Friday Sept. 16, the San Antonio Missions brought another Texas League pennant home to the Alamo City. This time, the Missions swept the best-of-five series with the Arkansas Travelers in three games.
The series included the longest postseason game in the history of the Texas League when the Missions and Travelers played 20 innings Wednesday Sept. 14 and into the wee hours of Sept. 15 at Nelson Wolff stadium here in San Antonio. The Missions won the contest 5-4, one night after taking the first game of the series by the same score.
By sweeping the series, the Missions will now be able to raise their 12th Texas League pennant of all-time. That places them in second place on the all-time Texas League champions list behind the Houston Buffs who last played a Texas League game in 1958 but in their time in the league, won 14 pennants.
In honor of the 12th all time pennant for San Antonio baseball, a look back is in order at the colorful history of a team that began play in 1888, the same year that the Texas League was born.
When the Texas League began on April 1, 1888, it was made up of the Texas cities of Houston, Dallas, Austin, Galveston, Fort Worth and San Antonio. The 1888 season ended with the Dallas Hams beating out the San Antonio Missionaries for the first Texas League pennant.
The San Antonio ball club’s first pennant would come in 1897 when the then-Bronchos shared the Pennant with the Galveston Sand Crabs as co-champions. It was quite a turn-around for both teams as the year before the Bronchos had finished 23 games out of first place and the Sand Crabs had set a Texas League mark for futility in giving up 19 runs in an inning during a 31-4 loss to the Fort Worth Panthers.
It was nine years before the Bronchos would claim their second Texas League Pennant in 1908. The Bronchos held off the Dallas Giants by six games in the standings, finishing with a 95-48 record that remains the best regular season mark in the history of San Antonio baseball.
After the triumph of 1908, the city of San Antonio had to wait 25 years to raise another Texas League flag. In the years between 1908 and 1933, the team went through several name changes, trying out the ‘Aces’ in 1919, the ‘Bears’ from 1920-28 and the ‘Indians’ from 1929-32. ‘Missions’ became the new name before the 1933 season.
In 1933, the newly-christened Missions defeated the Galveston Buccaneers in the Texas League Championship Series three games to one. A year later saw a rematch in the championship series but the Missions fell short against the Buccaneers.
It was another 17 years before the Missions would take another pennant in 1950. In a series that went six games, the Missions took four games to the Tulsa Oilers two, giving the Missions their fourth Texas League title.
The Missions would be swept in the championship series the following year, losing to the Houston Buffs in four games.
It would be 1961 before the Missions took another pennant. The Missions did it by sweeping an Austin Senators’ team that had swept them in 1959’s championship series.
Two years later, in 1963, the San Antonio baseball team was known as the ‘Bullets’ in honor of being a minor league affiliate of the Houston Colt .45s (later Astros). The Bullets shared the regular season pennant with the Tulsa Oilers but fell to the Oilers in the TL Championship Series.
The Bullets and Oilers shared the regular season pennant in 1964. The Bullets got the better of the Oilers in the championship series and San Antonio had its seventh pennant.
The San Antonio baseball club would undergo a number of name changes over the next three decades as the affiliations with major league clubs changed.
They tried out the name ‘Brewers’ from 1972-76 and ‘Dodgers’ from 1977-1987 before returning to the name of Missions.
One thing that didn’t change was the number of pennants.
By the late 1990s, it was looking as though the Missions would not win another pennant in the 20th century.
That changed in 1997 when the Missions ended a 33 year pennant drought by taking the Texas League pennant in seven games from the Shreveport Captains, four games to three. The Missions were experiencing a rebirth.
The Missions started the 21st century near the top of the Texas League standings and as a result won back-to-back championships in 2002 and 2003. The 2002 crown came at the expense of the Tulsa Drillers in seven games while the 2003 crown came after the Missions knocked off the Frisco Roughriders four games to one.
The next pennant would come in 2007 when the Missions took down the Springfield Cardinals three games to one.
In winning the 2011 pennant, the Missions won 94 regular season games and swept through the two rounds of Texas League playoffs to finish the year with a total of 100 wins. At one point in June, the Missions had the best home record in professional baseball (major league and minor league).
As the last of the originals, San Antonio holds a special place in the annals of Texas League history. It has been the one constant in Texas League baseball and its many pennants are proof of that.