Idiosyncratic and adrenalized hard ball research indicates Oklahoma City base ball was officially born late in the nineteenth century on June 11, 1891. On this date, the father and obstetrician of Oklahoma City's organized base ball at the pro level, Walter R. Jennison enthusiastically ordered all black uniforms for a team to be called the Pirates. Two days later, the maiden voyage of these red dirt base ball buccaneers would launch Oklahoma City into the realm of professional base ball against a Guthrie nine on the road in Guthrie, O.T. This being the transition point where Captain Jennison and his Pirates engaged in a specified activity (base ball) within dominion of a paid occupational status rather than just being casually associated with "America's Greatest Pastime."
The Pirate name was ceremoniously selected by Oklahoma City's inaugural players which included team sponsors, brothers and cotton gin owner/operators Harry T. Jennison (Catcher) and Walter R. Jennison (Manager/Captain/Infield). Other original 1891 Pirates included G. Kittle (Pitcher), Harry Hanley (Infield), Frank Morey (Infield/Outfield), Ed Johnston (Pitcher/Infield), John Hall (Infield), Frank Butts (Infield), Cliff Scott (Outfield), Will Ebey (Outfield) and a player to be named later as Moore (Outfield).
Bob Stoops is not the first coach from Ohio to venture into Oklahoma's sporting arena and claim success on its fields of glory. Oklahoma City Pirate player/coach Walter R. Jennison escorted some actual professional minor league management experience with him to Oklahoma City from Springfield, Ohio. He served as one of three managers of the Springfield base ball club during Oklahoma's Land Run year of 1889. Springfield compiled a record of 61-48 to finish second in the Tri-State League that included teams from Canton, OH; Springfield, OH; Mansfield OH; Dayton, OH; Hamilton OH; and Wheeling, WV. Sometimes nineteenth century math did not add up as two states do not truly equal a Tri-State league, but, teams from Michigan and Pennsylvania had been a part of this minor league's history at various points within it's brief existence.
Migrating from the north and east and into the territory along with people, religion, education, agriculture, music and everything else was the game of base ball. Arriving in Oklahoma Territory on a train engineered by an engineer of the Atchison, Topeka & Sante Fe Railroad in the year of 1890, Walter R. Jennison was found playing second base for a competitive Norman town team with his brother Harry handling the catching duties from behind the plate. The two brothers anchored a Norman base ball club that literally played a double header season of two games against the Purcell Black Stockings.
Game one highlights include a July 4, 1890, morning train ride south for the Norman nine on that same Sante Fe Railway. The Black Stockings of Purcell cordially greeted the team from Norman as they stepped off this now antiquated train. The boys with black sox proceeded to escort Norman's nine to the Hotel Clifton where a "sumptuous" dinner awaited all players. After disposing of the "sumptuous" cuisine, both clubs headed for the picnic grounds south of Purcell for a Friday afternoon game that was called to "play ball" by an umpire named Johnson at exactly 2:30 o'clock.
From the top of it's first inning, evidence revealed the Black Stockings from Purcell to be no match for the nine from Norman. Before a soon to be dispirited "home team crowd en-masse," Norman reeled off 5 runs in the first inning of play and never looked back in a high scoring affair that found Purcell on the short end of a 20-12 final score. Walter Jennison led off and played second base for the Norman nine. With three of a team total twenty-two base hits, Jennison accounted for four of the twenty runs scored by the nameless Norman base ball club. With a win over the "Chickasaw" boys from Purcell, a magnificent purse of $20.00 was celebrated in grand style by the victorious base ball club from Norman.
Much like today's norm of home and home series, Norman, in turn, hosted a redemption match for the same Black Stockings from Purcell. This happening near one month later on August 5, 1890, before a "very good" crowd in attendance. Much like the norm of those days, Norman jumped out to a first inning lead with no need to look back on their way to a 21-8 victory. With a second victory over the hapless Black Stockings, Norman's press labeled their nine as the best ball team in the 1890 Territory with advice for the Purcell team to "get a new club." Norman's "Cotton Gin Men," Walter and Harry Jennison, combined for three hits and six runs in this game called to "play ball" at exactly 2:20 o'clock on a hot August afternoon.
From Norman, the Jennison Brothers catch the 1891 Sante Fe north to originate their own red dirt buccaneers and fabricate the genesis of Oklahoma City base ball. What more identifies a base ball club than uniform uniforms. The same black pants, same black jersey, same black socks and same black caps could make men from two centuries previous feel extra special and feel like they were part of a nonfictional team. A team name of Pirates combined with being paid to play as well as train travel, hotel and fine cuisine amenities could transform mere town ball amateurs into admired and well respected professionals with just one trip on a train headed south to Purcell for a game of base ball.
It must have been a great moment in time to suit up and represent Oklahoma City as troops on this new battlefield of base ball. With historical mentions of opposing players, winning or losing, enjoying their particular time spent in Oklahoma City, the game of base ball was recognized as a great advertising medium for such a young and growing community. Sounds similar to the type of market branding and representation offered by the current Oklahoma City Dodgers organization. The Dodger's representing a more mature city and modern timeframe, but, their seeds of existence, organization and success was planted along with some of central Oklahoma's first cotton crops back in the year of 1891.
Simultaneously and on a continuous "play it by ear" basis, Walter R. Jennison labored on a schedule of games against other teams with railroad accessibility from Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas. From these pioneer efforts to birth the most successfully organized team and season for a youthful Oklahoma City, the summer of 1891 was eventually highlighted with professionally organized and ticketed games against Purcell (Oklahoma), Gurthrie (Oklahoma), Fort Reno (Oklahoma), Frisco (Oklahoma), Stillwater (Oklahoma), Gainesville (Texas), Winfield (Kansas) and Wellington (Kansas).
Oklahoma's chosen few and fine sports historians have pointed towards the year of 1904 as being the first and most consistent year of professional base ball competition to be played in Oklahoma City. The Metropolitans, as they were called at that time, were quite competitive and were recognized by the Oklahoma City press as champions of the Southwestern League in 1904. Despite the potential of error in championship accolades, 1904 was a solid year but not the true iron-willed genesis attempt at professional and organized base ball in Oklahoma City.
Being one of curious mind over matters that contributed to the solid foundation of Oklahoma City's start-up in pro base ball, I set out to discover the embryo of this infrastructure and found there were years previous that included some well organized, properly scheduled and travel ready entities existing and representing Oklahoma City on fields of red dirt and rough grass throughout the Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas areas.
At first, my imperfect and slow curved mind thought 1902 was the Genesis effort headed up by a con artist and former minor league player Frank Quiqq. Quigg was found conducting the same type of business as Walter Jennison in 1901 and 1902 yet his motives may have been more for the money as he sort of left Oklahoma City holding the bag so to speak in the early part of the 1902 season.
With em•bry•o being described as "an unborn or unhatched offspring in the process of development," it is my belief I and a few others have discovered just that in regard to Oklahoma City's transformation from enthusiastic and fun town ball reality into a higher realm of professional base ball existence.
Choosing to implement full focus on more than jus the mere mention of the name Walter R. Jennison, I do believe the genesis of pro ball in Oklahoma City wraps around his existence and efforts in 1891. Although town ball teams, and later sandlot teams, continued to increase in popularity and numbers across Indian and Oklahoma Territories well into the early twentieth century, well researched documentation points toward Walter R. Jennison being the pioneer of Oklahoma's gateway to professional base ball in his guts to glory year of 1891.
Previous to 1891, sporadic documentation and images of base ball being played throughout the territories exists as nucleus evidence of a game being bred for a higher level of play. Along with these scattered mentions of amateur contests, mostly jokes of a base ball nature were published for the enjoyment of nineteen century newspaper audiences.
The May, 12, 1889, edition of the Omaha Daily Bee, shared "the Oklahoma base ball club has not yet been organized. R. E. Volver has put in a ball or two with a swiftness and accuracy which would indicate who was to be the pitcher." Recognizing this comedic approach of reference to "R.E. Volver" as being (revolver) just twenty-five days post the rampant Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889. Despite the humor, the thought of base ball in Oklahoma did exist outside our territorial boundaries.
With amateur level ball being the highlight of many villages and towns within Indian and Oklahoma Territories, games were played and bets were made, but, from this historians research and opinion, a true professional attempt did not exist until 1891. This leaving the year of 1890 as a continuation of a mixed bag of amateur strategy targeting the Walter R. Jennison led birth of Oklahoma City's first true professional venture towards organized play in 1891. Not to sell previous efforts short, but to recognize them as birthing pains to what the future held for Oklahoma City base ball.
Historians flourish with pride from being able to share real time cutting edge new verifications but nothing to date exists to offer anything other than town ball guestimation for the year of 1890. One can only feel flourish from making up the word guestimation, but, newspaper documentation for a real attempt season organized and played in a professional manner in 1891 offers enthusiasm for those few interested in the true genesis year and storyline of Oklahoma City base ball.
Relative to a futuristic struggle to locate Oklahoma's state capital, Oklahoma City's first professionally organized base ball game against Guthrie could be considered ironically controversial. With a seventh inning score of 4-3 favoring Guthrie's nine, the Pirates were at bat with a man on third and nobody out. Trouble arose over what was described as "some rank decision" by an umpire named Berger. It seems that if things were all square in a fair deal, Oklahoma City would have won their initial base ball campaign of competition. But, with claims of Guthrie stealing what was described as a fine game from start to finish, the Pirates were evidently forced by Berger to walk their inaugural plank back to Oklahoma City with a one run loss.
Following the bitterly disputed first loss on the road to Guthrie, the second published reference of an Oklahoma City Pirate base ball game is found in the June 19, 1891, edition of the Oklahoma Daily Journal. Headlines read OKLAHOMA CITY VS PURCELL with a subliner of "A Great Game of Base Ball This Afternoon Between the Chickasaws of Purcell and the Oklahoma City "Pirates." The game was held in Oklahoma City "on the reservation" being called to "play ball" promptly at 2:30 o'clock with admission free and a special invitation for "the ladies" to attend.
In what has been thought by some to be the actual first documented game, the Oklahoma City Pirates roster against Purcell included Harry Jennison, Catcher; Harry Hanley, First Base; W.R. Jennison, Second Base; Frank Butts, Third Base, John Hall, Short Stop; Usher Carson, Left Field; Frank Morey, Center Field; and George Boss, Right Field. Walter R. Jennison was recognized as the manager and captain of this 1891 Oklahoma City Pirates base ball club.
To date, no discovery of the actual results against what was thought to be the Chickasaws from Purcell had been documented. To date, it is now known that pitching in the beginning was rough around and inside and outside edges, the Chickasaws were actually named the Black Stockings and Oklahoma City won their inaugural home game of the season by a score of 23-13. Before a number of "ardent admirers" who had caught the train to Oklahoma City with hopes of seeing a good game, the umpire mercifully closed the game at the end of the sixth inning with the Black Stocking trailing the Pirates by ten runs.
The Pirates ball players were recognized as gentlemen of Oklahoma City who extended a courteous and friendly reception toward the Black Stockings from the Chickasaw Nation. Purcell pitcher Will Blanchard, "the artistic twirler," was targeted as a reason for the Black Stockings loss for lacking his standard pitching skills on this Friday afternoon in 1891 Oklahoma City.
The July 25, 1891, edition of the Oklahoma Daily Times-Journal reported: "The Wellington Mail of Thursday says that 'Walter Franz of this city and Lee Phillips of Winfield will constitute the battery for Stillwater, O.T., base ball club in the games with the Oklahoma City Club on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of next week. With such a strong battery, Stillwater's chances of winning are good.' The indications, therefore, are good for an excellent game. Our boys will have to put up their best licks."
The July 31, 1891, edition of the Oklahoma Daily Times-Journal reported: "It rained all day yesterday. This would not be a matter of particular note in Oklahoma except for the fact that it prevented the second base ball game between Stillwater and Oklahoma City. There were some expectations that the Hawks would put up such a game that would worry the Pirates to overcome. and a great many were disappointed. The Stillwater boys returned home on the noon train yesterday, well satisfied with the treatment in this city, and will be back later in the season to play a couple more games. It is an excellent team and puts up an excellent game.
Today the Pirates and the Gainesville club will cross bats. The latter club is here and is an excellent one and a good game is expected. The game will be called at 3:45 p.m. sharp. Turn out and help the boys out, besides seeing a good game."
The August 01, 1891, edition of the Wichita Daily Eagle reported "the base ball clubs in Oklahoma are getting into the fact that the visiting club gets the best treatment when it is beaten." Within the same edition is found, "The Oklahoma Pirates have done up the Stillwater Hawks. The base ball complication in Oklahoma is getting almost as interesting as the capital fight."
The August 06, 1891 edition of the Oklahoma Daily Times is headlined with "BASE BALL TODAY." A sub liner reads "THE WINFIELD TEAM VS THE PIRATES THIS EVENING." A secondary sub liner reads "Today the Ladies will be Admitted Free–The Game to be called at 3:45 Sharp."
The Oklahoma Daily Times continues with "The Windfield team arrived on the 12:30 train this morning and are a fine looking set of young men, they are all 'men' and not 'kids' and their last game before coming to Oklahoma was with Wellington (Kansas) and resulted in a victory for Winfield by a score of 4 to 2, thus it will be seen that the Pirates will have to 'play ball' if they win from the boys from the Sunflower state.
The boys here expected to have a hard fight to win from Winfield and have devoted some time in getting themselves in shape to win, and yet there is no victory until it is won.
As per agreement the Winfield club will play three games with the Pirates. Gorsuch and Bennett will occupy the points today for Winfield while Kittle and Jennison will do the battery work for the Pirates.
Today admission to the ground will be free for all the ladies, but everybody is cordially invited to attend. Come out and se one of the best games ever played on the home grounds.
The game will be played at the ball park east of the city. Game is called at 3:45. Following is the names and positions of players.
The August 16, 1891, edition of the Fort Worth Gazette reported "the Gainesville base ball club played Oklahoma City their second game today, resulting in a score of twelve to four in favor of Oklahoma City. The Gainesville boys leave for Guthrie in the morning to play Guthrie tomorrow."
The September 09, 1891, edition of the Wichita Daily Eagle reported "the last game between the Guthrie and Oklahoma City base ball clubs came out 13 to 13" while noting "thirteen was an unlucky number for both sides this time."
The September 11, 1891, edition of the Wichita Daily Eagle reported on the September 10 base ball match between Oklahoma City and Wellington, Kansas. "The game today between the Wellington Maroons and the Oklahoma City Pirates resulted in defeat of the boys from the territory by a score of 6 to 3. Kittle, Blackburn and Bennett occupied the points for the Oklahoma City club, while Fournier and Frantz were the Wellington battery.
The September 13, 1891, edition of the Wichita Daily Eagle reported that "the Wellington base ball club 'paid' a Denver pitcher $100 to beat the Oklahoma City Pirates" while indicating "he did it." This referencing the previously mentioned 6 to 3 loss by the Pirates to Wellington on September 10 of 1891.