We Once Had a Home Where the Buffalo Roamed

"You Can't Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd!"

“You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd!”

It was good to see Randy Harvey of the Houston Chronicle check in today on the side of doing something with the Astrodome other than tearing it down for more McNair/Rodeo parking space. His commentary is on the front page of the Sports Section in this morning’s Sunday, June 9, 2013 Houston Chronicle.

Perhaps, we may draw some lessons from the last great demolition of a venerable baseball park in Houston, and I don’t mean Colt Stadium, that fry-your-brains-in-the-sun skillet of a temporary venue that served as home to the new Houston big league club for three seasons from 1962 to 1964. The place wasn’t here long enough to have earned “venerable” as an attributed state of its emotional attraction to fans, nor was it ever intended as anything other than a game site drooling pad for fans to watch major league baseball (of sorts) as they also watched the birth of the Astrodome over a 36-month gestation period.

No. I’m talking about the loss of Buff Stadium, home of the Houston Buffs from 1928 through 1961. Not counting the three Texas League World War II seasons in which no Buff games were played (1943-45), Buff/Busch Stadium served as home of Buffs league play for 31 active seasons.

31 seasons was long enough for the patina of all that is venerable to have settled deeply into place cam over time to watch the fates of Buffs baseball rise and fall and rise again, over time.

When “Buff” Stadium went down to the wrecking ball in 1962, Houston was still neck-deep in the psyche of tear-it-down-and-build-a-parking-lot in almost every instance of anything “old”, but it escaped total ignominy because the baseball friendly Finger family bought the stadium and grounds for a new furniture store on the Gulf Freeway at Cullen that would include a new sports museum within the new facility. It was also built in an area that included an accurately retained spot where home plate at the ballpark actually still resided.

It was great. We almost forgot, at first, that we had lost the ballpark. Then the newness of this fairly good idea began to wear down. Long before curator Tom Kennedy came on board to breed new, dynamic life into the artifact displays at the Finger’s Museum, people began to tire of seeing the same old things each time they visited.

If you had seen it a few times in the 1960’s, you’d only have seen it grow slowly as the place began to add football and basketball items as it tried to become the “Houston Sports Museum.” There was nothing churning at the museum that would inspire a taste for return visits and this was happening at the same time that the furniture-shopping baseball public was beginning to shop differently and elsewhere.

Baseball historian, writer, and curator Tom Kennedy arrived in time to restore the museum beautifully, and dynamically, with the help of multi-media basic disks and recordings to its baseball roots, but the timing was unfortunate. The furniture store site was not working and would have to close, taking the museum with it.

The Finger family, aided by Mr. Kennedy, are now in the process of looking at ways to re-open the museum in some conjunctive partnership with the Sugarland Skeeters independent baseball organization.

My stadium point is much simpler. When Buff Stadium went down, it was lucky to have had anything done in its memory. The Finger family deserves the credit here, even if their desire to save the heart of Buff Stadium history was eventually consumed by other business realities. It went down because back in 1962, Buff Stadium was about the past and only the Astrodome was about the future. Today Buff Stadium might have survived to have served some other end, perhaps, as an athletic facility site for the neighboring UH program.

And today the developers do a little more public relations dancing in Houston before they call in the old wrecking ball. They have to. The voices of savvy, politically connected preservationists are alive and growing into a force of some reckoning power.

If you are among those who want to see the Astrodome preserved, pay attention to what’s going on in the near days to come – and especially to how Commissioners Court words any referendum they may propose to the voters.

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One Response to “We Once Had a Home Where the Buffalo Roamed”

  1. Wayne Roberts Says:

    This article is another testament to the narrow minded, cash driven mentality of Crane and his toadies. God forbid such a museum be put in Minute Maid (an effiminent noxious name for a ball park) because it would reduce the number of crappy vendors selling stale bread (did anyone eat those awful overpriced Prince’s burgers?) and orange colored chemical goo on a stale corn chip. Thank God for the Skeeters, the only game in town.

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