What's in a Name is an ongoing feature where I document the stories behind some of the more unique team nicknames in baseball's history.
Oil town Beaumont, Texas first had it's foray into the world of professional baseball in 1903 with a team named the Blues. Through the years it was also called the Millionaires (when winning) and the Orphans, in a losing season that saw them move to Austin during the middle of the season. In 1912 they had advanced to the level where they could join the Texas League using the name Oilers and somewhere between 1918 - 1920 the moniker Exporters took hold and besides a brief flirtation with the name Roughnecks in the early 50's, Exporters is the name the team is associated with.
During the 1920's the team had a rough time in the Texas League but with the dynasty the Fort Worth Cats had under the leadership of Jake Atz, most teams did. Their fortunes changed in 1929 when the team formed an arrangement to act as a farm team of the Detroit Tigers and talent level improved, including future Hall of Fame & MVP caliber players like Hank Greenberg, Dizzy Trout, and Schoolboy Rowe spending parts of their formative baseball years in Texas Golden Triangle. The 1932 team featured Greenberg and won the Texas League championship before losing the Dixie Series against Southern Association champion Chattanooga Lookouts. In 1938 a talent loaded team once again won the Texas League championship and lost the Dixie Series, this time to the Atlanta Crackers.
In the ensuing decades the fortunes of the Exporters and their support in the local community waned and by 1955 the team was demoted down from the Texas League and by 1957 professional baseball had left Beaumont not to return until 1983 when Ted Moor, Jr bought the Amarillo Gold Sox and moved them to Southeast Texas, rechristened them the Beaumont Golden Gators. That initial team featured future All Star John Kruk and won the Texas League pennant. The 1986 team featured problems when best player Joey Cora was stabbed while in San Antonio and a hurricane damaged the teams stadium. In 1987 the team was sold and moved to Wichita, Kansas.
Among the important events to happen in Beaumont was that in 1928, future Hall of Fame pitcher Carl Hubbell found his groove - and by groove I mean he developed his infamous screwball. After up-and-down success over several seasons in the majors with the Detroit Tigers, Hubell's contract was sold to the Exporters prior to the 1928 season. That was when Beaumont manager Claude Robertson worked with and encouraged Hubbell to develop the screwball as a weapon that eventually helped him win 253 games as one of the top pitchers of the 1930's with the New York Giants.
Also, following a storm that left the field in sloppy conditions, the Brooklyn Dodgers beat the Exporters on March 30, 1949 while on a barnstorming trip. The Dodgers starter was Ralph Branca, Duke Snider stole home, and thousands gathered to watch Jackie Robinson and the rest of the Dodgers beat the hometown team 14 - 2. During the rest of the trip the Dodgers played in San Antonio, Fort Worth, Dallas, and Oklahoma City. That Brooklyn team proceeded to win the National League Pennant that year before losing to the Yankees in the World Series.
The Texas League: A Century of Baseball by Bill O'Neal
Brooklyn Beat Beaumont in '49 by Dan Wallach at www.beaumontenterprise.com
Carl Hubbell: SABR Bioproject by Fred Stein at http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/fd05403f
Beamount Exporters at www.wikipedia.com
Roy Akin of the Houston Buffaloes - Third Basemen, Journeyman, and Adoptive Father of a Baby Left on the Train on a Team Trip
During the first decades of the 20th century the Tennessee raised Roy Akin played 14 seasons and for nearly as many teams. While in the Texas League he manned 3rd Base for Galveston, Cleburne (with a team that despite only lasting one season featured 8 future Major league players highlighted by HOFer Tris Speaker), Fort Worth, along with several others. He spent three seasons on the west coast splitting time among the Seattle Turks and Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League.
In 1908 he was beginning his second season in a row, a rarity for Akin, with the Houston Buffaloes of the Texas League. The team finished a respectable 79-60 the previous year and hopes were high for the team. Akin himself was coming off a career year and at 26 was considered one of the leaders of the team, a quality that was belied by stints as a player-manager with the Galveston Sand Crabs and Mexia Gushers. However, what defined Roy Akin's 1908 season was what happened on the train during their first road trip.
While the Buffs were preparing to disembark, a cry carried through the train cars. Further investigation revealed that it was a baby boy that had was left alone. After a search for the child's parents proved to be fruitless, officials deemed the child abandoned and he was now considered an orphan. Feeling sorry for the little guy, the team decided to foster him until a set of parents could be found. At first they took turns keeping him and would even pass the hat between innings of games to gather donations in support of him. After a period, Akin found himself growing attached to the foundling and adopted him, giving him the name of Roy Benjamin Akin, Jr in the process.