Past Treasure of the Month – March 2015
was on display as the March Treasure of the Month.
With spring just around the corner, baseball enthusiasts all over the country are looking forward to the new season. While it has been over fifty years since Galveston had a minor league team, islanders can look to the past and recall the times when the stadium lights of Moody Stadium illuminated America’s favorite pastime.
Over the past few years, the Rosenberg Library has displayed some fascinating artifacts related to the 1930s Galveston Buccaneers Texas League baseball squad. They included a signed ball from 1933 and a signed bat from the 1934 Texas League Champions. This month the library was proud to display a recently donated 1934 Galveston Buccaneers championship ring that belonged to Roy Chester “Beau” Bell.
This wonderful piece of local history was donated by Bell’s daughter Dianne Bell Sides. The top of the ring features a gold baseball inscribed with “1934 Texas League Champs” framed by the team’s name “Galveston Buccaneers” on a silver base. Each side of the ring has a golden Jolly Rogers and the inside of the ring is inscribed with “Beau Bell.” According to Mrs. Sides, Bell felt the ring got in the way while he played, so he hardly ever wore it. The immaculate condition of the eighty-one-year-old ring is impressive.
Beau Bell was born August 20, 1907 in Bellville, Texas to George, a salesman, and Annie Bell. He attended Texas A&M University where he became the school’s first All-America athlete. In 1931 he played centerfield for the Southwest Conference champion Aggie team and also served as captain. He earned his baseball letters from 1929 – 1931 and was voted into the Southwest Conference teams in 1929 and 1931. He also played basketball for the Aggies and won letters in the 1930 and 1931 seasons.
played for the Cleveland Indians, 1940
(“Beau Bell 1940 Play Ball Card” by
Play Ball Cards, published by Bowman Gum).
While at A&M scouts took notice of the 6’ 2″ 185 pound right-hander. By 1932 he broke into the Texas League with the Galveston Buccaneers. The year before, Shearn Moody purchased a Waco ball club and moved to the island. Bell had a solid first season with the squad, but had a propensity of getting hit in the head with the ball, leading the Texas League in this inglorious distinction. He told a reporter, “When a pitcher chunks at my head, the ball seems to hypnotize me until it is right on me. When it starts to break, I snap out of it, but is usually too late.”
Despite the setback, Bell’s game developed nicely with the Buccaneers. In 1933 scouts saw him as one of the best prospects in the league. He was great at fielding, threw nicely and was able to hit the curve ball, but he needed to add a few points on his batting average before being called up. His manager said, “Beau Bell has been slow in developing, but I predict he will be a real big league star in a short time.”
During the next spring training Secretary of the Galveston Baseball Club, Sam Jack Evans, told reporters, “1934 is going to be Beau Bell’s discovery year.” He was correct. By August the Buccaneers sold Bell to the St. Louis Browns (which is today the Baltimore Orioles) for $17,500, but he finished out the season with the Bucs. It was a good thing he did, as he helped lead the team to the Texas League Championship. That year he set two Texas League records with 330 total chances in right field with 328 of them resulting in putouts. He also tied a record by playing every inning that season.
The move to the majors started off slowly for Bell, but he improved quickly. He had three home runs and a .250 batting average the 1935 season, but improved to 11 home runs and a .344 batting average next; and he belted 14 homeruns and a .340 average in 1937. In 1936 he finished 13th in voting for the American League MVP award. The next year he was 17th in the MVP race and was also selected to the American League All-Star Team. His 51 doubles in 1937 are still the most in one season in franchise history. Bell mostly played right field, but also spent time at left field and first base.
Bell stayed with the Browns through 1939 when he was acquired by the Detroit Tigers in a trade for Bruce Campbell. Bell only played in 54 games for the Tigers. The following season he went to the Cleveland Indians where he had a nice comeback year compiling four homeruns and a .279 batting average. In 1941 the Indians used Bell as a pinch hitter and first base coach, but his batting average plummeted to .192. That September Bell was sold to a minor league squad in Wilkes-Barre, PA. With the onset of WWII the baseball world suffered a shortage of young talent, so Bell was able to prolong his career in the minors. In 1942 he played for a squad in Toledo Ohio, where his season started off well, but his batting average slumped again.
Slowly his playing career gave way to his coaching career. He coached at his alma mater, Texas A&M, from 1951 – 1958. The Aggies shared the 1951 Southwest Conference championship in 1951 and had it all to themselves with Bell as the coach in 1955. Bell went on to work at the Texas A&M Physical Plant Department for a number of years before he retired. He lived out the rest of his years in Bryan, Texas passing at the age of 70 in 1977 in his home.
(image courtesy of the Galveston and Texas History Center).