Base Ball To Day!

Base Ball Today 3

My grandafther, William O. McCurdy I,  took this photo from the front door of his newspaper office on Washington Street in Beeville, Texas. The year was about 1896, when “market day” was still usually the thing to do on Saturday. Based upon the shadows, I’m estimating that the time is about 8:30-9:00 AM in this northward frozen-in-time glance up the street. As you may also dedect from the banner draped over Beeville’s main street (Washington), there will be “Base Ball To Day,” just as soon as shopping and other ranch business is taken care of and people have a chance to unwind a little bit before they go into their full Sunday rest.

If you will notice in the background behind those two men conversing in the middle of the street, there’s a large crowd of wagons and horseback riders coming into town from the north.  A couple of town boys are standing on the corner, across the street, apparently coming downtown early to check out the action that will soon transform Beeville’s retail stores into a hive of weekly shopping and buying activity. Wish those kids could still move and talk within the picture. I’d love to ask them who is playing in the game today, although I’m fairly sure that the contest would’ve been scheduled for the fair grounds out on the George West Highway. That much didn’t change around Beeville for quite a few years. Unfortunately, I’ve just never been able to pin down anything from my grandfather’s files that tells us the exact date of this photo, who played the then still two-worded “base ball” gane, and how the contest actually turned out.

Beeville, Texas, the city of my birth, is located about 180 miles southwest of Houston down US Highway 59. We moved to Houston on my 5th birthday, New Years Eve, 1942. I grew up, and still am, a Houstonian, but my family roots go back to the little town that once seemed so far away and removed from any common ground with our big city. The spread of Houston today now almost makes Beeville seem like another distant suburb. Beeville even sometimes gets mentioned on the weather forecasts from Houston TV stations these days. That’s sort of a suburban acknowledgement in its own right, isn’t it?

At any rate, this picture speaks far more than the proverbial one thousand words. Beyond its resemblance to a western movie scene, it stands as further evidence of how far  back the State of Texas goes in its long term romance with the game of baseball. The interest climate in Beeville, in fact, was strong enough to have produced three native son major leaguers by the 1920s – and this all came to be from a community that back then only served as home to a few hundred people.

The three early Beeville natives who made it to the big leagues were (1) Melvin “Bert” Gallia (1912-1920), a pitcher for the Senators, Browns, and Phillies who compiled a 65-68, 3.14 ERA career record; (2) Curt Walker (1919-1930), an outfielder for the Yankees, Giants, Phillies, and Reds who batted a career .304, striking out only 254 times in 4,858 times at bat; and (3) Lloyd “Lefty” Brown ((1925, 1928-1937, 1940), a pitcher for the Dodgers, Senators, Browns, Red Sox, Indians, and Phillies who finished at 91-105 with a 4.20 ERA. Later in the 20th century, Beeville also became the birthplace of premier big league batting coach Rudy Jaramillo and former Astros (among others) catcher Eddie Taubensee.

Curt Walker and Rudy Jaramillo are both inducted members of the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame.

Back in that turn of the early 20th century era, “Base Ball To Day” was not just an advertisemnt in little Texas towns like Beeville. It was a way of life.

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