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51. 1902 Corsicana Oil Citys
Record: 87-23
Texas League (Double-A)

By Bill Weiss & Marshall Wright, Baseball Historians

The new 1902 Texas League entry from Corsicana, while finishing with one of the top marks in professional baseball history, is noteworthy for two other achievements. One was a fabulous winning streak that helped carry them to the pennant. The other was a single-game outburst, unduplicated before or since in the annals of the game.

The Corsicana entry, called the Oil Citys after the predominant industry in the area, broke out of the gate in 1902 at a gallop. The team won the first half of the season with an incredible 58-9 record (.866), 22 games over Dallas, which was the only other team on the plus side of the .500 mark. Embedded in this tremendous stretch was a 27-game winning streak, baseball’s best to that point. It was later equaled by the Minor League Orioles in 1921, and shattered by the Salt Lake City Trappers in 1987, who won 29 straight. Corsicana’s streak began June 8 and ran through July 5. The team outscored its opponents 287-77, winning six games by shutouts. Just three pitchers worked all those games. Lucky Wright won 10, Bellmont Method, 9 and Bob White, 8. The streak ended July 6 at Waco, two days before the conclusion of the first half, when Wright lost a 3-1 decision. It was during this magnificent skein that one of the most memorable games in Minor League history was played.

On May 5, just two weeks after the start of the season, Sherman-Denison owner and playing manager Cy Mulkey transferred his team to Texarkana. The Twins had lost 10 of their first 11 games and attendance was dwindling. In June, he sold the club to C.B. DeWitt, but stayed on as manager. On Sunday, June 15, Corsicana met Texarkana in a home game that was played in nearby Ennis because of Corsicana’s blue laws. The Oil Citys drubbed the Casketmakers by the unheard of score of 51-3. Corsicana catcher Justin “Nig” Clarke made baseball history by hitting eight home runs in 10 at-bats driving in 16 runs. The team had 53 hits, 29 for extra bases, including 21 homers. Every Corsicana batter except Wright, the pitcher, had at least one homer and five hits. In addition to Clarke, second baseman William (Alec) Alexander and left fielder Ike Pendleton each had eight hits. In all, 127 batters came to the plate for the two teams, yet the box score said the game was played in two hours and 10 minutes. One pitcher, identified as C.B. DeWitt, pitched the entire game for Texarkana.

The batting records for the June 15 game are somewhat tainted. Some published reports indicate the right field fence, over which all of Clarke’s long balls were hit, was only 210 feet from home plate. However, Walter Morris, Corsicana’s shortstop that day, was quoted in a 1940 interview with Fort Worth writer Zeke Handler, published in The Sporting News, as saying: “The right field fence at Ennis wasn’t more than 40 feet back of first base. Nig just pulled eight short flies around and over that wall. I’m not taking anything away from old Nig’s batting prowess, but that’s the way he hit eight homers that day. Didn’t have to send the ball more than 140 feet at the most.” Regarding the identity of the battered pitcher, Morris recalled, “Just before the affair started, a strapping youngster sought out Mulkey in the ballpark at Ennis and told him he was owner DeWitt’s son and had been sent by his father to pitch that day’s game. That made old Cy pretty sore, but he started the young fellow on the mound anyhow. We made seven and eight runs an inning for several frames. After each inning, Mulkey would walk by me and whisper ‘So, his old man sent him down to pitch today. Well, he’s damn sure pitchin.'”

Texarkana and Waco dropped out of the league on July 8 and the second half started the next day. Early in the second half, Morris, White and third baseman George Markley quit the team to play independent ball. The Oil Citys finished first in the second half (30-14, .682), but only seven games ahead of Dallas. With Corsicana winning both halves, there was no need for a playoff. The team finished the full campaign with an 87-23 record (.791). The club won 24 of 27 decisions from the Paris Homeseekers. That team had received its nickname in July, when the owner made a deal to transfer the franchise to Houston before getting the approval of the other clubs. They later denied him permission to move -- and Paris played most of its remaining games on the road.

Corsicana was managed by first baseman “Big Mike” O’Connor. Standing 6-foot-5, O’Connor wouldn’t be noticed today, but 100 years ago he towered above the other players. He managed Fort Worth in the Texas League’s inaugural season, 1888, and played or managed in every season the league operated through 1905. He piloted nine different teams in all. O’Connor’s health began to fail in 1905, and he died in the state hospital at Austin in 1906.

Due to poor record-keeping, only the statistics for the second half were kept -- and rudimentary ones at that. These scanty records only document games played and batting averages for players with more than 20 games, with no pitching stats included. The team’s best averages posted in the second half included shortstop Hunter Hill (.361), outfielder Curley Maloney (.341) and O’Connor (.305)

Four members of the club went on to see action in the Major Leagues. Hill played for the Browns and Senators from 1903 to 1905, batting .216 in that span, while Clarke served in 506 big league games, mostly for Cleveland, hitting .254 with two fewer home runs (6) in 1,536 at-bats than his one-game total on June 15, 1902. In addition, pitcher Lucky Wright went 0-4, 3.21 for Cleveland in 1909, while shortstop Walter Morris batted .178 for the Browns in 1908.

Several of the 1902 Oil Citys were prominent figures in the early days of the Texas League. Maloney’s Texas League career spanned 24 years, from 1889 through 1912. He managed Dallas for seven seasons, 1905-11, and was playing as late as 1910. Pendleton played for five different clubs from 1899-1910. Alexander played 15 seasons with nine teams, and holds the Texas League record for the longest span between his first and last appearances, 34 years (1895, 1929). Infielder Ben Shelton, who joined Corsicana during the second half, played and managed in the league from 1899-1909.

J. Walter Morris, as he was always called in later years, joined the Oil Citys from the University of Texas law school. He played in the South Texas League and Southern Association from 1903-1905, beginning his managerial career at the age of 24 with Beaumont in 1904. He managed Savannah (South Atlantic League) from 1906-08, until he was bought by the Browns late in 1908. After the 1909 season, Morris purchased the Fort Worth franchise, and from 1910-1914 he was club president, manager and shortstop. He sold the club the next year and was out of baseball for several months. In October 1915, he was elected Texas League president and served until 1920. During that period, he also was the National Board member for Class B Leagues. In addition, in 1920-21, he was president of the newly organized West Texas League. In September 1921, Morris and a partner purchased the Dallas club. He was business manager until 1928 and managed the Steers on the field from 1922-24.

Morris sold his Dallas interests in May 1928, to take over the Akron club in the Central League. He was in private business from 1929-31, then returned to baseball as business manager of Shreveport in 1932 and Fort Worth in 1933. For several years, starting in 1934, he was a league organizer for the National Association. In 1936-37 he served as president of three leagues simultaneously, the Cotton States (Class C), East Texas (Class C) and Evangeline (Class D). Morris returned to the Texas League as business manager at Shreveport in 1938-39 and Fort Worth in 1940. The next three years he scouted for the Detroit Tigers.

After World War II, Morris again was a league president, for the East Texas League in 1946-47, the Evangeline League from 1946-48, and the Class B Big State League from 1948-50. He retired at the end of the 1950 season. Morris was credited with personally organizing 13 leagues, and was president of six leagues at one time or another.

Corsicana remained in the Texas League through the 1905 season, finishing no higher than second. On June 1, 1905, the "Oilers," in last place with a 10-30 record, dropped out of the league. Two years later, a team called the Desperados joined the Class D North Texas League for a short stay. The club was in first place on June 28, with a 38-21 record, when Greenville folded, causing the circuit to fold. In 1914, 1915 and 1917, Corsicana joined the Class D Central Texas League, fielding teams that did little to distinguish themselves.

In the 1920s, Corsicana entered three different leagues, the Texas-Oklahoma (1922), Texas Association (1923-26) and Lone Star (1927-28). The 1922 team carried the unique nickname of the Gumbo Busters. During these seven seasons, Corsicana won a pair of flags in 1924 and 1925. Following a fifth place finish in 1928, Corsicana left pro ball, never to return.

The 1902 Oil Citys are mostly remembered for their fantastic winning streak, as well as their unique dismantling of the Texarkana club in June. However, what is most important about this club is its record.

Of all the 20th century Minor League Baseball clubs that played full season schedules, only one managed to better Corsicana’s .791 single-season winning percentage.

1902 Texas League Standings
TEAM W L PCT GB TEAM W L PCT GB
Corsicana 87 23 .791 - Paris 42 65 .393 43.5
Dallas 60 53 .531 28.5 Waco 27 36 .429 NA
Ft. Worth 48 62 .436 39.0 Sher/Den-Texas 21 46 .313 NA

1902 Corsicana Oil Citys batting statistics
BATTER POS GP AB R H BI 2B 3B HR BB SO SB BA
Mike O'Connor 1B 42 .305
Alec Alexander 2B,C 42 .250
Hunter Hill SS 24 .361
Ben Shelton 3B,OF 33 .292
Curley Maloney OF 44 .341
Ike Pendleton OF 44 .240
Frank Ripley OF,3B 37 .239
Justin Clarke C 41 .253
Bellmont Method P,OF 20 .238
Lucky Wright P,OF 20 .213
George Markley 3B
Walter Morris SS
Sam Deskin OF
Bobby White P
Bert Hise P
Ed Switzer IF
Wilkerson OF

Pitching statistics not available.