It Makes a Fellow Proud to be An Astro

November 16, 2018

“Ball Four” by Jim Bouton (1970)

At this week’s November 2018 meeting of the Larry Dierker SABR Chapter, Maxwell Kates did a fine presentation of his new book on MLB expansion and sharing credit with those who helped. Then he followed that nice accomplishment with a stimulating Q&A session with a panel of two former players from the Colt .45 days (Bob Aspromonte and Larry Dierker), plus, the most significant executive in the club’s long history, former GM and President Tal Smith. Slugger Jimmy Wynn was supposed to be there too, but a little DL time came up and yours truly was asked to sit in for him. ~ Well, I don’t have any trouble filling any chair these days on a literal basis, but my Pecan Park Eagle sandlot background was never any match for what Jimmy Wynn and the other guys named figuratively brought to the presence we needed here. I still, nevertheless. most humbly enjoyed knowing that I even had been asked on a fill-in basis. It was a lot of fun

The subject of Jim Bouton’s “Ball Four” book came up for its reference to the parody song that had been written about the spirit of the old 1969 club. It was called “It Makes a Fellow Proud to be an Astro” ~ and, as Larry Dierker explained, it was actually a parody of an original parody written by the genius talent of those days, a fellow named Tom Lehrer, who also was a math professor at MIT around the same time he was scorching everything sacred in western culture with his acerbic wit and talent for poetic symmetry. ~ What Lehrer did in many other areas ~ and with his original piece in this instance, “It Makes a Fellow Proud to be a Soldier,” left the “Astro version” seem tamer by comparison.

Here’s a link to how the original Lehrer piece sounded ~ in case you need to know the flow of the melody before you read the words to the Astros version ~ which follows thereafter. Can’t really verify who actually wrote the Astro version, but you may want ask Jim Bouton if he’s ever in town and you run into him at an Astros game.

There’s really nothing terrible about the Astro version. In fact, it’s quite creative in its own right. It just happens to contain (presumably) the one four-letter word that turns into four consecutive asterisks (****) faster than any other in the English language, but I don’t really know that because ~ I’ve never seen the Astro version in writing prior until now ~ nor have I ever it heard it explicated in any sung version.

If you are excessively prudish ~ or too young ~ or too old ~ it might be better, if you just didn’t pursue it any further. ~ There are other days and tamer subjects awaiting us all.

The rest of you ~ still living folks ~ filled with a sense of humor and some awareness of the characters referenced in the song ~ please just let go and dive right in. ~ Those close to the action cherished of all among you already understand the difference between a Buddy Hancken cranking ~ and a Big Mama spanking!

Just Let it be 1969 again ~ when the Astrodome was still a baby ~ as were all our hopes for that first Houston Astros World Series Championship. ~ Back then ~ Astros catcher Johnny Edwards might even have been able to break into a parody chorus from one of his name-cousin’s ~ singer Tommy Edwards’ ~ biggest hits:

“Many a beer has to fall ~ but it’s all ~ in the game,

All in that wonderful game ~ that we PLAY ~ with glove!”

OK, as promised ~ first ~ the Tom Lehrer Proud-To-Be-a-Soldier Version Link:


And finally ~ the written Astros version: 

It Makes a Fellow Proud to be An Astro

Now, the Astros are a team that likes to go out on the town,
We like to drink and fight and **** till curfew comes around
Then it’s time to make the trek,
We better be back to buddy’s check,
It makes a fellow proud to be an Astro.

Now, Edwards is our catcher and he’s really No. 1,
Dave Bristol said he drinks too much and calls some long home runs,
But we think John will be all right,
If we keep him in his room at night,
It makes a fellow proud to be an Astro.

Now, our pitching staff’s composed of guys who think they’re ‘pretty cool,’
With a case of Scotch, a greenie and an old beat-up whirlpool,
We’ll make the other hitters laugh,
Then calmly break their bats in half,
It makes a fellow proud to be an Astro.

Now, Harry Walker is the one that manages this crew,
He doesn’t like it when we drink and fight and smoke and screw,
But when we win our game each day,
Then what the **** can Harry say?
It makes a fellow proud to be an Astro.


Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle


November 15, 2018


By Maxwell Kates


Maxwell Kates, Baseball Researcher and Writer

Some of you may remember a column in Baseball Digest by famed Chicago sportswriter John Carmichael entitled “My Greatest Day in Baseball.” Well today I’m going to write about “My Greatest Day in SABR.” I joined in 2001 and without a doubt, my greatest day was November 12, 2018. That was the day I was invited by the Larry Dierker Chapter to speak at a meeting at the Spaghetti Western Italian Cafe in Houston. We did a book launch of Time for Expansion Baseball, the SABR book I co-edited with Bill Nowlin. As part of the festivities, we also hosted a Colt .45s panel. Several readers of the Pecan Park Eagle were in attendance. For those of you who did not attend, I will now attempt to recreate the evening’s events to the best of my abilities.


Time for Expansion Baseball

The cover image focuses on three illustrations. The first depicts Expos pitcher Bill Stoneman with Montreal mayor Jean Drapeau. Directly below it is an image of Kansas City Royals’ owner Ewing Kauffman watching a baseball game with his wife Muriel and fellow Missouri icon Stan Musial. Finally we see a photograph of Harry Craft, Bobby Shantz, Dick Farrell, Bob Aspromonte and their teammates on the 1962 Houston Colt .45s about to board an airplane in their cowboy uniforms. On the surface, the design is meant represent the symbiotic relationship between players, owners, and politicians as the driving forces behind expansion teams.

The collection of images also represents, to borrow the title of a Bill Brown book, “my baseball journey.” I grew up in Ottawa with the Montreal Expos and later, the Ottawa Lynx as their AAA club. Who could forget the sight of Georgia boy Tom Foley attempt to ice skate on the Rideau Canal as part of the Expos’ winter caravan? The Expos were my introduction to baseball. Meanwhile, Muriel Kauffman (nee McBrien) was born in Toronto into a prominent political family. The Toronto Transit Commission is located in the McBrien Building. Named after Muriel’s uncle, the building is situated across the street from my house. Toronto was my introduction to SABR. As for the third image, the project was completed with the assistance of 21 men and women from Houston. This included representatives of SABR, the Pecan Park Eagle, Tal Smith Enterprises, and the Astros. More on that later.

Brownie Has His Baseball Journey and I Had Mine.


We were fortunate to have three Colt .45s players and one executive volunteer to appear as part of an expansion panel. When one of the players was unable to attend, a notable fan and historian was able to pinch-hit admirably. Please allow me to introduce the five members of the panel:


Bob Aspromonte
On April 10, 1962, among his several firsts, he scored the first run in franchise history as the Houston Colt .45s defeated the Chicago Cubs, 11-2, in their NL debut.

Born in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York, this first panelist broke in with the Dodgers in 1956 when he was only 18 years old. Drafted by the Houston Colt .45s in 1962, he became a fan favourite at 3rd base, setting a franchise record with 6 grand slams between 1962 and 1968. He retired in 1971 having returned to his hometown with the New York Mets. He was the Urban Cowboy while John Travolta was still in the third grade. Please welcome, number 14, Bob Aspromonte!

Hey Bob – He’s Wearing Your Uniform! (At least, your number.)
Yes, that’s right! That’s Gil Hodges wearing # 14 for the Mets.

We now travel to the opposite end of the country, to Hollywood, California. That’s where our next panelist is from. While still a teenager, he was signed to an amateur contract by the Houston Colt .45s. How would history have changed if he did not sign with Houston? He never would have struck out Willie Mays on his 18th birthday. He never would have pitched a no-hitter on Foamer Night. And most importantly, he never would have had a SABR chapter named after him. Please welcome, number 49, Larry Dierker!

Larry Dierker, who would later manage the Astros to 4 playoff runs in his 5 seasons as manager (1997-2001). Why not? This was the same guy that struck out Willie Mays in his 18th birthday MLB pitching debut.

Our next panelist comes from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. A graduate of Duke University, he entered the baseball world with the Cincinnati Reds. In 1960, he joined his mentor, Gabe Paul, to establish the new team in Houston. Except for two years in the mid 1970s, when he went to work for the Yankees, he’s been in Houston ever since. He actually built the team twice, the second as a general manager in 1975 when he didn’t even have an owner to speak of. Within five years, the Astros were within one game of a trip to the World Series. He was Major League Executive of the Year in 1980. Please welcome Tal Smith!

Houston GM Tal Smith with Manager Bill Virdon. Both were soft spoken gentlemen whose pursuits of excellence were relentless.

Our final panelist was born in Beeville, Texas. He grew up on the east side of Houston where he played sandlot baseball for the Pecan Park Eagles. A graduate of Tulane University, he has written two baseball biographies, one for Jerry Witte and the other for Jimmy Wynn. On August 25, 2018, he celebrated his surprise retirement party here at the Spaghetti Western. Among his gifts, the club used by his great grandfather, Liam McCurdy, in Ireland to slaughter the mythical sea serpent. Please welcome Bill McCurdy!

“I have only a quote from Clint Eastwood for all the serpents of this world and that’s ~ “Stay Off My Lawn!” ~ Dr. Bill McCurdy

Here is the introduction I had prepared for Jim Wynn. The other 24 may have been the “Say Hey Kid” but this # 24 was the Cincinnati Kid. Born in the Queen City, he was drafted from the Colt .45s by the Reds in 1963. Among the home runs he hit to earn the name ‘the Toy Cannon,’ a blast into Hudepohl Heaven above Crosley Field which landed on the street where he grew up. Three years later, in 1970, he hit another one which landed in the upper deck at the Astrodome. In 1974, he was traded to Los Angeles, where he led the Dodgers to their first National League pennant in eight years. He retired in 1977 as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers. Jim Wynn, ladies and gentlemen!

The Still Great Jimmy Wynn!
~ The Toy Cannon Forever! ~


Many of you know that one of my favourite expressions is “our greatest hopes and our worst fears are seldom realized.” It was with those words that Jim McKay introduced the grim fate of the eleven Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. Since my last visit to Houston in February 2017, the city realized both its worst fears and its greatest hopes, all within a ten week period. One common link between the two events is that both brought out the best in the community and gave Houston an opportunity to shine.

Early GM Paul Richards
“The Wizard of Waxahachie”

This Evening of Monday, November 12, 2018 …

Tonight is about a third event which brought out a much smaller segment within Houston. This book. And I’m thrilled to launch the book right here in Houston because more people from Houston contributed to the book than from any other city. I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce them all.

Mike Acosta, Bob Aspromonte, Bill Brown, Rick Bush, Wayne Chandler, Chris Chestnut, Larry Dierker, Bob Dorrill, Marsha Franty, Mickey Herskowitz, Jim Kreuz, Lori Leatherwood, Greg Lucas, Bill McCurdy, Dena Propis, Wayne Roberts, Tal Smith, Joe Thompson, Mike Vance, Mark Wernick, and Jim Wynn.

To that list I will add Lou DiScioli, Carl Ingram, Mike McCroskey, and Fred Soland for their contributions to the meeting, and Greg Randolph for his thoughtful gift of a 1980 Astros’ World Series press pin.

Mike Acosta and Mike Vance
~ Two of Houston’s most treasured social historians.

In Memoriam

In my ethnoculture, we are taught that even on the most joyous of occasions of weddings, bar mitzvahs, and perhaps book launches, it is important to remember those we have lost. For that reason, I have asked to pay tribute to two members of the Larry Dierker Chapter who have passed away in the last year. We lost Ralph Hackemack in May. While I never had the pleasure to meet the man, I know that he loved SABR and he loved every one of you. Shortly after I completed these slides, we also lost Bill Gilbert. Bill was the founder of the Larry Dierker Chapter and I think we can all agree that he was one of the nicest people we ever met. Ralph and Bill, ladies and gentlemen.


In hockey, there are three stars to every game. Accordingly, I’d like to announce the three stars of the “Time for Expansion Baseball” project. One of the three is in this room tonight.

Colt .45s in the Clubhouse

The first star, of course, is my co-editor, Bill Nowlin. Bill and I first met at the SABR convention in Boston in 2002. I hope everyone here has a chance to work on a project with Bill. He has been an excellent mentor in this, my introduction to the production side of SABR literature. Bill designed the format and presented an opportunity both challenging and encouraging. Bill is an excellent teacher, allowing his “students” to make mistakes on their own while ensuring that they learn and recover.

The second star comes from Detroit and that’s Dwayne Labakas. One of the greatest obstacles to the production of this book was to obtain the rights to photographs from 14 different teams on a budget of $1,000.00. I’ve known Dwayne for 23 years and he stepped forwards to offer us the rights to any of the photos in his catalogue that we needed for the book. A lot of the photos in the book are Dwayne’s, including one of Bob Aspromonte.

Now for the third star and the one who is here tonight. Not only did he write a chapter of the book, provide interviews, and offer photographs, but he also participated in an expansion draft. For this, I’d like to call Tal Smith to the front of the room for a special presentation. Tal, I was in England this summer when I spotted a book at Waitstone’s in London. It’s a Libyan-Romanian fusion cook book from South Africa and when I saw it, I was reminded of you. Why not? It has your name written all over it. That’s right, the author’s name is Tal Smith. Mrs. Smith. Thanks and hope you enjoy the book.

No, Our Baseball Tal Smith does not have a daughter named Talicia, Talotta, or just plain Tal. This pictured Tal Smith is a female South African cookbook author and she is shown here with her husband, Russell. Both may someday hear of baseball for the first time by some random future contact by the always social and curious writer of this column, the one and only Maxwell Kates


The final question of the night was addressed to Larry Dierker and it was asked by the moderator of the panel. He credited Larry for his interest in the Astros, dating back to the time he was home from school sick at the age of 13. The boy’s father suggested that he read a book called “Ball Four.” His mother wasn’t so sure, rebutting with “David, don’t let him read that!” The only trouble is, I had already started to read. One of the funniest passages, in my opinion, was when author Jim Bouton chronicled a song the players were singing on the bus. The song was called “Proud to be an Astro” and it was written by Larry Dierker. I asked Larry to discuss the story behind the hit and suggested he even sing a few bars.

Larry Dierker with John D’Acquisto and Mike Caldwell, 1977.

Larry explained that he wrote a lot of song parodies. This particular one was a satire of “Proud to be a Soldier,” written by Tom Lehrer. In addition to a songsmith, Tom was a professor at MIT. The same way “Soldier” lampooned army life, Larry’s version compared playing for taskmaster Harry Walker to serving under the likes of Sgt. Merwin Toomey of “Biloxi Blues” fame.

What I had not counted on was being tricked by Larry into singing the song myself. Fortunately I had written a clean set of lyrics to avoid further embarrassment.


November 12, 2018 ~ The one and only Maxwell Kates ~ lifting the spirits of the Larry Dierker Chapter of SABR with his slide and panel presentation on MLB expansion and the Houston Colt .45s.

The state tree of Texas is the pecan.

The state motto of Texas is “friendship”

Thanks y’all.



Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle




Thank You, Maxwell Kates

November 14, 2018

Maxwell Kates ~ His new book with Warren Corbett on MLB expansion is a must-have item for researchers and deep blue baseball history readers.


Thank You, Maxwell Kates!

Your doubleheader presentation at last night’s Larry Dierker November 2018 SABR Meeting went off as smoothly as the silver streaks in your distinguished Canadian head of hair.

First Your New Book ….


 Your presentation of your new book WITH Warren Corbett, “Time for Expansion Baseball”, was nothing short of compelling. Most of what you told us is presented here in your own Internet description words, but, unfortunately, without all the vim and verve of the Toronto~Ontarion style of enthusiastic pizzaz you bring to the potential readership’s individual cravings for salt, pepper, and assorted, but variable condiments of subject spice.

Here’s my recollection of your major general remarks, based upon my ability to pilfer the Net for your own words, as follows:

The Los Angeles Angels and the “new” Washington Senators ushered in baseball’s expansion in 1960, followed quickly by the Houston Colt .45s and the New York Mets. By 1998, ten additional franchises had been awarded with the Kansas City Royals, Seattle Pilots, Toronto Blue Jays, and Tampa Bay Devil Rays coming into the American League, and the Montreal Expos, San Diego Padres, Colorado Rockies, Florida Marlins, and Arizona Diamondbacks to the National League. Since then, some of those teams have relocated or changed names, but TIME FOR EXPANSION BASEBALL tells the story of how each franchise was formed, built its team, and began play. Biographies of key players from each team’s early years are also included, from early Angels like Eli Grba and Duke Maas to Senator Tom Sturdivant, from Seattle Pilots Tommy Harper and Lou Piniella to Seattle Mariners Julio Cruz and Rick Jones. Featuring a foreword by Tal Smith, who has done three separate stints in the Houston front office, and the contributions of 54 SABR members, TIME FOR EXPANSION BASEBALL also includes dozens of photos from team historical archives.

(Of course, Maxwell, given the audience you were addressing at our Spaghetti Western private dinner party room, the Houston salsas of subject interest were also emphasized in deep dish volumes that go way beyond what we have time or space to rekindle here. ~ Toronto moms don’t “raise no fools.”)

Next, your moderator handling of the Houston Colt .45s Panel Q&A Session ….

You did great, Max, you did great! ~ But look at the material you had at your disposal!

Had Jimmy Wynn not been unable to attend, you could have four pure gold Colt .45/Astro icons filling all four chairs. Because of Jimmy’s absence, I agreed to sit in as his ancient fan/biographical co-author on “The Toy Cannon” ~ thus transforming the panel into one comprised of three icons and one acorn (albeit, a Pecan Park Eagle acorn), but one that came with no illusions that I could ever replace Jimmy Wynn in this lineup. ~ I could sit in his chair in a pinch, but no one could fill the space that Jimmy Wynn owns in the heart of our Houston MLB franchise history.

Look at who they were ~ and who they were intended to be: (1) Bob Aspromonte, among other firsts, he was the man who scored the first run in franchise history; (2) Larry Dierker, the first great pitcher in club history and the guy who celebrated his 18th birthday by breaking into the big leagues as a pitcher by striking out the great Willie Mays; (3) Tal Smith, the guy who completed the club’s oversight on the Astrodome construction project ~ and who would also go on to become the face and voice of club general managers and presidents; and (4) Jimmy Wynn ~ “The Toy Cannon” ~ the little guy who hit ’em for miles ~ and the first great home run hitter in Houston MLB history ~ Astrodome death valley fence distances and dead enclosed travel air be damned.

We were just lucky and humbly honored to be there as the pinch runner for Jimmy Wynn.

One More Thing ….

We just wanted to clarify something from the way you introduced me. It’s no big deal, but we do like to get things right, even as we grant others the right to think different, act different, and think different from us. And it’s nothing at all personal here ~ but it is a call for minor correction if you ever have any need to introduce me again in the future.

In so many words, you described Bill McCurdy (yours truly) as A veteran of the Pecan Park Eagles Little League team.

Corrections: The Pecan Park Eagles were never controlled by the Little League group. We were nothing more ~ and nothing less ~ than a rising-from-the-dirt Houston East End sandlot baseball team in the Pecan Park neighborhood just south of Griggs Road, off the Gulf Freeway, going to the south on the east side of I-45 South, as you continue south, from Griggs Road to Evergreen on your left ~ is still today ~ Pecan Park.

So what? ~ So this what! ~ In sandlot ball, it was our game. We didn’t have much, but we didn’t have adults controlling the game and how we played out our own dreams of it. Sandlotters got about a hundred “at bats” a day and more long fly ball miracle catch opportunities than any Little Leaguer could ever hope to see. And you got to find out what you were made of on your own. We didn’t have our parents hauling us off to special training camps to see why some of us just stood there watching perfectly good pitches we faced breeze by us. We either dove in and tried ~ or we got fried.

We ~ the Pecan Park Eagles ~ liked it that way. ~ Please ~ never call us Little Leaguers again. ~ We were sandlotters ~ plain and simple ~ and just happy to be.

The Pronunciation of “pecan” difference. ….

It seems to be a regional thing. ~ Going north ~ apparently all the way to Canada ~ the way people pronounce the word “pecan” begins to change from ….

our Texas puh-CON (that’s “puh” as in pulverize)


PEE-can …. and changing the whole melody of how that word dances in our minds.

You are free to call it what you wish, of course, but I’m just trying to tell you. ~ When you say “PEE-can” ~ it seems to reawaken in some of us a DNA-traceable association to the pre-indoor plumbing days when people maintained small to large tin can containers in their bedrooms on cold ~ or all ~ nights ~ for the sake of dealing with nature’s nocturnal calls until the contents could then be dumped outside through the nearest open window.

In the end, these items are small. ~ You did a great job, my friend!



Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

How Jimmy Wynn Got to LA in Dec. 1973

November 13, 2018

Last night I subbed for Jimmy Wynn on the November 2018 Larry Dierker Chapter SABR meeting panel that assembled to discuss the Colt .45s that included Bob Aspromonte, who scored the first run in franchise history on April 10, 1962 ~ among several other firsts; Larry Dierker, who struck out Willie Mays on his 18th birthday pitching debut of September 22, 1964; and Tal Smith, the man who directed the completion of the Astrodome in 1965 ~ and who then spent many years in service to the Houston franchise as a top-level executive who rose to general manager and president of the club; plus Jimmy Wynn, who could not make it this time for reasons of health. Enter yours truly ~ mostly to keep the empty chair company and less forlorn looking.

As Jimmy Wynn’s co-author on his biography, “The Toy Cannon,” I was asked what I thought Jimmy’s feelings were about his trade to the Dodgers  in exchange for pitcher Claude Osteen and a minor leaguer. prior to the 1974 season. I said that Jimmy felt fine about it ~ that the positive reception he received from the Dodgers, combined with his desire to get away from the time he spent under manager Harry Walker in Houston helped a lot. Since Walker already had been gone for a season and some part of another by this time, Jimmy still had never recovered from the feelings he had about Walker ~ and Walker’s permanent replacement, Leo Durocher, had not done much to help Jimmy’s full morale about the field leadership in Houston. Besides ~ nothing in sight would make hitting home runs easier in the Astrodome for Jimmy or any other guys who wanted to hit for power.

Wish I had remembered in time to express these issues in Jimmy’s exact words, and so, I will simply describe them here in my own. Only Jimmy Wynn can fully speak for himself in this matter:

That being said …. and as I see it ….

In “The Toy Cannon”, (Chapter 13, page 154) Jimmy Wynn recognizes that Astros GM  Spec Richardson knew that the Astros had no choice after 1973 but to have his approval as a 10/5 man on any trade ~ or else ~ risk losing all his trade value to free agency. And I will always believe that Jimmy had communicated these two major conditional factors to getting his approval for a trade to GM Richardson prior to the actual deal in these terms.

Jimmy’s two preferences on a trade ….

Jimmy wanted to be traded to either (1) a ball park where home run hitting was easier ~ or ~ (2) to a franchise that had a real chance to reach the World Series.

I will always believe that Jimmy made these two preferred conditions clear to the Astros prior to his actual trade to the Dodgers ~ But I also concede that only a GM with a rock for a brain could have failed to figure them out independently. Spec may have possessed a number of shortcomings as a GM, but he was far from being a rock on this one. He knew exactly what Jimmy wanted to see in this deal and he brought it home in his Dodgers or Cubs choice.

Deal # 1 would have put him in Wrigley Field as a Chicago Cub ~ for what players ~ we do not know. The other possibility ~ Deal # 2 ~ was to see Jimmy Wynn join the pennant-contending Los Angeles Dodgers.

Jimmy Wynn expressed his preference to the Astros for LA ~ where he simply blossomed as a popular power hitter who finally got to a World Series, ~ and where his gallant effort in a losing cause in 1974 there included a World Series home run.

After his last 1977 season, Jimmy Wynn returned to Houston ~ the city that had become his home ~ and found work with the only franchise that still owns his heart to this day ~ in spite of some earlier hard times with certain Houston managers ~ and his one great pennant winning season with the LA Dodgers.

Jimmy Wynn – forever will be ~ one of the hearts that makes up the Big Heart of the Houston Astros!



Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Pitchers Who Gave Up Ruth’s 714 HR

November 11, 2018

Babe Ruth ~ The Hero Whose Myths and Deeds Transcend The Usual Limitations of Time Upon Awesome Eternal Regard.

Thanks to Internet site sources like Baseball and Baseball, we now have dynamic records at our fingertips that once were only dream possibilities back in the mid-twentieth century of print form materials alone. What a difference the availability of digital, electronically shared data has made in our no-extra-cost abilities to explore and research ~ whether these tools are used for personal joy or deep analytical research ~ until today ~ as they are now used here in the dawn of the Digital Age.

Jack Warhop

Today’s credit goes to Baseball

Our research question was a simple one: We wanted to see a chronological list of all the pitchers ~ from # 1 to # 714 ~ who gave up that golden number of career home runs to Babe Ruth over the course of his MLB career (1914-1935).

One of the first things we learned by confirmation of something we read years ago was that Babe Ruth, the 19-year-old rookie Red Sox pitcher, didn’t hit any homers during the short time he played in “the bigs” in his limited time first season of 1914. That moment would not occur until the following year.

First Two came off RHP Jack Warhop.

Guy Bush

Babe Ruth’s first two big league homers were struck as a member of the Boston Red Sox off right-handed pitcher Jack Warhop of the New York Yankees in separate games played at Yankee Stadium on May 6th and June 2nd of 1915.

Last Two came off RHP Guy Bush.

Babe Ruth’s last two big league homers (#s 713 and 714) were crunched as a member of the Boston Braves off right-handed pitcher Guy Bush of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the same game played at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh on May 25, 1935. An earlier Ruth HR (# 712) in that same famous game off right-hander Red Lucas gave the Babe his last 3-HR game in his incredible career. Ruth would go 0 for 9 in five more games at Cincinnati (3) and Philadelphia (2) and then retire on May 30, 1935.

Two easy ironies.

Babe Ruth made his bones as the greatest slugger of all time wearing the pin stripes of the New York Yankees, but he hit his first first and last two home runs wearing the Boston brand togs of both the Red Sox and the Braves. And he hit his last great home run binge for the Braves ~ the same team ~ two cities and 39 years later removed from Atlanta and the coming of the man who would break his own career homer mark ~ a fellow named Hank Aaron.

A link to your own entertainment with the data from this link is worth the finger compression on your mouse.



Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle



Babe Ruth’s 1st Batting Strikeout

November 10, 2018

Willie Mitchell, LHP
Cleveland Naps, 1914
~ Was this the glove that Willie Mitchell wore when he struck out Babe Ruth for the first time in his first MLB plate appearance?


No big surprise. If a rookie batter takes two high and tight ones on his first couple of big league pitches, he shouldn’t be too shocked to see the third throw bending in low and tight to the outside black ~ or maybe even moving a tad further away into that unreachable, but still swinger-attractive space in the outside dirt ~ but the rook swings anyway ~ part out of some primitive desire to get even for those first two close shaves ~ and the other part out of that most often ill-founded hope to do something that shows his new team that he can put the bat on the ball of any pitch the guy on the mound throws.

He misses. ~ The count’s now 2 and 1.

The fourth pitch is a low-moving fastball in the high 90s. A way-too-late swinging miss moves the count to 2 and 2.

The next pitch comes in looking just like the last one. The rook swings hard ~ but he swings far too soon and gets nothing but air ~ and the registration of his first strikeout as a big league hitter. ~ It was a deliciously cruel change up that did him in.

Some guys don’t last much longer than that hypothetical first time at bat. Others do because they learn and get better ~ or because they simply sell tickets by killing the ball often enough to be sufficiently valuable to a Congo-Line based AL power offense ~ or because they possess certain other skills on defense or as pitchers that keep them employed ~ in the NL, at least.

Today’s subject again is Babe Ruth ~ a fellow who struck out 1,330 times as a batter in his 22-season (1914-1935) MLB career. The first time happened at Fenway Park in Boston on July 11, 1914, when Babe Ruth made his debut for the Red Sox as a 19-year old rookie, pitching his club to a 4-3 win over the visiting Cleveland Naps.

Ruth pitched 7 innings that day, getting his first MLB win in his first try, but it didn’t come easy. Here’s how the New York Times reported it the following day, July 12, 1914:

“Ruth, formerly of Baltimore, made his debut and held Cleveland to five scattered hits in the first six innings. In the seventh three singles and a sacrifice netted two runs for Cleveland and tied the score.

“Ruth was lifted in the bottom of the inning for pinch hitter Duffy Lewis, who reached base and scored the go-ahead run. Boston went on to win 4-3, with Ruth picking up the win.”

Willie Mitchell

The Babe also picked up his first MLB strikeout in his first time at bat against the Cleveland lefty starter, Willie Mitchell of Sardis, Mississippi. Mitchell lived until 1973, keeping a glove that he may have been wearing on that day in 1914 he achieved that lesser known moment he struck out the destined-for-greatness Babe Ruth. Mitchell’s wife later donated the glove featured here to a historic museum in Jackson, Mississippi.

In spite of some knowledgeable-sounding debate over the actual age of the Williams glove, no one ever has been able to confirm or eliminate the possibility that the glove featured here is the actual glove that held the actual game ball prior to that orb’s first trip past Ruth for an historic “K” event.

The dilemma is a beautiful confirmation, nevertheless, of the fact that most people don’t seem to live life with much interest in preserving history until the logical people who may have been able to confirm the truth have passed away. If only Willie Williams had been asked ~ at some point: “Willie, was that the glove you used back in 1914 when you struck out Babe Ruth for the first time?”

We said Willie Mitchell “may have been able to confirm the truth” for this reason: Had someone asked that question of Mitchell, he may have said something like, “Babe Ruth? ~ I don’t recall ever striking out Babe Ruth!”

Historical research is not as easy as it looks.

Thanks to friend and colleague Tony Cavendar for sending us this great short piece on Willie Mitchell and the glove. They furnished the inspiration for anything else we have written this morning. “The Babe’s First Major League Trip to the Plate Ended in a Whiff” was written by Steve Moyer for HUMANITIES, Spring 2018, Volume 39, Number 2.


Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Our 2019 Astros Starters

November 8, 2018


2019 ASTROS STARTER #1 ~ Justin Verlander

Justin Verlander
Astros Ace Starter
Since 9/01/2017

“Justin, when you join the Astros, we want you to assume the position of that next picture we feature here of you as our new ace!” ~ GM Jeff Luhnow













2019 ASTROS STARTER #2 ~ Gerrit Cole


Gerrit Cole’s 

Still a hard-throwin’ soul!

He knows how to bring

S-T-R-I-K-E  3 !!!




2019 ASTROS STARTER #3 ~ Colin McHugh (probably)

Beards eventually can edge their own way from the prospect-to-suspect status in a pitching rotation.



Barring unforeseen moves and events, it’s likely that Dallas Keuchel is gone in 2019. The sirens of money and an ego-driven desire to be the #1 guy again ~ somewhere ~ are likely now too loud to be ignored. And unless there’s another Gerrit Cole voice out there, as there was last year at Pittsburgh, and eager to board a seat on another hot Astros team, it looks likely we will opt to go with good old reliable Colin McHugh.

“Oh somewhere in this favored land ~ the people jump and shout.

But there is no joy in Keuchel’s Corner,

If the tattoo-man ~ cuts out!”


2019 ASTROS STARTERS #s 4&5 ~ Charlie Morton (if he stays)

plus Josh James, Framber Valdez, et al.

 “When It Rains, It Pours!” Hope here is that we get to fill our last two spots with a grain of salt, but, if not, that we hit at least one of our young guys at the dawn of his real blossoming mark as an effective MLB starter. ~ If two come through ~ that’ll more than do.






 One More Thought ….

To make any losses in the line of our rotation more tolerable, Astros, don’t let the Yankees ~ or anyone else ~ beat us to paying Marwin Gonzales what he’s worth to the goal of winning. Marwin’s value to this club’s chances of regaining the World Series title is that important as far as many of us are concerned ~ for whatever that’s worth ~ even if that barely registers in the minds of those making the professional, salaried decisions in these matters. We may not have all the cards available to us that are important in these decision-making matters ~ but neither are we as stupid as some of us make look either. ~ i.e. ~ KEEP MARWIN! ~ WIN ANOTHER WORLD SERIES IN 2019!



Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

What Happens to The Astrodome Plan Now?

November 7, 2018

Harris County Judge Elect
Lina Hidalgo
November 6, 2018

Like many of you, I just woke up to the surprising news that incumbent Republican candidate for Harris County Judge, Ed Emmett, had lost his race for a continuation of his 11 years service  to 27 year old newcomer to any political office, Democratic challenger, Lina Hidalgo.

Congratulations to Ms. Hidalgo, whose life storyline itself speaks eloquently for everything that is wonderful about these United States of America.

As the Channel 13 Internet site reports, “Hidalgo was born in Colombia but was raised in Peru and Mexico before emigrating to the U.S. with her family in 2005.

“Hidalgo holds a degree in political science from Stanford University. The same year she graduated from Stanford she also became a citizen.

“While living in Texas, Hidalgo has served as a Spanish-English medical interpreter at the Texas Medical Center.”

She also speaks with the clear voice of one who wants to lead the county to better long term planning for hurricanes and floods, and with an eye toward service to ~ and recognition of the needs of ~ all the people.

As one who supports the Astrodome plan that Judge Emmett and local preservationists put into place, we now have to wonder: Will the new Judge Hidalgo, who came to Houston in 2005 ~ when she was only 14 years old, but as the Astros were reaching the World Series for the first time ever ~ and as the historic Astrodome already lay wasting to the south of downtown in those early years of its neglect ~ will she ~ with no roots of her own in the long struggle for its appropriate recognition ~ give a hoot or a rat’s ankle for what happens to the current plan ~ or any other plan ~ carefully designed to preserve the cultural significance of this mighty local entity in Greater Houston life ~ in light of the many other more imminent human service needs that are with us ~ and shall always be with us ~ down here on the low flood plains of the most successful international community in America?

Let’s hope that her intelligence, her Stanford education, and her particular experience in life, already have brought her into direct contact with the wisdom that some matters of importance to others, but not so much to you personally, are still deserving of the genuine attention and support of the power she soon shall hold.

Congratulations, County Judge-Elect Lina Hidalgo!

Now please, Ms. Hidalgo, help our preservationist leadership group bring the currently approved county plan for safeguarding the Astrodome forward to completion as the Greater Houston area’s historically significant architectural contribution to world history ~ and to the fulfillment-level life it both deserves and demands.


Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle



Ruth’s Last Time At Bat

November 7, 2018

Babe Ruth, 1935
Boston Braves

A couple of days ago, we received a link to a wonderful brief article from friend and baseball colleague, Mark Wernick, on Babe Ruth’s last official time at bat in baseball. It happened on May 30, 1935. Ruth was set to play left field for the visiting Boston Braves in the first game of a scheduled doubleheader against the home team Philadelphia Phillies at the Baker Bowl that afternoon. He came up third in the top of the first inning and rolled out on an easy play at first base.

On a personal note, Mark Wernick’s father, one of that era’s young Philadelphians, was there to see it happen. On a historical note, righty Jim Bivin of the Phillies became the last pitcher to retire Babe Ruth in big league play, and Phils 1st sacker Dolph Camilli claimed credit as the last opponent to make a put out in the field at the expense of the once great Bambino.

Playably not-so-great on this late date, an aging Babe Ruth fully knew it, and where he stood. His contact-with-the-past three homer game in Pittsburgh ~ only five days earlier ~ was just that ~ a will-of-the-wisp all heart reminder of all he used to be ~ and no harbinger of promise for a rare human conquest of the battle with physical mortality. ~ It was time for Babe Ruth to walk away from the game as a player.

After the Phillies crunched Braves starter Fred Frankhouse for the first of 3 runs in 11 that he would give up in an 11-6 Phils win, Ruth didn’t even return to the Braves dugout at the end of the first inning. He already had made up his mind to pack it in ~ for good. He simply jogged on out to the door in the outfield wall that would allow him to go straight to the visiting Braves’ clubhouse.

May 30, 1935: No Ruth Soaring Today. The greatest slugger and biggest mythological hero in baseball history had just gone from the scene in a Model T Ford with four flat tires. Unlike a game played only five days earlier in which he could have played his last game as the most fabled final day by any slugger to that point in time or since.

May 25, 1935: Ruth’s Final 3 HR at Pittsburgh. Entering the game hitting .153 with only 6 homers on the season, the Babe reached down deep and clouted three monumental homers ~ the ones that got him to 714 ~ and there would be no more. ~ No more home runs ~ and no more hits. Ruth would play 5 more games beyond that big day ~ going 0 for 9 in his final all road ~ all losing appearances as a Brave.

Fiction Topples Reality in the Telling of This Tale.  as it most often does, fiction made the Pittsburgh 3-HR day the last game in Babe Ruth’s career. That’s how the 1948 movie, “The Babe Ruth Story,” played it ~ as they pretty much did with everything else they portrayed on the big screen about Ruth. The last 3 games in Cincinnati and the 2 Ruth games in Philadelphia that followed simply disappeared as though they never happened as part of the story. In the movie, the writers turn his real 4th hit that day ~ a single ~ into the time that Ruth would leave the game and turn over his job in the outfield to a rookie who will take his place as a runner ~ but not in the hearts of fans.

Here’s a Quick Study Table on the reality of what happened with Ruth at the plate from the day prior to his big game in Pittsburgh to the day that the Babe actually walked away from the game as a player ~ and with no fanfare.

5/24/35 @PGH 1/4 ~ 0 HR 59 9 3 .153
5/25/35 @PGH 4/4 ~ 3 HR 63 13 6 .206
5/26/35 @CIN 0/4 ~ 0 HR 67 13 6 .194
5/27/35 @CIN 0/0 ~ 0 HR * 67 13 6 .194
5/28/35 @CIN 0/2 ~ 0 HR 69 13 6 .188
5/29/35 @PHI 0/2 ~ 0 HR 71 13 6 .183
5/30/35 @PHI 0/1 ~ 0 HR ** 72 13 6 .181

* Ruth walked as a pinch hitter in his only game plate appearance.

** Grounded out to 1st base in his only time up in the top of the 1st in Game 1 of a DH and then took himself out of the game for the last time as a big league player after playing left field in the bottom of the 1st.

Here’s a link to the article that Chris Landers of wrote on May 30, 2018 about the Babe’s last game. Thank you too, Mark Wernick, for having a father whose 12-year-old presence in attendance at this big game in the history of baseball’s biggest hero also moved the needle in favor of us writing our own impressions here of this major moment.


Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Carroll Hardy’s Life: Like a Box of Chocolates

November 4, 2018

Ted Williams and Carroll Hardy ~ in a mid-1980s memoir moment.

Carroll Hardy’s ability to be in the right place at the right time married well to his dynamic talent for using his skills, talent, intelligence and luck to the best advantage of his on-the-plate opportunities.

  1. He lettered in track, football, and baseball at the University of Colorado.
  2. He set university records in each sport that survive to this day.
  3. He was the most valuable player in the 1954 Hula Bowl
  4. He was the 34th pick in the 1955 NFL draft as a running back for the SF 49ers.
  5. He was a TD pass favorite receiver of 49ers QB Y.A. Tittle in 1955.
  6. In 1958, he hit his first MLB home run as a pinch hitter for Roger Maris.
  7. He was the only player in baseball history to pinch hit for Ted Williams.
  8. In 1960, he was booed at Fenway for replacing Williams in left in his last game.
  9. He was the only player to pinch hit for both Ted Williams.and Carl Yastrzemski.
  10. In December 1962 he was traded to the Houston Colt .45s by the Boston Red Sox.
  11. After 1963-64 in Houston, he played at Minnesota in 1967 and was done – with baseball.
  12. In 1968, he began a two decade run as an executive with the Denver Broncos of the NFL.

Carroll Hardy has sometimes been referenced as “The Forest Gump of Real Life.” Here’s one link to some of the big moments we listed here and, with a little googling of your own, you will find much more on one of the most colorful “name” players to pass through Houston in our city’s early big league days.

Well, Carroll Hardy was no Forest Gump ~ and neither was he the twin brother of “Joe Hardy” of “Damn Yankees”, soul-selling notoriety, but he was a bright, multi-talented human being whose dimmest star quality, unfortunately, just turned out to be his measurable performance for the stat-brokers of baseball.