Jane Spraggins Wilson

TEXON OILERS. The Texon Oilers baseball team was the centerpiece of the employee recreation plan of Levi Smith, vice president and general manager of the Big Lake Oil Company. Smith, an avid baseball fan, organized the club soon after he founded the town of Texon, in Reagan County, in 1924. By the summer of 1925 a baseball field was ready for use. In 1926 a 500-seat grandstand completed the facility. Among those on the first team were: Fred Eberhardt, Steve Ellis, Mike Griffith, Arthur Flores, Babe Adams, Jimmy Grant, Arthur Stell, and Bruce Hitt. The team was originally called the Big Lake Oil Company Oilers, but soon became known as the Texon Oilers. The first year the Oilers played town teams from Big Lake, San Angelo, Alpine, Fort Stockton, and Santa Rita. In 1926 the BLOC began hiring college players and continued to do so throughout the Oilers' existence. Management also recruited semi-professional players and former college stars on a full-time work/play basis. Some of these men, such as Roy Gardner, Raymond Gentry, Trigg Housewright, Gus Leedy, Eddie McMillan, and Curtis Barbee, became the mainstays of the Oilers winning teams. In 1928 the Oilers won the sixteen-state Denver (Colorado) Morning Post championship. In 1929 the Big Lake Oil Company began a tradition of hosting a Labor Day barbecue for employees and friends, highlighted by a baseball game. In 1930 James Michael Patrick "Snipe" Conleyqv replaced Steve Ellis as Oiler player/manager, a position he held through the rest of the team's existence. From 1929 through 1932 the Oilers tied Del Rio for the West Texas League title; in 1934 they won the All-West Texas pennant, and in 1933, 1934, 1935, and 1939 they were Permian Basin League champions. Management consistently attempted to schedule well-known clubs, such as the Fort Worth Cats and the Halliburton Oilers of Oklahoma. In 1932 the touring Southern Kansas Stage Line's girls' team came to Texon; in 1934 the Oilers gave the House of David their first defeat in two years; and in 1940 they took on the St. Louis Browns to benefit the San Angelo Community Gymnasium. By 1941 competition diminished, as others disbanded. To sustain the tradition of a Labor Day baseball game, the Oilers played the O. E. H. "Hi" Haven All Stars, a team of retired Oilers, including Haven, onetime ace pitcher. World War II eliminated baseball altogether. After the war, Conley made several attempts to revive the Oilers, but the oilfield was diminishing, former team members were aging, and the town was losing population. By the mid-1950s the Oilers were but a memory. The Texon Oilers were popular in a time when baseball was the national sport. In the Great Depression, before good highways, television, and other diversions, the team was a source of community cohesiveness, entertainment, and pride. Players were friends and fellow workers, an integral part of Texon's social fabric. Their games promoted competition and goodwill with other small communities in an isolated area in a different time.

San Angelo Daily Standard, February 20, May 17, 1925.

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Jane Spraggins Wilson, "TEXON OILERS," accessed September 15, 2019, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/xrtjw.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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