The Curse of the Gun Smoke Ghost

October 8, 2015
January 3, 1962, Harris County and Astros Officials fire guns into ground to ceremonially begin the new domed stadium, but also to unknowingly confirm the presence of the Curse of the Gun Smoke Ghost!

January 3, 1962,
Harris County and Astros Officials fire guns into ground to ceremonially begin the new domed stadium, but also to unknowingly confirm the presence of the Curse of the Gun Smoke Ghost!

“I have a question: What event brought about the Astros’ postseason curse? The Red Sox had the Curse of the Bambino, the White Sox had the Black Sox scandal, the Cubs have the Curse of the Billy Goat, but to what do we attribute the Astros’ misfortunes?”

~Question raised by Rick Bush yesterday as a comment.

The Pecan Park Eagle is surprised we’ve all allowed this question to slide past our glazed eyes, minds, and memories for well over a half century without seeking the answer to the adroit Mr. Bush’s most worthy inquiry.

Have the Astros’ varied and painful misfortunes over the years, like those suffered once in Boston and twice in Chicago, also been the result of some kind of curse? Yes, they have. Of course, they have. Nothing else makes sense.

But why? What did we Houston baseball fans ever do to deserve all of the angst and bitter disappointment we’ve endured from the few championship opportunities that have come along, ever so rarely, and then crumbled at the highest level in 1980, 1986, 1999, and 2005?

That 2005 whitewash we absorbed in the World Series even helped the Chicago White Sox break their Black Sox Curse from 1919, giving the Pale Hose their first World Series win since 1917?

Now it’s 2015 and we are in the other league, back in the playoffs for the first time since 2005 – and facing the real possibility that the Astros could reach the World Series as the opponent of the Chicago Cubs, who are still 107 years removed from their last 1908 crown due to the Curse of the Billy Goat. – Is our own curse setting up the Astros and their fans to be the only team that could ever satisfy the Cubs’ need to also break their own curse by defeating the Astros for their first World Series win since 1908?

What a horrible thought! – But, then again, how often have our Astros fans’ worst fears suddenly hatched and then come painfully true – and there was nothing we could do about it, but try to remember: “There’s no crying in baseball!”

 So, what is our Astros affliction, anyway?

Truth to tell, we never thought much about local curses either until Rick Bush raised the question. I thought long and hard about it all day yesterday. It even followed me into my dreams last night. Then it woke me at 4:30 AM today in a state of lucidity – and that’s not an everyday occurrence for me at this time of day. But that’s how convinced I am that the following answer is the correct one:

The Curse of the Gun Smoke Ghost

 How it started. When Judge Hofheinz decided to name our new MLB club the Houston Colt .45s, he offended both the gods of baseball history and legal equity.

The gods of history, supported by the loyal legion of former Houston Buffalos fans, were heartbroken that their beloved “Buffs” would not be allowed, as we first thought, to carry our city’s banner on the stampede from minor to major league baseball.

The gods of legal equity thought it unfair that Hofheinz had chosen to simply appropriate the use of the name “Colt .45s” without seeking legal agreement and negotiation for how they planned to compensate the Colt .45 Gun Company for using their copyrighted name property as the Houston brand for marketing major league baseball.

Harris County and the Houston Sports Association even extended Judge Hofheinz’s original team name pick into the free marketing arena by using several Colt .45 pistols to fire in the ground as the ceremonial earth-breakers for starting construction on the new domed stadium.

How it played out. After three seasons (1962-64), the local MLB club abandoned the name “Colt .45s” in favor of a plan, they said would align Houston more closely with their new identity as “Space City, the Home of NASA, and the face of the future. Starting with the opening of the new domed play venue, the team and the new stadium would henceforth be known as the Astros and the Astrodome.

What they didn’t say. What Judge Hofheinz and the Astros didn’t talk about was the fact that the name change cleared the club from a future legal possibility that the Colt .45 Gun Company might come after them as the team moved forward in marketing more souvenir products under the club’s name.

The Gun Smoke Ghost. The shortest proof of the curse’s existence is this simple: In their 51 years of existence, the Astros have had some great players and bright minds at work for them. The team has won a single 2015 pennant, but the were swept there by the White Sox from winning their only shot at World Series victory.

How the Ghost Works. The Astros have a forever record of blowing smoke that certain actions are going to help the club. We fans then get to watch the failure of that promise on the field. Sometimes, the disappointment is predictable.


  • Trading away Rusty Staub, Joe Morgan, and Mike Cuellar were for the good of the franchise. The Astros were blowing the gun smoke of the ghost. – Those were terrible moves!
  • Owner John McMullen thought Nolan Ryan should take a pay cut. All he did was drive one of the most beloved men in Houston player history into the Hall of Fame as a Texas Ranger. – The smoke from that one choked Houston’s first date with the Hall of Fame.
  • The playoff disappointments of 1980, 1986, and 1999.
  • The World Series disappointment of 2005.
  • McLane deciding to save money by only going after young free agents who would sign cheaply.
  • McLane signing Carlos Lee to a multi-year $100 million dollar deal.

And on and on and on. Smoke. Smoke. Smoke.

Things look much better now. Reid Ryan, Jeff Luhnow, and A.J Hinch look great in the way they have brought this 2015 team along. And I can’t wait until tonight’s opening game of the NLDS for the Astros against the Royals in Kansas City.

Win or lose, I wouldn’t trade the talented core of this 2015 Astros team and our current Luhnow way of doing things for any other plan out there that I see.

No smoke. It’s time to kill the Curse of Gun Smoke Ghost.

Go Astros!





PPE01: Congratulations, Astros!

October 7, 2015
"You Gotta Have Heart!" And, bearing a close dugout resemblance singing the famous in this photo, the Astros again proved that they've got miles and miles of HEART!"

“You Gotta Have Heart!”….
….and, bearing a close dugout resemblance to the boys singing the famous “heart” song here from “Damn Yankees,” the 2015 Astros again proved all the miles and miles of HEART they possess by taking it to the 2015 “Damn Yankees” last night in The Bronx! Well done, Astros! Houston Pride Rises!


Business Note: If this works, our new column notices, henceforth from today, will be coming to all of you from Yahoo, where our new e-mail address for contact on all Pecan Park Eagle matters is now

We have been asked (implicitly, that is) to sub-group our notification of new columns waiting list into smaller sub-groups. That is the reason for the number you see at the start of the subject line. It’s just there to help me know which group mail send needs to go next. There is a little more manuality (new word) to doing things this way, but it’s worth it to us to know we are reaching you.

Most of you probably have no idea why the Eagle suddenly seemed to disappear about a month ago and I have had not practical way to let you know what happened. It boils down to this: After six years of using G-Mail with no problems as our notice transmitter, that robotic site suddenly decided that TPPE must be a spammer and shut us down from mass mailing ur simple column notices. Because G-Mail, like most big sites today, is run by robots and does all it can to make human contact on user issues impossible, we’ve moved here to Yahoo as our new Pecan Park Eagle server. I can still be reached at G-Mail on a one-on-one basis because I’ve got too much going on there to leave abruptly now, but will try to keep all of my PPE communications here on Yahoo from this point forward.

One more thing. If you do not want to receive these notices from “The Pecan Park Eagle,” please drop me an e-mail at at my new Yahoo address above and we will gladly and immediately remove your name from our mailing list. We are the anti-spammers. We do not wish to reach anyone who does not want us, but we will also do all that’s possible to make sure we are not stopped from reaching those who do value our contact.

Thank you for your patience and loyalty!


Bill McCurdy, Publisher, Editor, Writer, Technician, Special Effects Director, and Chief Bottle Washer

The Pecan Park Eagle



Congratulations, Houston Astros! Your 3-o win over the New York Yankees last night was both a work of art and a statement of everything that has been the strength of this exciting young club all year. It only took two first-pitch “hit-or-sit” swings by Colby Rasmus and Carlos Gomez, plus a little razzle dazzle base runner management by A.J. Hinch, some great situational hitting by Jose Altuve, incredible lights-out pitching by Dallas Keuchel and the relief staff, a club oblivion to the animal attitude of Yankee fans, and a dugout spirit of camaraderie that only grew more humanly fun to watch as the innings melted away from a Yankee club that played more like the “outside the safe house” cast of the original “Night of the Living Dead” movie.

Now that the Astros have won their way into the AL Divisional Series round as the remaining wild card, here’s a short list on a few ironies for our boys and all fans to celebrate and hope that we now avoid:


1) With their 3-0 thumping of the Yankees in the wild card, in-or-out game, they ave established themselves as the only club in MLB history to hold a winning edge against the Bronx Bombers is post-season play, all-time. When you’ve only played another team once in post-season, that one game is your all-time post-season history with that particular club.

2) The previously explained condition also establishes the Astros as the only club, all-time, to hold the Yankees scoreless over their entire post-season history.

3) You get the idea. Based upon what the Astros did Tuesday night, what other all-time post-season accomplishments against the Yankees do you see that may appeal to other Astros fans as other reasons to celebrate? Please post them as comments.


1) Let’s hope the Astros don’t get swept by the Royals now that we’ve come this far.

2) If we end up playing the Cubs in the World Series, don’t get swept by them – and don’t lose to them. Period. We’ve already helped the other club from Chicago to break their World Series Championship drought – and that one lasted from 1917 to 2005, when the White Sox swept the Astros while the club was still a member of the National League. Now, do the Astros subsequent forcible transfer to the American League, Houston has a chance to yield the same embarrassing service in 2015 to the Cubs – and they last won a World Series in 1908.

Do we really want the Astros to be the club that allows the Cubs, should they also survive to reach this year’s big show against the Astros, to break a 108-year old absence from the World Series winner’s circle by beating our guys?

No way!


Baseball Is Still the Greatest!

Baseball Is Still the Greatest!



Gilbert: Astros Hang On

October 6, 2015
Astros analyst Bill Gilbert takes first 2015 season look at the club on the day of their game tonight with the Yankees fr the surviving wild card berth.

Astros analyst Bill Gilbert takes his first 2015 whole season look at the club on the day of their game tonight with the Yankees for the surviving wild card berth. Look for another Gilbert closure report to follow, sooner or later – and, preferably, later to sooner.

Astros Hang on to Wild Card after Faltering in September

By Bill Gilbert

After an absence of nine years, the Houston Astros are back in the post-season playoffs as the second wild card in the American League.  The Astros spent 139 days on top of the AL West division in the first five months of the season but they were unable to carry it through into September where they compiled a record of 11-16 while the Texas Rangers finished strong by going 18-10 in the month and winning the Division by 2 games over the Astros.  However, the Astros recovered to win 2 out of 3 games in Arizona in October to hold off the surging Los Angeles Angels.

Modest improvement was expected from the 70-92 record in 2014 but nothing like the 86-76 record the team achieved.  Performance improved in virtually all aspects, especially in the bullpen until it began breaking down in September.  The starting pitching also improved along with the offense and defense.  The players that achieved breakout seasons in 2014 (Jose Altuve, Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh) continued performing at a high level and were joined by Rookies, Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers and a rapidly developing George Springer.

Off season acquisitions of relief pitchers and role players to fill some holes, worked out reasonably well but the deadline deals in July have not worked out as expected.

I plan to write a comprehensive analysis of the team’s remarkable season later this month after I return home from the hospital.

Bill Gilbert



Correa to Altuve to Chance

October 5, 2015
Jose Altuve again led the AL with the most hits and stolen bases for the 2nd year in a row.

Jose Altuve again led the AL with the most hits and stolen bases for the 2nd year in a row.

Congratulations to our Houston Astros for making the 2015 AL Playoffs as the second wild card!

OK! So the Astros slipped out of the AL West title that they seemed to hold firmly for most of the season. We also said all summer that a club that wants a division crown also has to play well in September – and that ancient verity again proved to be true. – Wipe out that four game sweep that the Astros coughed up to Rangers on their last fated visit to Arlington and, in your minds only, suppose it into a 2-2 split that might have been with Texas. Had that split occurred, the two top AL West teams could swap places today in their actual finish. – The Astros would have won the AL West with a 88-74 mark and the Rangers would have finished second with an 86-76 mark.

But that isn’t how things play out, is it? The games don’t play out in our minds, or on paper, as the old wisdom prescribes. They play out on the field. And, who knows? Maybe a one-game ticket win over the Yankees in The Bronx is more favorable as an entry point for the Astros as a chance to play a series that starts in Kansas City with the Royals is a better shot than the Rangers now face in a series with the red-hot Blue Jays that begins in Canada!

i.e., We shall see.

Rookie Carlos Correa bedazzled the AL at short and also hit 22 HR in only 99 games.

Rookie Carlos Correa bedazzled the AL at short and also hit 22 HR in only 99 games.

The Pecan Park Eagle likes the chances of a club that has the arguably best keystone combination in baseball in shortstop Carlos Correa and second baseman Jose Altuve. Just look over the stats of each man – and they are only the recorded part of their story. Nobody’s perfect, but these guys make plays that other clubs have to concede as unplayable hits. – And they do it with such “spice and sparkle”, as people back in the 1930s once said – or with such “fervent ginger”, as cranks and writers from the 19th century into the “Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance” era of the 20th century’s first decade once proclaimed.

Current Complete 2015/Career Stats for ….

Carlos Correa ….

Jose Altuve ….

Tinker to Evers to Chance? There is an irony connection to this comparison of Correa and Altuve to Tinker and Evers of the old Cubs of Chicago. The first decade of the 20th century Cubs had first baseman Frank Chance, another future Hall of Famer, as the anchor man and poetic signature on their successful completion of double plays. – The 2015 Astros, on the other hand, leave first base to the open matter of “chance” – and to whomever seems best up to playing the position on a given day. – Do the names Singleton, Valbuena, Gonzalez, Carter, and Quasimodo ring any bells?

Go Astros! ~ Beat the Yankees!



Need Help with Your Hitting and Base Running?

October 4, 2015

Carter Hits 10

Carter Runs 9Nothing personal, Chris – and I’m not trying to be mean here. I’m just constantly surprised today by how many contemporary major leaguers seem to lack, or forget, the fundamentals of the game when it comes to learning the strike zone and picking up on what the pitchers are learning to do to send batters on a fishing trip into those inside and outside, high and low areas of the strike zone that are as barren of any payoff for hitters as the Dead Sea is to fishermen.

I also don’t get what’s going on with talents like yourself. Your first base skills have improved remarkably, and nobody will crush the ball any harder than you when you make contact. The balls you hit out of the park seem on their way to another world. It just doesn’t happen often enough to justify the fact that you have been mired under .200 for way too long. You have the intelligence, the temperament, and the athletic ability to learn and fight your way out of this ceiling on greater opportunity – and you must do so before that same ceiling freezes you out of a much longer MLB future. You have one – but only if you can learn to cut down on the strikeouts and hit for a better average, especially with runners in scoring position.

The base running issues I and some others have with you seem to have more to do with focus than anything else, but it does appear that your size and slugging ability also has left you out of some of the fundamental practice on the basics  of base running. That doesn’t fly. You got tagged out a couple of nights ago after sliding into 3rd base safely for then breaking contact with the base as you were arising from the dirt. C’mon, Chris! The 3rd baseman had the glove-enclosed ball resting on your back the whole time you were getting up. Of course, you were called out. As soon as you broke contact with the base under those circumstances, you were going to be called out.

Then, in the first game blow-out win over Arizona, you were the runner at 2nd base when a ground ball was hit in front of you to shortstop. You kept on running – straight into an easy 6-5 put out. – What were you thinking? I’m sure you’ve heard the old rule about grounders when you are the runner at 2nd. It they are hit behind you, especially slowly, go for it. If they are hit in front of you, especially, if they are hit sharply and you are not a speed-burner, hold back on any advance, if at all, until you see the shortstop’s actual play on the ball. – I have to believe you know that rule – as well as the big one. – Never run your team out of scoring opportunity. – Make that mis-run. It’s a better fitting phrase.

Please take what I’m writing here in the right spirit. We fans want to see our guys succeed and I happen to like you and also think you’ve got a level of talent as a power hitter that you have yet to reach. You just can’t afford to avoid the reality that most careers in baseball are hinged upon whether or not the decision-makers still are regarding a player as a prospect – and not as a suspect. Once you move into the “suspect” category, there really is not much of a chance of ever getting out again.

Age is the time clock here too. And here’s the easiest test: Ask yourself.- How many prospects do you know in the 25 and younger group? Then ask – how many prospects do I know in the 26 and older group?

Go get ’em good and early next spring, Chris Carter. You can do it – but will you?

Some October Astros Baseball Reflections

October 3, 2015


Regarding that 21-Run New Astros Game Scoring Record ~ Let’s hope the team doesn’t need 4 of them in the games of Saturday and Sunday. This is no time for the bats to go back to sleep as the Astros drop two 1-0 games to end the season. I’m not predicting, I’m just saying … based upon the past after big scoring wins, the thought occurs.

Changing My Mind About the DH ~ I’m sorry, folks. Maybe it’s my age, or my thirst for action, but I’ve become an AL/DH convert. I got absolutely no thrill out of watching Dallas Keuchel come to bat with the bases loaded last night by courtesy of an intentional walk to Jason Castro.

You know the next batter must be pretty harmless, if the other club is willing to let Jason Castro have a free ride – just to get to the guy that follows.

And Arizona was right, of course. A grinning Keuchel struck out to end the inning – and the possibility of an even earlier rout of the D-Backs.

Base Running 101 Needs to Be on the Agenda Next Spring ~ I’m still cranked about that appealed out at 3rd base on Chris Carter in the last game at Seattle. I said this yesterday, but feel the need to include it again under today’s reflections: Put Base Running 101 on the agenda for next spring training, Astros!

Runners like Carter at 3rd base need to learn: When you are down in the dirt, holding onto the bag after being called safe, that you need to keep two options in mind: (1) Stay in touch with the bag and ask for a timeout that will allow you to arise without being called out for letting go contact with the bag; or, (2) keep in mind as you are arising without calling time out and the fielder continues to hold his ball-in-glove hand on your back as you attempt your rise from the dirt that it is absolutely essential that you keep some part of your body in continuous contact with the bag as you work your way again to a standing position. Otherwise, as happened with our Mr. Carter, you will be called out by the contact that has now become an out-tag.

Catching ~ As pitchers become more reliant upon that breaking ball in the dirt to get a strikeout with a potentially critical run riding with the runner on 3rd base, catchers need to keep in mind and learn to execute what Alan Ashby suggested last night: “Don’t try to catch it with your glove from a squatting position. As you see it coming, get your body to the ground and block it from getting past you.” – Does that make any sense, Hank Conger?

Pitching ~ One of the Astros’ relievers, Pat Neshek, lost at least two of the games on this last home stand and the only loss in Seattle on this road trip. I don’t for sure, but it appears to be one of those cases of a guy just putting too many pitches over the fat part of the plate at critical moments. Once the hitters get past his herky-jerky delivery, what they see looks good enough to eat – and even better to hit. He needs to put out of service for now.

Managerial ~ Although it appears that Astros field manager A.J. Hinch already sees it, this is no time to risk using Neshek again in the 2015 season. We cannot trust him with the ball when the game is on the line. There will be plenty of time to evaluate his future value to the club, if any, once the current season is finally drained of what remains of bright possibility.

Our Three Bright Stars in the Field ~ All we have to do is think of their names as we watch their growing list of contributions. Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, and George Springer. – Carlos Correa’s 22 home runs is now the all time franchise record for an Astros rookie. – Jose Altuve is only five hits short of 2oo for the second season in a row with two games left to play. – George Springer is showing signs of moving to a higher level of production as a hitter for average as the season nears its end.

Our Three Bright Stars on the Mound ~ Dallas Keuchel is now a 20-game winner a leading candidate for the Cy Young. If Collin McHugh wins at Arizona today, he will have 19 wins for the season. Lance McCullers is shaping up as a young and powerful figure in the Astros starting rotation.

Weekend Hope ~ There is only one. That is – that we end up in the 2015 playoffs – somehow.


eagle logo

And Down The Stretch They Come

October 2, 2015
After Thursday's 5-3 loss to the Rangers, the Angels are new the biggest question mark in the race for a WC-spot, but

After Thursday’s 5-3 loss to the Rangers, the Angels are now the biggest question mark in the race for an AL WC-spot, but “it ain’t over til it’s over!”

AL West Standings, Morning, Friday, October 2, 2015:

RANGERS-y 3 vs. Angels 87 72 .547 ~
ASTROS 3 @ Arizona 84 75 .528 3
ANGELS 3 @ Rangers 83 76 .522 4

x -clinched division title; y – clinched playoff berth

The magic number for the Rangers over the Astros for the AL West title is now “1”.

The magic number for the Astros over the Angels for the 2nd wild card spot is now “3”.

Our best bet now? Let’s hope for the Rangers to punch out the Angels while the Astros win-out against Arizona. We won’t have to win a single game against the D-Backs if the Rangers now win-out, but we can’t afford to think that way. (“E” to TPPE, see PM ADDENDUM below.) The Astros need to think “win the game we are playing today” for the rest of the way – even into the playoffs, if we punch our SRO, last WC-spot ticket. We could force a one-game playoff for the AL West title by winning out, but that would require the Angels to take their last three games against the Rangers, but that is less likely to happen.

Besides, either way, our next prize could be a one-game playoff at Texas against the Rangers for the AL West berth  – or a one-game playoff in New York against the Yankees as the #2 WC team. – Here at The Eagle, we like the Astros’ chances in one road game better at New York than at Texas.

About last night. – Valbuena and Carter both made up for some bonehead fielding and costly base running earlier with some late inning HR heroics, but I still would like to see spring training next year do a little more to incorporate catching pop flies, sliding, and keeping some part of your body on the base after a close play on 2nd or 3rd in which the fielder is resting the ball on your back as you attempt to rise from the dirt.


PM ADDENDUM: Thanks to Mike McCroskey, I have been correctively reminded that we cannot afford to think that way because the Twins also have a 83-76 record tie with the Angels. We have no choice but to win out because the Twins could still slip by us with a miraculous run of wins over the Royals at home in Minneapolis if we do not.



The AL West Win-Out Scenarios

October 1, 2015
The Pecan Park Eagle and his Gammie Beeville, TX, 1939 "Never Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch!"

The Pecan Park Eagle and his Gammie
Beeville, TX, 1939
“Never Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch!”

With the Astros down to 3 games at Arizona and the Rangers and Angels meeting in Arlington for 4 games to conclude their seasons, FOX SPORTS frames this zany down-to-the-wire pennant race very well. – We could end up in the AL West with a three-club tie that would require a 2-game divisional crown playoff prior to the scheduled 1-game meeting between the two AL wild cards at the home of the club with he best record:


The Angels close the season with four games at Texas. The Astros close with three games at Arizona. If the Angels win three of four in Texas, and if the Astros sweep the Diamondbacks, that would leave the Angels, Houston and Texas with the same record.

That scenario would guarantee the Angels a postseason spot because they have a better record against both Texas and Houston. Those two clubs would then play a one-game playoff on Monday with the winner advancing to play the Angels on Tuesday. The winner of THAT game would win the West, and the loser would go play the Yankees in the Wild Card game.



What happens, however, if the Astros win-out in their 3-game series in Arizona that starts tomorrow, while either the Rangers or Angels win all 4 games they have scheduled against each other, starting today, Thursday, October 1, 2015? Here’s a two-table look at that scenario.

Table One shows the final AL West standings, if the Astros win their 3 and the Rangers take their 4 against the Angels:

RANGERS   IF WIN 4   90   72   .556   ~
ASTROS   IF WIN 3   87   75   .537   3
ANGELS   IF LOSE 4   83   79   .512   7

Table One provides a clear finish for Texas. The Rangers would take the AL West division title place in the playoffs. The Astros would also clinch a wild card spot, eliminating the Twins, who already have 76 losses, but also possibly allowing Houston to slip past the Yankees for the 1st wild card position by one game, while opening the door for a possible tie for the second wild card spot between the Yankees and Twins, who could possibly wind up with tied with 86-76 records.

Table Two show the final AL West standings, if the Astros win their 3 and the Angels take their 4 against the Rangers:

ASTROS   IF WIN 3   87   75   .537   ~
ANGELS   IF WIN 4   87   75   .537   ~
RANGERS   IF LOSE 4   86   76   .531   1

Table Two results would set up a one-game playoff between the Astros and Angels for the AL West title. The game would be played at Anaheim because of the Angels’ superior head-to-head season record against the Astros. The loser would get one of the wild card spots, depending upon how the Yankees do over this final weekend. The Yankees would have to lose all four of their remaining games and the Twins would have to win all four of their last ones to set up a tie between those two clubs for the second WC spot.

General Thoughts

No matter how you slice it, it’s been an interesting season. The only thing that has saved me from disappointment this just concluded month of September is the fact of September itself. I was finally able to parlay all my seasons with the game into a memory that never left me through all those high-flying days of the summer of watching the Astros gliding along in first place in the AL West.

One thought prevailed: “The Astros still have play this well in September.”

They didn’t. And here we are. But the tempering remembrance that the season also includes the games of September did prove for me the validity of an ancient wisdom that all of us know, but often forget, and I heard it originally from my great-grandmother at her country home near Beeville so many years ago. And “Gammie”, God Bless her, was born prior to the Civil War.

Modern social observers have  spruced up the thought in these terms:

“Disappointment is the downside of expectation!”

My preference is for the way Gammie and others from her now gone generation put it:

“Never count your chickens before they hatch!”

No matter what happens now, I’m ready for October, one day at a time.


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Rangers Still Holding the Catbird Seat

September 27, 2015
rare photo of an actual catbird

rare photo of an actual catbird

In spite of Saturday’s Six Astros homers and 9-7, stop-the-bleeding win over the Rangers, the boys from North Texas still hold their smiling spot in the “catbird seat” as probable winners of he AL West champions ticket into the 2015 AL playoffs for a World Series table for two.

With seven games left, including a final road game against the Astros today at Minute Maid Park, the Texas Rangers hold a 3.5 game lead over our Houston heroes. The sudden improbability that their second place intrastate rivals will suddenly become one of the hottest six-game road teams in history as the Rangers also discover that their own kind of winning momentum is like the thousand pound rock, rolling down hill. – How often do fast rolling half-ton rocks suddenly reverse directions going down the hill on their red hot dates with Mama Gravity? – Only those who recall the 1951 Brooklyn Dodgers know the answer to that question.

Going into Sunday’s game, the Astros need to again beat the Rangers in their final meeting of the season just to stay ahead of the Angels and Twins for that second wild card spot and a chance to knock off the Yankees, the higher ranked wild card holder, for a full spot in the four club AL Division Series against either the Blue Jays or Rangers, who are now both tied for the best record in the AL.

That route won’t be any easy-go for the Astros, but worthwhile ambition ever is?

It’s time to do as old Bidge used to always remind us Astros fans. We need to take each game left, one day at a time, as the only game that needs to be won – and then just do it. The Angels and Twins are going to be nipping at the Astros all the way over the next week – and not from an anterior perspective. Unless the Astros are able to heed and fulfill the wisdom of Craig Biggio, and A.J. Hinch too, for sure, they are only a loss today, coupled by an Angels win, into becoming just one of the posterior-biting desperado clubs themselves.

On this Sunday morning, the Astros are only a (0.5) half-game up on the Angels – and a (1.5) game and one-half up on the Twins.

Well, let’s be honest, the Astros, Angels, and Twins are all desperado clubs this week. The only difference is, as all Houston fans know – is that the Astros held a lease on first place in the AL West for almost the entire 2015 season. – Much to our deflation, however, they just forgot to renew the deal to include September.

By the way, if you are interested in that od expression, “in the catbird seat,” here’s an interesting note about it from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary site:

“In the catbird seat” was among the numerous folksy expressions that legendary baseball broadcaster Red Barber used to delight listeners. Some say he invented the expression; others say that he dug it up from his Southern origins. But the truth may be far stranger than those rumors. In a 1942 short story titled “The Catbird Seat,” James Thurber featured a character, Mrs. Barrows, who liked to use the phrase. Another character, Joey Hart, explained that Mrs. Barrows must have picked up the expression from Red Barber. To Red, according to Joey, “sitting in the catbird seat” meant “‘sitting pretty,’ like a batter with three balls and no strikes on him.” But, according to Barber’s daughter, it was only after Barber read Thurber’s story that he started using “in the catbird seat” himself.


PS: At The Pecan Park Eagle, we are still working without a replacement plan for new column notices now that the faceless, human-less, and gutless Google has shut us down by categorizing our mass email Bcc notices as Spam. In the meanwhile, please feel free to just check into the site on your own to see if there is any new material you may have missed. A publication deadline and another minor health issue of the past week has also intervened to cut down our normal daily production, but we will be back soon. Thanks for both your loyalty and your patience. – Bill McCurdy.



Slip Slidin’ Away

September 24, 2015


“Slip slidin’ away
Slip slidin’ away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you’re slip slidin’ away”

~ Paul Simon

For whatever reason of coincidence or thematic association, Wednesday afternoon’s results at Minute Maid Park today were remindful of that classic old Paul Simon song.

I had to watch it at home with a bad head cold, but it wasn’t any prettier from the unobstructed, high definition, multiple angle coverage provided by the up-and-earnest ROOT television network. My only advantage is that I didn’t have to drive out the Katy Freeway at rush hour when the clock of doom finally struck for certain in the bottom of the 9th.

“Slip slidin’ away,” all right. It sure is.

Throw in “some’s gotta win, some’s gotta lose, Good Time Charlie’s got the blues.”

Somebody has to fold in this tight race to the 2015 MLB playoffs – and why shouldn’t it be the Astros? When a club that has just rallied to capture their first one-run lead in the 7th, why shouldn’t the Astros be the ones to blow it in the 8th by again putting the game in the hands of “all motion/no stuff” reliever Pat Neshek to give up that cruncher David Freese two-out double to left center that made the difference. This was the second game that Neshek has lost for the Astros on this once critical, now critically disappointing home stand.

Now all the Astros have to do is sweep the Rangers in three at home and probably win out or post nothing less than a 5-1 record on their final road trip next week to avoid this season becoming just the latest letdown in our club’s long history of same. And please, we all know – it’s not just Neshek. Someone other than Altuve or Correa has to bring their bats into these games earlier – and in critical scoring situations. – We need to stop giving up 3 to 4 runs in the first inning to clubs like the Angels or Rangers – and then rolling up “three and out” innings until somebody on our side starts a desperation move in the 8th or 9th. – Yes, we need to play each game as though we already understood that it is OK to have good hitting and good pitching in the same game.

C’mon, Astros! ~ Spare us fans from the bitter end that is the foreboding message of the Paul Simon song. We heard it playing Wednesday – and we already know it by heart.




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