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Nobody Could Rile An Umpire Quite Like 'Tex' (June 2013)

Nobody Could Rile An Umpire Quite Like 'Tex' (June 2013)

Nobody Could Rile An Umpire Quite Like 'Tex'

By Van Craddock

The game of baseball needs more characters like "Tex" Jeanes. Ernest Lee "Tex" Jeanes played professional baseball for 20 years. Although his major league career was relatively brief, many East Texans have fond memories of his minor league exploits.

Jeanes played for the old Longview Cannibals in the mid-1930s, then managed the 1940 Longview Texans. When it came to umpire baiting, nobody could top "Tex." For example, in the opening game of the 1940 season at Tyler, Jeanes actually hauled off and slugged an umpire. Jeanes and the ump were having a fifth-inning "discussion" when "Tex" planted a right cross on the umpire's chin.

A newspaper account noted the brouhaha began when "an epithet was hurled, not by Jeanes" but rather by the umpire. This article pointed out that Jeanes' knockout punch had shown the Texans "this year have got the pepper and the fight and the vinegar that clubs here in the past have so sorely needed." Jeanes was fined $50 for the incident and was suspended a couple of games. Jeanes appealed and his case went all the way to Baseball Commissioner Judge "Kenesaw Mountain" Landis, who upheld the fine but allowed Jeanes to continue managing the Longview team. Later that same season, Jeanes was having a feud with another umpire and, prior to the start of the game, sent his dog out of the dugout with the team's lineup in its mouth. The ump was not pleased.

Once, as a player in the Southern League, Jeanes had been having some heated disagreements with the plate umpire. Finally, the umpire tossed "Tex" for complaining about a called third strike. That's when the apparently enraged Jeanes pulled a pistol out of his flannel uniform and fired point-blank into the umpire's stomach. With a collective gasp from the fans, the poor umpire's legs buckled and, clutching his stomach, he sank to his knees. It took a couple of minutes for the ump to realize, to everyone's relief (especially his) that he hadn't been shot. The gun contained blanks. Then there was the time Jeanes' team was playing an extra-inning game in a park with no lights.

Finally, it got so dark that Jeanes called time out and disappeared into the dugout. He emerged with a lantern, which he carried to the outfield and nailed to the fence. After the not-so-subtle hint, the umpire called the game because of darkness. When the Class C Lone Star League was born in 1947, owners made Jeanes vice president and director of the new Longview club. They knew he'd put fans in the stands. Jeanes played in the major leagues in 1921-22, 1925-26 and 1927 for the Washington Senators, New York Giants and Cleveland Indians. An outfielder and pitcher, he came from good baseball stock. After all, his uncle was Hall of Famer Tris Speaker, one of baseball's all-time greats. "Tex" Jeanes died on April 5, 1973, in Longview. Appropriately, it was opening day for the new major league season.