The Best Postseason Ever: Wild Bill Serena’s 1947 Batting Feats

This article was written by Jamie Selko

This article was published in 2005 Baseball Research Journal

You can whiffle all you want about Reggie Jackson’s 18 post-season home runs. Big deal – it took him 77 games and 281 at-bats to reach that mark. More impressive is Mantle’s 18 in 65 games and 230 at-bats – all hit in the World Series. I am even more impressed by the Babe’s 15 in the 36 games and 118 at-bats where he was not playing as a pitcher. Give him Mickey’s 230 at-bats and the Babe hits 29 homers. Give him Reggie’s 281 at-bats, and he hits 36 (or, conversely, Mr. October hits eight in the Babe’s 118 at-bats). All this is conjecture, however. To find the best postseason ever, read on …

For the Lubbock Hubbers of the West Texas-New Mexico League, 1947 was a banner year. Under the leadership of their playing manager, Carl “Jack” Sullivan, they stormed through their season, finishing a torrid 99-41 and setting league records in wins, games ahead of the second-place team (14), and finishing with the second-best winning percentage in league history, .707, a mere one percentage point behind the record set a year earlier by Abilene (97-40).

The Hubbers finished second in batting at .315 and first in slugging with a .533 mark. Their on-base percentage was a robust .398 figure, they hit 210 home runs, scored runs at 8.9 per game, and allowed the fewest runs per game, 5.7. This means they scored over three runs a game more than they surrendered, a sure recipe for a .700 season.


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In Table 1 you will notice that six of the league’s eight teams hit over .300 and had an on-base percentage of over .400, and that six had slugging averages of .500 or better. The Hubbers pounded out 596 extra-base hits, a mighty 4.25 per game. Just how good was the hitting in the ’47 edition of the WT-NML? A .355 batting average would have gotten you 10th, as would 140 runs, 129 RBI, 44 doubles, and 187 hits. All this in just a 140-game season!

Conversely, how bad was the pitching? Well, a 4.96 ERA would have gotten you the 10th and final spot on the league’s top 10 charts. Eleven qualifying pitchers, on the other hand, had ERAs over 6.00 – and two were over 9.00. One pitcher, “Wild” Bill Hair of Borger, has his own chapter in the It’s Better to Be Lucky Than Good encyclopedia. He compiled a 9.21 ERA. allowing 19.5 BR/9, and gave up a cool 11 runs total every nine innings and yet he finished the season at 15-13.1

The starting eight for Lubbock consisted of first baseman Virgil Richardson, second baseman-manager “Jack” Sullivan, third baseman Jack McAlexander, shortstop Bill Serena, left fielder Pat Rooney, center fielder Jack Cerin, right fielder Ernest “Zeke” Wilemon, catcher Cliff Dooley, and outfielder/catcher Clem “Co” Cola.

The First Round of Playoffs

In round one, the heavy lumber of Lubbock unlimbered on the hapless staff of the Lamesa Lobos. It was a mismatch.

Game One was played at Lubbock to a crowd of about 5,000. The hitting stars for the Hubbers were Jack Cerin, who went 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBI, and catcher Dooley, who hit two triples and added three RBI of his own. Our Bill was 2-for-4 with two runs and an RBI. The game, which took a seemingly intermi­nable one hour and 37 minutes, ended in an 8-1 Lubbock victory. Paul Hinrichs, who had gone 18-5 on the year and who had led the league in ERA with a 3.34 mark, went the distance for the win.

Game Two was the closest in the series, with Lubbock squeak­ing by 7-5. Cerin had another good game, hitting two doubles and driving in another run. Serena went 2-for-3 with a solo horner. This game dragged on for two hours and 19 minutes.

The slumbering (they had hit only .298 for the first two games with a measly 15 runs) Lubbock bats finally awoke in Game Three, with the Hubbers smacking 20 hits and with 18 runs scurrying across the plate. Richardson and Wilemon each cracked four hits (with Wilemon scoring four runs). and Dooley hit three doubles and drove in three runs. Serena’s bat also woke up, as he had a double and two home runs, plating four runs. Pitcher Heinz added three RBI in his own cause.

Game Four for the Lobos was, unfortunately, more of the same – only worse, with Lubbock trouncing them, 23-3, before around 1,000 dispirited Lobo lovers. It was close for three innings, both teams having scored once in the first. But the Hubbers scored 11 times in the middle three stanzas and 11 more times in the final three to put a halt to any Lobo dreams of a big champion­ship series payday.

Cerin, Rooney, and Sullivan each collected four hits, with Cerin and Rooney also adding four runs apiece. Dooley added two more doubles (giving him five for the four games series), and drove in four runs, giving him 10 RBI, the same number Cerin (who had six in this game) had. Serena was 3-for-6 with three runs, two RBI, and a homer. Only the starting eight (Cola made no appearances in this series) and the pitchers played.

The starters compiled the following stats: 62-138 for a .449 BA, an .812 SA, and a .596 OB%. They hit 12 doubles, four triples, and 10 home runs, scored 53 runs, and drove in 49. (If one includes the pitchers, the averages fall a bit to .416, .727, and .491). Lubbock scored 56 runs – 14 a game – and gave up 18 (4.5). The Hubbers drew 22 walks while going down on strikes only 12 times (their pitchers walked 16 and struck out 36, including nine by Jerry Ahrens in game three and 14 by Eulis Rosson in the clincher).

The Championship Series vs. Amarillo

The headline after the first game against the Gold Sox read, “Hey, this ain’t Lamesa.” It certainly appeared that that was correct, as Lubbock fell, 7-0, behind the four-hit pitching of Bill Lonergan. Lonergan had led the WT-NM in Ks with 216 (in 196 innings) and finished fourth in ERA with a 3.99 mark. His 11.46 BR/9 (base runners per nine innings) had just beaten out the Hubbers’ Hinrichs for the league lead in that department.

Amarillo finished second, 14 games behind Lubbock, dur­ing the regular season, and boasted the second stingiest staff in their league. It also featured a one-two punch straight out of Minor League Heaven – “Bad” Bob Crues and big (6’5″, 235, one of the two or three largest players in baseball at the time) Joe Bauman. Crues hit 52 homers and drove in 178 runs for the Gold Sox in 1947, and the next year he would hit 69 homers and drive in an incredible 254 runs. He added 45 doubles amongst his 210 hits for 427 total bases in ’47, and had a .772 slugging average. Bauman slugged .727 thanks to 38 homers and 45 doubles of his own. He walked 151 times, and compiled a .526 on-base percentage. Seven years later Joe would launch 72 homers in a 140-game season playing for the Roswell Rockets in the Longhorn League.

The estimated 5,000 Hubber fans in attendance at the game must have been disappointed to see their hometown heroes fall in such a stunning fashion. All they could do was hope that tomorrow would be a better day.

And better day it was, as the Hubbers evened the series at a game apiece, winning 6-4 behind three home runs, one each by Cerin, Dooley, and our Bill, and despite 11 K’s, courtesy of Gold Sox starter Tom Spears. Spears had been a surprise starter, as he finished the season with a 12-10 record despite an ERA of 6.24. Serena got only the one hit, and pulled off a rarity afield. He played the entire game at short and had no official fielding chances.

The headline for game three, played before the second-largest crowd in Amarillo baseball history, 4,230 fans, read, “Sox Allee Samee Like Clovis,” no doubt in reference to Lubbock’s five doubles (three by Serena) and five homers en route to a 21-11 rout of Amarillo.

The Hubbers collected 23 hits, five by Bill, who added a homer to his doubles, giving him four extra-base hits for the day. He had four RBI, but was topped in that department by manager Sullivan’s five. Richardson, who hit a pair of homers in the game, scored five runs. Leonard Heinz, who had become the first 20-game winner for Lubbock since Pat Ralsh did so in 1940, struck out 10 before being lifted in the seventh when he weakened and allowed five runs to score.

Attendance was down for game four of the series in Amarillo, the reason stated as being the high school football game between the Amarillo Sandies and the Childress Bobcats, so the home­town fans missed out on a thrilling 13-8 Gold Sox win (Amarillo came from behind twice, 3-0 in the first and 5-3 in the third, and Lubbock drew to within one. 8-9, in the fifth). Serena was 1-4 with two runs and a double, and he also had an RBI. The game, which featured 21 runs, 23 hits, 11 walks, and four errors, lasted one hour and 58 minutes.

The Hubber bats awoke for the last game in Amarillo, pounding out 20 hits and scoring 16 runs (oddly, they went down 10 times on strikes but drew not a single walk). Amarillo was victimized by six errors, and the game, which produced 23 runs (Amarillo scored seven times), 32 hits, those six Gold Sox errors. and eight walks by Lubbock pitchers. took three hours and one minute to play.

No Lubbock player got more than three hits (four got that number), and only Rooney scored as many as three runs. Leadoff man McAlexander had four RBI. Serena was 2-for-6 with two home runs and three RBI in the rout, which actually it wasn’t, as the game was tied 7-7 after regulation. After a scoreless 10th, which featured Amarillo loading the bases with one out in the bottom of the inning but not being able to score, the Hubbers exploded for nine runs in the top of the 11th, including a grand slam by McAlexander.

The final game of the series was played before 5,200 fans in Lubbock. This one was another extra-inning thriller, one which found the home team down by two after one, and 3-4 after six. It was a sloppy game, with seven errors, including four by the win­ners. There were no standout performances by any Hubbers, as only Sullivan had as many as three hits. Serena had a solo homer. To show his appreciation of his team’s efforts, club president Sam Rosenthal sent the team on what was called a “two day scenic junket” through New Mexico at the club’s expense.

So, how did Serena fare during the championship round and in the playoffs overall? He hit only .370 in round two, but still managed to eke out a 1.074 slugging average. I believe that he received either three or four walks, which would give him an on­ base percentage of either .433 or .452. Nine of his 10 hits were for extra bases, including five home runs. In the six games, he scored nine times and drove in 10 runs. He made two errors and fielded .935.

The team hit .327 and slugged .558 during the Amarillo series, averaging nine runs a game. Their on-base percentage was .374. They did manage to compile 28 extra-base hits for the six games, including 16 home runs. Manager Sullivan tied Serena for the series RBI lead with 10. (Big Joe Bauman hit .400 for the series with two doubles, three home runs (for an .840 slugging average), and 12 RBI. Bob Crues hit .560 with ten runs and ten RBI. He slugged .960, thanks to two doubles and three home runs).

Serena ended his year-long assault against WT-NM pitching with the following numbers:

The Battle for the Class C Championship of Texas

In 1946, the various officials in the West Texas-New Mexico and East Texas league had decided to have a playoff to determine the Class C champion of Texas. The first such contest was an oily affair indeed, with the Pampa Oilers of the WT-NML emerging victorious over the Henderson Oilers in four straight games. The East Texas League changed its name to the Lone Star League for the 1947 season, and the Kilgore Drillers emerged as the champs, earning the right to face Lubbock.2

Kilgore, with a record of 78-60, had won the pennant in a very close race with Longview, Marshall, and Tyler. They defeated Tyler four games to none in the first round of the play-offs and then knocked off Marshall, four games to two, for the Lone Star cham­pionship.

Kilgore averaged .288 for the season with a .401 slugging average, a .372 on-base percentage, and 71 homers. They had averaged 6.7 runs a game during the season, and had four regu­lars who hit over .300. The Drillers had three players with over 100 runs and one player, Irv J. Clements (who was also their home run leader with 15), had at least 100 RBI. The Drillers’ best pitcher, Robert Ross, finished the season 20-9 with a 3.88 ERA.

In what the Lubbock Avalanche called the ”Little Dixie Series” the Hubbers won Game One, 14-1, before a home crowd of 3,300 fans. Len Heinz handcuffed the Drillers on eight hits and a single walk, and the Hubs played flawless defense. Their hitters, mean­while, had 14 hits and took advantage of two Driller errors and seven walks to score their runs.

A new face appeared in the Lubbock lineup, as “Co” Cola took over in left for Wilemon. Manager Sullivan had an excellent game, going 3-for-4 with four runs. The “California Clipper,” as Serena was referred to in the paper, was 3-for-5 with a homer and six RBI. A three-run homer with two outs in the first was his feature blast.

Game Two was “more of the same,” as the Avalanche head­line read. A disappointing crowd of 3,000 turned out to see Royce “Buster” Mills, described as “chunky” and “a handy little fellow in the clutch” come through in relief to earn a 14-8 victory. The game had 26 hits, five errors, 12 walks, and three pitching changes.

The Hubbers fell behind 5-0 in the first inning, and after six frames were down 8-3. All eight starters had at least one RBI for Lubbock, and they smacked eight extra-base hits. six doubles, a triple, and a home run by Serena (referred to as “Bambino” Bill in the game write-up).

The Hubbers prevailed in Game Three, 10-1, at home in front of approximately 3,100 fans in a game which took two hours and two minutes. The Drillers committed six more errors in this one, giving them 10 in the first three games (Lubbock was not that much better with six errors themselves). For the second day in a row, manager Sullivan contributed a double and a triple to the Lubbock cause. Serena had two hits, one a solo homer, drew the only Driller walk, and scored two runs. Wilemon was back in the lineup as Cola gave catcher Dooley a break.

From Lubbock the series was moved to Kilgore for however many games remained to be played to determine the Class C champion of Texas. Finances and distance dictated that the 2-3-2 format with which we are familiar was not feasible. It was almost 480 miles from ballpark to ballpark, and the bus ride would have taken 12 hours. By comparison, only one drive in the WT-NML was over 180 miles from Lubbock, that being the trip to Albuquerque, 320 miles away.

The reporters for the Avalanche were perspicacious in not­ing that the change in elevation from Lubbock to Kilgore would have an effect on the Hub hitters and give a marked advantage to curveball pitchers, an advantage absent in the high lonesome of West Texas: Lubbock sat at 3,195 feet, Kilgore at 333. The Hub hitters had undoubtedly benefited from the fact that they played in parks that averaged 3,436 feet above sea level (the lowest elevation in the league was found at Abilene, which at 1,791 feet was the only league town under 3,000 feet other than Lamesa, 2,997). The average Lone Star team sat at 411 feet, and only two towns (Jacksonville at 513′ and Tyler at 558′) were located even 500 feet above sea level.3

Sure enough, Game Four was a different kettle of fish, with the Hubbers going down 10-2 and managing to push only six hits past the defense. It was Lubbock’s turn to be embarrassed afield also, as they committed five errors (two by Serena) to the Drillers’ none. The Hubs went down 10 times via the K route in this one, and managed only two extra-base hits (a double by Richardson and a homer by Cola), whereas they had been averaging almost seven a game at home. Our Bill was a weak 1-for-4.

Apparently, the Hubs adjusted before Game Five, because they won that one in a walk, 8-1, to win the “Little Dixie Series,” four games to one. Dooley was back in the lineup and had three doubles. Leadoff man McAlexander corralled four RBI. In his last game of the season, Bill “The California Clipper” Serena was 2-for-5, and one of those was his 70th homer of the year.

Lubbock hit .358, slugged .630, had a .432 on-base percent­age in their final series, and smacked another 26 extra-base hits (15 doubles, two triples, and nine homers). While drilling the Drillers they averaged nine runs, while their pitchers surrendered only 4.2 runs per game. Their fielding was nothing to write home about, .923 with 16 errors (Serena fielded a very poor .829 with six errors, four of them in the two Kilgore games). Kilgore’s field work was not much better at .923 with 14 errors.

Postseason Overview

The Lubbock non-pitchers hit .369 in their 15 postseason games, they had a .646 slugging average, and garnered a .436 on-base percentage. They scored 152 runs, slammed 38 doubles, seven triples, and 35 home runs. Manager Sullivan scored 23 runs, drove in 22, and hit five doubles and four triples. Cerin scored 19 runs, drove in 16, and popped six homers to match his six doubles. Richardson hit seven homers and chalked up 18 RBI. Dooley hit nine doubles, two triples, four homers, and drove home 24 runs.

None of these above-mentioned efforts are shabby, especially considering the fact that they were compiled over only 15 games and the fact that they were rung up not only on the cream of the opposition in their own league but also against the champion of another circuit.

Serena was 28-for-67 for a .418 batting average. I figured his on-base percentage with 12 walks (he may have had more, I am almost certain he did not have fewer), which comes out to .506, a pretty impressive figure. His slugging average is what reaches out and grabs you – 71 total bases, good for a 1.060 mark. He scored 26 runs in those 15 games, drove in 28, and smashed 13 homers.

Serena’s numbers got him promoted to Dallas of the Texas League in 1948, and then on to Buffalo the same year. His com­bined average was under .250. In 1949 he was back in Dallas, where he hit 28 homers, earning a promotion to the Chicago Cubs at the end of the year. He had a few bright moments in his six big league seasons, but none shone brighter than his 1947 post­season.4

JAMIE SELKO lives where the pyramid meets the eye. His wife and six children, who share the same coordinates on the space-time continuum but not the same reality, make sure that he is not allowed to run with sharp objects.



1. If I ever can find microfiche of Hair’s season (which I have been trying to find for about ten years), I’d love to do an article on him also.

2. The Class C Championship series for the bragging rights in the Lone Star state would have one more edition. In 1948, the Amarillo Gold Sox, led by Bob Crues and his 69 homers and 254 RBI, would beat the Kilgore Drillers, led by manager Joe Kratcher’s .433 batting average, four games to two. Thus, the WT-NML won all three of the series with a total of 12 wins against only three losses, an .800 winning percentage. In 1949, the Lone Star League reverted to the East Texas League, and no further Class C Championships were contested.

3. I asked stats legend Bill Weiss, whom I was fortunate enough to meet at a SABR convention and who was gracious enough to join us for lunch, about the stats in the WT-NML, and whether the park size or the altitude had the greater effect. I was surprised when he told me that, in his opinion, it was mostly because of the type of ball in use in the league.

4. If you add his season stats to his postseason ones, Serena played in 152 games. His totals are 573 AB, 217 hits, 209 runs, 492 TB, 47 doubles, 9 triples, 70 home runs, 218 RBI, 159 walks, 27 steals, a .379 BA, an .859 SA, and a superb .514 on-base percentage.