Corsicana Gumbo Busters
Corsicana, Navarro County, Texas


Navarro County Sports Index
Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Longtime Corsicana ballplayer pens a history of his favorite sport in Navarro County

Editor’s note: Corsicana has a rich baseball tradition.

The Corsicana Gumbo Busters played in the old East Texas semi-pro league and the Corsicana Oilers were charter members of the original Texas League.

Longtime baseball fan and semi-pro player James Strum of Corsicana has compiled a history of baseball in Navarro County. Strum, 84, owns numerous old photographs of pro and semi-pro teams, copies of newspaper box scores, old baseball cards, uniforms, equipment and many other items that describe and display the glory days of baseball here, which he describes as being from 1920 to about 1935.

He has also written a history of his experiences playing baseball in semi-pro leagues, pro leagues and for various civic and church teams in Navarro County. Here is an excerpt from his files.

–Jim Goodson

Corsicana Daily Sun, Sunday, August 27, 1995

by James Strum

Corsicana has always been big on baseball. When I was 14 and 15 years-old I would go to the baseball park after school and shag balls during batting practice. When the game started I would sell drinks in the stands for 10 cents per bottle. I would make 1 cent per bottle. During the next couple of years I played ball with the school kids. I played with the Southside team.

We had a good team and defeated every team in town. At that time the American Legion started a playoff system for all the boys under 16 years old. I could not play since I was over 16. They practiced almost every day and there were many good players. I especially recall John D. Prewitt, Lawrence Harris, Vince Watson, Everett Smith, Charles Price, Oscar Gordon, John Gordon, Philip Dunn, Calvin Barron, Odie Pollock and Norman Price. John Griffin was the manager.

Before long I was playing in sand lots all around Navarro County. Dawson, Purdon, Blooming Grove, Frost, Bazette, Kerens, Navarro and others had fields. Those were good years for baseball. Every city had a team. There were lots of good baseball talent.

Some of the Navarro players were Fred Vinson, Pat Horn, Lefty Stancel, Fred Burnett, James Burnett, Fred Doolen, Ben Horn, Red Maxwell, John Stover, Alvie Scruggs and Louis Collins.

From the eastern half of the county some of the top players were Jay, Gene, Fred and Rufus Tyner, Homer Bobbit, Bill Arnold, Donald Watt, Butch Upchurch, Sam Upchurch, Nugent Harper, Homer Seales, Tommy Upchurch, Roy Upchurch, Walter Sands and Doyle Kennemore.

But let’s don’t leave out the good players from the western half of the county. Gene Hellums, Betty Biggers, Harvey Ballew, Stanley Ford, Tracy Vernell, D. K. Robinson, Charlie Bolden, Neal Stover, Dean Stover, Clois Stover, Millard Spurlock and Tony York are some players I recall.

In 1929 a semi-pro league was started in Corsicana. The six teams in the league were the Magnolia Oilers, Bazette, Blooming Grove, Humble Oil and Refining, American Well and Whites Chapel formed a league. The players named abover were with their home town or company. Cecil Bondurant and I played with the Magnolia Oilers for a few games. Later we played with a team called the Mag-Millers. Cecil and I later transferred to American Well, a team that later became known as the Richland Nine.

This was a close-knit group that played together for several seasons. Some of the players were Glen Wells, Ed Price, Paul Rash, Don Newcombe, Calvin Barron, Harold Green, Lawrence Harris, Milford Shook, Red Goodman, Beauford Barnes, Malone Sanders, Bennie Heathcote, Adolph Ruth and Carl Ruth.

We played in the Waco Tribune Cup Race. We won every tournament game in 1932 until we played Walkers Dry Cleaners of Waco for the title. Then we lost three out of five. After the final game I moved to Dallas and played in leagues there for a couple of years.

In 1935 the manager of Textile Mills in Waco ask me to come to Waco. While playing with them, I signed a contract with the Houston Buffaloes in the Texas League. The pay was $100 per month if I made the team and $60 per month if sent down to play in a Class C or D League. I did not report because I was paid more to play with Textile Mills.

After Textile Mills was shut down, Cameron and Company of Waco asked me to play for them and gave me a job. This was in 1939 and I played a couple of years until the company shut down to three days per week during World War II. But I was named on all-star team.

Then I went to McCamey in West Texas. While in McCamey, the manager of Odessa team in the West Texas League asked me to play if I would change my name. By next summer I was working with a pipeline company in Corpus Christi where the manager of a Class D team offered me a contract. But my baseball days were nearing an end.

In 1942 I entered the Dallas Aviation School and from 1942-46 was stationed at Air Transport Command for the U.S. Air Force in Lovefield and Midland. From 1946-49 I served with the War Assets Administration in Grand Prairie then worked for Dallas Aero Service and Reliance Clay Products before opening Strum Bookkeeping and Accounting.

But baseball was always my first love.

ccmbaseball1922.jpgThe Corsicana Cotton Mill team of 1921-22. The players are, from left, Oscar Gordon, R. Elliott, James Strum, Charles Price, J. D. Prewitt, Lawrence Harris, Bitsy Price and John Gordon.



ccmbaseball1939.jpgA Corsicana team from 1932-33 [sic, actually it was taken in 1939]. On the front row from left [right] are Sam Upchurch, Cotton Madden, James Burnett and Ishmael Johnson. On the back row are, from left [right], Cecil Bondurant, Chester Kirk, manager John Griffin, Butch Upchurch, Frank Boyte, Eugene Massey and Milford Shook.

L. HINES (inf-p)
DARR (c)


REF: Corsicana's Professional Baseball History:


YEAR          LEAGUE                        PROF CLASS                  MASCOT             WON  LOST   NOTES

1902       Texas League                               D                        Oil Citys / Indians       86       22      Won Texas League Championship

1903       Texas League                               D                        Oil Citys                    53       55      Finished 2nd Overall

1904       Texas League                               D                        Oil Citys                    48       53      Finished 3rd Overall

1905       Texas League                               D                        Oilers                         9        29      Team folded on June 6

1907       North Texas League                      D                        Oilers / Desperados    38       21      Won league championship

1914       Central Texas League                   D                        Athletics                    26       32       Finished 5th Overall

1915       Central Texas League                   D                        Athletics                    32       29       Finished 2nd Overall

1917       Central Texas League                   D                        Athletics                     6         8       Team moved in from Temple June 1; League disbanded June 6

1922       Texas-Oklahoma League              D                        Gumbo-Busters           56       46      Finished 3rd Overall

1923       Texas Association                       D                         Oilers                        68       70      Finished 4th Overall

1924       Texas Association                       D                         Oilers                        83       42      Won Texas Association League Championship*

1925       Texas Association                       D                         Oilers                        85       48      Won Texas Association League Championship

1926       Texas Association                       D                         Oilers                        53       72      Finished 6th Overall

1927       Lone Star League                        D                         Oilers                        48       72      Finished 6th Overall

1928       Lone Star League                        D                         Oilers                        55       68      Finished 5th Overall


* Lost "Lone Star Series" for Class D championship of Texas to Tyler, 4 games to none with one tie

Information submitted by Davis O. Barker, Jacksonville, TX





strumjames1995.jpgJames Strum played baseball in Corsicana, West Texas and in other locales during the glory days of the semi-pro leagues, roughly 1920-1935.




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© Copyright March, 2009
Edward L. Williams & Barbara Knox