Our Houston Baseball Christmas Story

Her light burns bright - when we savor her flight And time doesn't kill - what lives on in us still

“Her light burns bright – as we savor her flight
And time doesn’t kill – what lives on in us still”

Once Upon a Time

In 1957, the word went out from the U.S. Census Bureau that the 1960 decade census would also be a good time for all the younger, eager young cities of America’s southwest and western regions to also step up to the plate and do some things to show why they each should count in the profile of an urbanity that would lead this nation’s socioeconomic growth into the 21st century. A Houston newspaper writer named George Kirksey saw the light. With the help of prominent Houstonian Craig Cullinan, Kirksey organized the Houston Sports Association as the organizational warship from which the local group would work to get the goal attained. Getting Houston into the baseball major leagues would be a game-changing move for the city in that direction – and a lock on the zoom spot for recognition as “the fastest growing city in America.”

Kirksey began to hit on all the-baseball-powers-that-be with all the charisma he possessed for friendly and deal-making persuasion. But he didn’t stop there. He pushed the starter button on a young writing protege who would grow to become over time into the greatest writing icon, bar none, to ever hail from Houston – the “little big man” himself – Mickey Herskowitz. Mickey’s serialized story on “why Houston belongs in the big leagues” quickly captured the nation’s attention to Houston’s cause.

Waylaid in a Manger

Long before it became a NASA classic, the words, “Houston, we have a problem” fell upon the singular efforts of George Kirksey to persuade the MLB powers-that-be to Houston’s qualifications as a big league team.

Kirksey was told by MLB that baseball didn’t want a team that would have to play all their games in a “manger-grade” venue like Buffalo Stadium. Opening in 1928, Buff Stadium held about 13,000 tops – with home for enlargement to only 20,000, at best. In light of that sticky point, the “star over Houston” as a big league city that Kirksey and Herskowitz had built in the minds of so many encountered a stall. It began to fade in the minds of those who counted as voters on expansion for MLB.

Then, one day, as Kirksey and Herkowitz sat quietly at a ghostly vacant Buff Stadium on a drizzling-rain day, mulling their infant dream for Houston going big league in their care, and preparing for another local presentation to another group of potential Houston backers, and probably also mumbling their equivalents to the “Hail Mary Catholic prayer of desperation,” a funny thing happened on the way to the forum.

Before they could even get out of Buff Stadium en route to their luncheon meeting, they were met at the gate by three wise men.

The Three Wise Men

“We have been following your great idea star for quite sometime,” said the dark haired, shorter, rounder man, “and we think we may have what you need to rise above this minor setback.”

“Yes, indeed,” added the taller older grey-haired man, “but we also see from the duller light in your star above this place, that your dour looks may spring from it’s limited available space.”

“And, if you want it, we’re here to teach you all we know about helping the Houstonians with deeper pockets to grow longer arms and dollar-scooping fingers,” said the third fair skinned younger man.

The rest is history.

The Message of This Star

The first wise man was Judge Roy Hofheinz. He gave the infancy plan  the Domed stadium idea. And most of all, he gave the movement himself – and every single ounce of his relentless version of P.T. Barnum that simply never let go of a possible sale on anything that became important to him.

The second wise man was R.E. “Bob” Smith. He gave the movement a direct connection to support from cattle, oil and gas power people. And, he also gave them far more than the extra space they lacked at Buff Stadium. Smith made that valuable large tract of land south of the Texas Medical Center available for the new MLB club to use for both their temporary playing field venue and the dream-of-all-dreams venue .

The third man was Craig Cullinan, no stranger to George Kirksey, but now a more focused force in building the kind of power group support the HSA needed from the well-heeled citizens of Houston.

Irresistible Force Overwhelms “Unmovable” Object

The idea of indoor, air-conditioned baseball was too much to resist. The Houston Sports Association’s proposal for such an outrageous leap into fan comfort and amazement quickly wore away the inertia of resistance that seems to always take up residence among those in control who fear that almost any change could result in a reduction of their own personal power. For the millisecond-measured moments that this sky was cleared for change by novelty, the Star of Houston Hope for MLB moved to a site south of OST, between Fannin and Kirby. On October 17, 1960, Houston was approved for membership in the National League, starting in 1962. They would play in a temporary venue they built near OST and Fannin called Colt Stadium for three seasons (1962-64) as the Houston Colt .45’s – and then they would move over to the new domed stadium that was being built directly under the heavenly star that still burns there in the sky – in the minds of all of us who remain alive from that time to still see it.

On April 9, 1965, the new Harris County Domed Stadium was fully risen from its infancy in the minds of a precious few – and so was the identity of the new again team that played there, starting in their fourth year of life in the big leagues.

The newly renamed  Houston Astros were now at home in the big leagues as a place now best identified as The Astrodome, The Eighth Wonder of the World!

The Ninth Wonder of our Smaller World

The Ninth Wonder of our Smaller World may be that many of us who felt that way about The Astrodome in 1965 – still do so in 2016. Perhaps, we buried part of our souls in what that amazing place meant to our childhood and young adult lives and aspirations about the other exciting possibilities of life.

Long Live the Star of Our Delight

Her light burns  bright – as we savor her flight

And time doesn’t kill – what lives on in us still

Passion’s no crime – when it morphs to sublime

And so the joy soars – to a far off ever after

Up high on a rafter – is yesterday’s laughter

Till the end of time – when we run out of rhyme

…. and that’s our Houston Baseball History Story for 2016.

____________________

Speaking of Time and Space

The Pecan Park Eagle published its first column here on WordPress on July 21, 2009.

Today’s December 23, 2016 column is publication number 2,500.

Thank you for your readership support all these years.

A reader at one of our largest ongoing discussion files at the Pecan Park Eagle left a column there today, expressing his hope that the thread will not be deleted. His thoughts were inferential to the fact that a digital community has sort of formed around the subject of Houston early TV history and all of the energy, data compilation, and involvement there would be lost to participants, if the column thread were suddenly deleted.

https://bill37mccurdy.com/2010/08/21/early-houston-tv-programs-personalities/

Here’s what I wrote him as a comment upon his concerns. What I said there, I would like you all to know:

Nathan – Don’t worry. As the owner of The Pecan Park Eagle site, I turn 79 on New Year’s Eve, but I plan to keep the site going as the active publisher, editor, and principal column writer for as long as I am alive and able to keep doing what makes me wake up every day and look forward to continue building the kind of freely spoken oral history of Houston we have going here as an ongoing file on so many fronts. I’m in the process of working out the contingency plan for how this work shall be archived and continued after I’m gone.

The Pecan Park Eagle is so much more than any one single column and topic. Since we began to publish in 2009, the 2,500th topic will “go to press” whenever I publish the next topic, either tonight or tomorrow.

I also promise to write a column on the continuity plan, whenever it does get worked out. All I know is that it won’t be soon. I’m looking for trusted assurances of continuity that are firm.

Thanks for your interest and wonderful support!

And Happy, Happy Holidays to You, One – and You All!

Sincerely,

Bill McCurdy
Owner, Publisher, Editor, & Principal Column Writer
The Pecan Park Eagle

houston.buff37@gmail.com

body-and-soul

____________________

eagle-0range
 Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

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9 Responses to “Our Houston Baseball Christmas Story”

  1. Patrick Callahan '56 Says:

    BILL:
    A most MERRY CHRISTMAS & HAPPY NEW YEAR to you and your family – Keep up the good work – AND…every now and then – throw in something that’s about Houston’s history, famous restaurants, famous sportsmen and sports women, business leaders, etc.

    Callahan
    STHS ’56

  2. Tom Hunter Says:

    BIll: Thanks for the link to TPPE for 8/21/10 and all the memories.

    I once saw MariJane at The Green Room across from the Alley Theater and walked over, introduced myself and told her I had a crush on her when I was growing up. Later, when she and her group left, she came over and kissed me on the cheek.

    The theme song for The Late Show was Iaso Tomita’s version of Debussy’s “Arabesque.”

  3. David Munger Says:

    Happy Holidays to you and your family, Bill. It is such a good feeling to have someone with your knowledge of both the history of Houston Baseball and the city of Houston. As one who used to race my dad for the Sports Section of The Houston Post every morning your Love of Houston Sports runs true. I let him have The Post and Chronicle, I wasn’t stupid..lol…Thanks, Bill.

  4. Marsha Says:

    Merry Christmas to you and your family, Bill! And an early Happy Birthday!

  5. Mark W Says:

    I can think of a number valuable historical pieces you’ve done re: Houston history, a small sampling of which includes the Dinner Bell Cafe, Valian’s Restaurant, Jeppesen and Buff Stadiums, the little grocery store in your old neighborhood where you bought baseball cards as a kid, among many others, all illustrated with great photographs. I’m fortified by and grateful for your columns, Bill. Happy holidays!

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