Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

Columns

January 15, 2012

Babe Ruth in East Texas

JACKSONVILLE — Imagine, if you can, baseball slugger Babe Ruth walking around a field and shoveling cow manure.

In 1923, Ruth joined fellow baseball players for a series of exhibition games in Texas, including three which were played at Corrigan, 22 miles north of Livingston, in a pasture owned by Mrs. P.B. Maxey.

Corrigan was chosen, according to a story in the Corrigan Times, because it had railroad transportation, hotels, saloons and other amenities for the players. It was also a convenient midway point between other towns.

Mrs. Maxey’s field was chosen because it was one of the few open areas in town. When promoters of the games offered to rent the field, Mrs. Maxey refused payment, asking only that her family be allowed free admission.

Other baseball fans watched the games from wooden bleachers, which accommodated about thirty people, or stood around the infield.

At the time of Babe Ruth’s exhibition games, cows, sheep and other livestock were allowed to run free and before each game members of the teams cleared the field of manure.

Nell Braziell, of Corrigan, then the sixteen-year-old granddaughter of Mrs. Maxey, remembered seeing three games. “I didn’t pay much attention to Babe Ruth. He was just another big, husky guy but I thought he was a good player,” said Nell.

After his games in Corrigan, and his ensuring fame with the New York Yankees, Ruth’s career was watched closely by Nell. Each time she found a newspaper story about the legendary hitter, she clipped it and stored it away. On the days of the exhibition games, early automobiles lined the road leading to the Maxey pasture. Those who did not have a car would come afoot or ride horses, which were tied to trees around the field.

While most of the baseball players arrived by train, Ruth may have driven his own car, a black Moon manufactured in the 1920s. Ruth bought the car for $2,350 with a grill attachment reading, “San Antonio,” a gift from San Antonio Mayor John Tobin.

Ruth’s career was a legend in its infancy in the 1920s and he went on to build a home record that stood until 2006 when it was broken by Barry Bonds.

Meanwhile, another link to Babe Ruth’s visit to Corrigan exists in Polk County. Greg Ogletree of Livingston bought the slugger’s black Moon vehicle in 1975 and still owned it in 2006.

(Bob Bowman of Lufkin is the author of more than 50 books about East Texas history and folklore. He can be reached at bob-bowman.com)

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