The Tulsa Railroaders were one of the first teams I discovered when I started this project to research Oklahoma baseball history. Not many people had heard of the team and I really enjoyed learning about them. I can't really say why, just that I loved the stories I found and the people associated with the team are very intriguing.
The Railroaders played their home games at South Main Park. It's been a challenge to pin down exactly where South Main Park was located. In one account it's said to be at 18th and Boston which is two blocks east of South Main Street. The Tulsa Historical Society did not have a record of South Main Park but they did share the map below of the area from 1915, four years after the Railroaders season. City Park is the open space at the bottom of the image. It's directly south of South Main Street so there's a good chance that City Park was also called South Main Park in 1911. City Park would eventually become Veterans Park.
The Railroaders franchise moved to Tulsa from Enid after the 1910 season. The Enid Railroaders were owned by John Shaw when the club moved to Tulsa but the franchise was soon taken over by Tom Hayden who also took control of the Western Association. Hayden was referred in the papers as Sir Thomas but he wasn't exactly a positive force in minor league baseball. According to Peter G. Pierce in his book Red Dirt Baseball-The First Decades, Hayden was not liked in the baseball world and there were allegations that he tried to steal two seperate teams.
It didn’t take long for Tulsa fans to turn on Hayden. The Tulsa Daily World at one point wrote, “The rotten exhibition of the day before gave the fans the impression that the team that Hayden has placed in the field is a genuine lemon.”
Tom Hayden (Courtesy: 1907 Spalding Guide)
Hayden was out less than a month into the season and new ownership under Howard Price and Bert Shaner took control. Shaner served as both manager and pitcher.
Under Shaner and Price the team turned things around and, despite not having have much success, on the scoreboard the Tulsa Daily World tried to keep the fans spirits high, writing, “The fact that Tulsa has a team which plays comparatively clean ball is something for consolation.”
Ironically, a train played a role in one of the team’s games. On Tuesday June 13th, 1911 the Railroaders were a playing game in Kansas against the Coffeyville White Sox. Coffeyville had the lead 9-5 going into the top of the 7th inning when the Railroaders began a comeback. Tulsa’s third baseman whose last name was Desmond (his first name is never mentioned) hit a home run to pull the Railroaders to within three runs. That was the spark the Tulsa bats needed and as the Daily World reports, “Other players kept the fielders busy chasing flies; two baggers; bingles (sic) and sacrifices…” before you knew it Tulsa had tied the game 9-9 and were still at bat when the train they were riding back home blew its whistle.
Unfortunately for the Railroaders the train couldn’t wait for the game to end before leaving and Tulsa was forced to forfeit. The final score was listed as Coffeyville 9, Tulsa 4.
Tulsa Daily World June 14, 1911
Tulsa had another issue with Coffeyville later in the season. The Railroaders had just finished playing a series of games in Independence, KS and were scheduled to go back home and play Coffeyville in Tulsa. A stipulation in the contract stated that Tulsa had to sell 1,000 tickets at a $1 a piece in order for the game to be played in Tulsa. The teams shared the gate money and Coffeyville was looking for the max amount. Tulsa fans came up short by 200 tickets and the games ended up being played in Kansas.
Eight teams started the 1911 season in the Western Association but two of the teams folded after five games and Tulsa closed operations on June 16th. The Railroaders officially finished in fourth place with a record of 20-25.
It was a short lived life for the Tulsa Railroaders but it sounds like they showed their fans in Tulsa a good time.
Our goal is to pay tribute to these teams and the spirit with which they played our national pastime and represented their home towns.
Thanks to the Oklahoma Historical Society, the Tulsa Historical Society, and Peter G. Pierce for providing the tools to make this research possible. Pierce's books are a valuable look into early day baseball in Oklahoma. I highly recommend them to anyone interested in Oklahoma history.