1955 Dallas Eagles program (Courtesy of Tim Castelli)

April 29, 1955: Fort Worth edges Dallas after 17 innings of drama

This article was written by Tim Castelli

1955 Dallas Eagles program (Courtesy of Tim Castelli)The Sporting News’s headline for the April 29, 1955, game between the Fort Worth Cats and Dallas Eagles was “Cats, Eagles in Long Thriller,”1 but the significance of this game extends beyond the back-and-forth drama in this marathon between longtime minor-league adversaries. It was the last series between the Cats and Eagles before the death of one of the most polarizing and complex figures in the rivalry and Texas League history, Dallas owner Dick Burnett, and a watershed juncture in the decline of their rivalry.

The two founding Texas League members had been battling since 1888.2 As expected for a natural rivalry of teams located just 33 miles apart, it was often intense. Longtime Dallas pitcher Joe Kotrany (1951-1959) said, “Every time we went to Fort Worth, the fans would pelt us after the game with parking lot gravel all the way from the dressing room to the bus – no matter whether we’d won or lost.”3

In a Texas League filled with sizable egos, Burnett’s bombastic ownership style towered above the rest. An East Texas oil tycoon, he purchased the Double-A Eagles in April 1948. He brought to Dallas a flamboyant and overbearing approach to running and promoting his team. Owning a Texas League team was only another step in his grander ambition to bring major-league baseball to the Dallas-Fort Worth area.4

With his strong maverick streak, Burnett was a vocal proponent of an independent minor league.5 He detested “chain-store baseball,”6 a minor-league system designed solely for player development.7

To his credit, Burnett’s aggressiveness in gaining an edge on his rivals and filling the stands also made Dallas a pioneer in ending segregation in the Texas League. In February 1952 he announced the planned integration of the team for the coming season.8 He signed Dave Hoskins, who went on to have a stellar 1952 season.9 Burnett’s efforts were more than a publicity stunt; by 1954 five Black players suited up for Dallas.

Burnett’s leadership in integration helped pave the way for the rest of the Texas League. In 1955 the only team that had not integrated was the Shreveport Sports.10 The other Double-A league at the time, the Southern Association, had only one Black player, for two games, in its 66-year history.11

Additionally, Dallas was ahead of the times in its pursuit of Latino players. During 1955 Dallas had four Latin American-born players, almost equal to the combined number in the rest of the Texas League.

Burnett’s ownership style helped lift the Eagles from seventh place in 1948 to first in the 1952 and 1953 seasons. He was named by The Sporting News as the Minor-League Executive of the Year for 1953.12 But in 1954, Dallas and Burnett were stung by a last-place finish.

Fort Worth’s ownership was in stark contrast to its rivals. It was a model of continuity and a lower-key public profile. Until Burnett came along, Fort Worth held a more dominant role in the Texas League than its larger neighbor.

In October 1916 a group headed by W.K. Stripling and Paul LaGrave had purchased the Fort Worth team. The pair guided Fort Worth through a period of unprecedented success. From 1919 to 1925, they won the Texas League regular-season title each year.13 In 1946 the Brooklyn Dodgers purchased the club.14 This arrangement set them up for their next string of dominance. They reached the playoffs every year from 1946 to 1954.

The sting of 1954 resulted in a major change to the Eagles. Despite Burnett’s earlier vociferous denunciations of the minor-league system, due to his ingrained impetuousness, he ultimately retreated and, before the 1955 season, signed an agreement with the 1954 World Series champion New York Giants.15

The 1955 season brought notable turnover to the Fort Worth and Dallas rosters. Fort Worth finally integrated its ballclub, adding future National League MVP Maury Wills and center fielder Eddie Moore. Surprisingly, according to Wills, the parent club that broke baseball’s color line with Jackie Robinson in 1947 did not help prepare him for being the initial Black player in a Southern city.16

The Eagles’ Opening Day roster included two Black players, first baseman Bill White and pitcher Jim Tugerson. Burnett’s affiliation agreement with the Giants contributed significantly to the team’s success in 1955, as three starters and a top pitcher came over from Nashville, the Giants’ previous Double-A team.  

Friday, April 29, 1955, was a warm spring night even by Dallas standards, with a temperature of 83 for the 8:00 P.M. first pitch. This was the fourth game in a six-game home-and-home series between the Eagles and Cats.

Coming into the game, Dallas was on a hot streak but was narrowly winning. The Eagles already had 10 come-from-behind wins in the young season.17 The standings showed Dallas at 16-7 and in second place, 1½ games behind the San Antonio Missions, while Fort Worth was 10-11 and in fifth place. 

The announced crowd at Burnett Field was 3,358, with, as the Dallas Morning News reported, “most of them remaining until the last out.”18 On the field, the Eagles had been integrated for over three years, but the crowd was still segregated by race. As Bill White recalled in his autobiography, Dallas fans were respectful to their own Black players, but that was usually not the case toward opposing Black players.19

Facing off were pitchers Carroll “C.B.” Beringer for Fort Worth and Ben Wilbur for Dallas. The first two innings were uneventful. In the third, Fort Worth escaped a precarious spot to start the inning as center fielder Eddie Moore committed an error and a walk followed. With runners on first and second, Beringer induced a force out at third and two fly outs to avoid any damage.20

Dallas opened the scoring in the fourth. Mickey Sullivan doubled, took third on Wilcy Moore’s single, and came home on Don Taussig’s sacrifice fly. In the sixth, Fort Worth tied the game as Frank Marchio singled, future Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson laid down a sacrifice, and Danny Ozark struck a run-scoring single. Although the Cats threatened in each of the final three innings of regulation, Wilbur escaped with no harm done.

Tied, 1-1, the game went into extra innings with both starting pitchers still on the mound. In the bottom of the 11th, it was the Eagles’ turn to threaten. With two outs, Wilcy Moore singled and Taussig lined a hard shot to left-center field, but a “fine barehanded pick up”21 by another future Hall of Fame manager, Dick Williams, limited Taussig to a single and prevented the winning run from scoring.

In the 12th Fort Worth wasted an opportunity to end the stalemate. Wills started the inning with a single, but Joe Pignatano hit into a force out at second. Beringer sacrificed him to second. Dallas intentionally walked Frank Marchio. Anderson hit a liner off Wilbur that caromed to second baseman Lee Tate, whose throw to Sullivan at first was dropped. Pignatano, reaching third and seeing Sullivan drop the ball, raced to score but was tagged out at the plate. The call enraged Fort Worth’s manager, two-time Boston Braves All-Star Tommy Holmes, resulting in his ejection by home-plate umpire Swede Terres.

Two innings later, Fort Worth threatened again. Frank Jeffers singled to start the inning. An attempted sacrifice by Wills resulted in a popup to catcher Len Jackson. Pignatano and Harry Schwegman, batting for Beringer, singled, loading the bases. Wilbur was replaced by Roque Contreras, who coaxed a popup and a fly out to keep the game tied.

With one out in the top of the 17th, after 10 scoreless innings, Contreras walked Marchio and Anderson. Marchio was thrown out at third on an attempted double steal, but Eddie Moore hit a double off the left-field wall, scoring Anderson for the go-ahead run. On an attempted intentional walk of Ozark, Contreras got the pitch too close, and the future Phillies and Giants manager slapped a single up the middle for an insurance run. Dallas went down quietly in its half of the 17th to end the nearly four-hour contest.

Fort Worth’s 3-1 victory belied the game’s combined 25 hits, 9 walks, 1 HBP, and 3 errors. The Dallas Morning News called the game “one of the most brilliant struggles in recent Texas League play.”22

Dallas shook off this loss and went on to complete a worst-to-first turnaround, ending the season with a record of 93-67. But in the opening round of the playoffs, the Eagles lost to the Houston Buffalos. Meanwhile, Fort Worth’s pitching faltered, resulting in a 77-84 record and sixth place, their worst showing since 1940.

Burnett’s reign in Dallas ended abruptly one month after the April 29 game, when he died of a heart attack at the age of 57.23 His heirs continued to own the team until 1958.24 With his passing, the growth of the Dallas-Fort Worth area and the continued evolution of the minor-league system, the once-intense rivalry began its descent with this series. The decline culminated in 1960, when the teams merged to become the Dallas-Fort Worth Rangers – ending the long, fierce DFW baseball rivalry.


Author’s Note

The origin of this article occurred while I wandered through the “world’s largest flea market” in Canton, Texas. I came across an old baseball lying among other vintage items. Looking closer, I noticed written on the weathered ball, “Eagles 1 vs Cats 3 in 17th inning” and “April 29, 1955.” This discovery inspired me to research and write about the game.

1955 Dallas Eagles baseball (Courtesy of Tim Castelli)



The author thanks Banks-Bragan DFW SABR members Paul Rogers, Jim Ball, John Martin, and Mark Presswood for their insights and information on the Cats and Eagles. This article was fact-checked by Larry DeFillipo and copy-edited by Len Levin.

1955 Dallas Eagles program and baseball: Courtesy of Tim Castelli.



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com, The Sporting News, the Dallas Morning News, and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for box scores, statistics, and general information on the two teams and the Texas League. Marshall D. Wright’s The Texas League in Baseball, 1888-1958 and Tom Kayser and David King’s Baseball in the Lone Star State offered historical background.  The Tom Kayser and Howard Green collections in the DeGolyer Library at Southern Methodist University provided additional background material on the teams and the Texas League.



1 “Cats, Eagles in Long Thriller,” The Sporting News, May 11, 1955: 33.

2 Bill O’Neal, The Texas League – A Century of Baseball (Austin, Texas: Eakin Press, 1987), 336.

3 Tom Peeler, “The Great Dallas/Fort Worth Baseball Rivatry,” D Magazine, May 1, 1977, https://www.dmagazine.com/publications/d-magazine/1977/may/the-great-dallasfort-worth-baseball-rivalry/.

4 Larry G. Bowman, “Richard Wesley Burnett and the Dallas Eagles, 1948-1955,” East Texas

Historical Journal, Volume 32 (1994): Issue 2, Article 10, https://scholarworks.sfasu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2154&context=ethj.

5 Bill Rives, “Majors Must Quit Farms – Burnett,” The Sporting News, August 6, 1952: 1.

6 “Chain-Store Baseball – Baseball Dictionary,” Baseball-Almanac.com, accessed April 24, 2024, https://www.baseball-almanac.com/dictionary-term.php?term=chain-store%20baseball.

7 Bowman, “Richard Wesley Burnett and the Dallas Eagles, 1948-1955.”

8 Bill Rives, “Texas Owners Okay Use of Negroes – If Capable Enough,” The Sporting News, February 6, 1952: 4.

9 Bowman.

10 Nico Van Thyn, “That’s the Old Ballgame Shreveport: Chapter 16 – the Integration Issue,” from the blog Once a Knight, May 6, 2019, https://nvanthyn.blogspot.com/2019/05/thats-old-ballgame-shreveport-chapter.html.

11 Kevin T. Czerwinski, “Questions Plague Peeples’ Trailblazing Story,” MILB.com, February 28, 2007, https://www.milb.com/news/gcs-180942.

12 Bill Rives, “Battler Burnett Finally Puts Over Strike,” The Sporting News, December 30, 1953: 5.

13 Vern Luse, “The 1920–1925 Fort Worth Panthers,” in SABR Baseball Research Journal, 1977. Note: In 1919 Fort Worth won the regular-season title but lost in the playoffs. The article focuses on their playoff-winning championships in 1920-1925.  

14 Jeff Guinn with Bobby Bragan, When Panthers Roared (Fort Worth: TCU Press, 1999), 60.

15 Bill Rives, “Giants, Cincy Switch Links with Class AA,” The Sporting News, October 6, 1954: 26.

16 Maury Wills & Mike Celizic, On the Run (New York: Carroll & Graf, 1991), 76.

17 “Dallas’ ‘Comeback Kids’ Win Ten by Coming From Behind,” The Sporting News, May 4, 1955: 31.

18 Merle Heryford, “Cats Beat Eagles 3-1, in 17 Frames,” Dallas Morning News, April 30, 1955: 12.

19 Bill White with Gordon Dillow, Uppity: My Untold Story About the Games People Play (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2011), 41.

20 “Cats Slip Past Eagles in 17th, 3-1,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Morning 4 Star Edition), April 30, 1955: 9.

21 “Cats Bump Eagles 3-1, in 17th Inning,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Morning 4 Star Edition), May 1, 1955: section 3, 2.

22 Heryford, “Cats Beat Eagles 3-1, in 17 Frames.”

23 Lowell Reidenbaugh, “Dallas Owner Burnett Dies; Battled Major Domination,” The Sporting News, June 8, 1955: 46.

24 Peeler, “The Great Dallas/Fort Worth Baseball Rivalry.”

Additional Stats

Fort Worth Cats 3
Dallas Eagles 1
17 innings

Burnett Field
Dallas, TX

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