From Unknowns to Senators: A Central-Texas baseball timeline

July 10, 2009 7:06 PM

Less than a quarter-century after the game of baseball was introduced to the United States, Central Texas had become a hot-bed for start-up teams. And while early ventures were fleeting, Austin became a gateway for some of the greatest players in the game.

Through affiliations with six leagues, Austin fielded 43 teams from 1888-1967. Teams like the Hix, the Senators, the Black Senators, the Pioneers and the Braves provided a rich backdrop for present-day baseball in the city.

And all of it began 140 years ago with a challenge between a little-known team and a war-time squad:

1869: The first organized baseball game makes its way into Austin nearly 25 years after Alexander Cartwright established the rules of the game. Pitching isn't quite fashionable yet and the Austin Unknowns fall 31-28 to the United States 15th Infantry team.

1887: The Austin Hix establish themselves as the city's first professional team,competing against other Central Texas teams at Riverside Park before merging with the Austin Red Sox just after the turn of the year.

1888: After representatives from Austin, Dallas, Houston, Ft. Worth and Louisiana meet, the Independent Texas League is formed. Former professional John McCloskey assumes ownership of Austin and the league begins play on April 5. Admission is a quarter and the financials don't work out. McCloskey moves Austin to San Antonio before the year is out. The combination team finishes second to the Dallas Hams with a 43-33 record.

1889: Austin assumes the Senators moniker and posts a 50-46 record under three different managers. Houston, Waco, Dallas, Ft. Worth and Galveston disband on Aug. 12 and the Texas League folds.

1897: After an six-year absence, the Senators return to the field as part of the Texas Southern League. They disband at least three times over the next eight seasons.

1907: The Senators steal 23 bases and pick up a 44-0 win over San Antonio in late July.

1914: With 46 professional leagues operating in the United States, the Senators close out a four-year run with the B-League Texas League. They finish with a dismal 31-114 record.

1915:  No longer members of the Texas League, the Senators move to the D-League Middle Texas League, change their name to the Representatives and win two games before moving to Taylor because of severe flooding.  Lefty Niel throws one of Austin's first no-hitters on April 16, but the league folds in early June.

1920s: The Austin Black Senators form a barnstorming Texas Negro League team that exists in some form for nearly two decades.

1923: Austin returns to the D-League Texas Association, this time as the Rangers, and gets a league-leading 22 home runs from Don Flynn. The team wins 72 games and remains in the league until 1926, the same year the team finishes with a league-best 73-49 record before falling to Palestine in the playoffs.

1924: Willie "El Diablo" Wells leaves the Austin Black Senators to join the St. Louis Stars of the Negro National League. He sets a Negro League record 27 home runs in 1929.

1947: The Austin Pioneers bring professional baseball back to the city after a 21-year ay-off. They pick up 55 wins in 154 games, playing at Disch Field.

1948: The Pioneers lead the Big State League with an attendance of 166,666. Elwood Moore and George Estock pile up 20 wins each the following season.

1955:  Attendance drops to 50,536 and the Pioneers fold after the season.

1956:  Manager Connie Ryan leads the return of the Austin Senators, this time with the Double-A Texas League. The team becomes an affiliate of the Milwaukee Braves.

1958:  Austin wins the regular-season crown with an 89-64 record, but falls in the finals to Corpus Christi after sweeping past Fort Worth in the opening round.

1959:  The Senators give Austin the Texas League Championship title with a 3-0 sweep of San Antonio. Charles Gorin tosses a no-hitter against the MC Diablos Rojos in a Pan-Am game on Sept. 20.

1961: Future Hall of Famer Phil Niekro goes 4-4 with a 2.63 ERA for the Senators, who again fall in the championship round.

1962: Austin again makes it to the Texas League Championship before falling 3-1 to the Tulsa Oilers.

1965: The Senators moniker gives way to the Austin Braves, and the team relocates to Louisiana in 1967.

1995: Voters turn down a proposal to fund a stadium in Austin for the Double-A Austin Swing.

1999: Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan and eldest son, Reid, gain approval for a $24 million stadium off of Highway 79 in Round Rock. Voters choose to name the team the Express.

2000: Round Rock shatters Texas League attendance records, drawing more than 660,000 fans before winning the first Texas League AA Championship in 41 years.

2005: Ryan Sanders Baseball builds a new stadium in Corpus Christi, moves the AA team to the coast, expands the stadium in Round Rock, buys the AAA Edmonton Trappers team and moves it to Round Rock. The Express nameplate stays in Round Rock, the new AA team is named the Hooks and both teams remain affiliates of the Houston Astros.

2009: The Dell Diamond again expands to welcome more fans, adding a third deck level and entering the season with a fan total of more than 6.1 million.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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