SABR: Who We Are Matters

April 20, 2018


The SABR Board has now informed the membership that the vote to change the name of our organization from the “Society for American Baseball Research” to the “Society for the Advancement of Baseball Research” has been killed and all cast votes discarded for reasons of violation to the process of getting things done. At least, that is the way we read the e-mail from Board President Vince Gennaro. — He respectfully noted hat it was their late recognition of an unfair treatment of the by laws that has caused the Board to cancel the name change electoral motion and take some time for thought to the process issues involved in this first unsuccessful attempt.

The critical cancellation paragraph was expressed by e-mail in bold type as a Board resolution:

“That the proposed bylaw amendment and name change on the 2018 ballot is withdrawn as improvidently submitted and not properly before the membership; and that any votes on the proposed bylaw amendment and name change on the 2018 ballot shall be disregarded and will be treated as if never cast.”

Thank goodness for small favors. Sometimes process issues may save us from avoiding the substantive issue that is a matter of far greater importance.

The substantive issue is not simply coming up with a new name that still lends itself to our comfortable and familiar acronym “SABR”. When we were kids, we didn’t prefer “TOPPS” bubble gum because the gum itself tasted better than “Double Bubble”, — (Most of us thought it did not.) — we bought Topps because of the baseball cards that came with the gum.

And what became of Topps without the baseball cards? — Do you really need the answer?

Most of us bought into SABR because of how it portrayed our identity. It was, and still is, the Society for American Baseball Research, — meaning that it is an organization dedicated to an ongoing and accurate examination of how “American Baseball” has evolved — and continues to evolve — on a world-wide plane.

We are not English Baseball – or Asian Baseball – or European Baseball. — We are American Baseball, as we continue to evolve world-wide in all those places it has now evolved to include.

We need to be careful that we don’t fall into the language pit that this particular era both invites and encourages — and that is the active association of the word “America” with all the equivocating political forces that use the name of our precious country as a symbol of hatred and bigotry. And, of yes, even if our wonderful beautiful game spreads to every country on earth, which I would love to see, it would still be American Baseball – now played everywhere.

We are not those hateful people who use the word “American” in the name of harm to others; nor are we those sadly neurotic people whose sense of national guilt includes the idea of erasing the conscious recognition of America at every turn in the road. We are people who either grew up in the passion fire of America’s sandlots – or older people who found it as a gift from heaven when it arrived on their shores as something that still says “Made in America” all over it.

Please take this little break in the action for deeper consideration of this matter. It is much deeper than a clumsy process issue. It is, in reality, an opportunity to both preserve and deepen our appreciation for who we are.

We are — The Society for American Baseball Research.

That’s the organization I joined. That’s the organization I will continue to support.


Bill McCurdy

Larry Dierker Chapter




Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle





The Amazing Ichiro Suzuki

April 19, 2018

Ichiro Suzuki
Baseball’s Unofficial All Time Hits Leader

Tuning in late to the Astros telecast of the game at Seattle Tuesday night, I wasn’t giving his almost eternal active presence any thought when up came the legendary Ichiro Suzuki to hit for the Mariners against youthful Lance McCullers. At age 45 years, the now snow-fleck grey haired veteran superstar promptly laced a single to center, recording the 3,087th hit of his 18 year MLB career (2001-20018) and the 4,365th total hit of his whole career, if you include the 1,278 hits he recorded in Japan over his first nine seasons (1992-2000) before coming to America for big league ball.

It all adds up to 4,365 total hits over 27 seasons. – And counting.

Unless you choose to go MLB sticky, that brings the all time hits leader board up to this:

Ichiro Suzuki 4,365 – Pete Rose 4,256.

And, as of the morning date, this 4/19/2018, Suzuki’s favorable hit advantage is  109 – and open to further differential growth only in Suzuki’s favor.

Rose vs. Suzuki, MLB Careers Only

The following little table is little more than a side bar comparison of the MLB stat careers of Rose and Suzuki. Suzuki had no chance of ever catching Rose’s hit total by the time he finally he came over to the big leagues, but his prior excellence in Japan — and certainly his incredible longevity — leaves us with pause to think. – If Ichiro could have, would have, or maybe even should have started it all here in the western hemisphere, perhaps, there would be no wonder about the certain future induction of the greatest it total leader of all time.

Pete Rose 14053 2165 4256 746 135 160 1314 .307 .409 .375
Ichiro Suzuki 9918 1418 3087 362 96 117 780 .311 .403 .355

Keep it up, Ichiro! You are an inspiration to all – and especially to everyone over age 40.



Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle



“You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd!”

April 18, 2018

“Hey! Guys! Listen Up!
It’s time to play this year’s games!”

You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd!

And You Can’t Play Ball With a Big Ring on Your Hand!

And You Can’t Win This Year with Last Year on Your Mind!

But You Can Play Better, — If You’ve a Mind To!”

The overall condition of the 2018 Astros is pretty darn strong. One of the starters (Justin Verlander, of course) was just named AL player of the week for the effort he put in over the course of the just concluded measurable seven-day period and he seems locked and loaded for more of the same over the wrinkles of time that stretch from here to forever, a least, the part of time that includes 2018. Barring injury, he should be good-to-go the rest of the way.

Dallas Keuchel last night, Gerrit Cole every time, and Charlie Morton, as sure as salt, all look great. Only Lance McCullers needs to get his share of the shift together to steady this rotation as the most enviable starting five in baseball.

The relief crew lacks an effective lefty (or any lefty at all with Sipp on the DL) and several others, some with good starts, are still on the line of needing to prove they are better than the guys they replaced in the off-season. One thing is clear — The Astros do not have a closer.


J. Verlander 2 0 1.000 4 26.2 15 5 4 3 5 34 1.35
Dallas Keuchel 0 3 .000 4 23.0 24 10 9 2 10 19 3.52
L. McCullers 1 1 .500 3 14.0 18 13 12 2 10 23 7.71
Gerrit Cole 1 0 1.000 3 21.0 10 3 3 3 4 36 1.29
Charlie Morton 2 0 1.000 3 18.0 13 3 2 2 6 25 1.00
James Hoyt 0 0 0 0.1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0.00
Chris Devenski 1 0 1.000 1 8.0 5 1 1 1 1 10 1.13
Collin McHugh 0 0 .– 0 6.2 5 1 1 1 2 10 1.35
Will Harris 0 1 .000 0 7.1 7 2 2 0 4 6 2.45
Hector Rondon 1 1 .500 0 7.0 7 3 2 0 0 10 2.37
Ken Giles 0 0 1 2.1 2 1 1 0 2 2 3.60
Tony Sipp 0 0 0 2.1 2 1 1 0 2 2 3.86
Brad Peacock 1 1 .500 1 8.2 7 4 4 3 1 11 4.15
Joe Smith 1 0 1.000 0 4.2 5 3 3 0 3 3 5.79
ALL  10 7 .588 152.2 125 51 46 17 49 191 2.71

The early problem is hitting. Timely hitting could have placed this Astros club at 15-2 instead of the 10-7 mark they’ve now  recorded. Anyway, it’s almost time for the second game of the Mariners series. Let’s see if the Stros can break that “hit’ em where they are” for outs binge they fell into last night.



Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle


Rest In Peace, Patrick Lopez

April 16, 2018

Rest in Peace, Patrick Lopez!
Your Devotion to Family, Your Love of Life, and Your Artistic Always Growing Gifts to the World Are Your Ongoing Legacy!

Patrick George Lopez

Patrick George Lopez died on Wednesday, April 11, 2018 after a brief stay in hospice. He was born in Houston on January 7, 1937 to Manuel and Carmen Lopez.

He married Barbara Jean Holman in 1961. Survivors include his wife of 57 years, his children (Claudia, Patrick, and Sarah), his grandchildren (Patrick Joey and Justin), and his brother (John David).

As an architectural delineator, he worked with some of the most important national and local architects and architectural firms of the post WWII era, including Skidmore Owings and Merrill, Johnson Burgee, and Helmut Jahn.

He loved his family, his lifelong home of Houston, his pets (Oso!), baseball, the Astros, art, buildings, music (he was a lifelong piano player), fishing, plants (he grew orchids, bromeliads, succulents), and a good meal.

A public memorial will be held in the future at an as-yet undetermined date.

Published in Houston Chronicle on Apr. 15, 2018

Title: “Buffalo Walking” or “Travis Street Park” By Patrick Lopez (at Fair Grounds Base Ball Park), One of Several Works that Patrick did for the 2014 “Early Houston” Baseball History Book researched and written by members of the Larry Dierker Chapter of SABR and published in 2014.

Patrick Lopez finished a year ahead of me at St. Thomas High School in 1955. Although we never really knew each other at St. Thomas, Patrick always impressed me then as a very nice and thoughtful person. He could often be seen staring across the front lawn during classroom breaks, looking far to the south, beyond Buffalo Bayou. We never actually met until the Houston Early Baseball book project arose, nearly 55 years later, but it was only then that the question clarified about this true 21st century Renaissance man came to roost. — He could have been thinking about anything much earlier in life — as long as it was artistic, giving of itself in part to some greater whole idea, then it probably was getting the attention of the naturally artistic Patrick Lopez.

When our team member Mike Vance, with some independent discovery work help from Darrell Pittman, finally found that the Travis Street Ballpark was our best bet as Houston’s first true organized baseball park, we had no pictures of the same, but we did possess some very detailed newspaper writing on the construction of the place.

Patrick Lopez was able to let his creative mind go to bed with all these black worn sentences on fading white paper and put together for our eyes — and the whole world — to see — how it was meant to be seen. The watercolor work featured here is only one of the many he did that gave us all a vision into how the typical game day looked to Houstonians back in the 19th century. If you can hear the sound of horse hooves making a steady beat up and down Travis — and if you can hear the thud of a bat and ball joyously, or sorrowfully, interrupting every now and then, you may actually be able to allow your own mind to travel back to the corner of Travis and McGowan at many spring afternoons of those late 19th century years and actually experience the presence of old time Houston for yourself. And, if you get there, try to remember — the now late Patrick Lopez probably helped you make the trip.

Patrick Lopez

Thank you, Patrick Lopez! All of us are the richer for having known you even a smidgen’s amount of eternity’s time.

And God Bless you too, Barbara! Patrick was lucky to have found and never lost you. That doesn’t always happen.


The Pecan Park Eagle



Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Maxwell Kates: “42” – A Film Review

April 16, 2018



By Maxwell Kates

Maxwell Kates

Five years ago, in April 2013, Legendary Pictures released a film called “42”. Written and directed by Brian Helgeland, the film documented Jackie Robinson’s first season in the major leagues while emphasizing the trials and tribulations involved with breaking the colour barrier.


The story behind “42” is well known among baseball fans and American historians alike.  After declaring victory over Nazi Germany in May 1945 and Imperialist Japan three months later, American soldiers returned from the Second World War to a country that could not defeat its own Jim Crow laws.  A ‘gentleman’s agreement’ had existed in professional baseball which segregated white and black players into different leagues.

Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford), the President of the Brooklyn Dodgers, is a shrewd businessman, a lawyer, and a devout Methodist.  We learn in the context of the movie that he is haunted by not having done enough to fight segregation as a baseball coach some four decades earlier.  Partly out of religious conviction and partly out of opportunism, he vows to promote a black player to the Dodgers late in the 1945 season.  Rickey admires Jack Roosevelt Robinson (Chadwick Boseman), a shortstop on the segregated Kansas City Monarchs, for his talent and his hardnosed style of play, but warns him that the inability to control his volatile temper is tantamount to failure for Rickey’s ‘Great Experiment.’  In other words, Rickey did not need a player not tough enough to fight back, but one tough enough not to fight back.

Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey

The plot line begins by covering Robinson in spring training both with the Montreal Royals, the Dodgers’ top minor league affiliate, and the Dodgers. After he is promoted to Brooklyn in 1947, the film narrates how Robinson led the Dodgers to the National League pennant in spite of vitriolic players and fans, racially motivated hate mail, and the ubiquity of the press.

The movie was criticized for its lack of character development, a claim I perceived to have been justified.  The Rickey character was developed well, as was Leo Durocher (Chris Meloni), the tenacious yet morally bankrupt manager of the Dodgers who aimed to win at all costs.  However, the movie could have benefit from a more vivid portrayal of Wendell Smith (Andre Holland). Smith worked as a journalist for the Pittsburgh Courier, covering Robinson throughout the 1947 season while attempting to break barriers of his own.  A more thorough description of Robinson’s wife Rachel (Nicole Beharie) would have also improved the plotline, as her support was crucial to the success of Robinson’s campaign.

Jackie and Rachel in “42”

“42” shows balance between the players who supported Robinson from those who did not.  Pee Wee Reese (Lucas Black), Gene Hermanski (Blake Sanders), and Ralph Branca (Hamish Linklater) were three Dodger teammates depicted to have supported Robinson but their characters were scarcely developed beyond that.  The movie did address the difficult matter of Dixie Walker’s (Ryan Merriman) harsh disapproval of Robinson, arguing it to be economic rather than racial.  However, it does not expand on the complexities of the anti-Robinson camp. This group which includes Brooklyn pitcher Kirby Higbe (Brad Beyer) who circulated a petition aimed to prevent Robinson from taking the field, Philadelphia manager Ben Chapman (Alan Tudyk) and general manager Herb Pennock (Mark Harelik), and St. Louis outfielder Enos Slaughter (David Thoms).

The film aptly portrayed fans in opposing National League cities such as Philadelphia, St. Louis, or Cincinnati to be vociferous in their hatred of Robinson but did not show balance – there were many white fans in those and other cities who supported Robinson.

The Pee Wee-Jackie Moment —
As depicted in “42”

Another opportunity was missed in the side plot involving Dodgers infielder Bobby Bragan (Derek Phillips).  As the scion of a prominent family in Birmingham, Alabama, Bragan was raised with segregation and was thereby a vocal opponent of integration.  Accordingly, he refused to initially play with Robinson but later recanted.  A fact which would better drive the point but ignored in the movie is that when Jackie Robinson passed away in 1972, Bragan was among his pall bearers.

A poignant scene in the movie took place on the field at Ebbets Field as the Dodgers hosted the Philadelphia Phillies.  Manager Ben Chapman was among Robinson’s most tyrannical opponents and was not afraid to voice his opinion.  Only with the intervention of Dodgers’ infielder Eddie Stanky (Jesse Luken) a Philadelphia native and former teammate of Chapman’s did the Philadelphia manager back down.  In actuality, Stanky had been one of the players to sign Higbe’s petition but felt compelled to defend Robinson as one of his teammates.

Hank Greenberg and Jackie Robinson

Another opportunity missed was during a brawl following a beaning by Pittsburgh pitcher Fritz Ostermueller (Linc Hand).  At no point did the movie refer to prominent National League opponents who supported Jackie Robinson and the brawl scene would have presented this player in Ostermueller’s teammate Hank Greenberg.  The veteran 1st baseman discussed the racism he encountered in his own career with Robinson as the Dodgers rookie led off the base in a game with Pittsburgh.  Cardinals outfielder Stan Musial was another Hall of Famer who supported Robinson.

The movie included several historical errors and inaccuracies.  For example, the Mississippi bred broadcaster Red Barber (John McGinley) did not speak with the brogue of a New York Irishman.  Nor did Robinson wear number 9 with the Montreal Royals – he actually wore number 20.  It is unfortunate that the movie did not expand on Robinson’s time in Montreal, where he led the Royals to the International League pennant in 1946. According to Montreal sportswriter Sam Maltin, “it was probably the only day in history that a black man ran from a mob with love instead of lynching on his mind.” Lastly, in light of Robinson’s pact with Rickey to be tough enough not to fight back, the altercation with Dixie Walker in front of the Ben Franklin Hotel could never have taken place.

The real Jackie Robinson at Montreal in 1946.

Why did they make “42”?  For one thing, the events took place in 1947.  Infants born the day Robinson took the field are now 71 years old.  Of the journalists in the Ebbets Field pressbox that afternoon, only Jim Becker of the Associated Press is still alive and he is 92 years old.  The story of Jackie Robinson is an important one and it is important that the legacy of Jackie Robinson and what he stood for continues.  The film received criticism for its liberal use of ‘the N-word.’ To understand history is to understand context. It is only by exposure to unpleasant aspects of the English language, like ‘the N-word,’ that we become aware of their meaning and why they should not be used.

Whom did they make “42” for?  The answer to that question can be expressed by discussing the character whom I understood to have been the most important in the movie. That was the young African American child in Florida who saw Jackie Robinson in a spring training game with his mother.  Viewers learn at the end of the film that the young fellow grew up to be Ed Charles, clubhouse leader of the World Champion 1969 New York Mets. Charles, who died earlier this year, credited Robinson as an inspiration for him growing up in segregated Florida. It was important to bridge the gap with this young fan to show why Jackie Robinson was inspiration to him and many others.

Ed Charles

Of equal significance, there was one scene where Rickey tells Robinson about the white fan on a Brooklyn street who tried to be like Jackie Robinson when he played.  Robinson broke into the major leagues in 1947, seven years before Brown v. Board of Education and seventeen years before the Civil Rights Act was signed into law.   Therefore, it is important to understand the context of the odds Jackie Robinson faced and the insurmountable mental toughness he required to overcome them.  The movie was made for young people of all races and nationalities to understand the harshness of prejudice and that any individual is capable of achieving personal triumph in spite of it.

“42” is definitely worth the price of admission and is an enjoyable movie to watch with an important message to convey.  At one point in the movie, Pee Wee Reese, a Kentucky native, tells Jackie Robinson that “maybe tomorrow we’ll all wear 42 so that nobody can tell us apart.” Tomorrow being April 15, Pee Wee’s oracle will see the light of day.

Toronto, Canada

April 14, 2013


Young Boston Bombing Victim Martin Richard and Family.

One day after I wrote this film review of “42”, the city of Boston was rocked by an unthinkable tragedy. At the finish line of the Boston Marathon, two brothers detonated two homemade explosives, killing three and injuring hundreds. One of the victims, eight year old Martin Richard, lost his life as he awaited his father Bill to complete the marathon. After his death, a photo of young Martin holding a placard bearing the message “No more hurting people. Peace” circulated around the four corners of the globe. In doing so, Martin was carrying out Jackie Robinson’s legacy. His life remains important as it continues to have an impact on others.

Fenway Park, Boston
Jackie Robinson Day


Post Note. The Pecan Park Eagle also did a review of “42” after attending one of the opening day matinee features in the company of one of the very few remaining survivors who played in that earlier landmark color line-breaking game in 1946, when Jackie Robinson broke the organized baseball race barrier as a member of the Montreal Royals. It was our lucky day at the Eagle to watch the flim with our own Larry Miggins, who played third base for Jersey City that historical day. The date of our first publication on this topic was April 13, 2013. And here’s the link to its contents:

Hope you enjoy this doubleheader.


Rest in Peace, Little Sister

April 15, 2018

It was the time that brothers John, 9, and Bill, 13, helped their little sister Margie celebrate her 2nd birthday at home in the Pecan Park section of Houston. The date was August 19, 1951, the same day that vertically challenged Eddie Gaedel pinch hit for the St. Louis Browns up in Sportsman’s Park in Missouri.


Retired History Professor Margery Ruth McCurdy passed away in Beeville, Texas at age 68 on Saturday, April 14, 2018, at 7:09 PM, following a lengthy illness. She is survived by brothers Bill and John McCurdy, sister-in-laws Norma and Linda, nephews Daniel and Casey, nieces Jennifer and Emily, numerous cousins and friends, and every Coastal Bend College student who passed through her life over the years in pursuit of a better understanding of American and Texas histories.

Goodbye, Little Sister. I’m still numb from the news of our loss, even though it comes as no great surprise due to the slow way this thing has taken you from us.

That being said, the essence of my faith remains intact:

God is Love. Wherever God goes, Love goes too. — And once filled with Love — we have no good choice but to either spread the love further — or suffer the consequences of depression that accompany the rejection of genuine joy in the sweet spot of life we’ve come to know as the here and now.

Goodbye, Little Sister — but not to all the Love I still hold for you in the here and now.

Love is Forever.

God is Love.



Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle


Rookie Larry Miggins Given Dizzy Ride

April 14, 2018

Larry Miggins

Seventy years ago this month, our 92-year old SABR member of the Larry Dierker Chapter and national baseball history treasure, Larry Miggins, was a kid struggling to catch on with a major league club during the reserve clause era days. Given the experience he had with the old waiver rules of that time, Larry more than likely had to check the newspapers daily to know where he would be playing in the afternoon. Here’s how writer Jerry Liska reported the meanderings of Mr. Miggins over that short period. — Glad you made, Larry! — The Pecan Park Eagle.

Rookie Given Dizzy Ride

By Jerry Liska

Chicago -(AP)- The complexities of baseball’s waiver rule have rookie outfielder Larry Miggins of the St. Louis Cardinals (for the moment) on a wild merry-go-round.

Within a week, 22-year old Miggins — a fine Irish husky from New York’s Bronx — was waived by the Cardinals, claimed by the Chicago Cubs, waived by the Cubs and claimed by the Cardinals.

All of this maneuvering was an attempt by both the Cards and the Cubs to shake Miggins loose for further minor league seasoning.

He was drafted by St. Louis last fall from Minneapolis of the American Association. As a drafted player, he must be waived out of the majors for minor league assignment.

The Cards still want to farm him out and the Cubs are ineligible for future claim.

H was claimed by the Cubs for the $10,000 waiver price last Saturday, and joined them at Pittsburgh. Friday he was summoned to the Cub office and informed the team had waived him and the Cards had reclaimed him.

So Friday afternoon, Larry was back on the Cardinals bench, recalling a more peaceful 1947 season when he batted .289 for Sioux City of the Western League and .233 for the Minneapolis Millers.

Manager Eddie Dyer of the Cards, who gave Miggins a whirl in spring training, says he has fine speed and a splendid throwing arm. If he can learn to hit better, he’s a good major league prospect.

— Dubuque (IA) Telegraph Herald, Page 20, April 25, 1948.



Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle


Miss Lou Mahan’s Ballpark Organ Hits

April 13, 2018

Early TV Comedienne Imogene Coca looked a lot like legendary Buff Stadium baseball game organist Lou Mahan. In her own way, Mahan also did comedy.

In “The Last Pecan Park Eagle”, I wrote about Smiley – and how change had left him behind to the fact that the rest of us had moved on from our active participation in sandlot ball to other things, but that he had not.

Today is partially a footnote to the fact that all of us get left behind eventually – to some thing – or multiple of things – and that we may not realize it for years – if ever. The rest is to present you with a very belated never before published mention of Lou Mahan’s biggest hits.

The real organ music days are done. 40,000 fans who come to ball games in 2018 with telephone devices to “watch” Astros baseball don’t come to hear subtle musical allusions to the game as they did in the old days. Today’s fans like being blasted by songs that blare into the night from the sound system “music” their need for someone to do it harder or deeper. We presume the cry is for a timely long ball hit. What else could it be?

For the tamer minds of the more carefully bordered ambitions of the 1950 crowd, here’s a little chart we composed as an addendum to the first Lou Mahan column from 2009:

Just think of today’s column as a start on Miss Lou Mahan’s Playlist. There were many, many others – and we will try to add them as they surface and lend themselves to short-time capture in print:

Miss Lou Mahan’s Playlist

Game Situation Lyrics to Melody
Song Title/Reason
Umpires Enter Three Blind Mice Three Blind Mice
Ball rolls up screen Notes go up ABCDEFG One Octave Up
Ball rolls down Notes go down GFEDCBA One Octave Down
Slugger in Slump Been a long, long time Kiss Once Again
Win Run at 3rd Why don’t you hurry home Shrimp Boats
Walk Off Win HR Happy Days Here Again Happy Days
Danny Gardella Donkey Serenade Sang pre-game
Jerry Witte HR Beyond the Blue Horizon The Blue Horizon
Larry Miggins My Wild Irish Rose Sang pre-game
Buffs run pitcher Tootsie, Goodbye Obvious
Loss of Dixie Series I Remember You Never forget you


And don’t hold back on any Mahan contributions you remember – or questions you may have. Just include them all for public view as comments upon this column in the section that follows this article. Thank you.



Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

The Last Pecan Park Eagle

April 11, 2018

Japonica Park in Houston
Former Home of The Pecan Park Eagles

It was late August of 1954. Most of us who played ball for years in the city-owned park across the street from our house as The Pecan Park Eagles sandlot club were in high school by this time. A few of us still played organized kid baseball, but none of us any longer haunted the old ground we once called Eagle Field during our halcyon year of 1950. It had returned to being “the lot” – the ordinary place where Japonica and Myrtle Streets converged near the far western boundaries of Pecan Park on Houston’s southeast side – just off Griggs Road – to the left as you drive south, even now, on the Gulf Freeway, on the start of any drive to Galveston.

It was near twilight as I came flying out the front screen door of our house for a one-step leap off our tiny concrete slab front porch onto the grass on my celebratory way to the family wheels, a 1951 Oldsmobile Rocket 88 – and the ignition key already jangling in my anxious-to-roll right hand. I did have to chip in a dollar’s worth of gas to get Dad’s permission to use the family wheels. After all, regular gas had risen to something like 26.9 cents per gallon over the summer months.

The big occasion – I had a dreamy date for the local CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) back-to-school “sock hop,” and I was both wired and inspired by my thoughts of the little lady I was about to pick up as my companion for the evening.

As I reached the driver’s side door handle (remember, we had no remotes in those days), I heard a familiar voice calling out to me from the other side of the yard.

“Hey, Billy,” the voice cried out. “Have you got time for a few flies and rollers before it gets dark?”

No question who it was. It was a fellow I came to think of over time as The Last Pecan Park Eagle.

I’ll call him “Smiley” here because that’s how I thought of him. He was a kid my age, but with a lot more native ability to run, catch, steal bases, hit for average, and hit for power. He just couldn’t keep his mind in the game for situations that required you to think ahead or adjust quickly. He didn’t communicate a lot of what he had felt clearly to all, but you would have to be thick as a tree stump to not get how much he loved baseball, and wanted to be one of The Pecan Park Eagles.

Smiley’s kind were once known as “slow learners” before the special needs programs began to sweep through our schools in the 1960s, and actually improve the learning curve. He got along well with his Eagle teammates, but he apparently had no free range parental permission to roam Pecan Park with the rest of us when we weren’t on the diamond.

The contact I had with Smiley in the late summer of 1954 was the last time we ever saw each other face-to-face. I recently learned that he had finished school at some point, and spent the rest of his health-shortened life working in grocery store produce here in Houston. He died early from undisclosed health problems, around the age of 50.

Somehow, even at age 16 for each of us, I “got” what was going on with Smiley from his question back on that summer afternoon in 1954. The rest of us Eagles had changed; moved on. Smiley had not. He was still waiting on the next game at Eagle Field across the street.

“Can’t make it tonight, Smiley,” I said, with a key-jangling wave of the right hand. “Got some place to be. See you later.”

Later never came. The kid in the white tee shirt and blue jeans I looked back and saw in the rear view window of my car as I drove away was walking his barefoot self home. He was banging the business end of his bat on the sidewalk and carefully protecting the ball in the pocket of his ancient five-finger Wilson glove as he moved quietly away. We would never see each other again in a speaking situation. And Smiley would never again come by to try and stir up a game of flies and rollers.

By this time that night, “Sh Boom” by The Crewcuts was blasting away on the car radio. It was not loud enough to snuff out the conclusion that has grown in my mind over the nearly 64 years that have passed since that 1954 brief contact with Smiley.

He truly was – the Last Pecan Park Eagle.

Thank you, old friend, for all the spirit and hope you brought to the game of baseball that we Eagles played. Wish I had possessed the insight that day in 1954 you dropped by for one more practice session to thank you for your contributions, but I didn’t. Some of us are a little slow in learning how to express appreciation.

So here it is – a little late:

Long live the memory of anonymous you,

  …. the Last Pecan Park Eagle!



Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle





Bill Christine’s Al Oliver Story

April 9, 2018

Maybe we need to write a little amendment to Wee Willie Keeler’s early 20th century line about how to get a hit. Remember that one? Willie said, “Hit ’em where they ain’t!”

What? But how can they be true all the time?

If a ball falls safely to the ground without every being touched by a fielder, as Alex Bregman’s home plate pop fly did Saturday for the Astros, and no fielder has even come close to touching it, that’s a hit – right?

Not in every case – as Wee Willie’s axiom clearly states. – Nope. The rules point to instances in which balls fall safely, but should have been caught. And the rule intention is unmistakable by implication. – You don’t give a batter credit for a hit he doesn’t deserve. – You don’t leave a fielder blameless for a ball he should have handled. – And you don’t hang a loss on a pitcher at the same time by calling the winning score that resulted “a hit” – making it the producer of an earned run that also hikes the ERA of the pitcher who did nothing to deserve the extra discredit.

All those violations of the rules resulted from the Hosmer Play call. Astros batter Bregman got credit for a game-winning hit he did not earn. Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer got off the hook for a pop fly ball fall to earth he should have caught. And the San Diego pitcher took both the game lose and a hike in his ERA because the play was ruled a hit.

Then legendary Pittsburgh Pirate official game scorer Bill Christine found out about it from the Pecan Park Eagle and all of the national media that were also hitting the Hosmer Play story like a swarm of Gulf Coast mosquitoes slamming into the bug zappers of our fair city every July.

Our local scorer had given Bregman a hit and an RBI. “No way” was the tempered essence of Christine’s appraisal. He also provided documentable support from the official rules of baseball in not form:

“NOTE (2) It is not necessary that the fielder touch the ball to be charged with an error. If a ground ball goes through a fielder’s legs or a pop fly falls untouched and in the scorer’s judgment the fielder could have handled the ball with ordinary effort, an error shall be charged.”

He also called the Bregman/hit, Hosmer/no error call in three spartan sentences what he thought of it:

“There have been some bad official-scoring decisions over the years. I even committed a few myself. But this is the worst of all-time.”

Larry Dierker also added his own implicit comment of support in one sparse, but clearly written sentence:

“That was an error on Hosmer. Period!”

Saturday, April 6. 2018, Minute Maid Park, Houston.
Eric Hosmer stands in front of his missed pop fly, but is not charged with an error on the play that cost the Padres the game in the bottom of the 10th to the Astros, 1-0.

Then I awaken this pre-crack of dawn Monday morning to this wonderful follow up story from Bill Christine about his own personal experience with former Pirate outfielder Al Oliver when he once had to apply the correct interpretation of the rule on a play from a game with the Braves when the two mental Atlanta middle infielders were both “Hosmerized” by a ball hit up the middle that fell safely when both men deferred to each other for any catching to be done. And neither did. The ball fell safe. And Oliver had reached first base safely.Thinking he had a hit.

Here’s how Bill Christine describes the rest of the ride – once Al Oliver gets the ruling and decides that Christine has taken a hit away from him.

Bill Christine’s Al Oliver Story

Al Oliver, a hothead but a helluva ballplayer, is batting for the Pirates on a Friday night in Pittsburgh.

He hits a dying swan just over second base, high enough for both the second baseman and the shortstop of the Atlanta Braves to converge. They might have been Felix Millan and Sonny Jackson.

This is an old story.

The two infielders look at one another as the ball drops. In this morality play, Millan plays Alphonse and Jackson plays Gaston.

Oliver, loafing all the way, is safe at first base.

In the press box, Official Scorer Bill Christine intones into the mike: “That’s an error. I’ll call down to the Atlanta dugout when they come in, to see if somebody will take the blame.”

Oliver, doing a not-so-slow boil, trots out to his position at the end of the inning. He thinks he’s been jobbed out of a hit. He’s going to hit .312 instead of .313.

In the Atlanta dugout, there’s no problem. One of the Braves’ infielders volunteers a mea culpa. “Give me the error,” he says.

The Braves end their at bat, and Oliver returns to the dugout. He picks up the phone and gets Christine in the press box.

“That was a f-in hit,” he yells. “You’re taking money away from me.”

“The rulebook says nobody has to touch it,” Christine says. “I could have caught that ball if I had been out there.”

“I wanna see you in the f-in runway after the game,” Oliver says.

No hero, no dummy, Christine says:

“I won’t be there.”

“You’re not a f-in man if you’re not down here,” Oliver says.

“I don’t care what it makes me, I’m not gonna be there,” Christine says.

“Start without me.”

“F-U,” Oliver says, and hangs up.

The next afternoon, before a day game, the Pirates are taking batting practice. Christine is around the batting cage, and he can’t help hearing Oliver still grumbling about the hit-error call the night before. But Oliver doesn’t go over and confront the scorer.

Roberto Clemente pulls the still-steaming Oliver aside. Clemente knew the rulebook inside out. He’s worried that Oliver will spend the rest of the day cursing Christine instead of concentrating on

that afternoon’s pitcher.

“You know,” Clemente says to Oliver, “I don’t agree with that guy a lot of the time. But he’s right this time. It’s in the rules. That wasn’t a hit.”

“No shit,” Oliver says.

The following spring, Bill Virdon is managing the Pirates. The club is leaving its Florida training base for a few games in Venezuela.

Before a get-away exhibition game, Christine and Virdon are talking in Virdon’s ballpark office.

“OK if I leave my suitcase next to yours in here?” Christine says. “They won’t forget yours, and if mine’s next to yours, I should be OK.”

“Sure,” Virdon says.”Go right ahead.”

Christine starts to leave, and as he reaches the door, Virdon has an after thought and calls out:

“Hey, Bill.”

“Yeah?” says Christine, turning around in his tracks at the door.

“Maybe,” Virdon says,”you better ask Oliver if it’s all right.”


Oh well. If young Alex Bregman goes on to have the long MLB career he appears prepared to handle – and if hits a career .300 on the nose, many of us will remember where he got the extra hit he needed to get there by the rounding up of his precise BA from its previously deficit mark of .2994.



Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle