Kid Elberfeld - Manager of Arkansas Travelers (Little Rock)


Arkansas Travelers Baseball Team

For parts of three centuries, the Arkansas Travelers baseball team has used only one nickname, played on only three home fields, and become owned by its fans, something unusual in professional sports—in 1960, shares were sold to fans to ensure that the team would not leave Little Rock (Pulaski County). In 1957, to draw fans from the entire state, management changed the name from the Little Rock Travelers to the Arkansas Travelers, making it the first professional team to be named after a state. In addition, five future National Baseball Hall of Famers played for the Travelers: Tris Speaker, Travis Jackson, Bill Dickey, Jim Bunning, and Ferguson Jenkins.

The minor league team had many failures in the Southern Association and many successes in the Texas League. In 1895, the Travelers opened play in the Southern League. They joined Atlanta, Georgia; Chattanooga, Memphis, and Nashville, Tennessee; Evansville, Indiana; Montgomery, Alabama; and New Orleans, Louisiana. Their season ended in July after just seventy-two games of the 137-game season. The team had a losing record, and fan support was poor. Little Rock had a 25–47 record and a .347 winning percentage.

After a five-year absence, partly due to the folding of the Southern League, Little Rock joined the new Southern Association, playing home games at West End Park. In 1901, things were different. The Travelers finished in second place, one game behind Nashville. In 1902, they again placed second. Team president William M. Kavanaugh was asked to become league president. He had been praised for his management as city editor of the Arkansas Gazette and as Pulaski County judge. He also had built the first skyscraper in Arkansas, his own Southern Trust Building.

The Travelers’ fortunes faded as 1910 approached, and for the second time, they dropped out of league play. Once again, many finishes in the league cellar caused attendance to lag. Kavanaugh continued as league president during the Travs’ absence. He worked to get them back in the league and announced, on February 20, 1915, that they would return for that season. The next day, he died of acute indigestion at age forty-eight. West End Park was renamed Kavanaugh Field in his honor. With their third entry into professional baseball, the Travs slowly began to advance in the standings. From last place in 1915, they climbed to second in 1918 and 1919 under manager Norman “Kid” Elberfield. Their first championship came in 1920. They roared to first place with a fourteen-game winning streak and had a record of 88–59 for a .599 percentage. Outfielder Harry Harper led the league in hitting with a .346 average. He also collected the most hits with 196. Bing Miller had nineteen homeruns to win top honors. On the pitchers mound was Moses Yellowhorse, with a 21–7 record and a .750 winning percentage; Rube Robinson tied for the league lead with twenty-six wins.