Watkins On Houston Kid Baseball: 1950.

Back in 1950, when organized kid baseball was just getting started in Houston, former Houston Buff and 1931 World Series hero Watty Watkins stepped up to the plate as one of the first really qualified adults to work with this new wrinkle in local baseball.

Friday’s very-much-alive guest columnist, John Watkins, sent me these materials on Watty Watkins and the Town House Buffs. They are materials from a story sent to him by Mike Mulvihill, a former Houston kid baseball star and old high school classmate and friend of mine. In fact, Mike sent me these same materials awhile back. It’s just taken me this long to realize what a great column they would make for TPPE.

The headline, pictures, and article that are the work of today’s posthumous guest columnist, former Houston Press and Post writer John Hollis, now deceased, but alive forever as a hard-punching wordsmith on the local sports scene of yesteryear. I don’t have the date on this piece, but it was sometime in the late summer of 1950, the club’s first year of existence, and it was written for the long moribund Houston Press. Another old friend, classmate, and Pecan Park Eagle reader, Jack Murphy, also played for the Town House Buffs, but during a later season.

TEXAS CHAMPIONS - The eyes of Texas shone directly on the young baseball heroes pictured herein, Houston's Town House Buffs, as they captured the Texas Teen Age baseball title at Galveston last week. Front row, in the usual order, Ken Stevens, Paul Nabors, Anthony Falcone, Leighton Young, Eddie Gore, Paul Fahrenthold, Luke Cash. Back row, John Given, Ora Massey, Father Wilson (head coach), Mike Mulvihill, Joe Landy, Dick Grant, Angelo Vasos, Jim Exley, Jim Daigle, Fred Morgan, Watty Watkins & John Schuler.

WATTY WATKINS, WORLD SERIES HERO OF 1931,

HUSTLES HARD TEACHING TOWN HOUSE BUFFS

By John Hollis, Houston Press Sports Staff (1950)

It looked like a crucial World Series game, the way the big man in the gray sweatshirt and Brooklyn Dodger baseball cap was “sweatin’ it out” in the third-base coaches’ box.

Watty Watkins: Sold on kid baseball.

 

“C’mon, get me some runs,” the big guy yelled. “Be a hitter up there.” He clapped his hands together encouragingly, shifted from one end of the box to the other, then stood with hands on hips as the third Town House Buff on the inning tapped an easy grounder to the shortstop.

“One of those days”

Walking over to the fence that encloses the Houston Teenage League’s Cougar Field, George (Watty) Watkins, always the aggressor who loves to win, grimaced painfully:

“This is just one of those days where nothing goes right. This Town House club hasn’t lost a game all season.”

“You been working with ’em long, Watty?” we asked.

“Yeah. I’ve sorta been helping Father Wilson. The Pro ball association assigned me to the club.” Watty grinned. “This Teen-Age League is just what the kids needed. And we’ve got plans for enlarging our operations for next year. Here’s what I’ve suggested…”

“Ought to Be More”

The big red-faced gent’s enthusiasm was contagious. He was a study in enthusiasm as he outlined his pet plan for helping kid baseball next year. We couldn’t help but think, “This baseball is great. Here’s a guy who spent his years in the ‘Big Show,’ won a World Series with a home run, a real good old pro who’s known all the big thrills and who’s getting probably a bigger one now out of helping kids.”

Watty finished his outline …

“… there oughta be 13 leagues like this around town. There oughta be enough so’s every kid who wanted to could have a chance to play. It’s not only good for kids, it’s good for baseball.”

That 1931 Homer

We nodded … then asked, “Say Watty … that George Watkins who hit the homer to win the 1931 World Series for the Cardinals … was that you?”

Watty grinned.  “”Yes sir! It was me all right. We beat the (Philadelphia) Athletics in that one. They’d beaten us the year before. I remember that hit. … It was the deciding game and tied up, 2-2. We went into the third inning and Andy High got on base (for us). Gabby Street, the (Cardinals) manager, told me to go go up there and hit the first pitch, if it looked good, and if it didn’t, to move up a step for the second pitch. Well, that first pitch came in there about letter-high. I hit it … a line drive to right. … i hit is so hard on a line that I didn’t think it was going to be a homer. I ran as fast as I could until I reached second base. Then I realized I’d put it outa the park.”

“That home run meant a difference of $3,230 to us each in the players’ share of the World Series gate. Gues you could call it a real ‘money hit’ at that, huh?”

“Who’d you hit it off of, Watty/”

“George Earnshaw. He threw me me a fast ball. Hit one off him in the 1930 series, too. It was my first World Series and my first time at bat. He threw me a fast one then, too.”

“”Then I had to room with the guy when we both were sold to Brooklyn a few years later,” Wally chuckled.

“Those 1931 Cardinals were the greatest there’s ever been,” Watkins recollected. “They had everything. Who’s the greatest pitcher I’ve ever seen? … Carl Hubbell … the greatest pitcher who ever picked up a baseball. He had all the stuff in the world, the good curve, screwball, fast ball, the change, and lots of control. I was in the stands that day he fanned the six batters in a row in the 934 All-Star game. I remember Charlie Gehringer doubled, then Heinie Manush walked. That brought up Babe Ruth.”

“Hubbell looked at Ruth, then backed off and loosened his belt, hitched up his pants and threw three straight pitches past him. Ruth never touched a one. Then he fanned Gehrig and Foxx. And I think Foxx was the only one to even get a piece of the ball. He fouled one back into the screen.”

“Hubbell, you’ll remember, went on to fan Al Simmons, Joe Cronin, Bill Dickey, and Lefty Gomez to record what is acknowledged (as) the greatest pitching performance in the history f the All-Star game. Still, the American Leaguers won that one, 9-7.”

Watty, who outfielded for the Dodgers after service with the Cards, was a Houston Buff in 1928 when the Buffs beat Wichita Falls for the Texas League title. A member of the Houston Professional Baseball layers Assn., with the pro baller’s immense interest in kids, Watty’s teaching ’em what he knows now.



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