A BRIEF HISTORY OF PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL IN
ARDMORE, OKLAHOMA AFTER WORLD WAR II
Peter G Pierce, III
Minor league baseball enjoyed a resurgence
following the return of the GIs after the Japanese surrender. People had money
to spend, leisure time, not many recreational alternatives on warm summer days
and, especially important for the minor, nights. Night baseball was pioneered by the
barnstorming Kansas City Monarchs of the negro leagues who carried their
lighting with them. By 1947, night games
were the norm for the minor leagues.
Leagues sprang up with teams in every
state. The baseball boom peaked in 1949 with 59 leagues in 438 cities.
Attendance totaled nearly 42,000,000.
Oklahoma was no exception. The Sooner State League, a Class D league,
began its ten year life in 1947 with the Lawton Giants, Ada Herefords,
McAlester Rockets, Ardmore Indians, Seminole Oilers, and Duncan Cementers
playing a 140 game season. Only
Ardmore (Cleveland) and
Ada (St Louis Browns) had major league farm
agreements. The rest were independents
that scouted, signed, played, and sold local baseball talent.
Ardmore 4-1 to win the first pennant.
The Indians ended a twenty year absence of
professional baseball in
Ardmore. Following a brief Texas League appearance in 1904 as the
Ardmore had been represented by D league (the lowest
class of organized baseball) teams through the teens and twenties in the
Texas-Oklahoma, Western Association, and Oklahoma State Leagues.
Ardmore was the only franchise to remain in the same
city for the league’s ten year life. From 1947-1952
Ardmore’s teams were known as the “Indians.” Little
is remembered of the Indians. A grave in
Cemetery memorializes Cary Don Bigham who died at a
week shy of his 14th birthday in 1953. The marker reads “Loyal Batboy for the
Ardmore Indians.” The Indians were
affiliated with Cleveland in 1947 and 1948 and operated as an
independent through the 1952 season. The
Indians drew over 35,000 fans each year through 1951. A last place finish and attendance of only
24,000 placed the Indians near bankruptcy in 1952. To keep baseball in
Ardmore, the franchise was sold to Waco Turner who
negotiated a working agreement with the St. Louis Cardinals. The Indians had played in a ballpark on the
north side of Ardmore where Will Rogers Elementary is now located. A new ballpark named “Cardinal
Park” was built at the
East Main. The Cardinals won or were in
the finals each year of Turner’s 1953-1957 tenure. The Sooner State League, the last Class D
league west of the
Mississippi, folded in before the 1958 season, a victim
of television and air-conditioning.
The Season of the Rosebuds
The Shreveport Sports, a long time member
of the Texas League, left that league as an independent without a major league
affiliation to join the Southern Association, a segregated league, following
the 1957 season. The Sports’ departure
was due to Louisiana’s segregation laws prohibiting white and
black players competing on the same field.
By then, all Texas League teams had black players whom they could not
house or play in
by 1957, most minor league teams were either owned by or had working agreements
with a major league team. No big league
team would affiliate with the Sports since black players could not be developed
The Texas League awarded the city of
The owners were the Baird’s of
Baird named the team the “Rosebuds.”
Whether that refers to
Pasadena’s roses or
Victoria’s rose garden in
Park (where the ballpark is located) is
unknown. The Victoria Rosebuds entered
into a working agreement with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Bairds sold the franchise to local
businessman Derrest Williams following the 1959 season.
The Rosebud’s uniform was unique. The team colors were
Columbia (light) blue and pink. The home uniform was a tackle twill script
“Rosebuds” in the same style as the parent Dodgers. The road uniform was a block “VICTORIA” in the same colors. On the left shoulder of both home and road
jerseys was a chain-stitched rosebud in pink and green. The cap was the same blue with an embroidered
“V” in the style of the old Brooklyn Dodgers.
Victoria was the smallest city in the league. The move of the Oklahoma City Indians
franchise to Corpus Christi placed Victoria within 125 miles of the Texas
League cities of Austin, San Antonio, Houston, and Corpus Christi (Dallas, Ft
Worth and Tulsa were the other teams).
This made placing a franchise in a small market practical for the
The Rosebuds finished last in the 8-team
league in 1958 drawing 79,464 paid admissions (also last in the league). The
next year, under manager Pete Reiser, a Dodger legend, the Rosebuds reversed
their finish and won the pennant by six games.
Attendance grew to a franchise high of 86,040. The Dodger affiliation ended following the
1959 season. The Detroit Tigers placed
Hall of Fame infielder Johnny Pesky in the manager’s seat for the 1960
season. He led the team to a fourth
place finish and the finals of the playoffs, losing to
Tulsa’s Oilers in three games. Attendance fell to 69,760.
The year 1961 saw the Rosebuds affiliated
with Baltimore of the American League. The Orioles fielded their Class AA farm team
under the leadership of George Staller who went on to a successful career as a
coach for the Orioles through 1975. The
1961 Rosebuds must fairly be called a weak team. The first five weeks of the season saw
Park plummet to unsustainable lows. Derrest Williams, the Rosebuds’ owner,
obtained permission to quickly move the team to
Oklahoma. On May 27, the
Baseball Association opened for business as operator of the Ardmore
Rosebuds. A. P. “Pink” Shuman was
president of the group. Offices were set
up in the lobby of the Ardmore Hotel.
The Rosebuds left
Victoria on May 24 for a road trip and did not have
time to change their name or uniforms. A
new cap with an “A” in the same style as
Victoria and re-lettering of the road jerseys to
replace “VICTORIA” with “ARDMORE” were the only changes.
Except for the 1952 season,
Ardmore’s teams had drawn between 31,000 and
47,000. The Rosebuds finished the
season with a 57-83 (.407%) record 33 games behind the first place Amarillo
Gold Sox. Attendance between
Ardmore was 48,894.
While the smallest city in the Texas League, attendance in
Ardmore beat the last place drawing team, the Victoria
The Rosebuds ended the season with 13 loses
to only 3 wins the last two weeks of August.
Pink Shuman, club president, became ill and resigned. He was honored before 1,389 at
Park on August 10. By then due to injuries and
trades, Ardmore was reduced to a 16 man roster from the
normal 21. Derrest Williams, wanting to
focus on his interests in the Corpus Christi-Victoria area, advised the League
that he wanted to put the franchise up for sale. The same day Rosebuds’ batboy,
John Saunders, took ten stitches in the forehead following being struck by a
While bleak for the most part (e.g., losing
the season series to
Missions 3-19), there were some high points.
On May 29, Al Nagel hit four homeruns in a single game. Pete Ward, who went on to a major league
career with the White Sox and Yankees, batted .333. Catcher Frank Zupo was called up to the
parent Orioles following the season.
Despite reports in the Sporting News,
Waco and Opie Turner could not come to terms with
Williams. The Rosebuds were put on the
block. On October 12, the Rosebuds were
sold to Duke City Baseball, Inc. and became the Albuquerque Dukes.
Ardmore, the smallest city to have AA Texas League
baseball, has been without organized ball since.