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This Week in Sapulpa History – Sapulpa High School Baseball Championship Controversy
Rachel Whitney, Curator, Sapulpa Historical Museum
This week in Sapulpa history, the Sapulpa High School baseball team took their Oklahoma Championship down to Texas and challenged the Texas Champions. The Waxahachie vs Sapulpa three-game series which would determine whether Oklahoma or Texas to be the two-state champion for 1921.
In 1920, the two teams faced off during the two-state competition. The champion was Waxahachie, winning two of the three games. In 1921, the two teams agreed to meet up again for the clash of Oklahoma-Texas games. The agreement was that the first game was to be held in Sapulpa, and the last two games of this series on Waxahachie turf, south of Dallas.
May 19, 1921: Mayor J. Wade Bone issued a proclamation for everyone to take a half holiday for the game opener in Sapulpa. The crowd overflowed the grandstand and bleachers until “hundreds had to stand, dozens of cars were parked inside the grounds, filled with spectators.” Unfortunately, Sapulpa lost the first game, 11-to-9. Then the teams had to travel to Texas to finish the series.
May 23, 1921: “Twenty-five hundred people saw Sapulpa High School and Waxahachie High School play a ragged game of baseball here in Sapulpa, with the Sapulpans taking the long end of a 7-to-4 score.” Sapulpa took the second game, tying the series 1-to-1.
May 24, 1921: The third game went to an extra inning, with the winning scores in the 10th frame. “Sapulpa fans went wild with delight when the word finally came that Coach Virgil Jones’ Sapulpa High School baseball team made themselves the champions of Oklahoma and Texas, by decisively defeating the fast Waxahachie team by a score of 4 to 2.” Sapulpa scored two in the extra inning, declaring them champs. Sapulpa was the Southwestern Champion.
May 25, 1921: Although the newspapers never explained why, but another agreement for an exhibition was scheduled for the Sapulpa team on their way back from Texas. It is unclear if this game had already been planned, or if this was spontaneous agreement between each team. The Sapulpa newspapers had already claimed Sapulpa as State Champs prior to this game. “The Sapulpa champions play Wetumka today in an exhibition game and will arrive home this evening.”
The team arrived in Wetumka ready for the match. An eye witness stated, “in the first half of the initial inning it looked as if the game would be all Sapulpa. The boys from Creek County hammering in four runs, one of which was a homer. Then the Wetumka pitcher tightened and most of the Sapulpa bats went out by the strikeout.”
The witness further stated that he was not from Wetumka, but had traveled a great distance to watch a “good, clean game of ball between teams fairly evenly matched.”
“Along about the fourth or fifth inning, the Wetumka squad fell on the Sapulpa pitcher…” and hit-after-hit, run-after-run, the Wetumka players began pulling away.
And then, the game abruptly ended in the fifth inning.
“Jones called his men off the field.” The witness stated that the crowd became anxious and excited. Due to overcrowding, the stands did not occomederate for such a large crowd, and many spectators were along the sidelines. “A few who crossed the line immediately recrossed it.”
Later that night, when the team arrived home, Jones and the Sapulpa team told tales of the crowd mobbing the diamond, interfering with the game. “The crowd rushed onto the field when Wetumka made two [more] hits in the fifth inning. Jones, completely disgusted, declared he would forfeit the game, and started to leave the field.”
Jones was fuming, and had also declared that bats were stolen from their dugout. Jones told Sapulpa papers and Tulsa papers “a wild mob of 500 to attack a team of high school players, hurling vile epithets, bricks and other missilen at them.”
Jones would also describe that “the Wetumka militia was out in uniform. One of them put the bayonet of his gun against his stomach, and threatened to kill him.” Jones stood firm and declared, “‘You haven’t got the nerve to use it, you tin soldier. You see, I’ve got on an American Legion button. Where’s yours?’”
The team was able to get back to their hotel, and the boys locked themselves away in their rooms, barricading the doors with furniture, Jones described. “Jones then made a speech to the mob from the hotel balcony and said he would concede the state championship if they would only let his team get out of town.”
The eye witness did not describe the aftermath, but had added his two-cents. When Jones called his men off the field to protest the overcrowding, “no kind of persuading could induce him to send them back. His excuse was that the crowd overran the diamond…the way it looked to an outsider, Coach Jones, after winning the class A state championship of Oklahoma and then defeating the Texas state champions, could not bear the thought of seeing his banner trailing in the dust at the hands of a class B team.” The eye witness wanted an outsider perspective to be heard.
When the team made home safely that night, banquets and parades were waiting for the team that had just defeated Texas. The city welcomed the team home, but were also introduced to the horrific tales of the Wetumka game. “For this reason, the entire city feels that the Sapulpa team was in no way to blame for the Wetumka outrage.”
Sapulpa, Drumright, and Tulsa papers were the first to publish the incident that occured in Wetumka, taking Sapulpa’s side. The towns agreed that Wetumka’s baseball team needed to be “barred for several years to come.”
Wetumka, Okemah, and Weleetka papers responded to the allegations. In each town’s paper, the headline included the statements that “Sapulpa forfeits to Wetumka,” and had lost their championship title. In each paper, Wetumka witnesses replied “both sides of the controversy have appeared in the city dailies.”
Furthermore, “we regret very much that his happened and that the game was not finished. However, we do not feel that we are responsible for the unsportsmanlike conduct of the Sapulpa coach.” The town agreed that the coach “called his team from the field, after Wetumka had started a rally which seemed impossible to stop.”
Wetumka stated what they witnessed as the downward spiral of the state champions. “This was too much for Coach Jones who called his team from the field, claiming that his men were unable to play on account of the large crowd…”
Okemah papers seemed to be more neutral in their storytelling, however. “Wetumka wins ball game and bad reputation.” Jones had also explained that they had simply stopped by for an exhibition, but Wetumka advertised it as the state championship affray. “‘I explained as a class A team, we were not mingling with class B clubs in championship tilts, but we started the game anyhow.”
It further stated that in the fifth inning, one of Wetumka’s singles reached the outfield and the ball was lost in the crowd. This resulted in a two-run score. These are the two runs that upset Jones the most. Jones told the umpire to get the crowd off the field and they would resume play. Umpire Lucas stated that he couldn’t get them off, and if Sapulpa doesn’t return, they forfeit the game*.
*Note: the eye witness stated that Sapulpa had 4 runs to Wetumka’s 9 (when Coach Jones forfeited). Okemah’s papers stated when the umpire declared the forfeit, the score was 0-to-9.
Tulsa papers would later retell the story in a more neutral tone. However, for the next week, Sapulpa papers would print their dislike of the Wetumka baseball team.
It is unknown if the allegations were true, nor if there was any reprimanding for each team. The incident slipped out of the news by the end of the second week. It is also unknown if Sapulpa kept their title or due to the forfeit, Wetumka did.
That game would be known as the “Wetumka Affair.”
The information found on this page has been researched through Sapulpa (and area) newspapers, Sapulpa Historical Society archives, books, and photographs, Sapulpa yearbooks, city directories, and other local authors. Any other sources will be labeled and named as the research continues. Any mistakes will be noted and adjusted as needed.