It's an overcast August evening at Nelson W. Wolff Municipal Stadium on San Antonio's far west side. The thermometer reads 92 degrees as right-hander Casey Kelly takes the mound, seeking his first victory for the hometown Missions. Catcher Ali Solis kneels behind home plate, ready to conduct the first contest in a four-game homestand against the Frisco RoughRiders, and Kelly begins the game by plunking Engel Beltre, the first batter he faces.
The tradition of baseball in San Antonio stretches back to April 8, 1888, when an estimated 1,100 spectators gathered to witness the first Texas League game played in the Alamo City, a 9-3 loss to the boys from Austin. Victory finally arrived three games later, in a 5-3 win against Dallas, and the checkered history of baseball in Bexar County was off and running. Before the turn of the century, teams would fold and fold again, until 1903 when the then Mustangs kicked off almost 109 consecutive years of the national pastime in South Texas, minus a three-year absence from 1965 to 1967.
Along the way, San Antonio's team would be known as the Warriors, Bronchos, Aces, Bears, Indians, Missions, Bullets, Brewers, Dodgers, before again settling as the Missions in 1988. Not to be forgotten is the March 31, 1922, subway scrimmage played at the then Bear's home field of League Park, where Babe Ruth's New York Yankees triumph over the Brooklyn Dodgers, 12-8. Other heralded players including Willard Brown, Brooks Robinson, Billy Williams, Joe Morgan, Dennis Eckersley, Orel Hershiser, and Fernando Valenzuela will also pass through on their way to the majors, reaching for immortality on the diamond.
Back at Wolff Stadium the sun finally sets, providing a balmy backdrop for the modern-day Missions who are up 2-1 at the bottom of the fifth. The scent of fresh hot dogs and sweet raspas wafts in the breeze as a flock of children chases a costumed chicken around the field as part of a between-inning promotion. Later, a kid tackles the puffy taco on his way to home plate and the Missions eventually get saddled by the RoughRiders, 6-3, bringing their losing skid to seven games. Under a crescent moon Kelly, Solis, and company head to the showers with a 27-30 record for the season, but as it often goes with baseball, tomorrow's another game.