11-23-05 - There was a time in North Texas when baseball was at it's best. Hundreds of fans flocked to semi-pro ballparks to watch their local hero's give it their all. KXII takes you down memory lane with the Van Alstyne Grays.
It's been called America's past-time, and it's easy to see why when you look at how baseball has shaped the American landscape today and in particular, the North Texas region. In fact, in the early 1930's and 40's, semi-pro teams dotted the Texoma landscape.
Current Van Alstyne resident Oscar Williams played in the outfield for the Van Alstyne Grays, a semi-pro team that began play in 1931 competing against teams from Bonham, Gunter, Sherman, Whitesboro and McKinney.
The Grays were a widely popular team that drew fans from far beyond the city limits. So popular in fact that in 1936, a 600 seat stadium was built to accommodate all of the Gray's fans. One of who was Oscar's nephew Charles who remembers coming to Grays games as a young boy.
As popular as they were, most all of these area teams had to fold when World War II broke out in the late 30's, and in Van Alstyne, the Gray's stadium eventually came down too. Today, the only teams that play on a regular basis in this rural North Texas town are the high school squads including the Panther football team. But this land was not always used as a football field. 60 years ago, there was baseball played here.
Crumbling concrete pillars in the shadow of the current Panther Stadium stands serve as subtle reminders that the cheers that echo off these grounds used to be for hits and home runs, not tackles and touchdowns.
The Van Alstyne Historical Museum has just one piece of Gray's memorabilia, a 1933 team photograph. A decaying reminder of a team that long ago captured the imagination of an entire community and for a select few it still does.