Photograph Courtesy of Phoenix Public Library
The Phoenix Senators had drawn 55,000 fans for the 1947 season. Not too bad, coming in 3rd in the league behind the Tucson Cowboys who led with 63,000. By 1948 that number had jumped to 79,000 to take over the league lead, despite the fact that almost all of the lineup had been promoted and the Senators dropped to 5th place. Pete Hughes returned and was terrific if you don't compare him to the previous season, batting .347 with 38 2Bs and 21 HRs. Future NY Giants' Billy Taylor also returned to put up a .316 with 36 2Bs, 11 3Bs and 11 HRs. Future Cubs pitcher Gene Lillard (24 2Bs, 20 HRs, league leading .364) was quite an excellent hitter for the Senators and gave up his mound duties only pitching in 7 games going 3-1. Though his bat was obviously fantastic, they probably could have used him on the mound instead because hitting was not this team's problem. ERA's escalated into the 5's and 6.00s and the Phoenix Senators finished 1948 at 67-73 (.479). When the Senators returned in 1949, they had lost all of that great power hitting as no player reached the 20 HR mark, though Richard Steinhauer came close with 45 2Bs, 8 3Bs, 18 HRs and a league leading 151 RBIs to go along with his .346. Don Fracchia (39 2Bs, 16 HRs, .322) and future Kansas City Athletics Mike Baxes (39 2Bs, 11 3Bs, 8 HRs, .322) shared some very similar stats. Ernest Sites also offered up 39 2Bs. On the mound, the Senators would find their true heros. Two pitchers… Ed Graham (24-9, 3.78) and Tony Ponce (22-6, 4.48) would battle each other all year for the wins lead with Graham edging him out. The two pitchers became the talk of the Az-Mex League and the Phoenix Senators soared to a 94-55 (.631) 1st place finish. The Phoenix Senators created such a buzz, that they became the first AZ-Tex League team to breach the elusive 100,000 threshold drawing 126,000 fans for the season, setting a new league mark. In the playoffs, Phoenix blew through Tucson winning 4 games to 2 in the first round to go to the finals against El Paso who quickly turned the tables on the Senators as yet another anti-climactic season had come to an end. 4-2, El Paso.