Last of the Buffhicans

Houston Buffs: 1961, 1st of 50 team photos hanging at MMP.

Inside the second floor eatery mezzanine at Minute Maid Park, there is a wall that displays all the team photos in Houston’s major league baseball  history to complete date, from their origins in 1962 as the Colt .45s through 2010, the most recent full season version of the Astros.

But they start with one earlier photo. It is a team photo of this city’s last minor league club, the 1961 Houston Buffs. I was able to free hand snap this featured shot of the team photo, but I cropped the names below the photo as unreadable here anyway. Of course, as many of ou already may have imagined, I was delighted to learn that the Astros had taken the time and effort to include the Buffs in this display at the ballpark. I don’t get into this restricted section of MMP that often because it’s mainly for season ticket holders and those who care to purchase admission to this fuller service section of the park’s food service operation and none of that is my everyday ballpark style. Had I not been there with a friend who partakes of these pleasures, a hot dog in the stands would’ve done me fine. What I got out of this trip was the discovery of the Buffs photo.

Thank you, Mike Acosta! I feel certain that the club’s resident historian and expert on game-used collectibles had to be responsible for this fine example of the club acknowledging our community’s longer history with baseball prior to coming of major league baseball in 1962. Acosta is also responsible for numerous other artifact salvation’s from the team’s move downtown from the Astrodome in 2000. Now add this one to his public acknowledgement of a job well done.

For the record, even though mot of these names cannot be tagged to the players in the photo, here is the roster of all who played for the “Last of Buffhicans” as the 1961 Houston Buffs. You can take their names, if you so wish, and look up their professional records through the data banks available at Baseball Reference.Com:

The 1961 Houston Buffs

Philip Borders, Harvey Branch, Pidge Browne, Cal Browning, John Caffery, Jim Campbell, Wayne Connally, Ron Davis, Antonio Diaz, Ed Donnelly, Sammy Drake, Layton Ducote, George Freese, Dave Gerard, Dave Giusti, Bill Griffin, J.C. Hartman, Tom Hughes, Ben Johnson, Al Lary, Boyd Linker, Gordon Massa, Jim McAnany, Jim McKnight, Henry Mitchell, Wallace Mixon, Phil Mudrock, Cholly Naranjo, Lenny Neal, Gerald Nelson, Ray Noble, Aaron Pointer, Jim Proctor, Dave Roberts, Al Schroll, Barney Schultz, Mow Thacker, John (Jack) Waters, Wally Wolf, Mel Wright, and Bud Zipfel.

Among the many, here is a close up of two Buffs: 3rd Baseman George Freese and outfielder jack Waters. This photo is here because I had an e-mail from Waters’ daughter, Vicki, asking for any kind of photo from her father’s playing days here in Houston. Vicki, the following crop shot with “Buffs Brother” Freese is the best I could do.

George Freese, 3B (left) and John (Jack) Waters, OF, 1961 Houston Buffs

 George Freese hit .314 with 6 HR in his 58 games as a 3rd baseman for the Buffs in 1961. It was his only season at Houston, Over 1 17-year career (1948-1964), Freese batted .301 with 195 home runs as a minor leaguer. In three seasons as a big leaguer (1953, 1955, 1961), Freese hit .258 with 3 HR in only 60 games. George Freese, now age 84, is the brother of former big leaguer Gene Freese.

Jack Waters hit .268 with 12 HR in 147 games as an outfielder for the 1961 Buffs. It was also his only season with Houston. Waters played no major league ball, but the now 79-year old former player hit .279 with 80 HR in a 12-season minor league career that ran from 1952 to 1963.

Sometimes we pass a photo hanging on a wall and find a whole column inside of it, if we are ready to see what’s there. This one is simply the kind of experience that reenforces my long-time habit of taking my camera with me everywhere I go, even to those places I think I am most aware of to the nth degree.

You take the camera because – you never know. Isn’t that right, Joaquin Andujar?

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2 Responses to “Last of the Buffhicans”

  1. John Watkins Says:

    Couldn’t help but comment on one player in the photo: Barney Schultz. The journeyman knuckleballer, who spent most of his 21-year career in the minors, played a huge role in the Cardinals’ stretch run for the pennant in 1964. Working out of the bullpen, he had 14 saves and a 1.64 ERA.

    He also had a memorable line after giving up a monster home run to Mickey Mantle at Yankee Stadium in the World Series. A reporter asked him what pitch he had thrown Mantle. “It was my mattress pitch,” Schultz replied. “I threw it, and he laid on it.”

  2. Bradley Waters Says:

    Thank You! There were very few pictures of my dad, Jack Waters, from his playing days. Many were lost in the 1977 Johnstown flood. My dad died February 15, 2006.

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