on to twelve successful years with the Giants, Phillies, and Reds. Walker’s lifetime .304 batting average helped earn him an induction into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame back in 2001.
Now to the mysteries.
Bert Gallia is shown in the photo with the 1910 Beeville Orange Growers, but his Baseball Reference minor league record indicates that he did not begin his playing career until 1911, and that he then started with Laredo before shifting over to Beeville before season’s end. The next year, 1912, found Melvin “Bert” Gallia ascending all the way up to the roster of the Washington Senators.
I’ve checked the photos against the team records maintained by Baseball Reference.Com. That’s definitely the 1910 club. Except for Gallia, all of the other players in the photo are represented in the Baseball Reference database as players for the 1910 Beeville club,
The other mystery concerns the ‘S’ letter that appears on Bert Gallia’s jersey. The letter has nothing to do with Beeville – nor with the Laredo Bermudas that apparently broke him in at the start of the 1911 season.
One more incidental comment on the 1911 Beeville club: Ted Schultz began the (63-54, .538) season as the team’s manager, but he was replaced during the year by Billy Disch, a young man who would go on from Beeville to become the baseball coaching icon at the University of Texas.
Any ideas you may have on the subject’s two mystery questions are most welcome as comments here in the section below this article.
Have a nice Wednesday, everybody, and keep the spring hope watered and green. The 2010 baseball season is almost here.