Monthly Archives: September 2013

“Babe” Was the Best There Ever Was

President Eisenhower joined the nation on September 27, 1956 in mourning the death from cancer of Mildred “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias, the incomparable athlete who excelled at every sport she tried.

Born in Port Arthur and raised in Beaumont, “Babe” burst on the scene at the 1932 Summer Olympics, where she won gold in the 80-meter hurdles and javelin and was cheated out of the gold medal that was rightfully hers in the high jump.  She could play any sport from basketball to softball and baseball and golf.  The Associated Press named “Babe” the ninth greatest athlete of either gender for the Twentieth Century.

Rice Running Back Has a Dream Game

Dickie Maegle had the kind of football game on September 25, 1954 that little boys dream about.  The Rice All-American carried the ball just five times against Cornell but gained 178 yards and scored four touchdowns.

An all-sports star at Taylor high school, Maegle was picked in the first round of the NFL draft in 1955.  He played pro ball for seven years before retiring to private life in Houston.

 

Amputated Limb Gave Santa Anna a Leg Up

Whatever his flaws, and there were many, Santa Anna’s strong point was his uncanny ability for manipulating Mexican public opinion.  One of the best — or worst — examples was his ceremonial burial in 1842 of the leg he lost to a French cannonball in the “Pastry War.”

That’s the subject of my “This Week in Texas History” column for the week of Wednesday, September 25 through Tuesday, October 1.  Be sure to catch it in your local newspaper or buy a 52-week email subscription to the best and oldest column of its kind on this website.

Cowboy Star Lied About Texas Ranger Enlistment

Future silent movie cowboy Tom Mix enlisted in the Texas Rangers on September 22, 1905, according to his official biography.  Problem is that claim was a complete fabrication!

Mix, who also was an Army deserter, appeared in nearly 300 films, all but nine silent, between 1909 and 1935.  The Pennsylvania native was among the most popular movie stars of the Twenties and remains the iconic sagebrush hero.

Irish Empressarios Ask For Big Chunk of Gulf Coast

In their original land grant application filed on September 20, 1826, two Irish empressarios asked the government of Mexico for the Texas coastal plain from the Sabine River to the Nueces.  On a modern map, that would be everything between Corpus Christi and Port Arthur!

James Power and James Hewetson had to settle for a lot less, and even then most of the 350 colonists they brought over from Ireland died in a cholera epidemic.  Hewetson moved south and became one of the richest men in Mexico, while Power took the political plunge and signed the Texas Declaration of Independence.  

 

“Always Wished I Could Have Seen Him Hung”

Those were the words of Ira Aten, the Texas Ranger chiefly responsible for bringing Dick Duncan to justice.

From the start, Aten suspected Duncan of killing four family members from San Saba that he was escorting to Mexico in February 1888.  It took a month in the saddle covering 1,500 miles on horseback to break the case and pin the murders on Duncan, who was hanged in the Maverick County jail on September 18, 1891 in the only execution ever carried out in that border county.

Ernie Banks Played 19 Seasons for Chicago Cubs

Dallas native Ernie Banks played in his first of 2,528 major league baseball games on September 17, 1953.

The lanky shortstop spent his entire career with the lowly Chicago Cubs never once appearing in the World Series.  Banks won the National League “Most Valuable Player” award in 1958 and again the next season.  He retired in 1971 with a lifetime batting average of .274, 2,583 hits and 512 home runs.  Six years later, “Mr. Cub” was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

San Antonio Hotbed of Mexican Exile Intrigue

That’s the title of the “This Week in Texas History” column for Wednesday, September 18 through Tuesday, September 24.  Bernardo Reyes, a general on the lam, was just one of many Mexicans who took refuge in the Alamo City during the decade-long Mexican Revolution.

The exiles’ personal stories rarely had a happy ending, and Reyes’ was no exception.  But I’ll let you find that out for yourself either in your local newspaper or by email subscription, which is available on this web site for just $20 per year.

Thousands Flock to See “Crash at Crush”

Fifty thousand people packed a valley 17 miles north of Waco on September 15, 1896 to watch the thrill of a lifetime — a staged train wreck billed as “The Crash at Crush.”

The head-on collision of two 35-ton locomotives showered stunned spectators with sharp shreds of shrapnel.  There were many minor injuries but only two fatalities, a miracle under the circumstances.  The railroad proclaimed the publicity stunt a great success, and Texans talked about it for years to come.

U.S. Army Hanged Irish Deserters in Mexican War

The moment the Stars and Stripes was raised over Chapultepec Castle on September 13, 1847, thirty Irish deserters were hanged.

In a clever campaign to convince immigrant soldiers to switch sides, the Mexicans urged their Catholic brothers to turn against the “Protestant tyrants.”  Santa Anna soon had enough Irish deserters to create the San Patricio Battalion that fought bravely in several battles.  But those captured by the Americans faced long prison sentences or death on the gallows.