The Greatest Opening Day Lineup in Dallas Baseball History — 1950

by Paula Bosse

ty-cobb_corbis_0411503 of 9: Speaker, Cobb, Lewis (click for larger image) ©Bettmann/CORBIS

by Paula Bosse

On April 11, 1950, the opening-day game of the Dallas Eagles drew a record-breaking attendance of 53,578 — there were more spectators in the stands that day than had ever attended a season-opening game for any U.S. minor league team. The crowd was five times larger than could have squeezed into the Eagles’ usual ballpark, Burnett Field, so the game was held in a football stadium instead: the giant Cotton Bowl. Why were so many people eager to see the Texas League matchup between the Dallas Eagles and the Tulsa Oilers? Because of these nine names:

  • Ty Cobb
  • Dizzy Dean
  • Mickey Cochrane
  • Charlie Gehringer
  • Tris Speaker
  • Duffy Lewis
  • Travis Jackson
  • Charlie Grimm
  • Home-Run Baker

These Major League all-star “old-timers” would be appearing at the game. People went crazy, especially at the prospect of seeing an honest-to-god baseball legend, Ty Cobb. Eagles owner, Dick Burnett, expected the notoriously “difficult” 63-year-old Cobb to turn him down flat when he extended the invitation, but Cobb was surprisingly happy to travel to Dallas to join the festivities. In fact, everyone involved seems to have had a great time: the old-timers, the current players, the fans, and, especially Burnett, who saw the huge crowd as proof that Dallas would one day be able to support a major league franchise (it would, of course, but, sadly, Burnett — who died in 1955 — did not live long enough to see it become a reality).

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Below, some clippings surrounding the big event (click to see larger images).

ty-cobb_dmn_040350Charles Burton, Dallas Morning News, April 3, 1950

ty-cobb_dmn_040750-ad

That thin sliver above is an ad from the DMN, April 7, 1950. Here’s the part of it most people were interested in:

ty-cobb_dmn_040750-ad_det

One of the things that helped Burnett get such a huge crowd was that the First National Bank of Dallas ponied up the cash for more than 15,000 tickets, which were distributed to junior and senior high school students. (Dallas school superintendent W. T. White was cool with this, saying, “Good sportsmanship is good citizenship.”)

tickets-students_dmn_041150DMN, April 11, 1950

The lineup for the game:

ty-cobb_dmn_041150-lineupDMN, April 11, 1950

There were logistical problems to deal with in order to play a baseball game on a football field.

cotton-bowl_baseball_dmn_060774_sam-blair-columnSam Blair, DMN, June 7, 1974

cotton-bowl_baseball_dmn_041150_cartoonDMN, April 11, 1950

Not only were there jokes about fans being confused about what sport they were watching, there was also concern that the game would play havoc with the grass. It was reported afterward:

The Cotton Bowl turf was carefully manicured to prepare it for the baseball game but apparently it was undamaged. The grass was merely shaved thin to form base lines and the only actual grass removal was done at home plate and the pitcher’s mound. (DMN, April 12, 1950)

The crowd knew that the “Immortal Nine” were there just for fun and wouldn’t be playing a full game. The old-timers had agreed to “play,” but they were on the diamond for just a brief time, long enough for them to take their positions as Dizzy Dean pitched to one — and only one — Tulsa player, before eventually walking him. In fact, the game was started over “for real” after the all-stars left the field, to cheers. Even if they didn’t see their heroes play a full game, eager fans had been able to watch the guys warming up during batting practice, before the game.

batting-practice_dmn_041150DMN, April 11, 1950

 During batting practice, Ty Cobb showed off his bunting technique while sporting some unexpected eyewear.

ty-cobb_dmn_041250_bunt

ty-cobb_dmn_041250_bunt-caption
DMN, April 12, 1950

He also got to chit-chat with the visiting Kilgore Rangerettes (including “pretty Judy Basden of Dallas”).

ty-cobb_dmn_041250_rangerette-photo

ty-cobb_dmn_041250_rangerette-captionDMN, April 12, 1950

Everyone got along and everything seemed very congenial. In the midst of the lovefest, Dizzy Dean (a Dallas resident at the time) had nice things to say about catcher Mickey Cochrane.

dizzy-dean_cochrane_1950_dmn_080270DMN, Aug. 2, 1970 (taken April 11, 1950)

dizzy-dean_cochrane_1950_dmn_041350_burtonCharles Burton, DMN, April 13, 1950

The time spent in Dallas — full of nostalgia and camaraderie — appears to have been pleasant for all concerned.

ty-cobb_dmn_041250a     ty-cobb_dmn_041250b
DMN, April 12, 1950

Bill Rives’ Dallas Morning News report on the game and the visiting all-stars is entertaining — read it here. (Ty Cobb’s comment after being handed a pair of binoculars in order to watch the Rangerettes’ performance was amusing).

Oh yeah, there was an actual game played that day. Dallas lost to Tulsa, 10-3. Even the most hard-core Dallas Eagles fan was probably willing to let that one go.

all-stars_dmn_041250-photo

all-stars_dmn_041250-captionDMN, April 12, 1950

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Top photo, showing Tris Speaker, Ty Cobb, and Duffy Lewis ©Bettmann/CORBIS; it can be viewed here.

As this post is pretty much devoid of informative baseballiness, a good overview of the game from an actual sports perspective, can be found in the article “Thinking Big in Big D in 1950” by Frank Jackson, here.

Dallas resident Hyman Pearlstone (president of the Higginbotham-Pearlstone Hardware Company) was a baseball superfan. He was a friend of Ty Cobb and he discovered Major Leaguer Dave Danforth for pal Connie Mack. Read a Dallas Morning News profile of Pearlstone — with photos of him with Ty Cobb — here.

Click pictures and clippings for larger images.

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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