By Norris Chambers


            Baseball is a very popular game now and fans pay unbelievably high prices to sit in the stands and watch. Even when the old timers were kids baseball was a popular sport. Where Clifton and I lived paying to watch a ball game was almost unheard of.

All school games were played on outdoor fields. The field was usually a cleared area at or very near the school facility. The baseball playing field was equipped with base markers adapted from cement sacks and sand. Cement was packaged in canvas bags in those days. A diamond shaped wooden block was the home plate and two tall polls with chicken wire made an effective backstop. No seats were provided for spectators and those not able to stand and walk the side liners brought a stool or chair.

In addition to school games ambitious and energetic citizens organized leagues among the area communities during the summer months providing entertainment for sports fans.

Clifton and I watched our community team play when the game was played locally and did a little playing of our own where kids gathered for fun games. There might be half of a dozen players or there might be fifteen or twenty anxious sports, all ready to hit a home run. Teams were chosen for the game by one player pitching a bat to another. The player caught the bat with one hand and the other gripped the handle just above the catcher’s hand. The two then proceeded to climb the bat by each player alternately placing his hand around the handle until the top was reached. The player who reached to top first with his hand and had enough gripping space to throw the bat ten feet over his shoulder won and was allowed to choose the first player for his side. He usually chose the best player present. The choosers then alternately picked players until the last and poorest player was chosen. Then it was time for a rousing game.

In addition to the school and community games there were leagues prepared by the oil companies in the area. Several large companies such as Humble and Phillips had producing leases or plants in our area and prepared teams from among their employees to compete in the leagues. The fields where these teams played were usually close to one of the facilities and were nothing more than clearings in the woods with a nice backstop and bases. Some of the fields were equipped with sideline benches for the watchers.

One of these fields was not far from where I lived. Clifton and I attended every game, not to watch but to collect discarded balls and bats. Since the field clearing was small many foul balls and home runs disappeared in the surrounding brush. No effort was made to retrieve them since the teams seemed to have an endless supply of new equipment. We found the balls and kept them for our private games. We took the cracked bats that were discarded and applied a role of “tire tape” to each for an adequate fix.

The fans who followed these company teams were enthusiastic watchers and their cheers and auto horns could be heard for over a mile, depending on wind direction and weather conditions. The old automobile horns of the twenties were intentionally made loud to be heard above the noise of the vehicle. One of the important uses of the horn was to urge livestock to move out of the road.

The horn had other uses around the farm or ranch. It was being used to call cattle to a regular salting area for the monthly salt bait. While the cattle were busy licking the salt off of the flat rocks or troughs the attendants were busy counting them and checking them for health problems. To cattle the horn had become a signal to come quick for a treat!

On one particular Sunday afternoon a big company game was in progress. A batter hit a long fly ball into the brush and trotted around the bases for a home run!  Clifton and I started our ball retrieval process and the car horns began their noisy approval of the hit. The cattle in the surrounding pasture thought the horns meant salt time and came running from all directions. As the horns continued to sound the anxious cows began to arrive and look for the treats. The horn honkers, trying to scare them away, kept honking and the herd kept arriving, bawling and snorting as anxious cows usually do.

In a very short time the ball field was filled with bawling animals and the spectators had taken refuge in their automobiles and other likely places. Several had climbed nearby trees. Some of the cars were leaving.

It was a long time before the disappointed cattle drifted away and the crowd considered the area safe. The game had to be replayed at another field.

The good news! Clifton and I did get the ball!