The Texas Southern League was in existence for half of one season; the reason for its creation was that the Dallas Hams were just too good a team in 1888.
In the winter of 1887 the Texas League was formed with six teams: the Dallas Hams, Austin Senators, Fort Worth Panthers, Galveston Giants, Houston Babies and San Antonio Missionaries. Representatives from the Memphis Grays and New Orleans Pelicans in the Southern League, which was struggling to replace teams that had folded, also attended the meeting and lobbied for the league to be expanded to eight teams, but the six Texas-based teams voted not to include them; New Orleans and Memphis joined the 4-team (down from 7) incarnation of the Southern League, which also included the Birmingham Maroons and Charleston Sea Gulls.
Charlie Levis, who had played Major League ball in The Union Association and American Association in 1884 and ’85 was named manager and played 1st base for Dallas. Levis, a St. Louis native, brought in several Missourians including some who had spent time in the Major Leagues and built a strong team.
The Sporting News said Levis:
“Signed a team of professionals for Dallas that would do credit to almost any league in the country…They are all splendid fielders and batsmen and fair base runners.”
The team was so strong according to The Dallas Morning News that:
“So good was the Dallas team that club after club dropped out after repeated drubbings at its hands. Dallas won so many consecutive victories that the other cities lost their appetite for baseball and withdrew.”
By late June, Dallas led the league with a winning percentage above .800; Austin and Fort Worth had dropped out and all the remaining teams were losing money with players often going several weeks between paydays. At the same time, the Southern League was collapsing. In early July, a deal was struck to create the five-team Texas Southern League with New Orleans joining Dallas, Galveston, Houston and San Antonio.
While New Orleans provided some much-needed competition for Dallas the Texas Southern League half-season was not much different from the Texas League half-season. Dallas finished with a winning percentage of .826, New Orleans finished second followed by San Antonio, Galveston and Houston. The Morning News said on the final day of the season:
“The league is dead, and the Dallas club carries off the glory, waves high the pennant, and stands the champion club not only of the league but of all the South.”
The following season Austin and Fort Worth rejoined and the Waco Babies replaced the San Antonio Missionaries to again form a six-team Texas league; New Orleans returned to the Southern League, and the Texas Southern League was finished.
The story of one member of the 1888 Dallas Hams tomorrow.