By RENE TORRES
Special to the Parade
The year was 1931 when much of the talk around Valley baseball circles was centered on the big match-up between the Port Isabel Pelicans and Houston Southern Pacific Mo-Pacs.
But before you read about the Pels, early at the turn of the century, the sandy diamond on the Gulf Coast was home of the baseball Port Isabel Tarpons. It was then that America’s game in Point Isabel was dominated by a rather wild looking bunch of ball players. Unlike the Pels, the Tarpons were all local players, who played a different brand of baseball.
The played a lower grade of semi-pro baseball against two other teams, Brownsville’s Texas Lunch (later Texas Café) and the Sahualla nine. Sahualla owned a dry goods store located on Washington Street in Brownsville, which later became known as Manautou’s.
The Tarpons did not win many honors for their play on the diamond, but somehow the team’s photo was published in a book, Baseball’s Hometown Teams, by Bruce Chadwick. The book was published by Abbeville Press – New York, London and Paris. No other photo from a Valley team was ever featured in such a publication.
By the ’30s, the Tarpons, who had their headquarters at Juan Simo’s Saloon in Port Isabel, were long gone and stepping to the plate for the port city were the Pelicans who participated in a well organized Valley semi-pro league.
The Pelicans were no beach bums…
Point Isabel takes the crown
The Pelicans secured the Valley championship trophy after ending the regular season in a three-way tie with Rio Hondo and Edinburg. The boys from Hidalgo dropped out of the pennant race leaving the two Cameron County teams to battle it out.
The Port Isabel nine did a number on Rio Hondo taking the series and winning the Valley amateur title. The Pelicans were composed largely of ex-San Benito Saints – who were Valley Champions for four consecutive years in the early 1920s.
After conquering their Valley foes, the Pelicans were ready for a bigger challenge – and it came from the Mo-Pac nine from Houston.
The big city aggregation was advertised as one the strongest semi-pro teams in the state – runners-up in the Houston City League. The team listed several ex-professionals and up-coming youngsters on their roster.
Pitching for Houston was “Jubilo” Clements, a former Brownsville boy who came here in 1926 from the University of Texas. In his “hey day,” Clements threw a mean roundhouse curve ball with a blistering straight ball. Those who knew him anticipated that he would dominate the local boys. The Pels had their pitching sensation in Kring – a standout with a lot of slow stuff to keep the powerful Mo-Pac batters off balance. His battery mate was Donaho, the husky San Benito receiver.
The game was played in Brownsville’s Tiger Park, which was revamped and in excellent condition. The park was the home of the Snakeville Tigers located on the grounds of St. Joseph’s Academy.
By 1938, the diamond became the house of the original Brownsville Charros – who participated in the Rio Grande Valley Class “D” professional league.
The men in blue “called play ball,” sharply at 3 p.m. and the historical affair began with both teams bringing their best hickory to the plate.
As the game progressed, pitching was less than expected as both teams rounded the bases with frequency— placing a lot of crooked numbers on the board early in the game.
Then the last pitch was delivered. The Pelicans used two twirlers to secure an 11-8 victory. Kring and Kachtik gave up nine hits while Houston’s Clements and Methea were nicked with a wave of safeties – 14 in total.
Although the game did not generate any major climate, the Pels made a name for themselves on that day as they defeated one of the best teams in the state.