Remembering a red-headed Pioneer

 

August 21, 2019

David Stevens

Red Dial's autograph on a Clovis Pioneers team baseball is part of a collection super fan Patsy Weeks put together in the 1950s.

Clovis has a proud history of professional baseball teams, beginning in the 1920s, through 1957.

At least nine Clovis Pioneers had a cup of coffee or more in the Major Leagues, including

n Harry Bright (309 games over eight big-league seasons, 1958 to 1965)

n Russ Christopher (an all-star with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1945)

n Jesse Gonder (played for Hall of Fame Manager Casey Stengel with the New York Yankees and New York Mets)

n and brothers Dizzy and Paul Dean, who co-owned the Pioneers in 1949 and 1950.

But none of those guys spent more than a year or two in Clovis. Perhaps the greatest Pioneer of them all never appeared in a big-league game.

Today is a good day to remember Carroll "Red" Dial because he played his last game as a Clovis Pioneer 65 years ago this month.

In all, the red-headed, right-handed pitcher from Oklahoma won 183 minor league baseball games in 11 seasons, from 1947 to 1957, according to baseballreference.com.

His best years were 1952 to 1954 with the Pioneers when he compiled an 80-33 record.

His size may have kept him down on the farm - he was 5-foot-10 inches and weighed just 160 pounds - and his earned run average was nothing to catch the attention of Major League executives: a little over 5 runs allowed per game, mostly in B and C leagues.


But he knew how to win ballgames.

His minor league career record was 183 and 118, a .608 winning percentage. (Point of reference: Nolan Ryan's MLB career winning percentage was .526.)

One more reason Red Dial was special: He was also an outstanding hitter.

His career batting average for the Pioneers was .325, with 18 home runs.

He slugged 11 homers with 28 doubles and two triples in 1954, when he also went 25-12 on the mound.

The Hardball Times website tells us Dial played an average of 50 games per year in the outfield when he wasn't pitching.

That website also identifies Dial as "probably the league's best pitcher," especially from 1951 to 1955 when he won 122 games, leading the West Texas-New Mexico League three times.

His Clovis years were sandwiched by seasons in Pampa, Texas, where he pitched against the Pioneers.

Dial set a WT-NM League record with 28 wins in 1953, and led the league in earned run average in 1955 - 3.55.

Records from those days are not always reliable, but The Hardball Times reports he led the league with 234 strikeouts in 258 innings in 1954.

Dial left the Pioneers after the 1954 season when he moved his family back to Pampa.

The big leagues had taken note by then and he was promoted to AA Shreveport in 1956. But he was 30 years old by then, and managed just a 2-5 record and 6.18 ERA before finishing out the year back in Pampa.

Clovis loved Dial as evidenced by "Red Dial Night," held Aug. 27, 1954.

"The special night in his honor will be in appreciation of his tremendous record, unmatched in West Texas-New Mexico League history," the Clovis News-Journal reported.

Teammates, Manager Grover Seitz and fans all presented gifts to the red head.

Dial died Nov. 7, 1996, at age 71 in Dill City, Okla.

David Stevens writes about regional history for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at:

[email protected]

 
 

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