7,086 See Buffs Hand Louisville 3-1 Defeat

April 23, 2017

7,086 See Buffs Hand Louisville 3-1 Defeat

By CLARK NEALON, Post Sports Editor

Houston Post, April 23, 1960

Sharp pitching by Lefty Dick Ellsworth early and by Barney Schultz late produced a 3-1 victory for the Houston Buffs over Louisville’s Colonels in the Busch Stadium American Association nasenall opener before 7,086 paying fans Friday night.

Ellsworth allowed only three hits in six shutout innings before he injured his pitching hand, and Schultz, coming in as the fourth Houston pitcher with the bases loaded and none out in the eighth, pitched his way out of the threatening situation at the cost of only one run to save a bright new night for the Buffs.

JOE MACKO’S SECOND homer of the season in the second inning and a two-run sixth provided the Buffs with their three runs to the delight of a “Babe Ruth Night” gathering that was the biggest opening crowd of the American Association season so far. The Buffs drew 7,483 for their Houston opener last season.

The victory sent Manager Enos Slaughter, who didn’t play because of lingering rib injuries suffered in the season’s second game, away to a flying start as a manager. In fact, Enos probably will settle for the way his pitching changes worked out Friday night during the remainder of his managerial career.

The big one was Schultz, who came to Dave Jolly’s rescue after singles by Bob Knoop, Pinch-hitter Mack Jones and Don Lassetter had filled the bases with nobody out in the eighth inning.

 THE KNUCKLEBALLING righthander retired Bob Taylor on a fly to right with no advance, saw a run score as Bob Morgan forced Lassetter at second but ended the frame by retiring Earl Hersh on a grounder to Jerry Kindall.

Schultz breezed through the ninth in order and fans who had seen the Buffs lose 104 games in 1959 went away happy over a winning start at home, the fourth victory of seven starts and undisputed third place so far in 1960.

An unfortunate failure of the public address system ruined the audio portion of the pre-game ceremonies honoring the memory of Ruth, what with short speeches by Mrs. Claire Hodgson Ruth, the Babe’s widow, and Mayor Lewis Cutrer heard by only a few of the fans. Youngsters of the Babe Ruth League surrounded the diamond and the Buffs and Colonels were lined up along the first and third base lines.

HALL OF FAMER Rogers Hornsby batted, Mayor Cutrer pitched and Chicago Cub Farm Director Gene Lawing caught on the ceremonial first pitch. The Mayor got the first one by “The Rajah” but Hornsby signalled for another and cracked it toward third base.

Moving pictures of Ruth’s last appearance in Yankee Stadium were shown on a screen behind the pitcher’s mound, and recordings of Ruth’s voice and that of the late Lou Gehrig were played. Fred Nahas was master of ceremonies.

Ellsworth, though he was credited with his first victory of the season, had cause to wonder at the fates. First he was felled by a line drive off the bat of Taylor in the third inning on a Buff mound that is rapidly becoming a jinx, what with the injuries to Glenn Crable of the Buffs and Ron Piche of Louisville by batted balls last season.

The ball hit Ellsworth in the stomach. He trapped it there for the out, but went down in a struggling heap. Up after a minute, he stayed in the game, only to leave after another freak injury in the sixth.

ELLSWORTH’S BAT splintered in his hands as he popped out the Amado Samuel at short, injuring Dick’s pitching hand enough to force his departure from the game. However, the injury was believed to be only minor, a slight flesh wound.

ELLSWORTH ALLOWED only three hits, fanned six in his six innings of work.

Each team got six hits in a tight pitching duel, with the Buffs getting their margin of victory in Jerry Kindall’s double, two stolen bases, a wild pitch and an error in the sixth. The defeat ended a four-game winning streak for the Colonels.

Kindall’s blow barely missed being a homer at the very top of the left field fence. Jerry stole third and scored on Bob Talbot’s single. Talbot, who stole two bases and got two hits, swiped second, went on to third on Lefty Bob Hartman’s wild pitch and scored when Taylor’s throw toward third slipped off the side of the catcher’s hand and went into left field for an error.

SLAUGHTER RELIEVED Ellsworth with Lefty Marcelino Solis staring the seventh, but after retiring one man, Solis walked Hersh and Samuel in succession. Quickly, Enos called in Jolly, who responded by fanning Pinch-hitter Eddie Haas and inducing Howie Bedell to ground into a forceout to end the inning. Gene Littrell had been announced as the hitter for Hartmen, but when Slaughter switched to the right-handed Jolly, Manager Ben Geraghty of the Colonels switched to the left-handed hitting Haas.

When Jolly yielded the three hits starting the eighth, Slaughter wasted no time calling on Schultz, with Catcher Dick Bertell relieving Ray Noble to catch the testy knuckle-ball.

Macko’s homer was a line shot over the 342-foot sign atop the triple-deck scoreboard in left-center.

The teams meet in a doubleheader starting at 6:30 PM Saturday at Busch Stadium. Lefty Jim Brewer (0-1) and Al Lary (0-0) are due to work for Houston, with Vic Rehm (1-0) down for one game for the Colonels but Manager Gerahty undecided on who his second choice will be.

 

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A contribution by independent researcher for The Pecan Park Eagle, Darrell Pittman.

Thank you, Darrell, for another splendid discovery.

____________________


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

Tom Herman Simply Doesn’t Get the UH Fan Ire

April 22, 2017

Tom Herman
Head Football Coach
University of Texas

 

“Some of the vitriol confuses me a little bit from the Coog fans considering what we were able to do and accomplish there (at UH) in 23 months and the fun and wins that we had.” – Tom Herman, 4/20/17, in an appearance on “The Proper Gentlemen of Sports” on 790 AM, Houston.

“I sleep so easy knowing that I never once lied to a player, never once lied to a recruit and never once lied to any coaches or administration. Those are the people I care about. Whatever the public thought was happening behind closed doors is really not for me to say. It’s unfortunate people can twist and turn things to fit whatever narrative they’d like it to fit.” – Tom Herman, 4/20/17, in an appearance on “The Proper Gentlemen of Sports” on 790 AM, Houston.

“Some of the vitriol confuses me a little bit from the Coog fans considering what we were able to do and accomplish there in 23 months and the fun and wins that we had,” Herman told co-hosts Matt Thomas and Lance Zierlein. “I sleep so easy knowing that I never once lied to a player, never once lied to a recruit and never once lied to any coaches or administration. Those are the people I care about. Whatever the public thought was happening behind closed doors is really not for me to say. It’s unfortunate people can twist and turn things to fit whatever narrative they’d like it to fit.” – Tom Herman, 4/20/17, in an appearance on “The Proper Gentlemen of Sports” on 790 AM, Houston.

According to the writer in this same Joseph Duarte article from the Houston Chronicle, “Herman always maintained there was (were) a handful of  ‘dream jobs’ he would have to strongly consider, (should offers arise).”

Does that mean that Herman would still have jumped at the UT offer, even if OU, UT and the eight Big 12 dwarf schools had not backed off plans to include UH in their number by canceling plans for expansion last fall. We presume that quick call under those circumstances would have cost Herman the $4-5 million dollar bonus he otherwise stood to bank with UH’s elevation to Big 12 membership. Or did the UH late rebuke by the Big 12 simply happen to clear the way for UT’s “dream job” offer to Herman? It certainly made it easier on several levels for UT to make their play under the circumstances of UH as an outsider than it would have been had UH already been accepted as a conference member. We’ll never know, but that’s the not the point here, anyway.

Our point today is that we are flabbergasted, if possible, over the limited understanding that Tom Herman seems to have for the situation he walked into with fans when he took the Houston job in the first place. He seems shocked by our ire – and actually hurt on some fleet, dismissive level that we don’t seem to appreciate what he did for us in his two seasons (2015-16) as head coach.

Tom! Hello! Tom! Believe me! We loved what you did! We simply didn’t know – on top of the two recent short stays by Kevin Sumlin leaving for Texas A&M and earlier, Art Briles leaving for Baylor – that we were about to get our third, most successful recent coach to stay only as long as it took for his “dream job” to show up and take you away too! Do you not get that? – Or is it that you simply need to remember it differently for your own peace of mind?

We fans weren’t hearing all these big pronouncements from you that you would stay at UH until your “dream job” called you away. We were hearing how much you loved UH and the City of Houston as a place to raise your family. We naively thought that you were here to be our guy, the guy who would fight with us the good fight for a first class opportunity in college football – and a serious shot at the national championship. We weren’t looking for a short time good life, followed by another abandonment, but that’s what we got. – Look at the money we gave you! What do you think all the extra money and bonus money offerings were about? My God! How much money do you need to feel happy and secure. We always assumed that you could get more money elsewhere. We just didn’t think you were wound that way.

“I never lied” honesty can be a deceptive cover for the true reality.

If a coach tells his players after the last game of the season that “I am still your coach,” but he knows (or has a good idea) that a desirable offer from a certain dream university is waiting for him at the airport after the flight back home, you would have to pull out the old Catholic rules governing “mental reservation” to avoid the fact that the coach’s honest first statement was merely a deceptive technicality cover up of the true reality.

Here’s what we fans wish you had said when you arrived at UH

“I’m going to go full burner to give UH all I’ve got to give this job as your new head football coach. As long as I’m treated with honesty, support, and respect, and as long as I see that the university is going the extra mile on facilities and  salaries for the kind of staff we shall need, I may just retire from this place someday. I won’t kid you. Getting into the Power 5 conference level as a school is a must. The chances of UH ever winning a national title as an outsider to that group is almost impossible to conceive. I will help with that fight in every way I can, but I must warn you. I will never put the needs of UH or anyone else above my own family’s needs or my personal health. If ever I am offered a dream job that answers all my needs elsewhere, and it’s one that UH cannot match, I will be open to listening to their offer. Hopefully, that may never happen. If I grow in my attachments to UH over time – as a young guy named Bill Yeoman once did – then I won’t ever have to leave until life takes me from this now sacred ground. This job at UH will have become my dream job. – Thanks for listening. Because now we have no secrets. And you can never say I didn’t plainly warn you.” ~ a might have been introductory statement by Tom Herman on the day he arrived at UH  in 2015 to take over as head football coach.

You never said it to us UH fans, Tom. If you said it that plainly to the UH board or administration, the news never reached us members of the Cougar hoi pal oi. But that doesn’t matter. Telling us straight out was your job, not the school’s.

The Yeoman Model spoiled us.

When Bill Yeoman came to UH as our head football coach in 1962, it was a different world. Those of us who were around at the time got to watch what he did to put UH on the map. By 1965, Yeoman had invented the veer offense, revolutionizing college football. In today’s world he would have been plastered with money to leave for the Valley of Kings, but that didn’t happen. If he turned down some tough offers to stay a Cougar, we never heard. And we didn’t worry about it. He was our guy. And that guy’s brilliance got us better players and eventually, from 1976 to 1995, membership in this last two decades of life that remained for the Southwest Conference. And for that boost, we shall also forever give credit to Coach Darrell Royal of UT for making sure it happened. Now, from 1996 to 2016, we’ve spent the past two decades trying to fight our way back from the new shallow waters of college football with only token moments of new high hope. We don’t want bad coaches; we don’t want mediocre coaches; and we don’t want great coaches who only want to use us as a stepping stone until the “dream job “comes along.

Our Hearts Now Ride with Major Applewhite

We UH fans want Major Applewhite to grow into that UH guy as he takes the reins, even if his UT alma mater comes knocking on his door looking for a new head coach in 3-4 years.

Go COOGS!

____________________


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

Name That New Area and Wall at MMP

April 21, 2017

“The H Wall” is the tallest leafy feature in “Jim’s Jungle”!

Look! Like it or not, and it is growing on me as my fears of MMP becoming a band box begin to dissolve through 11 home games in 2017. Only one home run has knocked upon its leafy green exterior in deep center field – and that one by George Springer struck high enough to have cleared the older deeper lower wall behind the former Tal’s Hill area. So, let’s move on to the identity issue here. Just as Tal’s Hill was named Tal’s Hill for the former club president’s suggestion that its original elevation in deep center – along with the playing field flag pole – could provide the “new-in-2000” park with a quirky elevated celebration of the old field challenge of Crosley Field in Cincinnati and a nice architectural touch to the baseball retro-park intention for baseball’s new home in downtown Houston.

The original field design existed for 17 years, but now Tal’s Hill is gone, and center field’s deepest distance has declined from 436 feet to 409 feet.

How’s it look, so far?

So far, so good. Through 11 games, as we’ve just said, only one George Springer home run has dared to ram the high leafy “H” wall in dead center, but that lengthy description is no suitable excuse for a name that might match up with the former Tal’s Hill.

Fans are crawling all around the new botanically inclined edifice in center like so many denizens of a new tree limb culture. They stop on stairways and new hand rails to kill time, socialize, and view the game in the company of new opportunities for food and drink. And they all seem to be smiling and unconcerned about how much time they will be spending at the ballpark – a condition made easier by the 2017 Astros’ early showing that they are a ball club with both the talent and the taste for winning in the new jungle that is Minute Maid Park. Things are looking good.

What have the changes apparently produced?

Minute Maid Park is fast becoming a jungle of baseball and social opportunity. It is a place to watching winning baseball – and, for families and millennials, it is a place to enjoy the company of friends in a park that is becoming an oasis for wireless or in-the-flesh socializing with others. MMP always has been one of the best parks in baseball for the hyperactive fans that enjoy staying on the go – watching the game from various 360 degree spots on the concourse level. As one of the few big league parks that makes full-circle movement by fans on one level without ever losing  sight of the game, MMP ranks among the best – and it just got fan friendlier with the center field modifications. For some of us, who like to sit in one spot, keep score, and play total attention to the game while we are there, these improved mobility factors don’t matter much, but – and this is a mighty big “but” – it’s very possible and most likely probable – that the traditional fans that some of us are is no model for baseball’s fans of the future.

Tomorrow’s Fans

Tomorrow’s fans are not single-minded. They are multi-minded and multi-tasking people. For these reasons, they rarely get together for the exclusive purpose of sharing the rarest wine in the world together – anymore than they would ever go to an MLB game together for the same shared narrow affinity for the game of baseball itself. They attend and return, only to those activities in which they are helped to feel comfortable about feeding their other ongoing mental needs (i.e., texting-connected) at the same time they arrive in physical form to “watch the game.” If that makes no sense to you, and you are young enough to watch this condition grow over the next twenty years, just watch the ways in which the marketing of baseball changes between now and then. What I’m describing here, I think, will make a lot more sense over time. – It will make sense then because wired-mind fans, even among the then elder millennials, will have become the norm for early 21st century “old school” mind sets and social behavior.

What to Name the “H” Wall and Its New CF area?

Because the vine and leaf inclined “H” Wall symbolically well represents the horticultural, heroic, and Houston climate of the new center field area, our vote supports the idea that it’s already named itself. Unless the fan masses come up with a more naturally popular title, let us consider calling  it “The H Wall” – for now and evermore.

As for the newly constructed, people-busy center field leafy area, and in recognition of Jim Crane, the Astros owner who placed the change in motion, the Pecan Park Eagle votes for “Jim’s Jungle” as the only fitting choice. It’s not only forested in center field now. It has become a jungle of fan activity and club opportunity in a powerful meeting of supply and demand.

What do you think?

____________________


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

The Surviving Members of the Houston Colt .45s

April 20, 2017

How many kids in history get to celebrate their 18th birthday by striking out the MLB version of Willie Mays? Only one – and his name was and still is – Larry Dierker – who pitched his first game for the Houston Colt .45s on his 18th birthday, 9/22/64. Dierker is the youngest surviving Colt .45.

Today, Thursday, April 20, 2017, there are a total of only forty final survivors among all the men who once played for the Houston Colt .45s in any official season box score time from 1962 through 1964. The oldest, of course, is Bobby Shantz, who also heads the list of oldest among all players to ever perform for the Houston major league club as either the Colt .45s or Astros, but this list of “last living” Colt .45s is much more exclusive. Whereas, we continue to see the addition of numerous new Astros yearly, the club existed as the Colt .45s for only those three initial franchise seasons. Therefore, we chose to focus here on who remains from our originally identified club known as the Houston Colt .45s.

Today we are down to our “Final Forty Colt Forty-Fives” and the youngest of these men just happens to be a fellow that many of us still treasure as a special baseball friend and the namesake of our local Houston SABR group, the Larry Dierker Chapter.

Keep that heart, mind, body, and spirit engaged, Mr. Dierker. – We need you with us as long as possible.

And thank you, Darrell Pittman, for fulfilling our request for this data so quickly. Your ability to also program it for The Pecan Park Eagle in Microsoft Word tabular form as requested simply sweetened the project to this early publication date. On some things, my dear friend, I really don’t know what I’d do without either your help or countless other good intentions. Thank you for being you – a true friend and great baseball guy!

Sincerely,

Bill McCurdy, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

____________________

“Final Forty Houston Colt Forty-Fives” *

Rank by Age Player Houston Years Birth date Age in 2017
1 Bobby Shantz 1962 9/26/1925 92
2 Dick Gernert 1962 9/28/1928 89
3 Don Larsen 1964-65 8/7/1929 88
4 Bob Lillis 1962-67 6/2/1930 87
5 Roman Mejias 1962 8/9/1930 87
6 Dean Stone 1962 9/1/1930 87
7 Hal Smith 1962-63 12/7/1930 87
8 Don Taussig 1962 2/19/1932 85
9 Eddie Kasko 1964-65 6/27/1932 85
10 Carroll Hardy 1963-64 5/18/1933 84
11 Dave Roberts 1962, 1964 6/30/1933 84
12 Al Spangler 1962-65 7/8/1933 84
13 Jim Owens 1964-67 1/16/1934 83
14 Joey Amalfitano 1962 1/23/1934 83
15 J C Hartman 1962-63 4/15/1934 83
16 Don Bradey 1964 10/4/1934 83
17 Jim Golden 1962-63 3/20/1936 81
18 Joe Gaines 1964-66 11/22/1936 81
19 Carl Warwick 1962-63 2/27/1937 80
20 Claude Raymond 1964-67 5/7/1937 80
21 Jim Campbell 1962-63 6/24/1937 80
22 Jim Dickson 1963 4/20/1938 79
23 Bob Aspromonte 1962-68 6/19/1938 79
24 Mike White 1963-65 12/18/1938 79
25 Dave Giusti 1962, 1964-68 11/27/1939 78
26 Ernie Fazio 1962-63 1/25/1942 75
27 Jim Wynn 1963-73 3/12/1942 75
28 Danny Coombs 1963-69 3/23/1942 75
29 Conrad Cardinal 1963 3/30/1942 75
30 Aaron Pointer 1963, 1966-67 4/19/1942 75
31 Jerry Grote 1963-64 10/6/1942 75
32 Larry Yellen 1963-64 1/4/1943 74
33 Dave Adlesh 1963-68 7/15/1943 74
34 Joe Morgan 1963-71, 1980 9/19/1943 74
35 Brock Davis 1963-64, 1966 10/19/1943 74
36 Rusty Staub 1963-68 4/1/1944 73
37 Sonny Jackson 1963-67 7/9/1944 73
38 John Paciorek 1963 2/11/1945 72
39 Steve Hertz 1964 2/26/1945 72
40 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.

Unless we miscounted, 19 of these surviving 40 Colt .45 alumni went on to spend variable future time beyond 1964 as members of the franchise’s 1965 and forward re-named club, the Houston Astros.

____________________


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

Problem? It’s Game Lengths Plus Attention Spans.

April 19, 2017

Whoops! Did I just outrun your attention span?”

 

Anyone today who chooses to speak or write into the wind of all those limited attention spans that are out there today is simply asking for it.

Here’s a better way to picture it. – Remember all those great Roadrunner-Wile E. Coyote cartoons of childhood? Their interactions serve us well here as models.

Wile E. Coyote is the presenter. The Roadrunner is the audience that old Wile E. intends to capture.

Every time Wile E. charges after old Roadie, the result is invariably the same. – The moment he seems to be getting there, Roadie shifts into high gear high-speed and is gone in a cloud of dust.

And where does that leave Wyle E.?

Sometimes it leaves the smarter version of Wile E. screeching to a dust-filled blinking spot in the road before he spins over to the Acme Company in search of a new capture trap.

In our model, the Acme Company serves as our symbol for everything from universities to authors to “Leisure Learning” courses on “how to get what you want.”

Most of these programs don’t work, but, like Acme, they always have something new to offer. – And why not? The Wile E. Coyotes of the world keep asking for them.

The not-s0-smart versions of Wile E. Coyote don’t stop when the Roadrunner disappears because, frankly, they are not even aware of his departure. They just keep charging after where they think he is, leaving a dusty trail of their own near the rim of the high plateau where they run.

Worse. The dummy Wyle E.s keep on running past the rim – and for a short distance – they are obliviously running across open sky as though it were solid ground.

Then. Something happens.

Wile E. Coyote senses a slight decline in the altitude of his running path.

The ground is now so light that Wile E. notes the absence of ground contact as he places each pounding foot down in fast speed stride.

A sudden suspicion grips Wile E.’s mind. And his eyes both enlarge to freeze-position as OPEN-WIDE.

Wile E. looks down. The look confirms that he is now running through the open air.

The canyon floor awaits him. – 3,000 feet below.

Sheepishly, he waves us goodbye and falls through the bottom of the screen.

And we look on at the open space he once occupied, only a nanosecond ago.

And what keeps us aflight is never a problem. It’s called movie magic.

And our plight is not at issue here, anyway.

The metaphor speaks for itself:

Presenters and events that pursue audiences in 2017 without regard or awareness for the presence of short attention spans will get what they have coming to them, one way or another.

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Regarding the Physical Changes at Minute Maid Park

After watching the presentation by Astros President Reid Ryan last night during the ROOT Network telecast, I’ve come around to thinking that maybe the ball club has got the right handle on what needs to happen to make people stop worrying about the length of games or silly filler practices like character races or tee shirts slung into the crowd by cheerleader types. As much as I personally miss Tal’s Hill, the changes in center field have created more area that is now devoted to fan exploration, eating, drinking, socializing, and hanging out. We got to see it with our own eyes last night and the fans seemed to be lapping it up. In fact, those very activities probably are the core of things that can really distract people from the cell phones and provide the kind of atmosphere that people associate with “the less time this takes, the better.” It isn’t about less time. It is about how enjoyable is the time that we spend at Minute Maid Park (MMP)? Enjoyable social time between fans is the one thing that MMP can provide that is superior, especially for younger fans, to watching the game on HDTV at home. Plus, throw in all the new ballpark game vista options, and MMP is superior to any bar scene that offers big screen coverage of the same views we can just about all get on home TV now.

____________________


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

An April Showers SABR Meeting in Rainy Houston

April 18, 2017

Greg Lucas
Butler University
Photo by Kevin P. Rosell

Last night was a first for the Larry Dierker Chapter of SABR. Never before in our local history have 9 members walked off from a regular gathering with a pennant for making it all the way through a three-hour meeting, but last night it happened. It really and truly did. And we’ve got the visual evidence here to prove almost all of it, thanks to new and enthusiastic seam-head member Kevin P Rosell, who also was kind enough to take these photos of those receiving their various flags of affinity.

The pennants weren’t actually any sort of reward for endurance. It’s just that we were busier than usual last night. It sort of went like this:

  1. The SABR Analytics March Conference in Arizona Report. New member Kevin P. Rosell attended the conference, and he began the evening with an enthusiastic, few-if-any-stones-left-to-upturn one hour and fifteen minute report  on everything that happened there. Questions about the replacement of human judgment by umpires on balls and strike calls by laser/technical/scientific technology was the hottest button in the discussion barrel.
  2. Greg Lucas Reported on his new book, “Houston to Cooperstown: The Houston Astros’ Biggio & Bagwell Years”. Greg spoke for about twenty minutes. Beyond Larry Dierker’s “It Ain’t Brain Surgery”, followed by “Toy Cannon”, the biography that Jimmy Wynn and I, Bill McCurdy, did of his life and career for McFarland Company in 2010 and then, “Still Throwing Heat”, the book that J.R. Richards did on his life and career with Lew Freedman in 2015, Lucas’s new work on Biggio/Bagwell is only the fourth book in print that focuses on individual Astro players. From what Greg shared, and what we also know of his writing skills, look for this latest book to be well worth the $25 purchase price at both Barnes & Noble, nationwide, and, of course, Amazon.com.
  3. “Catching Casey!” This was a “just for fun” activity. We wanted to give Greg Lucas a chance to catch up with Casey Stengel by allowing him to simply, one-by-one, look at a bunch of college pennants I had purchased for this exercise and match them with members in our SABR meeting group. Each correct identification counted as a “pennant won” – and Greg got to award that pennant that he just won for the right person as their gift. – With a little help, Greg Lucas got it done. Casey Stengel won a monster number of 10 pennants in 12 seasons (1949-60) with the Yankees. Greg Lucas won only 9 pennants, but, cut him some slack, Greg did his work in only 15 minutes. How’s that for efficiency? – Thanks to new “Jim Dandy To The Rescue” member Kevin P Rosell, we also have pictures of them all. Unfortunately, I did not receive the photos of Larry Miggins (Pittsburgh) or Bob Copus (Sam Houston State), but here are 6 of the others I did receive from Kevin by e-mail. The picture up top of Greg Lucas counts as one also. Then there were the 2 photos that didn’t get here. – Those bring Greg’s total pennant captures to 9. This whole “Catching Casey” fun thing took about 15 minutes, as we said, and then, of course, the night concluded with the usual trivia quiz. Mike McCroskey designed the quiz, but wasn’t present to administer it. Forgive me this sin too, but I never even heard who won. I will put my dime down now that it most probably was Tom White, our unbelievably resourceful “Handy Vandy” baseball history answer man.

 

Dr. Sam Quintero
University of Houston
Photo by Kevin P. Rosell

Tom White
Vanderbilt University
Photo by Kevin P. Rosell

Chris Chesnutt
Texas A&M University
Photo by Kevin P. Rosell

Phil Holland
North Carolina State University
Photo by Kevin P. Rosell

Peggy Dorrill
James Madison University
Kevin P. Rosell

Bob Dorrill
Miami (O) University
Photo by Kevin P. Rosell

____________________

4/18/2017: Important Addendum to the record of other books written by or about former Colt .45/Astro  players. SABR Colleague Mark Wernick has now added this same information below as a comment on this article, but we felt it was important enough to be brought up top as a serious repair of our previous records on the subject. Thanks, Mark, for your far more thorough listing of books by or about former Houston franchise players:

“Bill, I wish I didn’t have to miss the festivities. It looks like fun times. I have a few more books that maybe could be added to the list of books focusing on individual Colt .45s/Astros players. There’s “Perfect”, by Steven K. Wagner about John Paciorek; “Fields Way”, J.C. Hartman’s book; “Rusty Staub of the Expos” by John Robertson, which does touch upon his time with Houston; “To All My Fans …” by Norm Miller; “Survive to Win”, by Bob Watson; and “The Rocket” by Joseph Janczak, a book about Roger Clemens that also touches on his time in Houston. Russ Kemmerer wrote a book that devotes a chapter to his time with the Houston Colt .45s, and the several bios of Joe Morgan and Nolan Ryan address their time with Houston.” ~ Mark Wernick.

___________________


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

A Great Fan Story by Gilbert D. Martinez

April 18, 2017

Gilbert D.  Martinez
Independent Writing Contributor
SABR Member
Rogers Hornsby Chapter
Austin, Texas

 

The Pecan Park Eagle wishes to express thanks to SABR brother Gilbert D. Martinez of the SABR Rogers Hornsby Chapter in Austin for his public story of the trip that he and a friend, Jan Larson, made to Minute Maid Park on the first Astros home game weekend of the 2017 season. We also want to thank Paul Rogers of the SABR Ernie Banks-Bobby Bragan DFW Chapter for bringing this beautiful little story to our awareness so that we could run it here as a column of a beautiful, but unexpected fan experience at the ballpark – and also, how we often don’t realize who may be sitting next to us at random – especially, when we know we’ve been assigned to seats in the other team’s fan section.

We shall let Gilbert tell the story. He does just fine with it:

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Hi, everyone,

Jan (Larson) and I had a chance to watch the Astros take on the Royals on Saturday and Sunday (April 8-9, 2017). We saw good pitching performances by Keuchel and McCullers, but a Gregerson meltdown lost the game for the Astros.

I happened to get free tickets in the Royals section (behind visitor’s dugout) thanks to a colleague at school. My colleague’s son-in-law is director of broadcasting for the Royals, and he left us tickets at the players’ will call window. So I figured we would likely be sitting near Royals fans.

Sure enough, a middle-aged couple in Royals gear sat next to us. “You’re going to spot us four or five runs in the first, right?” the guy says to me. I said no; that we had already given those runs up the night before so it was our turn.

It was the start to some friendly banter during the game.

 

Nathan “Nate” Karns
6’5″ Right Handed Pitcher
2017 Kansas City Royals

 

A few innings in, starting pitcher Nate Karns (new to the Royals, formerly with the Nationals, Rays and Mariners) proceeds to throw eight straight balls to start the fifth inning. This prompts a visit from the pitching coach.

So, I lean over to my new Royals friend and say, “Oh, we don’t want you to take this guy out.”

He responds, “He’s my son.”

I said, “Really??!!!” We had a laugh about it, but then Karns’ mother said that watching him pitch was heart-wrenching.

Anyway, the dad shared some stories with me as the game progressed, such as the time Karns (as a Ray) beat the Phillies 1-0 on his home run. http://m.mlb.com/news/article/137827492/nathan-karns-hits-first-career-home-run/

Karns actually pitched very well, but you wouldn’t know it talking to his mom, who apparently thought he struggled. Here is his line from the game: 5.2 innings, 6 hits, 1 run, 1 earned run, 2 bb, 3 k; you be the judge. I tried assuring her that he actually pitched well and she clarified that by his standards, he usually pitches better. Spoken like a true mom.

Karns was on track for the win, but a two-run homer by Marwin Gonzalez off Travis Wood tied the game in the seventh, and a game-tying homer by (of all hitters) Jake Marisnick saved the game in the bottom of the ninth. Astros won the game on a walk-off walk of Gattis in the bottom of the 12th.

~ Gilbert Martinez

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Editor’s Note: Thanks again, Gilbert – and know this too. Anytime you decide to write another baseball story that you think may be interesting to the farther reaches of our not-so-little-anymore SABR world, please drop a direct copy to us here at The Pecan Park Eagle.  We are always looking for good material on our widely shared favorite larger world of baseball and we shall be most happy to boost your story’s circulation at our “love of the game” editorial desk, if it is as timely and well written as this terrific piece.

Just drop me a copy at houston.buff37@gmail.com

~ Bill McCurdy, Publisher, Editor, Principle Writer, Chief Bottle Washer

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Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

Ten Oldest Living Former Colt .45s/Astros

April 17, 2017

Bobby Shantz, Age 91
With the death of Bob Cerv, Bobby Shantz is now the oldest living former player in Houston MLB franchise history.

 

The Ten Oldest Living Former Members of the Houston Colt .45s/Astros

Until his death on April 6, 2017, Bob Cerv had been the oldest living former member of the Houston Colt .45s/Astros MLB franchise. Had he lived, Cerv would have turned 92 and celebrated the anniversary of his May 25, 1925 birthday next month.

Thanks again to the research we asked of Darrell Pittman in response to an inquiry by St. Louis area reader Emmett McAuliffe, we are now able to present our general readership with a new list of the Ten Oldest Living Former Members of the Houston Colt .45s/Astros. As all may note, the oldest player in our Houston franchise’s history is the same guy who threw the first pitch and won the first game in franchise history. Bobby Shantz may have been a little guy, but he left long shadows of eloquently good service all over big league baseball, and, although his time in Houston was “short”, as well. our memory of him was long.

Thanks again for your yeoman efforts, Darrell Pittman. We simply felt that your findings deserves the column spotlight that their importance to our living presence of local baseball history deserves:

The Top 10 List itself

Oldest Player Birth Date Age on 4/16/17
1 Bobby Shantz 9/26/1925 91
2 Dick Gernert 9/28/1928 88
3 Frank Thomas 6/11/1929 87
4 Don Larsen 8/07/1929 87
5 Bob Lillis 6/02/1930 86
6 Roman Mejias 8/09/1930 86
7 Dean Stone 9/01/1930 86
8 Hal Smith 12/07/1930 86
9 Don Taussig 02/19/1932 85
10 Eddie Kasko 6/27/1932 84

 

In any context of history, it is important to remember our elders. No matter how rickety, our elders are the only living bridge to others and events that came to be in our area of interest even farther back in time than even they, the elders, can reach. And while they are still here, it would be wonderful to capture, as we can, and while they still are able to produce them, a few first hand witness glimpses of something in the past that we cannot possibly hope to see with our own eyes. Somewhere out there, someone is most probably buried in a New York City metro area cemetery who may know exactly what happened to the real game ball in the 1908 Merkle Boner contest at the Polo Grounds. If so, how did they get all the way off the planet over a lifetime without someone finding out their secret? Who knows? Maybe everybody around them at the time simply assumed that it wasn’t important to ask them anything. Or maybe they just lacked any appreciation for what happened to that old game ball in the first place.

~ The Pecan Park Eagle, April 16, 2017

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Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

Astros Parade – And Please Don’t Fade

April 16, 2017

 

SEASONS

GREETINGS,

EVERYBODY!

 

 

Here’s a fresh wish dancing on a very old tune. Once you’ve completed your back yard Easter Egg Hunts today, and if you are an Astros fan, give a little thought to how true these new lyrics ring:

 

Astro Parade

Adapted by The Pecan Pecan Eagle

Form the Lyrics to “Easter Parade”

By Irving Berlin

 

In your Astro bonnet, with all the wins upon it,

You are the grandest player in the Astro – parade.

 

We’ll be all in clover – and when they look you over,
We’re all – the proudest club fans in – the Astro parade.

 

On the avenue, Texas Avenue, the photographers will snap you

And you’ll find – that you’ve won – the batting crown again.

 

Oh, we could write a sonnet – ’bout how our fate spins on it,
By keeping Jose Altuve – in the – Astro parade.

 

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HAPPY EASTER!
HELLO, SPRING!
WELCOME HOME, BASEBALL!!

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Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

How Far Do We Go with MLB Replay Review?

April 16, 2017

April 15, 2017: Astros catcher Evan Gaddis eyes the ball coming in down and left. The heavy end of the bat is already moving through an arc of space that will miss the ball by five inches. Umpire Scott Barry will call it a foul tip, negating a strikeout that would have ended the inning for the A’s.

 

In the bottom of the 3rd inning of Saturday’s Astros game at Oakland, the A’s held a 3-0 lead and were threatening to break it open with the bases loaded, two outs, and RHB Ryan Healy facing RHP Lance McCullars with the bases loaded, two outs, and a 3-2 count on the A’s batter.

McCullars dropped a pitch that was dropping low, outside, and probably unhittable, but Healy swing anyway and missed for strike three to end the threat of greater harm to Houston’s rally chances.

McCullars is walking off the mound. What a relief!

Wait a minute! HP umpire Scott Barry says it wasn’t strike three after all. As he eyes Astros catcher Evan Gaddis fumbling in the dirt to pick up the ball he could not contain for a caught strike three, he also carries his visual conclusion a step further. The pitch was a foul tip. It had to have been a foul tip, otherwise, Gaddis would have caught it. Healy’s must have tipped it and made the ball uncatchable.

Oh, really?

If you examine the masthead photo of this exact play, you will see the heavy side of Healy’s bat swinging through the arc of possible contact and missing the coming in, but falling away pitched baseball by a good five-inch wide country baseball mile.

Two pitches later, McCullers struck out Healy swinging for the second time in the same at bat on a similar pitch, but this time, Gaddis caught the ball. And umpire Scott Barry was not disposed again to jump to any further wrong conclusions.

The Astros later rallied from a 5-0 deficit for the second time in three days to take the game with the A’s by a score of 10-6, but what might have happened had the egregiously wrong call in the 3rd inning by umpire Scott Barry been the door opener for a big Oakland inning that may well have squashed any hope for a Houston rally win? For one thing, it certainly would have been a tough watch for the umpire himself, post-game, to see the big part that his perceptual error played in the unfolding of an unjust outcome. That’s for sure.

While I don’t favor the use of chin music audio-metric devices to fine tune when those close ones actually tip a whisker hard enough to earn the survivor an HBP ride to first base, I do think that instant replay could have set Barry’s call straight as dead wrong quite fast – and spared us all the history of allowing another avoidable error to rule the day.

The Old Law of the Jungle Rules Need Some Attention

Most students of the ancient game know that umpires forever have listened for – certain sounds – occurring milliseconds apart – that would tell them which came earliest on a play at first – the sound of the ball hitting the glove for an out – or the sound of a foot hitting the base for a safe call. And, if a home plate umpire couldn’t see the part of actual transaction between the bat and ball from his spot, he could, at least, learn how catchers react to balls that are tipped – especially, the fact that most tipped balls immediately have a good chance of not being caught because of that last second high-speed directional change that such tips cause. – Is this what happened to umpire Scott Barry? – We can’t prove it did, but we think it did, because there wasn’t anything other than the replay video that showed how utterly preposterous the tip call actually was in fact,.

The Quick Glance Addition to Replay Reviews

We don’t need to cover everything at the plate unless we are ready to move into laser system calling of balls and strikes, but we could add a “quick glance” review on plays like the one featured here. – Allow one quick replay glance on things like the errant tip call of today. If the umpire doesn’t see it right away when he looks at the replay, then, he’s free to hang with the original call. Just don’t it ride with it, as the example today clearly  proves, as an obvious unexamined mistake that could unjustly decide the outcome of the game.

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Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas