What Was Harry Craft’s 1962 Uniform Number?

December 13, 2017

“TURN AROUND,
HARRY,
TURN AROUND!”

 

Yesterday I was contacted by a former member of the 1962 Houston Colt .45s. Someone close to the late first manager of the 1962 Houston Colt .45s had contacted him for the number that the late Harry Craft had worn on the back of his uniform in that original first season as the first skipper.

Guess what. – Neither of them remembered or knew the answer. Guess again. – Neither did I. Guess a third time. – Neither did any of my valuable local research friends. – And keep going. – Neither Baseball-Reference.com nor Retrosheet had this information, although B-R had the player uniform numbers. Apparently the Colt .45s had so many transient players that some uniform numbers got recycled.

Bob Hulsey of Astros Daily poses an interesting theory – and he calls it what it really is – no more than a guess: “The lowest numbers were for managers and coaches and that, therefore, in theory, Craft was #1 with his coaches wearing #s 2-6. Player-coach Jim Busby wore #4 and the original catchers wore 7,8 and 9.

Rule out 15, 23, and 44 from Craft’s player days. These three numbers were all worn by Colt players Bob Lillis (15), Jim Pendleton (23), and Bob Tiefenauer (44).

Why is our record of managerial #s so poorly recorded, if at all? I must defer to more experienced research in this area, but these folks are not sitting here with me tonight. My guess is that it goes back to when teams started wearing uniform #s in the late 1920s and early 1930s. It was to help fans and reporters track players in the field – not managers in the dugout. Heck, some managers, mainly Connie Mack always wore a three-piece suit. He didn’t even wear a uniform. Player-managers, in fact, may have been the only team field bosses who were assigned #s for sure. I simply don’t know the rest — nor do I specifically know if managers Miller Huggins or Joe McCarthy of the great Ruthian Yankees ever had #s on their backs. I just think our poor record of managerial #s is tied to the first premise I stated above. – Numbers weren’t assigned to help track the movements of managers. Thus, there never has existed much attention to managerial numbers and their historical place in the scheme of numbered things.

The More General Problem. As anyone engaged in social research soon gets to discover: writers from the past are not really writing for history – and most of them are writing for daily newspapers. Our Early Houston Baseball SABR research team came to that discovery fairly quickly. Neither the original Travis Street Ballpark or the next venue that came to be known as West Side Park came into clear view for us immediately with addresses and directions. The local newspapers were writing for the people of their times. They wasted no ink telling where these places were situated. They assumed readers already knew where to go when a game was announced for either site.

Deja Vu Again. So, again in 1962, no one ever assumed that there was any need to document the numbers worn by Harry Craft and his coaches. If you really cared – as a family member, player, or fan – all you had to do was look at the back of his uniform jersey and remember a one or two digit number. – How hard could that be?

What Some of You May Be Able To Do to Recover, Document,  and Save Harry Craft’s 1962 Colt .45s uniform # – for family peace of mind and baseball history: If you have any 1962 Colt .45 scorecards that show his number printed on them – or if you have any photos of Harry Craft in a Colt .45 uniform that shows his number – or, if you just have an old newspaper or magazine article that reveals his Colt .45 # in words or pictures – please copy and send it to The Pecan Park Eagle in care of my e-mail address:

houston.buff37@gmail.com

With your permission, I will do a follow up column which reveals Harry’s elusive Houston # and gives full credit to you for the find.

Riding Off Into the Sunset. I’m betting it will show up on a photo somewhere. Darrell Pittman told me yesterday that he either had seen or heard of a photo of Craft in uniform, riding a donkey at Apache Junction in the spring of 1962 as a stunt. It apparently is a frontal view, he says, and I thought: “Too bad it wasn’t a photo of Craft riding off into the sunset of baseball history as manager of one of the first two expansion teams in NL history. – At least, we’d have Harry’s uniform number.”

At any rate, the challenge is now upon us. This one stays in open season until we solve it.

Addendum 1: In a challenge that proved the equivalent of a 15 second 1st Round Knock Out, the Harry Craft Mystery # has been resolved:

In 1962, Harry Craft wore #1 as manager of the Houston Colt .45s!

First KO Punch by Bill Hickman: “There’s a handy book called NOW BATTING NUMBER… (by Jack Looney) for answering questions like this. It lists all the uniform numbers for all the major league teams for each season running up through 2005. In 1962 for the Colts, Harry Craft’s uniform was #1. Bob Hulsey’s theory was spot on. The next five numbers were meted out to coaches. #2 was Jim Adair. #3 was Bobby Bragan. #4 was Jim Busby. #5 was Cot Deal. #6 was Lum Harris.”

Bill Hickman

Second KO Punch by David Munger: “The Baseball Almanac on line has him as #1 in ’62, ’63, and ’64.”

David Munger

From Baseball Almanac.com …

Houston Colt .45s ManagersManagers & Finishes
Year Uniform # Manager Wins Losses WP Finish GB
1962 1

Harry Craft

64 96 .400 8th 36½
1963 1 55 95 .407 9th 33
1964 1 61 88 .409 9th 27
6

Lum Harris

5 8 .385
Houston Colt .45s Managers & Finishes

Thanks from all of us, Bill Hickman and David Munger. I simply missed this data when I checked B-A.

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Addendum 2: Harry on a Mule, Not a Horse. Contributor Darrell Pittman sent us that photo of Harry Craft riding a mule out in Apache Junction, Arizona during spring training in 1962. Wonder what that animal would have done had Harry fired those Colt .45s into the western dessert skies on an otherwise quiet day?

“Mystery solved.
after short time fun!
Now everybody knows
I was Number One!”
~ Harry Craft

Addendum 3: Photographic Evidence from October 10, 1962, at the end of the very first Opening Day in Houston MLB franchise history, from the files of the Houston Chronicle and again, contributed separately by Darrell Pittman as the closer on this piece, if there is one.

As most of you know, the Colt .45s had just defeated the Chicago Cubs, 11-2, behind the pitching of Bobby Shantz and the 2 home run blasts by outfielder Roman Mejias. In the first whole version of the photo, that’s Harry Craft in the back row with the #1 clearly on his back as he congratulates an unidentified Colt .45 player. In the second close up crop we made, it’s a little easier and clearer.

Harry Craft Wearing # 1
Colt Stadium in Houston
April 10, 1962

 

Close Up of the Above Photo
April 10,1962

Of course, the photo does nothing to resolve the identities of those kids hanging over the dugout roof for a closer view of the celebration. A couple of them may be the younger versions of Tom Hunter or Mark Wernick.

As Joaquin Andujar once loved reminding us. – “You never know.”

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Great Lomax Astro Piece in Texas Monthly

December 12, 2017

A Terrific Article on the Astros 2017 Ascendance

Reading Texas Monthly these days is an interesting experience on many levels. The old hard print periodical still attracts some excellent writers with some interesting material, as evidenced by the current piece by John Nova Lomax that I went there to read anyway in the December 2017 edition, but the magazine management and layout team sure doesn’t make things easy to find.

If time is ever a factor for you, allow some clock-beats for roaming through pages of advertising before you ever stumble onto an index of content section on page 10, complete with obfuscative subject titles in fairly small type under a column entitled “Reporters” as a “Lead” article identified as “Over the Moon” (blah, blah, blah) by John Nova Lomax. Seeing the word “Astros” in the article’s blah, blah, blah content descriptor verbiage was your major cue. If a buddy had recommended the article to you, as was the case for me from my good friend Sam Quintero, you would have been keyed on searching for that item’s Astro identity clue from the git-go in the old magazine way.

And you would have found it on page 41, as finally noted.

Before I finally read the Lomax piece, which turns out to be a very well done article about how Houston finally overcame its growing cultural fear of the curse that always rises to choke hope and the fulfillment of great expectations on the field of athletic competition with others – the worm finally turned – and fought back hard – and it overcame – while defeating the three arguably most legendary franchises in baseball – the Red Sox – the Yankees – and the Dodgers – in a decisive clearing of the path for a brand new champion from Houston – and one dripping in the sweet orange sight and scent of Houston Strong.

“We are the champions! ~ We Are The Champions! ~ We Are the Champions – of The World!”

Read the article. “The Fall and Rise of the Houston Astros” by Jeff Salamon that follows the Lomax column on page 44 is worth the price of admission itself in its visual chart depiction of how the Astros owner Jim Crane supported and General Manager Jeff Luhnow executed plan unfolded over time as the elixer that spirited the turning of that worm on schedule and in time to transpose into the championship club that had been predicted, as planned, for the Astros in 2017. It did not unhinge. It just got stronger and happened. The Salamon chart is a superb visual on how that came to be.

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Some Notes on the Texas Monthly Style and Its Implications

We almost forgot that there are journal entities out there still trying to make money on the backs of writers and other creative people. Then we got our hands on the December 2017 issue of Texas Monthly. We didn’t see any date of obvious publication prior to our scented article search, but did we confirm it later when we took a closer look at the pricing bar code on the face of the magazine cover. Here’s a close up of the unobtrusive way in which Texas Monthly handles their responsibility for time stamping the issuance of a periodical that sells for $5.95 a copy:

We also noted on the cover some language that almost created the impression that the Texas Monthly had now shifted into gear as an advertising catalog that simply happened to include some narrative reporting and fictional material about as often as you find a gas station on I-10 West in southern New Mexico:

Had we been more attracted to a little round dab of red, we could have found our Astros article page number by simply taking a close look at what was there, but we didn’t. For us, we were moved as creatures of ancient habit to search for early, easy to find tables of content didn’t happen. What we encountered was the paper-format version of what we try like hell to avoid on the Internet with ad blocker apps. And the little red dot turned out to be a rare drift of floating useful information:

One more physical item. This one lacks a visual.

The cover is actually a two piece door. If you open them, left and right, what you get is another advertisement. This one is an invitation to San Antonio’s Tricentennial Celebration Party on New Year’s Eve.

None of us can be sure where this change is going for sure, but these attitudes are building sharply as a result of our cultural immersion into the digital social media era:

1) Writers are getting more opportunities to write today, but nobody wants to pay them for what they do. After all, today, everybody is a writer.

2) People today expect to get reading material for free.

3) Commercial rag mags are weighting their writers down with the expectation of the publication making most of their money from advertising sales. (i.e., Texas Monthly) The more the magazine goes up in cost, the more readers are driven to either not buy the magazine or simply wait for their chance to create their “free” copy of the article alone as they have learned to do with Internet material over the past twenty years. It’s a sad note, but it happens.

4) With the new technology, publishers are issuing more book releases, printing what sells, and only marketing what seems to have a chance at a commercial sales breakthrough into the blue.

5) It is what it is. Younger people today are challenged by how creatively they must show their talents to the world. As often happens, older people are having the greatest problem of adjustment.

6) Like all adjustments, even this one will work its way out. In time. But it will always remain in motion toward further change. It’s the nature of all living things.

 

 

**********************

Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

The Culture of Baseball Club Nicknames

December 10, 2017

The 1927 New York Yankees
“Murderers’ Row”
They weren’t all murderers’, but they had enough baseball-killing hitters to get the job done as advertised.

 

Like all living things, whether it shows in the moment or not, the culture of baseball nicknames is in a constant state of change.

For example, the 2005 National League Champion Houston Astros were known as “The Killer Bees” mainly, as we still know, for the bats of Bagwell, Biggio, and Berkman.

The 2017 World Series Champion Houston Astros, on the other hand, don’t have a catchy club nickname. – Have you noticed? And, if so, have you wondered, why not?

Can you think of any MLB club from any franchise since the 2005 Killer Bees that has enjoyed a lights out, everybody-knows-their-name metaphorical reference?

How about the 2016 Chicago Cubs? If the Wrigley Field gang didn’t deserve a shot at “The Redemption,” we are lost as to who did. The 2017 Houston Astros didn’t need the accolade, but they didn’t even get a whisper for “The Deliverance.” a title they most deserved above all others.

Please help jog my sometimes AWOL memory for what I may have forgotten.

Here’s a short list of the big team nicknames and identities for special clubs that occur to me from memory of 20th and 21st century winning teams. It’s brief and clear enough to summarize here in table form:

Major Modern Era Team Nicknames ….

(That Come to Memory. Who’s Missing?)

# YEAR CLUB METAPHOR IDENTITY REASON
1 1919 CHICAGO WHITE SOX CHICAGO BLACK SOX Fixed World Series
2 1927 NEW YORK YANKEES MURDERER’S ROW Ruth, Gehrig, etc.
3 1934 ST. LOUIS CARDINALS THE GAS HOUSE GANG Down & Dirty Style
4 1939 NEW YORK YANKEES THE BRONX BOMBERS DiMaggio & Co.
5 1950 PHILADELPHIA PHILS THE WHIZ KIDS A team of youth
6 1969 NEW YORK METS THE AMAZINS Compared to 1962
7 1975 CINCINNATI REDS THE BIG RED MACHINE Power in Red
8 1979 PITTSBURGH PIRATES WE ARE FAMILEE Team Closeness
9 2005 HOUSTON ASTROS KILLER BEES Bagwell, Biggio, etc.

We never presume or feel the need to be right about everything. You don’t learn anything from that affliction.

If you remember any other famous club nicknames from any baseball MLB-equivalent era – even from the 19th century, we would love to include them in an expanded list, if any such clubs surface and merit the inclusion. Just let me know and we will see how much support they get from others keeping up with us here too.

It’s still cool on this Sunday morning in Houston. So please join us in a little warm research fun.

********************

ADDENDUM

12/10/17: Six Hours Past Time of Original Publication

How The Famous Club Nickname List Now Looks …..

With a Little Help from Our Friends:

(All Added in Bold Type)

# YEAR CLUB METAPHOR IDENTITY REASON
1 1906 CHI WHITE SOX HITLESS WONDERS Poor Hitters
2 1914 BOSTON BRAVES MIRACLE BRAVES Last to 1st (late)
3 1919 CHICAGO WHITE SOX CHICAGO BLACK SOX Fixed World Series
4 1927 NEW YORK YANKEES MURDERER’S ROW Ruth, Gehrig, etc.
5 1934 SL CARDINALS THE GAS HOUSE GANG Down & Dirty Style
6 1939 NEW YORK YANKEES THE BRONX BOMBERS DiMaggio & Co.
7 1950 PHILADELPHIA PHILS THE WHIZ KIDS A team of youths
8 1959 CHI WHITE SOX THE GO-GO SOX Small Ball Kings
9 1969 NEW YORK METS THE AMAZINS Compared to 1962
10 1970s OAKLAND As THE SWINGIN’ As Fast Lane Fun
11 1975 CINCINNATI REDS THE BIG RED MACHINE POWER IN RED
12 1979 PGH PIRATES WE ARE FAMILEE Team Closeness
13 2004 BOSTON RED SOX THE IDIOTS An Attitude Thing
14 2005 HOUSTON ASTROS KILLER BEES Bagwell, Biggio, etc.

********************

New Submissions, Contributors, Their Reasoning:

#1) 1906 Hitless Wonders / Contributor Tom Hunter wrote: “The 1906 Chicago White Sox, dubbed the “Hitless Wonders” with a .230 team batting average for the season, beat the Chicago Cubs in six games to win the World Series batting only .198 in the series.”

#2) 1914 Miracle Braves / Contributor Mike Vance wrote: “The 1914 Miracle Braves because of their resurgence from the depths of the NL.”

#8) 1959 Go-Go Sox / Contributor Darrell Pittman wrote: “The 1959 Chicago White Sox were known as the ‘Go-Go Sox’.”

#10 1970sh Swingin’ As / Contributor David Munger wrote: “The Swinging As of the 70s because of their activities on and off the field.”

#13 2004 Idiots / Contributor Bill Hickman wrote: “The 2004 champion Red Sox were known as ‘The Idiots’ for their devil-may-care attitude.”

#15 Senators, #16 Daffiness Boys, #17 Bums, #18 The Impossible Dream Team / Contributor Cliff Blau wrote of these four additional examples later this same day:

“The Washington Nationals, 1905-1956, were often known as the Senators, due to playing in a capital city.

“The Brooklyn club of the 1920s were known as the Daffiness Boys, and later they were called The Bums.

“The 1967 Boston Red Sox are known as the Impossible Dream team.”

The contributions of our latest contributor, Cliff Blau, are now included in the second update from our original list, as follows:

2nd Team Nickname Update

# YEAR CLUB METAPHOR IDENTITY REASON
1 1905 WASHINGTON NATS SENATORS Politics, 1905-56
2 1906 CHI WHITE SOX HITLESS WONDERS Poor Hitters
3 1914 BOSTON BRAVES MIRACLE BRAVES Last to 1st (late)
4 1919 CHICAGO WHITE SOX CHICAGO BLACK SOX Fixed World Series
5 1927 NEW YORK YANKEES MURDERER’S ROW Ruth, Gehrig, etc.
6 1920s BRK DODGERS DAFFINESS BOYS 3-Men-on-3rd
7 1934 SL CARDINALS THE GAS HOUSE GANG Down & Dirty Style
8 1939 NEW YORK YANKEES THE BRONX BOMBERS DiMaggio & Co.
9 1939 BRK DODGERS BUMS Losers Galore
10 1950 PHILADELPHIA PHILS THE WHIZ KIDS A team of youths
11 1959 CHI WHITE SOX THE GO-GO SOX Small Ball Kings
12 1967 BOSTON RED SOX IMPOSSIBLE DREAM Ruth Curse Relief
13 1969 NEW YORK METS THE AMAZINS Compared to 1962
14 1970s OAKLAND As SWINGIN’ As Fast Lane Fun
15 1975 CINCINNATI REDS BIG RED MACHINE Power in Red
16 1979 PGH PIRATES WE ARE FAMILEE Team Closeness
17 2004 BOSTON RED SOX THE IDIOTS An Attitude Thing
18 2005 HOUSTON ASTROS KILLER BEES Bagwell, Biggio

It’s possible that “Hitless No-Wonders” might also have worked for the old AL Nationals by the time they shifted politically to “Senators” as their largely informal, but mistakenly considered by the faraway public as official nickname, but no one apparently thought of it.

No Wonder wins again.

Thanks, guys! And that’s exactly why I needed your help. Three of those names were instantly recognizable as Legends. The other two, the Idiots and Swingers, not so much. Any others that come in will be added as they arrive. If there are any up there that are not so well known to all, in time, we can always edit it down to only those that truly deserve legend shelf status.

********************

Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

James Madison Rallies By Weber State, 31-28

December 9, 2017

GO, DUKES, GO!

 

OK, It’s not baseball today, but bear with me. I got into the game on ESPN last evening and over night decided that the writing subject refresher was good for me. In addition, a good friend has a strong connection to James Madison University and I could not ignore the joy she must be feeling this Saturday morning.

The final score was 31-28. Please connect to the original publication site at ESPN for the full report on this FCS Quarterfinals playoff victory by the No. 1 ranked James Madison University Dukes (13-0-0) over the Weber State University Wildcats (11-3-0):

http://www.espn.com/ncf/recap/_/id/401002978

It’s departure from baseball all right, but yet another example of how that “never-give-up” attitude is so often the difference-maker when two clubs in any sport square off with a parity level of talent on either side of the athletic encounter.

The winner will be decided from there by the energy made available by the sporting god muses, a favorable control of the game’s momentum, pot luck, destiny, fate, fan support, and – the not so easy to see quality variable of which-adversary-wants-it-the-most. And that last kicker variable is most often never completely known until the game ends.

When the final bell rang last night, it was James Madison University that had the magic touch.

With a little over two minutes to go in the game, the JMU Dukes trailed the Weber State Wildcats by 28-20. It was the first time this season that James Madison had trailed anyone in the 4th Quarter. The gremlin of defeat and ruin to a perfect season and a denied repeat of their smaller college national championship seemed at hand.

But bad things were not to be for JMU.

With 2:08 on the clock, JMU receiver Riley Stapleton hauled in a 40 yard pass from quarterback Bryan Schor for a touchdown that narrowed the lead of Weber State to 28-26. The Dukes then worked a successful Trai Sharp run for the two-point conversion. Game now tied at 28-28.

The Dukes weren’t done. They moved the ball.

Then, with time left for one play. Dukes kicker Ethan Ratke  connected on a 46 yard field goal as time expired.

James Madison wins, 31-28. Their record goes to 13-0 . They advance in the playoffs. And their players, coaches, and fans go home happy. And their alumni throughout the land get to enjoy an even cheerier Friday.

Congratulations, Peggy Dorrill. You guys deserved it. And earned it. As for the sport product itself, it isn’t baseball, but it’s a whole lot more exciting than anything served up in recent times by the NFL.

Happy James Madison Univ. Alumna
Peggy Dorrill
December 9, 2017

“GOOD LUCK TO THE JAMES MADISON UNIVERSITY DUKES” the rest of the way!

Go get that championship!

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

 

Ernie Fazio Passed Away on December 1, 2017

December 7, 2017

Ernie Fazio
1942-2017
Rest in Peace

 

Ernie Fazio Passed Away on December 1, 2017

Obituary Link (Discovered by Darrell Pittman on 12/07/17):

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/eastbaytimes/obituary.aspx?n=ernie-fazio&pid=187451279

When we printed the survivor’s list from the 1962-64 period of the Houston Colt .45s yesterday, Ernie Fazio was one of the first names that came to mind, even before I found it on Darrell Pittman’s list. As the first, or one of the first signees in franchise history, Ernie truly was the size and persona of the guy that Jose Altuve turned out to be, but it just wasn’t meant to be on the field back in 1962. It had to happen 55 years later, almost like a curtain call for the original franchise Phantom of Houston Hope, little Ernie Fazio.

Back then he was here today, gone tomorrow. This year, in our small corner in the Kingdom of Astrosville, Ernie was here for a quick shout out as a survivor. Then we get the news the very next day that he’s gone. Been gone for almost a week. Sort of a sad reminder that sometimes life mirrors the storytelling arts too well.

This time, Ernie Fazio was sort of here yesterday – and now he’s gone for sure today.

But wait a minute! – Ernie stayed until December 1st – and that was exactly 30 days past the date his franchise infield descendant, little big man Jose Altuve, reached down and routinely handled a 4-3 out play that was all Houston needed to complete their safe landing as the World Series Champions of Baseball for the very first time.

Ernie Fazio didn’t leave too soon. He left after seeing the job finally getting done on the field. And in the way it was supposed to happen. With a little spiritual presence, from start to finish, 1962 to 2017, and maybe just helped along all these years by the spirit of one fired up California kid named Ernie Fazio. It was the same spirit that grew within the culture of Astros baseball like a giant wave of energy for finally becoming baseball’s very best. And we may have seen the first cells of that energy wave taking infield at shortstop for the Houston Colt .45s back in the spring of 1962.

His name was Ernie Fazio.

As you read Ernie’s Obituary, stay open to the clues it provides about the man who may have been the “Italian Leprechaun” – the deep in the shadows of history human talisman behind our survival from all the heart-breakers we’ve seen over the past 55 years to this permanent moment of perpetual bliss – no matter what’s next on the playing fields of baseball.

 Addendum Contribution: “Ernie Fazio’s Only Baseball Card”

Colleague and contributor Mark Wernick summed it up well when he e-mailed this little strip of advertising cardboard from 1962 to The Pecan Park Eagle on the day following this column’s publication on the almost mythical memories that some of us carry for early brief time Colt .45 original, Ernie Fazio. As Mark Wernick put it, this Pepsi ad was as close as Ernie Fazio ever came to having his own baseball card, but even then, Mark grade couldn’t help but upgrade the attribution just a tad. What Wernick wrote in his item-conveyance e-mail subject line was “Ernie Fazio’s only baseball card.” In the content section of the e-mail. there were no further words. Just the nearby attached Pepsi ad strip. Mark understood that no further explanation was needed here. Thank you for this important contribution to our all too brief Eddie Fazio article.

The Ernie Fazio Obituary

Ernie Fazio
Jan 25, 1942 – Dec. 1, 2017
Danville CA

Ernest Joseph Fazio, also known as “The Faz” passed away at the age of 75. Ernie battled dementia and Parkinson’s for several years and his loving family fought with him until the end. He is survived by his wife Kathleen of 34 years, daughter Amy (husband Nick Vella), stepsons Todd and Stephen Malone (wife Samara), and grandchildren Nicco and Alivia Vella and Aiden Malone.

Ernie was born and raised in San Leandro, CA, the son of Angelina and Ernie Fazio. He was known for his many athletic accomplishments and was inducted into the Saint Elizabeth High School Hall of Fame in 2014. After high school, Ernie received a scholarship to play baseball for Santa Clara University where he as All-American, All District, All Tournament and All CIBA. In 1962, immediately following the championship game of the NCAA World Series, Ernie was the first player to sign for Houston’s Major League Baseball team, the Colt .45s.

Ernie had a larger than life personality and dearly loved his family, friends, and community. He took much pride in raising his daughter and stepsons, coaching youth athletic teams and simply lived life to the fullest. There was never a dull moment when you were with The Faz.

A funeral service in memory of Ernie will be held on Friday, Dec. 15th at Saint Isidore Church in Danville at 10:30 am. A celebration of Ernie’s life will follow at Forli Ristorante in Alamo.

In lieu of flowers, a donation may be made to your favorite charity.

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Surviving Houston Colt .45s Down to Last 37

December 7, 2017

Colt Stadium
Houston, Texas
1962-1964
***************
Only Home of the Houston Colt .45s

 

Surviving Houston Colt .45s Down to Last 37

By

Darrell Pittman

Thanks to our caring, giving friend and colleague, Darrell Pittman of Astros Daily, The Pecan Park Eagle is both proud and humbled tonight to report that 38 players from our 1962-64 Houston MLB franchise days – and at a time in which the club played as the Colt .45s – have survived long enough to see the rising and setting of the sun on this day, Wednesday, December 6, 2017. At age 92, lefty Bobby Shantz, the guy that threw the first pitch in official franchise game history, also recording the first regular season club win in the process, is the oldest. 71 year old Larry Dierker, who broke into things as the starting pitcher for the Colt .45s on his 18th birthday in 1964, striking out Willie Mays as part of the work he did that day, is the youngest member of the club.

How fitting!  Thanks to this happy surprise gift from Professor Pittman, we may now all take the time here to soak in all these familiar and less familiar names of the guys who laid the foundation for our Houston monument of baseball achievement, one that wouldn’t see the penthouse finished and lighting up until 2017, with our deepest reflections of thanks and appreciation.

And that’s what the comment section is really intended for in this instance.

Thanks to you too, Darrell Pittman. And thank you, Houston Colt .45s, for making the older edges of being a lifelong fan a little easier on the slide into our elder years a whole lot smoother – and one that comes with an unforgettable supply of smiles and happy memories.

~ Bill McCurdy, Publisher, The Pecan Park Eagle

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Surviving Members of the Original Houston Colt .45s

By Darrell Pittman

Rank by Age Player Houston Years Birth date Age in 2017
1 Bobby Shantz 1962 9/26/1925 92
2 Don Larsen 1964-65 8/7/1929 88
3 Bob Lillis 1962-67 6/2/1930 87
4 Román Mejias 1962 8/9/1930 87
5 Dean Stone 1962 9/1/1930 87
6 Hal Smith 1962-63 12/7/1930 87
7 Don Taussig 1962 2/19/1932 85
8 Eddie Kasko 1964-65 6/27/1932 85
9 Carroll Hardy 1963-64 5/18/1933 84
10 Dave Roberts 1962, 1964 6/30/1933 84
11 Al Spangler 1962-65 7/8/1933 84
12 Jim Owens 1964-67 1/16/1934 83
13 Joey Amalfitano 1962 1/23/1934 83
14 J C Hartman 1962-63 4/15/1934 83
15 Don Bradey 1964 10/4/1934 83
16 Jim Golden 1962-63 3/20/1936 81
17 Joe Gaines 1964-66 11/22/1936 81
18 Carl Warwick 1962-63 2/27/1937 80
19 Claude Raymond 1964-67 5/7/1937 80
20 Jim Campbell 1962-63 6/24/1937 80
21 Jim Dickson 1963 4/20/1938 79
22 Bob Aspromonte 1962-68 6/19/1938 79
23 Mike White 1963-65 12/18/1938 79
24 Dave Giusti 1962, 1964-68 11/27/1939 78
Ernie Fazio * 1962-63
25 Jim Wynn 1963-73 3/12/1942 75
26 Danny Coombs 1963-69 3/23/1942 75
27 Conrad Cardinal 1963 3/30/1942 75
28 Aaron Pointer 1963, 1966-67 4/19/1942 75
29 Jerry Grote 1963-64 10/6/1942 75
30 Larry Yellen 1963-64 1/4/1943 74
31 Joe Morgan 1963-71, 1980 9/19/1943 74
32 Brock Davis 1963-64, 1966 10/19/1943 74
33 Rusty Staub 1963-68 4/1/1944 73
34 Sonny Jackson 1963-67 7/9/1944 73
35 John Paciorek 1963 2/11/1945 72
36 Steve Hertz 1964 2/26/1945 72
37 Larry Dierker 1964-76 9/22/1946 71

 

* Note: Players for the Houston Club when it was known as the Colt .45s were on the roster at some time during the three original National League entry seasons of 1962, 1963, or 1964. Players in the table which are shown with Houston beyond 1964 are simply those who continued with the club after their named changed to “Astros” in 1965. Pure “Astro” players who only joined the club after the name change are not included in this list.

* Fazio Note: After publishing this column yesterday, 12/06/17, we have learned today, again, via Darrell Pittman, that Ernie Fazio passed away on 12/01/17 from complications resulting from Dementia and Parkinson’s Disease. The fact of his death at this moment has even yet to reach Baseball Reference.com. Here’s a link to the obituary that Mr. Darrell Pittman once again has supplied to us:

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/eastbaytimes/obituary.aspx?n=ernie-fazio&pid=187451279

We also plan to run the Fazio obituary as a separate reprint column in The Pecan Park Eagle jsut as soo as I can get to it.

Rest in Peace, Ernie Fazio!

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

You Can’t Go Winning in a Baseball Pool

December 6, 2017

a real baseball pool

 

Baseball Pool. – C&W singer and song composer Roger Miller made the phrase famous when he once upon a time (when we were young) sang to all of us young pups of the early 1960s to remember that “you can’t go swimming in a baseball pool.” After the National League player draft of 1961, we fans of the new Colt .45s and Mets got to find out in 1962 – also – that “you can’t go winning in a baseball pool” either. Makes you wonder how we might have matched up against a team of roller-skating buffaloes had they been on the schedule back in 1962?

News received yesterday of short term original baseball pool draftee Dick Gernert’s recent death stirred questions in my own mind overnight about the survivorship of all the Houston Colt .45s who were picked up from the October 10, 1961 baseball pool of talent made available to the two newbie clubs by the eight established NL teams.

Here’s the research result in tabular form, based upon what could be gleamed from Wikipedia and Baseball Reference.com in quick time:

The Houston Colt .45 Selections in the October 10, 1961 NL Baseball Pool

PICK # PLAYERS/BY VALUE POS. FROM HOU TIME DEAD/ALIVE
$75,000 EACH BELOW
1 EDDIE BRESSOUD IF SFG 0 (FN1) AGE 85
3 BOB ASPROMONTE IF LAD 1962-68 AGE 79
5 BOB LILLIS IF SLC 1962-67 AGE 87
7 DICK DROTT P CC 1962-63 DIED: 08/16/85
9 AL HEIST OF CC 1962 DIED: 10/02/06
11 ROMAN MEJIAS OF PGH 1962 AGE 87
13 GEORGE WILLIAMS IF PHI 1962 DIED: 05/14/09
15 JESSE HICKMAN P PHI 0 (FN 2) AGE 78
17 MERRITT RANEW C MIL 1962 DIED: 10/18/11
19 DON TAUSSIG OF SLC 1962 AGE 85
21 BOBBY SHANTZ P PGH 1962 AGE 92
23 NORM LARKER 1B LAD 1962 DIED: 03/12/07
25 SAM JONES P SFG 0 (FN 3) DIED: 11/05/71
27 PAUL ROOF P MIL 0 Age 75
29 KEN JOHNSON P CIN 1962-65 DIED: 11/21/15
31 DICK GERNERT 1B CIN 1962 DIED: 11/30/17
$50,000 EACH BELOW
33 ED OLIVARES IF SLC 0 AGE 79
35 JIM UMBRICHT P PGH 1962-63 DIED: 04/08/64
37 JIM GOLDEN P LAD 1962-63 AGE 81
$125,000 EACH BELOW
38 JOE AMALFITANO IF SFG 1962 AGE 83
40 TURK FARRELL P LAD 1962-67 DIED: 06/10/77
42 HAL SMITH C PGH 1962-63 AGE 87
44 AL SPANGLER OF MIL 1962-64 AGE 84

FN1: 11/26/1961. Eddie Bressoud traded to Red Sox for SS Don Buddin.

FN2: 06/04/65. Never played for Houston, but the club controlled his contract until he was traded to Kansas City with a “player to be named later” on this much later date for Jim Gentile.

FN3: 12/01/61. Traded to Detroit for Bob Bruce and Manny Montejo

General Findings:

1) Of the 23 players selected by Houston, 14 are still living and 9 are dead.

2) 18 of the draftees actually played some time for Houston; 5 did not.

3) Bob Aspromonte’s 7 Houston seasons (1962-68) is the longest tenure period for all baseball pool roster players.

Note: No attempt was made here to track the record or survivorship of players acquired in subsequent trades for any of the draftees.

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The Darrell Pittman Contribution Here. It’s happened again. Working on his own, friend and colleague Darrell Pittman was also moved by the death of Dick Gernert to come up with a quick count tally on how many former Houston Colt .45s/Astros players were lost to death in 2017. Thanks for the timely contribution to a subject that’s always with us, Darrell. Your own chart will stand here as our sign out salute to the big scoreboard that never takes a break:

Houston MLB Franchise Deaths for 2017

“It’s been a rough year, and it’s not over.” – Darrell Pittman

Name Birth Death Seasons Played for Houston Player page
Bob Bruce 5/16/1933 3/15/2017 1962-66 http://astrosdaily.com/players/Bruce_Bob.html
Bob Cerv 5/5/1925 4/6/2017 1962 http://astrosdaily.com/players/Cerv_Bob.html
Anthony Young 1/19/1966 6/27/2017 1996 http://astrosdaily.com/players/Young_Anthony.html
Lee May 3/24/1943 7/29/2017 1972-74 http://astrosdaily.com/players/May_Lee.html
Danny Walton 7/14/1947 8/9/2017 1977 http://astrosdaily.com/players/Walton_Danny.html
Jim Landis 3/9/1934 10/7/2017 1967 http://astrosdaily.com/players/Landis_Jim.html
Ross Powell 1/24/1968 10/25/2017 1994-95 http://astrosdaily.com/players/Powell_Ross.html
Dick Gernert 9/28/1928 11/30/2017 1962 http://astrosdaily.com/players/Gernert_Dick.html

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Colts Expansion Draftee Gernert Dies at 89

December 6, 2017

Dick Gernert
Born: September 28, 1928
Died: November 30, 2017

 

Sad news tonight. Another of the few surviving players from the original 1961 player draft has passed away. First baseman-outfielder  Dick Gernert is dead at age 89.

Thanks to reader, colleague, and frequent Eagle contributor Paul Rogers, former Dean of the SMU Law School, baseball author, and a SABR activist in all things baseball in North Texas, here’s a link to the Gernert obituary:

http://www.readingeagle.com/sports/article/dick-gernert-89-passes-away-had-long-career-in-baseball

Paul, we can’t thank you enough for your early advisory in this matter.

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Dick Gernert (BR/TR) played eight seasons (1952-59) for the Boston Red Sox as a 6’3″ firat baseman-outfielder and then finished his 11-total MLB years with short stints for the Chicago Cubs, Detroit Tigers, Cincinnati Reds, and Houston Colt .45s (1960-1962).

Gernert’s Houston Connection

October 10, 1961: Dick Gernert was drafted by the Houston Colt .45s from the Cincinnati Reds as the 31st pick in the 1961 expansion draft. He played in only 10 games for a 5-for-24 all-singles .208 batting average that resulted in only on run scored and one RBI.

May 19, 1962: Dick Gernert received his unconditional release as an active player by the Houston Astros. At age 33, his active MLB player career was ended, but a long history on the developmental side of baseball for Gernert was just beginning.

Rest in Peace, Dick Gernert, and thank you for your service to the original foundation building for this now 2017 World Series Championship club. There aren’t many of us out here who ever kicked in as much as five singles, a run, and a single RBI to the early cause, but you did. And we thank you for it.

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Once Upon a Grainy, Line-Screen Time

December 5, 2017

A 10″ B&W Table Model (1950)
Dead Ringer for our 1st Motorola
Five Knob Controls:
Left: ON/Off; Volume
Middle: vertical horizontal, and picture balance controls
Right: Channel Changer Knob
Since only had Channel 2 in 1950, the Channel Changer was pointless.

 

To receive early TV pictures from the broadcast tower, you had to have a roof antenna like this one or a simple set of “rabbit ear” receivers wired to your TV on the inside of the house.

 

And, hey! If your TV didn’t work, you didn’t throw it out. You took it to a place like Art’s TV to get it fixed.

 

On March 10, 2010, I wrote an article for the Pecan Park Eagle on the difficulties of watching televised baseball in the early days. Here’s the link:

https://bill37mccurdy.com/2010/03/10/early-televised-baseball-in-houston/

 

One of the two camera angle shots we had of TV baseball from Buff Stadium in 1953. – Complements of Contributor Tom Murrah.

 

The viewer problem, of course, was only complicated by the size and poor quality of the back and white analog system picture screen that made home telesion finally possible all over in America during the years that followed World War II.

“As the photo in this story’s visual aide shows, the early telecasts used a camera on the first base side to show the mostly right-handed batters from a facial side shot. We also got to see the numbers on the backs of left-handed batters. In Houston, at least, there was no corresponding angle camera on the third base side to cover lefties. A second camera, however, was usually positioned behind home plate, and behind the screen, to show the ball coming in to the batter and, when hit, going out to the fielders. On those early ten inch diameter screens, the view also compared favorably to watching baseball as it might be played out on an ant farm. You saw this fuzzy little round object move in, move out, and then disappear into the far dominions of a poorly lighted minor league field.” – Bill McCurdy, original 2010 article.

What strikes us today, both literally and figuratively, is how much the picture has changed on the live attendance versus home watching on TV experiences:

1) Prior to the technological picture quality breakthroughs that now make big screen, high-definition, direct light, digital quality moving pictures available at home, the directorial artistry of tv baseball producers have combined multiple camera angles, replay, and slo-mo tech to make home viewing of the game superior in a multi-faceted, accurate way that still cannot be duplicated at the park with all the gazillion dollar giant screens they’ve put in place at ballparks – just for the sake of remaining competitive with the experience a fan may be having with the game at home.

Whoa! Item #1 was a mouthful – as it was intended to be.

2) At the ballpark, they shout words at me in tones too baritone-muffled and loud for me to hear, whereas, at home, I can always use closed caption to hear anything I feel I really need to hear in real time. And that’s rare. Give me an uncluttered, unblocked view of the field and I will most often just know what’s going on. Put me in the stands, at age 80 by next season, and I won’t see any big plays in real time. The fans in front of me will have risen in front of me – and my up-and-down days at the ballpark are done. I’ve learned to just wait for the sound reaction that follows my neighbors’ sudden ass-cendance from their seats. When it’s something good for the Astros, they cheer. When it’s not, they either groan – or slope into silence.

3) The failure of true stadium seating at ballparks – and the absence of walking aisle space down the seating rows – are the two major architectural reasons why most contemporary MLB parks, including Minute Maid Park, will not be able to make fans more comfortable with the fact that many of us will never be able to actually watch a big game live as they will be able to see it at home. The movie theater industry, on the other hand, has responded much more effectively to the similar threat they now experience with competition from home TV and Netflix. Many big scale multi-cinemas have installed true stadium seating, with plenty of aisle space and no heads blocking your seated view, as they still do at MMP.

4) In all the times I ate my evening meal at home during the early innings of my big screen Astro games in 2017, not once was I ever asked to stand up and allow a stranger to pass by me on their way to wherever they were going.

5) We’ve come a long way since the days of the grainy and lined 10″ TV screen and two-camera telecast production.

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

Old Stadiums and Egos: Both Are Tough Nuts

December 4, 2017

The Pontiac Silverdome
The roof already was down, but the walls would not fall.

 

Not a Mere Gold Line Stand. In Pontiac, Michigan over the weekend, they made an attempt  to implode the old home of the NFL Detroit Lions, The Pontiac Silverdome, but little happened. A series of powerful explosions went off as planned, but, when they had finished, the old stadium just stood there, not even teetering. Maybe they mistakenly used explosives when they intended to use “implosives”, but, whatever, we have a hunch that a Lions fan named “Tom Corey” posted the best possible explanation from his experience as a Lions fan in recent years in social media. “Even the stadium is afraid to cross the goal line.”

And maybe Corey’s words can hang in the air in Houston as a comfort to Texans fans in the event that some vandal terrorist decides to try and blow up a perfectly beautiful NRG Stadium. The attempt would most likely be either fumbled away or intercepted before it even got close to the end zone.

 

New Texas A&M Football Coach Jimbo Fisher
Changes for 2018:
Jersey Color: About the Same
Jersey Lettering: Now says A&M
Money Color: Much Greener

 

Can $75 million dollars buy the major championship in your sport of interest? It can if you are club owner Jim Crane and the thousands of fans who can still afford to see live games at Minute Maid Park in Houston to watch the MLB Astros because Jose Altuve and friends already have delivered on that championship in 2017 with good chances of repeating, at least once, either this year or sometime soon. It doesn’t look quite so “easy” for Jimbo Fisher, who just signed a 10-year guaranteed $76 million dollar salary to win at least one national championship at the highest rung of college football as Head Coach of Texas A&M.

The Fisher hiring doesn’t look so good. It was fueled by the compulsive decision to get rid of the former coach, Kevin Sumlin, and to replace him with a coach that matched the value and decor of their still new A&M gazillion dollar renovation of Kyle Field. As the disappointing 2017 wore down, the panic level increased and the availability of candidates that could offer a national championship from their resumes for credibility sake had boiled down to one man, Jimbo Fisher of the Florida State Seminoles.

Compulsion kicked in full blast. And remember, compulsion occurs in all of us when we begin to behave as though we really have no other choice. When that compulsion falls over the minds of a relatively few rich and powerful men who are used to buying their way to just about everything else they want in life, the door swings wide open for a vast expenditure of money being paid out that emotionally may even feel as though the national championship is in tow and only now awaiting a certain due date.

All we have to do is sign Jimbo Fisher.

And that’s the bunk.

Jimbo Fisher is no guarantee of a national college football title. He’s Jimbo Fisher, a guy who won the national title once at FSU in 2013, but under very different circumstances of recruiting and support. FSU was a pressure job too, but Fisher wasn’t getting this kind of money as the advance payment on winning a national title “or else”.

Right now you couldn’t even get good probability odds on A&M’s chances of winning anytime soon. Their new coach needs time for building relations with the kinds of Texas high school coaches he will need to access the very best uncommitted athletes across the state, staff building, current player and recruiting needs assessment, making the Aggie good old boys looking over his shoulders happy, while trying to build some kind of connection to the more everyday Aggie fans and students.

Ease up, Aggies. Give Jimbo Fisher a chance to get his feet firmly down on this good old Texas earth before you start pre-ordering his College Station statue.

Meanwhile, departing Coach Kevin Sumlin gets to walk away with the $10.5 million dollars that Texas A&M has paid him “not” to coach the last two 2018-19 seasons of his contract. He just walks away. To only do what he pleases. No news stories to read about alumni that hate your guts. And no press conferences with cub reporters hoping to rile you with questions like, “Coach Sumlin, would you care to comment on why the Aggies do so well against Louisiana-Monroe, but can’t seem to ever beat LSU?”

Which deal would you rather have? The one that goes with Jimbo Fisher’s $75 mil? Or the untethering deal that went to Kevin Sumlin for $10.5 mil?

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle