Houston’s Real Shooting Star Line Up

The Houston Real Shooting Star Line Up

This line-up is awesome. Had we had these men in Houston simultaneously at the peak of their careers, we might have been celebrating an even earlier smiling destiny at the World Series than 2017.

The Houston Real Shooting Star Line Up

P Robin Roberts Phillies, et al 1948-66 1965-66
C Ivan Rodriguez Rangers, et al 1991-11 2009
1B Lee May Reds, et al 1965-82 1972-74
2B Nellie Fox White Sox, et al 1947-65 1964-65
3B Eddie Mathews Braves, et al 1952-68 1967
SS Pete Runnels Red Sox, et al 1951-64 1963-64
LF Carlos Beltran MLB, et al 1998-2017 2004, 2017
CF Tommy Davis Dodgers, et al 1959-76 1969-70
RF Rusty Staub Mets, et al 1963-85 1963-68
DH Joe Morgan Reds, et al 1963-84 63-71, 1980

The five bold type players listed above are members of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

In addition to the certified greatness of Roberts, Rodriguez, Fox, Mathews, and Morgan, our other “Shooting Stars” also had done pretty well for themselves elsewhere too. Their bodies of work speak for themselves.

Among the others, Lee May bashed 354 home runs during his career and led the 1976 Baltimore Orioles and the American League with 109 RBI on the year. Pete Runnels joined Houston from the Red Sox in 1963 as the American League batting champion of 1962 and 1960, when he hit .326 and .320 respectively.

Carlos Beltran was with us twice. The first time he landed as the 2004 fast-rising young Houston heart-breaker, who would leave for more famous fields of fortune. He would return in 2017 as the calmer, softer, more wizened veteran in 2017 to help guide our stable of young hungry talent to the first World Series triumph that either they or their mentoring elder had ever seen. We think Senor Beltran is now retiring. If so, he does so with our eternal gratitude and affection. He also will departing with a .279 career BA, 2,725 career hits, and 435 career home runs.

1962 was the big year for Tommy Davis. That was the Dodger season he led the NL with 230 hits, a .346 BA, and a whopping 153 RBI. Davis followed that year with a .320 NL best BA in 1964.

Rusty Staub and Joe Morgan were the two complete reversals among our Shooting Star greats, near greats, and good players. Staub and Morgan each began their playing careers in Houston, but each would only find their zenith time accomplishments later, away from the Astros, vis-a-vis the poor range of talent assessment thought available to Astros GM Spec Richardson. Richardson thought that Staub’s future value was limited beyond the six years he already had played.

As the convoluted Stab-to-Montreal deal of January 22, 1969 eventually played out, Rusty Staub was traded by the Houston Astros to the Montreal Expos for Jesus Alou and Donn Clendenon. Donn Clendenon refused to report to his new team on April 8, 1969. The Montreal Expos sent Jack Billingham (April 8, 1969), Skip Guinn (April 8, 1969) and $100,000 (April 8, 1969) to the Houston Astros to complete the trade. It wasn’t all Richardson’s fault. All he did was ring the dumb bell that set the thing in motion.

Credit Commissioner Bowie Kuhn for making sure it happened. once Clendenon refused to report and the Astros tried to kill the deal. Kuhn would not let them rescind. Montreal already had invested heavily in Staub as the “Le Grand Orange” symbol of their new Expos franchise and Kuhn wasn’t going to let a little thing like the normal rules governing trade get in the way of their market plan. So what does he do? Three full years before the original release of th 1972 first “The Godfather” film, Bowie Kuhn makes the Astros an offer they cannot refuse – and the deal finishes as described above.

{Bracketed Aside: Isn’t it amazing what Bowie Kuhn and Bud Selig both did during their separate era tours as Commissioner of Baseball? They must have done some things politically correct because nothing put the stop on ether’s celebrated waltz into the Hall of Fame.}

Bottom Line on Staub: GM Spec Richardson was wrong. Rusty Staub wasn’t almost done back in 1969. He left Houston after 1968 with only 6 MLB seasons in tow. He left baseball after 1985 with 23 season rows in his stat column file – one of those files included 2,716 career hits and a reputation as one of the greatest pinch hitters of all time.

Bottom Line on Joe Morgan: On November 29, 1971, stupidity struck again. Astros GM Richardson traded  Joe Morgan with Ed Armbrister, Jack Billingham, Cesar Geronimo and Denis Menke to the Cincinnati Reds for Tommy Helms, Lee May and Jimmy Stewart. While none of the Astros’ acquired players contributed much to a better local future, Joe Morgan reached the Reds in time to blossom into the Hall of Fame player he came away from Houston as also became the team hinge pin that Cincinnati needed to personify their new “world serious” identity as “The Big Red Machine” as his other Astro go-over mates also did their share to make the Reds the hottest NL world-beater club of the mid-1970s. Joe Morgan played one more year as a signed free agent with a pennant-contending Astros club in 1980. By then, his performance bowl largely had been spent, but he brought a great deal of respect, leadership, and wisdom to his new younger mates, much as Carlos Beltran did so quite successfully in 2017.

Bottom Line All: We’ve all much to learn from those who’ve been there. We learn from examples of what works – and we also learn from honest experience with what doesn’t work. Our education is never always pretty nor is it ever free. The Wizened Old Pros are the real Shooting Stars of Baseball. By the the time we realize who they are, many of them may already be in the their last sparkling arc across the summer season sky.

Players, writers, and fans, we should pay attention to the Shooting Stars. We might lean something.



Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle









3 Responses to “Houston’s Real Shooting Star Line Up”

  1. Fred Soland Says:

    Bill, I don’t really think Staub and Morgan should be on this list since we had them at the beginning of their careers and we traded them away. While Morgan was better in Cincy than in Houston, Staub was about the same.

    Also, as a pitcher I think I would take Randy Johnson over Robin Roberts.

    Just my opinion

    • Bill McCurdy Says:


      1) It doesn’t matter that Staub & Morgan were both here first. They were here before their peak talent years. Morgan, as I also pointed out, was here after his peak talent time. Except for Beltran, the others were here only after their peak talent years.

      2) Neither Staub nor Morgan could protect themselves from the stupidity that traded them away.

      3) Morgan wasn’t simply “better” at Cincy. He was “Hall of Fame better.”

      4) No way was Staub merely “about the same” afyer Houston. He was supposed to be finished from failing physical stamina soon after the trade, according to Richardson. Instead, he triples the time he’s already been here, finishing his career with 2,725 hits and a rep for being one of the greatest pinch hitters of all time. That’s no “about the same” outcome in my book.

      5) I picked Robin Roberts over Randy Johnson for the same reason I finally took Carlos Beltran over Moises Alou. – Alou and Johnson were still in their primes when they came here. Roberts and Beltran (2017) were both over-the-hill true last-time-around-the-block shooting stars when they got here, and I was trying to avoid picking prime-timers like Johnson and Alou, who were both anything but finishing-up guys when they each joined the Astros.

      6) My apologies for confusing the criteria with the selection of the the two “before the hill” guys (Staub and Morgan). Morgan was the only one who came back after achieving “over the hill status” elsewhere.

      7) Most of all, I simply want to thank you for being one of those readers who always give me the time to try and explain what I’m trying to do here. It really does matter to know that I do get to hear from so many people read these columns.

      8) Have a nice Monday.

  2. Fred Soland Says:

    Hey Bill,

    Ok, didn’t totally understand your criteria.

    Now, as an encore, why don’t you pick a line up of “those that got away”??

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: