The Night Before Memphis

November 14, 2015
The Memphis (8-1-0) at Houston (9-0-0) game of 11/14/2015 is expected to draw the largest crowd in the brief t20-year history of TDECU Stadium.

The Memphis (8-1-0) at Houston (9-0-0) game of 11/14/2015 is expected to draw the largest crowd in the brief two-year history of TDECU Stadium.

Sometime in the past 24 hours, I received a request from an old friend and fraternity brother from our salad days as UH undergraduates. He simply wanted to know my seat location for Saturday’s big UH-Memphis college football game. Gone a lot today, (I don’t do the phone stuff) I didn’t get his message or answer until about an hour ago.  My eventual e-mail answer sort of evolved into this column.

– Bill McCurdy, The Pecan Park Eagle.


 Dear Bruce ,

It’s been a crazy 24 hours and I haven’t had all my usual time here because of it. – The UH-Memphis game just happens to fall on the same date as the annual Houston Arts and Media Book Fair and Symposium on local history books – and this year, Jimmy Wynn and I are on the program to talk about his baseball memoir, “Toy Cannon,” a book that we wrote together in 2010.

Jimmy Wynn

Jimmy Wynn

Jimmy Wynn belongs in the Hall of Fame of Great Human Beings. He loves meeting fans, talking baseball, and leaving every place he visits a little more positive and uplifted by his short-time presence. Tomorrow is everybody’s chance to take some of that good Jimmy-Karma with them to wherever they may be going next – so, naturally, I’m hoping that you and all the 40,000 Cougar fans who plan to be at the 6 PM UH-Memphis game will come see Jimmy first at the Book Fair. – He’s also pulling for UH tomorrow, by the way!

If you or any of the other people planning to make it a sold-out support night for the 9-0-0 Houston Cougars want to make it a really big day, come down early to the all day Book Fair at the Julia Ideson Building of the Library at 550 McKinney and then take your time arriving early for the nearby Cougar game. You will get to meet Houston baseball icon Jimmy Wynn and a lot of other really good Houston writers of Houston history – and it’s all free – and a far more melodious, less hassled way of reaching TDECU in time to settle in for the game with dinner at one of our campus eateries in relaxation while really big incoming pre-game traffic jam begins.

If you didn’t read my column in The Pecan Park Eagle yesterday, here again is the link to my capsule on the Book Fair – and that article contains a link that outlines everything that will be going on there from 10-4 on Game Day.

Lucky for me – my two big events on the same day do not overlap. The Book Fair is 10-4 at the old Julia Ideson Library downtown and I plan to “uber” there from our 20 miles away home on the west side. – My son, Casey, and wife, Norma, will pick me up at 4 PM for the game, and the same plan I just outlined for other UH game fans at the campus, which is only about 3-4 miles east of the book fair at UH. We’ll be there and ready to rock and roll come 6 PM. – Eat ‘Em Up, Cougars! – Hope we win!

Hope the symposium people will be OK with a guy wearing Cougar gear all day, but, as fellow historians, they should understand. – UH is hoping to make a little history tomorrow too, and it’s not everyday we get to cover a big battle in person. – Again, my friend, let’s hope the Memphis game for UH turns out to be a new version of San Jacinto – and not of the Alamo!

I’m sorry. – You asked me for my seat location at TDECU and you got a column instead. – It’s called the writer’s disease.

Tomorrow we are borrowing a seat from the friend who sits next to us, but my normal two seat numbers on the front row of the upper deck on the south side at the SE corner at the east goal line are:

Section 304 ~ Row W ~ Seats 19-20.

Our location is great. We are not actually in the stands, but on the front line bar of unobstructed sight lines to the field. One of our seats is an individual bench seat and the other is a UH-provided folding chair for the wheel chair space I may need when I get really old.

The only thing we don’t like about our location is the result of a design flaw at TDECU Stadium. There are no rest rooms or concession stands on our level. You have to walk down a split level long stairway through a turning area to reach those amenities, one floor down. Then you have to carry whatever you bought back up the stairs. If you are truly handicapped, you have to go all the way over to the NE corner on the other side to take the only elevator that will take you down for services which should have been basic to the upper level.

How AD Mac Rhoades and the UH Stadium Construction Cartel got stuff like this little “oversight” past OSHA and the American Disabilities people we may never know. As a UH alumnus, my embarrassment matches my personal inconvenience on the question of what we got for our money with the two-year old football stadium.

That’s OK. Let’s try to remember that the greatest sleaze ball play in the entire history of government furnishings  occurred centuries ago when an English furniture tradesman kept cutting corners on his plans for the kingdom’s seat of government so continuously that the serendipitous final result turned out to be “King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.”

Maybe us Cougar fans with no convenient access to beer or rest rooms on the third level at TDECU will sort of cancel out the need for either.

Meanwhile, “GO, COOGS!” ~ Just make sure you give yourselves enough time to get there before you do go!

Read the rest of this entry »

Jimmy Wynn at Houston Book Fair This Saturday

November 12, 2015


Heads up, everybody in the Houston area!

This coming Saturday, November 14, 2015, from 10 am to 4 pm, is the best day of the year to immerse yourself in the company of Houston authors and their varied historical books on the people and major events that have shaped the heart and face of this community.

Presented by the Houston Arts & Media (HAM) and the Houston Metropolitan Research Center, the Houston History Book Fair & Symposium takes place at the historic Julia Ideson Building at 55o McKinney Street. For further highlighting on the event itself, please click the following link and check out all that’s been planned for this wonderful event by HAM Director Mike Vance and his hard working creative army of Houston Arts & Media (HAM) members and volunteers. If you have any interest in any aspect of Houston history at all, this is a moment in time you do not want to miss, especially on the first weekend that feels like autumn in Southeast Texas:

The Pecan Park Eagle wishes to issue this special invitation to all fans of baseball, Jimmy Wynn, and the Houston Colt .45s/Astros. One of the most iconic names in Houston baseball history, the one and only Jimmy Wynn. will be there to speak, converse with fans, and sign your personal copies of  “Toy Cannon”, the story of his life in baseball – and a book that he and I wrote together. A limited number of copies will be available for sale on Saturday. Your best chance of acquiring a copy, however, are to come early. Jimmy Wynn will also speak for a half hour at 11:30 AM, following a brief introduction by your truly.

Drop by and say hello at our table this coming Saturday. Jimmy Wynn and I both would love to meet you.

And one more thing – as Mike Vance has just importantly reminded me – … “IT’S FREE! ~ ABSOLUTELY FREE!



Baseball Parks of Tomorrow

November 12, 2015

“Take me out to the ball game,
Find a place we can see!”

As a 40-years-ago past member of The World Future Society, I’m still getting over how far we all missed in our accurate predictions of the world-to-come in which we all now live. As I’ve written in these pages earlier, Alvin Toffler, the noted observer of human behavior as an always evolving critical mass, did a pretty good job of selling us on his theory of “future shock” that we were all on the downward cliff ride as a culture due to this major dynamic: Our everyday world was now changing faster than our ability to adapt to these new requirements for individual change on a daily basis. In brief, paraphrasing Toffler, we were all on the road to extinction as the pattern became the new normal problem of everyone who make up the majority-driven critical mass of our culture.

Didn’t happen. All the big social behavior minds back then missed on the coming, the power, and the everyday presence of the personal computer and the Internet in our daily, often 24/7, new normal lives. We became the masters of “multi-tasking” on levels of thinking and daily action that no one – and I mean no one – back in 1975 could have possibly begun to envision in theory – unless their names were Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or a select few others.

Because of the always advancing digital, silicon microchip innovation that is behind our high-tech tools, it just gets easier to use these little marvels – and harder to imagine – how we got anything done prior to the home availability of these new tools. – That’s simply a less scary way of saying: “The more we learn to depend upon the “computer”, the harder it becomes for us to be separated from it. But that’s OK, the creative minds behind these products already have taken that “user addiction” into consideration. Now many people carry all this technology with them on their smart phones. As long as they stay within the range of those microwave towers, they shall be able to avoid the chills and sweats of “product user withdrawal” – the symptom that usually manifests in different people as a quiet to loudly expressed question along the lines of  “No signal? What do we do now?”

I’m not that bad off. Yet. I don’t initiate texts, nor do I Tweet or actively Facebook on a regular basis. The Pecan Park Eagle is the place that holds my heart and daily high-tech enjoyment – along with my other articles and book projects – even if I’m simply writing to get it out of my system. The muses will not let me stop. For me, writing is the thing that removes me from all distraction of purpose. It is my most enjoyable portal into the “here and now” – even if my subject matter sometimes, to often times, seems light and trivial.

My energy tank doesn’t run on hubris, nor did it so much so even forty years ago, the year I completed my doctoral degree. Other than the usual human mistake of thinking that I had a pretty good idea in 1975 of how the rest of my life was going to go from there, I was just as swept up in surprise as almost everyone else by the high-tech revolution that began in the early 1980s. Bought my first home computer, an Apple IIe, with no hard drive and floppy disk access only in 1983. By the year 2000, my first year on the Internet, I had graduated to PC usage, but finally returned to Apple in 2009, the same year I started The Pecan Park Eagle.

As for the future, I have some hunches, but no conclusive predictions. Here are two – about the high tech impact on the future of movie and baseball venues:

Movie Venues

Technically speaking, movies already are better to watch at home. With the big HD screen brightness and clarity – and great quality sound, plus all the consumer control we have over pauses, playbacks, and closed captioning, to say nothing of the fact that we don’t have the dark house, bright phone screen distraction at home that exists in the movie houses, watching movies at home is far more preferable to people like me. – The old “big screen/little screen” little screen dichotomy that had been in place since the 1940s is now dead.

Home movies on satellite or over the computer are the future. Movie Metroplexes may either shrink or disappear as date night places to go as more movie houses combine food and drink in comfortable surroundings that more closely represent restaurants and clubs.

The best drama will continue to be written for the home consumption older crowd. The cartoon, action, and special effect movie themes will continue  to dominate the public screens that more and more continue to exist to serve the tastes of younger audiences.

Baseball Venues

The day is coming when MLB will get the full message of why those big venue screens are so important. It’s because that’s how fans watch sports today. With all the HD factors at work in sports, there are many parallels to the changes that are forthcoming in movie-watching. Sure, it’s great to be there for the live action, but you don’t have the multi-faceted view of the action that is available at home “for free”.  How much longer will people choose to put out all the big bucks to go to any game at any stadium for the old sacred value of “being there”.

Being there for what? You can’t see anything up close unless you are sitting with the club owner. And, even then, it’s the  same limited look at the live action from wherever you happen to be sitting. And forget stadium seating at Minute Maid Park. I had pretty good seats for a game last year – until this 6’6″ giant bald-headed guy arrived and sat down in front of me. I had to crane my neck to look around the back of his head to see home plate. I tried standing up on big plays, but he stood up too. I didn’t get see much of that game, but I could draw you a pretty good map, even today, of the vein and artery patterns that traversed the back of this giant’s dome. “Being there” technically didn’t do me any good. In fact, it was the last game I saw of the season in person on my own, except for one other that I attended as the a guest of a friend.

I watched all the other games at home on my beautiful big screen TV, the same one I use when I am multi-tasking on the computer that sits to the right of it. Right before the game, I don’t have to go outside and pay someone $20-$40 to let me park my car in my own driveway.  And once the game starts, I don’t have to worry about the big bald giant walking in to sit in front of me – nor do I have to leap to my feet in the hope of seeing all of a  big play. It’s all mine – with all of its many perspectives.

I don’t know about the other sports, but when enough baseball fans around the country begin to feel more like some of us already do, I think we will begin to see a real change in baseball venue architecture. Clubs will need to bite their greed for “cram-seat” structures that take away the beauty of live vision. Parks will have fewer seats, more spacious rows, and true stadium-seating placement – similar to the  best seating in modern movie theaters today. If a 6’6″ giant comes in and takes a seat in front of you, the remarkable story of his bald head will remain a secret when he sits down. His head will completely disappear from your line of vision.

In time, true stadium seating could cure the amount of standing that occurs just when a player hits the ball. Fans don’t always stand because of excitement. Most of the time, they stand because they think they are going to miss the play, if others before them decide to stand. As a result, only the really tall people get to see the action. That will change over time – once the threat of blocked sight-lines is removed over time by a conditioning to the new reality. – People will be able to save the standing for things that really do excite them – and still keep their sight-lines because of true stadium seating.  It may raise the ticket cost, but it will be worth it to those fans who still want to watch their baseball in person.

And, of course, the big screen availability to as many fans as possible is important. Those multiple perspectives on the same play are a big part of today’s game-watching enjoyment. By recreating the comforts of home at the ballpark, a club will be working to keep the fans from simply staying at home – where comfort seems to be “free”.



Our First 25-Man Roster Baseball Movie Team

November 11, 2015

“Listen up, Joe! – How come I missed out on my chance to be be one of the coaches on The Pecan Park Eagle’s 2015 fantasy baseball club?” – William Frawley

This one’s been a long-time coming, but we only got serious about starting and finishing the whole job this morning when some unexpected extra time fell into our “got too much time on my hands anyway” schedule. Here’s a tabular presentation of our first 25-man rostered fantasy “Hollywood Stars” fantasy movie team based upon actors in baseball roles from the 1930s to the present 2015 day,

Only one thing is for sure here. With Tom Hanks from “A League of Their Own,” firmly seated as manager, there will be no crying in baseball among the ranks of our fantasy version of the Hollywood Stars. And Hanks will have the backing of some pretty good coaches. (We had to label each of them in the table as an “ass’t” to keep from adding a character that would have rolled many of the tabular cells into double space and ruining the visual presentation. Our perfectionistic inclinations would not allow it, but we weren’t too happy when we had to settle for the use of “ass’t” just to protect the intgrity of a universally sized cell pattern.)

If you have seen any of these movies, all you have to do to fan your own imaginings on how this club would harmonize or not. just picture each member of the team playing with the ability and social skills they possessed in their various movies – or, in the case of those who portrayed some of the great real ballplayers, how these mixed ingredients might work out in their everyday lives and game experience. – The potential ignition points on explosion are almost too numerous to record.

How do you suppose two ego-oozing and and easily ego-bruised pitchers might respond to each other in a situation in which manager Hanks decided to pull starter Nick LaLoosh in favor of Rickey “Wild Thing” Vaughn, for ecample?

For that matter, how would this coaching staff work out together on a personal basis. If you have seen the movies that featured all the staff as managers or scouts, do we have the makings of good chemistry – or not?

On the positive side, what could a lineup that included Babe Ruth, Roy Hobbs, and Joe Hardy do to the power record books and a club’s hope for a World Series in only a single season together?

Here’s our first and probably only ….  Pecan Park Eagle 25-Man Roster Baseball Movie Team:

1 C Kevin Costner Bull Durham 1988 Crash Davis
2 C James Earl Jones Bingo Long, et al 1974 Leon Carter
3 C Robert DiNero Bang the Drums Slowly 1973 Bruce Pearson
4 1B Gary Cooper Pride of the Yankees 1942 Lou Gehrig
5 2B Chad Boseman 42 2013 Jackie Robinson
6 3B Corbin Bernsen Major League 1989 Roger Dorn
7 SS Matt Modine The Winning Season 2004 Honus Wagner
8 1F Gene Kelly Take Me Out TTBG 1949 Eddie O’Brien
9 IF Frank Sinatra Take Me Out TTBG 1949 Dennis Ryan
10 LF Tab Hunter Damn Yankees 1955 Joe Hardy
11 CF Wesley Snipes Major League 1989 Willie Mays Hayes
12 RF Robert Redford The Natural 1984 Roy Hobbs
13 0F Richard Pryor Bingo Long, et al 1974 Charlie Snow
14 OF Stan Shaw Bingo Long, et al 1974 Esquire Joe Callaway
15 DH William Bendix The Babe Ruth Story 1948 Babe Ruth
16 P Ray Milland Happens Every Spring 1949 Mike Kelly
17 P Ronald Reagan The Winning Team 1952 Pete Alexander
18 P Jimmy Stewart The Stratton Story 1949 Monty Stratton
19 P Dan Dailey The Pride of St. Louis 1952 Dizzy Dean
20 P Louis Gossett Don’t Look Back 1981 Satchel Paige
21 P Tim Robbins Bull Durham 1988 Nick LaLoosh
22 P Dennis Quaid The Rookie 2002 Jimmy Morris
23 P Tom Nicholas Rookie of the Year 1993 H. Rowengartner
24 P Joe E. Brown Elmer the Great 1933 Elmer
25 P Charlie Sheen Major League 1989 Ricky Vaughn
26 MGR Tom Hanks League of Their Own 1992 Jimmy Dugan
27 Ass’t Paul Douglas Angels in the OF 1951 1951 Guffy McGovern
28 Ass’t Wilford Brimley The Natural 1984 Pop Fisher
29 Ass’t Gary Busey Rookie of the Year 1993 Chet Steadman
30 Ass’t Danny Glover Angels in the OF 1994 1994 George Knox
31 Ass’t Clint Eastwood Trouble with Curve 2012 Gus

Pick a time when your mind is free enough to play with the possibilities you might face as the manager of these Hollywood Stars and please free to share your thoughts or conclusions withe rest of us in the comment section.




Single Moment Baseball Identities

November 10, 2015
Guess who.

Guess who.

They are all strong single-moment identities in baseball. They each defy any strongest to weakest rating against each other because it all depends upon  one’s personal fan perspective . Some are joyful. Some are painful. Again, depending upon your own fan perspective.

Here are The Pecan Park Eagle’s list of our favorite baseball people who are always referenced to one event in their baseball lives. Each of the dead from this list – and all of the living that shall later follow – receive a headline and/or first paragraph obituary reference to the single  memory that never dies in the collective consciousness of fans when their name comes to mind.

If we have to explain why each is tied to a certain memory, we will be forced to question either your age or the depth of your baseball fandom status:

The Pecan Park Eagle’s Ten Strongest One-Moment Baseball Memory Group (in chronological order)

  1. Fred Merkle (1908)
  2. Joe Jackson (1919)
  3. Ray Chapman (1920)
  4. Grover Cleveland Alexander (1926)
  5. Jackie Robinson (1947)
  6. Eddie Gaedel (1951)
  7. Bobby Thomson (1951)
  8. Don Larsen (1956)
  9. Bill Mazeroski (1960)
  10. Bill Buckner (1986)


Random Thought. We went to see “Spectre”, the new James Bond movie last night. Loved it, but I also came home with this realization: If the Brits had been armed with James Bond and the “OO” whatever spy program during the Revolutionary War, there might  never have been a United States of America.


Have a Happy and Pleasant Fall Tuesday in Houston – or Wherever You Are, Everybody!



Cobb-Lajoie 1910 Controversy Lives On.

November 9, 2015
Ty Cobb (L) and Napoleon Lajoie engaged in the most heated and controversial batting title race back in 1910.

Ty Cobb (L) and Napoleon Lajoie engaged in the most heated and controversial batting title race back in 1910.

The 1910 American League batting average championship race between Napoleon Lajoie of the Cleveland Naps and Ty Cobb of the Detroit Tigers has to be the most controversial one in baseball history. It became such a heated and public attention grabbing contest that the Chalmers Automobile Company decided to jump into all the free advertising this baseball fire had inspired by announcing that they were going to give one of their brand new cutting edge cars to the eventual winner. And that move simply turned up the flame to “high.”

Across the nation, most of the “good guy” fan support fell all over Nap Lajoie like gravy on potatoes. Ty Cobb was too much the hated “bad guy” for his snarling and mean-spirited temperament on and off the field to ever become a national baseball hero to all of us hoi pa loi fans of the national pastime. Yes, our people existed even then – back in the day.

The thing – the race – festered with conflict and controversy for most of the 1910 season.

Better late than never, the most controversial event occurred on the last day of the season – with Cleveland and Lajoie playing a final day doubleheader against the Browns and not much on the line for either Detroit or Cleveland in the pennant race. The Tigers were already locked into 3rd place, en route to an 18 games back finish behind the pennant-winning Philadelphia Athletics. The Cleveland Naps were in a tight second division race with the Chicago White Sox and would finish a half game ahead of them for 5th place. Like all water, the Browns had long since found their familiar place at the bottom of the AL standings and would close the season with 107 losses and a 57-game distance deficit to the record of the Athletic league champs.

It was the perfect setting for ethically challenged manager Jack O’Connor of the Browns to do more than simply cheer for Nap Lajoie, his favorite in the batting title race. Both Lajoie and Cobb entered the last day of the season in the knowledge that a big day at the plate for either man could be the difference-maker. But Cobb was not going to be an active part of it. He sat out the previous game and also would do so on the last day. Support for Lajoie and hatred for Cobb had a wide-open opportunity just sitting there plotting against him in St. Louis.

Here’s where the math accuracy and ethics of several human figures get as fuzzy as the events and the reporting of them for that day by others over the years could possibly be.

A Wikipedia Report explains it this way:



At the start of the final day of the 1910 season, Ty Cobb of the Detroit Tigers held a slim lead in the race for the American League batting title, just a few percentage points ahead of the Cleveland NapsNap Lajoie. While Cobb did not play in the Tigers’ final two games of the season,[1] Lajoie played in two successive games on the last day of the season for the Cleveland Naps.

Because Cobb did not have a plate appearance, his batting average did not change finishing with an average of .38507. However, Lajoie hit safely eight times in the Naps’ doubleheader against the St. Louis Browns. With eight hits in eight at-bats, Lajoie finished the season with a .384 batting average (227 hits in 591 at bats). ……..


Browns’ manager Jack O’Connor had ordered rookie third baseman Red Corriden to play on the outfield grass. This all but conceded a hit for any ball Lajoie bunted. Lajoie’s final at-bat resulted in a wild throw to first base, which was scored as an error. After news broke of the scandal, a writer for the St. Louis Post claimed: “All St. Louis is up in arms over the deplorable spectacle, conceived in stupidity and executed in jealousy.” The issue was brought to American League president Ban Johnson, who declared all batting averages official, and Cobb the champion (.385069 to .384095). The Chalmers people, however, awarded automobiles to both Cobb and Lajoie (essentially declaring a tie). ……….

Modern Revision

In 1978, Pete Palmer discovered a discrepancy in Cobb’s career hit total, and the story was broken by The Sporting News in April 1981.[2] Initially recorded at 4,191 (still the total on, researchers say that a Detroit Tigers box score was counted twice in the season-ending calculations. The statisticians gave Cobb an extra 2-for-3. Not only did this credit Cobb with two non-existent hits, it also raised his 1910 batting average from .383 to .385. As Lajoie is credited with a .384 average for the 1910 season, the revised figure would have cost Cobb one of his 12 batting titles and reduced his career average to .366.

O’Connor and coach Harry Howell, who tried to bribe the official scorer to change the error to a hit, were banned from baseball for their role in the affair.[3] The ensuing mathematical mess was described by one writer as follows: “It could be said that 1910 produced two bogus leading batting averages, and one questionable champion.”[4] ……….


Had the 1978 discovery that Cobb had been accidentally double credited for one “2 for 3” game in 1910 been accepted as the new measurement for the 1910 batting title, it would have reduced his batting average to .383 and given the batting title to Lajoie, but that late discovery did not change a posthumous battle title award from Cobb (.383) to Lajoie (.384) for 1910. Baseball does now show these “correct” averages at their site for both men, but it respects the will of MLB to continue giving Cobb the bold type credit as 1910 AL batting champion, even though Lajoie now is featured with the higher batting average figure in the book of records.

Those eight Lajoie “hits” in the 1910 last day doubleheader at St. Louis, and how at least six of them were set up as “gimme” bunt single gifts from Jack O’Connor of the Browns, hardly earn Nap Lajoie much sympathy in 2015 for the legitimacy of his own figures for that 1910 season.



The Merkle Bonehead Play Revisited

November 7, 2015
Fred Merkle, 1B Ne w York Giants 1907-1916

Fred Merkle, 1B
Ne w York Giants

The infamous Merkle play. As they went into play at the Polo Grounds on September 23, 1908, the New York Giants and the Chicago Cubs were involved in a tight three club race for the pennant with the Pittsburgh Pirates and were all set to play a big game each other for first place. Little did anyone know when they started to play that afternoon that they were about to be partners in the most controversial game conclusion in baseball history – one that would prove at season’s end to be a total reversal of fortune and misfortune for the visiting Cubs and homie Giants. The Cubs would end up winning the 1908 NL flag by a single game – a single game that always will be traced back to a “bonehead” play by a 19 year old Giants rookie name Fred Merkle, the cunning baseball rules acuity of Cubs second baseman Johnny Evers, the already primed to the particulars courage of future Hall of Fame umpire Hank O’Day and his partner Bob Emslie to stand up for rule that technically had the power to reduce the as-game-played outcome of a 2-1 Giants win and convert it into a 1-1 tie with a need for a total replay because of its importance to the pennant race.

For those who don’t know, here’s what happened:

The game was tied at 1-1 in the bottom of the ninth, but the Giants had the potential winning run on third base in the presence of Moose McCormick and rookie Fred Merkle running at first. Merkle had been a lineup substitution this day due to an injury to the club’s veteran first base man, Fred Tenney. Merkle had not played much for the Giants prior to this date, but he had played long enough to know that the home team fans were a rowdy bunch that loved to storm the field after big Giant wins and pummel their congratulatory slaps across the backs of Giant players as they made their trotting run all the way to their field exit door in deep center field. Merkle “got it” as to why his mates hustled as soon as possible to get off the field. They all wanted to exit before the often drunken fan crowds swelled to block any hope of escaping the pain of celebratory contact.

When Giants batter Al Bridwell then hit the first pitch from the Cubs’ Jack Pfeister up the middle for an apparent clean walk-off single, McCormick tipped toed home from third with run and a 2-1 Giants victory. The Giants fan roar quickly converted to a vista of legs by the thousand as they lifted over grandstand boundary rails and began their joyful trek unto the field. As he ran to second base, rookie Merkle could somehow see, sense, or know that his teammates already were making their bee-lines to that faraway center field exit door. After he ran about half way to second on the batted ball, he decided it best to save as much dalliance time as possible. He simply took a hard right turn from his next base destiny (Why bother? The game’s over, right?) and run hard to field exit with everyone else.

Small problem for Merkle. The crafty Cub second sacker Johnny Evers was watching the whole thing and – based upon what he had seen before in other games – and as recently as a Cubs game in Pittsburgh in which he watched a Pirates player escape with the same short cut on the rules, Evers apprised umpire O’Day, even that recently, what he planned to do, if he saw that kind of play go against the rules and his club again, and he even went over the rule with the official without knowing that the two of them would soon enough be reunited in another game situation in which it would occur in a very high stakes situation.

Official rule 4.09 states that “A run is not scored if the runner advances to home base during a play in which the third out is made … by any runner being forced out”. And even though most players knew the rule, they simply had formed a cultural “wink” and looked the other way on hits that soared into the outfield and out of normal infield play reach. They simply ignored without protest that base runners who peeled away without actually sanctifying a safe hit by removing all force out possibilities at second or third was somehow OK.

It’s one of  the oldest rules in human behavior. People don’t obey laws that aren’t enforced. If that happens often enough, people start to treat that law as though as it either did not exist or had been repealed. And, as all good lawyers know, laws that are ignored, but still exist on the books, are sometimes useful in advancing the causes of their clients.

Johnny Evers was a baseball “lawyer” of the first order – and his clients were the Chicago Cubs, including himself. And that was the insider reaction within the man – as soon as the Giants “apparently” won the game on Bridwell’s hit. Evers knew instantly – and on the solid soil of knowing a neglected rule that clearly states that the Giants had not scored because young Mr. Merkle had not done what he needed to do to eliminate the force out possibility. – Merkle had not completed the business of running to second base and touching the bag. That’s all it would have taken. Had he done so on that fateful day in 1908, had he continued on to touch second base, he would be no more famous today than Al Bridwell, the man he robbed of a hit and game-winning RBI in a game that, as all such “bonehead” plays will do, had gone so far eventually as to “merkle” the Giants out of the 1908 NL pennant.

Sadly, there were no smart phones with video and still photo cameras back in the day. Everything that happened at game’s end is the product of conflicting, not-always-honest reporting by players and fans. The following version is our best guess of what we can know after all these years. – As soon as Evers spotted Merkle bugging away from his required trip to second, he started yelling and waving to center fielder Solly Hofman to throw him the ball. It was a move that did not go unnoticed by Giants pitcher Joe McGinnity, who just happened to have been coaching at first at game’s end. As he crossed onto the field to leave too, McGinnity had a good view of Merkle cutting away from his run to second and he knew exactly what Evers had in mind when he covered second anyway and yelled for the ball.

Pacing his run toward Evers. McGinnity got there in time to intercept the throw from Hofman. After that action, it gets really fuzzy as to what actually happened to the real game ball. A most popular report was that McGinnity threw the game ball into the stands and that it was captured by a fan. Some said that the fan kept the ball. Others said that Evers either retrieved the ball from the fan – or else, just got another ball and called it the game ball. There many other variants, including an Evers statement at one time that there was no interception – and that he caught the ball directly from Hofman and stepped on second base for the sake of establishing grounds for a Merkle force out and a negation of the McCormick run, the Bridwell single, and the Giants 2-1 win.

The only assured fact was that Merkle had not finished his run to second, but even he panicked at a later moment by briefly claiming that he had touched second base – in spite of all the eyewitness testimony to the fact he had not. Merkle quickly retracted. His “lying” was more a case of panic in the face of the fact that his life now had been altered into a notorious event for which he would always be signatured beyond anything else he might do. – In a real way, Fred Merkle was a much earlier baseball version of Bill Buckner.

Manager McGraw tried to help Merkle convert his contention into truth that night by having him return to the Polo Grounds and run again in the dark from first to second for an unmistakable touching of the bag. That way, by McGraw’s shifty mind as a mental reservationist, Fred Merkle could always be truthful when he answered “yes” to the following question: “Back on September 23, 1908, in the Polo Grounds, did you run all the way from first to second and actually touch the bag?”

Once Evers made the second base touch himself with “a ball,” and as described in one report on Wikipedia, “Umpires Emslie and O’Day hurriedly consulted and O’Day, who saw the play from home plate, ruled that Merkle had not touched second base, and on that basis Emslie ruled him out on a force and O’Day ruled that the run did not score.

Because the Giants had now vacated the scene of pandemonium on the field and the growing darkness, the game was declared a 1-1 tie, and home plate umpire Hank O’Day filed this report letter to National League President Harry C. Pulliam:

New York, Sept 23/08
Harry C. Pulliam, Esq.
Pres. Nat. League

Dear sir,

In the game to-day at New York between New York and the Chicago Club. In the last half of the 9th inning, the score was a tie 1–1. New York was at the Bat, with two Men out, McCormick of N. York on 3rd Base and Merkle of N. York on 1st Base; Bridwell was at the Bat and hit a clean single Base-Hit to Center Field. Merkle did not run the Ball out; he started toward 2nd Base, but on getting half way there he turned and ran down the field toward the Club House. The Ball was fielded in to 2nd Base for a Chgo. Man to make the play, when McGinnity ran from the Coacher’s Box out in the Field to 2nd Base and interfered with the Play being made. Emslie, who said he did not watch Merkle, asked me if Merkle touched 2nd Base. I said he did not. Then Emslie called Merkle out, and I would not allow McCormick’s Run to score. The Game at the end of the 9th inning was 1–1. The People ran out on the Field. I did not ask to have the Field cleared, as it was too dark to continue play.

Yours respt.

Henry O’Day

NL President Harry Pulliam upheld the decision that the game was a tie and he also ruled that it must be replayed because of its importance to the pennant race. It was not replayed until a day after the season ended on October 7, 1908 with the Giants and Cubs tied for first place with records of 98 and 55.

The following day, October 8, 1908, the Cubs and the Giants squared off at the Polo Grounds for the critical make-up game that had been necessitated by the Merkle “bonehead play” that led to them having both a win and the outright NL  pennant taken away. The Cubs finished the injury by winning the playoff game, 4-2.

Had there been no “Merkle bonehead play”, the Cubs would not have “1908” as their memorial measuring point for a 107-year old hex on World Series championships on the Chicago north side. They would’ve had to reference “1907” as the starting gate on their 108-year old hex.

The Giants, of course, were outraged with Pulliam. And it only worsened when it came home in reality that the Merkle game and the one-game loss of the pennant to the Cubs had been the easy-for-them to see reason that they had been deprived of a pennant and the chance for another World Series title.

The Giants never recovered from their resentment of Pulliam. When Pulliam later died of suicide from a bullet to the brain, Giants manager John McGraw joked that he didn’t think a bullet to the brain could have even harmed Pulliam. The Giants also were the only NL club to neither send condolences nor a representative to the deceased league president’s funeral.

Baseball makes for some strange bedfellows. Twelve years after the Merkle incident, Johnny Evers served as a Giants coach under McGraw. Underneath all the enmity that resulted from Evers primary role in their 1908 pennant loss, McGraw must have formed a deeper bond with the meaner side of the man that many called “the Human Crab”. Narcissists often fall into love or partnership with those are mirror images of themselves.

Hank O’Day later made in to the Hall of Fame as an umpire, but, in addition to his role in the 1908 Merkle game, O’Day may be best recalled as the only man in history to have been a baseball umpire, a baseball manager, and a baseball player. Given that scope, its no small wonder that he was a man who understood how important it is in baseball to “touch all the bases”.

One more irony. By the 1920 time that Johnny Evers now signed on as a coach for the New York Giants, Fred Merkle was now playing ball for the Chicago Cubs.

As for Fred Merkle, the man, he was a bright, honorable and good guy who never quite forgave himself for his 1908 base running mistake, but he also lived in hate for the word “bonehead” in negative references to that play, his assumed lack of intelligence, or his character. After a 16-year MLB career (1907-1920, 1925-26), Merkle retired as a player with a nice .273 career batting average.

Forty something plus years beyond 1908, into the early 1950s, Merkle returned to The Polo Grounds for a reunion and received a standing ovation and wild cheers from the now grown children and grand children whose family elders had seen him play back in the first decade of the 20th century. Their reception of him brought Merkle silently to tears. “I never thought the fans would ever be that forgiving,” Fred Merkle added, as though he expected those around him to be in need of an explanation for his emotional reaction.

Fred Merkle sounds like a very good man, but one of those unfortunate souls who becomes negatively labeled for life on the basis of one thing that happened in one day of his life.

Wouldn’t it be great fun to send some of our modern game coverage people back there to that day with their latest HD multiple cameras and actually travel to 9/28/1908 with the intention of covering that post-game retrieved baseball/bag-tag melodrama sequence? And if they could actually document what happened to the actual game ball, wouldn’t it be great also to know what ever became of that arcane little now famous artifact from baseball history? –  My guess is that it got played to death by kids on the streets and sidewalks of New York, but who knows, it may be molding away somewhere, anonymously forgotten in some ancient Bronx attic or basement.



A Better College Football Playoff Format

November 6, 2015
a modest proposal for change ~ The Pecan Park Eagle

a modest proposal for change
~ The Pecan Park Eagle

A Never Simple Suggestion for How the NCAA Division 1 of College Football Could Stage an Even Truer, More Lucrative Playoff System Without Much Additional Distraction to the Already Intense Academic Studies of Its Student Athletes. ~ Call it “The Great Eight Path to January Joy!”

Here’s the Q&A answer to who, why, what, when, and where:

  1. Question: Who makes up the tournament field? Answer: The eight best teams at season’s end shall be selected by the same committee format that now anoints only four schools for the tournament.
  2. Question: Why 8 instead of 4 teams? Answer: Because 4 committee selections already  has proved better than the 2 that often dissatisfied many during the long period of the BCS process,  8 will we twice as good as 4 was in the elimination of unbeaten teams with a good case for unhappiness, if they are left. Baylor and TCU, the abandoned babies of 2014, would have a place to go in this new twice-as-big field. No plan for rating and selecting the best college teams by anything less than head-to-head competition will eliminate all unhappiness, but a field of eight makes it far less likely that some undefeated team with a strong opponent schedule will be left out there to whine.
  3. Questions: What will it take to expand from 4 to 8 tournament clubs? Answer: It will require (a) better use of the  4 major bowls every post-season as the hosts of the tournaments first round; (2) the movement of two other bowls into mid-January as hosts of the two semi-final round games; and the continuation into a national collegiate championship game at a host city and venue that is chosen by a site selection committee a few years earlier than the actual event, much as the NFL picks their Super Bowl locations now.
  4. Question: What about the when and where aspects? Answer: Those were covered inclusively in the first three Q and A’s.

Bones and Marrow Details. Using the Top 25 List system now being generated by the selection committee for its field of 4, the final week list of the committee’s top 8 clubs would make up the field.

Using a rotating system among the four major bowls for determining who gets the #1 seed in Round One, a typical schedule for all three rounds would look like the following:

Round One: January 1st (New Years Day, every year)

Seed #1 versus Seed #8 at the Rose Bowl

Seed # 2 versus Seed # 7 at the Orange Bowl

Seed # 3 versus Seed # 6 at the Sugar Bowl

Seed # 4 versus Seed # 5 at the Fiesta Bowl


Round Two: January 15th

Seeds 1-8 winner versus Seeds 4-5 winner at the Cotton Bowl (for example)

Seeds 2-7 winner versus Seeds 3-6 winner at the Gator Bowl (for example)


Round Three National Championship Game: January 29th (at variably selected site)

A championship game between the two winners of the Round Two match-ups.


Hangnail Points to Planners: The New Years Day first round date would be firm. The other rounds could be adjusted a day or two, either way, depending upon whatever is practical and possible. Planners would try to make sure that all is completed prior to February 1st, but the Championship Game would avoid playing on any direct date that was in competition with the NFL Super Bowl.

If the bigger bowls have an ego-hissy over traditionally smaller money bowls getting two second round games, then don’t bury the idea or yourself in that sand trap. Bid Round Two out to cities as you did Round Three.

To those who claim this plan will be too negative a factor upon the student athletes’ grade point averages, tell them to keep track over the first five years to see what the effect is upon any reduction in the student athlete graduation rate as a direct result. We aren’t exactly cranking out valedictorians and Rhodes scholars with our current use of student athletes as it is. If the colleges want to go back to the days in which real students actually try out for their various school sports teams with a chance to actually make it, I’m down with that road too. In the meanwhile, let’s stop denigrating the young athletes who are pursued by the schools for their playing abilities – and either pay them for their hard work – or do everything we can to make sure that athletics do not actually prevent them from doing their intellectual best in class. I don’t see this playoff system making things any worse for student athletes than they already are.

That’s it. No need to complicate it further.



Bill Gilbert: MLB Playoff Observations, Part 3

November 5, 2015
Astros analyst Bill Gilbert takes his third look at the recently concluded 2015 MLB League Playoffs and World Series.

Astros analyst Bill Gilbert takes his third look at the recently concluded 2015 MLB League Playoffs and World Series.

MLB Playoff Observations, Part 3

By Bill Gilbert

~ Keep the line moving. The Royals had the uncanny ability in all three series to string together several hits with a mistake by their opponents to score 3-5 runs in an inning without a home run.

~ The Royals hit only 2 home runs (both solos) in their 5 game series win over the Mets.

~ Will other clubs try to copy the Royals’ style of play?

~ Will the Royals’ success result in revised thinking about the value of not striking out?

~ Tony Bennett’s voice appears to be a thing of the past.


 Pecan Park Eagle Comments

Bill Gilbert’s questions about the value of all clubs reexamining the Kansas City philosophy about putting the ball in play with fewer strikeouts makes sense for all clubs, but it will have to be only a long-term dream for those teams that already find themselves tied to expensive multi-year deals with HR crushers of the fan-and-sit-a-lot genre.

As for Tony Bennett, for mercy’s sake, we heard him too, but let’s remember – the man hit age 89 this past August 3rd! A lot of people still alive at his age can’t even get out of the house, let alone, carry a tune in a bucket. – He’s still one of the great icons of American popular song interpretation – as long as he stays with the tunes of limited middle note range– and also, to his credit and good sense, he wasn’t even trying to handle the difficult range of the Star Spangled Banner prior to Game 5, but he still had trouble with the easier range of “America the Beautiful.”

God Bless You, Tony! – You are still great when you sing “Blue Velvet” with KD Lang, “Body and Soul” with the late Amy Winehouse, or “The Lady is a Tramp” with Lady Gaga!

If proof is needed, check out those three Tony Bennett duets by listening to them at these links:

If an ad appears, just press the “skip ad” option and you go straight to what is still the most beautiful music in the world.

 Blue Velvet

 Body and Soul

 The Lady is a Tramp



Famous Movie Lines Applied to Sports

November 4, 2015
Once Upon a Time They Were ..... Baseball's Children of the Night!

Once Upon a Time
They Were …..
Baseball’s Children of the Night!

A friend of mine named Pat Flynn recently sent me a clip from the American Film Institute that features its version of the 100 best quotes over the first hundred years of talking movies. It’s an enjoyment unto itself and you may view it from here through the following link:

The Pecan Park Eagle thinks it also has a lot to offer as a reservoir of quotes that would easily fit right into certain active situations in sports these days, if we first, simply thought about it this morning and allowed the “right words” to find “the right sports character” to say them again in a situation that is appropriate to some current sports issue or topic. (Got it? …. Fair enough.)

We didn’t actually use the YouTube collection, per se, but we knew all of those they offered, and probably will end up here not bringing anything into the mix that isn’t there, but it could happen. We also reserve the right to modify the famous, at times, for a better fit into the situation.

OK, here we go. First comes the quote and source in bold type. Then to the sports situation it is now applied:

  1. “Make him an offer he can’t refuse.” (“The Godfather”) ~ UH Cougar Football fans to the University of Houston regarding the future contract of Head Coach Tom Herman out there on Cullen Boulevard.
  2. “We’re gonna need a bigger boat! (“Jaws”) ~ After hearing the above demands of UH football fans, the UH Chief Financial Officer begins his Funds-for-Herman report to the Board of Regents with the aforementioned statement.
  3. “I want you to go to their windows and yell, ‘I’m mad as hell – and I’m not going to take it anymore!’ ” (“Network) ~ Houston Chronicle writer Jerome Solomon to Houston’s NFL Texans fans after the team drafts yet another easily injured defensive player and passes on prospects that could grow into the franchise quarterback they have never had.
  4. “We rob banks! (“Bonnie and Clyde”) ~ The MLB Players Union succinctly reveals the philosophy that guides the demands of star players with celestial season stats for quarter million dollar, five-year contracts.
  5. “I’m not a bad man. I’m just a bad wizard.” (“Wizard of Oz”) ~ NFL Texans GM Rick Smith tries to explain himself to the “mad as hell” fans who protest the club’s lack of success over his ten-year tenure at the helm.
  6. “The stuff that dreams are made of.” ~ (“The Maltese Falcon”) ~ Even though they fell short this time in their pursuit of a World Series championship, Astros manager A.J. Hinch explains to his club what the 2015 season meant to him while the team is still on the road to hopefully, actually getting there.
  7. “I’ll have what she’s having.” ~ (“When Harry Met Sally”) ~ In mixed envy and admiration for her sister’s accomplishments, tennis star Venus Williams places her breakfast order after listening to her star tennis sister Serena Williams place her own.
  8. “Every time I play golf, I always wear a suit with two pair of pants. – That’s in case I get a hole in one.” (old W.C. Fields movie) ~ Self-effacing humor on the golf circuit becomes more common for Tiger Woods these days as he borrows the old line from Fields to show the world that – since he cannot seem to get back to what he was on the performance level – that he will try to become a little more easy-going and likable.
  9. “I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore!” – (“The Wizard of Oz”) ~“And I have feeling we’re not going back to Kansas anymore!” ~ New York Mets manager Terry Collins, after Game 5 of the 2015 World Series in New York.
  10. “Of all the gin joints in all the world, she has to walk into mine!” ~ (“Casablanca”) ~ In reference to ex-QB Rob Mallett, Texans head coach Bill O’Brien says, “Of all the clubhouses in all of the NFL, he has to walk into mine!”)
  11. “You talkin’ to me? – You talkin’ to me? – You talkin’ to ME? … Well, … I’m the only one here!” (“Taxi Driver”) ~ Luke Gregerson of the Houston Astros says it as his response to our question about what its like to be a part of the club’s late inning relief pitching hope.
  12. “Here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into!” – (a trademark comment by Oliver Hardy to Stan Laurel in almost all of their 1930 comic movies and shorts.) ~ It is also a thought (if not a comment) in the mind of Astros closer Luke Gregerson when he takes over a 2015 late inning bad pitching situation from Chad Qualls, Will Harris, or Pat Neshek.
  13. “There’s no place like home! – There’s no place like home! – There’s no place like home!” (“Wizard of Oz”) ~ A choral group recitation by the entire 2015 Houston Astros club.
  14. “Listen to them! – Children of the night! – What music they make! (“Dracula”, in response to howls from the woods at midnight) ~ New York Yankees manager Casey Stengel in response to the sounds of Mickey Mantle, Billy Martin, and Whitey Ford returning to the club’s hotel about 2:30 AM on any given night in the early 1950s they played together as teammates.

Enough for now. With more time, we could go on forever. But it’s probably just as well we do not test attentions spans any further.

Have a nice day, Everybody!




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