Frank Mancuso Shows Up in “Mystery” Card

No matter how far they go back in time, or out in reach over the wide world of athletic competition, the new Houston Sports Hall of Fame will be impossibly pressed to find any two candidates more qualified to fit the requirements of any serious honor along these lines than Gus and Frank Mancuso.

gus mancuso

Gus Mancuso. Gus was born in Galveston (12/05/1905) and Frank was born in Houston (05/23/1918) in Houston. The Mancusos both grew up in Houston; both learned how to play baseball in Houston as future MLB quality catchers; both lived out their lives in Houston as contributing citizens (Gus was a longtime post-playing days sports reporter and Buffs game telecaster for Channel 13, Franks served as a City Council member for the east end for thirty years); both men died in Houston, Gus on 10/26/1984 at near age 79 and Frank on 08/04/2007 at 89 years; and both are buried at Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery, just across Griggs road to the south and the neighborhood we remember today as Pecan Park.

frank mancuso

Frank Mancuso. Both Mancusos were catchers with World Series experience. Gus played at the MLB level for 17 seasons (1928-1945), batting a career .265 and a high of .366 over 71 games in 1930. Frank played 4 big league seasons (1944-1937) with a .268 high for 1945. In 1944, Frank caught for the St. Louis Browns in their only appearance in a World Series. He batted .667 in the ’44 Series against the Cardinals.

The Mancusos lived for family and the future of our young people. Our good fortune at the McCurdy household at 6646 Japonica Street was to have lived only five doors away from the home of the mother of Gus and Frank Mancuso. She lived at the corner of Japonica and Flowers Street.

What a sweet lady she was! I don’t know how often they went shopping togehter. I just remember that our mom took the mother of Gus and Frank with her when she needed to go to the grocery store, any time that she both needed and wanted a ride.

What a sweetheart both those moms were. Many years later, Frank used to tell me stories of his childhood and how his mom had collected all kinds of cloth that she sewed into shirts for Gus and him. I can see my own mom doing the same thing, had she ever needed to do so.

Doing with little. Or doing without. They were both ways of life in Pecan Park, but we had plenty to eat. And meals were cooked at home each night. In the name of love. What else do you need?

Back to baseball. Partially.

Frank Mancuso spent much of his late career time in the early 1950s with the Houston Buffs. We street kids tried not to bother him whenever our paths happened to cross those of either brother. Most of my passing contact was with Frank, who was also quiet and smiling, always, or so it seems now, with a happy nod of the head to each of us that waved or smiled or acknowledged him in person as one of our local heroes.

When the time comes, and we are done with the “no-brainer” business of inducting all the famous Houston sports figures who have proudly worn # 34 in our city’s behalf, it will be time to consider the Houston figures who’ve given their heart, soul, and passion in our behalf as either apple core Houstonian athletes or as centurions of Houston Sports Glory.

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Note About the Mancuso Card Used Here. On the heels of Shaun Bejani’s recent appearance before the Larry Dierker Chapter of SABR to stir interest in supporting his grandfather Frank Mancuso and  great-uncle Gus Mancuso for future induction into the new Houston Sports Hall of Fame, I had a totally unrelated call from my cousin, Jim Hunt,  about a card he found among some old belongings as he worked on his own ancient baseball collections.

“Cousin Jim” knew nothing about the renewed interest in the Mancusos because of the new Houston sports hall, but he also happens to be a big Mancuso supporter, so, I’m sure he will back any serious effort to make that happen, when the time comes.

When the Time Comes. Therein lies the rub. Nothing bizarre about it. It’s just how it is. If the Gus and Frank Mancuso cases were totally dependent upon the availability of living testimony to their absolute worthiness of the honor, we are already past the time that those who played ball with either man could speak up in their behalf’s. And now it may take another ten to fifteen years for the local Hall to go through the next wave of “hot ticket” Houston names to get into the more historical group that now includes the Mancusos. By that time, and as my old friend, the late Arthur Richmond of the New York media, the Mets, and Yankees loved to say, the rest of us Mancuso in vita fans will have gone “Bye, Bye, Babylon!”

Best Hope. If someone could get to the HSHOF induction planning committee early enough to include, at least, one or two veteran choice inductee selections annually from the start, it could lay the groundwork for doing this thing right and making the inclusion of deceased, but no less deserving people available for eternal honors coming true during the lifetimes of their families and a few close friends. Perhaps, important catalytic people like Mike Acosta of the Astros and local Historian Mike Vance could help with this issue, if they are involved in the plan’s formulation. They are each historians of great ability and integrity, the kind of people we need involved in getting the Houston Hall off to a great start.

The Frank Mancuso Card Shown Here. I can’t be sure, but I could not reach him for confirmation or disclaimer prior to going to publication today, but I have a hunch that we may be looking at the work of an old friends and writing/working colleague of mine from back around the turn of the century.

Ronnie Joyner, a talented artist, writer, book producer, and musician may have done this card and the series it came from. It looks very similar to the work he did on a card series on the 1944 St. Louis Browns. Whenever I get an answer from Ronnie, I will post it here as an addendum to this original version of the column.

Meanwhile, enjoy what you see.

The card is a front-and-backer of Frank Mancuso, and obviously one that came out no earlier than late 1957 or early 1948, based on the backside data display – which is all about Frank’s four seasons (1944-1947) in the big leagues with both the Browns and Senators. “337” is the time reference number here. That’s the total number of big league games that Frank Mancuso played during his entire MLB career.

The card is listed as #101 in this series. We could not Google our way to any easy answers.

Thank you.

The Pecan Park Eagle

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Addendum #1: E-Mail Response from Artist Ronnie Joyner, Sun., 6/10/2018, 8:30 PM.

One New Mystery Replaces Another. This just in …. About 8:20 PM CDT, Sunday, 6/10/2018. …. The following e-mail from Ronnie Joyner explains the new short-lived mystery of the Washington Senator Frank Mancuso “one-of-a-kind card”. Looks like my intuition was working well on this one.

Now I’ve got a personal mystery on my hands:

How did my elder cousin Jim Hunt gets his hands on a copy of this “rare” custom-made card of Frank Mancuso? Jim Hunt did not personally know either Frank Mancuso or Ronnie Joyner, nor did I know of this custom card’s creation earlier than tonight’s Joyner e-mail to have somehow supplied my cousin with a copy years ago. It just had Ronnie’s style written all over it. That’s mostly what I had going for me in speculation.  That hunch, plus the material feel and look of the card did not appear as aged as any other card I’ve seen from the late 1940s.

The most logical explanation is that the Mancuso card may have been included with some things that Joyner sent to me years ago that then got passed on by me to my cousin Jim Hunt earlier without inventory or knowledge of the Mancuso card’s inclusion. So, for now, at least fifteen to twenty years later, it comes back to me from my also aging cousin as something that seems new to each of us. But really maybe isn’t.

Please forgive us. The Octogenarian Trail is not always the most level street to travel.

Ronnie Joyner’s Note. 

Hey Bill,

          First, thanks for writing! I have not forgot about sending you my 1957 Dodgers book and some info on my band’s CDs. I’m just behind on my correspondence! 
          About Frank’s Senators card, you’re right — I created that for Frank back in 1995 or thereabouts. There was no series — just a one-off of Frank. I thought the number “101” looked cooler than no number, so that’s why I did that. It was a quickie production.
          Frank asked me to make a card of him, and my own passion for the Senators inspired me to selfishly depict him in a Nats uniform. Once he saw it he politely said he loved it, but everyone down in his neck of the woods knew him as a Brownie — so could I do another one of him in a Browns uniform? So that’s what I did. Frank was the best.
          I’ll be in touch, Bill. Thanks!
Ronnie (Joyner)
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Addendum # 2: E-Mail from SABR Colleague Bill Hickman, Mon., 6/11/2018. 8:23 AM

Hi, Bill –

I have that card, and it’s autographed by Frank.  See below.
My notes say that it was created for the Washington Senators Historical Society sometime during the 1990’s. My guess is that I picked it up at one of their meetings.
                  Bill Hickman
Mancuso Sens Card SIgned

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

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