No Succor for Soccer Here

July 24, 2016
“DON’T LET THE BALL HIT YOU IN THE FACE ON ITS WAY BACK!”

“DON’T LET THE BALL HIT YOU IN THE FACE ON ITS WAY BACK!”

 

Soccer is the only sport I know in which playoff teams may survive and advance without actually winning. It is the only sport, with the occasional exception of hockey, that comes to mind in which the absence of scoring is closer to the norm than the aberration. It is the only sport going in which ties in regulation time games are decided by a face-off kick between a powerful offensive player and the other team’s goalie. If this were baseball, it would be a method equivalent to eliminating extra innings and settling the win by allowing each team to put up their best power hitters and giving each the chance to see who could hit the most homers off home-cooking pitchers from their own teams – with the one who gets the most winning the game for their team.

What a waste of time. We don’t even know how long the regulation time their games are, but we don’t care. However long they are, it’s too long for some of us who didn’t grow up with the sport as a serious occupation of time. Watching people running up and down the field in shorts, trying to control a bouncing ball with their feet, bodies, and heads, without losing it to balance or counter-kicking by the opposition – and then, if they make it this far, kicking it past a foe who covers almost the whole goal cage you are trying to reach is – altogether frustrating, irritating, improbable, redundantly stupid, and boring.

As kids in Post WWII Houston, we did not play organized soccer. No doubt here that many of us might feel differently about soccer in greater numbers, had we done so, but I don’t think I would be among them. Even football could not budge me from loving baseball above all others back then – or even now. And football was a mighty tough and engaging game too. Unlike soccer.

We didn’t even call it “soccer” back then. We called it “kick-ball” – and it was only a game played sometimes at a fifteen minute school recess time-killer after lunch.

If you like soccer, the Dynamo, the World Games, or whatever it is they play for as the big deal in their sport, go for it. You don’t need baseball people like me at your victory celebrations. Nor do people like me and many others need to be there.

What triggered this little rant column was an item that appeared yesterday in the Saturday, July 23, 2016 Houston Chronicle Sports Section, Page C6. The sentence that triggered how differently “soccer” views offense from baseball, football, or basketball is classic. It’s not a coach quote, but a deduction derived by Chronicle reporter Corey Roepken on the post-game coach impressions of the attempt by the Dynamo in the game against the Dallas Club. After describing a new alignment of players that new coach Wade Barrett had installed to generate more offense in the Dynamo, the club still lost, 1-0, to FC Dallas. In reaction to the loss, Coach Barrett reportedly noted that, although the Dynamo did not score in the 1-0 loss, they showed more willingness to do so.

PA-TOOOEY!!!

____________________

eagle-0range
Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

The House That Cost The Red Sox Ruth

July 22, 2016

 

The former home of Red Sox Owner Harry Frazee in Larchomnt, NY For Sale: $2,650.000

The former home of Red Sox Owner Harry Frazee        Larchomnt, NY
For Sale in July 2016, asking price = $2,650.000

 

So much for the “house that Ruth built” later in New York. Now we have more of the facts behind Harry Frazee’s need to sell the greatest ballplayer in history to the Yankees prior to the 1920 baseball season – and it wasn’t all due to the AL Boston club owner’s need for $100,000 to float “No No, Nanette under the lights of Broadway alone that caused the biggest loss in Boston sports history and the curse that came with it for the rest of the 20th century and extra four years.

Flat out, it was the Harry Frazee lifestyle in general that did him in for the production money he needed for his theatrical interests. Although it still wasn’t enough for dealing Ruth away, as history has easily proven, $100,000 in late 1919 was a whole lot of money.

Harry Frazee wasn’t living under a bridge on the Charles River and surviving on stolen clams and crab lines at the time he sold Babe Ruth. We are not sure where he lived in Boston, but his place in Larchmont, NY was beyond “pretty nice.” That reality was brought home sharply for many of us by an article that SABR buddy Mark Wernick sent me only last night about the former Harry Frazee home being up for sale again this summer by the present owners. They are “only” asking $ 2,650,000 for the seven bedroom, six bath mansion in the community of Larchmont, but, hey, we only live once, right?

We also mistakenly thought this modest community in Larchmont was near Boston when we wrote this column earlier this morning, but readers Len Levin and Bill Hickman both helped us get our facts straight early in the day. Our apologies too for the fact that we do not either know the period of time that Frazee owned this property, but that matters little to the point here. The house speaks to the lifestyle requirements that contributed to the Red Sox owner’s needs to sell Ruth. Before or after the Ruth deal, the effect of the Ruth sale upon Frazee was pretty much the same. It was either the “House That Helped Cause the Loss of Ruth” or “The House That was Only Possible as the Result of the Sale of Ruth.”

Larchmont is a village located within the Town of Mamaroneck in Westchester County, New York, approximately 18 miles northeast of Midtown Manhattan.

The old Frazee place is a stunner-castle for those who like to dream big, even if those dreams occasionally are accompanied by a few delusions of grandeur. As we mentioned to Mark Wernick, it would make a great summer home for any Houstonian with both the desire and wherewithal needed to escape these cruelest months of our seasonal heat. Alas, we personally come up a tad shy on the wherewithal side of this equation.

Below are ten pictures of the old Frazee place in Larchmont. To see eleven more, just click this link and dream your own way through the slide show.

http://www.lohud.com/story/money/real-estate/homes/2016/07/20/babe-ruth-boston-red-sox-and-broadway-all-one-larchmont-house/86431160/

Again, it wasn’t just the Broadway show that cost young Harry Frazee his greatest baseball asset and earned him the eternal spite of Red Sox fans – and a curse that far exceeded his lifetime. It was the lifestyle of Harry Frazee that cost the Red Sox the lights out talent of the great Babe Ruth!

 

Former Frazee Home One of Several Great Rooms

Former Frazee Home
One of Several Great Rooms

 

The Dining Room

The Dining Room

 

The Kitchen

The Kitchen

 

The Breakfast Nook

The Breakfast Nook

 

Sun Room to Backyard

Sun Room to Backyard

 

One of the Six Bathrooms

One of the Six Bathrooms

 

One off the Seven Bed Rooms

One off the Seven Bedrooms

 

The Back Yard

The Back Yard

 

The Driveway ENtrance

The Driveway Entrance

 

Thank you, Mark Wernick! ~ What a great subject!

____________________

eagle-0range
Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

AL Batting Average Leaders

July 21, 2016
JOSE ALTUVE #1 AL BA Hitter at .357 April 20, 2016 "The Best of the Best"

JOSE ALTUVE
#1 AL BA Hitter at .357
April 20, 2016
“The Best of the Best”

 

Take a look at the 40 current batting average leaders in the 2016 American League season. Jose Altuve (.357 BA, 133 hits) is the leader in hits and  30 points up on David “Big Papi” Ortiz of the Red Sox for the BA leadership and he looks good to date to be well on his way to a second American League Batting title.

At the same time, take a look at the obvious. Altuve is the only member of the Houston Astros to qualify for member ship in the Top 40. You have to go all the way down the list to the player ranked # 48 to find Carlos Correa (.266 BA, 92 hits) as the next Astro – and to # 57 to find George Springer (.257, 98 hits) as the third man:

http://espn.go.com/mlb/stats/batting/_/league/al/qualified/true

As we feel sure you will also note, the Texas Rangers have 4 of their members among the Top 40 hitters for batting average.

The stretch run needs and possibilities for the Astros in 2016 raise the question, even if it sort of answers itself. – Do you see anyone out there among the best hitters for non-contending teams that would be worth a trade conversation – or are we looking at a list of MLB’s modestly talented best hitters that would still invite a mortgage on the farm as the cost of their acquisition?

The 40 AL Batting Average Leaders

Through the Afternoon Games of Wed., 7/20/16:

RK PLAYER TEAM AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO AVG OBP SLG OPS WAR
1 Jose Altuve HOU 373 73 133 26 3 15 54 25 3 44 40 .357 .427 .563 .990 5.5
2 David Ortiz BOS 309 45 101 34 1 23 75 2 0 51 45 .327 .421 .667 1.088 3.7
3 Xander Bogaerts BOS 378 68 121 22 0 11 59 11 3 34 62 .320 .377 .466 .843 2.7
4 Mike Trout LAA 338 74 108 23 2 19 62 16 1 61 73 .320 .425 .568 .993 6.1
5 Ian Desmond TEX 371 67 117 22 2 17 57 16 3 30 98 .315 .369 .523 .892 3.8
6 Yunel Escobar LAA 334 41 105 21 1 3 28 0 2 25 45 .314 .364 .410 .774 1.3
7 Eduardo Nunez MIN 340 48 105 15 1 12 43 23 6 13 48 .309 .335 .465 .800 1.6
8 Manny Machado BAL 360 63 111 30 0 19 54 0 3 32 70 .308 .366 .550 .916 4.2
9 Josh Donaldson TOR 357 85 110 22 5 24 70 6 0 65 69 .308 .421 .599 1.020 5.9
10 Robinson Cano SEA 388 66 118 23 1 22 60 0 1 29 63 .304 .358 .539 .896 4.7
RK PLAYER TEAM AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO AVG OBP SLG OPS WAR
11 Carlos Beltran NYY 319 46 97 20 0 20 60 0 0 19 61 .304 .343 .555 .898 1.4
12 Mookie Betts BOS 406 75 123 25 4 18 60 16 1 25 58 .303 .343 .517 .860 4.2
13 Melky Cabrera CHW 328 43 99 19 4 9 43 1 0 25 38 .302 .348 .466 .815 1.1
14 Francisco Lindor CLE 361 67 108 20 1 12 49 13 4 35 56 .299 .358 .460 .818 3.9
15 Eric Hosmer KC 355 49 106 19 1 13 51 4 1 32 77 .299 .356 .468 .824 1.6
16 Nick Castellanos DET 349 47 104 21 4 17 52 1 1 21 89 .298 .337 .527 .864 2.0
17 Danny Valencia OAK 272 41 81 11 1 12 34 0 0 20 65 .298 .349 .478 .827 0.5
18 Elvis Andrus TEX 311 44 92 17 5 4 45 13 6 26 42 .296 .348 .421 .769 1.6
19 Didi Gregorius NYY 318 41 94 18 1 11 41 5 1 12 40 .296 .328 .462 .791 1.6
20 Jonathan Schoop BAL 350 51 103 25 1 16 54 1 1 13 76 .294 .327 .509 .836 2.5
RK PLAYER TEAM AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO AVG OBP SLG OPS WAR
21 Dustin Pedroia BOS 367 58 108 21 1 9 38 5 1 40 49 .294 .363 .431 .793 3.0
22 Jackie Bradley Jr. BOS 317 55 93 23 6 14 55 7 1 36 72 .293 .374 .536 .910 3.8
23 Ian Kinsler DET 380 76 111 18 3 19 56 9 3 26 73 .292 .347 .505 .852 3.5
24 Victor Martinez DET 333 38 97 14 0 17 55 0 0 23 53 .291 .339 .486 .825 1.0
25 Jose Ramirez CLE 309 46 90 22 1 4 41 10 5 27 37 .291 .352 .408 .760 1.4
26 Evan Longoria TB 368 51 107 26 2 22 54 0 2 27 87 .291 .338 .552 .890 2.9
27 Lorenzo Cain KC 286 39 83 12 0 8 39 6 4 19 64 .290 .336 .416 .752 2.1
28 Miguel Cabrera DET 356 50 103 17 1 18 53 0 0 43 68 .289 .366 .494 .861 2.2
29 Stephen Vogt OAK 277 35 80 20 2 8 30 0 0 16 42 .289 .331 .462 .793 1.9
30 Michael Saunders TOR 318 50 91 25 2 16 43 0 2 36 97 .286 .365 .528 .893 2.2
RK PLAYER TEAM AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO AVG OBP SLG OPS WAR
31 Hanley Ramirez BOS 325 50 93 19 1 11 54 7 2 34 70 .286 .363 .452 .815 1.0
32 Jason Kipnis CLE 365 53 104 19 4 16 52 7 2 32 84 .285 .343 .490 .834 2.1
33 Mark Trumbo BAL 369 55 105 17 1 28 68 1 0 28 104 .285 .338 .564 .902 2.0
34 Kole Calhoun LAA 352 61 100 16 4 10 49 2 3 41 69 .284 .363 .438 .800 2.0
35 Nelson Cruz SEA 345 56 98 17 0 23 58 0 0 40 96 .284 .370 .533 .904 2.7
36 Kyle Seager SEA 357 56 101 27 2 18 63 1 1 40 66 .283 .361 .521 .882 3.9
37 Jed Lowrie OAK 293 26 82 11 1 2 25 0 0 23 56 .280 .331 .345 .676 0.1
38 Nomar Mazara TEX 321 38 89 10 0 11 37 0 2 24 58 .277 .330 .411 .741 0.7
39 Salvador Perez KC 311 37 86 19 2 14 43 0 0 15 77 .277 .314 .486 .800 3.0
40 Rougned Odor TEX 355 60 98 18 3 17 48 8 4 8 75 .276 .295 .487 .783 1.0

 

Bad Playoff Signs for Astros Last Night

July 20, 2016
The throe to Evan Gattis from Carlos Correa was too late as the Oakland A's rallied from an earlier 0-3 hole to beat the Astros in the bottom of 10th by 4-3. Tony Sipp gave up the winning hit.

The throw to Evan Gattis from Carlos Correa was too late as the Oakland A’s rallied from an earlier 0-3 hole to beat the Astros in the bottom of the 10th by 4-3. Tony Sipp gave up the winning deep infield hit.

 

Close to 1:00 AM earlier today, after watching the Astros lose their 2nd straight game to Oakland, this time in the bottom of the 10th by 4-3 on the wobbly roll of an infield single, our worst fears for the playoff run were clearly confirmed: This Astros club will not go far without some quick fix improvement in all key areas.

First of all, is was the third “winnable game loss” on this now 2-3 road trip. The 1-0 loss at Seattle and the 7-4, 4-3 losses, so far, at Oakland all have portrayed the same Astros afflictions: (1) The lack of strategic hitting success with runners in scoring position; (2) starting pitchers who wrap good (but not great) pitching around one disastrous inning that then makes winning a long shot; (3) relief pitchers who suddenly can’t find the strike zone in relief; and (4) closers who suddenly can’t get strike three before giving up a run-scoring gapper.

The worse the Astros play in the clutch, the more expensive any perceived trade remedy is going to be – and in a year in which there are no obvious “Cole Hamels quality” over-priced options out there. Anything Astros GM Jeff Luhnow does now is going to be at high cost and high risk of being “too little, too late,” and too expensive in the cost of prospect talent to be worth the roll of the dice.

So, what is the guy going to do? Everybody in Houston is expecting Luhnow to pull the trigger on the deal that gives the Astros the chance they don’t seem to have with their current roster, but such a deal doesn’t appear likely this year. Maybe the infusions of Gurriel and Bregman will boost and catalyze better strategic hitting, but, in spite of his found “blind pig/wild acorn” grand slam  in Seattle the other day, our chances at some point in the late season with Carlos Gomez coming to bat at the critical moment look pretty gloomy. And we don’t have a real starter ace this year. Nor do we really have a reliable relief staff or a killer closer. Nor are we likely to find any of our missing parts in a big trade in 2016.

I’m having enough trouble with sleep these days anyway – and that pinball hit to Carlos Correa on the left side that scored the winning run for Oakland last night in the bottom of the 10th didn’t help much.

____________________

eagle-0range
Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

Sing a Song of Mike Pence

July 19, 2016
HEADS or TAILS? It all depends upon your point of view.

HEADS or TAILS?
It all depends upon your point of view.

 

Sing a Song of Mike Pence

By Bill McCurdy

 

Sing a Song of Mike Pence,

A Hunter he is not!

But look who’s picking who we get,

In the quest for Camelot!

 

The husband of the beauty queen?

The wife of old Slick Willy?

Who ‘ya gonna vote for now, my friends?

It’s getting way past silly!

 

“Make America Great Again!”

And “Stronger Together” too!

One appeals to the John Wayne side,

As One calls all to  fair weather brew!

 

Sing a Song of Mike Pence, indeed,

A Veep Hope’s Joined the Show,

From Trump’s short list of old white guys,

All Same – and Good to Go!

 

To Light a Fire of Interest,

In Donald’s Waspish Ticket,

You May as Well Pull Out Your Bic,

And Fan Your Thumb to Flick it.

 

But over on the Donkey Side,

The Clintons soon may match it,

With one who is so PC left,

You’ll grab your head and scratch it!

 

And while each grinds and spends big bucks,

From here to next November,

There are some questions we should keep,

And try to long remember!

 

Is this the best that we can do,

In picking who should serve?

If so, it may be time to ask,

Is this all we deserve?

____________________

eagle-0range
Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Do These August Astros Lineups Sound?

July 17, 2016
New Big Trains for Union Station COMING SOON! ALEX BREGMAN AND YULIE GUNZZIEL

New Big Trains for Union Station
COMING SOON!
ALEX BREGMAN AND YULIE GURRIEL!

 

With Yulie Gurriel now in the fold we all know high certainty that he and super-prospect Alex Bregman will both join the Houston Astros starting lineup by August, if not sooner. The following suggestions are little more than our box score visualizations of three possible new lineups we may see soon on the Internet screen and sports pages of the Houston Chronicle. Let us know what you think  of these – or of what other lineups you would propose to Manager A.J. Hinch.

Three Possible Houston Astros August 2016 Lineup:

Lineup One

  1. George Springer, RF
  2. Alex Bregman, LF
  3. Jose Altuve, 2B
  4. Carlos Correa, SS
  5. Yulie Gurriel, 3B
  6. Evan Gattis, DH
  7. Luis Valbuena, 1B
  8. Carlos Gomez, CF
  9. Jason Castro, C

Lineup Two

  1. Jose Altuve, 2B
  2. Alex Bregman, 3B
  3. George Springer, RF
  4. Yulie Gurriel, LF
  5. Carlos Correa, SS
  6. A.J. Reed, 1B
  7. Luis Valbuena, DH
  8. Colby Rasmus, CF
  9. Jason Castro, C

Lineup Three

  1. George Springer, RF
  2. Jose Altuve, 2B
  3. Carlos Correa, SS
  4. Yulie Gurriel, DH
  5. Alex Bregman, 3B
  6. A.J. Reed, 1B
  7. Colby Rasmus, LF
  8. Carlos Gomez, CF
  9. Jason Castro, C

Which do you like better? Or what do you propose as the best use of these two new additions as a lineup for the “tuned-up” (we hope) 2016 August Astros?

Please post your comment.

____________________

eagle-0range
Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

 

 

Saturday Reflections: July 16, 2016

July 16, 2016
Cuban infielder Yulieski Gurriel Our Newest Astro

Cuban infielder Yulieski Gurriel
Our Newest Astro

 

Politics and a 1st Houston World Series Win. The Houston Astros and Cuban infielder Yulieski Gurriel, 32, reportedly have agreed to a 5-year deal worth $47.5 million. Now wouldn’t that be the kicker if the changes in our relationship with Cuba provided the Astros with the wild card they need to both reach and finally win a World Series in the same year? We know the question is way premature and loaded with the hyperbole of wishfulness, but c’mon, man! In the short-term, moves that evoke hope never remain small for long.

Nice Second Half Start, Astros! Friday night’s Astros 7-3 win over the Mariners on the road was just what we needed to see. George Springer leads off the game with an opposite field HR to right. Carlos Correa later. Doug Fister keeps the seamen on the goose going into the top of the 5th – and the Astros score 5 more runs, including two runs tallied on wild pitches, with Correa scoring all the way from 2nd base on his great race to the plate. In bottom of the 5th, Fister gives up 3 runs to Seattle, but that’s all they will get for the night – as Manager Hinch allows Fister to finish the inning and remain eligible for the win he eventually gets. In the top of the 7th, Marwin Gonzalez lucks out on ball call of his bunt attempt – and then kills the next pitch deep into the right field stands to nail the 7-3 eventual final score.

Friday. Rangers lose. Astros win. Houston now pulls to only 4.5 games behind the ALW-leading Texas club.

Looking for Mr. Good Bat. Hope you join the Astros soon, super prospect Alex Bregman. Either you or Gurriel – and hopefully both of you – will fill the bold-type title of this particular wish.

Closing Riddle: “Those who make it, don’t want it. Those who buy it, can’t use it. Those who use it, can’t see it. – What is it?” If you watched the re-run show from an earlier time on the James Corden CBS “Late, Late Show” last night, you already know the answer. If you know the answer, feel free to post it as a comment. If you are right or wrong, I will let you know as a reply to your answer by comment. – And – if nobody gets it, the correct answer will be posted in tomorrow’s column.

Have a Nice Saturday. And “GO ASTROS”!

____________________

eagle-0range
Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

October 11, 1948

July 15, 2016

SPIDERS 1899 3

 

October 11, 1948. It last happened 68 years ago this coming autumn. The listed date was the last time the Cleveland Indians won a World Series. They did it on the road, taking a 4-3 squeeze-by victory over the Boston Braves in a six game ultimate baseball triumph that would prove their last joyful baseball closing until some other Cleveland MLB team comes along and changes history.

1948 World Series, Game 6

October 11, 1948 at Braves Field in Boston, Massachusetts

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Cleveland 0 0 1 0 0 2 0 1 0 4 10 0
Boston 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 2 0 3 9 0
WP: Bob Lemon (2–0)   LP: Bill Voiselle (0–1)
Home runs:
CLE: Joe Gordon (1)
BOS: None

When Cleveland did not get back to the World Series until 1954, prospects didn’t look too bad for the Indians – and certainly not doomed or jinxed. They had the best pitching staff in the majors in Early Wynn, Mike Garcia, Bob Lemon, Bob Feller, and Hal Newhouser – with only Garcia failing to later make it into the Hall of Fame. –  and some heavy-hitting wallbangers for an offense in Luke Easter, Al Rosen, Vic Wertz, and Larry Doby – and also some great table-setter hitters in Bobby Avila, Dale Mitchell, Dave Philley, Al Smith and Wally Westlake. Doby also was a future Hall off Famers. Rosen, among other things, was a future GM of the Houston Astros. They all had teamed together in 1954 to win the AL pennant with a runaway record of 111 wins against only 43 losses.

All that Cleveland greatness aside, which is where the 1954 Giants pushed them, the Tribe went out and got skunked, 4 games to none, by the scrappy New York Giants.  The Tribe’s only memorable long ball turned out to be that long blast into the deep center field belly of the Polo Grounds by Vic Wertz that simply served history as the set-up for Willie Mays’ historical play we shall remember forever as “The Catch.”

After 1954, it would be another 41 years before the Indians made it back to the World Series, but this time, they lost a six-game World Series to the now Atlanta Braves. Then they lost a seven-game series to the Florida Marlins in 1997. And they have not been back to The Show since 1997 – and that is now 19 years into the always distancing past.

Just to clear the entire Cleveland modern World Series history, the first of their modern era appearances happened in 1920 – when they defeated the Brooklyn Dodgers for their first of two World Series victories in five total tries.

In 2016, Cleveland  now breaks from the post-All Star Game break with a 52-26 record and 6.5 game lead in the American League Central. Could this be their year to harvest some of that LeBron James karmic NBA energy for use in the city’s baseball pursuit of happiness? Or are they cursed by the Ghost of the horrendous 1899 Cleveland Spiders – the team that finished most of their second half season on the road – just to protect them from the home fans who weren’t too thrilled with a Cleveland club that finished the season with only 20 wins against 134 losses and a winning percentage of only .130 – the worst in baseball history?

As a long-time fan of Indians baseball, via the old Mutual Game of the Day, and even more personally, as one who was humbly honored a few years ago to serve as Chairman of the Board of the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame with one of the great 1948 World Champion Cleveland Indians, the great first baseman, Eddie Robinson, as an active member of our group, it is my hope to see the Tribe win another crown this year. If the Astros can’t get there in 2016, I will be pulling for the Boys from Cleveland.

____________________

eagle-0range
Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

Myths from The 1948 Babe Ruth Story

July 14, 2016
Nobody's Perfect, But the William Bendix 1948 Movie Version of the Bambino Came Close for Some of Us Kids.

Nobody’s Perfect, But the William Bendix 1948 Movie Version of the Bambino Came Close for Some of Us Kids.

 

In 1948, this writer was 10 years old for all but the last day of that year. Some time earlier that summer,  a neighborhood pal named J.B. Berry and my little brother John McCurdy and yours truly all got to see “The Babe Ruth Story” at the Avalon Theater on 75th in the Houston East End. It was the version that starred William Bendix as “The Babe” and I think, even now, I can speak safely for all of us (J.B. was 8 and Brother John was 6 at the time), when I say that we all fell deeply in love with Babe Ruth from that movie, even though actor Bendix didn’t look much like the few photos we had seen of the real Babe Ruth. Actually, we fell in love with the heroic version of Babe Ruth that the movie flooded upon our eager to be won over minds and spirits. I don’t know how to put it any better. We walked out of that movie theater like saved souls. Babe Ruth was our super human, baseball god hero – and nobody else came even came close to his importance in our points of view.

If you were a kid in that era, you may know exactly what I’m writing about here. With no television, Internet, or social media to distract us in those days, our heroes hunger fed on images from the theater of the mind that was radio of that era, from radio broadcasts of actual games, from the local newspaper sports pages, and very much from the original news and story format version of The Sporting News. The great visual fairy tales on any subject came to us only rarely – and only through film – with movies made by the Hollywood producers who knew, understood, and used the power they held over our imaginations to prey upon all our emotions.

No actor was scarier to me than Peter Lorre in “The Beast with Five Fingers”, the story of a murdered pianist’s severed hand – and how it still played music every night downstairs in this dark and gloomy mansion before crawling away on the floor to strangle another guest in their bed before disappearing again from apprehension until late the next night – when the hand played the piano again.

I don’t have a DVD of the 1948 Ruth movie, but I do remember the major “tricks with the truth” that effected us innocently minded kids of that era. It was later – to much later – that I learned the truth about them all. Everything I saw that day, I thought was the gospel truth.

  1. Babe Ruth was not a perfect kid. In the movie, Babe Ruth as a kid didn’t seem any worse than anybody I knew in Pecan Park, including me, but his dad couldn’t handle him and seemed to stay mad him all the time. Babe’s mom wasn’t around, but we weren’t sure if she had died or just run away from his grumpy old dad. Either way, she wasn’t around to help Babe either. So Babe’s dad gave him away to an orphanage for being imperfect and too much trouble to raise. Poor Babe. His predicament made us wonder. Could the same thing happen to us? None of us were perfect either!
  2. Baseball saved Babe Ruth, but Brother Matthias and the supportive culture of St. Mary’s Home helped too. Babe Ruth had one thing he could do that he did better than anyone else when he arrived at St. Mary’s. He could hit a baseball further – or throw a baseball harder – than anyone else his age or older than anyone else we had ever seen. He easily could have started for the Pecan Park Eagles on his first trip to the Japonica-Myrtle sandlot in 1948. Had he done so, he would have been there long enough to be a big part of the day we formally renamed ourselves as the Pecan Park Eagles and our sandlot as “Eagle Field” in 1950. Had Babe Ruth joined us as a kid our age, we, the Eagles of Pecan Park, could have been the first to have billed our newly re-christened field as “The House That Ruth Built.” As it worked out, Babe spent the rest of his childhood growing up much earlier at St. Mary’s Home for Wayward Boys in Baltimore  – playing baseball, for sure – but getting good support from Brother Matthias, the firm, but gentle Catholic religious order principal of the place who encouraged Babe to play baseball – as he also learned how to be a tailor as his career back up plan.
  3. Babe performed a miracle that got him his first pro baseball contract. Once Babe was old enough to leave St. Mary’s, a fellow named Jack Dunn, the owner of the Baltimore Orioles, came to speak with Brother Mathias about signing Babe Ruth to a professional baseball contract. Dunn asked Brother Mathias if he thought Babe had good control of the pitchers he threw. Before the principal could answer, a baseball came crashing through the window of Brother M’s office. Brother M quickly issued a “George, come in here” command at the door – and even more quickly, here  came William Bendix in a sweatshirt, wearing a baseball cap, pants, and long socks – and wearing a glove on his right hand. He was the oldest looking 18-year old pitcher you will ever see on film. – Finally answering Dunn’s question about ball control, Matthias turned to Babe and handed him the errant ball that he had thrown through the window down the hall – leaving not even a slight larger-than-a-baseball circular hole in the window door it had entered by. “Get rid of the baseball, George – and get it out of here in the same way you threw it in here. – Babe wound up and threw the ball all the way across the room. It left the building through the same hole it had created upon entry – without creating a single scintilla of extra harm. – Jack Dunn signed George Herman Ruth to his first baseball contract before leaving the building.
  4. Claire Ruth was the Babe’s only wife – (not true, he was married once earlier). During his pitching career with the Red Sox, Babe met Claire in a bar – and she helped him correct the fact that he was tipping his curve ball to batters every time by sticking his tongue out when he intended to throw a curve.
  5. As a Yankee in pre-game practice at Comiskey Park, a loud foul by Babe struck a little dog named “Pee Wee”, seriously injuring him. In uniform, Babe took Pee Wee and his young and crying owner with him in a cab to a local hospital, where a kind doctor worked hours on the little canine and saved his life. Relieved finally, Babe checked the clock and realized that he had missed the game. Babe got in trouble with Yankee Manager Miller Huggins the way we used to get in trouble sometimes for getting caught “forgetting” to go to school.
  6. When Babe proposed marriage to his singer-dancer girl friend Claire at the night club where she worked, he joined her on the stage to sing “I’ll Get By As Long As I Have You”.
  7. In the movie, Babe Ruth hit his record 60th HR on the final day of the 1927 season (if I remember correctly). In reality, HR #60 came on the next to last day of 1927. On the last day, Babe went 0 for 3.
  8. Babe “Called His Shot” in the 1932 Series Game at Wrigley Field. You bet. In the movie he did. He even counted off strikes ” 1″ and “2” on his fingers as he awaited a third pitch with his bat on his shoulder. Then, when the count was down to 0-2, the Babe jabbed his index finger high and straight to center field three times defiantly before receiving a pitched ball that was straight down the middle of the plate – as opposed to one that would have put him face down in the dust. There was no question lingering in the movie about Babe’s intention. – He was calling his shot. – No doubt about it.
  9. In 1935, when Babe’s career was playing out miserably as a member of the Boston Braves, Babe reached for one last moment of glory in a game against the Pirates at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh on May 25, 1935. He hit three monster home runs and retired from the game. Not true again. Babe played five more road games in Cincinnati and Philadelphia, going 0 for 9 before hanging them up for good in Philly on May 30, 1935. Babe also had to give up on the Braves’ promise that he would eventually get to manage the club by agreeing to the trade that sent him back to Boston with the the NL club as a player. His attitude in the movie was the same about legal action every time baseball let him down. “Sue baseball?” Babe Bendix said in the movie. “No way. That would be like suing the Church!”
  10. When Babe dies of cancer in 1948, he is treated by the same doctor who saved the little dog Pee Wee years earlier. The movie ends with Babe Ruth being wheeled on a gurney down the hall from his room for an experimental drug treatment that could prove the answer for millions of others. It doesn’t work, but Babe Ruth gives up his life for the rest of us. And as he is being wheeled away, a gang of kids has gathered outside the open window of his first floor room to sing  a slow and grieving version of baseball’s international anthem, “Take Me Out To The Ball Game.” As the movie then shifts to into “The End” closing credits, Babe’s trip down the hospital hall fades to black as the movie screen scene shifts to a scene of sandlotters playing ball to the final rising and now triumphant chorus finish of “Take Met Out To The Ballgame” – and a closing narrator says something like “and baseball will live on for as long as there is … a ball … a bat … a glove … and a ‘boy’ (Sorry, girls. It was a less gender sensitive era.) who wants to play the game that Babe Ruth saved for all of us!” (By 2016, the announcer’s actual words have been over-run by what I now apparently need to remember.)

At any rate, our early small contingent of Pecan Park Eagles were neither capable or desirous of critiquing “The Babe Ruth Story” back in 1948 either – and this writer is really no better at it now. We saw what we wanted to believe. And some us still tear-up privately when we watch the dramatic conclusion of the movie.

Sorry this story took so long. I had to try to share more of what I could of it, even if I have failed to express it all in shorter different approaches to the same core in the past. The spirit of the Babe we once needed him to be lives on in millions of us. I feel sure of it.

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eagle-0range
Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

Why Do Obvious HOF Picks Have to Wait 5 Years?

July 13, 2016

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Why Do Obvious HOF Picks Have to Wait 5 Years for Induction into their respective Halls of Immortal Honor in baseball, football, basketball, and hockey? We are only able to speak for baseball, but no one spoke for basketball – or any of the other North American “Big Four” professional team sports when a caller to the Charlie Palillo Sports Show on AM Radio 790 late Monday afternoon.

The caller stridently wanted to know why Kobe Bryant had to wait another five years from 2016, his last and 20th season with the LA Lakers, to be enshrined in the NBA Hall of Fame – when it was already so obvious that he was deserving of that honor now?

Palillo politely sloughed it off to the three other big sports following baseball’s example for the sake of even giving the historical perspective of a little time to the formal induction, even to the obvious picks, while giving the marginal candidates who may have finished with a hot performance season implicitly a little more time for objective analysis of worthiness in their total careers.

While Palillo’s answer was good, if not heard well by the caller, it was incomplete as far as baseball is concerned.

Baseball doesn’t want HOF inductees changing their minds about retirement the following spring – and then taking leave during the August of an active season as a player, manager, or coach to be anointed with their new royal titles as “Hall of Famers” in Cooperstown.

When Tommy Lasorda was selected for Baseball HOF induction in 1997 for his longtime successful managerial record with the LA Dodgers, the Veteran’s Committee told Lasorda that their choice of him was dependent upon him retiring and staying retired, if he also thought he was also ready to receive the nod. Lasorda jubilantly agreed to the condition.

The Veterans Committee in baseball is not restricted by the five-year waiting period, even though most of their selections are way beyond that time frame and often already in the cemetery by the the time they are picked by this group. We are not sure what the rush on LaSorda’s induction was really all about. Maybe the Dodgers needed the Vet’s Committee to help them force Tommy Boy into retirement.

The Baseball HOF does not want its members continuing in an active way on the field once they have been accorded the induction honor. To the best of my knowledge, it is more of a “code of honor” condition than a baseball law, but its doubtful that recent HOF managers Joe Torre, Tony LaRussa, or Bobby Cox will ever appear on the field again as managers, especially too – at their presently advanced ages.

When the great Roberto Clemente died in a plane on a humanitarian aid air flight to Nicaragua to help earthquake victims on December 31, 1972, the five-year waiting period was waived in his case and he was inducted into the Baseball HOF in 1973. There was no practical reason to delay the honor in the case of a true all time baseball great.

If baseball, or any other sport, wants to keep its “immortals” separately enshrined away from those who are still out there grinding little and big change into the stats and flow of each sport’s record books and culture, the Pecan Park Eagle has no problem whatsoever with that rarified aspiration.

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Closing Note: It’s American League 3 – Chicago Cubs 1 in the bottom of the 3rd in the All Star Game. The game is being played in the NL park of the San Diego Padres, but the AL is dressed in their respective home team uniforms and batting last as the home team. All I know is that the FOX TV guys are saying the venue has nothing to do with determining the home team in the All Star Game. They said that this was just the AL’s turn to host the game, even if the NL crowd doesn’t make it sound or feel like a home game.

You gotta hand it to these guys who end up as Commissioners of Baseball. They really know how to market the game of baseball to the hearts of fans, don’t they?

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eagle-0range
Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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