Carey Selph (1901–1976)

Carey Selph was an outstanding athlete in the early part of the twentieth century. While his professional baseball career spanned almost a decade and included two stints in the major leagues, his earlier football achievements at Ouachita Baptist College (now Ouachita Baptist University) in Arkadelphia (Clark County) earned him lasting statewide renown.

Carey Isom Selph was born on December 5, 1901, in Donaldson (Hot Spring County) to Robert Madison Selph and Mary Emma Goza Selph. Selph grew up in Donaldson and Arkadelphia. He was a star football player at Arkadelphia High School and later at Ouachita Baptist College. He was a member of the 1922 Ouachita team that upset the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), and in his senior year, the sports editor of the Arkansas Gazette termed Selph the best player in the state after he led the team to a 47–6 victory over what is now Henderson State University. When he was inducted into the Ouachita Athletics Hall of Fame in 2004, it was for his football successes.

Although he played baseball for Ouachita Baptist, he made his mark in the game beyond the school. He played with the semi-pro Dardanelle (Yell County) team of the Western Arkansas League in 1924, but in 1926 he was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals, who promptly sent him to the minors. He split time between Fort Smith (Sebastian County) in the C level Western Association, where he hit .368, and Syracuse in the Double A International League. There, he hit .292. He spent 1927 in Syracuse, hitting .309, while 1928 saw him in Houston in the Texas League, where he hit .312.

Selph married Carra Leota Veazey on September 29, 1929, and the couple had two daughters.

In 1929, he finally got his chance in the major leagues with the St. Louis Cardinals, but he appeared in only twenty-five games and made only fifty-nine plate appearances. Consequently, he was back in Houston in 1930 and, despite hitting .343 over 152 games, he was consigned to Houston for the 1931 season as well. That season, he again topped the .300 mark, hitting .322 in 156 games. Finally, in 1932, he was given another chance at the majors when, after being drafted from the Cardinals by the Chicago White Sox on September 30, 1931, he played in 116 games and hit .283 for the White Sox. But in November of that year, the White Sox sent him back to the Cardinals, completing a trade that had been made back in September.

The Cardinals sent him back to the minors, where in 1933, as the player-manager, he led the Houston Buffaloes (known familiarly as the Buffs) to the Texas League championship. He retired from baseball after the 1934 season.

Selph then became involved in a range of business enterprises in Houston and Arkansas. Much of his career was spent as an insurance underwriter, and at one time he served as president of the Big John Can Company in Houston. Even while he was working full time as an insurance underwriter, he still found time to play a bit of semi-pro baseball. That continuing interest also led to his role in the creation and development of the Houston Post semi-pro baseball tournament that was a fixture in the Houston sports landscape for about a dozen years before and during World War II. Too, he served for a time as an assistant football coach at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, under Morley Jennings, his former coach at Ouachita. In concert with his associate John Froelich, he was instrumental in starting the Ozark Boys Camp in Arkansas in 1949.

In 1962, Selph was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame. In 2004, he was posthumously inducted into the Ouachita Baptist University Hall of Fame. In 2007, he was included in the Texas League Hall of Fame.

After a battle with cancer, Selph died on February 24, 1976, in Houston. He is buried in Pleasant Hill Haven of Rest Cemetery in Donaldson.

For additional information:
“Carey Selph.” (accessed April 13, 2023).

“Carey Selph.” Ouachita Baptist University Hall of Fame. (accessed April 13, 2023).

Hartman, Fred. “Only Death Could Stop Him.” Baytown Sun (Texas), February 29, 1976.

William H. Pruden
Ravenscroft School


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