Houston Buffs: Forgotten Fielders.

Jack Cusick hit .174 in two big league seasons (51-52).

When I read of names on the Astros spring roster like Wladimir Sutil and Jose Vallejo, I always ask myself, “Are these guys the Jack Cusick and Elbie Flint of our franchise’s near future?”

What’s that? You say you never heard of Cusick and Flint? Well, if you have not, it will be unsurprising. They are two of the typically forgotten fielders of yesterday’s baseball past with the Houston Buffs. Jack Cusick came  here briefly in 1949-50; Elbie Flint almost took the baton from Cusick, arriving in time for his own two-seasons appearance with the Houston Buffs in 1951-52. Flint never saw a pitch of action in the big leagues. Cusick made it there long enough in 1951-52 to display his sawed-off bat and decent glove.

So, why spend any time remembering these guys here? My answer is simple. Guys like Elbie Flint and Jack Cusick are the backbone of the game for every club. Without their competitive presence, nothing else would matter – and there would be no baseline for measuring good performance versus poor performance. That’s just how sports work on the most basic level. The attribution “great” means nothing if we cannot compare it to something similar that isn’t our discovered benchmark on greatness.

Elbie Flint never had a baseball card of his own career.

Make no mistake. Both Cusck and Flint could hold their own defensively as utility infielders in the Texas League of the mid twentieth century. Both also had quickness, athleticism, and decent arms. Cusick was the better hitter of the two Punch and Judys – and that most likely was the reason that he made it to the big leagues for a short look and Flint did not. As a minor leaguer, Jack Cusick hit .268 with 6 HR over five seasons (1946-50) while Elbie Flint batted ,237 with 17 HR over the eleven seasons he played minor league ball over the stretch from 1944 to 1958. Jack Cusick also registered a big league career mark of .174 in 242 times at bat for the Chicago Cubs in 1951 and the Boston Braves in 1952.

Our Pecan Park Eagles sandlot club has a personal reason for remembering Jack Cusick from way back in 1949. One summer afternoon, as we did our baseball thing on “The Lot” at Japonica and Myrtle, a car stopped and a young man got out to watch us play our game.

“Holy Cow!” I thought aloud. “It’s Jack Cusick of the Buffs!”

In no time, we had surrounded Mr. Cusick at his car, begging him to join us or teach us something.” I now realize that Cusick was only 22 at the time, but he seemed tall and old and grown up to our dirty little bunch of  all sweat and mud sandlotters on the steaming hot day.

“Alright, you guys,” Cusick offered with a smile, “I don’t have much time, but let’s see what you fellows know about fielding before I have to get myself over to Buff Stadium.”

In a few seconds, the young Jack Cusick had us lined up taking grounders to our left, right, and head on. Giving us instruction on liners, bloopers, and the art of going back from the infield for dying quail flies, Cusick gave us his all. as did we in return. We hated that he had to go or that he never came back, but that wasn’t Jack Cusick’s fault. The Cardinals or Buffs dealt him away to Beaumont and we never saw him again, but that didn’t change the impact of that afternoon. The fact that a real ballplayer like Jack Cusick had time to help a bunch us nobody kids in the East End on his way to practicing with the Houston Buffs just deepened our love of the game and our affection for Houston’s thundering herd.

Neither Jack Cusick nor Elbie Flint shall ever fall off the cliff of “Good Field. No Hit. No Remember” in my book of baseball recollections. And let’s hope that someone younger out there is ready to pick up the cards on new  fellows like Wladimir Sutil and Jose Vallejo too. Behind every young man who tries to play the game of baseball on a professional level, there’s a good story, one with many lessons about the right and wrong things to do along the way. If we are really interested in baseball history, we need to keep an ear open to hearing what these stories are about. Their wisdoms for young people go way beyond baseball.

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3 Responses to “Houston Buffs: Forgotten Fielders.”

  1. David Munger Says:

    Bill,
    Good story. So many of “The OLD TIME” Buffs would be Major
    Leaguers in “Today’s Game”

    I went to Deady and Milby, Japonica and Myrtle bring back memories.

    Hal Epps lived down the street when I was growing up in Meadowbrook.
    My Dad said Terry Moore kept him from having a Major League career.
    Great fielder, ran like the wind, and not a bad hitter.

    Those were the DAYS.

  2. Anna Shepeard Says:

    AGain, very enjoyable.
    Thanks,
    Anna

  3. bob green Says:

    In this horrid world of uncertainty. With Obama trying to be a dictator etc. It is great to gear the voice, such as yours of the good old days . GOD BLESS AMERICA AND DAMNN BARAK HUESSEIN OBAMA.
    BG

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