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Tributes: Former Sooner Les Layton hit a homer in first big league at bat

A farewell to people with Oklahoma ties who enjoyed the game day experience.
By Scott Munn Published: March 16, 2014

A farewell to people with Oklahoma ties who enjoyed a game day experience:

Les Layton grew up in Nardin, a Kay County community just south of the Kansas border. He played the 1942 baseball season for Oklahoma, which would suspend its program the next three years due to World War II. Layton had a brief stint in the Navy, before resuming his baseball career with the New York Giants organization. The outfielder/pinch hitter played 63 games of the 1948 season with the Giants, hitting a home run in his first big league at bat. The remainder of Layton’s pro career was spent in the minors for teams affiliated with the Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs and Baltimore Orioles. He played a few seasons of semi-pro baseball with the Wichita Boeing Bombers, helping the Jayhawk League team win National Baseball Congress championships in 1954 and 1955. After baseball, Layton worked in the aircraft industry and was inducted into the Kansas Baseball Hall of Fame. He was retired in Scottsdale, Ariz., when he died at 92.

•Former State Fair Speedway champion Larry Allen died after suffering a heart attack. He was 51. Allen, who started racing cars at age 15, won Super Stock points championships at the famed Oklahoma City track in 1982 and 1984. The Mustang resident added a Super Modified title in 1989. Allen worked for Wesmar Racing Engines in Bixby for several years before starting his own business — Allen Competition Engines. He also spent time in Pennsylvania working for Leitzinger Racing.

Johnnie Risinger, 81, of Altus went to Southside High School and then on to OU, where he was a first baseman over the 1952-54 seasons under coach Jack Baer. Risinger went into coaching after school, and then became a partner in R&S Sporting Goods. He was a founder of the Jackson County Athletic Hall of Fame and helped organize the Altus All-Sports Association.

•Oklahoma City attorney Bob McCandless represented Nixon White House counsel John Dean before the U.S. Senate committee investigating Watergate. McCandless also served as Sen. Hubert Humphrey’s western states delegate coordinator for the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. Long before a career on the political big stage, McCandless lived in southwestern Oklahoma, where he played high school football for the Hobart Bearcats. He died recently at age 76.

•Webb City native James Benge, 79, was a volunteer with Little League baseball and American Legion baseball. He was a long-time employee of Phillips Petroleum and often participated in the company’s bowling leagues. Also an avid golfer.

Chuck Kress of Colville, Wash., played professional baseball in Oklahoma. The first baseman spent the 1948 season with the Tulsa Oilers, then the Texas League affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. Kress had an exceptional summer, batting .312 with 13 homers, 12 triples and 41 doubles. He would play only 175 games in the big leagues during a 16-year pro career. He retired after the 1961 season and went to work for Tasty Baking Co., where he would become vice president for shipping and supplies. Kress died at 92.

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