Buff Biographies: Before Loel Passe

Excerpt from "Your 1948 Houston Buffs, Dixie Champions: Brief Biographies By Morris Frank and Adie Marks (1948).

Excerpt from “Your 1948 Houston Buffs, Dixie Champions: Brief Biographies By Morris Frank and Adie Marks (1948).

Lee Hedrick may have received the most publicity of any man who ever served as a play-by-play radio man for the old minor league Houston Buffalos. And he got it when Morris Frank and Adie Marks included him in their 1948 “Brief Buff Biographies” autograph book.

Too bad we don’t know more about early 20th century electronic media coverage of baseball than we do.

There remains a need for further research on the radio station involvement and play-by-play announcing history of Houston Buffs Baseball from 1925 forward. KPRC-AM went on the air in Houston on May 9, 1925 as the oldest surviving commercial radio station in Houston. Another short-lived Houston station, WCAK, existed as early as 1923. The probability that baseball first reached Houston homes via the airways of either WCAK or KPRC hovers at 100%, and even prior to the Buffs move into the new Buff Stadium three years later.

We do know that Bruce Layer of KPRC handled the play-by-play on the first radio game from Buff Stadium on Opening Day of the very first season in the new venue, April 11, 1928, however, further work is needed on the name(s) of those who took over from there. The same Houston Post-Dispatch article that told us of Layer’s splash on that special day also made it implicitly clear that he was simply doing Opening Day 1928 that one time for the sake of going into the books as the first radio game announcer from Buff Stadium. As sports director of host station KPRC, it was Bruce Layer’s prerogative, and he took it as a record that he wanted for himself. The names of those who took over from there were not listed.

Things stay fuzzy from 1928 through 1942 as to which stations and what announcers handled the radio for Buffs games. When the Texas League resumed in 1946, following the three-year shutdown for World War II, some station and announcer must have handled the games, but the same “which” and “what” queries still apply to that first season of the post-war era.

We do know that Lee Hedrick of KATL-AM did the play-by-play for the 1947 Dixie Series champion Buffs and that he continued to broadcast Buff games, at least, through 1950, the first season for Loel Passe at KTHT-AM. I’m not positive that 1950 was the only year for more than one radio station broadcast, but that’s how I remember it. Further work in that area is also needed.

Loel Passe was the lone word in Houston radio game broadcasting after 1950, or when Lee Hedrick actually departed, but Gene Elston did reach town in time to work with Loel in 1961, the last season of minor league baseball in Houston.

Television broadcasts began over KLEE-TV in 1949 with Guy Savage as the first announcer. When the same station became KPRC-TV in 1950, Dick Gottlieb worked himself in as the TV play-by-play man, staying long enough to be the man on duty in 1951 when a mentally disturbed drinking fan shot himself to death on TV during a Buffs game.

Other names come to mind as TV voices from the 1950s Buff games, but in no particular order  – or in complete form. These include: Bruce Layer (again), former big leaguer Gus Mancuso, and KPRC radio guys like Lee Gordon. There were others.

The bottom line? Far more research is needed.

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4 Responses to “Buff Biographies: Before Loel Passe”

  1. Dr. Baseball Says:

    How about Dan Rather & Art Mc Gee?

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Thank you, Dr. Baseball. It’s unfortunately easier for me to forget Dan Rather and Art McGee. They came along during the time I was in college at UH and working six days a week too. I will appreciate any other reminders too.

  2. Gene Arnold Says:

    I had the pleasure of working with Dick Gottlieb and Lee Gordon for one year on Channel 26 on a post-game TV show of The Texas Rangers baseball games. The show was called “Spike Marks.” Also, I had the pleasure of knowing Guy Savage, who let me fill in for him, when he was off, on his nightly
    Channel 13 sports broadcasts. All great individuals.

  3. Anthony Cavender Says:

    I am trying to recall the name of the broadcaster who worked the Buff games with Loel Passe–was it Tim Cullinane?

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