Curt Walker and the Boys of Beeville

Curt Walker, MLB, 1919-30; .304 BA; Struck Out only 254 times in 4,858 official times at bat.

When my dad was growing up in our little Texas birth town of Beeville back in the early part of the 20th century, the city population of this little farm and ranch community was only about 3,000, but they were all mostly people who loved baseball. It showed on the rough playing fields of South Texas too. Beeville sent three players to the major leagues during those early times, all of whom got there with enough staying power to carve out careers in the big time over several seasons.

Two of the these men were pitchers: (1) Melvin “Bert” Gallia, 1912-20, W 66 L 68, ERA 3.14 and (2) Lloyd “Lefty” Brown, 1925, 1928-37, 1940, W 91, L 105, ERA 4.20.

Gallia (1918-20) and Brown (1933) both spent some of their time pitching for the old St. Louis Browns. Gallia was a 17-game winner for the Washington Senators in 1916-17 consecutively. Brown leads the Lou Gehrig victim lst for having given up 4 of the Iron Horse’s career-leading 23 Grand Slam Homers.

Then there was outfielder Curt Walker, who played a major role modeling place in my dad’s life as a young ballplayer. Grandfather McCurdy published, edited, wrote for, and printed the local Beeville Bee, but he died when Dad was only two years old. One result was that Dad grew up needing some other local adult male to look up to – and it turned out to be Curt Walker, who also worked in Beeville during the off-season at his other occupation as one of the town’s leading undertakers.

By the time Dad was old enough to follow Curt Walker as he broke into the big leagues with the 1920 New York Giants, radio had yet to take over as a coast-to-coast medium of mass communication. If you wanted to follow the daily changes in baseball back in that era, you either had to have access to large daily newspapers and be able to check the sports pages for the stories, box scores, and up-to-date standings – or else, you had to do what Dad and other small town people did back then. You had to walk downtown to your weekly newspaper office, or Western Union station, and check for news and box scores as they came streaming live through every little nook and cranny of America. Some of these places, as was the practice of the Beeville Bee and Beeville Picayune, kept chalk board accounts in their Main Street windows that detailed scores, standings, and brief news on what the “Boys of Beeville” were doing on a given summer day.

Dad often described these walks downtown for scores in the late afternoon as the highlight of his summer day as a kid.

For me, Curt Walker would become the reason behind my eventual involvement in the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame. When I attended my first TBHOF induction banquet in Arlington in 1996 and learned that Walker was not a member of the state hall, I began campaigning for his induction. It took five years, but the late Curt Walker finally was inducted into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001.

Curt Walker had hung out in the shadows of Texas baseball history for too long. If you will take the time to compare his career marks with fellow Texan contemporary Ross Youngs, an inducted member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, you will not find a lot of significant difference. Both were deserving players from this state. Walker just got lost by posting his best season batting average of .337 and 196 hits with the 1922 Philadelphia Phillies and then spending most of his big league career (1924-30) in the hinterlands with the Cincinnati Reds.

Curt Walker’s lifetime MLB batting average of .304 and his limited 254 strike outs in 4,858 official times at bat pretty much speak for themselves and his batting ability over time – although he arrived in New York with a scouting tout that even Curt could not fulfill in reality.

When the Giants purchased the contract of Curt Walker from the Augusta Georgians in 1920, they paid $7,000, or ten times what the Tigers paid for Ty Cobb’s services from the same club back in 1905.  Many South Atlantic League veteran observers were saying they felt that Walker was better than Cobb at that stage of his development. Of course, that scouting report turned out to be a major oversell, one that led John McGraw to deal Curt Walker away in 1921 to the Phillies, but he was a steady good ballplayer for years to come – and much better than average. He also was a smart and speedy runner and fielder with a good arm.

Years later, catcher Eddie Taubensee would become the fourth native Beevillian to make it to the big leagues. Also, famous big league hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, a native of Dallas, but a kid who grew up in Beeville would also rise up to leave their own marks on the game.

Two other things I always note about Walker are these: (1) Curt played 41 games for the Houston Buffs in 1919, his first year in professional baseball; and (2) As a member of the 1926 Reds, Walker tied a major league record that will always be very hard to break. In a game against the Boston Braves, Curt collected two triples in the same inning.

What are the odds against anyone ever hitting three triples in the same inning? I’m guessing they are about equal to Curt Walker’s chances of ever being inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

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2 Responses to “Curt Walker and the Boys of Beeville”

  1. Davis Barker .... Jacksonville, Texas Says:

    Ran across something while researching this weekend that I found was interesting …. Did you know that Curtis Walker and Everett Rittenour of Beeville won the doubles state championship at the very 1st UIL State Tennis Tournament in 1914 ?….

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Davis – No, I did not know that fact about Curtis Walker. I knew Curtis mainly through my late father’s recollections of him as a childhood MLB hero, personal friend, hunting buddy, and post-MLB career time as a teammate with Dad on the Beeville town team.

      Thanks for passing on the information.

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