Enid, Oklahoma’s Baseball Links: Late Nineteenth Century to the 21st Century (Part II)

Part II focuses on Enid’s 1938-1941 baseball legacy with back-to-back 1940 and 1941 National Baseball Congress (NBC) Semi-Pro titles and a September 1940 trip to Puerto Rico (P.R.) to face the Guayama Witches in September 21-October 1, 1940 Semi-Pro World Series. It covers their arch-rival Duncan Cementers, affiliated with Halliburton, and the Cementers’ September 1939 Semi-Pro World Series versus Guayama. Part III includes Arapaho, Oklahoma pitcher-outfielder Ellis «Cot» Deal’s fine play for Enid, 1943-45 Army Air Force Team, in NBC Tournaments, in Wichita, Kansas, and Deal’s PR Winter League (PRWL) legacy. Part I ended with Enid’s 1937 NBC Tournament crown in Wichita over Buford, Georgia’s Bona-Allen Shoemakers.

Second place in the 1938 Oklahoma and NBC Semi-Pro Tournaments

Enid hosted the 1938 six-team Oklahoma State Tournament. The Cementers swept Enid in the finals, 7-5 and 13-2. Bus Talley, now pitching for Duncan, won the finale. Talley was the winning pitcher in Enid’s 1937 NBC finale. Duncan’s winning share was $562.27/player. Enid and Duncan traveled 600 miles by bus to Denver, Colorado, for the 1938 Denver Post Tournament. Nick Urban, Enid’s skipper, managed his fifth Denver event. His club bested the Colorado Springs Orioles in the first round but then lost two games. In the finale, Duncan went undefeated in the five-state, 14-team tournament, and clobbered the Denver Lakesiders 13-2.

Enid’s Eason Oilers nearly won the 1938 NBC Tournament in Wichita, losing to Buford, Georgia’s Bona-Allens, 5-4. Enid overcame a second-round defeat to advance to the title game, watched by 9,000 fans. Johnny Pesky, future Boston Red Sox star, played shortstop for the Silverton, Oregon entry and was named Tournament All-American, with Eddie Waitkus, Lisbon Falls, Maine first baseman. Waitkus, on June 14, 1949, was shot in the chest by a nineteen-year-old woman in a Chicago hotel room when he was with the Philadelphia Phillies. Waitkus earned four Bronze Stars in World War II with the U.S. Army in the Philippines. His nickname was «The Natural.» Bernard Malamud’s 1952 novel The Natural became a 1984 Hollywood movie starring Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs—whom Malamud used loosely to mirror Waitkus, son of Lithuanian immigrants. Waitkus attended Boston College and was fluent in English, Lithuanian, German, Polish, and French. He played for the 1940 and 1941 Tulsa Oilers—a Cubs affiliate—90 miles east of Enid. Dizzy Dean was Waitkus’s 1940 Tulsa teammate.

Eddie Waitkus, age 20, 1940 Tulsa Oilers, Texas League. Photo credit: www.baseballhistorycomesalive.com.

Enid’s 1939 Oklahoma and Denver Post Titles

Enid defeated Duncan, 6-3, in the July 17, 1939 Oklahoma State Tournament title game. Enid’s new sponsor was the Champlin Refinery, which is based in Enid and run by its oil baron owner, H. H. Champlin. The Enid Champlin Refiners won seven straight games in the Denver Post tournament to claim their only title in this Denver event. In the title contest, they bested defending national semi-pro champion Buford, Georgia Bona Allens, 8-7. Two of Enid’s earlier wins came against arch-rival Duncan, 16-10, and the Ethiopian Clowns, 13-8. (The Clowns were a traveling club of African-American players.)

Enid’s Refiners were honored at a banquet after returning home by bus from Denver. Twenty-year-old second baseman Vernon «Jeep» Gilchrist received the MVP Award, as picked by the fans. Left-fielder Dallas Patton was given a separate MVP Award from the Oklahoma State Tournament’s Semi-Pro Division. Third baseman Ernie Holman was presented with the Denver Post tournament’s Most Valuable Player Award per «A Tale of Two Cities [Enid and Duncan] blog. None of this trio ever played in the majors.

The Refiners played three home games versus the Buford, Georgia Bona Allens before making the 120-mile trip to Wichita. Enid, swept by Buford, did not play them in Wichita but lost their Wichita opener to Mount Pleasant, Texas, and was then eliminated by Duncan, 5-3. The odds favored Enid since the Refiners had an 8-1 record against Duncan in 1939 until losing in Wichita. Duncan’s momentum continued throughout the Wichita event, culminating with a win over Mount Pleasant for the 1939 NBC crown. Hugh Willingham—ex-White Sox and Phillies player—was Duncan’s hitting star. Jim Parker was their ace reliever.

1939 Semi-Pro World Series: Duncan Cementers Travel to San Juan, Puerto Rico

Enrique Huyke, a 30-year-old physical education instructor from Mayagüez, PR, was the force behind the creation of PR’s 1938-39 Semi-Pro League. He collaborated with Teofilo Maldonado, president of the Island’s Commission on Sports and Recreation, to make the league a reality. Huyke, the first manager of the 1938-39 Mayagüez Indios until he was fired three weeks into that season, contacted NBC’s Raymond Dumont after reading a piece in The Sporting News circa 1939. Dumont suggested a trip for the winner of the U.S. Semi-Pro League, and Huyke recommended a voyage to P.R.

Duncan’s players shared $5,000 for winning the 1939 NBC and enjoyed an all-expense-paid trip to San Juan, PR, for the first Semi-Pro World Series at Sixto Escobar Stadium, named after P.R.’s first World Boxing Champ, a bantamweight. Pancho Coímbre, a Guayama September 1939 reinforcement, was asked how he would fare against the Cementers. Coímbre replied, «If I can hit Satchel Paige and Raymond Brown, why would this be any different?» Duncan won Game One, 3-1, on a two-hitter by Jim Parker, and Game Four, 5-3, as Parker preserved Lil Stoner’s win. Guayama won four games, including the September 16, 1939 finale, 5-3. The Brujos (Witches) won a cash prize of $5,000 and a diamond-studded gold trophy. Duncan players shared $1,500—which was 15 percent of gross proceeds. The Cementers’ management was reimbursed $7,000 to cover travel, lodging, and other trip-related expenses.

Rafaelito Ortíz hurled two SHO versus Duncan, who were 55-20 overall pre-World Series, in Games Three and Five, winning 2-0, including a six-inning no-hitter called due to rain. Ortíz went 11-3 for the 1938-39 Witches. His nickname was «El Mago de las Magas» (Magician of Magas), having been born in a Guayanilla barrio called Magas Abajo. Center fielder Tetelo Vargas, Perucho Cepeda, Guayama’s shortstop, who could play other positions, and right-fielder Coímbre provided the hitting firepower. Duncan shortstop Jesse Welch was saddened by his team’s lack of hitting but alerted a January 12, 2004 interviewer that «he had been lucky at cards on the long trip back to Duncan and won most of the prize money from his teammates.» One highlight for Wichita native Raymond Dumont—NBC President—was getting married on the Island during the 1939 Semi-Pro World Series.

Enid: 1940 NBC Tournament and Semi-Pro World Champions

The 1940 Enid Champlin Refiners faced tough opponents in June, e.g., Memphis Red Sox of the Negro Leagues; Stearman Aircraft of Wichita, Kansas; Mount Pleasant, Texas; and Duncan. Enid promoted itself via highway billboards made by its sponsor, Champlin, a leading gasoline marketer in the Great Plains. Enid was one of 18 teams in the Denver Post event. George Milstead, a 37-year-old lefty starter for Enid, once pitched a one-hitter for the 1924 Chicago Cubs. He defeated the Ethiopian Clowns 9-1. Duncan, however, eliminated Enid, 10-2, and edged Buford, 15-14, for the title. Duncan and Enid skipped their 1940 state tournament. Enid qualified for Wichita by defeating the Stillwater Boomers, 7-6. (Duncan automatically qualified as defending national champ.) Enid won its second national title via Vance Cauble’s four wins—that tied Satchel Paige’s mark set for Bismarck, North Dakota, in 1935. Cauble’s 5-1 title game victory over Mt. Pleasant, Texas featured nine strikeouts. Enid’s skipper Nick Urban convinced Cauble to sign with Enid after starring for Mount Pleasant, Texas, in 1939.

Forty-one-year-old Ulysses Simpson Grant «Lil» Stoner retired after the 1940 NBC Tournament. Stoner, born in Bowie, Texas, on February 28, 1899, became a superb baker, cook, botanist, and opera aficionado. His 1922 and 1924-26 Detroit Tigers skipper was Ty Cobb. He won 50 games for Detroit, 32 under Cobb. On June 13, 1930, he pitched a no-hitter for the Ft. Worth Panthers (Texas League) versus the San Antonio Indians. He earned 1930 Texas League All-Star honors along with Houston’s Dizzy Dean. By 1940, he was working at the Champlin Oil Refinery.                    

            Champlin Oil Refinery, Enid, Oklahoma. Photo credit:


On September 7 and 8, 1940, Enid played the Duncan Halliburton Cementers in tune-up games before traveling to San Juan, PR, on the Borinquen steamship. Duncan won both, 7-2 and 12-8. In the second (Sunday evening) game, Cementers’ center-fielder Doc Graves slammed four homers in consecutive trips to the plate. These were the last semi-pro games played by the Cementers. President Franklin D. Roosevelt may have convinced Earl Halliburton to have his company focus on war preparation and desist from having employees play 1941 baseball.

The Refiners arrived in P.R. on Monday, September 16, 1940. Carlos García de la Noceda, President of the PR Semi-Pro League, and Guayama manager Tofito Iraola greeted the visitors. Nick Urban was confident Enid would prevail, with them considered superior to the 1939 Duncan Cementers by Island sportswriters. Cauble, Glen McQuiston, Atkinson, and Milstead were a solid quartet. Keith Clark did the catching. Cecil McClung played first and Gene Gibson the hot corner. Vernon Gilchrist (2B) and Red Barkley (S.S.) were Enid’s solid double-play combo. Barkley played for the 1937 St. Louis, Browns, 1939 Boston Bees, and 1943 Brooklyn Dodgers. Luis R. Olmo was Barkley’s Brooklyn teammate. «Barkley hustled a lot and was quick,» recalled Olmo. «He reminded me of Jaime Almendro, San Juan’s shortstop with excellent hands and instincts.»

Enid won two of three, September 21-22, 1940—Saturday afternoon and Sunday a.m. and p.m. twin-bill. Charles Z. Johnson, a rabid Enid fan, threw the first pitch flanked by Raymond Dumont and local officials. Milstead twirled a C.G., Saturday in his 5-3 win. José Antonio «The Olympian» Figueroa took the loss. Barkley drove in catcher Keith Clark with the game-winner in the ninth. Gilchrist’s triple-scored Barkley with an insurance run. Guayama’s «big guns» Tetelo, Perucho, and Coímbre combined 2-for-10, with Tetelo getting the two hits. On Sunday morning, Guayama took a 7-6 win behind Tetelo’s four hits, Perucho’s two RBIs, Céspedes’s two RBIs, and Luis Rafael Cabrera’s clutch relief pitching. «Cabrerita» was a reinforcement via the Santurce Crabbers. McQuiston went six frames for Enid and Milstead pitched three. Enid won the afternoon contest, 5-1, on Cauble’s five-hitter. Rafaelito Ortíz took the defeat. Frank Clift got four hits for Enid. Tetelo got two more and scored Guayama’s only run.

On Wednesday, September 25, Tetelo’s two-run triple off Milstead in the first was a catalyst for a four-run inning. Guayama prevailed, 5-2, to tie it. Twenty-one-year-old Luis R. Olmo made a successful series debut, going 2-for-2 with a double and a run. He replaced Coímbre in the sixth. Layton pitched a C.G. for Guayama, and Atkinson pitched seven strong relief innings after Milstead went two. Game Five was a 6-0 Guayama win behind lefty Figueroa. Cauble absorbed the loss. Tetelo went 2-for-3 with a triple. Coímbre didn’t play—a challenge for Guayama. Enid took Game Six, 7-1, Sunday afternoon, at Guayama’s Ina Calimano Park. Heavy rainfall in San Juan on Sunday, September 29, resulted in the cancellation of the a.m. contest. It was rescheduled for 3:30 p.m., Tuesday, October 1, at Escobar.

Cefo Conde, 12-8, 2.54 ERA for 1939-40 Guayama from October 1, 1939-April 7, 1940 PR Semi-Pro season, started Game Seven versus Enid and pitched well until tiring in the fifth. Layton relieved him, and Figueroa was summoned in the seventh. Cauble and Milstead pitched for Enid. Guayama took a 5-3 lead into the ninth but Enid’s four-run rally culminated with a two-run single by Milstead after Enid tied it, 5-5. Dallas Patton and McClung scored the go-ahead and insurance runs. Tetelo Vargas received a medal as the series’ best hitter—16-for-24, a .667 B.A.—and Patton got a medal, as Enid’s top hitter from Ventura Lamas, head of the «Esquina Caliente» (Hot Corner) Club. Satchel Paige went 19-3 for 1939-40 Guayama in their 56-game regular season (39-17) with 208 strikeouts in 205 innings. Paige, Conde, catcher Bill Perkins, Perucho, and Tetelo were key cogs in the Witches’ second straight pennant. «We were getting ready for 1940-41 when we faced Enid,» recalled Conde. «They [Enid] were well-prepared after their summer season and tournaments.»


When the Enid Champlin Refiners returned to the States, a 75-car caravan met the team bus in Wichita, Kansas. Booster stops were made in eight small towns on the 120-mile return from Wichita to Enid on Highway 81, the Chisholm Trail Highway. On October 10, 1940, 300 baseball fans packed the banquet hall in Enid’s Oxford Hotel to honor the team. The 1940 Semi-pro World Series championship trophy was presented to oil baron/team sponsor H. H. Champlin. Enid won their second straight NBC tournament in 1941 and third overall since 1937. They defeated Waco, Texas Dons, 9-3, to finish with a perfect 7-0 mark. MVP Red Barkley drilled four hits versus Waco, finishing 11 for 36, a .306 B.A., two years before he had a .314 B.A. (16-for-51) in 20 games for 1943 Brooklyn. Olmo, his Dodgers teammate, went 72-for-238, a .303 B.A., four homers, and 37 RBI, in 57 contests. Enid didn’t travel to P.R. to face the Caguas Criollos—1940-41 PR Semi-Pro Champions, featuring Olmo, Roy Campanella, and Billy Byrd. It was canceled, and not resumed. The PRWL was designated professional in 1941-42.

Special thanks to El Mundo Digital Archive, Cefo Conde,  and Luis R. Olmo. Jorge Colón Delgado did the editing and photo layouts.

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