John J. McCloskey, baseball player and manager and founder of the Texas League, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, on April 4, 1862, and began playing professional baseball there in 1882. He usually played outfield or first base but during his career played every position. He not only played on teams in established leagues but also barnstormed with special teams and groups. In 1884 he toured as battery mate for Phil (Red) Ehret, and one of their stops was in El Paso. In the fall of 1887 McCloskey organized a barnstorming Joplin, Missouri, team that toured the Southwest and played exhibitions in Fort Worth, Waco, and Austin. In Austin the Joplin team challenged and beat the touring New York Giants in two games; New York refused to play a third. Austin businessmen and baseball fans were so impressed that they invited McCloskey to organize professional baseball in Texas. The result was the founding of the Texas League.
During the league's first year (1888) McCloskey managed the Austin team; he transferred it later in the season to San Antonio. He managed the 1889 Houston team that won the league pennant. The Texas League functioned intermittently in the 1890s, and McCloskey alternated as manager of teams in Texas and elsewhere. In 1895 and 1896 he managed the Louisville team in the National League, and in 1899 he umpired in both the Southern Association and the Texas League. After managing a number of Pacific Coast teams, he managed the National League St. Louis Cardinals during the 1906, 1907, and 1908 seasons. From 1914 to 1917 he helped to organize and direct the Rio Grande League, managing its El Paso team in 1915. During World War I he guided an independent circuit of United States Army teams. In 1919 he again worked in the Texas League, as manager of the Beaumont team. During the 1920s McCloskey managed, coached, and scouted for a number of major and minor league teams, and in 1931 he returned to Texas in an unsuccessful attempt to organize a Panhandle League. Thereafter, he retired to Louisville, where he died on November 17, 1940. For his great contribution to baseball in the state, John J. McCloskey was elected to the Texas Sports Hall of Fame.