Corporate Venue Names Getting Worse

August 29, 2016
Fenway Park Do you think the Red Sox or Yankees would ever allow their parks to be thrown into a stadium naming rights sale?

Fenway Park
Do you think the Red Sox or Yankees would ever allow their parks to be thrown into a stadium “naming rights” sale?

 

We know. It pays a lot of the bills. And it takes a lot of green bills to pay a lot of big player mils.

It’s simply too bad from a prosaic perspective that most corporations that choose to spend their marketing dollars on naming rights to various sports venues have nothing lyrical or catchy to offer. Not all, but many.

We seem to have fallen into an accepting mode with Minute Maid Park as the name of our baseball venue in Houston and it isn’t hard to see why. The place was already heavily accented with a trainload of oranges that are actually the size of pumpkins when MMP bought in a few years ago. And there also was a smattering of orange already in place to boost the connection agenda. All that MMP needed was for the team to drop their red uniform gear and go back to the orange and dark blue colors and style of their origins, which they did. It was a major voila for the marketing interests of the orange juice company. Plus, MMP is cool, easy and understandable translation of the baseball stadium’s name as a baseball park. It’s Minute Maid Park – not “Field” or “Stadium” – The “Park” is unmistakably intended for baseball.

Other purchased names are often beyond hope of anything “catchy” by abbreviation. – Others fall to the most common doable nickname by acronym – or to some kind of phonetic invention of a word found commonly in the flow of the letters in the acronym. An example of the first type be the old corporate name for the baseball park in Phoenix, Arizona. It began years ago as “Bank One Ballpark”, but fans quickly converted the three acronym letters from that title into calling it “The BOB”.

In the case of our now three-year old “The Dow Employees Credit Union” Stadium at UH, that one has sagged into two groups. One, TV reporters who simply spell out the acronym letters one-by-one, as in “Over at T-D-E-C-U Stadium tonight; or two, we fans who now call it ‘Tea-DECK-You”.

Either way, there is nothing catchy about saying that name in any way we’ve, so far, discovered.

We have no problem with schools naming their academic buildings, fields, field houses, or stadiums in the names of significant alumni financial or service contributors. That practice has been an American cultural tradition forever, it seems. Although I doubt that many UT Longhorn fans refer to their home football venue as the “Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium” when they post anything in social media. Most Texans in general simply grew up thinking of “Memorial Stadium” as the home of the football Longhorns. And how many people even know that actual playing field there is named for Houston alumni contributor, Joe Jamail? It was the same issue for me as a kid when August Busch bought the St. Louis Cardinals and changed the name of Buff Stadium in Houston, which he then also owned, to Busch Stadium. He may have legally changed the name, but it has remained “Buff Stadium” to most of us ardent fans from that era to this day. And for us, until we are all gone, it shall remain “Buff Stadium”  in our hearts.

The latest big time naming rights purchase I’ve read about is among the worst of all time from an organically catchy connection to the principal occupant of the purchased site. Starting in November 2016, U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, formerly known as Comiskey Park, will be known as “Guaranteed Rate Field” – and that will be the place’s identity for the next 13 years. In his August 27, 2016 column of “Simon Says”, Scott Simon of Houston Media News 88.7 expressed his reaction partially in these terms:

“Guaranteed Rate is a home loan company, headquartered in Chicago.

“But as Rick Morrisey wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times, “Guaranteed Rate Field. You’re kidding, right? Was Year End Clearance Sale Stadium already taken?”

“Ridicule broke out on social media. I sure joined in. What’s next in corporate stadium names? The Viagra Dome? Preparation H Park? Prozac Stadium? Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Ex Lax Field!”

Read the whole Simon article: http://www.npr.org/2016/08/27/491544332/fear-not-white-sox-fans-youll-get-used-to-guaranteed-field

That reference to one of those products listed in my Simon Says quote brought back memories of a flippant suggestion I made to the City of Houston back in the early 1970s when Fred Hofheinz was mayor. The City was gearing up to start receiving the new federal “revenue sharing” monies that were going to start coming back from Washington to local communities for their own discretionary spending on local social assistance programs. In other words, “revenue sharing” was the part of our tax money that went to Washington that was now coming back to us for local decisions on social programs – minus, of course, the cost to local, state, and federal agencies that were needed to process this round trip for some of the money we sent away.

My rejected suggestion for the City of Houston’s Revenue Sharing Program forty plus years ago was also Preparation H.

Have a nice last week of August 2016, everybody! Let’s hope, at least, that one of our local sporting clubs gets to enjoy a championship season before their home venue gets another worse to really bad name.

Traditional to Bland to Flat Out Awful seems to be the guaranteed rate of change in venue names these days.

____________________

eagle-0range
Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

 

 

Open Letter to Astros President Reid Ryan

August 28, 2016
Tal's Hill Minute Maid Park Houston

Tal’s Hill
Minute Maid Park
Houston

 

Dear Reid,

Thank you for an informative and entertaining presentation at yesterday’s Game Day SABR meeting at Minute Maid Park. I am not speaking for SABR or our chapter here, but I hardly think that I’m alone in that impression of the material you shared with us.

As one of the publicly opposed parties to the changes that now are obviously going forth for the removal of Tal’s Hill – and the 25-30 feet shortening of the fence distance in dead center field, my reasons always have been (1) that it will turn the ballpark into a home run band box; and (2) that it is a change coming at the cost of removing Tal’s Hill, a unique playing field feature that had been named for Tal Smith, the historically most significant administrative figure in Astros franchise history.

I’m still not sold on your reassurance that the shorter center field wall will not convert our present field configuration into a band box park, but I also acknowledge that it is a decision that doesn’t belong to us fans or Internet writers. We shall have to wait and see how it plays out over time to get our real time answers.. It is not surprising, however, to have your confirmation that the Astros hitters are happy about it while the pitchers fall into the “not so much” category. We shall keep our fingers crossed that it works out for the best – and that the Astros have not given away a home field advantage in the process.

What really ignited my decision to write this public letter, one that will be simultaneously published in The Pecan Park Eagle is the good news you gave us yesterday that the name “Tal’s Hill” will remain as the central ingredient in the name of the new bar that replaces that formerly open space of the hill and flagpole. That is not only a nice move, but an appropriates gesture of respect for both “The Hill’s” life as part of the ballpark – and the presumably permanent recognition of Tal Smith and his many contributions to the history of the franchise..

The Pecan Park Eagle strongly recommends that you give the new bar a name that says it all. We suggest the new store be dedicated as “The Tal’s Hill Memorial Bar”. – That title really does – say it all!

Attached are a series of slogans I hope you also will consider for use in marketing conjunction with the new solid-purpose name – and I’m serious here. Please don’t miss the opportunity for using a slogan that appeals to fans by its sense of humor for the irony that the Astros are replacing a physical elevation with a legally sociable chemical one, vis-a-vis, a bar that sells alcoholic beverages. And please do not be stopped by the apprehension that the public will interpret this humor as an invitation to get drunk. People can drink responsibly without getting drunk. If you are worried about people drinking too much, I feel sure you already have a plan in place to prevent some people from over-serving themselves. The trouble always is –  a bar cannot control those who already have over-served themselves prior to reaching the park. Worst case scenario? – If there’s no room for irony in the slogan (which, by the way, also keeps the central fact of Tal’s Hill alive for fans who will soon include those who never saw it in person) – if there’s no room for that incredibly great irony, it will be harder to keep the memory of Tal’s Hill fresh over time by duller words of fact alone.

Here Are Our Serious Separate Suggestions for Tagging The MMP Field Changes With A New Name and Marketing Slogan:  

The Tal’s Hill Memorial Bar

 Drop in for an even more traditional lift!

 Drop in and enjoy the spirit of elevation!

 Drop in and toast the spirit of elevation!

 Where the spirits elevate, but not the field!

 Where Astros Spirit still Lifts, but not the field!

 Tal’s Hill. Spirits Still Rise. But The Field Remains Flat.

 The New Tal’s Hill. Climb This Elevation Responsibly.

Drop in to experience a historical lift.

 

Change Happens.

Change Happens.

 

If you care to contact me for further discussion of these suggestions, my e-mail address is houston.buff37@gmail.com and my 24/7 cell number is 713-823-4864.

Respectfully Submitted,

Bill McCurdy, Editor

The Pecan Park Eagle

____________________

eagle-0range
Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

 

Astro Notes: August 27, 2016

August 27, 2016
Colin McHugh and Dallas Keuchel say: "Hey Astros Fans! Don't you wish we could have pitched as well in 2016 as we both did in 2015? One of us even won the friggin’ 'Cy' last year, for goodness sakes!"

Colin McHugh and Dallas Keuchel want to know:
“Hey Astros Fans! Don’t you wish we could have pitched as well in 2016 as we both did in 2015? One of us even won the friggin’ holy ‘Cy’ last year, for goodness sakes!”

 

Former Astro Hunter Pence. Former Astro Hunter Pence is still a pretty nice MLB outfielder. The now veteran member of the San Francisco Giants and wearer of  a World Series ring as another result of his departure from the Astros will never reach the Hall of Fame for his playing ability, but he may receive mention there someday as the player who inspired the Bobble Head industry to a new realm of possibility. Thanks to Maryland friend, fellow SABR member, and frequent contributor to The Pecan Park Eagle, Bill Hickman, we have now learned Pence is now part of a change that is setting the technology souvenir industry on it’s “new revenue stream” ear. – Because of his field-level fidgeting, Hunter Pence is now out there as the first model for the “Bobble Body” figure. Who knows? Maybe Carlos Gomez has a future as the model for the first Bobble Helmet Loser every time a fan checks to see what he can do with the figurine? In the meanwhile, thanks to Bill Hickman, here’s the link to Hunter Pence’s novel contribution:

 

Keuchel and McHugh. Last year, these guys won 39 combined total games for the Astros. This year, they’ve each won 8 games each through all games of Friday, 8/26/16. Although the club’s downtown in 2016 is due to many things, it isn’t hard to see this one difference maker from 2015. Had Keuchel abd McHugh been able to perform again at their last year levels in 2016, it isn’t hard to figure from their downturns alone why the Astros are not up there battling the Rangers for first place.

The Astros Inability to Beat the Rangers. Here’s another single-bullet postulation. Had the Astros, at least or better,  been able to play .500 ball in their head-to-heads with the Rangers in 2016, guess where they would be in the standings today. What happened? See Keuchel and McHugh, dead bats, poor relief,  poor fundamental play, and a psyched-out sort of competitive deadness that seems to takeover whenever the opposition is the Rangers.

The Carlos Gomez Move to a New Team-Reflex HR He Hit in His First AB for the Rangers. When Carlos Gomez bopped a 3-run homer in his first time up for the Rangers this past week, the news was about as surprising as the gaseous aftermath that occurs in the human body after eating too many beans. It’s just the way the athletic ego works when a guy plays miserably, gets cut, and then signs with his former club’s biggest rival. – “In your faces, Astros! – This one’s for you!” It probably is little more than Gomez’s death rattle protest to his declining skills. A quick glance at his last at bat in hat slaughterhouse loss that the Rangers absorbed at home against the Indians last night is our only TV-peek time to see him “perform” for that team “up north”, so far. He struck out wildly, looking bad on several other pitches along the way. He looked liked the same old Carlos Gomez that we came to expect at the plate here in Houston. Of course, that doesn’t mean that he will not have a few stink bombs left for his first direct competition as a Ranger against the Astros when they next meet. According to this ancient baseball superstition, you can almost count on him doing something to inflict pain on the club that let him go.

“It Ain’t Over – Til it’s Over!” How many times in MLB history has a home team fallen behind in the top of the 9th by a visiting team’s solo shot homer, and the come back in the bottom of the 9th to win the game on back-to-back home team solo homers? We have no idea. Perhaps, you do. If so, please let the rest of us know. Watching the game last night come down to the end is one of the best arguments we’ve ever witnessed that spoke so loudly for the Wisdom Yogi: “It Ain’t Over – Til it’s Over!”

A Blip on the EKG That is Now Attached to the Astros’ Team Heart. Was last night’s back-to-back 9th inning homer win over the Rays simply s blip on the playoff-heart EKG machine – or was it a sign of a dramatic late season resuscitation of heart and performance that shall now carry the Astros into the Playoffs and a longer-remembered history of last night’s comeback drama? We are about to find out, one day at a time, and starting with Saturday Night’s 6:00 PM game at Minute Maid Park against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Go Astros! Let’s make it happen!

____________________

eagle-0range
Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

Cakes on a Plane

August 26, 2016
"Eagle Man", I''ve looked over that list of story premises and titles you came up with. All I can say is every one of them damn movies is doable and a potential blockbuster. Now all we need is some kind of script, a few actors to play off the light I always shine, and the appearances I need to make on all the late shows that Samuel L. Jackson has just made another damn fine movie! - Of course, we will need e maney man too, so tell me: What's in your wallet?'

“Eagle Man”, I”ve looked over that list of story premises and titles you came up with. All I can say is – every one of them damn movies is doable and a potential blockbuster. Now all we need is some kind of script, a few actors to play off the light I always shine, and the appearances I need to make on all the late shows that get the word out that Samuel L. Jackson has just made another damn fine movie! – Of course, we will need a money man too, so tell me, Eagle Man – what’s in your wallet?’

 

A friend from Saudi Arabia visited us this week in Houston. She also brought a delicious pound cake that she had baked in her American community residence  just before the flight here, just to make sure it would be fresh. Fresh and delicious it was – and still is.

She’s gone now, but she made some mention before leaving that she may even bring us more than one fresh cake on her next flight back to Houston. That throwaway comment got me to thinking, unfortunately. It also gave me an out from writing about baseball again tonight.

“Hmmm …. cakes on a plane.” I thought. “Almost sounds like a movie title, doesn’t it?”

Next thing I know it’s about 45 minutes ago – and all the other sequels I could think of to the original “Snakes on a Plane” movie started rolling at me like so many bowling balls. I never had given much thought previously to how many one-syllable words actually rhyme with the word “snake.”

Get out your aluminum thinking caps, folks. I just about fried mine receiving all the ideas that came rolling in for other possible sequels to a “Snakes on a Plane” movie franchise, all starring Samuel L. Jackson, of course. – Man! That guy makes a lot of big-buck movies, for better or worse. There must be some kind of common law falling into place out there in Hollywood these days: No producer shall be allowed to make a big budget action-thriller movie without first offering a featured role to Samuel L. Jackson!

Here is a list of other potential dangers beyond snakes that could occur on a plane, along with our PPE guess as to what their titles might be. Old Sam L.J., of course, would be the male lead in each movie in the new franchise series:

# WHAT DO YOU CALL

A PLANE FULL OF WHATEVER?

MOVIE TITLE FOR

THE FILM THAT FOLLOWS:

1 SNAKES SNAKES ON A PLANE
2 CAKES CAKES ON A PLANE
3 IMPOSTERS FAKES ON A PLANE
4 MALTED MILK DRINKS SHAKES ON A PLANE
5 666 ARMED VAMPIRE HUNTERS STAKES ON A PLANE
6 AN ANGUS CATTLE BEEF HERD STEAKS ON A PLANE
7 15 “R” LESS LAKERS LAKES ON A PLANE
 8 BANANA PEELS ALL OVER PLANE FLOOR BREAKS ON A PLANE
 9 75 PASTRY CHEFS AND THEIR OVENS BAKES ON A PLANE
10 WORD FOR SHORT HAND-RAILS CRAKES ON A PLANE
11 SINGER GEORGE STRAKE AND HIS FAMILY STRAKES ON A PLANE
12 RAPID-FIRE PHOTOGRAPHERS TAKES ON A PLANE
13 FLYING FUNERAL HOMES WAKES ON A PLANE
14 164 SENIORS SUFFERING FROM ARTHRITIS ACHES ON A PLANE
15 100 CASUALLY ADDRESSED JACOBS JAKES ON A PLANE
16 TOO MANY OF ONE GARDEN TOOL RAKES ON A PLANE
17 TOO MANY “SIR FRANCIS” CHARACTERS DRAKES ON A PLANE
18 5 FORDS WITH THEIR TAIL LIGHTS ON RED BRAKES ON A PLANE
19 50 GOODNESS SAKES CHARITY CAUSES SAKES ON A PLANE
20 AN IN-FLIGHT SNOW STORM FLAKES ON A PLANE
21 TOO MUCH DRINKING ON THE PLANE SLAKES ON A PLANE
22 200 MILE HIGH CLUB MEMBERS MAKES ON A PLANE
23 SAMUEL L. JACKSON SAM WON’T COMPLAIN *

 

  • Samuel L. Jackson won’t complain as long as he’s the ongoing big-bucks star of every sequel movie that Hollywood decides to keep making about various things (whatever) next found on a plane, even if the plots of these movies are more of a “sharknado” threat to our human intelligence than they are a clear challenge to the mystery and fright levels of anxiety that flow through the tiny minds of your average garden snail during backyard summer night showings of these jewels on 35 mm film during many of the annual “Neighbors’ Night Out” parties held around the country.

____________________

Yes, I already know. I’ve got way too much time on my hands.Be patient with me.

____________________

eagle-0range
Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

 

 

_

 

 

Our Favorite Lost Baseball Artifacts

August 25, 2016
Lots of luck finding the real game ball for a putout of Merkle at 2nd base in the famous 1908 game at the Polo Grounds.

Lots of luck finding the real game ball for a putout of Merkle at 2nd base in the famous 1908 game at the Polo Grounds.

 

Have you ever wondered about what happened to the artifacts involved in some of the most dramatic moments of baseball history? My wonder about these things started when I was about 10 or 11, whenever I first read about Fred Merkle’s Bonehead play in 1908. Here’s my quick play for a favorite lost baseball artifact list.

  1. The Merkle Out-at-2nd Ball (1908). The actual game that should have been used to retire Merkle at 2nd base in the famous 1908 game. The ball that reached Johnny Evers for the technical putout at 2nd base that negated the Giants’ win and, in the chaos that followed, causing the game to end in a tie, probably was not the official game ball. The game ball seems to have been tossed in the stands, where it most likely was taken home by a fan or a member of the stadium clean-up crew. It  probably got destroyed in a game of street ball sometime thereafter, but, who knows? Maybe it got lost in the deep and dark crannies of some attic in Harlem in a house that still stands.
  2. The Ball that Rogers Hornsby used to tag out Babe Ruth on an attempted steal of 2nd at Yankee Stadium that completed the Cardinals’ first World Series win in Game 7 (1926). If any of you know what happened to that ball, please let us know.
  3. The Bill Mazeroski Series Walk Off Home Run in Game 7 (1960). We read some time ago that the Mazeroski HR ball was found by a kid who lived in a house somewhere beyond the left field wall at Forbes Field. Artifact searchers supposedly identified the young fellow. It is our understanding that the connection they made with him was too late to save the ball, which had been destroyed and lost in street play by this time. If that’s not exactly right, please let us known the specifics.
  4. The Bobby Thomson HR Shot Heard Round the World. (1951). Let us know, if you know. We have no idea.
  5. The Gabby Hartnett “Homer in the Gloaming” at Wrigley Field. (1938). Again, let us know, if you know. We have no idea.
  6. The Ball That Was Used by Detroit’s Bob Cain to Miss the Tiny Strike Zone of the Browns’ Eddie Gaedel Four Times, Putting the Little Big Man on First Base and into the Record Books for All Time. (August 19, 1951). If only someone that day could have sensed how important that moment was to become in the annals of baseball history.

Those are my favorite known historical moment artifact baseballs. Maybe you have some others you wonder about too. We do seem to now live in a more preservation-minded baseball culture. and that offers hope that those specially-attuned curators, like the wonderful Mike Acosta of the Houston Astros, will probably be present in the moment that historical happenings merit the immediate collection and protection of items like balls, bats, gloves, and sometimes, even uniforms, in service to the wonder and vision of tomorrow’s fans. I feel confident, if Mike Acosta had been around in Game 7 of the 1926 World Series, that we would know today where that Hornsby tag-of-Ruth ball is today. On the other hand, it may not have been possible in 1908 for anyone to have succeeded against the post-Merkle Bonehead game chaos to have saved the real game ball that was lost to history.

Chaos is the great villain to the accomplishment of all good intentions. In baseball. And in everyday life.

____________________

eagle-0range
Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

 

 

Our Presidential Baseball Nine

August 24, 2016
First in Peace. First in War Usually last in the American League.

First in Peace. First in War.
Usually last in the American League.

 

The Pecan Park Eagle Presents: Our Presidential Starting Lineup by Position

Pitcher – George Bush. – He played a little ball at Yale; did not a nice job on that first pitch strike at Yankees Stadium following “911”; and he had experience pitching ideas and slogans as POTUS, especially when they were “signed” to him by his advisors. Will four words ever be more costly to America than “weapons of mass destruction”. Maybe “Make America Great Again” or “Trust the Presidency to Hillary”, but either is neither to far away from our best choice. Our best choices are too smart to run for POTUS in this Brutal New World of the 21st Century. Again, our own SABR Member/Professor  Rick Bush (no relation to THE Bush family that we know of) has said it best: To paraphrase him again here: The problem with voting for POTUS in 2016 is not, as we often say, the problem of having to pick the lesser of two evils. The problem is that we now must face the fact that we are now living, as voters, with the evil of having to choose between two lessers as our only two realistically available and politically electable candidates. – Putting that not so easy conundrum aside for the moment, George the Younger is our pitcher.

Catcher – Teddy Roosevelt. – Teddy had the energy and the “take charge” personality for it. He also knew how to charge up a hill if a troubled pitcher needed his company. His “speak softly and carry a big stick” persona also brings us to the expectation that he will be starting a good-hitting catcher. That isn’t a bad disease of the mind to have, unless, like the Astros, you’ve been looking for a good-hitting catcher for years like the gold prospector who never quite finds it.

1st Base – George H.W. Bush. –  Easiest position assignment. George the Elder was the real deal. He played 1st base at Yale.

2nd Base – George Washington. – Always placed his own needs “second” to those of his country. He ended up being “first in peace, first in war”, and, this time around, he probably hits first in the batting order of this presidential starting lineup. Where else are you going to put the guy on the one dollar bill? Washington would probably even rate 1st base too, were it not for the guy who actually played that position at a high level in real life.

3rd Base – Gerald Ford. – Ford was the only POTUS who went into the White House first as an appointed Vice-POTUS. Then came Watergate and – if Ford were around today, he would have to admit that this song, “Pardon Me, Ford”, a parody that we wrote 41 years ago (1975) about how he got to be the POTUS without ever being elected, actually took place in the way these lyrics describe. Simply visualize Nixon addressing Ford in the oval office and the two of them dancing around as the story line builds.

"Pardon me, Ford. Let's have a chat and choose your new shoes."

“Pardon me, Ford. Let’s have a chat and choose your new shoes.”

__________

Pardon Me, Ford by Bill McCurdy (1975)

(If you wish to sing the lyrics to yourself, simply use the tune from “Chattanooga Choo Choo”):

Pardon me, Ford! – Let’s have a chat and choose your new shoes!

I will resign! – Then everything will be fine!

 There’s gonna be – a Watergate Investigation!

It won’t be fair! – ‘Cause Johnny Dean will be there!

 

They’ll have the votes for my impeachment so I might as well go!

Then you can be the President – and they’ll never know!

 If I have conceded! – (Expletive Deleted!)

If I knew – or didn’t know – they just can’t read it!

 

I’ll never roam – away from my own tax-free – San Clemente home!

And you can wear the new shoes – that go along with the throne!

 Pardon me, Ford! – Pardon me, Ford!All aboard!

Pardon me, Ford!  – Pardon me, Ford!Get on board!

 

(both Nixon & Ford are now singing and dancing off the stage together)

 AND WE CAN WEAR THE NEW SHOES … – (trombones: dada da da!)

THAT GO ALONG WTH THE THROOOOOOOOOOOONE!

 (drum riff: Bada-Bing! – as Nixon & Ford disappear off-stage left.)

 __________

Shortstop – Herbert Hoover. – Herbert gets the job simply for having a name that sounds like he will be the kind of guy who sweeps up hard-to-play ground balls like a vacuum cleaner.

Left Field – Abe Lincoln. Most southerners, and some others, thought that Lincoln was already in left field when he was elected POTUS because of his support for the abolition of slavery. They celebrated their opposition to Lincoln by starting a Civil War, but Lincoln persisted in left field, freeing the slaves by the Emancipation Proclamation, and persevering through a costly Union victory that still proved less expensive than living with one region’s economic dependence upon owning the lives and labor of other human beings. Had Lincoln not been a great left fielder, America probably wouldn’t even be around to have a real ballpark today. And if it did, it wouldn’t be very pretty or say much for the soul of whatever we now called the country that was, or included ours, as if we were still the slave State of Texas. – Thank you for being a great left fielder in politics, Mr. Lincoln. Now it’s time to show your left field baseball talents too. Go find yourself a rail and axe it into a bat full of hits.

Center Field – Dwight Eisenhower. – Like the  elder Bush, Ike also qualifies by experience as a center fielder in high school.  He also, perhaps, was the last strong centralist politician to hold office as POTUS. Back in the 1950s, the time of Ike, politicians routinely sought and found common ground on legislation for the common good of the country. Too bad we seem to have totally lost that capacity to the present state of uncompromising polarization within – and between – political parties. It’s kind of hard to see how America can ever be “made great again” by any President or Congress with no middle ground to walk.

Right Field – Richard Nixon. – Had to put him somewhere – and maybe even make him a “playing manager”. Richard Nixon knew more about baseball than all of the other members of this very special club put together. Politically, he leaned heavily to the right – so right field is a great place to stick him. Even if many feel that he should be stuck in several other biological spots. We would include an audio tape of a game in which Nixon won the day for Whittier in college by a six-run Nixon-led rally in the 9th inning when Dick hit a grand slam in the top of the 9th and then took the mound in the bottom of the 9th to end the contest as an 8-7 win over mighty USC on their campus with three punch outs as a pitcher. We do have the first eight innings on tape, and also the post-game wrap by Nixon himself, but an 18-minute gap near the end has eliminated all direct coverage of the miracle 9th. Our tape ends with Whittier trailing USC by 7-2 after 8 innings. – Imagine that – because we cannot prove what happens next.  I guess we’ll just have to take Richard Nixon’s post-game summary words for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Hail to the Chiefs! ~ That’s our club! ~ The Presidential Chiefs! ~ And yes – we have no DH here! ~ And we have no bananas – today!

____________________

eagle-0range
Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

 

Browns Fan Manager Day in 1951

August 23, 2016
Connie Mack of the A's and Bill Veeck of the Browns shake hands on "Fan Manager Night" at Sportsman's Park in St Louis on August 24, 1951.

Connie Mack of the A’s and Bill Veeck of the Browns shake hands on “Fan Manager Night” at Sportsman’s Park in St Louis on August 24, 1951.

 

Thank you, Tony Cavender for sending us that wonderful summation of  1951, the year in which showman-owner Bill Veeck threw down the second of three circus rings in one of the final faltering seasons of the St. Louis Browns. With Bill Veeck acting as the Barnum and Bailey world “ringmaster”, the Browns were ready to try outlandish stunts in a fading attempt to shock the fans of a horrible baseball team into buying more game tickets, or else. – run the risk of missing out on the next big surprise. 1952-53 would be their last final two seasons in St. Louis prior to their sale and transitioning into the Baltimore Orioles in 1954, but everything of greatest importance to their demise as the Browns got done and said during and after the 1951 American League season. In 1951, those two futile actions and one statement of inaction were to provide the death rattle for the American League in St. Louis- even as one inadvertently established little Eddie Gaedel as a historical figure.

These three items filled the field in St. Louis with a three-ring circus of amusement and confirmation: The St. Louis Browns were hoping to survive, but with amusements, and not by rewarding their best player in 1951 for his incredible accomplishments that year against all odds. Here they are:

The Three Rings in the Brownie Farewell Circus

  1. August 19, 1951: Eddie Gaedel Day. Of the three, the first ring was the most famous. That was the day that Bill Veeck managed to legitimately sneak a 3’7″ vertically challenged person named Eddie Gaedel into a game at Sportsman’s Park as lead off batter against the Detroit Tigers. Eddie drew  walk for Tigers pitcher Bob Cain and was then replaced with a pinch runner at first base, retiring from baseball with a perfect 1.000 On Base Percentage. Gaedel’s “retirement” was followed by an official ban from baseball of all players of his exceptionally small size. We are not sure how specific that “You Must Be This High To Bat in the Big Leagues” sign specified, but we Astros fans are glad it doesn’t apply today. We wouldn’t want to lose Jose Altuve over some kind of pejorative against short people when he he’s batting .366 in late August. Plus, such a ban today just smells like a civil rights violation. Don’t you think? – No matter now. Bill Veeck’s first ring of amusement was absolutely the most unforgettable thing he ever actually did.
  2. August 24, 1951: Browns Fan Manager Day. This second ring would no doubt be more memorable today had it not been timed to follow the first ring Veeck threw only five days earlier with Eddie Gaedel, but it too is still a remembered as a major rattle to the little box where all the baseball purists lived. It wasn’t quite the same as someone passing gas in church with all the ferocity of a trombone, but many baseball purists took it that way. This was the time that Bill Veeck allowed 1,000 Browns fans to manage the game from an area behind the Browns dugout during an official game against the “also going nowhere fast” Philadelphia Athletics. Alex Cofey has written a very nice article on what happened that very special ordinary Friday in baseball season history: http://baseballhall.org/discover/inside-pitch/grandstand-managers-night
  3. The Winter of 1951-52: No Raise for a 20-Game Winner on a Last Place Team. The last ring wasn’t what Veeck did, but what he didn’t do. And what he said. It is one of those most remembered stories in baseball. – Browns pitcher Ned Garver won 20 games for the last place 102-loss 1951 Browns, but owner Bill Veeck wouldn’t give him one when he asked for a raise for next year in the off-season. Veeck’s answer? It’s one miserly line that has been  expropriated and attributed to Ralph Kiner and his dealings with the Pittsburgh Pirates a few times, but it really originated with Garver and Veeck. Veeck told Garver he wasn’t getting a raise for winning 20 games. Why not? “We could have finished last without you.” Veeck told Garver.

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Fan Manager Day Addendum, 8/23/2016, by Bill Hickman of SABR

Mitze and Hughes were the fans chosen to coach the base runners by Bill Veeck, nut they were banned at game time by AL President WIll Harridge because Veeck had not sought his permission to use them on the field.  ~ Photo from the St. Louis Post-Dsipatch contributed by Bill Hickman of SABR. ,

Mitze and Hughes were the fans chosen to coach the base runners by Bill Veeck, but they were banned at game time by AL President Will Harridge because Veeck had not sought his permission to use them on the field.
~ Photo from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch contributed by Bill Hickman of SABR.

 

Part of this fan management story is that Bill Veeck had chosen two fans, Clark Mitze and Charles E. Hughes, to be co-managers or co-coaches for the game. He suited them up in Browns’ uniforms and intended for them to be stationed along the baselines. However, American League President Will Harridge nixed the idea on the grounds that the contracts had not been approved by his office. So Hughes and Mitze “were awarded king size trophies acclaiming them as ‘the best coaches ever banned from the coaching lines,’ and sat next to (real Browns manager) Zack Taylor in a front row box.” The last sentence is a quote from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch of August 25, 1951. ~ Bill Hickman

Thanks, Bill Hickman for shedding an even broader light on the detailed plans of Bill Veeck for Fan Day. As always, The Pecan Park Eagle appreciates another of your quality contributions to our efforts here.

____________________

eagle-0range
Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

The Root Cause of the Astrodome Sports Curse

August 21, 2016
Groundbreaking for the Domed Stadium Houston, Texas January 3, 1962

Groundbreaking for the Domed Stadium
Houston, Texas
January 3, 1962

 

The Root Cause of the Houston Sports Curse may have been staring us in the face for the past 52 years – but we just looked past the obvious without seeing, because we were missing a salient fact from the past. Put the blame on the innocent gullibility of our Houston sports culture in the late 1950s and early 1960s, please. It took us, at least, the first twenty years as a designated major sports big league franchise in baseball and football to finally recognize that being in a big sports league or major conference was no guarantee of a World Series or Super Bowl – to say nothing about actually winning one.

The Houston Oilers and Earl Campbell ran into a “Steel Curtain” that redundantly quashed their hopes for a Super Bowl in the late 1970s. In spite of strong words from a fellow named “Bum”, the Oilers never did find that next year in which they actually kicked that door in to where they wanted to go. In time, it would be the Oilers who found an easier door to open – and that one led to the hills of Tennessee and away from the disdain of jilted fans in Houston. Bud Adams and the Oilers were to Houston like the person in a relationship who says “if I can’t have everything I want from you, I’m leaving right now.” A reaction from most Houston fans was pretty much what it is with angry jilted parties too on the receiving end of that threat. – “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out,” Houston fans responded to Adams and the Oilers.

The Houston Astros took 19 seasons to finally knock the bejabbers out of Houston baseball fans who always thought that a World Series was sort of like Social Security. – You know, sort of like an entitlement that you eventually get – if you just wait long enough. When the 1980 Astros taught the fans that two more innings with Nolan Ryan pitching on the wings of a 3-run lead could and would crumble into a defeat that did deny the club their first World Series in Game 5 against the Phillies that night. Even a nice late game lead with a future Hall of Famer pitching is no sure thing. Winning these big games also hinges on luck, how the ball bounces, the alleged eyesight of umpires, and non-interference by the gremlins or gods of baseball. If you aspire to be a serious baseball fan, never take anything for granted, even the word of an owner who says he’s doing everything he can to win. And, even then, if he really is trying, the wait may exceed your lifetime.

The Houston Rockets of the NBA were the latecomer of the Big 3 sports leagues to arrive in our town. It’s not fair to connect the Rockets to any curse emanating from the Astrodome, unless it was a belated side swipe at Elvin Hayes for becoming something of a national hero by leading UH to a 71-69 victory over  UCLA and the great Lew Alcindor in January 1968 at the Dome in a game that put college basketball on the map. In an event that came to be known as “The Game of the Century”. Hayes later starred for the Rockets, but never won a title for them. The Rockets finally taught Houston fans in the mid-1990’s that it was possible for a team from Houston to win a “world championship”. By the time the Rockets won, however, local fans were wise enough to understand that these two crowns were both achieved during the two-year absence of Michael Jordan from the NBA to see if he could also make it big in baseball. He didn’t, but he tried. Most Rocket fans understood that Jordan’s sabbatical from the NBA was a contributing factor to their two championships in the two years he was absent.  There are no entitlements in any serious competition.

So, what’s all this have to do with a Houston sports curse? We didn’t even cover UH’s Astrodome football disappointments in this documentation. As a  regular tenant of the Astrodome for most of its 20th century life span, UH was entitled to its share of cruel loss too.

So, what’s the deal about a Houston Astrodome sports curse? Maybe nothing, but it’s fun to explore. If the Cubs and Red Sox can get away with it, why can’t our community of excuse-makers?

About 33 years ago, I remember having a discussion with former 1980’s hurler Vern Ruhle over coffee at a social function one day. Naturally, we talked about the frustration of Games 4 and 5 in the 1980 NLCS. When I half-kidding mentioned the old rumor that the Astrodome may have been built on the site of an old Native-American burial site, I thought the very white-complexioned Mr. Ruhle was turning to chalk in shock as I mentioned such a possibility. He had never heard the rumor, but it made terrible sense to him how that could have been the source of a curse on anyone who used the Dome to play “games”. It also wasn’t lost on Vern Ruhle that, if the story were true, that it would not have been a matter of the dome sitting on top of a burial ground. That 24-feet deep excavation would have resulted in an absolute destruction and unearthing of bones or artifacts – an utter decimation of the worst kind upon a sacred place.

Ruhle’s point is also the factual reason that the Native-American burial mound excuse for a curse is also easily dismissable. Fact One: If the excavation crew had violated a burial ground, those items would have appeared in the removal material and most probably would have been reported. Fact Two: if unearthed artifacts were not reported, one of the dozens of story-hungry writers who were out there all the time during construction would have written a piece on what they had seen and made a big deal of it. Fact Three: Nothing like that ever happened. No unearthed artifacts or bones were reported. Conjecture: There may be a burial ground nearby any large hole that’s dug in the State of Texas, but, as far as one may take this logically: The presence of a Native American burial mound at the site of the Astrodome is highly improbable.

No, our suggestion for a curse-source, if there is such a thing, is much simpler to see and connect to those who have used the Astrodome for near-major wins in all sports that have evaporated late into inexorably painful defeats.

Here it is. – Remember that photo of all the local officials firing Colt .45’s into the ground at the 1962 Astrodome construction groundbreaking ceremony? On Page 92 of “The Astrodome: Building an American Spectacle” (2014) by James Gast, the author clarifies a point that many of us never knew. We thought they were firing live ammunition into the ground. According to Gast, they were not. – They were firing blank cartridges!

Once you can see it, you can say it: If there is a Houston Astrodome sports curse, maybe it’s as simple as the mystical possibility that they started the Astrodome by firing blanks – and that the local teams that played there just kept right on firing blanks at the worst possible times for the rest of the 20th century.

Curses. Foiled again.

____________________

eagle-0range
Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

 

Sweetest Disposition? ~ Send in the Clowns!

August 20, 2016

donald trump duck

 

Who’s Got The Sweetest Disposition? Part I

Who’s got the sweetest disposition?
One guess — guess who!
Who never never starts an argument? (Woman: Hmmmm?)
Who never shows a bit of temperament?
Who’s never wrong – but always right? (Donald: Yeah?)
Who’d never dream of – starting a fight? (Donald: That so?!)
Who’s loose mouth always – bites his own rump?
No one… (Donald quacks angrily) but Donald Trump! (Donald: Yeah!)

 

 

Mandarina Duck

Who’s Got The Sweetest Disposition? Part II

Who’s got the sweetest disposition?
One guess — guess who!
Who never thinks to check her e-mail files? (Woman: Hmmmm?)
Who lets our secrets flow – in digital piles?
Who’s never right – but always left? (Hillary: Yeah?)
Who’d never lie – at that – she’s so adept? (Hillary: That so?!)
Who’s husband – we’re hintin’ – is Bozo Big Bucks!
Oh yeah – don’t mention – that Monica Sucks! (Bill: Yeah!)

____________________

Our parodies are based reverently upon the cartoon theme song that worked so well for Donald Duck from 1947 through 1959. If you were a kid in that era, you will remember the melody. The original lyrics were as follows. These should ring a few bells too:

Who’s got the sweetest disposition?
One guess — guess who!
Who never never starts an argument? (Woman: Hmmmm?)
Who never shows a bit of temperament?
Who’s never wrong but always right? (Donald: Yeah?)
Who’d never dream of starting a fight? (Donald: That so?!)
Who gets stuck with all the bad luck?
No one… (Donald quacks angrily) but Donald Duck! (Donald: Yeah!)

____________________

eagle-0range
Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

Who You Gonna Call? ~ Runbusters!

August 18, 2016

Who You Gonna Call? ~ Runbusters!

Founding Fathers of Runbusters Houston Astros Chapter (L>R) Jason Castro, Carlos Gomez, Jake Maarisnick, and Evan Gaddis.

Founding Fathers of Runbusters
2016 Houston Astros Chapter
(L>R) Jason Castro, Carlos Gomez, Jake Marisnick, and Evan Gaddis.

Runbusters

~ With apologies to “Ghostbuster” lyricist, Ray Parker, Jr.
If there’s something strange – in your neighborhood
Who you gonna call? – Runbusters!
If there’s something weird – and it don’t look good
Who you gonna call? – Runbusters!

‘Stros ain’t afraid of NO RUNS!
‘Stros ain’t afraid of NO RBI!

If you’re seeing RINGS – running through your head
Who you gonna call? – Runbusters!
An invisible man – hitting next instead
Who you gonna call? – Runbusters!

 ‘Stros ain’t afraid of NO RUNS!
‘Stros ain’t afraid of NO RBI!

Who you gonna call? – Runbusters!

If you can’t reach home – Pick up the phone!
And call – who the damn elseRunbusters!

‘Stros ain’t afraid of no ghost!

Even when Gaddis burns up like toast!

‘Stros ain’t afraid of no ghost!

Even when Castro shows up to roast!

Who ya gonna call? – Runbusters!

If you’ve had a big dose – losin’ bad and close
You better damn call – Runbusters!!!

 (instrumental ending from “Ghostbusters” plays to fade out) >

Wee-a-wee-wee-a-wee-wee-a-wee-WOW!

____________________

eagle-0range
Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

 


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