An Explosive Beginning

This article was written by Bart Ripp

This article was published in the 1982 Baseball Research Journal


Baseball history was made April 6, 1932 at the corner of 10th Street and Stover Avenue in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The city’s first professional game was played there that day. Tingley Field, a diamond enveloped by a rickety wooden grandstand, was dedicated and served as the city’s home in minor league baseball until the Albuquerque Sports Stadium, home of the Pacific Coast League’s Dukes, was built in 1969.

Paramount to this pair of firsts is that Albuquerque’s debut in organized baseball was the highest scoring game in professional history. The score was the Albuquerque Dons 43, the El Paso Longhorns 15.

There have been just three games in this century that approached Albuquerque’s lopsided victory. Springfield, Ill., defeated Peoria, 33-23 in the Three-I League on July 22, 1926. Springfield, Ohio, defeated Fort Wayne 38-18 in a Central League game at Fort Wayne on June 2, 1930; and Corsicana edged Texarkana, 51-3 on June 15, 1902 in the Texas League.

The major league record for runs scored in one game was set August 25, 1922, when the Chicago Cubs beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 26-23. The American League record for total runs is a measly 36, scored June 29, 1950, when the Boston Red Sox thumped the Philadelphia Athletics, 22-14.

The 58 runs scored in the Albuquerque-El Paso home plate special also exceeds the most runs scored by two teams in a major league doubleheader – 54, set by the Philadelphia Phillies and Boston Braves on the day referred by Hall of Fame historians as the centennial of baseball, July 4, 1939.

Tingley Field, since replaced by softball diamonds, was built on land leased from the city by Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway apprentice employees who built the fences and grandstand. Thus, its early name was Apprentice Field.

The dedication of Tingley Field by its namesake, the theatrical mayor of Albuquerque, Clyde Tingley, and the coming of the Class D Arizona-Texas League was heralded by the Albuquerque Journal sports section for several days prior to April 6, 1932.

Sports Editor Deacon Arledge breathlessly reported in the April 5 edition that “the El Paso team, 16 strong, left on a bus this morning (April 4). . . and the team is not in the best of condition, due to a short training session. . . . The Texans all appear to be hitting fairly well, but it is feared that their defense will be ragged.”

This was an accurate forecast. On game day, the weather forecast predicted partly cloudy skies and cooler temperatures. it mentioned nothing about winds.

Breezy enough was Arledge’s story, which led with the shrill cry, “Baseball today! Baseball today!” and went on to describe Mayor Tingley’s practice routine for throwing out the first ball, the parade route to be taken by the teams to the ballpark, ending with the sentence, “Everybody from the club officials to the batboy is eagerly awaiting the first `Play ball’!”

Accompanying Arledge’s preview was a poem, written by one L. H. Addington. Its lead proved to be more of an oracle than Arledge’s columns of copy. The poem began:

“Opening Day is here again
With all its festive stunts
With all its boots and bingles
With scorching drives and bunts.”

Following this lilting coverage was a full-page advertisement headlined, “The Game Is On!” It promised the following:

  • A case of Famous Country Club Beer for the first base-hit by an Albuquerque player, delivered by Albuquerque Ice CO.
  • If Albuquerque won, the entire team would attend the wrestling matches, two out of three falls, Friday night at Viaduct Arena.
  • Pheasant’s News Stand promised a free box of cigars to the Albuquerque players turning the first double play of the season.
  • The Dons player hitting the first home run would receive a free hat from Meyer & Meyer, plus a $5 meal at the Court Cafe. “The entire Don team,” the ad said, “will walk into the Court Café after the first home game and eat a big square meal on the house.”
  • If Albuquerque won, the Imperial Laundry vowed to dry clean and press a suit for Dons Manager Bobby Coltrin and General Manager Marty Fiedler.
  • Clinton P. Anderson Insurance Agency, whose owner went on to become a U.S. senator, told Albuquerque to “Lock up the business and head for the ballpark. If you’re not a fan, get out and acquire an education in fandom. It’s an asset.”

A gathering of 1,000 headed for the 3,000-seat ballpark on a chilly gusty afternoon, and if nothing else, they acquired an education in counting.

After El Paso rocked pitcher Bart Smith for seven runs in the OP of the first inning, causing, Arledge wrote in the next day’s Journal, the hearts of local fans to come up into their throats, the Dons retaliated with eight runs of their own. Smith settled in the second and kept the Longhorns scoreless.

Albuquerque scored 12 runs in the bottom of the second for a 20-7 lead, five more in the third, three in the fourth and then 11 in the fifth. After giving the scoreboard operator, who may have run out of chalk by then, a rest by failing to score in the sixth, the Dons concluded their assault on home plate by notching four more in the seventh.

The spree was marked by one home run, struck high and deep over the wooden fence in right field by Albuquerque right-fielder Calvin Lahman. This shot was overshadowed by 13 triples – 11 by the Dons and three by the muscular Lahman. “The summary of those who poled out three-baggers,” Arledge wrote, “looks like the roster of the Albuquerque team.”

El Paso pitchers, a tattered trio named Nielsen, Primm and Formby, walked 14 batters and surrendered 31 hits. Longhorns fielders committed eight errors, including four by a second baseman named Painter.

Yet the most amazing statistic is the very last one in the Journal boxscore: the two teams took a tidy two hours and 40 minutes to commit 12 errors, collect 46 hits and count 58 runs.

The score and the winds were lower on the next day. Albuquerque won a pitcher’s battle, 14-13. The Dons compiled a 41-31 record and captured the league’s first half, then were leading the second half with a 16-11 record when the league disbanded July 24.

For posterity, the league included Albuquerque, El Paso, the Phoenix Senators, the Tucson Lizards and the Bisbee-Douglas Bees.

The players scattered for the summer. One Albuquerque Don went to the big leagues. Dick Gyselman, the Dons third baseman who led the Arizona-Texas League with a .392 batting average, graduated to the San Francisco Missions of the Pacific Coast League, then had his contract purchased by the Boston Braves.

Gyselman batted .225 in 82 games with the 1933-34 Braves, returned to the PCL for 10 years with the Seattle Indians and Rainiers, then bounced around the minors with the old San Diego Padres, and Great Falls, Mont., and Sweetwater, Texas. He played 2,520 professional games at third base – the most by anyone in the minors and a number exceeded only by Brooks Robinson. Sweetly, Gyselman ended his career in 1949 with Albuquerque, the team called the Dukes by then.

Richard Renald Gyselman was born in 1908 and celebrated his 24th birthday on April 6, 1932, when 58 runs were scored by Albuquerque and El Paso. There might have been more runs but Dick was hit by a batted ball when running the bases and was declared out.

“The wind, she blew 55 to 65 mph the whole game,” Gyselman said. “With that wind, anything was likely to happen. We were all young players and we knew our team had won, but we didn’t realize at the time what 43 runs meant. We were all pretty happy to win that first one in front of the home fans.”

Gyselman and the rest of the Dons celebrated with hot beef sandwiches and apple pie that night at the Court Cafe.

“No, no, no, it doesn’t seem far away at all,” Gyselman said from his Seattle home. “Gee, people will say, 50 years is a lot of years. Not to me. I remember because it was a good year for me. Wonderful year. I was young and on top.”


El Paso

AB

R

H

Albuquerque

AB

R

H

Colvard, cf

4

0

0

Geissberger, ss

7

6

6

Painter, 2b

5

3

3

Blakely, cf

6

5

4

Antista, lf

5

3

2

Gyselman, 3b

6

4

2

King, 3b

5

3

3

Lahman, rf

6

6

6

Tilton, rf

3

1

1

Kelman, lf

1

0

0

Washburn, lb

4

2

1

Thomas, if

5

5

4

x – Phimlee

1

0

0

Shoap, lb

7

6

4

Young, ss

5

2

1

Jones, 2b

5

4

1

Guerra, c

5

1

3

Lapeyri, c

6

5

3

Nielsen, p

1

0

0

Smith, p

6

2

1

Primmp

3

0

0

Formby, p

1

0

1

Totals

54

43

31

Totals

42

15

15

x – Batted for Washburn in ninth.

El Paso 700 420 002 — 15
Albuquerque 8(12)5 3(11)0 40x — 43

Two base hits: Antista, King, Young, Geissberger 3, Shoap 3, Lapeyri. Three base hits: Antista, King, Geissberger, Blakely 2, Lahman 3, Thomas 2, Jones, Lapeyri 2, Smith. Home run: Lahman. Sacrifice: Tilton. Stolen base: Tilton. Struck out: By Smith, 2; by Primm, 1. Base on balls: Off Nielsen, 4; off Smith, 7, off Primm, 10. Double plays: Young to Washburn; Painter to Young to Washburn. Hit by pitcher: By Smith (Painter, King); By Primm (Gyselman, Jones, Thomas). Hits: off Nielsen, 11 in 1-1/3 innings, off Primm, 16 in 3-2/3 innings; off Formby, 4 in 3 innings; off Smith 15 in 9 innings. Wild pitch: Smith. Passed ball: Guerra. Left on bases: El Paso 11, Albuquerque 7. Umpire: Bearwald. Time: 2:40.

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