This week’s headlines from sports history come from The Daily Oklahoman, as published the week of November 11-17, 1957.
The Daily Oklahoman has been published since 1889. Now simply titled The Oklahoman, the paper is still printed today.
In 1957, Dwight D. Eisenhower was the US president and the world was hit with the Asian Flu pandemic. The Soviet Union launched Sputnik 2 with the dog Laika on board. On television, I Love Lucy was broadcast for the last time while The Ten Commandments hit movie screens across the country. In sports, the Detroit Lions won the NFL championship (their most recent league title as of 2019) and the Boston Celtics won their first NBA crown.
Here’s a look at a few sports headlines The Daily Oklahoman published this week in 1957:
“Bid by Dallas, Houston Again Denied by TL”
Publication Date: November 11
During baseball’s offseason in fall 1957, the eight-team Class AA Texas League was in upheaval.
The Dallas and Houston clubs both wanted out of the league for the Class AAA shores of the Pacific Coast League or the American Association. However, as this article discusses, the Texas League wouldn’t let either club leave.
It was the second time in a month the league had denied a move. On October 14, league directors voted 6-2 against the pair exiting. The second denial in November didn’t undergo a vote because “there wasn’t any need,” according to league president Dick Butler.
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The clubs’ desire to bolt was partially a reaction to the presumed minor league realignment following the Brooklyn Dodgers’ and New York Giants’ major league moves to California. In addition, the Dallas Eagles had trouble at the gate, drawing less than 2,000 fans per game despite being the defending regular season champs.
Several weeks later, the league mulled merging with several clubs in the Mexican League. However, the Texas League had a club located in Shreveport, Louisiana and a state law there prevented mixed-race competitions, making such a merger difficult.
While the Shreveport franchise was nixed from the league in late December (and replaced by a Victoria, Texas team), no Mexican League merger happened. Dallas’ owners returned their franchise to the league during this shuffle, frustrated that they had been denied permission to seek a higher classification.
The Texas League’s drama wasn’t done yet. In January 1958, Oklahoma City Indians owner Jimmie Humphries, a fixture with the team since 1919, suggested that he would move the club out of town after selling its home stadium, Texas League Park. His move was approved by the league in February, and Oklahoma City lost its ball club to the Texas port city of Corpus Christi.
Shortly after that, J.W. Bateson, a wealthy Dallas contractor, purchased the Dallas franchise, ensuring its fate in the league for the upcoming season. The 1958 campaign would ultimately be won by the Corpus Christi Giants, who beat the Austin Senators four games to one in the championship series.
At the time, the Texas League was the highest level of baseball in the region, with the Kansas City Athletics being the closest major league club to Oklahoma City. Texas eventually got major league ball in 1962 when the Houston Colt .45s were born.
MLB’s expansion into Houston wound up sending baseball back to Oklahoma’s capital after four years without a team. With the Colt .45s now on their turf, the Houston Buffaloes, who joined the American Association in 1959, packed up shop for Oklahoma City and became the 89ers. The franchise remains in town, although it’s now known as the Dodgers.
“Cowboys Give Baseball Star Try at Fullback”
Publication Date: November 12
The Saturday before this article, Oklahoma State’s football team suffered a devastating loss when fullback Johnny Jacob injured his knee in a 39-6 win over Wyoming.
In part of the hunt for Jacob’s replacement, Cowboys head coach Cliff Speegle worked out halfbacks Roy Peterson and Billy West in anticipation of the team’s upcoming game at Kansas. Peterson was a baseball player who had starred on the mound earlier in spring as a sophomore.
According to the article, Peterson “was not a serious candidate” to make the varsity football squad before the season began. However, he wanted to learn more about the game because he hoped to coach sports after graduation and asked for a spot on the team.
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After being named the starting fullback for the Kansas game, Peterson unfortunately missed the trip due to an injury obtained during heavy contact work, according to the school paper, The Daily O’Collegian. In his stead, Speegle assigned Everett Wood and Larry Rundle to the fullback post.
Kansas won the game 13-7, with the deciding score coming on a quarterback sneak in the third period. Oklahoma State finished the year 6-3-1, with the other two losses against Arkansas and Oklahoma bookending their season.
I couldn’t find any info on if Peterson ever did see the field for the Cowboys. Regardless, he had much better success on the baseball diamond rather than on the football gridiron.
As part of the Oklahoma State’s pitching rotation his senior season, Peterson helped guide the team to the 1959 College World Series championship. His highlights in the tournament included tossing nine innings of shutout ball in a 4-0 semifinal victory over Fresno State. Less than a week after the tournament ended, he inked a minor league contract with the New York Yankees. His career peaked during three seasons as a relief man in the Texas League before he stepped away from pro ball in 1964.
“PGA Votes Out Match Tourney”
Publication Date: November 15
An AP wire report, this article detailed the PGA’s decision to drop its elimination-style match play championship for a four-day, 72-hole stroke play event.
Per the article, the decision was money-driven. In previous tournaments, gate receipts struggled as players were eliminated each day. According to the UPI’s report (and as printed in the Camden Courier Post), a PGA spokesperson claimed that the 1957 PGA Championship had lost the association $9,000.
In contrast to match play tourneys, a stroke play (also known as medal play) event sees numerous golfers on the course all four days. Because match play tournaments eliminate players via a bracket, the second-to-last-day only has four golfers and the final day merely has two. A stroke play tournament, meanwhile, includes a single cut after the second day that usually only whittles the field in half.
The 1958 championship was slated to be played in July at Llanerch Country Club in Philadelphia. Dow Finsterwald would win that event for his first and only major with a four-round score of 276 for 4-under par.
Since that edition, the PGA Championship has stayed with the 72-hole, four-round stoke play format.
“IRISH SNIP OU STREAK AT 47”
Publication Date: November 17
Coming into the 1957 season, the Oklahoma Sooners were on an incredible 40-game winning streak. The mark tied the college football best held by the Washington squads between 1908 and 1914.
Seven games into the season, the Sooners still hadn’t lost, building the streak up to a national record of 47 games. It all came to an end, though, when the Notre Dame Fighting Irish rolled into Norman on November 16 and upset No. 2 Oklahoma 7-0.
The winning score came with 3:50 to go when future NFLer Dick Lynch took a fourth down, right-side pitch three yards to paydirt. The Sooners reached the Fighting Irish 24 on the ensuing possession, but Note Dame quarterback and defensive back Bob Williams pulled down an interception in the end zone to put the comeback on ice.
“We couldn’t go on winning forever,” Oklahoma head coach Bud Wilkinson said afterwards. “Notre Dame has a real fine team. It should be no surprise when they win against anybody.”
The Irish had been the last team to beat the Sooners, too. That win came when Notre Dame scored a 28-21 road win in the 1953 opener. The 1957 upset was also the first time Oklahoma had been shutout in 123 games, a streak dating back to 1945.
In the week leading up to their game against Notre Dame, the Sooners received compliments from President Eisenhower and a Nebraska psychologist suggested that the fan base was bored because “the team wins too often.” The hosts were deemed 18-point favorites over Notre Dame by the betting line.
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After the defeat, Oklahoma finished the regular season with victories against Nebraska and in-state rival Oklahoma State. The No. 4-ranked Sooners then beat No. 16 Duke 48-21 in the Orange Bowl to cap a 10-1 season.
Notre Dame, coming off back-to-back losses against Navy and Michigan State, was unranked in the AP Poll at the time of the game. The 7-3 Fighting Irish finished the year ranked No. 10.
The 47-game streak is still a college football record as of 2019. Toledo has made the best attempt since, having won 35 in a row between 1969 and 1971.
“The Prep Parade By Ray Soldan”
Publication Date: November 17
This day’s column by Daily Oklahoman sports scribe Ray Soldan discussed the sickness plaguing the state’s high school sports scene: the flu.
According to Soldan, who had joined the paper five years prior, 66 football games had been postponed in the three weeks before this column. In many cases, these postponements were decided just hours before kickoff. Soldan claimed that such decisions “ired many ardent fans who […] arrived at a dark stadium.”
These frequent postponements also frustrated Soldan. He felt that players sickened by the flu should be considered the same as those who suffered regular injuries:
What coach would think of letting a rival team postpone a game because three starting backs sprained ankles during a Tuesday workout? Why should flu casualties be treated with any more respect.
Soldan added that if a school could put as many as 15 players on the field, the game should play out as planned—regardless of if those players are “scrubs” or regular starters.
He further argued that flu-driven postponements could negatively impact the upcoming basketball season. Soldan wrote that hardwood schedules would be “thrown into utter chaos” if school officials allowed additional postponements due to flu.
Soldan penned regular articles for The Oklahoman up until around 2000. Since retiring from news writing, Soldan has compiled historical data about Oklahoma high school sports. Tragically, his house was gutted by a fire in 2011. Soldan survived, but the flames damaged many high school records.
Headlines for this article were sourced from Newspapers.com.