- Associated Press - Friday, April 11, 2014

BEAUMONT, Texas (AP) - If Don Smart did not make the drive from Hardin to Beaumont one morning recently, a piece of history would have inched closer to being lost.

If he did not wake up to be at Gladys City Boomtown at 9 a.m., a replica baseball from another era would not have put a smile on 8-year-old Evan Klutts’ face.

“That’s what it’s all about,” Smart told the Beaumont Enterprise (http://bit.ly/1lOAcni ). “Sure it’s a hobby for me, but I want people to know what happened here in Beaumont. Baseball was a big deal back in those days. It’s not so much today, I’ve got season tickets to Lamar baseball and you might get 100 people to see good baseball. Back in those days they set a record in 1916 with 4,000 people showing up.”

Evan’s father, Bryan, has lived in Southeast Texas his entire life, but never knew the history behind baseball in Beaumont.


“I’ve never heard of some of these teams,” said Bryan Klutts, 40, of Port Neches.

There’s the Exporters, Oilers, Golden Gators, Bullfrogs and even a team that simply went by the Beaumont Baseball Club at the turn of the 20th century.

A beat-up, old rain check ticket for grandstand seats at a Beaumont Baseball Club game is Smart’s favorite piece of memorabilia, which took up two tables in the Saloon of Boomtown. The ticket does not have a date on it, but based on a similar one, Smart puts its year at about 1908.

“I wanted to do something different” said Smart of collecting and learning about the history of Beaumont baseball, which he has been doing for three years. “There’s a lot of things written about Beaumont baseball from 1910 on, but not much on the early years.”

The 1968 French High School graduate has worked through the history of 1901-1917, scouring eBay for items to bid on and sifting through library archives for anything of note.

Smart spend $250 on a rare book on the history of Texas League baseball, which is aged with a gray cover.

“I bought it because it’s got a lot of information in it,” Smart said. “I probably go overboard sometimes, but I want to make sure I get it”

Alongside the books, laminated ticket stubs and game programs neatly ordered in binders, was equipment used when the game was spelled as two separate words: “base ball”

Smart brought a base that resembled a pillow, a black leather ball with white stitching and thin leather gloves that exposed the fingers, among other items. He has an original catcher’s mitt from the 1940s that was made in Mexico because World War II halted production of non-wartime items.

“It’s neat to see the origins, but it hasn’t really changed all that much,” Bryan Klutts said. “But you had to be tough to catch a ball with basically a work glove.”

Since Beaumont served as a home to major league teams’ minor league affiliates for many years, Smart has baseball cards of some of the most famous players to temporarily call Beaumont home.

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