Gulf States League (1976)
Born: March 29, 1976 - Gulf States League founding franchise.
Died: Postseason 1976 – The Toros cease operations.
Stadium: Fairgrounds Park
Owner: Dr. Damaso Oliva
The Seguin Toros were the one-and-only pro baseball club to ever make their home in the small city of Seguin, Texas, 35 miles east of San Antonio. The Toros arrived in the summer of 1976 as members of the brand new Gulf States League, which brought minor league baseball to five Texas cities, plus Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
The Gulf States League was recognized by the National Association (governing body of minor league baseball) and ranked as a Class A league, but all six clubs were operated as independents, meaning there were no working agreements with Major League parent clubs. National Association President Bobby Bragan championed the concept, feeling there was a need for a league underneath the umbrella of the National Association where players who had been released from Major League farm systems could play and attempt to work their way back into organized baseball.
No players who suited up for the Seguin Toros in 1976 ever played an inning in the Major Leagues. But the obscure Texas minor league ball club did attract some national press attention during its lone season of operation. That attention came thanks to the team’s owner.
The owner of the Toros was a wealthy San Antonio psychiatrist named Dr. Damaso Oliva. Oliva got in over his head with the Toros and, once he realized this, began frantically cutting costs. Matters came to a head in early August when the Toros were due to travel 165 miles for a three-game road trip to play to Corpus Christi Gulls. Prior to the first game of the series, Oliva informed his dumbfounded players that he couldn’t (or at least didn’t intend) to pay for the customary motel accommodations for the team to stay in Corpus Christi. He ordered the players to commute 330 miles round trip to Seguin and back for each of the next two days to spare him the expense of a motel.
Sea Gulls owner Terry Ferrell interceded on behalf of the angry Toros players and persuaded Oliva to cough up the money for motel rooms following the second game of the series. Oliva grudgingly complied and told his players they would have motel rooms after the second night only and they could use them if they wanted to “or sleep on the beach”. After Game One, the players drove 165 miles through the Texas night back home to Seguin.
When the Toros returned to Corpus Christi the next afternoon for game two of the series, they arrived in vans loaded with tents, sleeping bags and camping gear. Taking their owner at his (presumably facetious) word, they want out and got spanked 15-1 by the Sea Gulls and then spent the night sleeping under the Stars on the beaches of Corpus Christi. The wire services got wind of the preposterous story and it appeared in various news outlets (including, a few weeks later, Sports Illustrated). Perhaps most embarrassing to Oliva, a length Associated Press write up appeared in The San Antonio Light, in the city where he lived and worked, and cast him firmly in the black hat role.
When the team returned from Corpus Christi, Oliva fired field manager Larry Smith. (Although, in fairness to Oliva, the Toros were in the midst of a 16-game losing streak). The psychiatrist himself managed several late season game from his seat in the grand stand at Seguin’s Fairgrounds Park.
To no one’s surprise, Oliva, who lost between $40,000 and $50,000 operating the Toros, dumped the team at the end of the 1976 season. All of the Gulf States League owners took a beating. The league re-organized as the Texas-only Lone Star League, played one final season in the summer of 1977, and then quietly folded. It was one of the very few independent leagues of the era, along with the similarly unsuccessful Inter-American League of 1979.