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Leslie Aulds

Leslie Aulds

Baseball in Wartime

Position(s):
C
Nicknames:
Tex
Born:
December 28, 1920
Bats:
Right
Throws:
Right
Height:
6' 2"
Weight:
185 lbs
Major League Debut:
5-25-1947 with BOS

It seems remarkable, but the 1947 Boston Red Sox had three Native Americans on the team: Leon Culberson, Rudy York, and Tex Aulds. Aulds described his background in a questionnaire he completed for the National Baseball Hall of Fame as “French, Indian, Irish, Scotch.”  He was born with the more highfalutin name of Leycester Doyle Aulds, born in Farmerville (Union Parish), Louisiana, on December 28, 1920. Aulds played for only one team in the majors, the Red Sox, and he died at his home in Hondo, Texas, of a heart attack while watching television. The Red Sox were on TV playing the Yankees in Game One of the 1999 American League Championship Series. Though Boston took an early 3-0 lead, the Yankees came from behind, tied it, and won in the bottom of the 10th. We don’t know at what point during the game Mr. Aulds suffered his fatal heart attack.

Aulds – more commonly called Leslie, or Tex, grew up in the Corpus Christi area. His father, Clarence, was the superintendent for the Carbon Black Plant in Corpus Christi; his mother, Minnie, worked in a boardinghouse after she and Clarence divorced. Clarence enjoyed pitching himself, so much so that Tex’s grandson Reagan Rothe says, “His father put a catcher’s mitt in Tex’s hands when he was around 9 years old and told him to be a catcher, because his father wanted to pitch to him, not catch.’ [E-mail communication from Reagan Rothe, December 21, 2009]

An Eagle Scout in his youth, Leslie excelled in high-school sports and was first signed to the Cincinnati Reds by scout Hank Severeid in 1941. His first stint in organized baseball was with the Reds-affiliated Class C Tucson Cowboys of the four-team Arizona-Texas League. A right-handed catcher, Aulds was 6-feet-2-inches tall and is listed at 185 pounds. He reported on July 18 and accumulated 53 at-bats in 21 games, hitting.170 with one extra-base hit, a double. The Cowboys released him. World War II intervened and Aulds entered the Army Air Force on September 14, 1942. He was stationed at Randolph Field, near San Antonio. Not surprisingly, he played on base teams there, the baseball and football teams, both of which were called the Ramblers.

Aulds first made a name in competitive sports on the first day of 1944, when he played in the Cotton Bowl for the Ramblers against the University of Texas. Quarterback Glenn Dobbs threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Aulds on the final play of the first quarter. The game ended in a 7-7 draw. On the baseball Ramblers, Aulds played under coach Bibb Falk, a former major leaguer, and was batterymate for Boo Ferriss, later a teammate on the Red Sox. Gary Bedingfield, who publishes the Baseball in Wartime blog, writes, “Playing the outfield and behind the plate for the Ramblers, he paced the team to the 1944 Service Baseball League championships where they were beaten by the San Antonio Aviation Cadet Center. It was pitcher Boo Ferriss, though, who won the league batting title with a .417 average. In 1945, asthma forced Ferriss out of the service and he went on to a remarkable debut with the Red Sox. With the base team, Aulds exploded, batting over .300 and leading the team in RBIs and stolen bases. With the Ramblers running away with the 1945 league title, Aulds and teammates Marty Errante and Elbert Young were assigned to Camp Pinedale in Fresno, California, in August 1945. Aulds continued to dominate with the Pinedale Interceptors and drew much attention from major league scouts.” [See the Aulds biography at www.baseballinwartime.com]

After being discharged from military service late in 1945, Tex was signed again by Severeid, now with the Red Sox, and in 1946 was sent to play for the Eastern League Scranton Red Sox. He appeared in 105 games and hit .263, catching for Mel Parnell and other Boston prospects. Scranton won the playoffs (Tex’s six RBIs led the team) and Aulds was named the catcher on the first team Eastern League All-Stars. Advanced from Single A to Louisville, he began play with the Colonels in 1947 but was spiked badly on April 18 in the second game of the year, requiring 27 stitches just above his right knee. He went to Toronto for rehab, and was returned to Louisville on May 19. Two days later, the Red Sox released catcher Frankie Hayes and brought up Aulds to serve as third-string backstop behind Birdie Tebbetts and Roy Partee. It was a year that saw the Sox cycle through seven catchers.

Tex played in three 1947 Red Sox games. His debut came on May 25, 1947. Tebbetts was the regular Boston catcher. It was a tough game for Boston. Another Tex – Sox pitcher Hughson – got hit early, as did Bill Zuber. Hughson never made it out of the first, leaving after two-thirds of an inning, one strikeout, and a runner cut down at the plate on a “great heave by [Ted] Williams.” New York scored five runs in the first and three more in the second. Rain held up the game for 38 minutes; when play resumed, the Yankees added two more. Down 10-0, manager Joe Cronin sent in Tex Aulds to sub for Tebbetts.

Aulds struck out his first time up at bat. The first Red Sox hit off Bill Bevens was Johnny Pesky’s double to left in the seventh. The Sox didn’t score that inning, but the Yankees did – twice more. In the eighth, Aulds got the Sox’ second hit, a single into right field. Boston posted another goose egg, though, while New York put up four more. In the top of the ninth, Pesky singled and – with two outs – Williams homered. Final: Yankees 17, Red Sox 2.

The next time Aulds had a chance to play was on May 30. Injuries and illnesses had taken a toll on the Red Sox. Williams, Pesky, Doerr, and Tebbetts were all on the casualty list. Tebbetts had wrenched his knee sliding into third the day before, but finished out the game. With a doubleheader on the 30th, it was considered doubtful he’d play, but he did start game one – veterans hated to ever leave the lineup, even for one game, in those days. Tebbetts played with his knee heavily bandaged, even though trainer Win Green had urged him to rest it. The Senators jumped out to a 10-0 lead after five innings, and once again – down by 10 runs – Tex Aulds came in to replace Birdie.

Aulds was 0-for-1 this time, with one putout, and Washington won the game, 13-6. Roy Partee caught the second game. Washington won that one, too, by the score of 5-3. Aulds didn’t play again for three weeks, his final major-league appearance coming on June 22, again as a sub for Tebbetts, in the first game of a twin bill. This time it was just a 5-0 lead, not double digits, in favor of the Cleveland Indians after four innings. Aulds got his fourth major league at-bat – but made an out, never batted again, and wound up his career in “The Show” 1-for-4. Sent down to New Orleans in late July, he appeared in 32 games for the Pelicans. He was brought back to Boston in August but saw no further action and was released to Louisville in mid-October.

In 1948, Tex reported to Sarasota and trained with the big-league club but by the end of March was playing for Louisville against the Red Sox during exhibition ball. There he saw a good deal of action, appearing in 104 games, but hit for only a .235 average. In 1949, he played for both Louisville and Scranton, with the lion’s share of his limited time for the lower-level team. In 1949, Aulds’ wife became seriously ill giving birth to their daughter, Lindy. The sports editor of the Scranton newspaper realized that Aulds faced expensive medical bills and started a fund-raising effort.  When they heard of Aulds’ plight, the Boston Red Sox met the $2,500 medical bills. Both mother and daughter ultimately came through in good health. Throughout the 1950s, Aulds played semipro baseball with the Plymouth Oilers of Sinton, Texas, winning the state semipro title in 1951. Aulds umpired for many years in the collegiate Southwest Conference.

Several years after his death at the age of 78, his daughter, Cindy Gates, told Gary Bedingfield, “He always seemed bigger than life to me and will always be my hero. He was a great dad and it was his influence that led me into the athletic field as a player and then a coach. He also had a great influence on his grandchildren. His oldest grandson played for the Alexandria Aces for several years – Ryan Rothe, and another grandson, Reagan, is an outstanding golfer which was another love of my father’s.”

Reagan Rothe has written a 2008 novel, Dreams and Baseball (Black Rose Writing), which he says was inspired in part by a lot of Aulds’ stories and baseball lingo, dedicated to Leslie “Tex” Aulds, his father, Walt Rothe, and his brother, Ryan, all of whom played different levels of professional and college baseball. In a December 22, 2009, e-mail, Reagan said, “My grandfather definitely took advantage of one lifetime, playing professional baseball with the Red Sox and with Teddy Ballgame, and playing in the Cotton Bowl with Randolph Field and Glenn Dobbs; he also sparred and boxed in the military and was a scratch golfer later in his life. He was a patient and honest husband, and a perfect grandfather, knowing just how to motivate my brother, Ryan, and myself in any sporting activity.”

Written by: Bill Nowlin

This biography can also be found on the SABR Bioproject.

Sources

In addition to the sources cited in the text, the author used the online SABR Encyclopedia, retrosheet.org, and Baseball-Reference.com. Gary Bedingfield and his www.baseballinwartime.com website was a very important source. Thanks as well to Cindy Gates and Reagan Rothe.

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