BY RENE TORRES
With the spring of 1938 approaching, Harlingen prepared to tackle the baseball diamond as an entry in the professional Texas Valley League.
As a newcomer in the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, the circuit fielded six clubs: Harlingen Hubs—sponsored by the Detroit Tigers, McAllen Palms, Independent, Corpus Christi Spudders—sponsored by St. Louis Browns, Taft Cardinals—sponsored by St. Louis Cardinals, Refugio Oilers—Independent, and the Brownsville Charros—Independent.
It was a period when baseball was a game. Absent were the designated hitter, big salaries, steroids, and the electronic score board. It was a time when on occasions, the pitcher utilized his saliva and/or the spit-ball to embarrass the hitter.
It was also an era when it was common to pass the hat around the ballpark to collect for a good play. I would be remiss if I failed to mention that, it was also a era when a whirl of dust would cause the game to take a pause.
With this backdrop, field manager, Jake Atz, began in early April to assemble a crack nine in Harlingen known as the Harlingen Hubs.
On April 14, 1938, the Hubs played their first game of a grueling 140 game schedule. At the beginning, all encounters were played under the South Texas sunlight, as no field was equipped for night baseball.
However, it was not before long that some fields were out-fitted with flood lights, and night baseball became a reality.
“Opening Day” pitted the Hubs against the Brownsville Charros. Preceding the ball park ceremonies, a parade was held through the streets of Brownsville with a local band leading the way to the park where a record crowd waited for the call “Play Ball”
Ceremonies on the diamond saw Brownsville Mayor R.B. Renfro Sr. on the mound and Hugh Ramsey, Mayor of Harlingen, behind the plate as the first ball was pitched to start the 1938 Texas Valley season.
The crowd witnessed a close ball game, that is, until a strong southeast wind started to blow. After this point, the Harlingen boys tallied eight runs and their first win of the young season.
As the season progressed, the Hubbers played good enough baseball to stay with in striking distance of first place.
How well Coach Atz and his Hubs succeeded was demonstrated by the fact that they finished the season in second place with a record of 84 wins and 53 defeats and warranted a spot in the playoffs.
In the first round of the post-season, the Harlingen nine defeated Taft in three straight games; Corpus Christi defeated Refugio, three games to two.
In the final playoff series, Harlingen took four straight from the Spudders and gained the first Texas Valley League Championship.
The Hubs were loaded with talent, as five out of the 12 spots on the first annual Texas Valley League all-star team were taken by the Harlingen boys.
Another highlight of the season, demonstrated that the Valley boys had the right stuff at the plate.
As former Texas Leaguer, Leo Najo along with Kirby Jordon of McAllen and Bill McLaren of Harlingen led the league in home runs, each of whom had 20.
For the Charros, it was a long hot summer, at the gate, and on the diamond. The fan support was there at the beginning, but, after several losing streaks, that soon changed.
Brownsville ended the season in last place winning only 30 out of 140 games.
McAllen was also having some problems attracting fans. At one point in the middle of the season, it was not sure it could finish the year, but the Palms did play a stretch of good baseball, fighting for a playoff sport until the very end.
McAllen finished the season with a 63-72 record.
Unfortunately, the following year the bleachers and dugouts were empty in Brownsville, so without the sixth team in the circuit, the league folded.
Some excepts in this article were taken from 1939 Spading Baseball Guide.