A bush league of their own

Long before the Texas Rangers, major-league baseball was played in Dallas by a minor-league team called the Dallas Eagles

Getter almost never touches the decaying scrapbook filled with yellowing newspaper clippings and faded photos that document his days as a minor-leaguer. He says that sometimes he thinks about putting the thing in some semblance of order...then figures, Why bother?

Dick Getter, who managed to get a hit off Satchel Paige during the legendary pitcher's final year on the grass, is one of those guys who spent his whole professional baseball career in the minors, playing for more teams than he cares to remember. There are dozens of men in the Dallas-Fort Worth area alone, baseball's elders who get together every so often at gatherings of ex-pros to remember the good old days. They sit around and talk about batting averages and hitting streaks and who hit the longest ball of a pitcher way back when; sometimes, they lie about their stats. "Like, a 10-game hitting streak is now a 22-game streak, because guys forget," says Joe Macko, who played in an Eagles uniform several times throughout the 1950s.

Getter and Macko, who is currently the visiting clubhouse manager at the Ballpark in Arlington, were two of the guys who didn't make it to the bigs; they spent all their playing days in the bush leagues, waiting for the call-up that never came. But they were pro ball players nonetheless, men who were paid to hit, catch, throw, and run in the sun for more than a decade. Back then, when there were only 16 teams in the major leagues, a man could make a living in the farm systems, and there was no shame in spending your whole pro-ball career in the minors. You weren't a failure if the bigs didn't call you up--you just hoped for better luck next time.

Getter, who was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, never played college ball, though he had the chance to go on an athletic scholarship playing basketball. But he did hit .600 in American Legion ball and was signed by a New York Giants scout in late 1940s. He played a little minor-league ball in Delaware, got injured, got recruited by the Brooklyn Dodgers, went back to Delaware for 48 hours, then refused to sign his Dodgers contract unless the team paid him the $500 bonus they owed him. They gave him a bus ticket back home instead. In 1949, he was signed by the Cleveland Indians and sent to Kansas, where he met his wife; he was married at home plate--"which they don't do anymore," Getter says. The next year, he was sent to Zanesville, Ohio, broke his ankle during spring training, and played on the injured foot the rest of the year.

In 1952, he was sold by the Indians to an independent team in Duluth, Minnesota, and had 121 RBIs in 140 games, batting .315. Team management asked if he was ready to go back to the Indians, but he refused, and instead they sold him to a New York Giants farm club in Sioux City, Iowa, where he played in 1953, batting ".280-something." In 1954, he went to Nashville and fought with his manager, who sent him back to Sioux City and, one more time, Minnesota.

The following year, he was sent to Dallas. The reason he ended up here, Getter says, was a practical one: "I had been in Minneapolis, but I got airsick there," he says, chuckling. "They flew in planes up there, and rode the trains down here, so I could play here. And when I got to Dallas, I made the All-Star team here in a short amount of time."

In 1955, the Eagles had become a farm team for the New York Giants, which meant that most of the players on the Eagles were under contract to the Giants. Burnett had joined a system he had long fought against, letting the mighty Giants--home to Willie Mays, Dusty Rhodes, Monte Irvin, and the other '54 world champs--take control of his team, deciding who came and who went.

To manage the Eagles, the Giants brought in John "Red" Davis, who had played 21 games at third base for the Giants in 1941 and then returned home from World War II only to find there was no more room for him on the big club. Had Davis played one more year in the major leagues, he would have received his pension, but instead, Giants management yanked him for an injured player. Still, in the end, Davis went on to become the winningest manager in the history of the Giants organization (including stints in Dallas, Phoenix, and Tacoma--all New York farm teams), posting more than 1,100 victories.

Davis had actually played in Dallas in 1946 for George Schepps' Dallas Steers and remained here until '48, when Burnett bought the team. He finished his playing days with San Antonio that year and then went on to manage in Greenville and Corpus Christi before coming back to Dallas. Carl Hubbell--the legendary Giants' pitcher from 1928 to 1943 and, at that time, the director of the Giants' farm organization--wanted Davis in Dallas, and Davis was happy to oblige, especially since he already owned a home here. When Davis returned, he told the Dallas Times Herald that he was "the happiest guy in the country."

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