Old Timer's Day at the Dallas Eagles baseball game. Left to right; Dizzy Dean, Mickey Cochran, Charlie Gehringer, Tris Speaker, Ty Cobb, Charlie Grimm, Duffy Lewis, Frank 'Home Run' Baker and Travis Jackson. April 11, 1950. PA76-1/10264.1, from the Hayes Collection, Dallas Public Library

History

Tales from the Dallas History Archives: The Dallas Eagles of the Texas League

Long before the Rangers came to Arlington, North Texans would go catch minor league games at Burnett Field, a ballpark in Oak Cliff.

As we make our way through the hot North Texas summer, many of us look to beloved pastimes in order to endure the heat and have some fun—whether it’s going out for a snow cone, taking a swim in a local community pool, or catching a baseball game.

Baseball has had a long history in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Today, baseball in North Texas is synonymous with the Texas Rangers of Major League Baseball, but that franchise didn’t officially begin until 1972, when the Washington Senators baseball team was renamed and relocated to Arlington.

From 1948 through 1958 (decades before “Texas Rangers baseball” was a part of the local lexicon), if someone lived in Dallas and their neighbor asked them, “Did you go to the ball game yesterday?” chances are they meant a game played by the Dallas Eagles, owned by East Texas oilman Dick Burnett. The Eagles were part of the Texas League, a Minor League Baseball circuit that began in 1888. The home of the Dallas Eagles was Burnett Field, a ballpark once located at Jefferson and Colorado boulevards.

Though the ballpark and the Dallas Eagles are long gone, the historical impact of the team can be studied among the collections in the Dallas Public Library’s Dallas History & Archives Division. The collections include a number of historic photographs, some of which are available to view in the library’s online catalog.

For those curious to learn about the men who played on the team, the photographs include a 1952 image that includes players John Murff and James Buster Clarkson.

The team’s popularity is evident in this 1951 photograph from the Hayes Collection, depicting Dallas Eagles baseball fans gathered in a crowd to greet players outside of Union Station.

A group portrait taken on “Old Timer’s Day” at the opening game of the 1950 season depicts several Major League Baseball legends including Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, and Frank “Home Run” Baker, who agreed to officially join the Texas League team for a one-day-only promotion.

Old Timer’s Day at the Dallas Eagles baseball game. Left to right; Dizzy Dean, Mickey Cochran, Charlie Gehringer, Tris Speaker, Ty Cobb, Charlie Grimm, Duffy Lewis, Frank ‘Home Run’ Baker and Travis Jackson. April 11, 1950. PA76-1/10264.1, from the Hayes Collection, Dallas Public Library

Some truly unique historical connections can be found among these old photographs, such as this April 1952 photograph of Dick Burnett, owner of the Dallas Eagles, signing Dave Hoskins, the first African American to play in the Texas League.

Dick Burnett, owner of the Dallas Eagles, signs Dave Hoskins, the first African American to play in the Texas League. April 1952. PA2005-4/47 from the Marion Butts Collection, Dallas Public Library

What adds to the contextual significance of this photograph of Hoskins breaking through a racial barrier is the person taking the picture: Marion Butts—a prominent African American photographer in Dallas whose work played an important role in documenting African American history in the city over several decades.

Dave Hoskins of the Dallas Eagles, warms up on the mound. circa 1952. PA2005-4/119.1 from the Marion Butts Collection, Dallas Public Library

Want to learn more? Try searching online in the catalog, go to “Advanced,” and use the “Limit By” option to select “Digital Photographs,” then type in your topic. Contact the Dallas History & Archives Division at Dallas Public Library by phone: 214-670-1435, or email: [email protected] with questions about the fascinating photographic resources available.


Brandon Murray, a librarian in the Dallas Public Library’s Dallas History & Archives Division, writes about North Texas history for D Magazine.

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