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

Part III covered Ellis «Cot» Deal, only two-time MVP, 1944 and 1945 National Baseball Congress (NBC) Semi-Pro Tournaments, with Enid’s Army Flying Field Enidairs, and his Puerto Rico Winter League (PRWL) career with the San Juan (SJ) Senators, 1950-55. Part IV transitions to changes in the NBC Tournaments regarding college players’ participation. It features Oklahoma City native Frank Kellert, who played semi-pro ball for Enid with Oklahoma A&M, 1947-49; 1954-55 PRWL season for SJ, and 1955 with Brooklyn. References include Travis M. Larsen’s 2006 master’s thesis: «Ahead of the Curve: A History of the National Baseball Congress Tournament in Wichita, Kansas, 1935-2005,» at Fort Hays State University.

Part V will mention collegiate players who played in NBC Semi-Pro Tournaments, e.g., Paul Hartzell in 1974; Roger Clemens, Tony Gwynn, and Albert Pujols; plus Enid hosting National Junior College (JUCO) Athletic Association (NJCAA) World Series and regional tournaments. It will briefly highlight Enid’s 2005 American Legion champs, 2019 Northern Oklahoma College-Enid Jets—winners, 2019 JUCO World Series, and Enid’s 2021 undefeated (37-0) Connie Mack title winners.

Raymond Dumont’s NBC Tournament and Baseball Legacy (1935-1970)

Here is a quick recap of «Hap» Dumont’s contributions in 36 years running the NBC:

  • Provided the cash ($1,000) for Satchel Paige to pitch in the 1935 Semi-Pro Tournament.
  • Implemented DH rule in 1941, when Enid won their third title, 32 years before Ron Blomberg (Yankees) and Orlando Cepeda (Red Sox) were the first two AL DH’s, on April 6, 1973.
  • Pitchers were given 20 seconds between pitches, finally adopted by MLB in 2023.
  • Appointed well-known big-leaguers such as Honus Wagner and George Sisler to be NBC «High Commissioners.»
  • He coordinated the September 1939 and September 1940 Semi-Pro World Series at SJ’s Sixto Escobar Stadium between two Oklahoma teams (Duncan and Enid) and Guayama.
  • He orchestrated a special «series» between Ft. Wayne, 1950 NBC champs, and a Japanese ballclub in Japan.
  • Gave «Small Town America» a chance to compete—by 1951, 80 percent of the teams were from towns with 5,000 or fewer residents.
  • Set up exhibition games between top Semi-Pro teams and big-league clubs, e.g., Ft. Wayne defeated the 1953 Chicago White Sox and 1953 St. Louis Browns.
  • Allowed big leaguers to play for Semi-Pro teams during the World War II, Korea, and post-Korea timeframes.
  • Awarded scholarships to persons wishing to attend Umpiring School in Florida in exchange for umpiring in Wichita NBC Tournaments.
  • Experimented with color baseballs in 1958, before A’s owner Charles O. Finley did.
  • Facilitated the transition of college players like Tom Seaver (1964, 1965) and many others playing Semi-Pro baseball in Alaska and elsewhere.

Lawrence/Dumont Stadium historical marker, in Wichita, Kansas. Photo credit: Author’s collection

«Hap» Dumont (L) and Harry S Truman (R) during the 1953 NBC ceremony, Wichita, Kansas. Photo credit: Author’s collection.

Frank Kellert: World War II to Enid, Oklahoma A&M, Minors, Browns, and Orioles

Frank Kellert, born in Oklahoma City on July 6, 1942, played two full big league seasons (1955 Dodgers and 1956 Cubs) plus parts of two others (1953 Browns and 1954 Orioles). He earned a degree in Animal Husbandry from Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University) and played for A&M’s baseball team, 1947-49, after honorably serving in World War II (1942-45). His semi-pro seasons were with Enid while he was still a collegiate player. His pro career lasted from 1949-1959, punctuated by a World Series ring with 1955 Brooklyn, the Dodgers’ first Fall Class title. Kellert played at 6-2, 185 pounds. In 1949 and 1950, he played for Lynchburg (Class B) and Texas League Double-A Houston Buffaloes. In three seasons (1951-53) with Double-A Oklahoma City Indians, he clouted 60 homers. The St. Louis Browns signed him at the end of the 1953 AL season; he went 0-for-4 in two games. His superb 1954 Texas League MVP campaign with the Double-A San Antonio Missions was 190 hits in 602 AB, 116 runs, 33 doubles, three triples, 41 homers, 146 RBIs, a .316/,392/.585 slash line, and a .976 OPS. His 41 homers were second to Buster Clarkson’s 42 with the Dallas Eagles; his 146 RBIs led the loop. He was promoted to the Baltimore Orioles and went 7-for-34.

Kellert’s Helpful 1954-55 Winter Season with SJ

Thirty-year-old Kellert joined the SJ Senators, managed by Ellisville, Mississippi native Harry Craft, who managed in the New York Yankees system. Yankees prospects Bob Cerv, Elston Howard, and Woody Held played for SJ, who established a PRWL mark of 84 team homers, finishing third (38-34) in the five-team league behind the Santurce Crabbers (47-25) and Caguas Criollos (42-30). Santurce—the «Perfect Machine,» according to PR baseball historian Jorge Colón Delgado—featured an outfield of Roberto Clemente (LF), Willie Mays (CF), Bob Thurman (RF); an infield of George Crowe (1B), Ronnie Samford (2B), Buster Clarkson (3B), Don Zimmer (SS); and catchers’ Valmy Thomas and Harry Chiti. SJ lost to Caguas, three games to one, in the semi-finals. Santurce bested Caguas, four games to one, and won the February 10-15, 1955 Caribbean Series in Caracas, Venezuela. Santurce didn’t reinforce itself with players from the other four league teams. Kellert was well-liked in the PRWL. SJ teammate Danny Kravitz called Kellert «a nice guy and a true pro.» Kravitz noted that Rubén Gómez, Santurce’s legendary hurler, took him fishing on an off day. Nino Escalera opined, «Kellert was pleasant, yet a no-nonsense guy and ‘un fajón’ (he hustled).» 

Bob Thurman marker: Riverfront Stadium, Wichita, Kansas. Photo credit: Author’s collection.

SJ lost to Caguas, three games to one, in the semis before Santurce bested Caguas, four games to one, and won the February 10-15, 1955 Caribbean Series in Caracas, Venezuela. Santurce did not reinforce itself with players from the other league teams. Kellert was well-liked in the PRWL. Danny Kravitz, an SJ teammate, called Kellert «a nice guy and a true pro.» (Kravitz also noted that Rubén Gómez, Santurce’s legendary hurler, would take him fishing on an off-day.) Nino Escalera opined that «Kellert was pleasant, a no-nonsense guy and ‘un fajón’ (he hustled).» Bob Thurman, born in Kellyville, Oklahoma, but a long-time resident of Wichita, Kansas, recalled rabid SJ and Santurce fans cheering for their respective team when the Crabbers faced the Senators. «It was special when we [Santurce] faced SJ at Sixto Escobar Stadium,» stated Thurman. «Those SJ hitters could sure hit the long ball. Kellert joined the 1955 Dodgers, and I debuted with the 1955 Cincinnati Reds.» (Thurman’s PRWL name was «El Múcaro»—the Owl, for his superb night vision.) SJ outhomered arch-rival Santurce, 84-69, per Table I.

Table I: Homers by SJ and Santurce (San), 1954-55 PRWL Season

Joe Montalvo-C196319.196Valmy Thomas-C167010.210
Danny Kravitz-C4925.204Harry Chiti-C6414.234
Luis Villodas-C3927.333Manuel Traboux-C2602.192
Frank Kellert-1B2061131.296George Crowe-1B1771240.282
Gene Freese-2B2841340.268Ronnie Samford-2B16606.271
Germán Rivera-3B231219.242Buster Clarkson-3B2401561.317
Woody Held-SS217836.213Don Zimmer-SS^103112.282
Elston Howard-LF122724.369Roberto Clemente-LF273638.344
Bob Cerv-CF2041951.289Willie Mays-CF1721233.395
Nino Escalera-RF239323.259Bob Thurman-RF2291460.323
Joe Taylor-LF138616.261José St. Claire-1B8038.200
M. Maldonado-OF104312.231Artie Wilson-2B6905.217
Jack Cassini-IF3500.257William Figueroa-IF9607.198
Herminio Cortés-OF6526.215Alfonso Gerard-OF/PH8207.341
Larry Jackson-P 1  Luis R. Olmo-OF/PH7329.274
A Portocarrero-P 1  Rubén Gómez-P6607.318
Willard Schmidt-P 1  Pedro J. Arroyo-UT1100.273
Totals (available)212984289.258Totals (available)209466307.294

^Zimmer’s Santurce stats. Mayagüez released him. Sources: Jorge Colón Delgado and Roberto Inclán.

 Kellert was featured in the «Revista del BEISBOL,» a weekly PRWL publication.         

Frank Kellert (L), Canena Márquez (R), 1954-55 PRWL. Photo credit: www.lelands.com.

Memorable 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers

On March 17, 1955, Kellert was traded from Baltimore to Brooklyn with cash for hurler Erv Palica. Kellert impressed Dodgers skipper Walter Alston in spring training and made the team as an RH pinch-hitter and backup to Gil Hodges. George Shuba was Brooklyn’s LH pinch-hitter. Research done by SABR member Stew Thornley noted that Jackie Robinson encouraged Brooklyn’s management to retain Shuba on their roster and [therefore] not protect minor leaguer Roberto Clemente—claimed by Pittsburgh in the Rule 5 Draft on November 22, 1954. Clemente, Kellert, and Thurman were 1955 «rookie» National Leaguers at 20 (Clemente), 30 (Kellert), and almost 38 (Thurman). Brooklyn (98-55) won the NL pennant by 13.5 games over Milwaukee. Thurman’s Reds were fifth (75-79), and Clemente’s Pirates last (60-94). Roy Campanella earned his third NL MVP Award. Kellert posted the highest BA, .325, among Dodgers position players, albeit in 80 AB. Don Zimmer (1954-55 Mayagüez-Santurce) and Dixie Howell (1954-55 Mayagüez) were Kellert’s Brooklyn teammates. Brooklyn led the NL with 857 runs, 230 doubles, 201 homers, 800 RBIs, and a .271/.356/.448 slash line, and .804 OPS. Table II compares Brooklyn’s regular season HR stats with the 1955 New York Yankees (96-58).

Table II: Homers by Brooklyn and New York Yankees, 1955 Regular Season

Roy Campanella-C44632107.318Yogi Berra-C54127108.272
Rube Walker-C103213.252Bill Skowron-1B2881261.319
Dixie Howell-C4205.262Joe Collins-1B/UT2781345.234
Gil Hodges-1B54627102.289Eddie Robinson-1B1731642.208
Jim Gilliam-2B/OF538740.249Gil McDougald-2B5331353.285
Jackie Robinson-3B390836.256Andy Carey-3B510747.257
Peewee Reese-SS5531061.282Billy Hunter-SS255320.227
Sandy Amorós-LF3881051.247Irv Noren-LF371859.253
Duke Snider-CF53842136.309Mickey Mantle-CF5173799.306
Carl Furillo-RF5232695.314Hank Bauer-RF4922053.278
Don Hoak-3B279519.240Elston Howard-LF2791043.290
Don Zimmer-UT2391550.239Jerry Coleman-UT9605.229
Frank Kellert-1B/PH80419.325Billy Martin-2B7019.300
George Shuba-PH5118.275Phil Rizzuto-SS14319.259
Walt Moryn-OF1913.263Bob Cerv-OF/PH85322.341
Don Newcombe-P117723.359Whitey Ford-P8617.163
Carl Erskine-P74111.203Tommy Byrne-P7816.205
Clem Labine-P3135.097Don Larsen-P4127.146

^Two position players and 12 pitchers. >Nine position players and 13 pitchers. Source: Baseball-Reference.

Table III highlights more complete AL/NL 1955 hitting stats for Kellert and Bob Cerv, former SJ teammates who helped the Senators set a PRWL single-season mark for most HR (84). Cerv, post-World War II, was a collegiate baseball star for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, a rival of Kellert’s Oklahoma A&M team. The last column—Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA)—takes into account the value of their extra-base hits, whereby homers, triples, and doubles account for a greater weight than singles.

Table III: Frank Kellert (Dodgers) and Bob Cerv (Yankees) 1955 Regular Season Stats


 Source: Baseball-Reference and Fan Graphs.

Historic Moment: 1955 World Series

On September 28, 1955, New York won Game One at Yankee Stadium, 6-5. Kellert’s pinch-hit single off Whitey Ford in the visitor’s eighth inning was overshadowed by Jackie Robinson stealing home moments before that hit. Kellert was in the on-deck circle when Robinson swiped home! Before that SB, Zimmer’s sacrifice fly scored Carl Furillo, with Robinson advancing to third. (Robinson reached second on a two-base error by Gil McDougald.) Kellert went hitless in his two other World Series AB to finish 1-for-3, a .333 BA. Don Hoak pinch-ran for him in Game One. Johnny Podres blanked the Yankees, 2-0, in Game Seven on October 4, becoming the first World Series MVP. Kellert and his teammates received $9,768 as the winning player’s share. The Yankees losing player’s share was $5,599.

Frank Kellert autographed card. Photo credit: www.alchetron.com.

The 1956 Chicago Cubs and Minors (1957-59)

Kellert was placed on waivers a week after the 1955 Fall Classic and claimed by the Chicago Cubs on October 11. After a sub-par 1956 season (.186 BA), he was released. With the 1957 San Francisco Seals (101-67), Kellert posted a .308/.381/.489 slash line, and .870 OPS. He scored 102 runs, homered 22 times, and drove in 107. In 1958, with Portland (PCL) and Minneapolis (American Association), he batted .250 with 19 HR and 79 RBIs. Kellert retired at 35 after playing for three 1959 clubs: Vancouver and Miami (Baltimore Triple-A affiliates) and the 1959 Seattle Rainiers, a Cincinnati Triple-A farm club. (Statistics are incomplete for 1959). Kellert, in the majors, posted a .231 BA in 247 AB, with eight homers and 37 RBIs.

Post Script

Kellert passed away, at 52, from lymphoma, in Oklahoma City, on November 19, 1976. In 2003, he was inducted into the Oklahoma State University Sports Hall of Fame.

Special thanks to Nino Escalera, Rubén Gómez, Danny Kravitz, Germán Rivera, Stew Thornley, and Bob Thurman. Jorge Colón Delgado did the editing and photo layouts.                                                                       

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