1960 - John Cronley's Once Over by E. M. Barker
While searching through The Oklahoman archives online, I came across this interesting article written by E. M. Barker and sent to The Daily Oklahoma sports editor, John Cronley for his Once Over column. It appeared March 3, 1960, on page 33, "... Some folks might have wondered when Gene McGill, ordinarily a mild-mannered man, stiffened his upper lip and stayed right in there and pitched when the governor was trying so hard to shell him from the mound ... Although he has no athletic record of his own, his father, the late Bill McGill, is regarded as Alva's most fabulous athlete.".
"The readers write -- well, at least one got through the tundra by carrier pigeon. Taking over at this point is E. M. Barker, sports editor of the Review-Courier in Alva.
"Have read your column religiously ever since you started writing it. Agree with you on most of your comments and get a lot of information I wouldn't otherwise. I have met you on several occasions down at Norman as I sat in the press box as a friend of Harold Keith.
"Have something that should interest the people of Oklahoma as well as yourself, who have a nostalgic yearning for the facts concerning those who helped make athletic history.
Some folks might have wondered when Gene McGill, ordinarily a mild-mannered man, stiffened his upper lip and stayed right in there and pitched when the governor was trying so hard to shell him from the mound.
"Here's the answer, Although he has no athletic record of his own, his father, the late Bill McGill, is regarded as Alva's most fabulous athlete.
"Standing 6-2 and weighing about 190 pounds, he first attracted attention as a pitcher while attending Friends University (Wichita, Kan.) on a baseball scholarship.
"After two years at Friends University, he enrolled at Northwestern State, then called Alva Normal. Once he attended a state track meet and got the medal as all-around athlete. There was little that he couldn't do at a track meet.
He Tries High Jump
"He never jumped before and they wanted him to try the high jump. After all but Bill had finished he told them to raise the bar to six feet.
"He commented later, "I jumped over easily and later I learned they were diving over the bar instead of jumping. I believe if they had let me dive I could have gone over 10 feet.
"After finishing the season with the Browns, he got homesick and came back to Alva to go into the furniture business with his brother, Jim, and they quit after 50 years.
"Gene never cared for baseball but turned to farming and ranching, and at one time was known all over Oklahoma as dan of the Flying Farmers.
"Bill excelled in sports and for years was Alva's leading golfer. He had few peers as a hunter and many envied his fine markmanship. He died August 7, 1959, at the age of 77.
"Categorically the careers of Bill and Gene differed sharply. Gene had no truck for competitive sports. But when it came to the great outdoors, once again their trails met as they tramped the untilled soil of Woods County in quest of the elusive stubble duck and migratory fowl.
Helps Game Situation
Charley Albright, former state senator and offtimes hunting companion of Gene, will tell you he has few superiors as a wing shot. Bill used to call him Hurry-Up Yost. "Young men today hunt too fast. They do not give the dog a chance to hunt out all the good places," Bill fumed. But Gene differed.
"The day of the old fashioned bob whites, which used to be sitting ducks for the pioneers, is gone. These new generations of quail move faster," Gene countered.
Hunters in northwest Oklahoma are very appreciative of the efforts of young McGill to re-stock the country with quail and pheasants, and he has done this often at his own expense.
Added to this, he has provided his own plane on numerous occasions to spot coyotes for his neighbors.
A successful rancher and farmer, people gradually became aware that this young man is fully cognizant of what makes the earth tick and is well acquainted with political issues.
His father once said, "Once Gene has made up his mind, nothing can change it. Oh, well, just another McGill, I guess. A chip off the old block."
Record Score Posted
AND it was while pitching at Friends that a duel with Art Griggs of Washburn gave rise to one of the most unusual games ever played in the Texas League. Griggs defeated McGill, 4-0, as he personally accounted for all Washburn scores by lacing out a couple of home runs.
This infuriated McGill, and right then and there they made an agreement that if they ever met again each pitcher would go the route without relief.
This resulted in the most lopsided game played in the history of the Texas League, with Austin defeating San Antonio, 44-0. McGill was the victor.
That was the season McGill was the leading pitcher in the Texas League while hanging up the most strikeouts. He also led the league in batting. Using a blinding fast ball and cross-fire delivery, he was sold that Fall to the St. Louis Browns for $500, then a big sum.
His most notable game in the majors was a 2-2 tie with the Cleveland Indians, called in the 12th inning on account of darkness.
He once told me, "I could have won easily, but I just couldn't get the ball past the Cleveland second baseman, a man by the name of Napoleon Lajole. But if I had brought my Austin outfield with me I could have still won. Those Browns just wouldn't hustle like the boys in the Texas League."
Bill used a bat made by a friend out of a wagon tongue, said to be the largest bat ever used in the Texas League. It weighed 64 ounces.
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Comments: Linda, I have copies of two pictures from the era of baseball mits that looked like bird's nests.
One is of the St Louis Browns of 1914, with Branch Rickey as Manager. The other is of "The Colonels' of 1915 that was taken on April 14, 1915. I don't know where "The Colonels" were located, which town. A local lad was a pitcher with both these teams. His name was Willy Taylor.
~Jim Bradley 2008-06-24 18:44:43
Thanks for printing my Daddy's article and also the Spasm on Crawdads. I appreciate the tribute you pay him. I thought he was the greatest too.
~Bill Barker 2008-06-22 19:31:43
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