Fredericksburg baseball legends and Giants
All the talk about the Houston Astros in the World Series reminds me that baseball has been a big part of life in Fredericksburg and Gillespie County since the beginning of the 20th Century.
The Germans who settled the Texas Hill Country took to baseball. By the 1920s, small towns all over Gillespie and surrounding counties had adult baseball teams.
There were once 23 different adult baseball teams in Gillespie County alone.
Baseball was the perfect game for isolated rural communities in the Hill Country. Just about anyone could play. There was no expensive equipment required — only a bat, a ball and an open space. Maybe a crude leather glove if one could afford it.
In the early days, there was no radio or television in Fredericksburg. Baseball was the biggest show in town from April to September.
One of the most successful teams in the Hill Country League was the Fredericksburg Giants.
A surprising number of Giants went on to play professional baseball at one level or another. Felix Hollmig played for the Galveston Sand Crabs in the Texas League. Carl Kott played in the Evangeline League, the Texas League and the Texas/Arizona League.
Andy Andrews, who coached at Fredericksburg High School and managed the Giants in the 1930s, was a catcher in the minors. He became a minor league umpire and then a scout for the Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Max Molberg, manager of the Giants in the 1940s, played for Abbeville, Louisiana in the Evangeline League and for Gainesville, Texas in the Big State League.
The Klaerner family of Fredericksburg was famous for baseball. Brothers Hugo, Chester and Alphons all played pro ball. So did cousins Elias and Phillip.
Chester (Smokey) Klaerner turned down a contract with the Cincinnati Reds in 1932 to finish his degree at Rice. He threw two no-hitters as a pitcher in the Southwest Conference.
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