Nebraska Minor League Baseball
Nebraska State League
Holdrege White Sox 1956

In 1956, the Holdrege White Sox took the field as a class "D" team in the Nebraska State League. The city was one of the two smallest in the league with a population of about 4,400. Del Lefler led the ticket drive for the town and although the town was one of the smaller markets in the league they were third in the league in season ticket with 690 fans buying season tickets. Individual game tickets could be purchased at Hilsabek Sporting Goods in addition to the box office at the ball park.

Holdrege was a White Sox farm team in 1956. They were managed by Frank "Skeeter" Scalzi. The 43 year old Ohio native had been in the "show" for 11 games in 1939 with the Giants.

The team played at Holdrege Fairgrounds Park, one of the few parks without a grass infield. According to the Holdrege papers the infield was one of the worst in the area. What made the Holdrege infield so treacherous was in all the sand and gravel added to the dirt. The grandstands were also in less than perfect shape and all the glass windows had been broken during the winter by vandals. Before the season a new coat of paint was applied and the Bears logo from the towns NIL days on the outfield wall was replaced with the White Sox. The dugouts were upgraded with water fountains in each dugout. The fair board decided to add ticket booths at the entrance to the fair grounds instead of at the grandstands.
Russ Henderson was named president of Holdrege Baseball Inc. and led the effort to get all the appropriate work accomplished. By league rule, concessions profits were split 50/50 with the parent club. Holdrege decided to have the high school band booster club run the concessions. Mrs. T.A. Peterson was chairperson for the band booster club and took care of concessions at the park. Ticket sales were handled by Del Leffler and W. C. Phillips. Frank Hilsabeck was put in charge of equipment, dressing room facilities and purchasing concessions. Gordon Suhr was responsible for finding housing for the players and managers. Becky Dickerson was in charge of ticket takers and finance.

While most league towns played their Saturday games at night, Holdrege scheduled their Saturday contests for the afternoon. The team moved their games to Saturday afternoon to lessen the electricity load. Holdrege had a traditional Saturday "shopping night". The town could not handle both the business district lights and the lights at the ballpark at the same time.

Fans came to the Hotel Dale to see Carl Hubbell who was in attendance to help with the opening day festivities. Alex Carson's swing band provided opening game entertainment. Jupiter Pluvius was an unwelcome guest and attendance was only 772 for the first game.

Dale Hotel Holdrege Nebraska

Following an old baseball tradition, various incentive awards were scheduled for the first game. J. C. Martin received four of the five dollar awards. ($5.00 for the first put out, $5.00 for the first double, $5.00 for the first foul catch and $5.00 for the first double play).

Mutual sponsored a radio game of the day during the season. While it was typically a major league game, on July 9th the national Mutual game of the day was broadcast from Holdrege as they hosted Kearney. Rex Barney came to town to broadcast the game. Kids were admitted free that day but the raucous crowd was unable to bring a victory to the home team as Kearney defeated the White Sox.

On July 24th the wooden grandstand burned down. Two light poles also burned. The bleachers, dugouts and field were not hurt by the fire. The town leaders came through in a hurry. The Phelps County board arranged to borrow the stands from the high school football field. They were installed and the light poles were fixed by July 30th. At least one game with Superior was moved to Minden. On July 26th the fair board approved building a new steel structure for the grounds with an estimated completion date of August 15th. Go here to see the current ball park at the fair grounds. The ball park was a favorite of the hitters in the league. On August 29th, Larry Spires of North Platte hit the 100th home run at the Holdrege ball park for the year. With 32 home games that equates to more than three home runs a game.

For the season, Holdrege was led by lefty Gary Peters on the mound and Camilo Carreon with the stick. The lineup was heavy with left handed hitters and left handed pitchers. They managed a 33-30 record for the year.

Joe "J.C." Martin was signed by the White Sox as an amateur free agent in 1956. The nineteen year old from Axton Virginia held down the first base position for the White Sox in 1956. The port side batter averaged .276. He played for Davenport and Dubuque in 1957 and Duluth in 1958. He started the 1959 season with Indianapolis and was promoted to the parent club in September of 1959. He played a total of fourteen years in the majors with three different teams.

Seventeen year old Tom Plath was an all star at second base for the White Sox. The Chicago youngster graduated from Taft High School and was sought by many teams. He averaged .327 for the year.

Walter Lundy , from Norfolk Virginia was one of the few African American players in the league in 1956. He was in 24 games and averaged .179.

Henry "Boots" Llewellyn averaged .292 in 11 games. The 22 year old southpaw was from Ferguson Missouri and had just graduated from St. Louis University. He also played in 15 games for Dubuque in 1956.

Third base was split between Raymond Etchebarron , a 17 year old from Puente California, played 35 games at third, 19 in the outfield and averaged .297 and Salvatori LaSpina was a 22 year old Brooklyn native who played 23 games at the hot corner, 11 in the outfield and averaged .260.

Alan Koch was a 17 year old from South Gate California. He was a regular at short and averaged .243.

Behind the mask was Ron Butcher . The Los Angeles native was good with the glove and light with the bat as he averaged .198 for the year.

The outfield for the year saw three lefty's and five total regular players for the year. Vernon Neal stood on the left side of the plate for 35 games and managed a hefty .343 average.

Basil "Bill" Harrison from Washington DC played in 45 games. He was signed by the White Sox after playing for Georgetown University. He hit the first grand slam home run at the new ball park in North Platte.

The third port side batter was Don Gordon who averaged .219. Don was a 19 year old from Luray Kansas. He played for Dubuque in 1957. He was back in Nebraska with the Lincoln Chiefs in 1959 and 1961. He settled in Lexington Nebraska after his playing career. He died in Lexington in 2004.

William Rozich played in 44 games and averaged .254. He was assigned to Holdrege after starting the year in Dubuque Iowa. He was born on March 22, 1937 in Detroit and he graduated from Bowen High School in Chicago.

Camilo Carreon played in 34 games and had a .350 average. The 18 year old catcher from Colton California also played for Duluth-Superior in the Northern League in 1956. He returned to Duluth for 1957, Colorado Springs in 1958 and Indianapolis in 1959. In September of 1959 he was promoted to the White Sox and appeared in one game. He had a short stint with the Sox in 1960 and was a regular with the Sox from 1961 through 1964. He played for Cleveland in 1965 and Baltimore in 1966.

They were led by Gary Peters. The nineteen year old from Pennsylvania led the league in strikeouts. He was responsible for 10 of their 33 victories during the season. He also batted .321 in 40 games. He was promoted to Dubuque for 1957 where he was 10-6. In 1958 he was in Colorado Springs and Davenport. In 1959 he played for Indianapolis and made his major league debut in September of 1959. He spent most of 1960 and 61 with San Diego making brief appearances with the Sox each year. He finally became a regular with the Sox in 1963. He played for the Sox for until 1972. His two best years were 1963 when he was 19-8 and an all star team selection and 1964 when he was 20-8. He had a lifetime record of 124-103.

Ben Birsa was one of a cadre of left handed flingers and managed a 7-6 record in 19 appearances. His control problems were of legendary status in the league. On August 16th he had 17 k's and 11 walks in one game. He won the game 13-3 over North Platte.

Jerry Schneider from Jasper Indiana was another lefty in 1956. He was signed after high school and was originally assigned to Dubuque. The 18 year old stood 6'2" and weighed 170 lbs. He appeared in 17 games and had a 1-6 record.

Alan Brice was signed by the White Sox as an amateur free agent in 1956. The eighteen year old pitcher from Tampa Florida was described as a 6'5" string bean by the local press. He was the opening day pitcher for Holdrege and was 6-3 in 15 appearances. He also managed a .292 average in the batters box. His major league career consisted of 3.3 innings pitched in 1961 with the parent White Sox. He was back in Nebraska in 1959 and 1960 pitching for Lincoln Chiefs in the III league.

Ralph McGraw was an 18 year old pitcher and 3-3 record in 15 appearances.

Clarence Turner was the old man of the team at 23. He pitched in 12 games and had a 1-0 record. He also pitched in 12 games for Reno in 1956.

Bernard Nisker was 1-3 in 11 games, William Walberg was 2-2 in 15 games, William Wenrich was 0-3, Harold Clark was 1-0, William ZInck was 1-0, Frank Vella was 0-1 with 4 appearances and Raymond Holmes appeared in 2 games with no decisions.

Nebraska State League Standings 1956

Nebraska Minor League Baseball Home