Baseball Ranks Among Oklahoma’s Top Exports
By TERRELL LESTER
Editor at Large
At one time, it was widely embraced as “America’s Pastime.”
Some today claim that baseball is “past its prime.”
Too slow, critics wail. Lack of action. Too many games.
Their excuses and criticisms outnumber strikeouts in a Sandy Koufax shutout.
But in Oklahoma, it can be argued that baseball remains the state sport. Oklahoma’s Pastime, perhaps.
It dates back before statehood.
Scores of major-leaguers took their first swings, threw their first pitches in Oklahoma.
The Oklahoma Historical Society counted 37 state towns and cities that fielded professional baseball during the first half of the 20th century.
Today, that number is down to two: Tulsa and Oklahoma City.
Still, baseball ranks among the state’s chief exports.
Check the major-league rosters. There are so many Oklahoma-born pitchers and fielders performing at baseball’s highest levels. Draftees straight from state high schools and colleges.
Matt Holiday is up there. Along with Dallas Keuchel, Dylan Bundy, Matt Kemp, Archie Bradley.
There’s also Pete Kozma, Jon Gray, J.T. Realmuto, Matt Reynolds.
With others just a phone call away.
As another Major League Baseball season winds down to its final weeks, working its way to its Fall Classic, take a moment to recall those Oklahoma-bred baseballers who have made a lasting impact on the sport.
Several big-leaguers made their off-season or retirement homes in Oklahoma. They are not listed here.
As for the dozen or so currently playing in the bigs, they are not listed, either. They will have their day when they retire.
This focus is solely on Oklahoma-born big-leaguers who once dominated the sports pages. Players and managers.
Two players are listed at each infield and outfield position. Four pitchers, a typical rotation back in the day, were selected. Even the manager has a backup.
Seven are members of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Many were All-Stars.
Each left his mark on baseball.
Each called Oklahoma home.
Players listed with birthplace, followed by year of birth, and, if applicable, year of death.
Willie Stargell, Earlsboro, 1940-2001. Hit .282, 475 home runs in 21 years with Pittsburgh, 1962-82. Seven-time All-Star. in National League. World Series champion, 1979. Hall of Fame, 1988.
Joe Carter, Oklahoma City, 1960. Hit .259, 396 home runs in 16 years, 1983-1998. Five-time All-Star. World Series champion, 1992, 1993, Toronto.
Jerry Adair, Sand Springs, 1936-1987. Hit .254 in 13 seasons with four teams. Set three major-league records for fielding. Played in 1967 World Series, Boston.
Johnny Ray, Chouteau, 1959. Hit .290 in 10 seasons with Pittsburgh and California. NL Rookie of the Year, Pittsburgh, 1982.
Alvin Dark, Comanche, 1922-2014. Hit .289 in 14 seasons, 1946-60, with six teams. NL Rookie of the Year, Boston Braves. Manager, 13 seasons, five teams. World Series champion as player, New York Giants, and manager, Oakland.
U.L. Washington, Stringtown, 1953. Hit .251 in 11 seasons, 1977-87, with three teams. Played in 1980 World Series, Kansas City.
Pepper Martin, Temple, 1904-1965. Nickname Wild Horse of the Osage. Hit .298 in 13 seasons, 1928-44, with St. Louis Cardinals. Three-time All-Star. World Series champion, 1931, 1934. Associated Press 1931 Athlete of the Year.
Hank Thompson, Oklahoma City, 1925-1969. Hit .267 in nine seasons, 1947-1956, with New York Giants and St. Louis Browns. World Series champion, 1954, New York Giants.
Johnny Bench, Oklahoma City, 1947. Hit .267, 389 home runs, in 17 seasons, 1967-85, with Cincinnati. Two-time NL , 12-time All-Star, 10-time Gold Glove winner. World Series champion, 1975, 1976. Hall of Fame, 1989.
Mickey Tettleton, Oklahoma City, 1960. Hit .241, 245 home runs, in 14 seasons, 1984-97, with four teams. Two-time All-Star.,
Mickey Mantle, Spavinaw, 1931-95. Hit .298, 536 home runs, 2,415 hits, 1,509 s, in 18 seasons, 1951-68, with New York Yankees. Three-time AL , 16 All-Star games. Hit 18 home runs in 12 World Series. Seven-time World Series champion. Won Triple Crown, 1957. Hall of Fame, 1974.
Lloyd Waner, Harrah, 1906-82. Nickname Little Poison. Hit .316, 2,459 hits in 1,993 games, in 18 seasons with Pittsburgh and three other teams. Struck out 173 times in 18 seasons. Hall of Fame, 1967.
Paul Waner, Harrah, 1903-1965. Nickname Big Poison. Hit .333, 3,152 hits in 2,549 games, in 20 seasons with Pittsburgh and three other teams. Three-time NL batting champion, hitting .380 in 1927. Hall of Fame, 1952.
Paul Blair, Cushing, 1944-2013. Hit .250 in 17 seasons, 1964-80, with Baltimore and two other teams. Eight-time Gold Glove winner, two-time All-Star. Four-time World Series champion, two with Baltimore, two with New York Yankees.
Bobby Murcer, Oklahoma City, 1946-2008. Hit .277, 252 home runs, in 17 seasons, 1965-83, with New York Yankees and two other teams. Five-time All-Star. Five-time Gold Glove winner.
Rip Radcliff, Kiowa, 1906-1962. Hit .311 in 10 seasons, 1934-43, with three teams. Hit .342 with 1940 St. Louis Browns.
Harry Brecheen, Broken Bow, 1914-2004. Lefthander. Nickname The Cat for his fielding prowess. In 11 seasons, 1940-52, with the St. Louis Cardinals and one year with the crosstown Browns, 1953, compiled 133-92 record with 18 saves and 2.92 . In three World Series, had 4-1 record, including three wins in 1946, yielding one earned run in 20 innings.
Lindy McDaniel, Hollis, 1935. Righthander. In 21 seasons, with five teams, compiled 141-119 record with 172 saves, 3.45 . Appeared in 987 games, struck out 1,361. In 1960 and ’63 with St. Louis, named Fireman of the Year as top reliever.
Allie Reynolds, Bethany, 1917-1994. Righthander. In 13 seasons, 1942-54, with Cleveland and New York Yankees, compiled 182-107 record, 49 saves, 3.30 , 1,423 strikeouts. In six World Series, had 7-2 record, four saves, 2.79 . Pitched two no-hitters. Six-time All-Star, six-time World Series champion.
Joe Rogan, Oklahoma City, 1893-1967. Righthander. Nickname Bullet Joe. After eight-year hitch in the Army, pitched, hit and managed Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro League, 1920-1938. Records are sketchy from that period, but he reportedly won more games than any pitcher in the Negro League, 116, with a reported 2.59 . Never played in Major Leagues, but was inducted into Hall of Fame in 1998.
Bobby Cox, Tulsa, 1941. Won 2,504 games with Atlanta, 1978-81, 1990-2010, and Toronto, 1982-85. World Series champion, 1995. Four-time Manager of the Year. Hall of Fame, 2014. Played infield, New York Yankees, 1968, 1969.
Les Moss, Tulsa, 1925-2012. Was catcher for 13 seasons, 1946-58, with four teams before becoming coach and manager until retiring in 1995. Managed briefly Chicago White Sox, 1968, and Detroit, 1979. Minor League Manager of the Year, 1978.