Ray Doan School of Base­ball

Ray Doan’s 1937 Base­ball School in Hot Springs

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - From The Editor - Just ask Liz. El­iz­a­beth Rob­bins and the staff of the Gar­land County His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety are ready to tackle your ques­tions about Hot Springs’ rich his­tory each month. Just write Ask Liz, P.O. Box 580, Hot Springs, AR 71902, or email edi­[email protected]­spring­son­theg

By the 1930s, base­ball’s hey­day in Hot Springs had waned, al­though in­di­vid­ual play­ers and a hand­ful of teams still came here for spring train­ing, moun­tain hikes and ther­mal baths.

Into this mi­lieu strode Ray Doan, a sports pro­moter from Mus­ca­tine, Iowa. He or­ga­nized his All-Star Base­ball School here for young­sters dream­ing of the big leagues or at least hop­ing to win a mi­nor league berth. This was 1933-1938. In 1939-1941, Doan shifted his oper­a­tion to Mis­sis­sippi and then Florida, where it faded amid the abun­dance of other base­ball schools. In ad­di­tion, ma­jor league teams held mass try­out camps to stock their farm sys­tems. Doan tried re­open­ing his school here in 1961, but the ef­fort failed.

Doan hired play­ers and coaches from or­ga­nized ball as in­struc­tors. His 1937 staff in Hot Springs con­sisted of Rogers Hornsby, Dizzy Dean, Lon Warneke, Char­lie O’Leary, Hank Sev­ereid, Johnny Mos­til, Ger­many Schultz, Wal­ter Holke, Lew Fon­seca, Ge­orge Sisler, Wid Matthews, Bob Feller, School­boy Rowe, Spike Hunter, Rip Schroeder, Homer Cole, Dr. Homer Wright, Jack Ryan and Pat Mon­a­han. Most had big league ca­reers, and some were now scouts hunt­ing for talent. Three fields were used: Ban John­son at Whit­ting­ton Park (cur­rent site of Wey­er­haeuser of­fices and park­ing), Older (above the Al­li­ga­tor Farm) and Dean (cur­rent site of the Boys & Girls Club grounds).

Na­tional League um­pire Ge­orge Barr also taught here, 1935-1940, ap­peal­ing to would-be di­a­mond ar­biters. Barr used lec­tures and films, and the men prac­ticed by call­ing Doan’s in­tra­mu­ral games. (There were suf­fi­cient pupils to form teams, al­low­ing the boys to show off in com­pe­ti­tion what they’d ab­sorbed in class.) Half of Barr’s novices be­came paid um­pires. In 1941 Barr moved his school to Florida.

When Doan left town, Hornsby steered his own Base-

ball Col­lege here: 1939-1941, 1948-1951, and 1955-1956. (His 1942 school was in Fort Worth.)

Some jour­nal­ists and base­ball grandees looked askance at these schools pock­et­ing fees from teens of sus­pect ap­ti­tude. Com­mend­ably, Doan never guar­an­teed fame and for­tune. In fact, most stu­dents were frankly told upon “grad­u­a­tion” that they had no fu­ture in pro ball. About a third re­ceived try­out con­tracts from mi­nor league clubs; very few at­tained the ma­jors. Stu­dents came from all over the U.S. and Canada. In 1937, 373 ado­les­cent males jour­neyed to the Spa City via bus, Pull­man car, freight-hop­ping, hitch­hik­ing and “one group from Wis­con­sin rolled in on a di­lap­i­dated truck, while two from New York ar­rived in style, driv­ing a Packard.” Full tu­ition for the six-week course was $60, with room and board in ho­tels or pri­vate homes.

Ever alert re­gard­ing pub­lic­ity, Doan uti­lized the Sport­ing News, the “Bi­ble of Base­ball.” The paper ran ads for his school, de­scribed school ac­tiv­i­ties, and spon­sored mail-in voting cam­paigns to send a dozen or so boys to the school each year.

On the first day of the 1937 term, Fe­bru­ary 15, af­ter loos­en­ing-up ex­er­cises and one-on-one work with ev­ery boy, a moun­tain hike en­sued. That evening a ban­quet and for­mal open­ing took place at the East­man Ho­tel, broad­cast by KTHS. Next day, a pho­tog­ra­pher snapped a sou­venir im­age of each lad with O’Leary, Dean, Hornsby, and Warneke. Later that week, rain con­fined ev­ery­body to Hot Springs High School’s gym, rented by “Pro­fes­sor Doan.” Sun­shine pre­vailed much of the time, how­ever, and the ses­sion con­tin­ued till March 27.

Doan drove back to Iowa. For most of his neo­phytes, that photo they car­ried home was as close as they’d get to a brass ring — but it would al­ways re­mind them of an All-Star ride. A longer ar­ti­cle by Mark Blaeuer about Doan’s Base­ball School is in The Record 2013, the GCHS yearly jour­nal.

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4 1 Cham­ber of Com­merce press re­lease, 1936: “Hot Springs High School band out to wel­come Professor Dizzy Dean on Dean Field, Hot Springs Na­tional Park, Arkansas, where the Car­di­nal ace is in­struct­ing stu­dents in the Doan Baseball School.” (GCHS) 2 Ray...

5 3 Left to right: Charley O’Leary, Dizzy Dean, Doan School stu­dent Vince Richard­son, Rogers Hornsby, Lon Warneke, Fe­bru­ary 16, 1937. Richard­son earned a try­out with the Class D Northern League’s Du­luth Dukes but did not play for them. (Na­tional Park...

7 7 Ben­nie Huff­man went al­most di­rectly from stu­dent at the Doan School to start­ing catcher with the St. Louis Browns in 1937. (Cour­tesy Jim Sar­gent and Nancy Waldo)

6 6Ray Doan (left) and Dizzy Dean seated at Dean Field, reg­is­ter­ing hundreds of stu­dents at the beginning of the 1936 school term. (GCHS)

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