You might as well take look at ‘em, folks; after all, they’re staring at you. Nine ballplayers are suited up to represent Roxton on the diamond today. Who’s on the schedule? Wolfe City, by chance? They’ll play a good game. Ladonia and Enloe will give us a run for our money, too. But, considering the intensity on the boy’s faces, a stronger team is probably coming town. Paris? When the county seat lost its Texas League club last year, a few players returned to the amateur ranks. After the luxury of pro ball, they’ll have a surprise in store traveling to Roxton! Someone needs to tell them it’s not 1904 anymore!
The Santa Fe cut passenger service to Roxton three years ago. A team can talk its way onto a freight car or face a bumpy wagon ride to town that’ll suck the life out of them. Might just as well spot Roxton a five-tally lead! They’ll likely catch the T&P to Brookston or Texas Midland to Howland and walk the other five or so miles into town. Win or lose, our baseball kranks won’t complain. After a long day, the opponent will surely spend the night, and if there’s daylight tomorrow, there’ll play another game. Dr. Maness and T.P. Arnold will be happy. A ball club means more rooms rented in their hotels.
Let’s hope we’re not playing Blossom or Clarksville. Blossom has one of the toughest teams around and just signed a new outfielder from Tennessee, Clyde Milan. Clyde walked all the way from Nashville after hearing Blossom needed a good ballplayer. Apparently, he’s the real deal, and Blossom sure needs help. Blossom’s hurler from last year, Dode Criss, shredded every lineup he faced, but he’s playing in Clarksville now. Clarksville’s looking to land a professional team this year. If Milan is as good as folks claim, Clarksville is sure to pay him money to play alongside Criss. Both could get called to the big leagues. For Roxton’s sake, let’s hope so!
Take another look at them. They’re still staring us in the eyes waiting for Mr. Mosely’s photographing machine to work. The team doesn’t have a mascot, but do they need anything more than “Roxton”? Some man suggested the “Lions.” The picture he drew wasn’t a panther or mountain lion but the kind from Africa! Did last summer’s circus even bring an African lion to town? If we need a mascot, “Armadillos,” “Red Squirrels,” “Pole Cats,” or even “Pecans” might work, but “Roxton Lions”? That’ll be the day!
Several of the ballplayers are kin, and you may be kin to them. We have 600 people in Roxton now. A little ciphering will show that working out to around 300 gentlemen and 300 ladies. A good number are single and looking to buy some land, start farms, and raise families to help work the crops. If you’re not kin to one of these boys, hang around another century or so. Chances are their kids and grandkids will see to it we’re all kin, at least by marriage. If the Santa Fe doesn’t restart passenger service, we may all wind up with the same last name! It’s ironic, really. Each of these boys’ families wound up in southwest Lamar County and built Roxton after leaving any number of states back east. None of these boys would be in the studio this morning if not for the decisions their parents or grandparents made. In any case, they’re together now—your 1905 Roxton Nine. Let’s look at this season’s club.
The oldest and best Roxton player is the tall fellow in the back, Frank Jones. Folks call him “Hickory” because he swings a mean bat, but Frank isn’t on the field to drive runs home. He’s our pitcher and a good one at that. His battery mate, Josh O’Brien, is standing to Frank’s left at the end of the back row. With a name like O’Brien, you might assume he’s Irish, and you’d be assuming right. Josh’s daddy walked off the boat and straight into New York City before turning up in Roxton. See the stains on Josh’s jersey? That is one catcher who doesn’t mind roughing it up in the dirt to keep a tally off the scoreboard! Speaking of uniforms, be sure and give a shout-out to local farm implement dealer Seth Warner. The boys had been playing ball in their overalls a few weeks ago. But when Seth saw how good they are, he bought these fancy new digs for them to wear. If one of them turned around, you could see Seth’s advertisement on his back.
In front of Hickory Jones and to his left—that’s Hickory’s younger brother Henderson. He actually goes by his middle name, Powell, but saying “Pal” is easier, and that’s what everyone calls him. Pal is a handsome young man, but he doesn’t have the confident smirk on his face that his brother does this morning. That’s not unusual. There could be a little bit of brotherly-jealousy involved. Frank’s pitching prowess places his name in the Dallas Morning News sports page now and again, but the papers never mention Pal’s speed on the base paths. Then again, it may not be baseball at all. Frank left the farm and is trying his hand in the mercantile business, but Pal is getting set for the grinding work of another hot growing season. Let’s just hope, whatever the problem might be, that it stays off the ballfield. We want a team in Roxton, after all. But, just as an aside, keep your eyes on Pal. He should worry more about his own future and less about Frank’s. Pal has a young family to look out for. When a fellow carries a chip on his shoulder—well, let’s just hope Pal knocks in a few runs today.
Two Ausmus boys flank Hickory Jones. Pete, the short clean-shaven fellow is on Frank’s right. The gentleman with the mustache is his first cousin, Arthur. Just call him “Bill.” Whenever the Ausmus boys are kicking the dirt at the baseball grounds, expect a lot of hootin’ and hollerin’. The Ausmus family arrived here some years ago with a bona-fide wagon train from the Midwest. The name has been spreading ever since, and there’s enough of them around now to line the edges of the playing field three-deep!
Sitting in front of Pete Ausmus is Lee Denton. At the other end of the bench is another Denton; the team calls him “Little Joe.” If you know the Denton family, you also know there isn’t a “Joe” among them. Trying to get “Little Joe” to fess up his real name isn’t working. He’s sitting there all tight-lipped about it. We don’t blame him. He’s a lot younger than his teammates, and most mamma’s don’t want their boys anywhere near a baseball diamond. Ballplayers have a reputation for having too much spare time, too much whiskery, and not near enough good sense. What mamma would want her boy getting wrapped up in a game like that? In fact, you know that outfielder from Paris, Tony Thebo? He’s been tearing up the Texas League in Beaumont and Corsicana. We have it on good authority that Tony actually broke into pro ball when he was just sixteen. He played under an assumed name, so his mamma wouldn’t find out. We suspect “Little Joe” might be doing the same. If you know his real name, drop us a note. In the meantime, we’ll ask around.
Look closely into those Denton boys’ eyes. That’s Roxton history staring back. Dentons have been here since Roxton was Prairie Mount. The family owns most of the property north of West Main Street (the road headed to Petty) all the way to Cane Creek. Just last year, Lee’s uncle put some of the land up for sale, and folks are buying up the lots. A second set may be ready to sell soon. If Roxton is going to grow, it’s going to have to be on land the Dentons now own. Maybe they’ll set aside an acre of two for a school. Bet money on Roxton naming a street after the Dentons one day. Who knows? Maybe they’ll even build a good ball field, but for now we’ll have to make do. Some workers from the cottonseed plant and a crew from the Santa Fe are clearing off a spot east of the Bywaters’ block for today’s game.
The boys are getting a little impatient. That’s Pat Murphree sitting next to Lee Denton. Don’t tell him we know his real name is “Dorr Summerset.” If we were him, we’d go by “Pat,” too! He’s from Mississippi, just like the fellow he’s resting his arm on, Alamo Nathaniel Phillips. You read that right. He’s not even a Texan, but his parents named him Alamo anyway. Then again, his dad, Christopher Columbus Phillips, didn’t help discover America in 1492, either. Alamo just moved here from Hunt County and the family farm. His dad plans to make a living in the newspaper business. You can’t see true color in this light but take a close look at each player. Alamo is the oddball of the bunch. He has blue eyes like the rest of the team, but everyone other than Alamo has brown hair. Even Josh O’Brien’s Irish lineage couldn’t hide his dark hair. Alamo may not be a ginger, but his head is the only thing keeping Roxton from have a completely blue-eyed, brown-headed ball club. Maybe that’s why they set Alamo alone in the front row. Look at Alamo’s eyes and the way his hands clench the bat. He’s not comfortable in his new surroundings just yet. Give him time. He looks like a young man searching for his lot in life. When he finds it, he’ll be hard to uproot.
This completes the introduction to your 1905 Roxton Nine. A long, hot summer awaits. They’ll lace up their spikes whenever they get a chance and head to the diamond and make all us proud. Starting next time, join us over in the “Stories Behind the Stones” column. We’ll start looking at how Roxton’s 1905 “Boys of Summer” each arrived in the studio this morning and where life carried them afterwards. Don’t forget! 4:00 pm across from the Bywater’s block. Just a nickel a ticket for the men! As always, ladies and children are free here in Roxton!