1951 Buffs Won 3 of 4 Games in 2 Days

July 4, 1951: Jerry Witt'e HR in 9th carrries Buffs to walk off 2-0 win over Bob Turley and the San Antonio Missions in first game of a 2-day DH fest at Buff Stadium.

July 4, 1951: Jerry Witte’s HR in 9th carries Houston Buffs to walk-off 2-0 win over Bob Turley and the San Antonio Missions in the first game of a 2-day double header fest at Buff Stadium.

The 1951 Texas League Champion Houston Buffs didn’t have a 13-man pitching staff. In fact, their total active roster included only 19 players. Unlike the 2015 Houston Astros, the ’51 Buffs could only have afforded 13 pitchers, if two of them always had been capable of covering the two uncovered regular position spots that would have opened up on their 19-man roster as a result of the heavy pitching investment.

1951 was a different era, of course, and Houston was then a AA minor league city and farm club of the St. Louis Cardinals at a time when the normal rosters for any of the Texas League teams was limited to 6-8 pitchers at any dynamic time. Pitchers had to be inning-eaters for best results as starters – and also be ready to relieve, as needed. The strong survived; the weak did not; and many simply pitched and covered their injuries until they couldn’t do it any longer.

The late Jim Basso, a 1946-47 Houston Buff and 17-year minor leaguer, used to tell me the story this way: “You bet we played hurt. If we didn’t play, somebody else was going to be wearing our jockstrap in the next game. That also meant we had to keep our mouths shut about injury and try to play through it, if we could. Nobody who thought they had a chance at the big leagues wanted to lose their place in line, even if playing through that injury resulted in you doing permanent damage to your ability to play the game at all. We were the nobodies of baseball. Only the big league stars got rest and good medical attention. What we nobodies got from public knowledge of our injuries was to be pushed aside while the club found another healthy nobody to take our place.”

Back on July 4th and 5th in 1951, the Houston Buffs entertained the San Antonio Missions in back-to-back scheduled doubleheaders at Buff Stadium. The first place Buffs won 3 of the 4 games played Houston used 6 total pitchers in the 4 games and San Antonio used 7. The Buffs got 3 complete games from Fred Martin (win), Octavio Rubert (win), and Vinegar Bend Mizell (win). San Antonio got 2 complete games from Bob Turley (loss) and Jack O’Donnell (win) – It should jump off the page that all 4 wins in the two-day, four-game marathon were complete game pitchers.

Total Pitcher Use, Double DH Schedule, SA@HOU, July 5-6, 1951:

CLUBS G1 G2 G3 G4 Total
San Antonio 1 3 1 2 7 pitchers
Houston 1 1 3 1 6 pitchers

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Wednesday, July 4, 1951: An Independence Day crowd of 11,251 crammed Buff stadium for a doubleheader contest between the 1st place Houston Buffs and the visiting 3rd place San Antonio Missions. SA ace Bob Turley entered the game in quest of his 15th season, but he and Buffs starter Fred Martin had still not settled things in Game 1 through 2 outs in the bottom of the Buffs’ 9th.

Then, 25 year old Larry Miggins cracked his second double of the game to left and Turley now faced the potential Buffs winning run on 2nd. After briefly debating an intentional walk to slugger Jerry Witte, the Missions decided to pitch to him.

Big mistake.

Jerry Witte took Turley’s pitch on a sky rocket ride into the twilight Houston summer sky for a 2-0 Buffs win and only the SA pitcher’s third loss of the season.

In Game 2, Octavo Rubert went all the way for the Buffs in a 5-2 win over the Missions. Ed Albrecht of SA took the loss after leaving the game after 3 innings, trailing 3-1. Hoot Gibson and John Pavlick finished the game for the Missions in relief.

Thursday, July 5, 1951: 6,308 fans showed up at Buff Stadium to watch Jack O’Donnell of the Missions scatter 7 hits and strand 11 Buffs in Game 1 for a 6-0 San Antonio win and their only victory in the not-so-unusual-for-the-era-back-to-back game fest. First-time Buffs starter Bob Clear took the loss as relievers Dick Bokelmann and Elroy Joyce followed as the only Buff relievers in the four-game DH jam.

In Game 2 of the of the second-day DH, Vinegar Bend Mizell went all the way in a 2-1 Buffs victory that was finally won in the bottom of the 9th when Vann Harrington scored from 3rd base on a surprising sac fly try caught the Missions by surprise to end the game. Bill Elbert started Game 2 for San Antonio,but left with a bothersome finger callous after 5. Hoot Gibson took over in the 6th and was around in the 9th as the SA man to take the loss.

That’s baseball. Always different, but always the same. It just depends on how we look at what’s really important to us in our attraction to the game that got served up early to so many of us like an errantly predictable fastball down the middle of the plate.

Support data for this column was derived from the files of both The San Antonio Evening News and the San Antonio Light  on the connective publication dates of July 5-6, 1951.

______________________________ (W)

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One Response to “1951 Buffs Won 3 of 4 Games in 2 Days”

  1. Tom Hunter Says:

    From the Wilmer “Vinegar Bend” Mizell obituary in The New York Times:

    While he was pitching for Houston of the Texas league in 1951, management staged a Vinegar Bend Night, flying in 32 people supposedly representing the town’s entire adult population. Mizell later noted that Vinegar Bend was so small, some guests “must’ve come from the suburbs.”

    I remember Mizell from his major league career, but didn’t realize until years later that the nickname, “Vinegar Bend,” was associated with his time with the Houston Buffs.

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