It’s always sad when news comes that an old friend and teammate has passed on.
That’s the way I felt Sunday when one of my sons called to inform me that Richard “Dick” Pipes had died during the week.
Pipes was well-known in Atascosa County and surrounding area in the late 1950s as a talented baseball player who was good enough to have played professionally. He was also an educator and cattle rancher who turned down a professional contract after baseball scouts noticed the power-hitting left-hander in the now-defunct Bluebonnet League, an amateur league that played its games mostly on Sundays.
I have more than fond memories of Dick Pipes because it was he who gave me a chance to play on one of the best baseball teams ever assembled in Pleasanton.
It was in 1959 that a flame-throwing pitcher named Frank Murie and Pipes got together to form that superteam. Murie had left a professional baseball team due to a contract dispute, and after marrying a girl from Pleasanton, opened a business downtown.
I have great memories of the 1959 Pleasanton Braves because Pipes and Murie stocked the team with great players from the surrounding area. The team went on to win the league championship that year. Danny Matocha of Jourdanton and Frank “Butch” Tudyk of Pleasanton were teammates on the St. Mary’s Rattlers, and both came home on Sundays to play for the Braves. Pipes played first base and made the lineup. Murie pitched almost every Sunday and Pipes batted cleanup. Another power hitter named Willie Haley came from Seguin and played third base. He and Jesse Benitez, a towering catcher, were the home run hitters on the team. Another great athlete, Harvey Schneider, played left field and I played second base.
Schneider was the team’s storyteller, and one of the best tales he ever told was about Pipes. He said Pipes was such a good hitter that most opposing pitchers walked him more than they pitched to him.
“In one game during the season at Floresville, Pipes went 3 for 5 with a home run, a triple and a double, and his batting average went down!” Schneider said.
It was a true story.
I regret to inform you that Benitez, a Pleasanton native, also passed away last week and will be buried in San Antonio.