For many across the Lone Star State, baseball games are just part of the Texas experience. It’s certainly a big part of life for Tim Hagerty, who’s been the broadcaster for the El Paso Chihuahuas for the past 10 years and previously worked for minor league teams in Tucson, Portland and Mobile.
Hagerty collected 1,001 funny and inspirational stories from the minors in his new book, “Tales from the Dugout,” and joined the Texas Standard to share more. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: You’ve spent a majority of your career with minor league baseball teams. Can you tell us what you love about it?
Tim Hagerty: I think it’s the ultimate community experience. I’m sure many people across Texas love the Astros and love the Rangers. And there’s even some Dodger fans I’ve met here in El Paso. But there’s something about your own city across the front of that jersey, whether it’s Midland or El Paso or Round Rock. I think it’s such a community gathering spot. People are at minor league baseball games that really aren’t huge sports fans, but they go for the experience.
You’ve got so many little stories and facts in here. Some are just a sentence long, and some are more detailed. I noticed in the back you’ve got tons of sources. How did you go about finding and collecting all of these?
Well, I’ve always loved baseball research. In 2012, when I was researching something else, I came across this story from Austin: In the 1880s, a Texas League game got delayed when a wild bull ran on the field. And I thought, I do this for a living, and I’ve never heard of this story. So it just showed me how many baseball stories there are from the past and present that a mainstream audience doesn’t know about.
So I went through newspaper archives and old baseball books. I interviewed former players and current players. I interviewed scouts. I made a baseball research trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame library in Cooperstown, which was a great resource. And what’s wonderful about researching these days is just how much is available online. You can go through Baseball Digest magazine for a small subscription price and go all the way back to the 1940s. So I spent a decade compiling this document of wild stories.
Oh, my goodness. Well, you’ve got to tell me what happened with this wild bull. Was he there as part of the game and then he got loose? Or did he come from a field nearby? Where did this wild bull come from?
I have the same questions. Unfortunately, journalistically, I wasn’t able to pinpoint who owned this bull. But what I do know is it was kicking up dust. Fans were shrieking. It knocked down part of the outfield fence. My guess is it was nearby at a local field. Understandably, they postponed the remainder of that game after this wild incident of a bull running on the field in 1888.
Well, these are not all focused on Texas, but like that one, many of them are. Can you pick another favorite Texas-based tale?
Well, one of the wildest postponements in baseball history took place in Midland one day in 1972. This was a home game for Midland. Amarillo was in town and there were thousands of grasshoppers living behind the outfield wall at Christensen Stadium in Midland. And when the ballpark lights came on, these grasshoppers dispersed everywhere.
They were fluttering under fans’ clothes. Fielders can’t see their teammates through these clouds of grasshoppers. They are everywhere. So the game gets postponed. The city of Midland had to fumigate the whole city to control this grasshopper explosion. So to me, that was a fun one – a baseball game has actually been postponed by grasshoppers.
Like you mentioned already, the beauty of the minor leagues is that these happened in cities from across Texas – from Midland, as you just mentioned, to Abilene to Texarkana. Talk about this Texarkana story. Is this field still the same way?
No, not right now. As most Texans know, Texarkana is on the Texas-Arkansas state line. And in 1902, they had a team there called the Texarkana Casketmakers. I love that name. And the Casketmakers’ field straddled the state line. So home plate, first base and third base were in Arkansas. And second base and the outfield were in Texas. And our book has this great illustration of a player sliding right next to a “Welcome to Texas” sign.
I was going to ask about the illustrations. They’re all really fun. How did those come about?
Yeah, those were produced by somebody named Ben Sampson. He’s an artist with HarperCollins. I focused on the writing and the research. I do not have any drawing ability at all, but I was thrilled with the way they came out. And I think they really did add some flavor.
There are a couple of stories about players being traded for food. What’s going on with that?
So in 1930, the Wichita Falls Spudders weren’t happy with this pitcher, Euel Moore. Their team president was venting about him to the San Antonio team president. Well, San Antonio needed an extra pitcher. So the San Antonio boss expressed some interest. The Wichita Falls boss said over dinner, if you pay for this plate of beans that I’m eating, I’ll give you the pitcher. So there was a Texas pitcher traded for a plate of beans.
Oh, my goodness. And then there’s donuts and oysters. Those sort of sound like bets gone wrong.
Yes. There was this pitcher, “Oyster Joe” Martina. He was from Louisiana, and his family ran an oyster fishing business, so he was known as Oyster Joe. He was pitching for Dallas, and he wanted to get back home to Louisiana. So Dallas said, we will grant you your release and let you go play for a team in Louisiana if you ship us two barrels of oysters. So there was a Dallas pitcher traded for barrels of oysters.
And you got to tell me why there’s a home run record that will never be broken in Corsicana.
In 1902, it was illegal to play baseball on Sundays in Corsicana. So the Corsicana Oil Citys moved their Sunday, June 15, 1902, game to Ennis, Texas. And it was this temporary, small makeshift park. Right field was only 210 feet away – and to give you some perspective on that, I’m speaking to you from the triple-A ballpark in El Paso, where right field is 322 feet away.
So this park was like a little league field. There was a player, Justin Clark, who hit eight home runs in one game. Corsicana won the game 51 to 3. It sounds like a lopsided football score, never mind a baseball score. But eight home runs in one game will never be broken.
Is there anything from El Paso? What was your favorite story that you dug up from around there?
Well, there is one I witnessed firsthand. In 2015, I was broadcasting an El Paso home game, and there was a wiener dog race between innings. Four of the five weiner dogs ran where they were supposed to in foul territory, where the race area was set up. One of them went rogue and ran all over the field. So the game got delayed because there’s this loose wiener dog. This video ended up everywhere. It went viral and was on national news shows. And it was funny.