Minor League history: Lone Star League (1947-1948)

In this edition of Minor League history, we pay attention to the second run of the Lone Star League. The Lone Star League was one of the many upstart leagues that reared up after World War II. In contrast to other contemporary leagues, the Lone Star League didn’t last longer than two years.

The Lone Star League was built on a foundation of four teams that came from the East Texas League that folded after just one season in 1946.

Cities represented:

Bryan, TX: Bryan Bombers 1947-1948, moved to East Texas League 1949
Gladewater, TX: Gladewater Bears 1948, moved to East Texas League 1949-1950
Henderson, TX: Henderson Oilers 1947-1948, moved from East Texas League 1946, moved to East Texas League 1949-1950
Jacksonville, TX: Jacksonville Jax 1947, moved from East Texas League 1946
Kilgore, TX: Kilgore Drillers 1947-1948, moved to East Texas League 1949-1950
Longview, TX: Longview Texans 1947-1948, moved to East Texas League 1949-1950
Lufkin, TX: Lufkin Foresters 1947-1948, moved from East Texas League 1946
Marshall, TX: Marshall Comets 1947; Marshall Tigers 1948
Tyler, TX: Tyler Trojans 1947-1948, moved from East Texas League 1946, moved to East Texas League 1949-1950

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Driller Park in Kilgore, home of the Kilgore Drillers

For the two seasons, the Lone Star League lasted, the Kilgore Drillers dominated the league as they won back-to-back championships, although it must be said that the team had just a half-game lead over the Longview Texans in the standings of the regular season in 1947. An important reason for the domination by the Kilgore Drillers was starting pitcher Robert Ross. This career minor leaguer posted 21-7 and 20-9 records in the two seasons he played in the Lone Star League. Ross spent the final two years of his career with the Drillers as well but by then, the team played in the Eastern Texas League that made a restart in 1949.

The Lone Star League was a class C league but despite the class C ranking, not every franchise did have an affiliation with an MLB club. The Kilgore Drillers, the Marshall Comets, the Lufkin Foresters and the Bryan Bombers were not affiliated to any MLB team. The Longview Texans (New York Yankees, 1948), the Tyler Trojans (Cincinnati Reds, 1947-1948), the Jacksonville Jax (Cleveland Indians, 1947) and the Henderson Oilers (Washington Senators, 1948) were affiliated for (parts of) the time the league existed.

Oil had an impact on the eastern part of the state of Texas and made boom towns of Kilgore, Marshall, and Henderson. Oil brought in millions of dollars and, more importantly for professional baseball, it brought in oilfield workers who needed the escape an evening of minor league baseball could offer.

At least one ballpark that served in the Lone Star League still stands. Mike Carter Field, former home of the Tyler Trojans

The Lone Star League was home to several (future) Major League players. Joe Greg Moore Sr. for example. He played his entire Major League career for the New York Giants (1930-1941). Moore was an intimidating, left-handed-hitting leadoff man, a line-drive hitter who hit over .300 five times in his major league career and led the National League in at-bats in 1935. After his final MLB season, he played two more at AA (now AAA) level and in 1947, he played one more season in the Lone Star League in which he hit .305 with four home runs, nine triples, and twenty-three doubles.

The Bryan Bombers managed to distinguish themselves in the first season of the Lone Star League, but not in the most desirable way. The club finished the 1947 season in last place with a 38-101 record, 40-1/2 games out of first place. In fact, the Bombers were 28 games behind the seventh-place Henderson Oilers and their .273 winning percentage was the third-worst among the more than 400 major and minor league teams. The only really notable event that season occurred when the July 5 home game was delayed by an unwelcome guest – a snake, which had wandered into right field.

Shortly before the start of the 1949 season, the owners decided to call it quits due to financial difficulties as a result of falling attendance figures. As a result, the Eastern Texas League made a restart and several Lone Star League teams returned to the ETL again.

 

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