Class of 2015
Eight Elected to the Texas League Hall of Fame
July 1, 2015
At the meeting of Texas League held at Corpus Christi on June 30, 2015, the Texas League Hall of Fame gained eight new members by unanimous vote of the league's Board of Directors. The group spans nearly the entire history of the league, from catcher Jay Clark, who played for the powerhouse Corsicana club in 1902, to Frank Tanana, the Texas League pitcher of the Year in 1973. One of the more remarkable of new members is pitcher Tom Walker, who tossed what may be the most amazing game in Texas League history while with the Dallas-Fort Worth Spurs, a 15-inning, 1-0, complete game, no-hit win versus Albuquerque on August 4, 1971. A list of the new members and their information follows below.
Jay J. Clarke, Catcher
A fine hitter and a stellar defensive catcher, Clarke is best known for the eight home runs he hit in Corsicana's 51-3 win over Texarkana on June 15, 1902. His singular feat is the most famous and productive single game in the long history of the Texas League. While Clarke finished third in the league batting race in 1902, the 19-year-old native of Ontario, Canada led all Texas League catchers in fielding percentage with a .982 mark, committing just eight errors in 105 games, one-third the number committed by the next best catcher in the league that season. Clarke went on to a career in the Major Leagues, mostly in the American League, where Ty Cobb referred to him as one of the two best defensive catchers he ever saw.
Dick Dietz, Outfielder
Dick Dietz had one of the most dominant seasons in the early years of the El Paso franchise, leading the league in hitting, with a .354 mark, 16 points higher than the next best player that season. He also led the loop with 128 runs scored and an on-base percentage of .469 that was built on the strength of 91 walks. For his efforts in 1963, Deitz was named to the Texas League post-season all star team.
Chet Fowler, Player, Umpire
A fourteen-year veteran of the Texas League, two as a player and 12 as an umpire, Fowler is one of the longest tenured arbiters in league history. A serviceable infielder with Fort Worth in 1930 and 1931, Fowler began umpiring after his playing career ended in 1933, advancing to the Texas League by 1935. Fowler remained in the league through the 1941 season, returning after World War II in 1946 for five more seasons. A respected and popular umpire, Fowler was assigned to work in four Dixie Series during his career, 1939, 1941, 1947 and 1949.
Frank H. "Bert" Parke, Executive
A life-long resident of Little Rock, Bert's association with baseball in his hometown preceded the Arkansas Travelers, beginning when he joined a group that successfully brought baseball back to his home town in 1960. In the mid-1960's Bert joined the board and was named a member of the Travelers Executive Committee, serving as treasurer of the Travelers in the 1960's and 1970's. In 1980, following the death of Max Moses, Bert was elected President of the club, retaining that position until 2010 when he was named President Emeritus. During his involvement with the Travelers, Bert was active in moving the team to the Texas League in 1966, promoting the hiring of both Carl Sawatski and Bill Valentine as the General Manager of the Travelers, as well as helping to facilitate support for needed repairs to Ray Winder Field. During Bert's 30-year tenure as club President, he was also the Travelers representative on the Texas League Board of Directors.
Frank Tanana, Pitcher
A slender left-handed pitcher from Detroit, Frank Tanana thrived in his only season in the Texas League, earning Pitcher of the Year honors in 1973 in spite of working half his games in the notoriously hitter friendly Dudley Field in El Paso. In 26 starts in 1973, Tanana won 16, led the league in complete games with 15, innings pitched with 206 and strikeouts with 197. Tanana put together a season-long ERA of 2.71, less than half of the El Paso team ERA which was a league worst 4.58. In addition to being named the Texas League Pitcher of the Year in 1973, Tanana was also named a 1973 post-season TL all star.
Carl Sawatski, Executive
After retiring from a successful playing career, Carl Sawatski joined the Texas League as the General Manager of the Arkansas Travelers, serving the Trav's from 1968 through the 1975 season. In 1976, Sawatski was elected President of the Texas League, serving the loop until his death in November 1991. His 16 years as head of the TL is the third longest tenure of any Texas League president, behind only J. Alvin Gardner and Tom Kayser. The Pennsylvania native joined both the Travelers and the Texas League during a time of instability and economic challenges in the minor leagues. In the 1960's Minor League Baseball was in an unsettled era that saw many cities lose their teams.
During his tenure running the Arkansas club, Carl helped stabilize the Travelers business operations, guiding them for eight seasons, while winning the Texas League Executive of the Year award in 1970. By the mid-1970's, baseball was on the verge of a resurgence and much more stability. During Carl's tenure at the top of the Texas League there were just three franchise shifts and league attendance grew by over one million fans from 1976 to 1991. In addition to his Texas League executive award, in 1987, Carl was the recipient of Minor League Baseball's Warren Giles Award that annually honors outstanding service as a league president.
Tom Walker, Pitcher
A first round draft choice by the Baltimore Orioles in 1968, Tom Walker wondered if his career had flattened out by the time he came to the Texas League. While his season totals in 1971 were enviable, it was a performance late in the season that gave him renewed hope for his career and forever put him in the Texas League record book. Starting a game for the Dallas Fort Worth Spur at Albuquerque against the Dodgers on August 4, 1971, Walker tossed a 15-inning, 1-0, no-hit win. Arguably the greatest pitched game in the long history of the Texas League. Before or since, there has never been a Texas League game to equal his feat that night. The next longest no-hitter in the Texas League prior to Walker's 15-inning gem was a 12-inning, 2-1 win by Grover Brant on May 31, 1912.
Bill Whittaker, Pitcher
Bill Whittaker was member of the fabulous Fort Worth Panthers, who dominated Texas League play from 1919 through 1925. Joining the Panthers in a trade Galveston in 1917, Whittaker blossomed with Fort Worth in 1919, the first of three consecutive 20 plus win seasons for the club. His best season for the Panthers was 1920, when he was 24-6, leading the league in winning percentage and going 2-0 in the Dixie Series, winning the series clincher over Little Rock. The St. Louis native finished his seven seasons in the league with a 109-75 record and a career ERA of 2.42, which is second all-time in league history.