Some Firsts in Colt .45 History

 

Some "firsts" performed by the nearly anonymous.

Thanks to Bob Hulsey for planting these bees under my bonnet – and thanks also to Bob for supplying The Pecan Park Eagle with his personal Colt .45 notes and those of Gene Elston, the iconic broadcaster and Ford Frick Award winner who was there to see it all happen as well or better than any other figure in Houston MLB franchise history back in the spring of 1962.

Forty-nine years ago, in early to mid March 1962, the brand new Colt .45s took the field in spring training at Apache Junction, Arizona as the first game representatives of Houston in the major leagues. Bob Hulsey’s materials served as a nudge that, while we have done a good job posting all the “regular season official firsts”  from April 10, 1962, the date of the Houston Colt .45s’ Opening Day debut in the National League with an 11-2 win over the Chicago Cubs at Colt Stadium, but not much on capturing the actual firsts from exhibition game play.

This report doesn’t catch them all, but here are a handful of firsts from earliest play that we need to note, or footnote, for Houston baseball game action posterity (and thanks to the notes of Bob Hulsey and Gene Elston on all accounts):

First Game: March 10, 1962; The Colt .45s visit the Los Angeles Angels for a game in Palm Springs, California.

First Starting Lineup: March 10, 1962: (1) Al Heist, cf; (2) Bob Lillis, 2b; (3) Norm Larker, 1b; (4) Roman Mejias, rf; (5) Jim Pendleton, lf; (6) Merritt Ranew, c; (7) Don Buddin, ss; (8) Bob Aspromonte, 3b; (9) Bob Bruce, p.

First Run: March 10, 1962; Bob Aspromonte scores on an error by Marlan Coughtry.

First Hit: March 10, 1962; Roman Mejias singles off Eli Grba. Mejias goes 3 for 4 on the day, with a double that may have been the first extra base hit in franchise history but I would have to see a box score or full game report to accurately report that accomplishment as a fact.

First Team Loss: March 10, 1962; Colt .45’s lose to the Angels, 7-3; first starter Bob Bruce takes the first club pitching loss.

First Home Run: March 11, 1962; In a second game, 8-7 loss to the Angels at Palm Springs, Jim McDaniels blast a three-run home run for the first long ball in franchise history. With 13 hits, it probably also is Houston’s first double-digit hit game, but, again, box score confirmation is needed.

First AB for Rusty Staub: March 12, 1962; back at Geronimo Park in Apache Junction for their first home game, the Colt .45’s lose for the third straight time in their brief history, dropping a 6-1 decision to the San Francisco Giants. Taking over for starter and loser Ken Johnson, Dean Stone becomes the first franchise reliever in history to pitch three perfect innings, retiring all nine men he faces. Rusty Staub strikes out swinging as a pinch hitter in the fourth inning of his professional debut.

Scored 1st team winning run.

 

First Team Win: March 13, 1962; Houston travels to Tucson, Arizona to pick up their first victory as a major club, a 2-1 win over the Cleveland Indians.

First Pitching Win: March 13, 1962; Starter Jim Umbricht earns the first win in franchise history, helping his own cause with an RBI single in the second inning.

First Team Winning Run & RBI: March 13, 1962, with Jim Pendleton on second base in the third inning, a god of anonymity named Jack Waters singled up the middle to provide what would prove to be the winning run in a 2-1 first ever victory for the Colt .45s over the Indians. Journeyman major leaguer Jim Pendleton scored the first winning run in franchise history and journeyman minor leaguer Jack Waters provided the first game-winning RBI in Houston major league ball.

Jim Pendleton would go on to play often as the left fielder for the 1962 Colt .45’s, batting .248 in 117 game appearances before finishing his career as a Colt .45 minor leaguer in 1963. Pendleton batted .255 for eight seasons (1953-1959, 1962) as a big leaguer and  .293 as a minor leaguer over ten years of ball he played variously for teams below the majors from 1949 through 1963.

Jack Waters ran through a less blessed baseball field of dreams over the years, but his eventual fate matched Pendleton’s retirement after the 1963 season. Waters simply never got a major league at bat in one of the regular season games. Waters batted .279 for twelve seasons (1952-1963) in the minors. His .268 BA with 12 home runs as a BR/TR outfielder for the last 1961 Buffs club helped him get the spring training opportunity with the Colt .45’s the next spring, but his age and lack of impressive productivity in camp eventually got him demoted to the fate of  finishing out his career as a minor leaguer in 1962 and 1963.

At least, Jack Waters can now look back and still know that time will never erase his one major accomplishment in baseball, even if its value has no cash translation. Once upon a time, Jack Waters knocked in the first winning run in Houston major league baseball history. Back then, anything you could do to show that winning baseball existed as a possibility for Houston was important to the fans, even in those early and almost always forgettable early exhibition games, and Jack Waters was the first Colt .45  to pull the trigger on that hope.

As a member of the 1961 Buffs, I only remember Waters now as a non-flashy, unremarkable, but steady guy. It was enough to get him a spin and no one can ever take away from the man that short-lived stroke up the middle that makes Jack Waters today a forever footnote in team history. I would love to show you his picture, but Jack Waters didn’t stay here long enough to leave much of a visual impression that he had ever even been to Houston.

Good day, Jack Waters, wherever you are!

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11 Responses to “Some Firsts in Colt .45 History”

  1. Mike McCroskey Says:

    Sounds like so much Waters under the bridge to me.

    Mike

  2. James Anderson Says:

    Don’t forget Brucie! Bob Bruce – first to strike out the side on 9 pitches.
    Don Nottebart – pitches first no-hitter in team history
    Ken Johnson – pitchers firs complete game no-hitter and loses. ( I think he still holds that record)
    Hal Woodeshick – First true ace reliever/closer in team history – 23 saves in 1964 with a 2.76 ERA and a 1.97 ERA with 10 saves in 1963. (As Woody told me personally, ” I was my own set up man and closer!” – indeed he was.

    Bob Bruce – First true ace #1 starting pitcher in team history with 15-9 record in 1964 with a 2.76 ERA. Last game played at Colt Stadium. Bruce pitched 23 consecutive shutout innings in a row in ’64 and pitched a 12 inning complete game 1-0 victory against Don Drysdale and the Dodgers. His ’64 season holds up well against any other Astros pitchers to this day.

  3. David Munger Says:

    Bill-Jon Paciorek, Tom’s brother, retired with a 1000 Major League
    career batting average. On a call up he played in the last game of the season September 29, 1963. He singled 3 times and walked twice in 5 batting appearances. Back problems caused him to have an operation and miss the ’64 season. he never made it back to the Show. Of the 20
    Major Leaguers with perfect averages, none had as many as 3 at bats.

  4. Mark Wernick Says:

    Bill, where did you get that photo of Jim Pendleton? That’s his 1953 Johnston Cookies card, a truly rare regional rookie card that accompanies his 1953 Topps card as his only rookie cards. His very first card, however, is a 1952 Parkhurst minor league card from his time with the Montreal Royals.

    Mark

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Mark, Thanks for asking. Unfortunately, what I have is merely a photo of Jim Pendleton’s 1953 Johnston Cookies card. It is, indeed, a nice looking one too, isn’t it?

  5. Darrell Pittman Says:

    What about the Colt .22s? Did they play before or after the first Colt .45s exhibition game?

  6. Brad Waters Says:

    Jack Waters was my dad. I don’t have any pictures of him in a Houston uniform so if anyone does, please let me know. He died 5 years ago this February after battling many health issues, including lung cancer.

  7. Vicky Waters Says:

    Jack “Muddy” Waters is my Dad. I too would like pics if there are any out there.

  8. Prsley,Budgie, Sharp Says:

    Please include me on your post, thanks in advance!!

  9. Jeff Brant Says:

    If anyone is interested, I have three [3] pictures regarding the Houston Buffs. One is the team picture from 1951 and the others are outside views of Buff Stadium. I currently have them framed [8×10] but would be happy to try to scan them and email them to anyone interested. If email is not the best way, then please tell me how. I am fairly new to this computer stuff!
    Jeff in Clear Lake

  10. Bill McCurdy Says:

    Jeff – Expect an e-mail from me. – Bill McCurdy

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