Early Texas Baseball

On San Jacinto Day, April 21, 1867, the mighty Houston Stonewalls overwhelmed the Galveston Robert E. Lees, 35-2. While certainly not the first baseball game played in the Texas, it was among the first to be recorded in some detail. Moreover, it underscored the quickly growing passion for “the national pastime” in Lone Star state.

Playing in cow pastures across Texas, similar amateur teams florished during the next few years. In 1872, a team from New Orleans traveled frontier roads by stagecoach to play Texas teams in Dallas, Waco, and Austin. By 1884, the baseball rivalry between Texas A&M University and the University of Texas began–a full decade before the two schools first met on the gridiron.

It was not until 1888, however, that the venerable Texas League, still active today, first organized in the Lone Star State. The league began with six ball clubs: Austin, Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, Galveston, and Dallas. Only two teams lasted the full season, however–Dallas and a combined team from Austin-San Antonio. Dallas claimed league championship with a 55-27 record for the season.

The following year was a bit more stable, with Houston taking the championship honors with a 54-44 record (see team photo below).

From these opening years though the turn of the century, the Texas League experienced intermittent but steady growth. While it is doubtful that any of the teams made a profit, the league operated each year except 1891, 1893, and 1894. More importantly, Texas sports fans became accustomed to a high quality of baseball, and foundations were laid from which rich traditions would be built in the twentieth century.

1889 Champs. With a 54-44 record, the Houston “Babies” earned
Texas League title for the 1889 season. (photo courtesy Bill O’Neal)

About Lyman

Lyman Hardeman has held a deep interest in Texas history. He spent his youth in College Station, Texas and received a degree in Electrical Engineering at Texas A&M in 1966. In 1995, Lyman created Lone Star Junction, a popular Texas history website that later merged with TexasProud.com. Lyman is a life member of the Texas State Historical Association and the author of Texas A&M The First 25 Years.