Tulsa Oilers (baseball)

The Tulsa Oilers, located in Tulsa, Oklahoma, were a minor league baseball team that existed on-and-off in multiple leagues from 1905 to 1976. For most of their history, they played at Oiler Park, which opened on July 11, 1934, and was located on the Tulsa County Fairgrounds at 15th Street and Sandusky Avenue.[1][2]

Tulsa Oilers
(19051908, 1910, 1914, 19191929, 19321942, 19461976)
Tulsa, Oklahoma
Team logoCap insignia
Minor league affiliations
ClassTriple-A (1966–1976)
Major league affiliations
Minor league titles
Dixie Series titles (1)1936
League titles (15)
  • 1919
  • 1920
  • 1922
  • 1927
  • 1928
  • 1929
  • 1932
  • 1936
  • 1949
  • 1960
  • 1962
  • 1963
  • 1968
  • 1973
  • 1974
Team data
NameTulsa Oilers
  • Oiler Park (1934–1976)
  • Fairgrounds Park (1932–1934)
    McNulty Park (1919–1929)
    others (1905–1917)[1]


Early yearsEdit

In 1905, the Oilers were part of the Missouri Valley League. They finished 44–58 under manager Charley Shafft. The Missouri Valley League folded after 1905, and the Oilers became a charter member of the South Central League.

Under managers Frank Smith and Bill Rupp, the Oilers finished the 1906 season with a 45–42 record. The League folded, and the Oilers played in the Oklahoma–Arkansas–Kansas League in 1907. They finished with a 37–60 record, under Hall of Fame manager Jake Beckley. The Oklahoma–Arkansas–Kansas League saw two teams leave, so in 1908 the Oilers played in the Oklahoma–Kansas League, which was just the aforementioned Oklahoma–Arkansas–Kansas League minus a couple teams. They finished with the second best record in the league – 69–55 under managers Harry B. "Deacon" White and Stu McBirney. The league folded after only one year of existence as well.

The Tulsa Oilers did not organize in 1909. However, in 1910, they played in the Western Association. On July 22, the Tulsa Oilers team disbanded.

From 1911 to 1913, the Tulsa Oilers were not involved in organized baseball. However, in 1914 they rejoined the Western Association, leading the league with a 74–49 record under manager Howard Price. Even after such an impressive season, the Oilers disbanded again, and baseball would not be played under that name until 1919. (Until 1917 Tulsa had a team in the Western Association called the Tulsa Producers.[2][3])

Western LeagueEdit

In 1919, the Oilers joined the Western League, where they played from 1919 until 1929, and in 1932. Their performance during those years can be seen in the following chart.[4]

Year League Class Record Finish Manager Playoffs
1919 Western League A 77-63 2nd Spencer Abbott League Champs
1920 Western League A 92-61 1st Spencer Abbott none League Champs
1921 Western League A 65-103 8th Jimmy Burke / Bill Clymer none
1922 Western League A 103-64 1st Jack Lelivelt none League Champs
1923 Western League A 101-67 2nd Jack Lelivelt none
1924 Western League A 98-69 3rd Jack Lelivelt none
1925 Western League A 75-91 7th Lyman Lamb / Marty Berghammer none
1926 Western League A 86-78 4th Marty Berghammer none
1927 Western League A 101-53 1st Marty Berghammer none League Champs
1928 Western League A 96-69 2nd Marty Berghammer League Champs
1929 Western League A 95-66 1st Marty Berghammer / Nick Allen none League Champs
1932 Western League A 98-48 1st Art Griggs League Champs

From 1922 to 1924, Oilers star Lyman Lamb hit 68, 71 and 100 doubles, respectively – the latter of which is a minor league record.

In 1930, McNulty Park was declared unsuitable by the city. The team opted to move Topeka, Kansas for a spell while plans for a replacement were drawn up. In 1930 and 1931, they were known as the Topeka Senators. They returned to Tulsa in 1932, temporarily playing at Fairgrounds Park.

Although 1932 was the Oilers' final season in the Western League, it was also the first season in which they were actually affiliated with a Major League team – the Pittsburgh Pirates. That affiliation lasted that year only, however. The 1932 Oilers were recognized as number 83 on Minor League Baseball's list of the 100 greatest minor league teams of all time.[5]

Texas LeagueEdit

From 1933 to 1942, the Oilers played in the Texas League. In 1936, they won the league championship and the Dixie Series, a postseason interleague championship between the winners of the Southern Association and the Texas League.[6] From 1940 to 1942, they were affiliated with the Chicago Cubs. The Texas League was shut down from 1943 to 1945 due to World War II, but when it started up again in 1946, the Oilers again played in the league until 1965. In 1946 and 1947, they were affiliated with the Cubs, but in 1948 they became affiliated with the Cincinnati Reds. They stayed affiliated with the Reds until 1954. In 1955, they were a Cleveland Indians affiliate; in 1956, they were again a Cubs affiliate. From 1957 to 1958, they were a Philadelphia Phillies affiliate. For the rest of their existence, they were a St. Louis Cardinals affiliate.

In their second year in the Texas League, the Oilers got a new home, Texas League Park. However, it was not well maintained over the years; its dilapidated condition was obvious as early as the 1950s. In 1961, the team was nearly moved to Albuquerque partly due to the stadium's poor state of repair, but A. Ray Smith bought out the previous owner and heavily renovated the park, renaming it Oiler Park.[7] The following shows the Oilers' performance during their years in the Texas League:[4]

Year League Class Record Finish Manager Playoffs
1933 Texas League A 65-86 6th Art Griggs
1934 Texas League A 77-75 5th Jake Atz
1935 Texas League A 82-79 4th Art Griggs Lost in 1st round
1936 Texas League A1 80-74 3rd Marty McManus League Champs
1937 Texas League A1 89-69 2nd Bruce Connatser Lost in 1st round
1938 Texas League A1 86-75 4th Bruce Connatser Lost in 1st round
1939 Texas League A1 78-82 6th Bruce Connatser / Stanley Schino
1940 Texas League A1 76-82 5th Roy Johnson
1941 Texas League A1 86-66 2nd Roy Johnson Lost League Finals
1942 Texas League A1 76-75 6th Roy Johnson
1946 Texas League AA 84-69 4th Gus Mancuso Lost in 1st round
1947 Texas League AA 79-75 4th Gus Mancuso Lost in 1st round
1948 Texas League AA 93-63 2nd Al Vincent Lost League Finals
1949 Texas League AA 90-64 2nd Al Vincent League Champs
1950 Texas League AA 83-69 3rd Al Vincent Lost League Finals
1951 Texas League AA 67-94 7th Al Vincent
1952 Texas League AA 78-83 6th Joe Schultz
1953 Texas League AA 83-71 2nd Joe Schultz Lost League Finals
1954 Texas League AA 78-83 6th Joe Schultz
1955 Texas League AA 86-75 5th Dutch Meyer / Hank Schenz
1956 Texas League AA 77-77 4th Al Widmar Lost in 1st round
1957 Texas League AA 75-79 4th Al Widmar Lost in 1st round
1958 Texas League AA 71-81 7th Al Widmar (45-54) / Jim Fanning (26-27)
1959 Texas League AA 77-67 3rd Vern Benson Lost in 1st round
1960 Texas League AA 76-68 3rd Vern Benson League Champs
1961 Texas League AA 83-55 2nd Whitey Kurowski Lost in 1st round
1962 Texas League AA 77-63 2nd Whitey Kurowski League Champs
1963 Texas League AA 74-66 3rd Grover Resinger League Champs
1964 Texas League AA 79-61 2nd Grover Resinger Lost League Finals
1965 Texas League AA 81-60 1st Vern Rapp Lost League Finals

AAA yearsEdit

In 1966, the Oilers moved up to AAA baseball as part of the Pacific Coast League. In their first year, they won the Eastern Division, then lost the championship series to the Seattle Angels, 4 games to 3. The following year, future Hall of Famer Warren Spahn took over as manager; he would ultimately become the winningest manager in Oilers history.[8] After a poor 1967 season, in 1968 the Oilers had one of their best seasons ever, winning the Eastern Division, then winning the PCL championship series 4 games to 1 over the Spokane Indians.[9] Oiler outfielder Jim Hicks was named MVP of the PCL.[10]

1966 Pacific Coast League AAA 85-62 1st Charlie Metro Lost League Playoff
1967 Pacific Coast League AAA 65-79 11th Warren Spahn
1968 Pacific Coast League AAA 95-53 1st Warren Spahn League Champs

During their final eight years of existence, the Oilers were members of the American Association. They won the league championship twice. In 1973, the Oilers led the West Division, then won the league playoff 4 games to 3 over the Iowa Oaks. The Oilers went on to play in the 1973 Junior World Series, where they lost 4 games to 1 to the Pawtucket Red Sox.[11] The Oilers repeated as league champions in 1974, again winning the West Division and then beating the Indianapolis Indians 4 games to 3. (There was no Junior World Series that year.) The following chart lists their performance during their final eight years of existence:[4]

1969 American Association AAA 79-61 2nd Warren Spahn none
1970 American Association AAA 70-70 5th Warren Spahn
1971 American Association AAA 64-76 7th Warren Spahn / Gary Geiger
1972 American Association AAA 78-62 3rd Jack Krol
1973 American Association AAA 68-67 3rd Jack Krol League Champs
1974 American Association AAA 76-58 2nd Ken Boyer League Champs
1975 American Association AAA 73-63 3rd Ken Boyer
1976 American Association AAA 65-70 5th Ken Boyer

Through their many years of existence, the Oilers had had many big names both play for and manage the team. Jake Beckley, Gus Weyhing, Deacon White, Gus Mancuso, Marty McManus, Whitey Kurowski, Warren Spahn and Ken Boyer all managed for the team at one point or another. Steve Carlton, Mike Torrez, Ted Simmons, Nelson Briles, Jerry Reuss, Keith Hernandez, Bob Forsch, Dal Maxvill and Mike Easler all played for the team.

By the end of the 1976 season, the Oilers were again faced with the deteriorating condition of Oiler Park. Smith had poured significant resources into keeping the park at something approaching Triple-A standards. However, it was obvious that the park was nearing the end of its useful life. When Smith was unable to get commitments for a new park, or at least further public or private funding for badly-needed upgrades to Oiler Park, he moved the team to New Orleans after the 1976 season. For one year they were the New Orleans Pelicans, then moved on to Springfield, Illinois, and in 1982 to Louisville, Kentucky, where the team set minor league attendance records[7] and is now called the Louisville Bats.

Tulsa was not without baseball for long, however; shortly after the Oilers announced they were leaving town, the Lafayette Drillers of the Texas League moved to Tulsa as the Tulsa Drillers. The Drillers have been a mainstay of the Texas League ever since; they played at Oiler Park from 1977 to 1980 until Robert B. Sutton Stadium, later Tulsa County Stadium and then Drillers Stadium, opened in 1981. They now play at ONEOK Field.


  1. ^ a b Tulsa's Pro Baseball Homes, Tulsa World, April 4, 2010.
  2. ^ a b Wayne McCombs, Baseball in Tulsa (Charleston, South Carolina:Arcadia Publishing, 2003), ISBN 0-7385-2332-1, pp. 13, 26.
  3. ^ "Western Association". Baseball-Reference.com. 2008-07-31. Retrieved 2010-07-03.
  4. ^ a b c "Tulsa Oilers – BR Bullpen". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved 2010-08-05.
  5. ^ "83. 1932 Tulsa Oilers". MiLB.com. 2001. Retrieved May 9, 2017.
  6. ^ "Tulsa Trips Barons to Clinch Title". The Montgomery Advertiser. Montgomery. October 12, 1936. p. 6 – via Newspapers.com.
  7. ^ a b "Ex-baseball owner Smith dies", Tulsa World, June 29, 1999.
  8. ^ "Warren Spahn: 1921–2003: The greatest lefty", Tulsa World, November 25, 2003.
  9. ^ John A. Ferguson, "Spahn's '68 Oilers Wore Their PCL Colors Proudly", Tulsa World, May 2, 1993.
  10. ^ Pacific Coast League Most Valuable Players at Baseball-Reference.com.
  11. ^ 1973 Junior World Series at Baseball-Reference.com.