By RENE TORRES
Special to the PARADE
Kyle Rote, a Southern Methodist University All-American back in 1949-50, was well known for his football feats, but far less recognized for his baseball ability.
After his college football career, Rote was the No. 1 overall pick of the National Football League’s New York Giants, with whom he signed an estimated $20,000 contract.
While waiting for the 1951 football season to begin, he took a swing at Minor League Baseball in Corpus Christi.
The Aces were members of the Class “B” Gulf Coast League, which included Brownsville, Harlingen, Galveston, Lake Charles, Laredo, Port Arthur, and Texas City.
As the Aces traveled to Brownsville in early May, the Charros were high atop the Gulf Coast League standings. Hopeful fans got a glimpse of the former SMU star when he entered late in the game as a pinch-hitter.
Rote’s first appearance at Lions Park was memorable. He hit the ball way beyond the outfield wall-hugging railroad tracks.
The historic concrete fence at Lions Park/Eagle Field still stands today.
Late in the same month (May 22), Rote had a perfect night in Harlingen, slugging his team to a 12-9 win over the Capitols. He hit a three-run homer, tripled, and singled twice.
Aces owner George Schepps saw an opportunity to create more fan interest by signing Rote on April 4, and the Wednesday, April 11 Opening Day ceremonies in Corpus Christi resembled a football pre-game.
Schepps, well known as the Bill Veeck of South Texas, began the festivities with a punting duel between Kyle and other ex-gridders on the Corpus Christi and Galveston clubs. A football was used for the ceremonial first pitch instead of a baseball.
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