The DiMaggio Diagnosis That Cracked Up Joe

September 12, 2015
Joltin' Joe DiMaggio

Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio

Joe DiMaggio was a complex personality, to put it mildly. Aided by his dark and handsome Italian good looks, his model-like Adonis physique, his quiet and reserved demeanor, his flair for really fashionable conservative taste in the best of men’s clothing, and his radiant energy appearance as a sophisticated, well-educated man of the world, Joe DiMaggio owned the key to the City of New York.

Fellow teammates, the media, New York socialites, theater and movie celebrities, and even some world-shakers all tended to deferentially give Joe D. wide berth as the royal American guest to the best that the Big Apple had to offer. Famous club host Toots Shor fawned all over the needs of Joe DiMaggio at his famous Manhattan club. – You get the picture.

Underneath all of this external view, I’ve formed the reasonably stable impression that Joe DiMaggio was many things as the real person behind that “yield to my needs” power he obviously possessed over so many who gave him his start on his finally insisted upon reputation by introduction at all baseball events as “the world’s greatest living ballplayer.”

Inside, Joe was still a poorly educated son of a San Francisco area immigrant fisherman, but very intelligent to the effect of the image he projected to others. He knew he wasn’t the suave, wise, and educated man of the world that everyone thought he was. In the company of the literati, he was often exposed in small group table talk to words he did not understand. All the more reason he remained quiet, probably in the hope too that no one would ask him for his thoughts on the subject.

DiMaggio’s classic shyness, I think, was not the easy self-esteem problem that many of our pot-boiling social media shrinks today might think it was. Joe D. had many reasons to feel good about himself. He knew he was great ballplayer, he knew he was a winner, that young women were attracted to him, he even stood up for more baseball salary money in a 1938 holdout from the Yankees that cost him the affection of some Yankee fans and New York media types,

When Joe demanded $40,000 for 1938 over the club offer of $25,000, Yankee GM Ed Barrow pointed out to DiMaggio that he was asking for more money than the great Lou Gehrig was paid, the Yankee Clipper replied: “Then Mr. Gehrig is a badly underpaid player.”

Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert held his ground and Joe finally came around to something less than the original club offer, but he never forgot those who sided against him in the struggle, nor did he ever abandon the idea that, no matter how much money he had, he always felt he deserved more. If that’s anyone’s argument for DiMaggio’s damaged self esteem, I would not waste time in fractious argument, but I would ask: How many of us human beings have ever not wanted more of something from some source outside ourselves. On this level of understanding, Joe DiMaggio is only different from so many of us because he’s Joe “Freakin'” DiMaggio.

What really signatured Joe was the fact that he both wanted more of what he knew he had – and all of whatever everyone else thought he had, thought he was, and he thought he deserved that perceptual credit and royal treatment – beyond simply being a great ballplayer. So, in a way, Joe had to keep his mouth shut from being discovered a fraud on many levels. He was never the educated, sophisticated man of the world, and savvy dude that so many thought he was. He was just a savvy dude and one helluva baseball player.

People bowed and scraped in the presence of Joe DiMaggio until they day he died.

The wonderful late baseball writer, David Halberstam, tells this great story of how one of the few people who was allowed to be honest with Joe DiMaggio was Yankee clubhouse guy, Pete Sheehy.

“Once, when DiMaggio had been examining a red mark on his butt, he yelled over to Sheehy, ‘Hey, Pete, take a look at this. Is there a bruise there?’ ‘Sure there is, Joe, its from all those people kissing your ass,’ Sheehy answered.” *

  • “Summer of ’49”, David Halberstam, William Morrow & Co., 1989, p 50.


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Eagle Eye Sketch of Ruth and Company

September 11, 2015


This Pecan Park Eagle Quick Data Power Study of the ten greatest career home run hitters to date is based upon the following tables from Baseball Almanac. The simple weighted point assignment value methodology is explained below.

1. Top 10 Home Runs, All Time

Barry Bonds 762 1
Hank Aaron 755 2
Babe Ruth 714 3
Alex Rodriguez 684 4
Willie Mays 660 5
Ken Griffey, Jr. 630 6
Jim Thome 612 7
Sammy Sosa 609 8
Frank Robinson 586 9
Mark McGwire 583 10

2. Top 10 Slugging Average, All Time

BABE RUTH .690 (.68972) 1
Ted Williams .634 (.63379) 2
Lou Gehrig .632 (.63242) 3
Jimmie Foxx .609 (.60929) 4
BARRY BONDS .607 (.60689) 5
Hank Greenberg .605 (.60505) 6
MARK McGWIRE .588 (.58817) 7
Manny Ramirez .585 (.58540) 8
Albert Pujols .582 (.58202) 9
Joe DiMaggio .579 (.57880) 10
 3. Top 10 Batting Average, All Time
Ty Cobb .366 (.36636) 1
Rogers Hornsby .358 (.35850) 2
Joe Jackson .356 (.35575) 3
Ed Delahanty .346 (.34590) 4
Tris Speaker .345 (.34468) 5
Ted Williams .344 (.34441) 6
Billy Hamilton .344 (.34429) 7
BABE RUTH .342 (.34206) 8
Harry Heilmann .342 (.34159) 9
Pete Browning .341 (.34149) 10

4. TOP 10 Runs Scored, All Time

Rickey Henderson 2,295 1
Ty Cobb 2,246 2
HANK AARON 2,174 4
Pete Rose 2,165 6
Stan Musial 1,949 9
Derek Jeter 1,923 10

5. Top 10 Runs Batted In, All Time

HANK AARON 2,297 1
BABE RUTH 2,213 2
Lou Gehrig 1,995 5
Stan Musial 1,951 6
Ty Cobb 1,937 7
Jimmie Foxx 1,922 8
Eddie Murray 1,917 9
WILLIE MAYS 1,903 10

6. Top 10 On Base %, All Time

Ted Williams .482 (.4817) 1
BABE RUTH .474 (.4739) 2
John McGraw .465 (.4655) 3
Billy Hamilton .455 (.4552) 4
Lou Gehrig .447 (.4474) 5
BARRY BONDS .444 (.4443) 6
Rogers Hornsby .434 (.4337) 7
Ty Cobb .433 (.4330) 8
Jimmie Foxx .428 (.4283) 9
Tris Speaker .428 (.4279) 10

7. Top 10 Total Bases, All Time

HANK AARON 6,856 1
Stan Musial 6,134 2
Ty Cobb 5,854 5
BABE RUTH 5,793 6
Pete Rose 5,752 7
Carl Yastrzemski 5,539 9
Eddie Murray 5,397 10

8. Top 10 Walks, All Time

Rickey Henderson 2,190 2
BABE RUTH 2,062 3
Ted Williams 2,021 4
Joe Morgan 1,865 5
Carl Yastrzemski 1,845 6
JIM THOME 1,747 7
Mickey Mantle 1,733 8
Mel Ott 1,708 9
Frank Thomas 1,667 10


Based upon the 8 career offensive categories used as simply a power sketch on each of the current top 10 career home run list, we used our little “developed tonight” plan to see how these ten great sluggers compared to each other in seven other prime offensives categories. The total eight categories were listed above with the “Top 10 HR Guys” that also showed up in these seven other categories.

We made no attempt to study any players other than those listed in Table 1.

When players from the Table 1 list appear in any of the other seven tabular lists, we show them in all caps and  bold type for easier focus on who shows up in other relevant offensive categories beyond HR hitting.

In the case of all eight categories, 10 power points were awarded to each player who finished 1st, down to 1 point for any player that finished 10th. Players who didn’t finish in a particular category, of course, received no points.

As you will see in the point tabulation chart that concludes our brief glimpse, Babe Ruth was the only player to appear somewhere in each of all the 8 categories. Barry Bonds missed only once; and Hank Aaron missed only twice. Not surprisingly, Ruth, Bonds, and Aaron finished 1,2,3 in these roughly estimated power rankings for the current Top 10 HR Hitters in baseball.

To those who argue that other offensive categories could have been added to this quick study, I shall humbly fall upon my own petard and concede the point that you may be correct, Just try to bear in mind that this material was not something I was preparing for a either a doctoral dissertation or a major research grant proposal.

Two hours ago, this idea didn’t even exist within me, although it may have been done by others in the past, many times over. With no apologies for curiosity, I just latched onto this sudden attraction to the idea of using all that wonderful data at Baseball Almanac for a column on a subject that has held me in awe since I was a kid. That is, the powerful force that was, and still is, Babe Ruth.

At any rate, here’s how the Top 10 HR Club finished in relation to each other using the Pecan Park Eagle Statistical Sketch Method:

PLAYER 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 TTL PTS. RANK
Babe Ruth 8 10 3 6 9 9 5
 8 58 1
Barry Bonds 10 6   8 7 5 7 10 53 2
Hank Aaron 9     7 10   10   36 3
Alex Rodriguez 7       8   3   18 4
Willie Mays 6       1   8   15 5
Jim Thome
4                4   8 6
Ken Griffey, Jr.
5               5 7 tie
Mark McGwire
1  4          
  5 7 tie
Sammy Sosa 3                 3 9
Frank Robinson 2               2 10

Have a great Friday and a nice weekend of Astros-chances and  finger-nail biting fun, everybody!



The Baseball Rules: Should Any Be Changed?

September 10, 2015


The NFL and NBA seem to change their basic governing rules in football and basketball on a fairly regular basis. Should we see more openness to rules change in baseball?

Do you have some favorite thoughts on rules changes that could either help or seriously harm baseball? If so, what are they? What are the rules in baseball that have evolved into the pillars of the game? Would changing any single one of them alter the ebb and flow of the game into something that hurt our love of baseball?

Once you dig through 4 balls and three strikes per batter, 3 outs per each team time at bat, 9 innings per game, 3 bases and home plate in a diamond-shaped configuration at 90 feet long right angles and a pitching rubber that is 60 feet 6 inches from home plate, and all the other rules prescriptions for how a batter either negotiates his way around the bases or, otherwise, is declared out before scoring, or even reaching first, can you think of any fundamental rule that now exist that would, if it were changed, either stand as a big improvement or a major disaster to the game we now know and love as baseball?

If you  are the type who enjoys the more detailed approach to this same subject, here is a link to the official rules book for Major League Baseball play in 2015.

Perhaps some of you will find something in there that you strongly support or oppose. Even if you are not so detail-minded, it is still OK to respond to the question intuitively, based upon your personal experience as either a player or devoted spectator. And don’t take the easy way out and simply keep your thoughts to yourself. Please post a long or brief statement of your thoughts in the comment section that follows this column in The Pecan Park Eagle.

And, if that works for you, how do you Astros fans feel about the “DH” rule, now that Houston has had some short-time full season experience as an American League club?

Have fun!


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A Houston Babies Flashback Fashion Note

September 9, 2015
The 2011 Houston Babies at George Ranch in a team photo which featured their number fan, Mr. Jimmy Wynn and some interloper in a

The 2011 Houston Babies at George Ranch in a team photo which featured their number fan, Mr. Jimmy Wynn, and some interloper in a “Mudville” jersey and cap.

What do the Houston Babies in the above featured 2011 team photo of our treasured vintage base ball club have in common with our 1909-11 Houston Buffs that actually played professional baseball as members of the Texas League a century ago? Check out the uniforms of the following two right-handed pitchers from those ancient Buffs and allow your eyes make that not-so-heavy decision for you:

Alex Malloy Right Handed Pitcher Houston Buffs 1909-1911

Alex Malloy
Right Handed Pitcher
Houston Buffs

Alex Malloy, RHP, 1909-11 Houston Buffs

Hunter Hill Right Handed Pitcher Houston Buffs 1909-1911

Hunter Hill
Right Handed Pitcher
Houston Buffs

Hunter Hill, RHP, 1909-11 Houston Buffs–001hun

That’s right. – Except for the slightly larger lettering and dark collars on the original vintage base ball Houston Babies uniforms, the jerseys follow the same script style and letter blocking style preferred by the 1909-11 Houston Buffs.

Thank you, Houston Babies Manager Bob Dorrill, for your expert attention to such detail in the outfitting of our historic warriors of vintage ball. The new white uniforms with the dark blue Old English “H” on the heart-side of the jersey even improve  on our club’s battle gear wardrobe as we move this fall into our eighth season of vintage ball play since 2008 and our first league play schedule among four local clubs, starting October 24th.

We hope that all of you who  have never witnessed a vintage base ball game previously will pay close attention to further information from Manager Bob Dorrill, and from the Pecan Park Eagle. Vintage base ball is a wonderful activity for both players and fans, but, like everything else, it requires the passion, energy, and commitment of people to succeed over time.

Thank you and stay tuned. We need more players. We would like to have more teams by next spring, And we welcome all the fan support and sponsorship help that is offered.

For further information on how you may get involved at the level that interests you, please e-mail Bob Dorrill for details on how to get started. We will help you find your way.

Thanks again. And thanks also to Darrell Pittman for supplying the card information that inspired this column!

Bill Gilbert: Starters and Altuve Shine in August

September 8, 2015
Bill Gilbert 05

Starters and Altuve Shine in August

By Bill Gilbert

Some of you may be wondering why you didn’t receive my monthly report on the Astros for August.  Nobody did. On Saturday, August 29, I suffered a fall at home that resulted in a fracture in one of the bones that is part of the hip bone structure. I was taken to the hospital and underwent surgery on Monday August 31 in what was essentially a hip replacement.

I have since been moved to a rehab facility where I will remain until I have regained enough strength to get around on my own. With reduced access to the Internet and other means of communication, I cannot follow the team as closely as usual, but I do know that the Astros were 15-13 in the month finished in first place in the AL West in August for the 5th straight month, The sixth month will be the hardest since each AL West team plays a home-and-home series against the others.

Starting pitching carried the Astros in August. Scott Feldman (1-0, 1.33 ERA), Collin McHugh (2-2, 1.89), Dallas Keuchel (4-1, 1.94) and Mike Fiers (2-0, 2.25) were all outstanding. Keuchel won his third AL Pitcher of the Month award this season and Fiers pitched a no-hitter against the Dodgers in the first Astro game I attended this year.

The offense struggled in August.  Jose Altuve was back on track batting .375 for the month but no others were over .300. However, the Astros maintained their Major League lead in home runs.

Hopefully, I will be back to help celebrate some good news in another month.

Bill Gilbert

Sept. 7, 2015

Bill, We are sorry to learn of the damage you suffered from your recent fall, but we are happy to hear that you are now on the mend. It certainly didn’t effect your ability to find and recognize the team stars of August. Other than the magnificent Jose Altuve, they all resided in the starting rotation. One of them (Dallas Keuchel) seems hell bent for leather on his way to the Cy Young – and another (Mike Fiers) used an August game against the Dodgers to write his name into the annals of no-hitter history. – Now get well, Bill! We old birds have to hang tough when we shoot right past the September of our lives in the blinking of an eye. – Bill McCurdy, Publisher and Editor, The Pecan Park Eagle.
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Welcome to UH, Coach Tom Herman

September 7, 2015
Ole buttermilk sky, I'ma keepin' my eye peeled on you, What's the good word tonight? Are you gonna be mellow tonight? ~ Hoagy Carmichael

Ole buttermilk sky,
I’ma keepin’ my eye peeled on you,
What’s the good word tonight?
Are you gonna be mellow tonight?
~ Hoagy Carmichael

With only the spiritual memory of songwriter Hoagy Carmichael to guide us, a beautiful buttermilk sky showed up at dusk prior to the UH Cougar football debut of Tom Herman on Saturday, September 5, 2015 at TDECU Stadium in Houston for the game our big cats had scheduled as the season opener against the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles of Coach Watson Brown.

The weather was hot and humid, but everything else bore the bouquet of what passes for autumn in Houston. The UH band played strong. The Cougar fans decked out in red jerseys. And the breezy wind that whispered in after dark teased us for a second with the idea that it was being pushed into motion by the cooler, oncoming dry breath of our first early “norther” of the new season.

It didn’t happen, but it combined with everything else to whet our appetites for what is sure to come – and in the way we just described, Warm air stirring. Then cool air prevailing. It may not happen until October, but it will happen. And Houston will have survived another summer and traded it for a fall, winter and spring run of weather that is not quite as hot, not quite as often, and even downright freezing cold, wet, and even icy, at times.

As a UH undergraduate, personally, I cannot, even now, this late in the game, get anywhere near the UH main campus without feeling the same bond with the university that has existed for me since my freshman year first semester in the fall of 1956. Oh, I’ve added many other attachments to my personal identity trellis since my graduation in 1960, but UH always will be the place that was my earlier neighborhood kid mentor about “possibility” through the academic and campus social culture where I eventually found my first usable walking legs into the larger adult world.


Welcome to our town – and our University of Houston Cougar Football program, Coach Tom Herman! Your resume arrived here on the wings of your success last season as the offensive coordinator for the 2014 National Champion Ohio State Buckeyes. And that reputation wasn’t hurt at all by this past Saturday’s 52-24 victory over Tennessee Tech, even though they are regarded as a lesser level foe.

Many of the top NCAA Division 1 schools play “lesser rated” competition in their home debuts each year. But as you already have grasped, since the demise of our membership in the old Southwest Conference after 1996, UH has been on a steady roll toward playing almost all of their annual schedules against teams from the Athletics Anonymous conferences of college football – and, far too often, even having trouble playing .500 winning percentage football at times.

That wasn’t always true. The Cougars came of age with the big boys in this game, starting in 1962, with the coming of Coach Bill Yeoman to the UH football helm. Five years into his long-term in 1967, and in the early period of his veer offense bonanza, the Cougars went to East Lansing, Michigan and totally destroyed the Michigan State Spartans by the landslide score of 37-7. UH immediately vaulted to No. 3 in the polls the following week. For the next decade, UH was beating teams like Miami and Florida State with some regularity. And, by 1976, the Cougars entered the SWC as the official recognition of their status as a “big time college football” program. The Coogs even celebrated that season by going to Austin and beating Texas, 30-0, on their way to winning the conference championship and the Cotton Bowl against Maryland –  and all in their very first season in the venerable old league. They followed that success by winning or tying for the SWC crown in three of their first four seasons, and then going to the Cotton Bowl each time.

“3 Out of 4 Ain’t Bad” became the Cougar tee-shirt banner after their great 1979 third SWC crown and thrilling victory over Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl on January 1, 1980. The problem was, UH’s incredible early SWC success seemed to upset some of the older powerhouses of the league. We didn’t realize it at the time, but that upstart heavy foot on the “win, baby, win” pedal would find the Cougars left alone in the college football ocean, searching for driftwood program survival support, once the SWC fell apart after 1996 and four of the member schools (Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and Baylor) simply shifted to the old Big Eight Conference to form the new Big 12 conference in 1997.

We agree with and support your fervor for getting the City of Houston behind the University of Houston Cougars as this city’s college team, but we also recognize that the job cannot be done on the backs of Longhorn, Aggie, Rice and Baylor alumni. We have to find a way to get real about those 160,000 UH alums who apparently live in our area, but who do little, if anything to support any part of the university’s academic, artistic, scientific, or athletic programs. – The question we need to learn more about is – what, if anything, did these UH graduates bond with as important to them while they were students. My guess is that many simply saw UH as a “means to an end” solution to their individual older student degree plan goals and that these students felt little to nothing of a bond to the school as their “alma mater”.

I simply refuse to believe that first degree-crank conclusion is the whole story for all – or even most of those UH grads. The university has been evolving for years. It has not just been a practical option for older students for at least twenty to thirty years, or whenever it was the push to attract more campus resident and international students began. In fact, the current face of the student body is quite a cross-section of the world, with much support  from Asian and Indian students showing up this past Saturday in full red battle gear. I simply think that UH has not been doing much to connect recent students to the idea of connecting and staying involved with UH beyond graduation. All of those factors are key when it comes to reaching out to the uninvolved alums. They are not all the same person. And that point needs to be strongly examined before initiating any kind of “one size fits all” outreach program.

In closing, Mr. Herman, we hope you will be with us for a while. We were spoiled by Mr. Yeoman’s 26-year tenure (1962-86). When he retired, we thought we were closing the door on the “Yeoman Era”. As it turned out, we soon enough learned that we do not have eras at UH. Bill Yeoman was our “old school” exception to all others. Since his time, we have “bad coach hires” that can last forever, if that’s all you want. Or we can have “good coach” hires that last for only as long as it takes a larger, richer school to come along and scoop up our guy with a lot more money, status, and luxury perks.

Bill Yeoman and UH were about loyalty and mutual commitment. We of UH are hoping in this newer “era” of the “good coach money and ego abductions” that we may be able to gradiently pay you enough along the way to merit your loyalty and commitment to our humble, but achievable aims, for as long as possible.

Happy Labor Day, Everybody!



Babe McCurdy Mad Dog Defense Mascot University of Houston Cougars 1979-1980

Babe McCurdy
Mad Dog Defense Mascot
University of Houston Cougars

Goodnight, Mr. Elston; We Thank You!

September 6, 2015
Gene Elston Voice of Houston Baseball, 1962-86 Ford C. Frick Award Winner. 2006 Baseball Hall of Fame

Gene Elston
Voice of Houston Baseball, 1962-86
Ford C. Frick Award Winner. 2006
Baseball Hall of Fame

We received the news by cell phone Internet last night at TEDECU Stadium that our friend, Gene Elston, the original voice of the Houston Colt .45s and Astros (1962-1986), had passed away yesterday at the age of 93. The salient Houston baseball professional facts about the man are contained in this nice coverage story by David Barron of the Houston Chronicle:

David Barron’s description of Gene Elston’s broadcasting style as “reserved eloquence” stands now as nothing less than a spot-on two-word biography of both the man and his work, also proving writer Roger Kahn’s smiling contention that sometimes, a word (or two) is worth a thousand pictures. In that sports broadcasting role, radio and television, Gene Elston was never anything less than eloquent in his insightful grasp. He saw that viewers and listeners needed an easy flow of the facts in each game situation, but he also understood that his audiences never needed more than their eyes and ears could absorb on their own.

Gene Elston was one of the first television baseball broadcasters to understand that television was not merely “radio with pictures”. Viewers did not need the announcer to tell them what they could see for themselves. It’s a point that is easier for all to see today. Because of the great progress we’ve made with technology since Elston’s time, our variety of high quality perspectives on the pictures and sounds that now reach us via televised baseball make the point even more obvious.

Only those broadcasters today who still think that their personal acts are the show fail to get it. And Gene Elston was never one of them. He was always a modest, but definitive cut-above the glory hog remember-my-branded-call voices of the game. And that wisdom and quality of the professional that was Gene Elston attracted the fans and his eventual recognition by the Baseball Hall of Fame as the 2006 winner of the Ford C. Frick Award for baseball broadcasting.

Gene Elston’s excellence finally cost him his job with the Astros under General Manager Dick Wagner. As David Barron reports in his column, Gene was working the telecast of that Mike Scott no-hitter that also clinched the division title for the Astros on the last day of the 1986 baseball season. And, just as Barron reports, when it was over, Gene Elston’s comment was all we needed to soak in the joy via the natural sounds and pictures of jubilant celebration.

“There it is,” said Gene Elston.

And we were left to soak in what we saw and heard, clear through to the foundation soul of why we even were baseball fans.

And it was beautiful. There was no blabbering about playoff tickets – or cuts to commercial for another truck ride through the ranches we have to assume that the advertisers assumed we own. – There was only wide-open visceral joy for a story book finish to an incredible run through the regular season. For many of us, it was the last hurrah of great joy from the Astrodome. The possibility of a World Series in Houston soon, very soon, never seemed more real.

Unfortunately, Gene’s genius understanding of the portal that existed in that moment got him fired.

Astros GM Wagner apparently wanted Gene to say more, sell more, and push more. So, when he didn’t get it in this joy-bleeding big moment, he simply fired the heart and soul “Voice of the Astros” as though Gene Elston were a contract electrician who had not wired things to Wagner’s satisfaction.

Gene Elston rallied. He had a few other jobs after that dismissal, and he never quit caring about baseball, the Astros, and his writing and research, but I will never believe that he ever fully recovered from the hurt that firing caused him. As he had done with baseball all those years, I think Gene just did what he already knew how to do so well. He simply accepted it as one of those times that life disappoints, but you can’t do anything about it. You can either fold – or you can put your ducks in a row and do what you love in a way that lights your own soul until the last sunset finally arrives.

Gene Elston’s soul burned bright to the very end. And we shall love and miss him forever, but also keep him too. The gifts he left with us were not the perishable kind.


Postscript: I wasn’t expecting to be anywhere but home last night because of my ongoing shingles recovery, but I made a last day decision that I really wanted to be there for Tom Herman’s debut as head coach of my UH Cougars at TEDECU Stadium on campus. Simpatico to that subject, I just had to mention another point about Gene Elston that I haven’t read elsewhere.

For several seasons during the 1960s and 1970s, Gene Elston also served as the radio Voice of Houston Cougars Football. He simply was exceptional in that role, understanding clearly from the start that, just as TV is not radio, football is not baseball. Football is a game that moves constantly, like a back and forth march, up and down the field.

Gene Elston’s football play-by-play football work was like the energy exerted in words by a great fast-moving fiction writer. – You could see in your own mind a runner struggling through the line for a three-yard gain. – You could see the wide receiver breaking through into the clear, even before the ball was thrown to him. – And you always knew the yard-line of play, the down, the yards-to-go, the score, the quarter, and the time in the game.

What do you need to hear? Gene Elston always knew. He gave us what we needed. Nothing more. Nothing less. Even understanding, when others did not, that sometimes, less – really is more.

Goodbye, Gene. Hope to see you again someday.


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Eagle Sides with Digital Review in MLB

September 4, 2015
Getting it right with technology gets umpires off the hook of having to be infallible.

Getting it right with technology gets umpires off the hook of having to be infallible.

It may be the end of “three blind mice” mythology, but so be it. The use of multiple perspective digital replay is streaming accuracy into the game of major league baseball at the same time it loosens the burden of infallibility from the shoulders of the umpires who normally are the final word on every safe/out, fair/foul, yes/no close field play in the game.

The human eye, viewing any incredibly fast close play on the field, cannot possibly “get ’em all right” from one perspective, but, until the new technology made it possible, that has been the burden of the arbiters that are so important to the honest government of our beautiful game from the very start.

Iconic umpire Bill Klem said it best when he described his job calling balls and strikes. “They ain’t nothing until I call them,” Klem said, and he said it exactly right. He said that a pitched ball was neither a ball or a strike until he, the umpire, said it was one or the other. Klem did not say that a pitch was neither a ball or a strike until he saw exactly where it passed, in or out of contact with the strike zone. It’s probably just a matter of time before improving technology and increasing baseball cultural acceptance makes it possible for a batter, more uniformly objective calling of balls and strikes is finally possible. Until then, we will simply have to keep on settling for the reality that human eye calls by umpires on plays involving balls that routinely travel in speeds exceeding 100 mph always are going to be governed by those with mostly good intentions, variable perceptions, and, sometimes enormous egos.

Can we do better than that for the sake of accuracy? You bet. We simply have to embrace the courage to change the things we can change. With the help of the new technology, how we officiate our game of baseball, and all of its instances of inches and nanosecond difference on so many plays, we can vastly improve our ability to “get it right” on plays that sometimes carry with them the power to alter the course of baseball history.

My favorite example of this historical problem goes back to the 1948 American League pennant race in which the Indians, Red Sox, and the Yankees were all chasing each other to the wire for the pennant. The Indians and Red Sox ended up in a dead heat for first place and were then assigned to play a one-game playoff for the AL pennant in Boston for the pennant.. The Indians won the playoff and then went forth to take the Boston Braves in the 1948 World Series for their last MLB experience finishing the season as the last MLB of that year to walk off the field on the last day as a winner.

Red Sox Nation was crushed, of course. Many of them could not help thinking back to an earlier game in the summer at Fenway in which a dubious umpire call effectively handed the game to Cleveland. Had the Red Sox been able to win that June 8th game with Cleveland, there would have been no playoff. The Red Sox would have won the 1948 pennant – and who knows where that altered history might have taken the lore process of the game over the years to come?

On June 8, 1948, Cleveland @ Boston pitted two rookie sensations, Gene Bearden of the Indians and Mel Parnell of the Red Sox squaring off against each other. Scoreless through three innings, playing manager-shortstop Lou Boudreau came to bat in the top of the fourth with Allie Clark on base. On page 17 of “The Season of ’49”, David Halberstam does a great job of describing next what then unfolded:

“With one man on, Lou Boudreau hit a sharp line drive toward the right-field line. In the eyes of almost everyone there the ball hooked foul and into the stands long before it reached the foul pole. A fan who was sitting in foul territory caught the ball and held it up. But in Fenway the stands along the baseline jut out, and Charlie Berry, the umpire covering the play, ran out and somehow called it fair, a two-run home run.”

Boston pitcher Parnell lead his case  that the ball was foul with umpire Berry. – “I made my call and it’s a home rune and that’s that,” Berry yelled back in response. Parnell then took his plea to home plate umpire Ed Hurley. “It’s not my call,” said Berry, as he walked away. “Get out of here and pitch,” Berry yelled at Parnell and the game finally resumed amid a torrent of boos, but no further argument.

There was no further score in the game. Cleveland won, 2-0. Maybe they would have won anyway, but that logical possibility quickly fell victim to the far more rambling thoughts of Red Sox fans as to “what might have been”.

Was the Boudreau ball really an obvious foul – or was that perception simply the biased Boston point of view? Who knows? We just know that today’s technology could have saved everyone, including the umpires, from the kind of notoriety that sort of play produces – and it underscores how one significantly dubious or wrong field decision has the power to alter the history of the game.

The Pecan Park Eagle is strongly behind the use of technology in baseball officiating. We don’t mind the extra time it takes to get calls right. We do mind the extra time a player calls for time to either scratch or clear a wedgy.


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Astros Face Potential “Catch 22” in Final Games

September 3, 2015



22 of the last 25 games of the Houston Astros’ 2015 season are all against AL West division opponents. Unfortunately there is a potential for these last 25 games to blossom into an unwanted “Catch 22” if the club is so emotionally spent and exhausted by the time they conclude their final series at home against the Rangers that they virtually “forget” that their real season’s end does not conclude until they fly from Houston after a Sunday day game against their biggest rival, Texas, to play a 3-game series in Seattle against the Mariners – and then got Arizona to close all the windows against the NL West Diamondbacks.


1 MON 9/07/15 OAK
2 TUE 9/08/15 OAK
3 WED 9/09/15 OAK
NO GAME THU 9/10/15
4 FRI 9/11/15 LAA
5 SAT 9/12/15 LAA
6 SUN 9/13/15 LAA
7 MON 9/14/15 TEX
8 TUE 9/15/15 TEX
9 WED 9/16/15 TEX
10 THU 9/17/15 TEX
11 FRI 9/18/15 OAK
12 SAT 9/19/15 OAK
13 SUN 9/20/15 OAK
14 MON 9/21/15 LAA
15 TUE 9/22/15 LAA
16 WED 9/23/15 LAA
NO GAME THU 9/24/15
17 FRI 9/25/15 TEX
18 SAT 9/26/15 TEX
19 SUN 9/27/15 TEX
20 MON 9/28/15 SEA
21 TUE 9/29/15 SEA
22 WED 9/30/15 SEA
NO GAME THU 10/01/15
23 FRI 10/02/15 ARZ
24 SAT 10/03/15 ARZ
25 SUN 10/04/15 ARZ


This featured chart on the last 25 opponent games of the 2015 Houston Astros is simply a model of something I’ve been doing on pennant races since I was kid fan of the old Houston Buffs. For whatever reason, it’s always been easier for me to get a better big picture perspective on the linear time challenge to my club as it moves down the stretch from this kind of display.

It was true for me with the Buffs. It is true for me with the Astros now. And this one could evolve or devolve – and be everything from a down to the wire melodrama to a sudden surge by one of the three contenders into a runaway that leaves the other two contending clubs in the dust.

For now, Thursday, September 3, 2015, the Astros remain in first place, now only 2 games ahead of the Rangers, but still appearing good enough to take the division race, but the feeling persists that the Rangers are a team of both the talent and the momentum that could allow them to blow their way by the Astros in their final 7 head-to-head games, especially with the first four starting as a series in Arlington. The Angels appear to be hanging in there by the thread of their powerful twins, Trout and Pujols, but they seem lacking in the kind of pitching and team cohesion needed that has not been their hallmark this season. They still have enough expensive raw talent to hit a hot streak and get back into the race.

The Astros begin this “Catch 22 potential” phase of season’s end with a 10-game road trip to three cities that concludes with 7 games at the home parks of their two biggest foes, the Angels and Rangers. The schedule-makers could not have planned the drama any better – at least, at this junction. – What happens at the very end is a potential nightmare for the Astros.

Then, the Astros come home for 9 games against those same three clubs, in the same dramatic order: first Oakland, then Los Angeles, and finally, Texas. So far, so good, but the potential trick to the schedule is at hand.

Putting it simply, it’s the fact that Texas is neither the last shoot out nor the first dance of sweet victory opportunity for the Astros. After the last Texas game, the Astros have to fly all the way to Seattle to start a three-game series against the same Mariners club that just took them 2 out of 3 in a rare series loss at home for for Houston. And that series starts on Monday, the very next day after the Rangers series in Houston. Meanwhile, the Rangers go home to Arlington after the Astros series to play lowly and uninspired Detroit the three games after a short flight back to North Texas and home cooking.

After Seattle, and the conclusion of their final 22 games against AL West foes, the Astros fly to Phoenix for a Thursday off before starting a 3-game, Friday thru Sunday, weekend series against the NL West Arizona Diamondbacks to end their season. During the same final games time frame, the Rangers will conclude their season at home with a 4-game, Thursday thru Sunday, against the other NL West contender, the Los Angeles Angels.

And there’s the big potential “catch 22” for the Astros. If all the three AL West contenders are fairly even by Thursday, October 1st, the Astros could be hurt by either a Rangers or Angels sweep of the other. The Astros must win this last 6-game road trip at a time they will really need to hope, one-day-at-a-time, that it can be by a sweep of both Seattle and Arizona.

Nobody ever said it was going to be easy.

Where’s Craig Biggio when we really need another dose of his “baseball’s a long season that you have to take one game at a time” speech?

If the Astros cannot heed the wisdom of their sole pure Houston Hall of Famer, the danger exists that they could become so focused on the last home series with Texas that they cannot avoid a letdown from emotional and physical exhaustion – and they could become vulnerable to going flat in Seattle and Phoenix – and losing everything they have worked for this year in a season-ending 6-game road trip of games against two out-of-the-running clubs.

Let’s hope and trust that Astros Manager A. J. Hinch is already on top of this potential Houston dead zone trap in this season’s schedule. We know that this sort of thing on any schedule is close to impossible to avoid, but we also have to wonder sometimes too: How much flying experience do these MLB schedule-makers have under their own belts? And how much do they appreciate how difficult flight plans play into a travel team’s preparedness for even-field competition with a rested home club?

My guess is, that these kinds of questions rarely come up – or if they do – that they are quickly dumped into the “everything evens out for all clubs in the long run” file.

Go Astros. And stay up and ready. One game at a time.


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Shoeless Joe Meets Clueless Rob

September 2, 2015
Shoeless Joe Jackson The man couldn't read, but his soul keeps writing.

Shoeless Joe Jackson
The man couldn’t read, but his soul keeps writing.

On March 30th and June 22nd of 2015, Arlene Marcley, President of the Shoe Joe Jackson Museum in Greenville, SC wrote letters to new Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, asking him to remove Jackson’s name from the list of players deemed ineligible for the Hall of Fame.

On July 20, 2015, Manfred answered the Museum’s request, refusing to take that action, citing  his agreement with the statement of former Commissioner Bart Giamatti several years ago that “The Jackson Case is now best given to historical analysis and debate as opposed to a present-day review with an eye to reinstatement.”

President Marcley now states on the museum’s Facebook page that they have no plans to pursue the matter further. The letter from Manfred is also posted at this same link:

Several questions arise, however from Commissioner Manfred’s choice for inaction-as-his-plan-for-action in the Jackson case:

1) Since all of the major figures in the nearly century old Jackson case are now dead, and the fact that it is highly improbable that further time passage is going to produce a new living witness or piece of evidence in this case, what’s wrong with 2015, right now, as enough time passage to reconsider the player’s status on the Hall of Fame ineligible list in our time?

2) In a separate matter, Commissioner Manfred is supposedly in line to review the very different set of facts in the relatively recent case of Pete Rose’s chances for removal from the HOF ineligible list. Well, it does occur – and must be stated: If enough time has not passed in the 90-year old case of Joe Jackson, isn’t it also way too early to reconsider the ban on Pete Rose for his gambling and testimonial dishonesty about things that happened only some thirty years ago?

3) Is Manfred’s decision in the Jackson case dismissal to “further historical analysis and debate” really sort of akin to that old wisdom saw in the blue collar labor force, from elders to newbies: “In your first day of work on a new job, try not to open a can of worms for lunch.”

4) In fairness, is Commissioner Manfred really as clueless as he appears to be about the obvious political decision he’s making to not get pulled into the quagmire of Joe Jackson and, regardless of his separate case, his forever entwined connection to the 1919 Black Sox Scandal?

Something tells me that we really haven’t heard the last of Shoeless Joe Jackson’s case during the administration of Rob Manfred as the Commissioner of Baseball.

As always, time will tell.





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