Larry Dierker’s ’97 Astros Band

August 19, 2017

“Larry Dierker’s ’97 Astros Band”

(to the tune of Sgt. Pepper by the Beatles)

It was twenty years ago today
Larry Dierker taught the band to play
They’ve been going in and out of style
But they’re guaranteed to raise a smile
So may I introduce to you
The act you’ve known for all these years
Larry Dierker’s ’97 Astros Band

We’re Larry Dierker’s ’97 Astros Band

We hope you will enjoy the show

We’re Larry Dierker’s ’97 Astros Band
Sit back and let the evening go
Larry Dierker’s Astros, Larry Dierker’s Astros
Larry Dierker’s ’97 Astros Band

It’s wonderful to be here
It’s certainly a thrill
You’re such a lovely audience
We’d like to take you home with us
We’d love to take you home

I don’t really want to stop the show
But I thought that you might like to know
Jose Lima’s going to sing a song
And he wants the band to sing along
So let me introduce to you
The one and only Billy Spiers
And Larry Dierker’s ’97 Astros Band

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The Amazing Mr. Dierker. Unless you are a millennial by birth, you should remember the whole Dierker five-year “joy ride” as Astros manager from 1997 to 2001. You will also remember that Larry got there on the heels of a 32-year career as an iconic Astros pitcher, sports writer, and radio/tv broadcaster for the club before he stepped onto the field and became the most significant figure in the club’s greatest era for finally proving that the Astros could be a consistent winner in Major League Baseball. From 1997 through 2001, the Astros either won or tied St. Louis as co-champions of the NL Central in 4 of his 5 seasons under the field guidance of Larry Dierker, establishing a beach head on the public’s trust that winning would be the normal level of expectation in Houston – and not the once in a while aberration of a team that could afford success on a steady basis.

During Dierker’s reign, 2000, the club’s first season at the downtown ballpark we now know as Minute Maid Park, was only season that the Astros finished out of the money. The main reason we’ve always assigned to that bleep was that some of the players, mainly pitchers, and namely Jose Lima, had been too psyched out by the short porch in the new left field to keep their acts together and just crumbled, but they got it together to make another playoff run in 2011 before Dierker retired from the chase. And what a chase and great impact it still has upon Houston baseball today. And it also must not go without saying. All Larry Dierker had to do, beyond hearing and heeding his call to greatness, was to survive a 1999 dugout collapse from a brain tumor that could have easily ended his life and made this whole topic of sporting accompishment even less important in the grand scheme of things.

But he didn’t die. Thank God. And he did survive to achieve greatness as  manager. Of course, the gifts of Biggio, Bagwell, and Berkman helped him a little too long the way, but even their individual greatness performances would have been too little had someone not pulled them all into a winning team – and that’s what Houston Astros became under Larry Dierker.

Here’s how former Astros pitcher Shane Reynolds described Dierker’s contributions twenty years ago during his 3rd inning discussion in the booth with AT&T Sports.net broadcasters Todd Kalas and Geoff Blum. When asked what brought the ’97 Astros pitchers to greater success over more innings pitched than before, here’s exactly what Shane Reynolds had to say:

“What helped us the most was Larry Dierker. He took myself, Mike Hampton, Jose Lima, Daryl Kile, and Chris Holt aside in spring training and said, ‘Look, guys, you’re starting pitchers. If you get into trouble by the 4th inning, don’t look over your shoulder expecting me to come out and get you.  The best way for you guys to learn to pitch (as starters) is – when you get in trouble, figure it out. Eventually, you’re going to learn how to get yourself out of trouble. – And once that happens, it’s going to snowball.’ – And I think that’s what happened with us. We relaxed. We got comfortable.”

Reynolds added that pitching in the Astrodome from 1997 through 1999 did help him relax when he was faced with pitching himself out of trouble. The deep outfield distances must’ve been like having an extra outfielder for a pitcher in distress. It’s not hard to see how that 315′ wall in left field at the new downtown park gave some of the guys who counted too much on the Dome to be their extra fielder to relax in the new environs during that first season downtown, but that fact doesn’t detract from the appreciation that came through in the explanation that Shane Reynolds shared with the whole world today about his gratitude for the lessons he and the others learned from Mr. Dierker.

It was twenty years ago today
Larry Dierker taught the band to play

And did he ever teach them well!

Thanks for joining our side of the baseball wars on your 18th birthday, Sgt. Dierker. We treasure the gift of your living presence in the history of Houston baseball.

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

SoCal Celebrates Gaedel Tomorrow, Aug. 19

August 18, 2017

“Eddie Gaedel Day” Celebration, August 19, 2017, Arcadia, California

By on July 26, 2017 in news

L.A. Chapter of the Eddie Gaedel Society to Honor Baseball’s Mighty Mite

WHERE: Matt Denny’s Ale House Restaurant, Library Room, 145 E. Huntington Drive, Arcadia 91006. Phone (626) 462-0250. Parking available in lot and on street.  Walking

Eddie Gaedel, August 19, 1951, Sportsman’s Park, St. Louis.

distance from Arcadia Gold Line station. Free and open to the public (food and drink extra). Space is limited to 25 attendees, so arrive early!

WHEN: Saturday, August 19, 2017, 7:00-9:30 p.m.

CONTACT: Jon Leonoudakis, President, Eddie Gaedel Society Los Angeles Chapter: jbgreeksf24@gmail.com, (818) 886-2998.

The Los Angeles Chapter of the Eddie Gaedel Society will gather at Matt Denny’s Ale House Restaurant, 145 E. Huntington Drive in Arcadia, where the annual “Eddie Gaedel Day” festivities will be held on Saturday, August 19, 2017 from 7:00 to 9:30 p.m. The event celebrates the life and times of Eddie Gaedel (1925-1961), who at 3’7” and 65 pounds was the shortest and lightest player ever to step to the plate in the major leagues.

The Gaedel Society has chapters stretching from Spokane, Washington to Dublin, Ireland. The Los Angeles Chapter collaborates with the Pasadena-based Baseball Reliquary to curate this unique event.

“Brownie Brand,” painting by Ben Sakoguchi, in the collection of the Baseball Reliquary.

“We honor baseball’s biggest little hitter annually on August 19 to celebrate Gaedel’s major league at-bat on August 19, 1951, at Sportsman’s Park, St. Louis,” said Jon Leonoudakis, President of the L.A. Chapter. “We’ll be gathering in the Library Room at Matt Denny’s to raise a glass to Eddie, to tell stories, and to challenge attendees with a special trivia quiz featuring small prizes.  If we’re lucky, Eddie’s athletic supporter will make an appearance, courtesy of the Baseball Reliquary. There are also rumors that a rare holy card of Eddie will be distributed to attendees while supplies last.”

This is the third time around the basepaths to honor Eddie after the Los Angeles Chapter was established in 2015. “We had a great crowd last year, which included members of the Hollywood Shorties basketball team,” said Leonoudakis. “It was a festive event, bonding baseball fans, culture vultures, and students of history, just as Eddie would’ve liked.”

All are invited for a memorable evening of small talk, short speeches, and half-pint beers, and to join in the group’s mantra, “Take a Walk, Eddie!”

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See The Baseball Reliquary website for further details:

http://www.baseballreliquary.org/2017/07/eddie-gaedel-day-celebration-august-19-2017-arcadia-california/

As a long time supporter and now as a member, The Pecan Park Eagle fully supports the creative wide-ranging efforts of The Baseball Reliquary to preserve and foster interest in the preservation of baseball history. Please give this effort your ow serious openness to learning more about their efforts and your own possible interest in becoming a connected contributor to the cause. For the best snapshot on activities and your own interests, please contact Executive Director Terry Cannon for further exploration.

http://www.baseballreliquary.org/events/

Come on. Let’s play ball and celebrate the myriad ways we do it. From here to the crack of doom.

Regards, Bill McCurdy, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

and brand new Baseball Reliquary member.

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AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST STANDINGS

THRU GAMES OF THURSDAY, AUGUST 17, 2017

RANK AL WEST W L PCT. GB
1 ASTROS 74 47 .612  
2 ANGELS 62 59 .512 12.0
3 MARINERS 61 61 .500 13.5
4 RANGERS 60 60 .500 13.5
5 ATHLETICS 53 68 .438 21.0

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AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST GAME SCORES

THRU GAMES OF THURSDAY, AUGUST 17, 2017 

DIAMONDBACKS 4 – ASTROS 0. 

RANGERS 9 – WHITE SOX 8. 

MARINERS (DAY OFF, SHORE LEAVE)

ANGELS (DAY OFF, CHOIR PRACTICE)

ATHLETICS (DAY OFF, YOGA CLASSES)

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AMERICAN LEAGUE BATTING AVERAGE LEADERS

THRU GAMES OF THURSDAY, AUGUST 17, 2017

RANK PLAYER TEAM AB H 2B 3B HR BA
1 JOSE ALTUVE HOU 463 167 35 3 18 .361
2 JEAN SEGURA SEA 381 122 22 1 7 .320
3 CARLOS CORREA HOU 325 104 18 1 20 .320
4 ERIC HOSMER KC 460 145 23 1 20 .315
5 MARWIN GONZALEZ HOU 334 104 22 0 20 .311
6 DIDI GREGORIUS NYY 380 118 19 0 18 .311
7 JOSE RAMERIZ CLE 452 139 38 5 18 .308
8 AVISAIL GARCIA CWS 368 113 21 3 13 .307
9 GEORGE SPRINGER HOU 401 123 23 0 28 .307
10 DUSTIN PEDROIA BOS 340 103 17 0 6 .303
  (Other Astros Below)    
19 JOSH REDDICK HOU 373 110 25 3 12 .295
20 YULI GURRIEL HOU 418 123 33 1 15 .294
40 ALEX BREGMAN HOU 401 109 29 5 13 .272

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Want an Eddie Gaedel Holy Card?

August 17, 2017

The Eddie Gaedel Holy Card

 

Preceding our usual daily Astros “homer minded” stats on the AL West division and AL league pennant races, here’s a terrific update from Terry Cannon, Executive Director of the Baseball Reliquary out in the Los Angeles area. If you happen to be in LA this coming weekend, you will want to know about plans to celebrate the 66th anniversary of little Eddie Gaedel’s one-time appearance as a lead-off batter/pinch hitter for the St. Louis Browns at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis on April 19, 1951. There’s also a great video report on the recent Induction ceremony at the Hall and a lot of other information on some interesting baseball history plans by the Reliquary this coming fall. If you would like more information, please get in touch with Terry soon. Remember. Life is short. This is no time to be bashful.

A Message from Terry Cannon of The Baseball Reliquary ~

Friends & Reliquarians:

Greetings from the Baseball Reliquary!  Our next public event will be this Saturday, August 19, beginning at 7:00 p.m.  In collaboration with the Los Angeles Chapter of the Eddie Gaedel Society, the Baseball Reliquary will present a very special celebration of the life and times of pinch-hitting legend Eddie Gaedel at Matt Denny’s Ale House Restaurant in Arcadia.  We’ll be meeting in the Library Room, which comfortably seats 25 people, so please plan to arrive early.  We have lots of interesting activities planned, including a trivia contest hosted by Jon Leonoudakis, president of the L.A. Chapter of the Eddie Gaedel Society.  We’ll also be distributing Eddie Gaedel holy cards (see attached photo) to all those in attendance.  For complete details on this Saturday’s festivities, visit:

http://www.baseballreliquary.org/2017/07/eddie-gaedel-day-celebration-august-19-2017-arcadia-california/

If you are unable to attend but would like to receive the Eddie Gaedel holy card, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to: The Baseball Reliquary, P.O. Box 1850, Monrovia, CA 91017.  Unfortunately, due to the limited quantity of cards printed, this offer can only be extended to current members of the Baseball Reliquary.

We are pleased to announce that this year’s 19th annual Shrine of the Eternals Induction Day was an enormous success, and far exceeded our expectations with a SRO crowd of over 200 people on hand — many of whom said this was by far the best ceremony that they had attended.  If you visit the Baseball Reliquary Web site, you will find links to articles about the ceremony, as well as the transcripts for Dave Mesrey’s memorable keynote address and Lisa Nehus Saxon’s brilliant introduction of Vin Scully’s induction.  You can also view the official video of the ceremony on YouTube at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrULgrf6-Ag&feature=youtu.be

On the exhibition front, the Baseball Reliquary currently has a display on view through August 30 in the Humanities Wing of the Pasadena Central Library.  We are featuring a shrine to Babe Ruth and a new multimedia artwork by Greg Jezewski.

Then, from September 2-October 26, we present a brand new exhibition, “Baseball: A Global Pastime,” at the Arcadia Public Library.  On Saturday, September 23, at 2:00 p.m., in conjunction with this exhibition, the Baseball Reliquary will host a panel discussion including former major leaguer Roger Repoz discussing his experiences playing baseball in Japan, author and historian Byron Motley sharing stories about baseball in Cuba, and former international baseball scout Mark Garcia.  More details on this event will be forthcoming.

To view additional details on all the Reliquary-sponsored programming through the end of the year, visit:

http://www.baseballreliquary.org/events/

Sincerely,
Terry Cannon
Executive Director
The Baseball Reliquary
www.baseballreliquary.org

e-mail: terymar@earthlink.net

 

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AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST STANDINGS

THRU GAMES OF WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 16, 2017

RANK AL WEST W L PCT. GB
1 ASTROS 74 46 .617  
2 ANGELS 62 59 .512 12.5
3 MARINERS 61 61 .500 14.0
4 RANGERS 59 60 .496 14.5
5 ATHLETICS 53 68 .438 21.5

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AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST GAME SCORES

THRU GAMES OF WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 16, 2017 

ASTROS 9 – DIAMONDBACKS 5.

ANGELS 3 — NATIONALS 2.

MARINERS 7 – ORIOLES 6.

RANGERS 12 – TIGERS 6.

 ROYALS 7ATHLETICS 6.

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 AMERICAN LEAGUE BATTING AVERAGE LEADERS

THRU GAMES OF WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 16, 2017

RANK PLAYER TEAM AB H 2B 3B HR BA
1 JOSE ALTUVE HOU 459 167 35 3 18 .364
2 JEAN SEGURA SEA 381 122 22 1 7 .320
3 CARLOS CORREA HOU 325 104 18 1 20 .320
4 ERIC HOSMER KC 460 145 23 1 20 .315
5 MARWIN GONZALEZ HOU 330 104 22 0 20 .315
6 JOSE RAMERIZ CLE 451 139 38 5 18 .308
7 DIDI GREGORIUS NYY 377 116 19 0 18 .308
8 AVISAIL GARCIA CWS 368 113 21 3 13 .307
9 GEORGE SPRINGER HOU 398 122 23 0 28 .307
10 DUSTIN PEDROIA BOS 340 103 17 0 6 .303
  (Other Astros Below)    
18 JOSH REDDICK HOU 373 110 25 3 12 .295
19 YULI GURRIEL HOU 414 122 32 1 15 .295
36 ALEX BREGMAN HOU 397 109 29 5 13 .275

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

What’s Riding on the Next Big Astro Signing?

August 16, 2017

Jose Altuve
The Key to the Astros’ Long-Term Credibility

 

What will be the next big Astro signing? On the one hand, it’s as simple as this well-known acknowledgement:

It’s a lot easier for us fans to spend the ball club owner’s money and line of credit than it is for the owner to cover any major deal that doesn’t work out as hoped. Often times, as in situations like these armor-up for the playoff deals, we really mean these “desperate” major “baseball stud” acquisition deals when a club floats out the spending dough and risks the loss of a future Hall of Famer from their farm system of tomorrow’s box of roster assets.

Right, Boston Red Sox?

The fans can walk away from a fall off the sheer cliff of baseball disappointments and get their kicks anew from complaining about why the prices of everything keep going up at the ballpark, even though the team blew their big opportunity to reach or win the World Series last season in spite of all that super-star talent they acquired. Ownership, on the other hand, now has to scramble to live with the dents they’ve put on their normal cash flow by all the money they spent upon a failed effort to win it all.

So, why do clubs put themselves in that spot in the first place? Why would a club like the Astros go out now – a half month after the trade deadline passed – and make a deal for an aging Justin Verlander that on surface first appears to be only guaranteed to help the Detroit Tigers, as in – an incredibly large salary dump and young talent acquisition?

Why do it? The answer is just out there to either embrace or kick to the curb.

Right now, in 2017, the Houston Astros are having the kind of season that could change the face of the franchise forever from – one of the competitive horses in the annual race that allows the big winning and free spending clubs like the Yankees, Dodgers, or Red Sox to thrive as the only serious potential champions each year – at least – to a humble acceptance of  the Astros as new kids on the block of baseball’s River Oaks neighborhood.

The value of the franchise, if it so ascended, could make principal owner Jim Crane look like a genius for buying into MLB – and also boost him up a few spots on the billionaire tree, should he decide to then turn around and immediately sell the club.

Would winning a single World Series be enough reward in itself?

It wouldn’t be enough for the fans to “simply” win the 2017 World Series and never return. Crane will be under the gun, immediately, if the Astros do win, to show that this was not merely another of those “one and done” championship clubs (aka the old Florida Marlins) that followed “veni, vidi, vici” with a back up the truck garage sale of the talent they bought to get there – ever so briefly.

Astros fans would not want to fall back right away into the same re-building pattern that got them here this time. They will be looking for signs that the club plans to stabilize and continue to improve from their current levels of skill and ability.

And how will the fans know pretty quickly if this “hold-our-ground-and-continue-to-build” pattern is in place?

Easy.

The litmus test will be obvious. In fact, it’s there now, even if the Astros do not win the World Series this year. The Astros still have to go through agent Scott Boros and lock Jose Altuve into what could turn out to be the largest long-term contract ever signed by a future Hall of Famer in his early prime. And maybe they will not be able to re-sign Jose Altuve because they simply are not the Yankees, Dodgers, or Red Sox.

If the Astros do not re-sign Altuve, the fans will walk away disbelieving anything else the Astros say thereafter about commitment to winning – even if they first seem to understand the club’s explanations that “baseball is a business – and we just couldn’t afford to keep Jose Altuve.”

The heart will overrule the head in this matter, even if the “business” explanation for such a loss is based on solid facts.

Lots of luck with whatever marketing plan the Astros deploy on the heels of unthinkably losing Altuve to another club.

So, how does all of this stuff tie back into a late and expensive Astros acquisition of veteran star pitcher Justin Verlander?

  1. Signing Verlander could be the difference between winning the World Series this year. Win or lose their first World Series championship, the inflation that such a result brings to the club’s value should more than cover the cost of his salary pay-out. It will ascend anyway for simply getting there.
  2. If the goal is to build hope among Houston fans for the future of the Astros as a repetitive contender, however, the man who must be signed is not Verlander, but Jose Altuve. Houston fans are tired of slogans and allusions to future greatness. They now expect delivery.
  3. Sign Verlander for the delivery help he may bring to 2017. Sign Altuve because he is our franchise hinge pin on the Astros’ credibility in their plans for long-term greatness – and beating out the Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, and all others for the little Venezuelan’s future services at a signing is part and parcel of the goods the club stands to receive in return for so doing.

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AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST STANDINGS

THRU GAMES OF TUESDAY, AUGUST 15, 2017

RANK AL WEST W L PCT. GB
1 ASTROS 73 46 .613  
2 ANGELS 61 59 .508 12.5
3 MARINERS 60 61 .496 14.0
4 RANGERS 58 60 .492 14.5
5 ATHLETICS 53 67 .442 20.5

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AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST GAME SCORES

THRU GAMES OF TUESDAY, AUGUST 15, 2017

ASTROS 9 – DIAMONDBACKS 4

MARINERS 3 – ORIOLES 1.

RANGERS 10 – TIGERS 4.

NATIONALS 3 – ANGELS 1.

ATHLETICS 10 – ROYALS 8.

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AMERICAN LEAGUE BATTING AVERAGE LEADERS

THRU GAMES OF TUESDAY, AUGUST 15, 2017

RANK PLAYER TEAM AB H 2B 3B HR BA
1 JOSE ALTUVE HOU 455 165 35 3 18 .363
2 CARLOS CORREA HOU 325 104 18 1 20 .320
3 JEAN SEGURA SEA 376 119 22 1 7 .316
4 MARWIN GONZALEZ HOU 326 103 22 0 20 .316
5 ERIC HOSMER KC 456 143 23 1 20 .314
6 DIDI GREGORIUS NYY 373 115 18 0 18 .308
7 JOSE RAMIREZ CLE 451 139 38 5 18 .308
8 AVISAIL GARCIA CWS 364 112 21 3 13 .308
9 DUSTIN PEDROIA BOS 340 103 17 0 6 .303
10 JONATHAN SCHOOP BAL 449 136 30 0 26 .303
11 GEORGE SPRINGER HOU 393 119 23 0 28 .303
20 JOSH REDDICK HOU 368 108 25 3 11 .293
21 YULI GURRIEL HOU 409 120 31 1 15 .293
39 ALEX BREGMAN HOU 393 107 29 5 13 .272

 

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

Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Welcome To Houston, Tyler Clippard!

August 15, 2017

Tyler Clippard
August 14, 2017
Prior to his Astros debut

Welcome, Tyler Clippard! And thanks for your debut “clip art” presentation on “how to get in and out of a jam in three outs, no less”.

Clippard made his Astros debut in the bottom of the 8th in last night’s 2-0 loss to Arizona at their place. The outing proved to be a sequential presentation of perspiration and inspiration and, fortunately for our good guys, it occurred in that order. After giving up a lead-off ground rule double to deepest right center by lefty batter Jake Lamb of the D-Backs, Clippard then sewed the seeds of “uh oh” by walking right handed Paul Goldschmidt.

The game was still on the line when new Astro Clippard came in to pitch the bottom of 8th.

With runners on first and second and no outs, Arizona now threatened to squeeze any hope for an Astros rally in the 9th, but our man Tyler had another idea for the clip art conclusion of his first night of work as an Astros reliever.

With 2 outs in the bottom of the 8th, Clippard checks Lamb at 2nd base before striking our batter Marte to to end the inning with no harm done.

First he got former Astro and Tiger J.D. Martinez on a high pop fly to Yuli Gurriel in fair territory near first base. Then he did the same thing to Daniel Descalso on a high foul pop fly out to Gurriel, also near the bag. The icing then came when when Clippard struck out lefty Ketel Marte to retire the side with no further damage done. Unfortunately, the icing was only good for Houston players finger-licking after the D-Backs put down the Stros in the 9th to take the cake and seal their 2-0 win over their visitors from the Bayou City.

Colin McHugh (0-2) looked good, giving up only 2 runs on 6 hits in 5.2 innings of work, but D-Backs starter Zack Greinke (14-5) did a Rembrandt job on the Astros for 6.2 innings to earn the deserved win for the desert varmints.

Welcome again to Houston, “Clip Art” – and keep up the good work!

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AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST STANDINGS

THRU GAMES OF MONDAY, AUGUST 14, 2017 

RANK AL WEST W L PCT. GB
1 ASTROS 72 46 .610  
2 ANGELS 61 58 .513 11.5
3 MARINERS 59 61 .492 14.0
4 RANGERS 57 60 .487 14.5
5 ATHLETICS 52 67 .437 20.5

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AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST GAME SCORES

THRU GAMES OF MONDAY, AUGUST 14, 2017

 DIAMONDBACKS 2 – ASTROS 0.

 ORIOLES 11 – MARINERS 3.

 RANGERS 6 – TIGERS 2

 ROYALS 6 – ATHLETICS 2.

 ANGELS (day off for earth angels and barber shops)

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AMERICAN LEAGUE BATTING AVERAGE LEADERS

THRU GAMES OF MONDAY, AUGUST 14, 2017

RANK PLAYER TEAM AB H 2B 3B HR BA
1 JOSE ALTUVE HOU 451 163 34 3 18 .361
2 CARLOS CORREA HOU 325 104 18 1 20 .320
3 MARWIN GONZALEZ HOU 326 103 22 0 20 .316
4 JEAN SEGURA SEA 372 117 22 1 17 .315
5 ERIC HOSMER KC 452 141 22 1 19 .312
6 JOSE RAMERIZ CLE 446 139 38 5 18 .312
7 AVISAIL GARCIA CWS 360 112 21 3 13 .311
8 DIDI GREGORIUS NYY 369 113 18 0 18 .306
9 GEORGE SPRINGER HOU 388 118 22 0 28 .304
10 DUSTIN PEDROIA BOS 340 103 17 0 6 .303
18 JOSH REDDICK HOU 363 107 25 3 11 .295
23 YULI GURRIEL HOU 404 118 31 0 15 .292
38 ALEX BREGMAN HOU 388 105 29 4 13 .271

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

 

Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

Death to Flying Things in 1953

August 15, 2017

Manager Jack Chapman of the 1889 Syracuse Stars (shown here in street clothes) was one of two 19th century players nicknamed “Death to Flying Things” for his defensive skills. The other, Bob Ferguson, is pictured below.

Bob Ferguson

At any rate, this column is not about Chapman or Ferguson, but how their identity nicknames reached all the way into the mid-2oth century to strike a chord with at least one kid player who read about them enough to love their nickname and what it represented to him nearly seventy years later.

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

Death to Flying Things in 1953

By Bill McCurdy

It’s hot. Hot as hell. This is good old humid Houston in August, where practically everything painfully hellish starts with an “H”. They couldn’t spell August with an “H” so they spelled it with the weather. And that was hot enough.

A singular bead of sweat rolls down the in-seam skin area of your right leg, ‘neath the blousy grey woolen baseball pants you wear, as you stand, feet apart in center field, just waiting for anything that may come your way in the game that’s about to start.

“Death to Flying Things!”

The war cry of a legendary 19th century player you’ve only read about has become your private battle cry at the start of every new game. Everything that comes your way needs to be pursued with all you’ve got, as though it were the last damn out needed by the winning side of a seven game World Series. You never let up. Letting up is giving up. There is no other way to put it.

Five batters into the game, nothing has come your way, but a single to right and two walks, sandwiched around two strikeouts, has left the bases loaded and a big cloud of early threat by the visiters – who are still knocking hard at the door.

“They must be stopped. We’ve gotta have another “K”, or else, a batted ball that we can turn into a run-stopping out. – Hang loose. – Stay ready.”

You decide to play shallow, even though the #6 batter is a lefty with both the power and the appetite for towering long fly balls. You and your coach decide to play him shallow because you’ve both seen him dink some singles to the shallow reaches of right and center when he wanted – and neither of you want to invite that now by playing him too deep. Besides, you are better at going back for a long fly ball – and nobody’s any good at catching an unreachable liner single under normal outfield defensive depths.

The key to success here is intuition and luck.

On a 2-2 pitch, you decide to start moving in with the pitcher’s delivery. Lucky for you. The lefty swats a line drive that is about four feet high off the ground, but moving intently to a normal base hit touchdown to the right side of 2nd base in shallow center. Your already-in-motion body has continued to accelerate from its with-the-pitch early start. You can see the blur of the rapidly descending ball aiming for the ground to your approaching left side. Your early departure from a short field spot has given you a chance that otherwise never exists.

You go into a hard slide on your left leg, with your left-handed glove extended out and moving as though its upward extended pocket were riding the surface like an emergency vehicle to a potential disaster scene. Your every interactive eye-to-hand bodily movement is now controlled by the laws of physics and a part of the brain that cannot be called into play at will. It’s either there. Or it isn’t.

The memory of it all is precious. And it belongs to you forever.

The glove pocket arrives just in time to prevent the descending ball from touching the ground. Your gloved hand quickly closes around any hopes the motion-energized ball also may have for pushing through your grasp and reaching the ground anyway. You hold on to the sucker. It’s an out. It has to be. After the catch, you leap to your feet in joy. And the umpire quickly flashes the right-handed out sign in confirmation. No matter how small the game, it’s now officially an out – forever – and more importantly – it is a scoreless inning for your adversaries. And the summer league game can now move to the bottom of the 1st, still 0-0 between the home team and the visitors.

“Death to Flying Things!”

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

 

 

The “K” Is Back! Clip-Art Help also on The Way!

August 14, 2017

Dallas Keuchel

Position: Pitcher

Bats: Left  •  Throws: Left

6-3, 205lb (190cm, 92kg)

Team: Houston Astros (majors)

Born: January 1, 1988 in Tulsa, OK us

Draft: Drafted by the Houston Astros in the 7th round of the 2009 MLB June Amateur Draft from University of Arkansas (Fayetteville, AR).

https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/k/keuchda01.shtml

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Dallas Keuchel is back. Big time. His 2-1 mastery of the Texas Rangers on Sunday also made a virtual Nostradamus out of Astros manager A.J. Hinch, who virtually told the world to look for this happening after watching the improvement in Keuchel’s 4-game work that led up to this start. The result finally earned the Astros ace his 10th win of the season (10-2, 2.77) for a 6.2 inning stretch in which he gave up only one earned run on 6 hits while posting 7 strikeouts to 3 walks.

We are not surprised. Just grateful.

Welcome back, Dallas!

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Tyler Clippard

(During his “Yankee Clippard” Days)

Position: Pitcher

Bats: Right  •  Throws: Right

6-3, 200lb (190cm, 90kg)

Team: Houston Astros (minors, 40-man)

Born: February 14, 1985 in Lexington, KY us

Draft: Drafted by the New York Yankees in the 9th round of the 2003 MLB June Amateur Draft from J W Mitchell HS (New Port Richey, FL).

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Clippard has a 48-41, 3.04 ERA record for 11 seasons in MLB (2007-2017). Except for 8 early starts, almost all of his 609 game appearances have been in relief for six different MLB clubs. He did pretty well against the Astros during their recent 3-game sweep loss to the White Sox and that just may have been the “make the deal” button on his desirability by the Astros.

As soon as I read of the trade, the phrase “Clip Art” came to mind as a play on our newest Astros’ name – and as an appropriate nickname for an effective pitcher, especially for a reliever as a substitute for other human forces already in play from his predecessor.

Definition

Baseball Clip Art: The final product of a pitcher whose deceptive body motion, slight of hand, and artful release of a variably thrown at different speeds baseball most often leads to the same result: The winning picture for the club placing this force into motion just got a lot clearer and brighter.

If anything, pitching in baseball may be one of the best demonstrations in all competitive sports for showing how science and art come together to produce an effect that is amazingly exhilarating when it is performed by a player of your own club, but terribly frustrating when it is performed by some Darth Vader from the other team.

Welcome to Houston, “Clip Art” Clippard!

Our MMP Louvre awaits your first demonstration.

https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/c/clippty01.shtml

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AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST STANDINGS

THRU GAMES OF SUNDAY, AUGUST 13, 2017 

RANK AL WEST W L PCT. GB
1 ASTROS 72 45 .615  
2 ANGELS 61 58 .513 12.0
3 MARINERS 59 60 .496 14.0
4 RANGERS 56 60 .483 15.5
5 ATHLETICS 52 66 .441 20.5

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AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST GAME SCORES

THRU GAMES OF SUNDAY, AUGUST 13, 2017

 ASTROS 2 – RANGERS 1.

 ANGELS 4 – MARINERS 2.

 ATHLETICS 9 – ORIOLES 3.

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AMERICAN LEAGUE BATTING AVERAGE LEADERS

THRU GAMES OF SUNDAY, AUGUST 13, 2017

RANK PLAYER TEAM AB H 2B 3B HR BA
1 JOSE ALTUVE HOU 447 162 34 3 18 .362
2 CARLOS CORREA HOU 325 104 18 1 20 .320
3 JEAN SEGURA SEA 368 116 21 1 7 .315
4 MARWIN GONZALEZ HOU 322 101 21 0 20 .314
5 ERIC HOSMER KC 448 140 22 1 19 .313
6 AVISAIL GARCIA CWS 360 112 21 3 13 .311
7 JOSE RAMERIZ CLE 442 137 37 5 18 .310
8 DIDI GREGORIUS NYY 366 113 18 0 18 .309
9 GEORGE SPRINGER HOU 384 117 22 0 28 .305
10 DUSTIN PEDROIA BOS 340 103 17 0 6 .303
20 JOSH REDDICK HOU 360 106 25 3 11 .294
22 YULI GURRIEL HOU 400 117 31 0 15 .293
38 ALEX BREGMAN HOU 385 105 29 4 13 .273

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Astros Losing Streak Reaches Five

August 13, 2017

ASTRO*NOTES

Relax! ~ We’re not giving up as easy as this cartoon suggests, but we also are not stupid! Nor is this our first Astro Fans rodeo with the strong p0ssibility of late season disappointment! And anybody who cannot express the belief that the 2017 club is taking on a little water these days is either a Houston or baseball fan newbie – or someone who still gets their paycheck signed by the  Astros.

Here at The Pecan Park Eagle, we strongly believe that Manager A.J. Hinch is doing everything possible to get the energy and flow of this club righted again and back in the “W” column on a pretty much everyday basis, but he’s also battling some forces that are way beyond his control. To the Eagle mind, we see the current season-record losing streak and ugly general malaise that has been slowly building since Dallas Keuchel’s injury through him off the track of that brilliant nine win (9-0) start.

Like flotsam in the atmosphere building and evolving around the Astros since the start of the Keuchel loss, ever since, these are the negatives that shown up to slowdown and stall the potential for a juggernaut winning season by the 2017 Astros:

(1) Injuries that both caused and worsened the club’s ability to get long-inning wins from starters that finally expanded to include injuries to relievers;

(2) Injuries that have deprived the club from the energy and run production of stars Carlos Correa and George Springer, and a few other position players, since the All Star break;

(3) The morale deflation that landed on all of us like a stink bomb when Jeff Luhnow wasn’t able to pull off anything but the trade for wounded bird Liriano as the runaway NL Dodgers were adding another “ace” to their pennant wheels. Talk about something that let the air out of hope, it was the deal for Liriano that did it. Now we have to revisit our disappointment in that trade every time, like last night, that the poor ex-Blue Jay has to go to the mound and demonstrate how lost and ineffective he is as a pitcher. It has to be sending something like that same reminder to the players as well.

(4) The hitting magic also has slowed. Other than that remarkable 4-run walk-off win the Astros had over the Blue Jays in the 9th inning of their last home stand, the chemistry that once produced the idea that these guys can rally from any adversity is no longer playing so well on the road either.

I have no idea how this club pulls together with the current hurting roster and gives us the kind of pitching that will be needed for the Astros to go all the way. I just know that what we saw last night won’t do it – and that we have to have again – to get back to that spirited next level of play – what we saw through the month of July. If the boys can do that – we should be able  to harvest what once looked like their unfolding legacy – and that is the prize that is never guaranteed – unless it blossoms into a victory in the 2017 World Series.

C’mon, Astros. Starting today. Stop the sinking. Let’s get this boat moving again.

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AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST STANDINGS

THRU GAMES OF SATURDAY, AUGUST 12, 2017 

RANK AL WEST W L PCT. GB
1 ASTROS 71 45 .612  
2 ANGELS 60 58 .508 12.0
3 MARINERS 59 59 .500 13.0
4 RANGERS 56 59 .487 14.5
5 ATHLETICS 51 66 .436 20.5

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AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST GAME SCORES

THRU GAMES OF SATURDAY, AUGUST 12, 2017

 RANGERS 8 ASTROS 3.

 ANGELS 6 – MARINERS 3.

 ORIOLES 12 – ATHLETICS 5.

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AMERICAN LEAGUE BATTING AVERAGE LEADERS

 THRU GAMES OF SATURDAY, AUGUST 12, 2017

RANK PLAYER TEAM AB H 2B 3B HR BA
1 JOSE ALTUVE HOU 443 160 34 3 17 .361
2 CARLOS CORREA HOU 325 104 18 1 20 .320
3 JEAN SEGURA SEA 364 116 21 1 7 .319
4 MARWIN GONZALEZ HOU 319 101 21 0 20 .317
5 DIDI GREGORIUS NYY 362 113 18 0 18 .312
6 ERIC HOSMER KC 446 139 22 1 19 .312
7 JOSE RAMERIZ CLE 438 136 36 5 18 .311
8 AVISAIL GARCIA CWS 355 110 20 3 13 .310
9 GEORGE SPRINGER HOU 384 117 22 0 28 .305
10 ANDRELTON SIMMONS LAA 432 131 28 2 12 .303
15 JOSH REDDICK HOU 356 106 25 3 11 .298
22 YULI GURRIEL HOU 396 116 30 0 15 .293
35 ALEX BREGMAN HOU 381 105 29 4 13 .276

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

The Cushion and Weight of a 13-Game Lead

August 13, 2017

RALPH BRANCA, PITCHER
1951 BROOKLYN DODGERS
Most of us love Ralph. We just don’t want to see him working as our closer for the Astros in the 2017 Post-Season. We also reserve the right to change our minds in October.

 

Our wonderful Astros baseball icon, SABR Chapter namesake, history colleague, and fun-to-be-with baseball friend – Larry Dierker – asked this question of me as a comment at today’s Baseball’s Loudest Pin Drop Falls Again column:

“Have you checked where the ’51 Giants were (this date in history) compared to the current Astros? This may be our chance to make history.”

I knew in general, but I did the checking. And here’s precisely what I found about yesterday’s date in history for the 1951 National League and this year’s 2017 American League West Division:

NL STANDINGS THRU 8/11/1951

Tm W L W-L% GB RS RA pythW-L%
BRO 70 36 .660 618 458 .634
NYG 59 51 .536 13.0 561 504 .549
PHI 58 52 .527 14.0 509 453 .553
STL 51 53 .490 18.0 447 491 .457
BSN 51 55 .481 19.0 498 456 .540
CIN 49 58 .458 21.5 411 490 .420
CHC 46 59 .438 23.5 443 508 .438
PIT 44 64 .407 27.0 506 633 .399

AL WEST DIVISION STNDINGS THRU 8/11/2017

Tm W L W-L% GB RS RA pythW-L%
HOU 71 44 .617 668 510 .621
LAA 59 58 .504 13.0 501 510 .492
SEA 59 58 .504 13.0 554 560 .495
TEX 55 59 .482 15.5 560 554 .505
OAK 51 65 .440 20.5 505 603 .420

My Answer to Larry Dierker (and I’m responding here for the first time): Dierk, sad as it seems, the best chance for replicating the amazing comeback of the ’51 NYY Giants now mathematically belongs equally to either the 2017 LA Angels or the 2017 Seattle Mariners. Unfortunately, the success of either would leave the door open for the Astros to make history by repeating  the crash and burn failure of the ’51 Brooklyn Dodgers – via something equivalently cruel as Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard Round the World” at the Polo Grounds and – look – we don’t want any part of that kind of history-making.

Please, baseball gods. Spare us that one. We don’t want it in base form – and we sure as hell don’t want it in all the cruel ways that baseball sometimes tailor customizes the pain of major disappointment.

Right, Ralph Branca?

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

Baseball’s Loudest Pin Drop Falls Again

August 12, 2017

What hurt the most: Strike Three was called. He wasn’t swinging from the heels, as he is in this photo.

Oh, near everywhere in Arlington, the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing sharply, and Dallas hearts are light;
And Fort Worth men are laughing, and Irving children shout,
But there is no joy in Houston – mighty Jose has struck out.

~ Friday, August 11, 2017 ~ Arlington, Texas.

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AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST STANDINGS

THRU GAMES OF FRIDAY, AUGUST 11, 2017 

RANK AL WEST W L PCT. GB
1 ASTROS 71 44 .617  
2 MARINERS 59 58 .504 13.0
3 ANGELS 59 58 .504 13.0
4 RANGERS 55 59 .482 15.5
5 ATHLETICS 51 65 .440 20.5

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AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST GAME SCORES

THRU GAMES OF FRDAY, AUGUST 11, 2017 

RANGERS 6 ASTROS 4.  

ANGELS 6 – MARINERS 5. 

ATHLETICS 5 – ORIOLES 4.

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AMERICAN LEAGUE BATTING AVERAGE LEADERS 

THRU GAMES OF FRIDAY, AUGUST 11, 2017

RANK PLAYER TEAM AB H 2B 3B HR BA
1 JOSE ALTUVE HOU 441 160 34 3 17 .363
2 CARLOS CORREA HOU 325 104 18 1 20 .320
3 JEAN SEGURA SEA 359 113 21 1 7 .315
4 MARWIN GONZALEZ HOU 315 99 21 0 20 .314
5 JOSE RAMERIZ CLE 435 135 35 5 18 .310
6 DIDI GREGORIUS NYY 358 111 18 0 18 .310
7 ERIC HOSMER KC 442 137 22 1 18 .310
8 GEORGE SPRINGER HOU 380 117 22 0 28 .308
9 AVISAIL GARCIA CWS 352 108 19 3 13 .307
10 ANDRELTON SIMMONS LAA 429 131 28 2 12 .305
12 JOSH REDDICK HOU 352 106 25 3 11 .301
21 YULI GURRIEL HOU 396 116 30 0 15 .293
36 ALEX BREGMAN HOU 378 104 29 4 13 .275

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle