ARDMORE, Okla. (KTEN) —Fans in Ardmore saw their city’s baseball teams come and go. Throughout a span of 57 years, 13 different teams called the city home. Of those teams, only one was able to produce a finals victory.

History of baseball in Ardmore

 

Minor league baseball’s first at-bat in Ardmore came in 1904 when the team from Paris, Texas became the Territiorians. 

An unsuccessful first season came and went… and so did the team.

When a team returned, they used the name ‘Blues’ before becoming the Giants, then the Indians. 

Six teams called Ardmore home before the Indians' name resurfaced in the Sooner State League. As an affiliate of Cleveland’s pro ball team, the Ardmore club made the finals in 1947, but lost 4 games to 1 to the McAlester Rockets.

In 1950, the Indians squared off against the Rockets again… and lost again, this time in six games.

Riding their success from the previous year, Ardmore posted the league’s best record. But just like the years before, the Indians lost to McAlester for a third time in the finals.

In 1953, the Indians changed major league affiliation and became the Cardinals. One year later, the club made the finals again. They faced a new opponent, Lawton, but still lost the series – this time a clean sweep.

Ardmore was certainly one of the most consistent teams in the SSL, as the club was back to win it all two years after losing each game to Lawton.

Yet another first place finish wasn’t enough to power them into a league victory – the Seminole Oilers defeated the Cardinals 4-1.

That marks five finals appearances and each one of them was a loss.

But in 1957, the Ardmore team finally broke their curse. They beat the Paris Orioles 4-0, the very city they took their first baseball team from back in 1904.

The Cards were one of two ready to compete in 1958… but the remaining 6 teams in the league folded.

The field remains today

 

Minor league baseball has been missing from Ardmore for more than 60 years, but the last stadium the team used, Cardinal Field, is still around.

“Back in the glory days, it was the stadium to come to,” Ardmore Parks and Recreation Director Teresa Ervin said.

“They may have had 2,000-4,000 people in attendance at one of the games,” Greater Southwest Historical Museum Director Wesley Hull said.

If you were lucky, you might have had a chance to catch a baseball legend or two in Ardmore. Hull was a college student in the 1950s and just so happened to be driving to Ardmore one day for a haircut. He saw a crowd gathered for a game at the field that used to be at the site of what is now Will Rogers Elementary and decided to catch some of the action.

“So I just pulled off in my 1950 model Ford pickup to go see the baseball. I don’t remember what teams were playing,” Hull said. “But what I do remember; Satchel Paige was pitching.”

Paige ended his career with eight all-star appearances, two World Series wins, and one Hall of Fame induction – in other words, a baseball legend.

Cardinal Field sits on the east side of the train tracks that split Ardmore almost in half. And just like Fenway’s Green Monster or the ivy walls of Wrigley, there’s a unique feature that really makes Cardinal Field stand out.

“The lights are on old oil derricks instead of regular poles like most lights are on,” Hull said.

The light fixtures came from Waco Turner, an Oklahoma oilman.

Oil derricks serve as light standards at Cardinal Field in Ardmore.

Play ball… again

 

Since the days the Cardinals played ball, the field has had many uses.

“It’s been used for 14 and under baseball teams, through the YMCA, it’s been used by the American Legion. It has been used for flag football in the outfield,” Ervin said.

The American Legion kept the name, but just like their predecessors, they fell into hard times.

“For the last several years, Covid and what have you, we haven’t started a team back,” Hull said.

For now, the field sits vacant, but it won’t be long before the old ball game gets a revival.

“Right now, we are partnering with Ardmore High School and Plainview High School and they are going to work on the field. And they’re going to play a retro game,” Ervin said.

The high school teams are putting in some elbow grease to make sure the price tag stays low on the city’s end. They’ll have to put in safety measures, like fences in front of the dugouts, before the teams square off.