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Texas Trails

published: August 20th 2021
by: Clay Coppedge

The best all-brothers team in Texas history

      Right in the middle of one of the worst hard time this country ever had, the 1930s, nine brothers from Hye, Texas rose above the doom and the dust to give their community something to cheer about—baseball. Hye is in the middle of the Texas Hill Country, not far from Johnson City, and if it’s known at all it’s known as the place where LBJ and Lady Bird Johnson used to get their mail.
      The nine brothers were sons of Fritz Deike and his wife Lina. Born in Fayette County in 1876, Fritz left home as a young man to explore the Hill Country on horseback. He settled in Willow City for a short while, and then Post Oak. On a trip through Hye he learned that the cotton gin was for sale and needed someone to take it over before the local harvest came in. Despite having just 50 cents in his pocket, Fritz secured a loan, bought the gin and moved his family there. He bought a store in 1923 as he and his wife increased the small town’s population substantially with nine boys and two daughters.
    The Deike brothers played baseball at a time when most of the baseball played in Texas featured “town teams” that played each other for bragging rights and a brief respite from the many travails of daily living during the Depression years. Every town had at least one baseball team and some would have as many as three, usually divided along racial or ethnic lines. In the case of the Deikes, they had a starting nine all under one roof.
      J.L. Yarbrough, a baseball-mad traveling salesman for the Nueces Coffee Company, was in the Deike store one day and overheard Fritz telling someone, yet again, about his all-brothers baseball team. Yarbrough believed that if he could find another all-brothers team for the Deike boys to play he would have the makings of a big promotion for his company.
      Yarbrough launched a nationwide search and found two such teams. The first, in Cheyenne, Wyo-ming, had recently disbanded. The other was the Poland-born Stanczak bro-thers of Waukegan, Illinois. They agreed to play the Deikes in Wichita, Kansas, as part of the amateur National Baseball Con-gress (NBC) tournament on Aug. 18, 1935.
      The Deikes got uniforms and $600 to cover expenses. Traveling in two Model A Fords, the trip to Kansas took almost a week. The Deike brothers might have had a case of jitters early in the game; they allowed seven runs in the second inning, which turned out to be the difference in an 11-5 loss. But the Deike boys, as they had been taught, offered no excuses.
      “We were beaten fair and square,” center fielder Ernest Deike told journalist and author Carlton Stowers in 1977. “They had a couple of big ol’ boys who were just better ball players than we were.”
      “I don’t remember anybody getting too down in the dumps over the fact we lost,” said the team’s shortstop, Levi Deike. “It wasn’t the first time we’d been beaten, you know. Back in those days we had our hands full just trying to whip town teams like Dripping Springs, Blanco and Johnson City.”
    Stowers eventually wrote about the Deike brothers and the trip to Kansas more extensively in his book Oh Brother, How They Played the Game. One of the things he learned by talking to the brothers was that LBJ was a pretty fair ball player in his day. Fred Deike told Stowers that LBJ occasionally filled in at first base and “had a lot of reach. Not many ground balls got by him that I remember. And he hit pretty well.”
      Levi Deike inherited the job of Hye postmaster from his mother Lina and held that position for a record-setting 64 years. He was there in 1965 when LBJ chose to swear in U.S. Postmaster Larry O’Brien at the Hye post office and general store.
      “Fifty-three years ago, I mailed my first letter from this general store,” John-son told the assembled dignitaries, media and citizens of Hye. “I want Larry O’Brien to find that letter and deliver it.”
      And then, in a nod to the Deikes, LBJ also noted that he had once played first base for “the best all-brothers’ baseball team in Texas history.” He wasn’t lying.

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