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"Hindsights"

Looking back at:

J. L. Yarborough -
A Passion for Baseball

By Michael Barr
Michael Barr

J. L. Yarborough made a lot of money selling coffee for the Nueces Coffee Company of Corpus Christi, but he always seemed to be selling coffee wherever there was a baseball game.

Born in 1893, J. L. Yarborough opened a cleaning business in Hamlin in1913. In 1914 he married Ruth Owen and moved to Fredericksburg.

Yarborough owned one of the first cleaning and pressing businesses in the Hill Country. His store was next to Kolmeier and Klier on Main Street.

A business opportunity brought Yarborough to Fredericksburg. As a bonus he got to play right field for the Fredericksburg Giants baseball team.

You see J. L. Yarborough had a gift for business, but baseball was his passion.

In 1919 Yarborough sold his cleaning store to Max and Felix Stehling. He moved to San Antonio where he became a stockholder in the San Antonio Bears of the Texas League. He served as secretary of the club and later as vice-president.

In 1927 J. L. Yarborough and his brothers founded the Nueces Coffee Company in Corpus Christi. As Yarborough made sales calls he beat the bushes for baseball talent.

Yarborough could spot a baseball player in a crowded theater. The San Antonio Light called him "Old Sleuth." He was "a born baseball scout. He may sell coffee, but he talks, thinks, eats and sleeps baseball."

In 1928 Yarborough saw Joe Moore playing baseball in Crystal City and signed Moore to a Texas League Contract. Moore played one year in San Antonio before moving to the big leagues.

For 12 seasons Joe Moore was an intimidating left-handed leadoff hitter for the New York Giants. He was a 6-time All- Star.

Moore always said he would make Yarborough a guest if the Giants ever played in the World Series.

On an October morning in 1933 Yarborough received a telegram asking him how many tickets to the World Series he wanted. The Giants would be playing Washington in the Fall Classic. Joe Moore invited Yarbrough to "come to the series at my expense."

Four days later Yarborough, his wife and young son left San Antonio for the east coast. They watched the Giants beat Carl Hubbell and the Senators in 5 games.

In addition to Joe Moore, J. L. Yarborough signed or recommended infielder Fat Hetherly from Lampasas (Detroit Tigers), pitcher Joe Vance from Devine (Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees) and pitcher Hugo Klaerner from Fredericksburg (Chicago White Sox).

In the 1930s Yarborough invented point ball - a form of baseball played by 6 players. Like 6-man football, point ball was meant to be played in small rural communities that didn't always have 9 players to field a baseball team.

The point ball field was a triangle instead of a diamond. There were 3 bases, 90 feet apart. Each team had 2 infielders, 2 outfielders, a pitcher and a catcher.

The ball was slightly larger and lighter than a regulation baseball. The bat was shorter.

In point ball the batter was out after the second strike. Three balls constituted a walk.

Yarborough staged exhibition games all over Texas, including the Hill Country. He hoped the game would catch on, but baseball fans missed the point.

As a publicity gimmick, J. L. Yarborough staged the All Brothers Baseball Championship Game between the Deike brothers' team from Hye, Texas and the Stanczak brothers' team from Waukegan, Illinois.

According to the Fredericksburg Standard, J. L. Yarborough "was instrumental in getting the Deike boys interested in playing in the family tournament."

Yarborough arranged for the Nueces Coffee Company to buy uniforms for the 9 Deike brothers and pay their expenses to the game in Wichita, Kansas.

The All Brothers Championship Baseball Game of 1935, won by the Stanczaks, is part of baseball legend. Carlton Stowers told the story in his book Oh Brother How They Played the Game.

In the 1940s J. L. Yarborough and his wife retired to a ranch near Comfort, but he continued to make business calls in South Texas for the Nueces Coffee Company.

It was a good excuse to watch a baseball game.

Joe Moore & J. L. Yarborough

Michael Barr
"Hindsights" October 15, 2019 Column

Sources:
"J. L. Yarborough Succumbs; Rites in San Antonio Tuesday," Fredericksburg Standard, April 4, 1945.
"National League," Sporting News (St. Louis), October 5, 1933.
"Baseball's Brother," Fredericksburg Standard, November 3, 1928.
"Sports Column," Fredericksburg Standard, September 28, 1933.
"This Week in Sports," Fredericksburg Standard, July 25, 1935.
"Spotlights," San Antonio Light, March 15, 1937.


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