The Great Gallia: Texas's Melvin "Bert" Gallia
and Ethnicity in Major League Baseball
V ERY FEW LIKED TY COBB. HE WAS ARROGANT, MEAN, AND EXTREMELY PREJU-
diced. He was also perhaps the greatest hitter that ever played the
game of baseball. Cobb was twenty-three years old in the spring of 191o.
The year before he had won the American League's Triple Crown in hit-
ting, leading the Detroit Tigers to their third consecutive American
League pennant. The Tigers held their annual spring training camp in
San Antonio. St. Louis College, a Catholic school on the west end of town,
had fielded a baseball team called the Rattlers for fifteen years. In the
spring of 1910 the Rattlers were undefeated and played an exhibition
game against the visiting major leaguers.'
A lean country boy took the mound for St. Louis College. Melvin Gallia
was an eighteen-year-old electrical engineering major from Woodsboro,
Texas. His parents were Czech, but his swarthy complexion caused people
throughout his career to assume that he was "Mexican." The fact that Gal-
lia had grown up in South Texas and comfortably spoke Tex-Mex rein-
forced that conjecture. Bohemians were as rare in big-time baseball as
Hispanics. Baseball in the early twentieth century was an Anglo game.
Gallia was an ethnic kid hoping to fight his way into the major league.
Cobb, one of baseball's most outspoken bigots, was determined to crush
the young man's dream.2
*Stephen Chicome is the author of five books. Forthcoming books include a biography of Civ-
il War general John Basil Turchin and a book on Texas in the Civil War, using Chappell Hill in
Washington County as a microcosm. A Texan for 25 years, he is currently president of a Minneso-
ta-based technology company. The author is indebted to Durwood and Lee Nell Boenig of Bonnie
View, Texas, for introducing him to the forgotten story of Bert Gallia.
1 St. Mary's University, "Rattlers Sports History and Trivia," http://www.stmarytx.edu/athlet-
ics/history.htm [accessed Nov. 22, sooo]. The Triple Crown is awarded to a player who in the
same year leads the league in home runs, batting average, and runs batted in. This is rarely ac-
complished, the top home run hitter almost never has the best batting average or vice versa. In
Cobb's case m i 9o09, he led the league not only in those three categories but also m stolen bases,
hits, total bases, on-base percentage, and slugging.
'John S. Bowman and Joel Zoss, Diamonds an the Rough: The Untold History of Baseball (NewYork:
Contemporary Books, 1996), 144-146; Al Stump, Cobb: a Bzography (Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin
Books, 1994), 161, 2oo.
VOL. CV, NO. 4 SOUTHWESTERN HISTORICAL QUARTERLY APRIL, 2002
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101222/. Accessed July 12, 2014.