Rusty Staub: How Good Could He Get To Be?

March 19, 2019

 

 

Long before Les Grand Orange ripped him away from our broken Houston hearts, the above was another Clark Nealon story from the same page in The Sporting News, December 26, 1964 upon which he published his account of the MLB mascot change in Houston from Colt .45s to Astros. This time the story focus is upon the 20-year old Rusty Staub and the illusory possibility of his future greatness in reality.

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

Birth of the Astrodome Identity: December 1964

March 18, 2019

The nascent world of Houston big league baseball took a sharp turn on December 12, 1964. On that date, Judge Roy Hofheinz of the Houston baseball club announced that the team was abandoning its western identity as the Houston Colt .45s in favor of a new mascot theme that now appeared as a much better match for the Space City Capitol of the World club as they approached 1965 and their first season in the world’s first covered and air-conditioned stadium for baseball. Going up, the thing already looked on the outside like the mother ship of an avant garde Martian invader fleet that had decided to set up its invasion base on the prairies south of downtown ~ and why not ~ anything sounded better than the moniker that would remain as its official name ~ The Harris County, Texas Domed Stadium.

From now on, from that Winter of 1964 moment, the club and its new home would be known as the Houston Astros and the Astrodome. I remember it well from the earliest announcement by the Judge that reached me in New Orleans. Back then, I was still working at Tulane University.

I  previously had never heard of an “astro.” ~ That factor generated some mild frustration.

Unable to find my copy of “Astronomy for Dummies,” I ran to a dictionary for an answer to my silent question: “What the hell is an astro?” Having found one, I still needed more.

Here’s how Clark Nealon of the Houston Post described the identity change for a story he wrote for the late December readers of The Sporting News. My apologies for the legibility issues that some of you may have with these screen saver copies of the material I found this morning at the “Newspaper Archives” site:

 

The Original Astrodome Sketch
The Sporting News
December 26, 1965

 

 

The above article was written by long-time legendary Houston Post reporter Clark Nealon for The Sporting News edition of December 26, 1965. We have to wonder if that original iconic sketch of the Astrodome logo still exists and where it is. The thing is an extremely valuable artifact of MLB history in Houston and deserves to be included on the list of any new preservation plan for the history of baseball in Houston. It would also be nice if we also could give the artist who actually did it a little more credit than he or she has been getting over the years.

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

Who’s on 1st, but Why’s this guy on 2nd?

March 18, 2019

“Hey, Goofy! Yeah, I know we just came in to bat, but you made the last out in the top of the 9th. ~ Now you’re our bonus runner at 2nd to start the top of the 10th! ~ Get out there and score us a run, OK?”
__________
Photo Credit: Walt Disney Productions

Who’s on 1st, but Why’s this guy on 2nd? The question deserves a better answer than the one we we are likely to find among the high and mighty leaders of the game who now bait it forth to us fans as
“a proposition-to-be-tested.”

What test? Is this MLB’s example of transparency in the search for fan inclusion into the process of ~ not simply adding some speed-up rules to the game ~ but semi-honestly to making changes in the very nature of baseball as a game that forevermore shall alter the way the game is played at a more rudimentary level ~ and, worst of all, are these changes really already decided, but, in the view of MLB royalty, simply in need of some democratic watering on their way to this new basic game status?

We shall see.

When the Atlantic Independent League and our Sugar Land Skeeters pick up their trial period playing by the proposed new rules for MLB and all of organized baseball come September 2019, the one rule change that seems to pique the culture skin of most is that one that’s designed to keep extra innings from shifting into exhaustion gear and playing further as though they were simply two rival crews who also seemed to be now playing the game as though they were trying to build a rope bridge to eternity ~ with each team going up and down “one, two, three” in frames that used up about twenty minutes for the whole one-inning process each time they repeated their mutual displays of tired and worn out offensive impotence and general bearableness.

 

Each time they repeated their act with another inning of boredom on display ~ and with about as much result as that last wordy one-sentence paragraph just provided us here.

Photo Credit: Walt Disney Productions

 

There was no end in sight. The game would go on until some good or goofy looking old infielder got a bad case of 19th inning “wicket legs” and allowed a low speedy grounder to pass through them on a diabolically batted ball that just produced enough energy to plate the tie-breaking win-difference-making run for one of the teams.

 

Most of us puritan nostalgists don’t want to see the 2nd base placement runner rule breathe the light of day, but some of us want it both ways. As writer Dan Kopf expressed it in an article he wrote back in the earlier days of this proposal on February 10, 2017:

 

“For baseball fans (like this one), the prospect of a rule change raises mixed feelings. Going to a baseball game is an exercise in nostalgia—its unchanging nature is part of the allure. So the first time a runner saunters over to second base to start an inning, it’s going to be jarring. But knowing an afternoon at the ballpark doesn’t potentially mean committing an evening there, is a very nice prospect too.”

https://qz.com/907103/major-league-baseball-is-testing-a-rule-to-start-extra-innings-with-a-runner-on-second/

What are we talking about? The most provocative new rule in this test is the one that now aims to shorten extra inning games by beginning the start of each extra inning time at bat with a courtesy runner at second base for the purpose of making the probability of a run scoring greater and the probability of a shorter extra inning game also more likely. The runner will be the last batter from the previous inning or the player who now occupies that spot in the batting order.

What to do? What to do? What to do?

Going back to the Dan Kopf quote, my take is simple. ~ You can’t have it both ways. It’s either baseball or it’s not. ~ And starting an inning with a runner on second in the hope that he scores is not baseball. If you’re going to do that, you may as well start the inning by placing that runner at third base ~ and add to it the corollary rule that any move by the pitcher to hold this straw man runner close to the bag ~ even a five-second mean look in his direction by the pitcher ~ shall be considered a balk by the umpire and serve as sufficient grounds for allowing the man to score as the result of this secondary new balk rule transgression.

If you have small kids, other dependents or obligations at home, or work conflicts as a result of late games. just leave early and accept it as part of both life and baseball itself. If you don’t like staying anyplace too long ~ even the ballpark ~ then find something else to do. Extra innings are part of the game that is baseball. ~ And if you really are a baseball fan with no other real obligations to leave early ~ one  who likes the live experience of being at the ballpark ~ just keep on going ~ and staying until the last man is out. ~ Where else would you rather be?

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

Astros Barracks Stop Complaints: 1965

March 17, 2019

HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY! 

And speaking of all that’s green, thank you, Darrell Pittman, for this timely seasonal reminder of spring training in the first year of the newly renamed Houston Astros:

 

A column by Merrell Whittlesey

Washington Evening Star

March 18, 1965

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

McCurdy’s Buzzer-Beater Saves Liberty Hill

March 14, 2019

San Antonio Express-News
Saturday, March 9, 2019

Guard Parker McCurdy (#5) of Liberty Hill
Pulling up on a hard drive to the basket.

 

Unfortunately for Liberty Hill, and as irony so often plays a string with numbers, the valiant young men of freedom’s high ground lost their big game to Oak Cliff for the state title on Saturday, March 9, 2019 by the same 53-51 tally they won the previous day over Decatur on McCurdy’s buzzer beater.

My brother, John McCurdy, sent me this little item from the San Antonio Express-News. In his shared awareness of how infrequently we McCurdys make any headlines with buzzer-beater wins, grand slam victories in the bottom of the 9th, or 105 yard pick-six TD runs in over-time, he knew for sure that I would get a kick out of it.

Which I certainly did.

We don’t know of any blood relationship we may have with young Parker McCurdy, but we are both happy for him and appreciative of him for doing something so heroic with the family surname. As this result, I couldn’t resist sharing this story with all of you who may not have followed the basketball season of Liberty Hill down here in Texas.

As for you, Mr. Parker McCurdy, just keep trying to give your best to all you do, especially, if it’s in the bread basket of your civil passions in life ~ and that covers the spiritual, athletic, relational, ideational, artistic, and other creative arenas of how you spend your time. In the end, living in peace ~ with no resentment or regret ~ and in the knowledge that you tried to go through your tough times as best you could ~ without running away ~ is a package that is far more important than how many wins and losses you compiled in all possible arenas of competition. ~ Oh, yeah ~ you do get to keep the “buzzer-beater joy” of March 8, 2019!

This other stuff I’ve tried to say to you here will come to you in its own most digestible way ~ over time.

God Bless!

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

 

 

 

Happy Birthday, Jimmy Wynn!

March 13, 2019

To My Dear Friend, Jimmy Wynn ~

We missed you by a day on these public pages due to an unfortunate technical problem with the website, but, as always, it’s better late than never on the day after ~ your 77th Happy Birthday Passage.

 

 

Happy 77th Birthday, Jimmy Wynn

(Date of Birth: Match 12, 1942)

You floated like the Monarch butterfly ~ your bat was always the bee!

While soaring the Houston summer sky ~ God’s Love flowed endlessly!

And so it goes ~ from then to now ~ thru all, yet undone, we shall see!

The passion flight of the monarch force ~ from here to eternity!

So, Fly, ~ Jimmy, Fly! ~ ….. Fly, Jimmy, fly ~ like the Monarch of Degree!

We shall find our ways to soar with you ~ winged souls in spiritual glee!

We may not be from KC, but neither were the Monarchs of old originally!

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…. and as we here take our swings ~ one day late ~ there’s still time to shout:

Happy, Happy 77th Birthday, Toy Cannon,

Jimmy Wynn, Dear Sweet Beloved Friend!

Love and Peace,

Bill McCurdy and

All Other Monarchs

It’s Your Birthday, Jimmy Wynn!
_________________
Fly, Jimmy, Fly!

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

 

 

 

 

 

 

MLB To Test Changes in Atlantic League

March 10, 2019

… and, hopefully, not the 62 feet, 2 inches that goes into effect when the Atlantic League adds 2 inches to the mound-plate distance during the 2nd half of their 2019 season.

MLB has contracted with the independent Atlanta League (the league that’s home to our Sugar Land Skeeters) to put into play their “up-the-tempo” package of changes for the 2019 season to get a practical idea of how these alterations may help baseball pick up the time-flow of games in ways that shorten game times, but still maintain the flow of that baseball infinity-feel about time ~ while they also implement modern technology for helping the umpires do a better job of accurately getting the balls and strikes calls done more accurately and closer to one standard of the zone from game to game.

References

Fox News ~

https://www.foxnews.com/sports/computer-to-call-balls-and-strikes-in-minor-league

Houston Chronicle ~

https://www.chron.com/search/?action=search&firstRequest=1&searchindex=solr&query=atlantyc+league

Some managerial strategy will be lost. Best example ~ managers will no longer be able to call in a left-handed reliever to pitch to one killer lefty hitter and then take him out in favor of using a righty to pitch to a string of good right-handed batters. Under the trial period rules, any pitcher entering a game, unless he is subsequently injured or taken sick, must pitch to a minimum of three batters before he can be taken out of the game.

Oh really?

Well, how long do you think it’s going to take before the former one-trick pony pitcher comes into a game and now claims illness or muscle-tweaking injury after pitching to only one batter and then demands to be taken out for the sake of his career investment? ~ No umpire can overrule a pitcher’s complaint of new disability and force him to keep pitching under those circumstances, could he? No way.

If they haven’t thought of it already, the rule makers may have to impose an automatic loss of eligibility over the next course of several games when a relief pitcher cannot stand and face his three batter minimum. Maybe one game out for each batter missed would be fair. (Pitch to the minimum 3 batters, no problem; pitch to 2 batters only and he’s ineligible for the next game that’s actually played; pitch to only one batter and the reliever is ineligible for use in the next 2 actually played games.) Sounds fair as a move to hold down bogus injury claims in the first place.

At any rate, watching the total package put into play surely supplies another good reason for watching the Skeeters and their Atlantic League brethren play ball this season. They are doing organized baseball a very important service by allowing themselves to be the Guinean pigs of this trial measure.

If you can spare the time, we’d love to have you leave a comment in the section that follows this column. How do you feel about the trials it undertakes? How do you feel about a digital calls of balls and strikes? Do you think the effort to increase the pace of play will tamper with elements that made baseball great in the first place?

By picking up the game’s tempo of play, is MLB really trying to make the game better? ~ Or is it more a matter of finding a way to make live baseball more compatible with today’s shorter fan attention span? Are we hoping to teach the fans what they should look for in the game on the field? Or are we really trying to lure them away from their cell phones long enough to be entertained by a game that moves quickly and gets them home earlier?

Live baseball strategy only unfolds clearly on television, where you can see what happens between pitcher, catcher, and batter on every single pitch. What happens at the ballpark is a whole lot of other stuff, which is just part of the live experience of being there ~ and for 90% of the wired ballpark fans, whatever takes you away from your always ever-working call phone conversation with “elsewhere” ~ by sudden distraction or attempted ballpark entertainment.

What’s all that got to do with anything? For me it’s the belief that all of this need for change in the flow of a baseball game is more about refining the ballpark entertainment experience for millennial-age digitally indulgent fans. Larry Dierker expressed it best in a comment he left at another recent Pecan Park Eagle column. “If you want to watch the game, watch TV,” said Larry Dierker. “If you want to be entertained while a game is in progress, go to it.”

Even if we do not like and may have to fight certain changes, adaptation certainly not a bad thing. It’s just how it is. Baseball is governed by the same laws governing all living things ~ and that includes the games we play. If people don’t want the game, it cannot survive using a presentation format that was first introduced in the 19th century.

Those of us who don’t so much need a change of tempo format can live with an increase in tee-shirt blasts at the ball park ~ as long as we remain free to watch the real game unfold on television at home ~ and they have not added two feet to the mound-plate pitching distance. Changes of distance there and on the baselines are the changes that turn me rapidly into a dinosaur. To those I am compelled to shout loudly:

“Leave Our Game Alone!”

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

 

 

 

 

 

April 14, 1951: Houston Buffs Win Third in a Row

March 9, 2019

Larry Miggins
Left Field, Houston Buffs
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“To my generation of Houston Buff fans, and by his batting heroics, Larry Miggins was an imposer of happy baseball game indelibilities upon the places in our hearts and memory banks ~ those arenas of spirit and soul ~ where we keep all our lifetime smiles handy forever.”                       ~ Bill McCurdy

Houston Buffs Win Third in a Row

Houston, April 14 (1951), (AP) ~ The Houston Buffs extended their win streak to three here tonight with a 2-0 victory over the Beaumont Roughnecks.

Belsel (“Hisel” is correct) D. (Pat) Patrick pitched five-hit ball for the Buffs, and Larry Miggins connected for a home run in the sixth inning for one of Houston’s four hits.

April 14, 1951 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 ~ R H E
Beaumont 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 ~ 0 5 2
Houston 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 ~ 2 4 0

Larner, Dyck (7) and Tappe; Patrick and Fusselman

~ Wichita Daily Times, April 15, 1951, Page 11.

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Eventual Price of a 1923 Ruth Bat

March 7, 2019

 

Babe Ruth Bat Used
1st Yankee Stadium HR
April 18, 1923
Later Sold for $1.265 Million

On April 18, 1923, the New York Yankees played their first game in history at the brand new Yankee Stadium in The Bronx before a home crowd of 74,200. Would Babe Ruth help christen the place as “The House That Ruth Built” with one of his newly fashioned deadball-air-clearing home runs? It didn’t take long to get an answer.

In the bottom of the 3rd inning, facing Boston Red Sox starter Howard Ehmke, with 2 on and 2 out, Ruth unloaded the first home run in Yankee Stadium history. The Yankees went on to win the game, 4-1, in 2 hours and 5 minutes.

https://www.psacard.com/articles/articleview/6166/historic-bat-used-by-babe-ruth-hit-first-home-run-old-yankee-stadium-featured-tlc-s-accidental-fortune

The linked article reports the historic first Yankee Stadium home run bat by Babe Ruth in these terms:

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Ruth had given the bat to the Los Angeles Evening Herald, and Victor Orsatti won it in a high school home run-hitting contest sponsored by the newspaper. Ruth inscribed on the bat, “To the Boy Home Run King of Los Angeles ‘Babe’ Ruth, N.Y. May 7, 1923.”

Upon his death in the early 1980s, Orsatti gave the bat to his caretaker, who chose SCP Auctions as a partner in the marketing and sale of the bat and to prove that it was indeed the one used to hit the first home run in old Yankee Stadium. Accompanying the bat is a congratulatory telegram Orsatti received from “The Babe.”

After the bat spent 80 years in hiding, SCP Auctions was given the opportunity to showcase and feature the bat in a New York auction in 2004, when it sold for $1.265 million.

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One has to wonder. ~ How much of the $1.265 million dollar sale price actually went to the Orsatti caretaker heir? ~ And how much went to the SCP Auctions company that made the sale possible? ~ And how much did Uncle Sam allow them both to keep? ~ What was the point of the bat’s new acquirement by new ownership? ~ And where is the bat today? ~ Is it on public display anywhere ~ Or is it squirreled away in another dark, secure place? ~ And is it just the power point of ego that drives this hobby to this level of art in big business? ~ And is knowing that one is the power-driven possessor of a special thing like a famous bat the force that drives collectors on this level? ~ Or is it simply another playful version of whoever’s got the most money wins the game?

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

 

 

Was the Fate of Ruth’s Leaner Bat This Bleak?

March 6, 2019

Babe Ruth’s Last Uniformed Appearance
June 13, 1948

On June 13, 1948, two months and three days prior to his death from cancer on August 16, 1948, Babe Ruth made his last uniformed appearance in Yankee Stadium, along with a number of other survivors of the 1923 club that were there for that first Yankee club to play in the stadium on their way to that first World Series championship so long ago.

The high-flying Cleveland Indians were the opposition that June day in 1948 ~ and with Bob Feller pitching ~ but it was the beloved Babe Ruth that 49,641 fans had come to see ~ in full awareness of his current cancer struggle ~ and just to be in his living presence ~ at least ~ one more time.

The Babe didn’t disappoint. When he finally made his solitary last field appearance from the then third base Yankee dugout, he was wearing that familiar number “3” on the back of his jersey and, even though he looked and moved a little frail from the disease, his face lit up in a smile at the sound of the crowd’s roar of approval over his presence one last time.

It was the day of that famous photo of Babe Ruth from behind ~ standing still and leaning on a bat as he looked out at the throng and the beckoning grandeur of his setting there in the stadium ~ and in baseball history.

The “leaner” bat made the picture what it is ~ and what it is today is ~ dramatically unforgettable.

And yet, the Yankees weren’t terrifically far-thinkers in planning this entry. Babe had not brought a bat to lean upon, nor had the Yankees supplied him with one that included instructions on how he should use it for appearances’ sake. Babe just needed one to use as a cane that might prevent him from a stumble or fall that could cause great harm and itself become the picture of the day for all time.

A close baseball friend told me yesterday that it was Bob Feller of the Indians who quickly responded to Babe’s need and got him a bat from Indians first sacker Eddie Robinson to use in the entry. I’m not sure how Feller was the most accessible person to the need ~ given the fact that Ruth was coming in from the Yankee side of things. but that’s only one thing I could not unscramble on a quick Google search for clarification.

My reason for writing even this much about a famous moment on short notice is tied up in what my SABR colleague told me about the eventual fate of that Robinson-owned, Ruth-revered bat. What happened to the bat was so flat-out disgusting that I decided to simply write this piece this morning. My friend has the option of either joining in with the search or remaining anonymous. Surely someone like Paul Rogers of SMU ~ or Eddie Robinson himself ~ knows the whole truth.

My friend and I both realize that what I’m reporting here may be partially to wholly wrong. Please help us clarify and specify the truth ~ by your own documented account ~ or by reference to something that is published and available to those seeking evidentiary documentation or testimony in the matter.

My Understanding. Apparently, after the Yankee Stadium day in June of 1948, the bat was returned to Eddie Robinson and remained in his possession for a period of some time. Then it supposedly moves back into the hands of Bob Feller and is placed on exposition at some kind of midwestern baseball museum for several years. Then something causes the bat to be made available for purchase and is bought by someone ~ from whom we don’t know ~ by some kind of collector/entrepreneur ~ who puts the bat up for sale to the general public ~ wood sliver by wood sliver ~ to those who wish to buy a piece of baseball history. To the best of our limited and totally undocumented knowledge, and at prices we have no idea about, the famous Ruth “loaner/leaner” bat stayed for sale until every last sliver of profit was drubbed from its wooden heart.

My Take on the Wood-Sliver Sale. If the bat wasn’t sold to a fast buck artist ~ if it went back to Eddie Robinson ~ then I say Eddie Robinson had a right to do anything he wanted with the bat that was his in the first place. I’d still hope that he would have found a way to keep it in one piece for history’s sake.

On the other hand, if it were what it appears to have been, that the bat was acquired by a fast buck artist and then converted into a sliver-sale, the whole thing makes me want to throw up. The “entrepreneur” that did this serial deal, if it really happened, deserves all the respect we once reserved exclusively for chewing tobacco spittoons.

As for people who are willing to pay good money for wood-sliver pieces of an old bat, we say go for it! ~ We get what we deserve by our willingness to trust ourselves to the kindness of strangers. And, by the way, I hear that there are still a few barber shops in far west Louisiana that still have a few locks of hair from the head of Clyde Barrow for sale.

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher