Top 100 Teams
By Bill Weiss & Marshall Wright, Baseball Historians
Led by a pair of players with the same name, a team from Eastern Oklahoma recorded one of the best minor league batting seasons during the hit-happy 1920s. These two unrelated players put up very impressive power numbers to augment an already very potent attack.
The town of Okmulgee, Oklahoma, located 30 miles south of Tulsa and the capitol of the Creek Nation, first placed a team in Organized Baseball in 1912. Here, they joined seven other local towns to form the Class D Oklahoma State League. In the circuit’s one year of existence, the Okmulgee Glassblowers dominated the competion, posting a 38-10 mark before the league disbanded in late June.
Eight years later, a new Okmulgee franchise joined the Class D Western Association. The team, now named the Drillers, became part of an established loop which traced its lineage back to 1902. The league, which had at one time contained clubs from five different states, now confined itself to franchises in Eastern Oklahoma, Western Arkansas and Southwestern Missouri.
During the Driller’s first year in the Western Association in 1920, the team won the first-half pennant and finished with the best overall record in the league. In the ensuing playoffs, Enid apparently bested the Drillers in the deciding seventh game only to have the League President, J.C. Letcher, throw out the win. The contest was never replayed, making the two co-champs.
During the next campaign, Okmulgee dropped to seventh. After the Western Association was upgraded to Class C before the 1922 season, the Drillers rebounded to fifth. The following season, in 1923, the club won the first half of the season before bowing to Ardmore in four straight in the playoffs. Despite this resurgence, no one realized this team was on the verge of greatness.
The 1924 season was again played in halves, and Okmulgee won both with ease, negating the necessity of a playoff. The Drillers scored an impressive 1,158 runs, swatted 202 home runs and batted a robust .328 to lead the league in all three categories.
Their player-manager was catcher Troy Agnew, who became manager in mid-season of 1922. He later managed Augusta (South Atlantic) in 1925 and Richmond (Virginia League) in 1926, returning to Okmulgee in 1927. A few years later, Agnew owned and operated Augusta in the South Atlantic League from the year of the league’s revival in 1936 through 1941. He was the brother of former major league catcher Sam Agnew, who managed Augusta in 1936-37.
On the field, the club was led by a bevy of fine players - none better than Wilbur and Cecil Davis. Between the two of them, the Davises led the league in most offensive categories. First baseman Wilbur (Country) Davis won the triple crown, hitting .400 with 190 RBI in 160 games and was co-leader in home runs (51) with his teammate, center fielder Cecil (Stormy) Davis. It was the first time in baseball history that a team had two players hit 100 homers. Wilbur also led the league in hits (260), doubles (50), total bases (485) and slugging percentage (.705). Cecil hit .364 with a .691 slugging average, leading the league in AB (676) and runs (187).
Despite their batting prowess, only one of the Davises saw action in the majors - but not as a hitter. Some time earlier, Wilbur Davis had pitched a handful of games for the 1915 Athletics, compiling an 0-2 mark in 18 games, before settling down as a fair minor league pitcher who won 20 games for Augusta in 1921. As batters, neither made it to the “show” as Cecil’s career topped out in the Texas League in the mid-twenties, while Wilbur played two seasons in the Pacific Coast League and one in the International League from 1925 to 1930. In a pro career spanning the years 1915-37, Wilbur had a .331 batting average with 254 HR, 2,700 hits and 1,510 RBI in 2,224 games. Cecil played from 1921-33 and .318 with 270 HR in 1654 games. Cecil’s son, James, also called Stormy, was playing for Ballinger (Longhorn League) in 1947 when he was hit in the head by a pitch and died a week later.
Other Drillers enjoying strong seasons were Joe Bratcher, who batted .383 with 23 homers and 114 RBI, Chuck Corgan, who hit .341 and Bill Stellbauer, who batted .369 with 32 long balls and 169 RBI. From the rubber, the Drillers enjoyed a trio of 20-game winners led by Jimmy Walkup (23-3). Jim Lyle (23-13) and Guy Cantrell (21-7) rounded out the troika.
Okmulgee hitters that did play in the big leagues included Bratcher, who was hitless in four games for the Browns in 1924, Corgan, who batted .221 in 33 games for the Dodgers in 1925 and 1927 and Stellbauer, who played 25 games for the 1916 Athletics, batting .271.
The Driller hurler who achieved the greatest prominence was Wilcy Moore, who had a 17-6, 3.95 record. Three years later, as a 30-year rookie with the fabulous 1927 New York Yankees, Moore won 19 and lost 7 with an American League-leading 2.28 ERA. He was 1-0 in the World Series with a 0.84 ERA. He was 51-44, 3.70 in six years in the majors and enjoyed a 20-year pro career.
Other Driller pitchers who threw in the majors included Guy Cantrell, who was 2-7 for the Dodgers, Athletics and Tigers in 1925 to 1930, Jim Lyle, who threw three innings for the 1925 Senators and Jimmy Walkup, who pitched two games for the Tigers of 1927. In addition, Walter Tauscher, who was with Pittsburgh in 1928 and Washington in 1931, won 264 games in the minors in 22 years, 13 of which were spent in the American Association. Also, Walkup won 259 games in a 17-year career, mostly in the Texas League and Southern Association.
During the next three years in the Western Association, the Okmulgee Drillers finished no higher than third. They drifted out of the league after the 1927 season, never to return to Organized Baseball.
Despite its relatively short participation in the National Association, the Okmulgee Drillers left a lasting legacy. Led by the Davis duo, the 1924 Drillers record of 110 wins and .328 batting average was unsurpassed in Western Association annals. As a matter of fact, only a handful of teams in any league have been able to best those lofty totals.
|1924 Western Association Standings|
|1924 Okmulgee Drillers batting statistics|
|Earl Smith (Topeka)||P12||12||30||2||5||3||1||0||0||2||8||0||.167|
|1924 Okmulgee Drillers pitching statistics|