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PLYMOUTH OILERS

PLYMOUTH OILERS. In 1934 the Plymouth Oil Company began drilling for oil on the Welder Ranch, north of Sinton in San Patricio County. When discoveries were made, the company transferred experienced personnel from a sister company at Texon, Big Lake Oil Company. In 1948 several Plymouth employees who had played for the Texon Oilers, a semi-pro baseball team, organized the Sinton Eagles to play in the Coastal Bend Semi-Pro League. The team caught the eye of W. M. "Mike" Griffith, vice president and general manager of Plymouth operations in Sinton and a former business manager of the Texon Oilers. In March 1949 Griffith announced that Plymouth Oil would convert the Eagles to the Plymouth Oilers. Plymouth Oil built a ball park at the Farm Labor Center on the south side of Sinton. The covered grandstand accommodated 600 people and the bleachers 200. Private boxes were placed on ground level between first base and third. The first roster of team officers included Jimmy Grant, outfielder and manager; Malcolm Burton, outfielder and assistant manager; M. E. Witherspoon, pitcher and general manager; Jesse L. Thompson, business manager; C. A. Moore, transportation officer; and Bill Thompson, photographer. All were from Big Lake Oil. The team hired star college players for the summer and gave them jobs in the field, gas plant, and office. Experienced players were hired on a permanent basis.

On April 3, 1949, the Plymouth Oilers, after only three workouts, played their first game. They met the Victoria Rosebuds at Riverside Park, Victoria, and lost 4–0. A week later, in their first home game, they lost to the Corpus Christi NAS Comets, 10–7. The Oilers lost their first three games, but won the next four. In August the team entered the National Baseball Congress State Semi-Pro Tournament at Richter Field at San Antonio, and tied for third place with the Center Lions. On August 24, Mike Griffith announced at a Sinton Rotary Club banquet honoring the Oilers that Oiler Park would be lighted for the 1950 season. Ten 100-foot towers, each with twenty-four lights, were to flood the field. The 1950 season opened on March 23 under the lights against the Houston Buffaloes of the Texas League. Jake Phillips was the new manager. The Oilers lost 8–2, but by July they had a 33–13 record. In the NBC South and West Texas District Tournament, played in Oiler Park, the Alpine Cowboys defeated the Oilers 1–0. At the National Baseball Congress Nationals Tournament in Wichita, Kansas, the Plymouth Oilers tied for fourth place and received the Best Sportsmanship Trophy. On August 10, Oiler Pat Hubert, a Texas A&M student, hurled a no-hit, no-run game against the Worland, Wyoming, Indians (6–0), the first of record in the sixteen-year NBC tournament history.

On March 17, 1951, Mayor Frank Cleveland of Sinton proclaimed Plymouth Oiler Day. The Oilers responded by defeating the Harlingen Capitols 5–2. In May, Roy Easterwood became manager. By July the team had a 51–11 record. The Oilers won the State Semi-Pro Championship by defeating the Brooke Medics Comets in a play-off game 3–1 in Oiler Park before a record crowd of 2,304. At the tournament in Wichita against the Camp Pickett (Virginia) Red Wings, Oiler pitcher Mike Blyzka turned in a no-hit, no-run game (5–0), the second in tournament history. The Oilers then defeated Atwater (California) 3–0 to win the national championship, the first Texas team to do so, and received $10,000 as first prize. Sinton fans followed the game via a loudspeaker on the roof of the Plymouth office building; the broadcast came in by special telephone. In September 1951 the Oilers defeated an all-star team picked from the Mexican Professional League and won the International Semi-Pro Championship.

In 1952 the Plymouth Oilers played with professional teams from Wichita Falls, Odessa, Denver, and Corpus Christi. By July their record was 37–15. The Sinton Chamber of Commerce sponsored an invitational semi-pro tournament, but the Oilers lost the game. At the NBC nationals in Wichita they tied for seventh. The 1953 the Oilers used an automatic "Home Plate Duster" built by park technicians. Apparently, it was one of three in the nation. The NBC Southern Division Tournament was held in Oiler Park. The Refugio Veterans won first place, the Victoria Rosebuds second, and the Oilers third.

In 1954 Jack Trench, a freshman coach at the University of Texas, became Oiler manager. In the NBC State Tournament at Oiler Park, the Oilers played the Fort Bliss Falcons in a best-of-five play-off, won the championship, and qualified to represent Texas at the NBC nationals, where they tied for seventh place. On November 20, 1954, the Oilers lost their principal promoter when W. M. Griffith died in a plane crash in Virginia. The 1955 Oiler season saw Jack Trench return as manager. Only five players were veterans; the rest were college students. Billy Bethel, Oiler pitcher in 1949 who had played with the New York Yankees farm club in Grand Forks, North Dakota, returned to the team. At the Southern Division Tournament, played in Oiler Park, the home team came in third. The winners (Fort Bliss, first, Brooke Medics, second) were not allowed to go the nationals, so the Oilers took their place. They lost 9–3 to the Wichita Boeing Bombers. In 1956 the Oilers were state champions, but at the Nationals tied for third place with the Alpine Cowboys at Wichita.

In 1957 the NBC declared Sinton, Texas, the premier city in the nation, per capita, for promoting semi-pro baseball for nearly a decade. At the Wichita nationals, the Oilers defeated the Fort Wayne Dairymen, 6–4. In September the Oilers represented the United States in Detroit against seven foreign teams for the international title, but were eliminated in the early rounds. On October 7 they played the American All-Stars in a benefit exhibition game in Texas City, Texas, and won 7–3. In 1957 the Texas legislature passed a resolution honoring the Plymouth Oil Company, Oiler management and players, and the city of Sinton. In the spring of 1958 the Plymouth Oil Company, citing economic conditions, ended its support of the Oilers, and the team disbanded.

Helen H. Johnson

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Helen H. Johnson, "PLYMOUTH OILERS," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/xrplv), accessed September 21, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.