AUSTIN, Texas—Austin currently is the nation’s largest metropolitan area without a professional baseball franchise. This spring, Nolan Ryan’s Round Rock Express will bring minor league baseball back to the capital area. Minor league baseball in the Austin area is not new. It has a significant history, which is explored by a recent article in the Southwestern Historical Quarterly.
The Quarterly is published by the Texas State Historical Association, which is based at The University of Texas at Austin. In the article, Alan C. Atchison, a Southwest Texas State University instructor of history, discusses Austin’s minor league history. In "When Every Town Big Enough to Have a Bank Also Had a Professional Baseball Team: The Game Returns to Austin After World War II," Atchison attributes some of the early enthusiasm for local minor league baseball to the times. He explains that in postwar years, "citizens connected baseball with what they felt was good about their communities."
Although short-lived teams had existed in the 1910s and 1920s, it took three ardent supporters of the game to bring minor league ball to Austin. Mayor Tom Miller, baseball supporter and team owner Ed Knebel, and the Jaycees joined forces in 1947 to create the Austin Pioneers, a class B minor league team. The sport’s expansion in Texas also was fueled in part by new assets generated by the oil boom and the prosperity of post-World War II America.
The 1960s brought many changes that helped end minor league baseball in Austin. The avid support of Little League baseball occupied many potential viewers. The convenient location of the major league Houston Astros and the increasing availability of televised sports also were factors in the demise of Austin’s minor league franchise in 1967.