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

Ellis Cot Deal with San Juan

Part II ended with Enid winning their second straight National Baseball Congress (NBC) Semi-Pro Tournament in 1941. Part III covers Ellis “Cot” Deal, two-time MVP in the 1944 and 1945 NBC Semi-Pro Tournament, the only two-two-time winner. Deal, born in Arapaho, Oklahoma, on January 23, 1923, passed away in Oklahoma City, on May 21, 2013. The long-time minor-leaguer with limited big-league playing experience toiled three semi-pro years with 1943-45 Enid Army Flying School Enidairs; was a pitcher-outfielder with the San Juan (SJ) Senators, Puerto Rico Winter League (PRWL), 1950-55; and conversed with the author at times on his playing, managing, and coaching career.

References include Gary Bedingfield’s 2008 “Baseball in Wartime” article Deal’s SABR bio by Patric Doyle. The author highlights Deal’s 1952 and 1953 Caribbean Series (CS) exploits for SJ and the Santurce Crabbers, respectively, along with managing Roberto Clemente and Thurman Munson with the 1969-70 SJ Senators. Part IV concludes with information on collegiate players who played in NBC Semi-Pro Tournaments, plus Enid hosting the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) World Series and regional tournaments.

Cot Deal: From Semi-Pro Baseball to the Minors to Enid in World War II

By age 14, Deal played for his father, Roy Deal, a legendary baseball figure in Oklahoma who managed the Semi-Pro Oklahoma City Natural Gas Gassers. The Pittsburgh Pirates signed the 16-year-old in 1939. Deal recalled: “The Pirate scout drove my mother, dad, and me to Pittsburgh. I spent a week in the dugout, then signed. I wouldn’t be 17 until January.” Pie Traynor, Pittsburgh’s manager, gave Deal the last glove he (Traynor) ever used. Deal later lost it after a practice session while taking batting practice. The Pirates sent Deal, a switch-hitter who threw right-handed, to Hutchinson, Class-C, 1940 Western Association. Playing the outfield and third base he had a .312 BA in 137 games. With 1941 Hutchinson, his BA was .285, and he went 1-1 on the mound. At 19, he played for the 1942 Harrisburg (Pennsylvania) Senators, Class-B, Interstate League where his BA was .266. He transitioned to the Army Air Force in Enid, Oklahoma, for three years, from September 1942 to October 1945.

Some of Deal’s favorite big leaguers were Oklahomans Pepper Martin, Lloyd, and Paul Waner. Deal followed Martin’s exploits with the St. Louis Cardinals, 1931 and 1934 World Series (WS) champs in 1931 and 1934. In 14 games, Martin went 23-for-55, with seven doubles, a triple, one homer, nine RBIs, 13 runs, and seven SB. His slash line was .418/.467/.636, with a 1.103 OPS. (Martin scored a run as a 1928 WS pinch-runner versus the Yankees.) Deal admired 30-game winner Dizzy Dean, who moved to Spaulding, Oklahoma, from Arkansas, at a young age. Dizzy and (brother) Daffy Dean combined to pitch five shutout innings against the Kansas City Monarchs, October 10, 1934, exhibition night game at Oklahoma City’s Holland Field, the night after St. Louis defeated Detroit in Game Seven of the 1934 Fall Classic. Deal recalled that Rogers Hornsby managed the 1940 and 1941 Texas League Oklahoma City Indians, who played home games at Holland Field. Eddie Waitkus—mentioned in Part II—led the 1940 Texas League with 192 hits for Tulsa. Houston Buffaloes infielder Danny Murtaugh scored a league-leading 106 runs. St. Louis, thanks to Branch Rickey, had 31 minor-league teams, including Houston, in 1940 when Deal debuted professionally for the 1940 Hutchinson Pirates.

Enid Army Flying Field in Oklahoma, a Basic Flying School, was where Deal became a physical instructor and played baseball for Enid’s Enidairs. In 1943, they finished second in the Victory League, second in the Oklahoma State Semi-Pro tournament, and second in the Sooner Service League. In August 1943, the Enidairs made it to the finals of the NBC Semi-Pro Tournament in Wichita, Kansas. On August 29, Deal lost the finale, 5-3, to the Camp Wheeler Spokes, whose star was Cecil Travis. A crowd of 12,000 fans saw him allow seven hits. Enid was limited due to a makeshift lineup caused by injuries and illness to regulars in the final days of the tournament. Deal was named to the 1943 All-American Tournament Team for his outstanding play. Earlier in 1943, e.g., in January and February, Deal, who was 5-10 and played at 185 pounds, was on the Enid Fliers basketball teams.

                        Cot Deal, 1943 Enid Fliers Army/Air Force basketball team. Photo credit:


The 1944 Enidairs reached the finals in Wichita, losing, 5-4, to the Sherman Field Flyers. Enid was 54-18 (second) in the Victory League, behind Fort Riley. Some Enidairs were minor leaguers Monty Basgall, Nick Popovich, Bill Hankins, Ray Honeycutt, Odie Strain, and Lew Morton. Deal went 10-1 on the mound and batted .371. In Game Four of the NBC event, Deal’s grand slam gave Enidairs a 7-3 win over Sioux Falls Army Air Field. Deal again made the All-American team and was voted the tournament MVP. In 1945, Deal, with a .326 BA, led Enidairs to Oklahoma’s Semi-Pro title, defeating Tinker Field, 9-3. Lou Kretlow and Boston Red Sox catcher Danny Doyle played for the Enidairs, who earned the NBC crown with an unblemished 7-0 mark. Deal played the OF in each game, hurled hitless relief in two contests, and became a three-time All-American, and two-time MVP—the only two-time MVP in NBC Tournament history. He was honorably discharged in October 1945 as Sergeant Deal.

Boston, Louisville, Columbus (Ohio), Rochester, St. Louis to PRWL “Mr. Refuerzo”   

Deal made his big-league debut with the Boston Red Sox on September 11, 1947, as a pitcher but hurt his arm the following spring. He spent most of 1948 with Louisville of the American Association before his first major league win, for Boston. With the 1949 Columbus Red Birds of the American Association, he pitched a 20-inning CG versus the Louisville Colonels, on September 3, allowing one earned run. He was 10-14 with 1950 Columbus and made three relief appearances for St. Louis. Deal was with Columbus in 1951, and joined Rochester of the International League in 1952, where he was 14-9. In 1953, he improved to 16-9, and then—in 1954—made 33 relief appearances for the Cardinals and hit a home run.

Between October 1950 and January 1955, Deal pitched and played the outfield for the PRWL SJ Senators. His .350 BA in 1950-51 was fourth best behind Caguas’s George Crowe (.375), teammate Babe Barna (.364), and Santurce’s Bob Thurman (.362). Deal’s 11 homers tied Crowe (fourth), as Santurce’s Buster Clarkson (18), Willard Brown (14), and Thurman (13) slugged the most round-trippers. Deal, 6-8, pitched 99 innings—most of any SJ hurler. His 3.64 ERA was sixth best, behind Rubén Gómez’s 3.63 for Santurce. The versatile Deal played CF when not pitching, between LF Taft Wright and RF Barna—called “Las Vacas” (The Cows), for their girth. Fourth-place SJ (34-44) was swept by Caguas in the semis. Deal conversed with Rogers Hornsby, 1950-51 Ponce Lions skipper, before Ponce-SJ contests.

Deal’s 1951-52 season was limited by injuries. His .311 BA with two homers and 14 RBIs came in 61 AB. He was 0-1 on the mound. SJ (43-29) finished first and bested arch-rival Santurce, four games to two, in the finals. Deal pitched opening night (February 20) of the 1952 Caribbean Series (CS), in Panamá, facing the Havana Reds, with an announced attendance of 17,000. The 10-inning affair ended 3-3—regulations prohibited an inning in the first game from starting after 8:40 p.m. Deal hit a two-run homer. “Havana [5-0-1] was the best team,” noted Deal. “They won five in a row. I looked forward to facing them again.” SJ finished last at 0-5-1.

In 1952-53, Harvey Haddix, Deal’s 1949 Columbus teammate, joined the SJ rotation, a stellar one. Haddix (6-2, 1.09 ERA in 74 innings) left early, due to restrictions imposed by the Cardinals. Don Liddle went 7-3, with a 3.33 ERA in 92 innings; Dominican Guayubín Olivo went 9-4, in 113 frames, with a 2.07 ERA. Deal (11-7, 1.85 ERA) contributed a .271 BA, a team-leading five homers, and a league-leading 49 RBIs, as a pitcher-LF. SJ finished first (45-27) but second place Santurce (42-30) won the finals, four games to two. Deal’s 11 wins were third, after Santurce’s Bobo Holloman (15) and Rubén Gómez (13). Deal’s 1.85 ERA was second to Rubén Gómez’s 1.79, and his 70 strikeouts tied him for fourth with Ponce’s José “Pantalones” Santiago. Dickie Thon, via a May 19, 2024, text to the author, noted: “Cot was a great ‘refuerzo’ (reinforcement), aka “Import”—one of the best who played in PR—and a good friend of my grandfather, Freddie Thon Sr. At that time, pitchers hit well, and [some] were capable of playing other positions.”

On January 2, 1953, SJ officials and fans gave Deal a new De Soto sedan and the PR flag. Deal’s #8 was retired in the emotional event. “They knew I gave it my best effort all the time,” said Deal. “If I hit it back to the pitcher, I had run it out. I wanted to be part of their system and they appreciated my attitude. People would invite us into their homes for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. My apartment after a game was like Grand Central Station. Fans would bring beverages, call, and have food sent in. Santurce owner Pedrín Zorrilla and VP Guigo Otero Suro chose Deal to reinforce Santurce in the February 1953 CS hosted by Havana. Other additions were Vic Power and Roberto Vargas (Caguas), Pantalones Santiago (Ponce), and Joe Montalvo and Canena Márquez of SJ.

Santurce won their opener, 15-6, over the Panamá Smokers, on February 20. Rubén Gómez pitched a seven-inning CG called due to a time limit. Holloman bested the Caracas Lions, 7-4, the next day. On February 22, Santurce faced Havana, winners of 11 straight CS games. The Crabbers held a 3-1 lead behind a Willard Brown homer and RBI hits by Bob Thurman and José St. Claire (aka Pepe Lucas), after seven. Havana scored three in the eighth and one in the ninth, for a 5-3 lead. Player-manager Buster Clarkson brought Deal in the eighth to stifle Havana’s rally. Most of the 16,700 partisan fans joked about Santurce having no one to pinch-hit for a pitcher (Deal).

Deal cracked a two-out double in the home ninth and scored on Canena’s single. Hits by Junior Gilliam and Vic Power tied it, 5-5. Rubén Gómez, who entered the game in the seventh as a pinch-runner for Willard Brown, batted next. “The Cuban fans got all over him [Gómez] listed as a pitcher on our roster,” said Deal. “When Gómez drove in Gilliam with the winning run on a base hit, they [Cuban fans] got quiet all of a sudden.” Deal and wife, Katie, spent that week in Havana, while his brother and sister-in-law babysat their children in SJ.

Santurce’s momentum continued February 23-25. Deal tamed the Chesterfield Smokers, 6-3, on February 23, followed by Holloman’s 9-2 win over Caracas. Roberto Vargas and Rubén Gómez combined to whip Havana, 7-3, in the finale. Deal recalled that Willard Brown was reluctant to play despite his chance to break Luis R. Olmo’s CS mark of three homers set in 1951. Brown homered as a pinch-hitter against Cuban knuckleball pitcher, Gil Torres, ninth, to finish with four HR and 13 RBIs in six games. Santurce’s .367 team BA is tops, in Phase I (1949-1960) in CS history. Their .575 SLG surpassed all CS teams, 1949-2024, per the author’s CS book, to be published in the Fall of 2024. Santurce’s undefeated 2000 CS champions posted a .368 team BA and .573 SLG, 47 years later, to mirror the 1953 Crabbers. One key difference: In 1953 Santurce used five pitchers—Deal (2-0), Gómez (1-0), Holloman (2-0), Pantalones (0-0), and Vargas (1-0)—versus 11 hurlers used by Mako Oliveras. Deal’s combined 1952 and 1953 CS ERA was 2.31. He went 2-1 in 23.1 innings; allowed 29 hits; fanned 10, and walked 10.

Harry Craft managed the 1953-54 and 1954-55 SJ Senators. Deal, in 1953-54, was 6-3, 1.52 ERA, in 77 innings, and 0-1 in 1954-55. Both teams made the playoffs but lost in the semi-finals. In five PRWL seasons, Deal had a .293 BA, 25 homers, 140 RBIs, plus a 23-20 W-L mark.

Memorable Havana, Cuba Experience

A July 25, 1959 night game between Rochester Red Wings, managed by Deal, and Havana Sugar Kings went into extra innings. At midnight, a celebration began in honor of the new government of Fidel Castro. Deal was ejected after an 11th-inning argument. Frank Verdi replaced Deal in the third base coaching box and took over while wearing his protective batting liner inside his cap. As the twelfth inning began, gunfire erupted inside the stadium. Havana shortstop Leo Cardenas felt a bullet graze his right shoulder, and Verdi was struck by a .45 slug which passed through his cap, deflected off the batting liner through his earlobe, and glanced off his shoulder. The umpires suspended the game and Red Wings left that afternoon for Rochester. Verdi, slightly injured, kept his bullet-pierced cap as a souvenir. Had Deal remained in the game, without a batting liner, he might have been seriously wounded.

Major League Pitching Coach Experience, Oklahoma City and SJ Senators Manager

Deal resigned as Rochester manager but soon ended up as the 1959 (and 1960) Cincinnati Reds pitching coach. Harry Craft hired Deal as his Houston Colt 45s pitching coach, from 1962-1964. Deal was also a big-league pitching coach for:

  • 1965 New York Yankees
  • 1996/1967 Kansas City A’s
  • 1970/1971 Cleveland Indians
  • 1973/1974 Detroit Tigers.

In 1968 and 1969, Deal managed Oklahoma City, Triple-A team, in the Pacific Coast League (1968) and American Association (1969). He managed against Tulsa’s skipper, Warren Spahn, in 1968. Mario “Mayito” Nevarez—SJ Senators owner, hired Deal as their 1969-70 manager, and Pedrín Zorrilla, as GM. SJ (33-36) finished fifth, one game behind Caguas. Yet Deal cherished this memory: “Roberto [Clemente] made a statement to a friend from PR stating, ‘I’ve never played for a manager that I enjoyed playing for more.’” Pedrín tried to sign Nolan Ryan for SJ, but the New York Mets were reluctant to do this. Catcher Thurman Munson went from 1969-70 SJ (.333 BA, three homers, 34 RBIs) to 1970 AL Rookie of the Year with the Yankees.

Cot Deal, 1965 New York Yankees pitching coach. Photo credit: www.rksportspromotins.com.

Post Script

From 1983-1985, Deal was the Houston Astros outfield coach and defensive coordinator. He became San Francisco’s minor-league hitting and outfield coach, from 1987-1989. Deal had high praise for Dickie Thon, Dickie’s dad, and grandfather, and for Willie Mays, who gave Deal some fancy golf clubs as a 1989 “retirement present” during spring training. He was inducted into the Rochester Red Wings Hall of Fame (1994). Deal’s May 21, 2013, passing at 90 was exactly 11 years before this was published.

Special thanks to Ellis “Cot” Deal and Dickie Thon. Jorge Colón Delgado did the editing and photo layouts.

Deja un comentario

Tu dirección de correo electrónico no será publicada. Los campos obligatorios están marcados con *

error: Este contenido está protegido
Scroll al inicio