Play Ball! Austin and the Great American Pastime
March 28, 2017 - August 13, 2017
Baseball came to Austin shortly after the Civil War when Union soldiers first introduced this new game, and for almost 150 years Austin has enjoyed “the great American pastime.” From Little Leagues to professional ball, Austin has been home to hundreds of teams in dozens of leagues, forever making the story of baseball a part of Austin’s story.
The first organized tilt occurred on June 29, 1869, with a team from the 15th Infantry challenging a group of locals called the Austin Unknowns. Before long, games were common around the city, and Austin fielded a team in the pro ranks starting in 1888. To generate interest in the game, Austin hosted major league exhibitions in these early years, pitting local amateurs against the New York Giants and Cincinnati Reds.
Baseball was especially popular among Austin’s African American community. Immediately after the game was introduced to Austin, local black teams formed and the game proved quite popular. Austin had an entrant in the short lived semi-pro Texas Colored League, and then formed the Austin Black Senators, competing in the Texas-Oklahoma-Louisiana League and later the Texas Negro League, playing into the 1930s before the Depression spelled the end of the team. Hilton Smith, a player with the Austin Black Senators, was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001.
Austin boasted many professional teams through the years playing in various minor leagues, mostly the Texas League. These teams were successful on the playing field, but often less so in the box office, having to compete for fans against the UT teams, a powerhouse program in collegiate baseball. But whether it was pros, UT, or little leagues, millions of Austinites answered the call of “take me out to the ballgame” and made the game a part of the social fabric of this town. This exhibit explores the stories of the teams and players who have made an impact on baseball in Austin and the country, though it only scratches the surface of the deep history of Austin’s love affair with the Great American Pastime. The exhibit runs through August 13, 2017.
Click the thumbnail images below to view more from the exhibit. Visit the AHC to see the exhibit starting on March 28, 2017.