Citizens of Mineola celebrated the determination of its former independent baseball team, the Mineola Black Spiders, with a historical marker on May 21, 2011.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, African American teams played separately from white teams. Though it was small, the town of Mineola had both white and black sports teams.
The Spiders, also known as the Texas Black Spiders, formed in the late 1920s when about 30 men and teens formed a team to play against other African-American teams in the area.
The team wore gray uniforms and played at south Mineola's Epperson Park, where they sometimes played for 200 spectators. The team also traveled to play in Dallas, Commerce, and Shreveport.
Vernon Klingaman moved to Mineola in the late 1920's and began managing the team, opening the roster to non-residents, and changing the team's name to the Texas Black Spiders.
As the team's owner, Klingaman moved the Spiders to the Midwest in 1932 to improve their opportunities. They often staged exhibition games in rural areas, and became known for their fast-paced, entertaining style of baseball. Some newspapers referred to them as the "Champions of Texas."
The same year, the team's name became the Mason City Black Bats, headquartered in Iowa, though some members stayed with the Spiders, while others moved back to Texas.
The Spiders continued their success. in 1936, they achieved a record of 34 to 1, but underwent a major change in personnel and probably disbanded in 1938.
Mineola's Black Spiders are mostly forgotten, yet remain an important part of the town's history as a team that achieved success in Texas and the Midwest.
More information is available at the Mineola Historical Museum.