“And Down the Stretch They Come…”

August 29, 2015
The 2015 Houston Astros ~ What's not to like about a club that celebrates each other's accomplishments with unbridled passion?

The 2015 Houston Astros
~ What’s not to like about a club that celebrates each other’s accomplishments with such totally unbridled passion?

It’s finally here. The last Saturday of August. Landing today on the heels of a Houston week in which a mild hint of drier and cooler weather teases our appetites for change. And one other change even more strongly appeals. The hint of an Astros World Series possibility flirts with us daily like a fickle image of our late adolescent dreams. Down the stretch they come. The race for the playoffs, the pennant, and the World Series just got hot, hot, hot. It is almost time for the real champion of the baseball world to show up. And, unless or until they prove otherwise, our Houston Astros are the four-game leaders in the American League West, appearing ready to grind it out with the Rangers and Angels for their own division champion spot in the larger scheme of things.

That 14-Game Win Advantage Astros Ceiling

The Astros banged the drums hard on a ceiling they’ve reached three times this year in their final road game with the Yankees. By taking the third final game and the series, the Astros again raised their 2015 win total 14 games above their loss total at 71 wins and 57 losses. From New York, they flew to Minneapolis, had a fun off-day Thursday at the Minnesota State Fair and then went out to Target Field Friday night and lost their opener of another three-game road series by 3-0. The loss again reenforced the superstitious fear that the 14-game win bulge over losses is not merely a statistic for the Astros, but a ceiling blocking improvement. Now the club is back to a 71-58 13-game winning edge. The club will have to win Saturday to put the ceiling question to a test again on Sunday.

Injury Concerns

This is also the time of the year when the difference between winning and losing  hangs heavily upon which club stays most injury-free. As an old sufferer in my youth from hamstring problems, my advice is take even the so-called “mild” ones seriously. Once you have the insult to hamstring started, it’s a very short hop or sudden move pop to a condition which could keep Carlos Correa out for the rest of the season. Astros Manager A.J. Hinch is to be applauded for erring on the side of caution by benching Correa Friday night.

As for Jason Castro, the quad injury he also picked up with his double in the 5th inning is serious. That isn’t an easy injury either, especially when your position is catcher and you face all that standing up and squatting down through out the game. No brainer. Catcher Max Stassi will be called up and in the Astros dugout today as the back-up catcher to Hank Conger.

Let’s just hope that George Springer’s rehab tour in Corpus Christi goes well and that he will soon return and help spark more of what we saw in the 2nd and 3rd games from the Astros in New York – and much less of what we saw of our club’s offense lack of offense in the 1st games at both New York and Minnesota.

The Lesson of Yesterday’s Game

From Twins starter Kyle Gibson to closer Kevin Jepsen, and all those Minnesota pitchers in between, the Astros batted yesterday with the same kind of sawed off bats and low spirit that they seem to pull out of the bag far too often for us fans to release all the strings we hold that keep our hopes from sailing off into the blue.

Good pitching beats bad hitting almost always. It did last night in Minnesota.

As an Astros fan, last night’s game was a reality check on unbridled hope, but it wasn’t the end of the world.

Call us pessimists, if you wish. We Houston fans call ourselves realists.

We already have raced several times to the cool palm-treed oasis of our dreams through the desert sands of our 54-year old Astros fan struggle, watching second division club baseball far too often, and we have fooled ourselves hardest in 1980, 1986, 1998, and 2005 about the tangible possibility of a World Series championship.

We still have hope in 2015, but now it is bridled to our experience in reality. And, although there is no total guarantee against another outbreak of the condition, we are far less vulnerable by experience to building mirages that disappoint.

That being said, “GO ASTROS!”

_______________________________

eagle

Hail To The Boys of Pearland

August 28, 2015
Caleb Low's 2-run HR in bottom of 8th gives Texas a 9-7 win over California in the Little League World Series. Thursday night, August 27, 2015.

Caleb Low’s 2-run HR in bottom of 8th gives Texas a 9-7 win over California in the Little League World Series. Thursday night, August 27, 2015.

It literally took them blood, sweat and tears and all of eight innings to do it in Williamsburg, PA  Thursday night, but the Boys of Pearland showed up again and got it done. They rallied for the third time in this hard-fought game from a run scoring deficit in the bottom half of two extra innings to turn a looming 6-7 loss into a 9-7 walk-off win for “Texas” over “California” and a place in Saturday’s United States Little League Championship Game against “Pennsylvania,” a tough team that defeated them earlier.

The winner of Texas vs. Pennsylvania game on Saturday, August 29th, will play the winner of the international club bracket championship game that will be played that same day, a game that features Japan vs. Mexico. The final game will take place on Sunday, August 30th, for the World Little League Championship title.

No matter what happens from here, the Pearland Little Leaguers already have established themselves as capitalized Icons in the Pantheon of Every Sandlot Player’s Fondest Dreams. Look at what they did last night at Lamabe Field:

Comeback # 1

As a kid, did you ever dream that your club fell behind, 3-0, to a great show of cocky force in the top of the first, but that your team came right back in the bottom of the first to get the first three men on base to bring you to the plate so that you could then hit a towering grand slam home run to left and take the lead for your team by 4-3 – and before the other club’s pitcher even could retire a single man?

Zack Mack didn’t dream it. That’s exactly what he did for Pearland, Texas in the their big game last night against Bonita, California. – He simply nailed a sucker fastball as a Grand Slam HR for the first of Pearland’s three recoveries from a deficit score. From 0-3 California after the top of the first – to 4-3 Pearland after the bottom of the first, the scoring pattern in this knock-down, drag-out baseball war was set in motion.

Comeback # 2

California’s Levi Mendez tied the game at 4-4 with a solo HR in the top of the third. In the same inning, Jake Baptista of the Sweetwater Valley club from Bonita crushed a two-run homer to put California back on top, 6-4. It was the third homer of the game for the powerful Far West entry and the fourth HR of the game.

A single by Pearland’s Zack Mack in the bottom of fourth scored his 5th RBI of the game, closing the Texas scoring deficit to 5-6. Marco Guttierez of Pearland then tied the game at 6-6 in the bottom of the fifth with the second Texas HR of the game.

Pearland had a good chance to end the game in the bottom of the sixth, but the gutsy pitching and fielding of the little California team kept their hopes alive for victory in extra innings.

Comeback # 3

Pearland held again in the top of the seventh, but again failed to put the game away in the bottom of the seventh.

In the top of the eighth, ecstasy broke ground among the California fans as Jake Baptista singled to score the lead run from second base and push the score back to a 7-6 advantage for the little club from Bonita, CA.

Then, here it was: Bottom of the Eighth and the Last Chance for Pearland. – How often did that scenario come up in our backyard/sandlot dreams of a special final inning in which we each would humbly/grandly come to bat as the last hope for our team?

For Pearland, it would turn out to be the delivery of a shared heroic moment.

Trailing 7-6 as the game moved to the last of the eighth inning, Ben Gottfried, the Pearland starter who earlier had maxed out his 85 pitch count, but was nicely relieved by Isaac Garcia, had done a courageous job of pitching for Pearland, now led off and immediately took the edge off the challenge by smashing a HR to deep left field. With his mates mobbing him at the plate, en masse,  Mr. Five RBI-Man, Zack Mack, would be coming to bat. No personal spotlight this time. California pitched around Mack, putting him on base with an unintentional-intentional walk.

And that pass to Mack  brought up little Caleb Low, a guy still looking for his first hit, but armed also with his own personal dreams of a magical moment that he would carry with him through life, were it ever realized.

And was it ever realized this special night in the small town/center-of-the-universe that is Lamabe Field in Williamsport, PA this time of late summer.

Early in the count, little Caleb smashed a rope line drive that just took off on an ascending linear path to left-center field.

Will it be caught? Will be off the wall far enough to score the winning run from first?

Fageddaboudit! ~ That ball is out of here in left center! ~ It’s game-winning walk off two-run homer for Caleb Low of Pearland!

Pearland defeats California, 9-7, winning the third and last rally of the day, and now moving on to a rematch with Pennsylvania on Saturday for the United States LLWS championship.

By now, you’ve either seen or can easily imagine the hysterical team and fan celebration that followed. Those of who followed the game from home were as good as there ourselves, for that matter.

Hat’s off to the kids from California too. They crushed everybody they played this year, except for the two losses they experienced over the whole season – and they both happened here at the LLWS – in losses to Pearland.

No matter what happens from here, none of these kids, from either team, have anything left to prove about their metal, or character, or ability to play and love this game. These wonderful kids gave it their all – and they are the personification of that phrase we sometimes use too lightly without considering its deepest meaning.

“Leave it all on the field!”

There is nothing in life worth doing if it doesn’t get our total effort. And that’s what the boys from Pearland, Texas and Bonita, California showed us last night that they each understand. Some of the California kids, especially the little pitcher who gave up those two last inning homers cried when it was over, but that’s OK. He will get over it when he grows to understand that – of all the millions of kids who play baseball – that he was special enough – by simply being good enough to have been there pitching last night in a Little League game for the ages.

Are you listening, local government leaders, Astros and Skeeters? We should do everything within our ability to honor the Pearland team when they come home. They’ve earned it. And they deserve it. And we have a very special investment in these kids too.

If we want our world to be free of drive bys, smash and grabs, and all of the other everyday insults to civilization that we see growing around us, we had better soon remember that raising kids to care about what they do in the name of unselfish love is the trait that has to survive for everything else we say we value to be possible.

The Boys of Pearland get it. And that’s what already makes them great.

______________________________

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All The MLB Logos in Flux, Over Time

August 27, 2015
Cleveland fans still hope that this little World Series logo guy from 1948 was not "the Last of the Mohicans."

Cleveland fans still hope that this little World Series logo guy from 1948 was not “The Last of the Mohicans.”

 

Thanks to Tony Cavender for this interesting, but vision-challenging link to the tumbling over time history of all MLB logos used by all clubs, shown side-by-side, over time.

Or so they say. The grinning Native American shown above was used by the 1948 World Champion Cleveland Indians, but I do not recall seeing his shiny smile on the rolling tote board for even a smithereens-second in this parade of images from the beginning of baseball time.

What an irony. I’m going back to see my ophthalmologist again later this morning for my weekly check up of the right eye that has given me so much trouble during this “bout” (Is that the correct descriptor?) of shingles. – Shingles is more of a prize fight which you never scheduled before your foe just suddenly shows up and gets in all the early punches, but, when you finally stumble to your feat, he’s ready to hit you again and again – and you have to fight back for survival, even though you have no real good idea what that means as to weapons and how many rounds the fight is going to last! – And you finally figure out that your “prize” for winning out over shingles is that you get to go back to feeling almost as good as you did before the damn monster showed up!

Well, having just turned the corner on Week Four from the date of my earliest symptoms, I’m still working on the swollen right eye, the soreness in the area of the right eye, the deadwood feeling in my head, the all day headache, the shattered attention span, the desire to sleep constantly, and the bizarre neuro transmitter messages I get from my brain about itching, water rolling, and ants crawling – down my forehead to my face on the inside part of my skin.

Writing this column and my one-eyed reading of everything in my library by Roger Kahn about baseball in the 1950s are almost the only specific things that rally my soul and rescue me temporarily from the nuisance of it all. I’m going to try my best to stop talking about it here in the future, but I do promise to let you all know whenever I discover what the new normal is for me.

Remembering that God is Love, celebrating the Ballad of Eddie Gaedel with others who share my love for the little guy, and watching the soulful Houston Astros breathing life into our too-long-in-languish hopes for a World Series victory soon, and maybe even this year, as well as following the feisty Pearland Little League team in action from Williamsport, are all – my other salvos in the name of sanity.

At any rate, here’s the link to the constant repeat cycle action of the “MLB Logos in Flux Over Time” site. After you’ve seen it as many times in full as you need, we suggest you pick out one franchise to focus upon and just watch its singular changes over time. And, oh yes, make sure you have had your coffee and are not driving your car when you visit this site:

http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/mlb-big-league-stew/check-out-every-mlb-team-s-logo-changes-through-the-years–in-one-gif-064425511.html

______________________________

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Ballad of Eddie Gaedel Became Official Aug. 19

August 26, 2015
Commissioned by the Eddie Gaedel Society,

Commissioned by the Eddie Gaedel Society, “Take A Walk Eddie” is the inspired work af Vancouver, BC artist Jennifer Ettinger – and it was presented August 19th the roaring approval of the crowd at O’Doherty’s..

“The Wonderful Wizard of Ed,” Tom Keefe, aka, the Founder and President of the Eddie Gaedel Society, Spokane Chapter #1, last night sent me this great sample of the meeting I had to miss out there due to shingles on the August 19th anniversary of Eddie Gaedel’s complete, one-game career as a big league player for the 1951 St. Louis Browns, aka, now better remembered since 1954 as the Baltimore Orioles.

The performance by the Spokane Chapter Choral Group marked the official induction of “The Ballad” as the official anthem of The Eddie Gaedel Society. The Pecan Park Eagle also “Now Flies High for the Little Guy” in an official context that always has been with us unofficially for Eddie Gaedel and, for that matter, all of the “little guy/underdog good guy issues that carom our way.

Eddie Gaedel is different and above all others in that regard. He didn’t carom into my life. He hit me head-on like a Mack truck when I was a 13-year old sandlot baseball player in the Houston east end and during my baseball card-connected time as a St. Louis Browns fan – and also on a special day my family was getting ready to celebrate my little sister’s 2nd birthday anniversary.

The news came that day over the radio about Eddie coming to bat in St. Louis as a “little guy – a really little guy, as the disfavored “m” word used to convey with no intentionally pejorative description of the fact that Eddie Gaedel belonged to a sub-group of people in this world who are a whole lot shorter than the rest of us.

Had Eddie Gaedel been breaking in at shortstop for the Munchkin City Kids of the Southern Oz League, no one would have given it a second thought. But this is America – and Eddie Gaedel had gone to bat officially in a big league game as a pinch-hitter for the St. Louis Browns – and he had drawn a four-pitch walk before retiring from his one-game career for a pinch runner – who just happened to be outfielder Jim Delsing, a guy who would years later, in 1959, play 149 inglorious near-the-end-of-his-career games for our hometown Houston Buffs.

Years ago in St. Louis, I asked Jim Delsing what he remembered, if anything, about the moment he took Eddie Gaedel’s place as the runner at first on August 19, 1951. “You bet there is,” Delsing said, with a smile that belied his seriously expressed protestation. “Gaedel had the nerve to pat me on the butt at first base before taking off running for our dugout. I didn’t like it at first,” Delsing added, “but then I came to my senses and remembered that we were the Browns, and playing baseball for a guy named Bill Veeck. Before the next play even moved the game forward,” he added, “I already had put the butt slap into my ‘what the heck’ file.”

By the next day, August 20, 1951, the iconic photo of “Take a Walk Eddie” that our featured art piece above is so beautifully named and based upon, had filled the television screens and sports pages of newspapers all across America. That was about as close as we came to Internet immediacy back in the day, but the impression lasted, taking on a mystique of its own as the feisty accomplishment of a 3’7″ tall major league batter – with that unforgettable batting stance.

Make sure you have your sound turned on before viewing the song sample link. We are simply humbled and happy that it happened at all, and glad to have become an active member of the organization that exists to make sure that baseball always remembers and honors the name of Eddie Gaedel to the fullest extent that is both appropriate and possible.

HAIL EDDIE!

Here’s the sample link: http://wdrv.it/1EhfgzG

And, by the way, “HAIL EDDIE!” is supposed to be the riotous verbal hashtag salute to Eddie Gaedel at the end of the anthem. Next year, I think it will be.

When we get our copy of the complete 2015 meeting video, we will post it here too at The Pecan Park Eagle. Meanwhile, enjoy this delicious taste by link.

In case you may wish to follow how beautifully true the choral group is to the new written lyrics, here they are again below for your convenience. Since this is an edited version, simply jump over the Verse this time. On this recording, everything begins under the Melody line:

The Ballad of Eddie Gaedel

(Verse, Melody and Chorus: to the tune of

“Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer”)

By Bill McCurdy, 1999. (Minor Revisions, 03/15/2015)

Verse:

You know Pee Wee and Scooter and short guys named Patek,

And Wee Willie Keeler – as small as a flyspeck,

All little people who drew baseball paychecks,

But, do you recall,

The most famous baseball short guy of them all?

Melody:

Bill Veeck, the Brownie owner,

Wore some very shiny clothes!

And if you saw his sport shirt,

You would even say, “It glows!”

All of the other owners,

Used to laugh and call him names!

They wouldn’t let poor Bill Veeck,

Join in any owner games!

Chorus:

Then one humid summer day,

Veeck signed a tiny man.

He smiled like a kid in a Panama suit,

Squeaking, “Play me – when you can!”

Melody:

His name was Eddie Gae-del,

Inches short of four feet tall!

He never played much baseball;

He was always just too small!

He wasn’t small on courage,

Eddie saw the larger plan.

Took his heart out of storage,

Making him the bigger man!

Chorus:


Then one day in Sportsman’s Park,

Eddie went to bat!

Took four balls and walked to first,

Then retired – just like that!

Melody:

Oh, how the purists hated,

Adding little Eddie’s name,

To the big book of records,

“ Gaedel” bore a blush of shame!

Now when you look up records,

Look up Eddie’s O.B.P.!

It reads a cool One Thousand,

Safe for all eternity!

Hail, Eddie!

______________________________

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Astros Win the Simple Math Projection

August 25, 2015
When it comes to winning...

When it comes to winning…
“There’s No Place Like Home!”
~ Houston Astros, 2015

If winning division titles were all a matter of simple probability projections on games left to play with about a month to go, based on home and road winning records to date, the Astros are in line to take the AL WEST in 2015. The math steps taken to arrive at this conclusion are fairly easy to follow below in tabular form. Of course, even for me, math of this nature always brings to mind one of baseball history’s major caveats about paying total attention to probability – and that reminder that features Bobby Thomson’s 1951 “Shot Heard Round the World” and NY Giants announcer Russ Hodges screaming “The Giants Win The Pennant”, ad nauseum, into the ether of recorded baseball history.

All we did here was to examine the the three contending clubs in the MLB-Com data bank, determining their home and road win percentages over all games played through 8/24/15. Then we applied those two H&R win percentages to the games that each club had left to play at home and on the road. Then we simply added these projected yet-to-be-played home and road records to standings to date to finish out the statistical look at how the three contending ALW clubs will end the season.

If were just up the math, the Astros will be rescued from their horrible road record by their lights-out exciting winning mark at home.

At any rate, here’s the same kind of math applied to 2015 that would have shown the Brooklyn Dodgers in late August 1951 as probably in line to win the NL pennant in a walk:

ALL GAMES THRU 8/24/15

ALW W L W% GB
ASTROS 69 57 .548
RANGERS 64 59 .520 3.5
ANGELS 63 61 .508 5

HOME RECORDS THRU 8/24/15

 

ALW W L W% GB
ASTROS 45 21 .682
ANGELS 39 27 .591 6
RANGERS 28 30 .483 13

 

ROAD RECORDS THRU 8/24/15:

 

ALW W L W% GB
RANGERS 36 29 .554
ANGELS 24 34 .431 8.5
ASTROS 24 36 .400 9.5

 

HOME GAMES LEFT TO PLAY

 

ALW AT HOME %W->New W
RANGERS 23 .483 / 11 WINS
ASTROS 15 .682 / 10 WINS
ANGELS 15 .591 / 9 WINS

 

 

ROAD GAMES LEFT TO PLAY

 

ALW ON ROAD %W->New W
RANGERS 16 .554/ 9 WINS
ASTROS 21 .400/ 10 WINS
ANGELS 23 .431/ 9 WINS

 

PROJECTED FINAL STANDINGS

 

ALW W L W% GB
ASTROS 89 73 .549
RANGERS 84 78 .515 5
ANGELS 81 81 .500 8

Wouldn’t it be a relief to somehow know that our Astros’ suspiciously jinxed record in winnable road games (like last night’s 1-0 Astros loss to the Yankees) was simply our human tendency for leaning our own negativity into the way we resolve failed hope and expectation as either the result of some conditional jinx (like playing on the road) or reading it as the foreboding voice of destiny’s doom?

Back on the sandlot, we had a simpler way of describing our disappointment with losing, when we weren’t too mad or mortified by whom we lost to – or how it happened. And that rationale hung simply in the air as: “That’s the way the cookie sometimes crumbles.”

______________________________

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Come Alive to Be Alive and Stay Alive

August 24, 2015
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“Don’t ask what the world needs.  Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

 ~ Civil rights leader Howard Thurman,  quoted in FastCompany.com

I want to thank Mark Wernick for sending me that quote from Howard Thurman last night because it completely summarizes what writing this simple daily column especially has meant to me as I enter the fourth week of what I’m now hoping will be the downhill side of my visit by a guest who doesn’t seem to want to leave.

Writing here is the only thing that takes me completely into the here and now of my passion-fire for communication under extraordinary circumstances. It has nothing to do with pleasing people, writing perfectly, never making inadvertent factual mistakes, or even hitting the mark of hot news or whatever else may be of interest to my readership. – Of course, these were the perks of writing from a voluntary blog site for free, even before I got sick.

Now that freedom is my certified paycheck.

The only other places I get to feel this empowering state of freedom to be me in passionate peace, in transcendent disconnection from physical pain or anxiety about anything, are in quiet moments with family and friends and the people I see in my office.

As an Astros fan, of course, I am also swept up from the mire of aging and life’s physical adversities by no-hitters, walk-off homers and other such hits, and an Astros club that is roaring into New York tonight with a four-game bulge as the American League West division leader.

The larger point for all of us to me, regardless of age, but even greater, if you can get it early, is the point expressed so lucidly by Howard Thurman. Find your passion for life and go there. Live there. Be there. Be who that presence in the moment of creative ignition allows you to be.

As one who grew up in the practical-minded working-class Pecan Park neighborhood of southeast Houston, and as one coming of age in the 1957 new era of Sputnik and the blossoming concern about the space race, I could never forget the national challenge we all heard about the need for more scientists and engineers. – “That’s where the jobs are going to be” was the message then – and not “what are your aptitudes and interests – what do you feel passionate about?”

I was sort of spared. My interests were communications (journalism and broadcasting) and psychology. I only lost 50% of my passion, the parts that had to do with public communications. I couldn’t justify simply writing or talking about something as important in a world in which America needed us to do something about the Russians and the race for space. I guess I saw myself as moving into the mental health field as an attempt to do something about helping the casualties these changes in our culture were bound to produce.

Whatever it was, it was way, way too theoretical and grandiose. Fortunately, I felt a passion for my work and an ego that was adjustable over time to the realities of my much more modest place in the grand scheme of things as a mental health care professional.

It was my free ranging passion for fiction, poetry, lyrical composition, parody, and history, particularly baseball history and biography, that I had put on the shelf for so many decades. But these channels were fully returned to me with the coming of the Internet and all of the continuing evolution of communication media that are, so far, a major signature on change in the early 21st century.

I was lucky. New technology took me fairly straight to a place in which my passion for written communication could find its own niche.

My loss was time. And my unanswerable questions are all those that pertain to how my writing life might have changed my personal decision-making, had I been active with it in the forty years it slept in writing hunger. But that’s OK. No one’s life rolls forward on Teflon. Those who think theirs did simply missed some insight opportunities along the way.

If I were giving a commencement address to college or high school graduates today, these are the points I would stress:

(1) They would get to hear my take on the importance of Thurman’s quote about coming alive.

(2) Do something that you feel passionate about – not what you think your parents or the world needs to see about you.

(3) Self esteem comes only from what you think about you – not what others think of you.

(4) Watch out for the creation of early debt. Debt traps people into work that pays enough to meet the bills, whether they like it or not.

(5) If you are a high school graduate, be careful about floating a federal loan for your college education on a degree plan, if you already sense no passion for what your training to become – and only see it as a way to make “good money”.

(6) Watch out for greed. Greed is not a passion. It is an ego driven compulsion to control life with cash, based upon the underlying fear that “more control through more cash is never enough of either”.

(7) The quickest route to the discovery of your passion is to give of yourself to others in life in honest ways that never violate your integrity. Make that a part of your life – and your passion will find you.

(8) Education is not about graduating and then never having to go to school again. Education is about learning that our need to continue learning is forever – and about finding that sweet spot of personal passion that allows us to come alive, be alive, and stay alive.

______________________________

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All’s Well That Ends in Astros “W” @ MMP

August 23, 2015
JEFF LUHNOW, GM OF THE HOUSTON ASTROS, ADDRESSES SABR AT MINUTE MAID PARK AS ASSISTANT BRANDON TAUBMAN LOOKS ON, AWAITING HIS TURN TO SPEAK.

JEFF LUHNOW, GM OF THE HOUSTON ASTROS, ADDRESSES SABR AT MINUTE MAID PARK AS ASSISTANT BRANDON TAUBMAN LOOKS ON, AWAITING HIS TURN TO SPEAK.

Following a great SABR meeting at Minute Maid Park in which a full board room of members of the Larry Dierker Chapter listened actively to a really upbeat talk by Astros GM Jeff Luhnow and one of his key staff, 30-year old Brandon Taubman, the high energy felt there moved to the field in which most members sat together to first hear a beautiful tribute to Craig Biggio for his 2015 induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and then to watch Scott Kazmir, Jose Altuve, and Luis Valbuena lead the ALW  first place Astros to a 3-1 second straight win over the NLW front-running Los Angeles Dodgers.

SATURDAY, 8/22/15, ASTROS 3-1 WIN OVER DODGERS: PRIOR TO HIS 2ND INNING HR, JOSE ALTUVE APPEARS TO BE CALLING HIS SHOT.

SATURDAY, 8/22/15, ASTROS 3-1 WIN OVER DODGERS: PRIOR TO HIS 6TH INNING HR, JOSE ALTUVE APPEARS TO BE CALLING HIS SHOT.

Altuve opened the game with a triple and then scored when Carlos Correa was safe at first on a fielder’s choice error to make it 1-0 Astros. In the second inning, Luis Valbuena pasted a Greinke-served solo homer to deep right to push the Astros edge up to 2-0.

In the top of the 6th, Dodger shortstop Jimmy Rollins cracked the 500th double of his career and then scored on a a single by third baseman Justin Turner for what turned out to be LA’s only run of the game to cut the margin briefly to 2-1, Astros. It was a short-lived rally for the rich guys from Tinseltown,

Then Altuve came right back in the bottom of the 6th inning with a solo homer into the Crawford Boxes off the arguably NL-best pitcher, Zack Greinke to up the Astros ante back to two-runs at 3-1, a tally that would stand as the final score..

Houston goes for the sweep this Sunday afternoon, but it won’t be easy. Never is, no matter how it looks.

Young Lance McCullers is back from the farm to face off for the Astros against lefty Clayton Kershaw in the sweep quest, but didn’t we already mention the fat that it’s never easy?

Nevertheless, the Astros ow have a 4-game lead over the “new” second place team, the Texas Rangers, who defeated the Detroit Tigers on the road Saturday, 5-3. The Los Angeles Angels slipped to 3rd place and are now 4.5 games back after getting pasted at home, 15-3, by the surging Toronto Blue Jays.

8/22/15: THE VIEW FROM OUR SABR SEATS DOWN THE RIGHT FIELD LINE WAS ONE OF ENERGY AND OPTIMISM - AND WE WERE NOT DISAPPOINTED IN THE OUTCOME.

8/22/15: THE VIEW FROM OUR SABR SEATS DOWN THE RIGHT FIELD LINE WAS ONE OF ENERGY AND OPTIMISM – AND WE WERE NOT DISAPPOINTED IN THE OUTCOME.

Back to the Luhnow SABR talk for a moment. Jeff Luhnow was flying high Saturday – and why not? He’s been talking about “the plan” for four years of fairly uninspired play at the MLB level due to the new for rebuilding the talent pipeline. Over time, “2015” sort of slipped into something that sounded close to the answer to the question, “How soon can we begin to see the plan working better at the MLB level?”

Luhnow underestimated himself. We actually started seeing improvement in the Astros last year. And it got even incredibly better this year after the hiring of manager A.J Hinch and the addition of some key MLB-ready players and the coming of rookie sensation Carlos Correa.

Luhnow hoped for .500 or a few games better in 2015. What he got what was a speed horse club that hasn’t broken away from the pack, but one that has fought hard to keep a small lead in the ALW for most of the season.

“It’s helped that several of the clubs in our division have also had their problems,” Luhnow said as he smiled, as though to imply, “but we will take it any way we can get it.

Why shouldn’t Luhnow the man have been as pumped as a non-New England football? He’s talking to SABR with his club in first place  and coming off the previous evening’s no-hit win by Mike Fiers over the Dodgers, as one of the recently acquired players that our GM had only recently acquired to help with the stretch drive! – How super cool is that?

As the Reverend Red Barber might have put it, were he still around today to preach the gospel of baseball, “Mr. Luhnow and the Houston Astros have taken a great liking to the ‘catbird seat’ in recent days. – Yes, sir! – They surely have!”

THE BACK SUPPORT PANEL OF A SEAT FROM OLD YANKEE STADIUM. A GIFT FROM JIMMY WYNN WITH THE #23 HE GAVE ME LONG AGO WHEN WE WERE WORKING ON HIS BIO

THE BACK SUPPORT PANEL OF A SEAT FROM OLD YANKEE STADIUM. A GIFT FROM JIMMY WYNN WITH THE # 23 HE GAVE ME LONG AGO WHEN WE WERE WORKING ON HIS BIO “TOY CANNON”. BOB DORRILL ALSO RECEIVED A PANEL NOTED WITH THE # 3. – BOB DORRILL AND I ARE BOTH LUCKY TO HAVE JIMMY WYNN AS OUR FRIEND.

Jimmy Wynn and Larry Miggins were both n attendance yesterday. Jimmy looked great, even showing up to surprise Bob Dorrill and yours truly with seat back rests from Yankee stadium with our special numbers on them. Bob Dorrill got # 3 for Babe Ruth; I received # 23, a number that Jimmy gave me years ago when we worked on “Toy Cannon” together. For that reason, number 23 is now very special to me. It’s as close as I can be to this wonderful friend without intruding upon the number 24 that will always mean “JIMMY WYNN” in Houston.

LARRY MIGGINS ST. LOUIS CARDINALS, 1948, 1952. HOUSTON BUFFS, 1949, 1951, 1953-54.

LARRY MIGGINS
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS, 1948, 1952.
HOUSTON BUFFS, 1949, 1951, 1953-54.

Bob Dorrill recognized Larry Miggins for being 90 years and two days old – and we all gave the wonderful Mr. Miggins a standing ovation. I later asked Larry how it felt to be 90 years and two days old?”

“About the same as it did when I turned 90,” Larry smiled.

Bob Dorrill told the group that we have been successful in adding two new vintage base ball clubs for the fall and that we will be playing a six-game, round-robin schedule with each other on three doubleheader weekends in October and November. Our older guys on the Houston Babies don’t have to worry about losing their jobs, but we could use an infusion of youth, if you know of any candidates that can both play and commit the time. After all, the Babies have neither a talent pipeline nor a Jeff Luhnow o deck to help us with our roster re-loading requirements.

Next month’s September SABR meeting at our regular site, the Spaghetti Western Ristorante on Shepherd, will not take place on the 3rd Monday of the month due to a conflict with an Astros home game during the heart of what we hope is still a playoff run for the club.

We also signed a get-well card for Marie “Red” Mahoney, who is now in the hospital with unspecified issues. Get well, Red! We miss you!

Next month’s meeting will be scheduled f0r either the 2nd or 4th Monday. Stay tuned for the decision via an e-mail from Chapter leader Bob Dorrill.

Stayed tuned. – And, Go Astros. Sweep the Dodgers.

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Gaedel Rocks Spokane! Fiers Lights Houston!

August 22, 2015
Commissioned by the Eddie Gaedel Society,

Commissioned by the Eddie Gaedel Society, “Take A Walk Eddie” is the inspired work af Vancouver, BC artist and devoted Blue Jays fan Jennifer Ettinger – and it was presented August 19th to the roaring approval of the crowd at O’Doherty’s Irish Pub and Grille in Spokane, WA..

Friday night, August 21, 2015, was a night in which everything landed at once at The Pecan Park Eagle. – Beautiful news of the Eddie Gaedel Society annual meeting in Spokane on August 19th came soaring home in droves from Society President Tom Keefe – and at just about the same time all of us in Houston were sitting through, sweating out, and finally celebrating Astros pitcher Mike Fiers, 3-0, no-hit shut out of the Los Angeles Dodgers to handle, At one point, the two stories even crossed paths with each other here for me at home, but we will get to that.

First, to a brief but luminously beautiful report from Spokane about the party in Spokane I had to miss because of the damn shingles that I am still trying to shake. I am no longer totally reptilian in facial appearance, and I’m not contagious, but I am still having trouble opening my right lid as a 1.5 eyed-cat with occasional sensations of ants crawling on my face, just beneath the surface of the skin. My doctor explained that shingles is basically a neurologically attacking virus that causes the brain to misunderstand some of the data it receives – and, as result – I get to live briefly with the same kind of misread brain reports that earned the notorious Bugsy Siegel his nickname on the way to a bitter violent end. I am hopeful of skipping the last part.

At one point late Friday, I broke away from the televised version of the drama at MMP here in Houston to e-mail Tom Keefe with a question about the August 19th meeting. Without either of us saying a prior word about it, Tom shot back this response to my question: “ONE OUT AWAY! Stay tuned!”

Simpatico! Tom just knew what I had been watching in real time!

One windmill swinging strikeout later, I replied to Keene’s Houston/no-hitter supportive urging:

“Destiny Done Pumped our tires,

 Flying in as Michael Fiers,

 Houston Couldn’t Get Much Higher,

 C’mon, Astros, Light Our Fires!”

Once the game was over and the Astros 11th no-hitter in history was in the bag. Keefe responded to my question about the first performance of “The Ballad of Eddie Gaedel” as the Eddie Gaedel’s new Anthem for the Ages:

“The Ballad of Eddie Gaedel was a big hit. The crowd went wild, much like tonight’s crowd in Houston!”

The digital video of the August 19th performance of the Anthem is still being prepped for distribution. Once we receive our copy from Tom Keefe, we will all be able to watch it here together for the first time. I’m just pleased to hear that it was so well received.

Artist Jennifer and Gaedel Society President Mike Keene unveiling

Artist Jennifer and Gaedel Society President Tom Keefe unveiling “Take A Walk Eddie” on August 19, 2015 at O’Doherty’s Irish Pub and Grille in Spokane at the 4th Annual Meeting of The Eddie Gaedel Society.

Here’s a link to how the Spokane Spokesman-Review covered the story of The Gaedel Society meeting:

http://www.spokesman.com/blogs/clarksville/2015/aug/20/weird-celebrations-downtown-spokane/

There are now four chapter sites for The Eddie Gaedel Society: Chapter # 1 is located in Spokane, WA; Chapter # 2 is at the Eddie Gaedel Pub in Elburn, IL;  Chapter # 3 in LA held its first annual meeting at Griffin of Kinsale’s in Pasadena; and  Chapter # 4 was only recently designated in Evergreen Park, IL, where Eddie Gaedel is buried, and it operates under the stewardship of Rich Bird.

Broadly stated, the goal of The Eddie Gaedel Society’s is getting Eddie Gaedel inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The first two problems are these: (1) There currently are no provisions for inducting anyone into the Baseball Hall Fame whose only official connection to organized baseball has been one time at bat in the big leagues; and (2) The Baseball Hall of Fame doesn’t respond very well to battering ram approaches at the front door.

As an invited member of The Eddie Gaedel Society, I certainly do not presume to speak for the organization, but I do think that there is a step that the Society should consider, and maybe they already have. I am new, however, – and too far removed from Spokane to presently know the Society’s plan, but I will offer this notion as a suggestion.

The Case for a Unique Case Induction or Honors Qualification

There are some people who have made exceptional unique contributions to the history and lore of baseball that we think are deserving of the Hall of Fame’s honor – and no one deserves to be at the top of that list more than Eddie Gaedel.

This is a time to establish a dialogue path with the Hall of Fame that begins with broad thinking about the unique candidates category. What hopefully follows from amicable talk, in which people give each other the broad right to disagree, is some kind of sane plan for making sure that people like Eddie Gaedel are duly honored with the Hall’s official commitment to their perpetual memory.

It’s a place to start. And it takes into account that there presently is no path for unique contributors like Gaedel – and that he is not alone in this regard. And obviously, as The Eddie Gaedel Society grows, the more the chance grows that the Hall of Fame will listen to our “cries from the wilderness” and consider a forum for substantive discussion – one that, without which, nothing will ever happen.

We have to work for the possible over a plan of action that is dedicated to the long haul of substantive change at the Hall itself.

If we are not willing to do that, than any kind of lighted torch approach at the gate will only lighten the sky – and not enlighten the minds of those we may be trying to reach.

All I know from my brief long-range exposure to Tom Keefe is that he is a man of great passion and caring for the game, a fellow of action who kicks up the dust of baseball history for the sake of bringing a higher level of equity to those he feels have been ignored far too long by the game’s hallowed institution of honor, the Hall of Fame.

Maybe it’s the populist lawyer in him, maybe it’s part of being the son of a judge, maybe it’s growing up in the west, or maybe it’s just the basic decency that exudes from him – even by electronic long distance – that makes him convey a certain Lone Ranger archetype searcher quality about his efforts. Whatever it is, Tom Keefe’s got it, and he is not going to give up on his pursuit of justice for Eddie Gaedel until equity prevails.

Stay tuned!

As for Mike Fiers, I can’t say much that already hasn’t been covered beautifully by this morning’s Houston Chronicle, but I will close with one more note to the man himself:

 “Dear Mike – Congratulations on becoming the 5th MLB no-hit pitcher in 2015; thanks for throwing the 11th no-hit game performance in franchise history; great job on your first career complete game, and, wow, what a way to land your first official win as an Astro. – Everyone in the Houston baseball family is both proud of you and happy for you. Thank you for bringing your great talents to the side of our good guys!” – The Pecan Park Eagle

When I signed off with Tom Keefe last night, I left him this note about our wonderful Houston Friday night:

“Yes, Tom, the stars tonight – are big and bright,

Deep in the Heart of Houston!”

 Hail, Eddie!

 Hail, Astros!

______________________________

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Why Do We Think of .200 as the Mendoza Line?

August 21, 2015
~ THE MENDOZA LINE ~ Mario Mendoza's career batting average has become the symbol hitting futility over the past 30 years - but his actual career BA was .215 - not the .200 that most people think it was.

~ THE MENDOZA LINE ~
Mario Mendoza’s career batting average has become the symbol of hitting futility over the past 30 years – but his actual career BA was .215 – not the .200 that most people think it was.

Bill Borst of St. Louis, a colleague, academic and baseball author, professor of history and founder of the St. Louis Browns Historical Society and Browns Fan Club is responsible for raising this very fair question: “Why do we think of .200 as the Mendoza Line for career terminal batting averages?”

~ BILL BORST ~ Advocate for Historical Correction

~ BILL BORST ~
Advocate for Historical Correction

In the nine seasons ((1974-82) that MLB infielder Mario Mendoza played his way into legendary status as the icon for the dropping off place in fatally anemic hitting, he needed only 680 total games to establish his career batting average of .215 as “The Mendoza Line” of batting proficiency failure.

Yes, we said .215 lifetime – not the .200 mark that probably most people who’ve even heard of “The Mendoza Line” think it is?

What happened to encourage a standard that was not only .015 points above the shudder-land drop into ugly averages that begin at .199 on their potential descent to .000?

Borst argues that, if we are going to think .200 as the jumping off the gravy train point, that we ought to get it right that .215 and Mario Mendoza were never the best mark and model for the archetype of baseball batting failure.

Look no further than Bob Uecker for a better named patron saint of puny batting. Borst suggests the wonderfully funny former catcher and modern day baseball broadcasting winner of the Ford Frick Award and movie broadcasting celeb in “Major League” as the accurately “statified” (our Pecan Park Eagle new word for it) performer on point to such an onerous accolade.

~ BOB UECKER ~ The Uecker Line Nominee

~ BOB UECKER ~
The Uecker Line Nominee

Bob Uecker batted exactly .200 in a six-year (1962-67) 297-game catching career in the big leagues. His average alone speaks for the relative-to-Mendoza shorter length of his career – and for Borst’s recommendation that we start thinking of .200 as “The Uecker Line.”

Makes sense to me, except for the fact, right and wrong, that we’ve had 30 years to hear, read  and convince ourselves that “The Mendoza Line” and .200 are one and the same – which they measurably are not.

Bob Uecker might have made this possible comment on Mario Mendoza’s .215 average as the standard for a measurable hitting nadir in a career, had he been asked. If you remember Uecker’s call on that wide wild pitch in “Major League”:

“Mendoza gets the call – but it’s a tad high!”

Bill Borst describes “The Uecker Line” (.200) in these words:

“The Uecker Line”  signals career futility and a future that centers upon never having anything more than bad views and cars that break down.”

Thanks for a wonderful suggestion, Bill Borst, even if the weight of hearing “Mendoza Line” and .200 mentioned and written about together too often over the past three decades works against people’s resistance to abandoning their comfort zones, even when they are being asked to correct what was never true in the first place.

______________________________

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The Complete Houston-St. Louis Trade Record

August 20, 2015
October 24, 1974: The Houston Astros purchased Jose Cruz from the St. Louis Cardinals.

October 24, 1974: The Houston Astros purchased Jose Cruz from the St. Louis Cardinals.

Baseball Reference.Com has a neat little feature that allows researchers to compare the complete historical trade record between any two MLB franchises, including all sales, trades, and “players-to-be-named-later” assignments that may have occurred. Of course, it does not include reference to players who also have played for both teams by free agency decision – or the names of players who may have played for both teams as the result of intervening trades involving other teams on their ways to playing for both comparative clubs.

At any rate, here’s a link to the complete trade record between the Houston Colt .45s/Astros and the St. Louis Cardinals that also appears below without the mechanism that will allow you to try the measure with two others clubs.

To me, it is interesting from several perspectives: (1) It’s a chance to pick your favorite gains and losses in dealing with Cards over the years. The name “Jose Cruz” in 1974 jumps out at me as our biggest Astros gain of all time in dealing with St. Louis. As for biggest Astro losses, I don’t see an earthquake, but losing Joaquin Andujar for Tony Scott in 1981 tips my scale. Andujar posted two 20-win seasons for the Cards; Scott hit one partial season at .293 before going to squat.

(2) It’s also interesting, even if it is incidental, that since GM Jeff Luhnow left St. Louis for Houston in December 2011 that the two clubs have swung only one minor deal for Tyler Greene in August 2012. Then. Since that time? Nothing.

(3) Oh, yes. – We did harvest Mike Cuellar from the Cards in 1965, but the Astros traded him and his biggest pitching harvest as a four-time 20-game winner and twice blessed 18-game “W” man to the Baltimore Oriole prior to the 1969 season.

Have fun!

http://www.baseball-reference.com/friv/trade-partners.cgi?franch_ID_1=HOU&franch_ID_2=STL

Trades between Houston Astros & St. Louis Cardinals

August 9, 2012: The St. Louis Cardinals sent Tyler Greene to the Houston Astros as part of a conditional deal.

August 19, 2010: The Houston Astros traded Pedro Feliz and cash to the St. Louis Cardinals for David Carpenter.

August 22, 2007: The Houston Astros sent Danny Ardoin to the St. Louis Cardinals as part of a conditional deal.

August 31, 1988: The Houston Astros traded Denny Walling to the St. Louis Cardinals for Bob Forsch.

March 31, 1986: The St. Louis Cardinals returned Mark Ross to the Houston Astros as part of a conditional deal.

December 9, 1985: The Houston Astros sent Mark Ross to the St. Louis Cardinals as part of a conditional deal.

March 16, 1983: The Houston Astros traded Geoff Meadows (minors) to the St. Louis Cardinals for George Bjorkman.

June 7, 1981: The Houston Astros traded Joaquin Andujar to the St. Louis Cardinals for Tony Scott.

June 8, 1978: The Houston Astros traded Bob Coluccio to the St. Louis Cardinals for Frank Riccelli.

December 9, 1977: The Houston Astros traded Ron Selak (minors) to the St. Louis Cardinals for Randy Wiles.

November 23, 1976: The Houston Astros traded Jerry DaVanon and Larry Dierker to the St. Louis Cardinals for Bob Detherage and Joe Ferguson.

June 25, 1975: The Houston Astros traded Mike Easler to the St. Louis Cardinals for a player to be named later. The St. Louis Cardinals sent Mike Barlow (September 30, 1975) to the Houston Astros to complete the trade.

April 8, 1975: The Houston Astros purchased Tom Dixon from the St. Louis Cardinals.

December 13, 1974: The St. Louis Cardinals purchased Mick Kelleher from the Houston Astros.

October 24, 1974: The Houston Astros purchased Jose Cruz from the St. Louis Cardinals.

August 15, 1974: The Houston Astros traded Claude Osteen to the St. Louis Cardinals for a player to be named later and Ron Selak (minors). The St. Louis Cardinals sent Dan Larson (October 14, 1974) to the Houston Astros to complete the trade.

May 11, 1974: The Houston Astros purchased Jay Schlueter from the St. Louis Cardinals.

December 9, 1973: The St. Louis Cardinals traded Mike Nagy to the Houston Astros for Jay Schlueter.

October 23, 1973: The Houston Astros purchased Mick Kelleher from the St. Louis Cardinals.

August 18, 1973: The St. Louis Cardinals traded Dave Campbell and cash to the Houston Astros for Tommie Agee.

June 8, 1973: The Houston Astros traded Stan Papi to the St. Louis Cardinals for Ray Busse.

November 28, 1972: The Houston Astros traded Ray Busse and Bobby Fenwick to the St. Louis Cardinals for Skip Jutze and Milt Ramirez.

August 8, 1972: The St. Louis Cardinals purchased Keith Lampard from the Houston Astros. (Date given is approximate. Exact date is uncertain.)

April 15, 1972: The Houston Astros traded Lance Clemons and Scipio Spinks to the St. Louis Cardinals for Jerry Reuss.

November 3, 1971: The St. Louis Cardinals traded Bob Stinson to the Houston Astros for Marty Martinez.

June 13, 1970: The Houston Astros traded Jim Beauchamp and Leon McFadden to the St. Louis Cardinals for George Culver.

November 20, 1969: The Houston Astros returned Ron Willis to the St. Louis Cardinals following previous purchase.

August 8, 1969: The Houston Astros purchased Ron Willis from the St. Louis Cardinals.

February 12, 1969: The St. Louis Cardinals purchased Byron Browne from the Houston Astros.

October 11, 1968: The St. Louis Cardinals traded Tommy Smith (minors) and Johnny Edwards to the Houston Astros for Dave Adlesh and Dave Giusti.

June 15, 1968: The Houston Astros traded Ron Davis to the St. Louis Cardinals for Hal Gilson and Dick Simpson.

June 15, 1965: The Houston Astros traded Chuck Taylor and Hal Woodeshick to the St. Louis Cardinals for Mike Cuellar and Ron Taylor.

February 17, 1964: The St. Louis Cardinals traded Jim Beauchamp and Chuck Taylor to the Houston Colt .45’s for Carl Warwick.

February, 1963: The Houston Colt .45’s traded Bobby Tiefenauer to the St. Louis Cardinals for Don Ferrarese.

May 7, 1962: The Houston Colt .45’s traded Bobby Shantz to the St. Louis Cardinals for John Anderson and Carl Warwick.

October 15, 1961: The Houston Colt .45’s purchased Bobby Tiefenauer from the St. Louis Cardinals.

October 13, 1961: The Houston Colt .45’s purchased Al Cicotte from the St. Louis Cardinals.

______________________________

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