Old Timer Games at the Dome

All Time Greats at Dome in ’68 included Satchel Paige & Joe DiMaggio.

Thanks to Larry Joe Miggins, the son of former Buff and Cardinal Larry Miggins, I received this wonderful material on the All Star Games they used to play in the Astrodome during the reign of Judge Roy Hofheinz as Guiding Light of the Houston Astros. The Judge treated his invitees in first class order, honoring the old Buffs equivalently to all those national Hall of Famers during the short time they all convened in the Astrodome for a little fun on the diamond for a few fun innings of recreated greatness.

I’m sorry the above group line makes it so hard to recognize all the great stars that suited up for the 1968 game, so allow me to coast-to-coast their identities from left to tight in slightly larger type. Right here in Houston in 1968, we had Bobby Bragan, Bill Dickey, Allie Reynolds, Ewell Blackwell, Monty Stratton, Satchel Paige, Bob Feller, Johnny Mize, Solly Hemus, Stan Hack, Grady Hatton, Pete Runnels, Lou Boudreau, Ducky Medwick, Harry Walker, Lloyd Waner, and Joe DiMaggio.

Let’s make recognition a little simpler. Here is the panorama, now broken into two cropped sections. left to right, as follows:

Left Side: Bobby Bragan, Bill Dickey, Allie Reynolds, Ewell Blackwell, Monty Stratton, Satchel Paige, Bob Feller, Johnny Mize, & Solly Hemus.

Right Side: Stan Hack, Grady Hatton, Pete Runnels, Lou Boudreau, Ducky Medwick, Harry Walker, Lloyd Waner, & Joe DiMagggio.

All of them legends, and most of them Hall of Famers, were right here on the field level of the Astrodome, competing again on a celebratory level for no greater reason than their love of the game and an ancient desire to stay connected to what happens on the field .

How do you top that 1968 lineup? Well, maybe you don’t, but the 1969 Astrodome All Star Old-Timers’ Game wasn’t exactly chopped liver. In a game that pitted the Houston Old-Timers against MLB Stars from the 1952 National League All Star Team, Stan Musial and Roy Campanella shone pretty bright in their own realms. Here’s how those rosters appeared on the front page of Old-Timers’ Day, a September 1, 1969 publication of the Houston Sports Association:

What a great party that must have been for all those wonderful ballplayers of the greatest generation. I feel privileged to have known and been close friends with a number of the men on the Houston Old- Timers roster – and I wouldn’t trade the time I’ve spent with men like Jerry Witte, Red Munger, Larry Miggins, Frank Mancuso, Solly Hemus, and Buddy Hancken for anything in the world.

Here are a few of the photos and captions for Buddy Hancken, Solly Hemus, Frank Mancuso, Larry Miggins, and Jerry Witte. Unfortunately, the advertising article failed to provide a photo block for Red Munger and several others. Even more sadly, Solly Hemus and Larry Miggins are two of the dwindling survivors in 2010 of that roster from 1969. Please note too, that some of the information below was not copied completely for undistorted reprinting and in some cases it also was not totally accurate. Consult the Minor League Player Data file at Baseball Reference.Com for a a complete picture on the careers of each man featured here:

I’m not sure how either of these games from 1968-69 played out on the Astroturf, nor am I sure how many games were played totally. I just know that they went on long enough for Astro youngsters like Jimmy Wynn to get his fill of autographs from former stars like the great Dizzy Dean:

Jimmy Wynn Gets Dizzy Dean’s Autograph, About 1968. 

Larry Miggins reports that he went 5 for 5 overall in all Old-Timers games at the Dome, which is a pretty good average for any man’s league.

Jerry Witte once told me that Roy Campanella remembered him as a post World War II opponent in the American Association during the 1948 short time that their paths crossed as players for Louisville and St. Paul. “I remember you from Louisville,” Campy told Jerry when they met again at the 1959 Astrodome Old Timers Game.. “You were the guy who always came to the plate stomping bugs in the dirt with the business side of his bat.”

Wow! No wonder Campanella made it to the Hall of Fame. Any catcher with his talent, and there weren’t that many, who could also be that mindful of the little characteristics of a hitter he saw so long ago and not that often is bound to have been a special talent.

The 1969 Dome game also was special in light of the fact that two of its players, Roy Campanella and Stan Musial, had only weeks earlier been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown.

I don’t know why we no longer have Old-Timer Games in Houston, but I would imagine that two factors are strongly in play as to why not: (1) liability for personal injuries to ancient warriors is probably more expensive these days, and (2) I don’t think today’s older players care as much about getting out there on the field again as their earlier counterparts once did.

Who knows? Maybe I’m wrong.

Just in case, here’s my starting lineup of former Astros whom I think could still get out there and play three to five innings – as long as they didn’t have to do it again in the same season:

2010 ASTRO OLD-TIMERS

Terry Puhl, rf

Craig Biggio, 2b

Jose Cruz, lf

Jeff Bagwell, 1b

Art Howe, 3b

Kevin Bass, cf

Phil Garner, 2b

Alan Ashby, c

Craig Reynolds, ss *

Doug Drabek, p

* I first suggested Roger Metzger for shortstop, but then, early in the day, Tom Murrah reminded me that I had forgotten an even younger, more available former Astro in Houston resident Craig Reynolds. I agreed so strongly that I made the change here.

Who would you add to the roster or delete from these starters? And please post your comments below. If you are a former Astro player, please feel free to add or delete yourself too. Maybe we can come up with a group that’s so viable we get an Old-Timers Game booked at Minute Maid Park next season.

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15 Responses to “Old Timer Games at the Dome”

  1. tom murrah Says:

    Bill, is Craig Reynolds still in Houston? I think he’d make
    a good addition to the roster.

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Tom:

      Thanks for the memory jog. Yes, Craig Reynolds is in Houston and would make a better shortstop choice than Roger Metzger at this point. While it’s early in the day, I’m going to make that correction in the column, with an assist to you. – Thanks again! – Bill

  2. Mark Wernick Says:

    How about this special all-star old-timers team?

    Eric Anthony; John Hudek; Larry Anderson; Danny Heep; and Glenn Davis.

    What is the common feature that gives these former Astros an illustrious place in team history?

    Whoever gets this should get a prize.

    Mark

  3. Bob Dorrill Says:

    If the All Star team needs a friendly opponent I’m sure the Houston Babies would be up to the task

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      The Houston Babies will be happy to take on the Biggio-Bagwell Astro Oldies – just as long as their guys don’t mind learning how to play by the one-bounce out rules from 1860 on top of facing up against our Babies ace, “Gentleman Bob” Blair, the tonsorial chin whisker torque-ball artist!

  4. Bob Hulsey Says:

    To answer Mark Wernick’s poser, the five ex-Astros all brought to us bounty in trade:

    Eric Anthony brought us Mike Hampton
    John Hudek brought us Carl Everett
    Larry Andersen brought us Jeff Bagwell
    Danny Heep brought us Mike Scott

    Glenn Davis fetched a trio of future – Curt Schilling, Steve Finley and Pete Harnisch although the best days of that trio didn’t happen in Houston.

    What prize do I win?

  5. Mark Wernick Says:

    I was thinking about how Anthony got us Mike Felder, but you’re right about Hampton too. (Just kidding.)

    In that trade with Baltimore, what Glenn Davis got us indirectly when we traded Steve Finley and others to San Diego, was Derek Bell and Doug Brocail, the former of whom contributed to a couple of our best teams in a big way, and the latter of whom was part of a trade that got us Brad Ausmus (again) and Jose Lima from the Tigers.

    So all the players listed were components of some of our best trades.

    Your prize: you get to predict who we’ll be sending away in our next great trade.

    Mark

  6. David Munger Says:

    Great memories. The families sat in the Astrodome Club. After the Old Timers Game they fed us like Royalty and provided an open bar. It was such an honor getting to meet my childhood “HEROES”. I can remember at least 4 games.

  7. Mike McCroskey Says:

    I attended an oldtimers game in, I think the late 80’s. It was a reunion of the first All Star game played in the the Astrodome. Harmon Killebrew was coaching 3rd and I asked him if he were going to recreate the 1st base stretch he did during the real game. He grimmaced and chuckled a resounding “No way!”

    Also, great to see the picture of Buddy Hancken. They broke the mold when they made him. What a great guy and promoter for the Astros!

    Mike McCroskey

    Memo to Bill & Bob: I was thinking today that maybe we should try and recruit Biggio and Bags to play for the Babies, not against us. They might enjoy sneaking out, unpublicized, to the George Ranch. Might bring a couple of those State champs to play, too.

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  9. houdrummerGraham Stewart Says:

    I have a ball signed by the entire 1968 Old Timers team. I bought it from my old boss whos father was at the game in 1968. I just recently put it for sale on ebay.

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  11. G smith Says:

    I was there in 68 at 10 years old. I remember Willie Mays was there, maybe he played in the reg season game that followed. My memory has fuzzed a little. Old timers games are a great idea, priceless memories for those too young to have seen the greats play in their day.

  12. DanC Says:

    My aunt attended that game in 1968. I got a signed program that she gave me. Joe Dimaggio, Bob Feller, Bill Dickey, Allie Reynolds and Howie Pollet autographs. They played the Cubs that day. She kept score in that program. I still have it.

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