Top 100 Teams
By Bill Weiss & Marshall Wright, Baseball Historians
| Al Benton|
(photo courtesy of National
Baseball Hall of Fame)
In 1932, after being out of baseball for several years, a team from Tulsa, Oklahoma dominated the Western League. However, despite finishing with one of the best records in league history, the club dropped out of the league, never to participate again.
The city of Tulsa entered the world of Organized Baseball in 1905, when they placed a team in the Missouri Valley League. Over the next succeeding years, the city hopped from league to league, fielding teams in the South Central (1906), Oklahoma-Arkansas-Kansas (1907), Oklahoma-Kansas (1908), Western Association (1910-11) and Oklahoma State (1912). The best teams of this group played in 1908, when a team called the Oilers finished second with a 69-55 record, and 1912, when Tulsa also finished second with a 33-15 record.
In 1914, the Oilers re-entered the Western Association. During their four-year stint, the team won the pennant in 1914 and a second-half title in 1916. After a last place finish in 1917, the club dropped out of the circuit.
Two years later, the city began a relationship with the Class A Western League, the highest ranked organization seen in Tulsa to date. In their first year, Tulsa finished second but defeated first place St. Joseph, three games to one, in a post-season series. The club continued to do well in the Western League, copping flags in 1920, 1922, 1927 and 1929, with a second-half title in 1928. Following the 1927 season, Tulsa and Oklahoma City announced they were withdrawing from the Western League to join the Texas League, but the National Board of Arbitration voted they must remain in the Western.
One of the more talented players to grace the Oilers roster during the 1920s was outfielder Lyman Lamb. After stroking 68 and 71 doubles in 1922 and 1923, he set a professional record by slashing an even 100 two-baggers during the 1924 campaign.
Following their pennant in 1929, the Oilers were forced to move the franchise to Topeka. Their McNulty Park was declared “unsuitable” and the club became involved in a dispute with the city, which prevented them from building new stands on a site which they had purchased.
By 1932, a new facility, Fairgrounds Park, had been built and the Topeka franchise was transferred to Tulsa for one last fling in the Western League. The club quickly ran up a large lead and in June the league directors voted to split the season, a common practice at the time. Tulsa won the first half with a 46-22 record, eight games ahead of Denver. The Oilers went on to win the pennant, but reaching that goal wasn’t easy. Tulsa continued to play well in the second half, finishing at 52-26. However, Oklahoma City, seventh in the first half (31-41), turned things around in the second half. The peculiar league schedule resulted in the two teams closing the regular season by playing each other nine consecutive games. Just prior to that series, the Indians had won eight straight to take a one-game lead. Tulsa took five of the first eight games from Oklahoma City to regain the lead, but the Indians won the regular season finale at home 7-3, putting the teams in a dead heat.
Oklahoma City won the three-game tie-breaking series, two games to one, taking the deciding game 2-1 behind the five-hit pitching of future big leaguer Al Benton, an Oiler nemesis. The Sporting News described the described the series as a “dusting party” and the second game nearly erupted in an all-out brawl after Tulsa’s Ralph Birkofer hit the Indians pitcher in the ribs. The rivals then moved on to the championship playoff, which proved to be something of an anti-climax. Tulsa won four straight, but one win was taken away on a successful Oklahoma City protest. The contest had to be replayed and the Oilers won it all over again.
The Oilers were managed by Art Griggs, a former major league journeyman who had played in the American and Federal Leagues from 1909 to 1918. Griggs, who also owned the Oilers, did enjoy a solid minor league career, batting .313 in 1,690 games in eight different leagues from 1905 to 1926.
The 1932 Tulsa Oilers were led by a brace of offensive stars, featuring four batters with over 125 runs each. Cecil Stewart (148) and Bobby Hipps (147) scored the most runs on the club, despite batting well under .300. Outfielders John Stoneham (138) and Stan Schino (129) scored the next most runs, but unlike Stewart and Hipps, the duo hit the ball with authority. Stoneham batted .352, while knocking in 135 runs behind an impressive 28 doubles, 20 triples and 18 home runs. Schino virtually duplicated Stoneham’s effort by hitting .354, with 143 RBI, 32 doubles, 13 triples and 18 home runs. Center fielder Leo Najo, who hit .323, was one of the first Mexican players in Organized Baseball. Najo, a native La Lajilia, Nuevo Leon, had a career average of.321 in 1,318 games, mostly with San Antonio and Omaha.
| Bill Posedel|
(photo courtesy of National Baseball Hall of Fame)
From the hill, the Oilers were paced by Andy Bednar, who sported a nifty 22-4 record. Also contributing were Bill Posedel (16-10), Jim Bivin (15-7) and Birkofer (15-10).
RHP Andy Bednar, LF Stan Schino, RF John Stoneham and Manager Griggs were named to the Western League All-Star Team.
Members of the ’32 Oilers who played in the majors included: catcher Tony Rego, who played in 44 games for the 1924-25 Browns; Stoneham, who batted .120 in 10 games for the 1933 White Sox; Pep Young, who enjoyed a 10-year career, hitting .262 for the Pirates, Reds and Cardinals; Bednar, who had no decisions while pitching in five games for the 1930-31 Phillies; Birkofer, who went 31-28 for the Pirates and Dodgers; Bivin, who had a 2-9 record for the ’35 Phillies; and Posedel, who won 41 games for the Dodgers and Braves from 1938 to 1946. In addition, Kirby Higbe, who had no record for the Oilers, went on to a fine big league career, including a stellar 22-9 season for the 1941 Dodgers.
Bivin pitched only one year in the majors, but is immortalized in the annals of baseball trivia. As the starting pitcher for the Phillies in the first game of the May 30, 1935 double-header against the Braves, he became the last man to face Babe Ruth in a major league game. After going 0-for-1, Ruth left the game, his last.
Barnacle Bill Posedel had pitched in the Navy before beginning his pro career in 1929 and got his nickname from a popular song of that year, “Barnacle Bill the Sailor.” After Posedel pitched for Brooklyn and the Braves, he served again in the Navy for four years during World War II. He was a highly regarded pitching coach for Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Oakland and San Diego, 1949-74. The Sporting News said, “He was credited with playing a big role in the development of an Oakland staff that helped the A’s win World Series championships in 1972-73-74.” He also scouted for several years.
After the 1932 season, Tulsa and Oklahoma City once again withdrew to join the Texas League, but this time it went smoothly with no objections from other Western League clubs. Beginning in 1933, the Tulsa Oilers started playing in the Texas, where they remain today. Although the team has enjoyed a lengthy stay in the circuit, it has not been continuous. For several years, the team played in other circuits such as the Pacific Coast League (1966-68) and the American Association (1969-76). During the span of years, Tulsa won playoff championships in the Texas League in 1936, 1949, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1965, 1982, 1988 and 1998. The team also won crowns in the Pacific Coast League in 1968, and in the American Association in 1973 and 1974.
The 1932 Tulsa Oilers were a one-season wonder, entering and exiting the Western League in a short few months. However, despite their brief stay, the team left a lasting legacy, finishing with the top winning percentage in league history.
|1932 Western League Standings|
|1932 Tulsa Oilers batting statistics|
|Wilber Swansboro (St. Jos.)||1B||103||381||87||104||60||18||12||4||11||.273|
|Charles Taylor (O. City)||P||29||51||9||12||6||2||1||0||0||.235|
|Felix Vigare (St. Joseph)||3B||23||91||17||27||20||2||1||1||0||.297|
|Henry Picancio (Wichita)||SS||18||50||7||11||5||2||0||0||0||.220|
|1932 Tulsa Oilers pitching statistics|
|Charles Taylor (O. City)||12||3||.800||29||135||137||40||35|