There's A Long History Of Professional Baseball In Tulsa
TULSA, Oklahoma - Tulsa and baseball have deep historical ties. And, in some ways, the teams of yesteryear are connected to the current ONEOK Field.
“The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers – it has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again, but baseball has marked the time.”
James Earl Jones said those words as Terrence Mann in Field of Dreams, but he very well could have been talking about Tulsa.
"Tulsa had professional baseball two years before there was statehood here in Oklahoma," Wayne McCombs said.
Green Country and baseball are inseparably intertwined, connected through railroad, coal mines and oil men, to the days when all a town needed to thrive was a railroad stop, a bank and a good baseball team.
And Tulsa had good ones.
One of the first leagues Tulsa played in was the Western Association from 1910 to 1917. The team, known as the Oilers, Railroaders and Producers, contended for the league title in half those years.
"Several of the all-time Tulsa Oilers played during that era. One was Neals Jones who won 29 games as a pitcher. Another guy, Roy Clements, won 20, and then Lee Morris, an infielder, stole 62 bases one year," McCombs said.
One of the earliest parks in downtown Tulsa was Association Park and it sat northeast of Archer and Cincinnati - now called MLK.
Association Park was built in 1914 and was gone by 1920. Tulsa teams won 285 games, including the 1914 league championship at the park.
After a year off because of World War I, Tulsa baseball came back in 1919 with new owners and a new home.
McCombs said, "He had extra money, and so he built a new ballpark patterned after Sportsmans Park in St. Louis, at the corner of 10th and Elgin."
The team was now called the Oilers and they played at McNulty Park for 10 years, winning more than 90 games seven times and more than 100 games three times.
"I would say 98.9 percent of seeing a baseball game in 1905 is the same thing you're going to see in 2017, and that's the mystique of it,” said McCombs. “I think the game of baseball in Tulsa hasn't changed since 1905."
In all, Tulsa baseball teams have played in seven different stadiums in what's now the downtown area, culminating in ONEOK Field - the latest in a line that stretches from right now to the furthest reaches of the history of the city.