Thank You, Friends, for a Wonderful Surprise

Retirement Cake ~ Thanks for decorating and presenting our most delicious celebration cake, Marsha Franty! It was great.

 

Yesterday I walked into something that has never been on my rather long list of life experiences, but even bigger for me, it was something also that was never on my much shorter list of life expectations. My Dear Wife, Norma, and a cadre of my SABR friends, it seems, got together and planned in collusion with each other to throw me a surprise retirement party celebration of my retirement from a half century in private practice as a psychotherapist on September 1st.

It worked. I hadn’t a clue when my good friend Sam Quintero invited Norma and me to have lunch with him on Saturday. I still didn’t get it when Sam told me during the drive that we were taking Norma to the Spaghetti Western Ristorante, the place where we normally gold our SABR meetings. And I still didn’t get it when we walked in and Sam motioned for us to follow him to the back ~ and the room where normally hold our SABR meetings.

“Are we having a Saturday SABR meeting that I didn’t know about?” I asked

“Nope,” Sam replied.

I still didn’t get it. I had to be told. – “This is a surprise party in honor of your retirement from practice,” Bob Dorrill explained. Later I learned that I wasn’t the only one confused about the purpose when a couple of people wished me a happy birthday.”

Then we walked into the room after our greeting by Bob and Peggy Dorrill, and there was Mark Wernick and his wife, Luba, Tal and Jonnie Smith, Jimmy and Marie Wynn, Mike and Cindy McCroskey, Larry, Kathleen and Neil Miggins, Marsha Hamby, Greg Lucas, Bobby Copus, Jimmy Disch, Dick Bily, and Tom White. Joe Thompson got there after we arrived.

I will never forget yesterday. The words people used to frame their thoughts of and feelings for me were filled with the kind of whole thought honesty that only lands and survives with sincerity. Thanks you, Bobby Copus, for your love and caring. If you see me as a mentor and a second father, so be it. I love you too.

And thank you, Tal Smith, too for helping me feel at home in the body of Houston baseball history and historians from my Pecan Park Eagles sandlot days forward. ~ Now, if you, or any of you, has some ideas on how I can be saved from my Citizen Kane “rosebud” fears that the beautiful wood piece you see below that my artistic brother, John McCurdy, created for me can escape the furnace of junk piece liquidation someday, I would be grateful hearing them. Our Eagles sandlot baseball was a living symbol of what kid baseball was like in Houston and many other places before the Little League game turned it over to the adults. Maybe, the Hall of Fame would be interested.

 

Thank you too, Mark Wernick, for the collection of early written history by the first captains of Houston’s first voyage onto the ocean of major league baseball. A belated discovery of scanner problems may delay how son I will be able yo get to those volumes #3 and #9 you wanted, but they will get there. Please. Be patient.

 

an original

 

Thank you too for a copy of the book entitled “The World’s Most Travelled Man”, Maxwell Kates. You may be in Toronto now, but your prefect gift arrived in time for the local conspirators to get it here in time for the party. Since this is where we first learned of my good old ancestor Liam “The Dragon Slayer” McCurdy and his horseshoe-virginal club with three nails driven through its head for dragon dispatching. SABR brother Mike McCroskey has made sure that I now have a similar weapon at my disposal. My copy is even autographed.

 

Wonder if MLB would allow Altuve to get away with using this weapon for nailing every pitch?

We have a play-on-words irony going on here with the dragon slaying that my grandfather to the 35th power did relative to my own work in recent times. Grandpa Liam McCurdy fought to help people rid themselves of dragons in the skies. My work has all been about trying to help people rid themselves of dragons in disguise. 🙂

A funny irony: Grandpa Liam McCurdy fought to help people rid themselves of dragons in the skies. My work has all been about trying to help people rid themselves of dragons in disguise. 🙂

Thank you, Bob Dorrill, and other SABR members for the awesome crystal retirement memorial and for the vintage bat and ball that shall always remind me of the year 23 ventured forth into the modern era with our reenactment of the 188 Houston Babies playing 19th century baseball under the 1860 rules. We bent a little history to stretch the Babies back that far, but we put it all back together when we came to write “Houston Baseball, The Early Years, 1861-1961”. As Bob Dorrill was kind and generous enough to mention, that book had been my lifelong ambition, but quality wise, it was too big a job for any single one of us to take on alone. Thanks to all of you who contributed in any single way. And thanks, especially, to the late Patrick Lopez, whose art gave us pictures of Houston’s first ballpark, and his eye for treating us all to the delight of watching something come to life from words.

And, I feel free to say it publicly now. ~ Thanks to the late Solly Hemus for underwriting most of the production expenses involved in our Houston early baseball history book. Solly did things the right way. He never was out for credit. He simply wanted to support causes he believed in.  .

Solly Hemus is proof. ~ We are “Houston Strong” ~ and we have been so ~ in so many areas ~ for so long ~ that it is only the national media that thinks that truism began with Hurricane Harvey.

Thank you, Dick Bily, for that very special Yankee ring and, please, folks, go easy on me if I’ve overlooked anyone else’s gift or kind words. My heart is still in my throat exhausted from the emotional rush of yesterday’s surprise. And, Greg Lucas, yes, thanks for that sidebar on Howard Green. My fond memories are strong of that day trip to and from Dallas for planning the TBHOF move to Houston. As you no doubt recall, there wasn’t much talk about how many oil wells this big move was going to cost either of us,

Thank You, Folks:  The surprise party was totally unnecessary, but it will always be remembered in my house as one of the happiest days in my life. As l said yesterday, all of you are precious to me. If you missed lunch with me, I’m sure you lunched somewhere. All you missed was the good company of other baseball people and at least old guy who wears a bib to protect himself from a bowl of spaghetti. That’s me, of course.

By missing me, however, you would have missed the humor and the eloquence of both Larry and Kathleen Miggins. How priceless they are to the lyrical ear of all the good stuff that makes Houston hum.

I still have my calling to the company of others outside the usual working environment, but Norma, family and SABR has me pretty well covered there. And my calling to baseball and writing shows no sign of letting up, so, I’m beyond OK. – Just don’t ever try to use me as a pinch runner.

What follows are a few pictures from the group that Mark Wernick sent me.

And, oh yes, I love you! ~ All of you!

BillMcCurdyRetirementParty.91

Bob Dorrill was our Master of Ceremonies

 

The birthday cake that someone placed among my major baseball publications and the beautiful art of Patrick Lopez.

 

Mark Wernick and the Great Jimmy Wynn

 

Mark Wernick Showing the Houston Astros World Series Champs cap

 

 

Bill McCurdy and Jimmy Wynn (facing) Larry Miggins

 

Bill McCurdy, Mark Wernick and Jimmy Wynn

 

 

Norma and Bill McCurdy, Bobby Copus

LARRY & Kathleen_edited-1

Larry and Kathleen Miggins

 

Tal Smith speaks at the party;
Jimmy and Marie Wynn in the foreground.

BillMcCurdyRetirementParty.93

Jimmy Wynn and his Astros Bling!

Astros-Ring

Astros Bling Up Close August 25, 2018

 

Eagle Field served as the home of the sandlot club we called the Pecan Park Eagles in 1950, before organized ball opened up big enough to handle all of us Houston kids who wanted to play on “real teams.” The Eagles were real enough for me. My heart still soars with their blessed memory. – Eagle Field existed on a Houston city lot still operated today as a playground in the east end at the fork-corner of Japonica and Myrtle in Pecan Park near I-45S and Griggs. In 2018, the place now bears the name of Japonica Park – with no reference to the “Eagle Field” identity that we once gave it some 68 years ago.

 

 

 

mmmmmmmmm

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11 Responses to “Thank You, Friends, for a Wonderful Surprise”

  1. Tom Hunter Says:

    Bill, I would love to have been at your surprise party and seen all your friends and admirers. The Pecan Park Eagle is a daily source of joy for me, and I will always fondly remember meeting you for lunch at Kelley’s on Park Place Blvd in Houston in October of 2016.
    Enjoy your retirement as a skull jockey, but keep plugging away at TPPE. Godspeed.

  2. Fred Soland Says:

    Bill,
    Sorry I could not be there to celebrate your retirement, but I am in Las Vegas and I couldn’t get back in time. Congratulations on your retirement and I will be able to tell you in person at the next SABR meeting! Fly high our fellow Eagle!!

  3. Cliff Blau Says:

    Congratulations on your retirement. Sounds like it was a wonderful party.

  4. maxwell1901 Says:

    Thank you and you’re welcome, Bill. I’ve been in touch with the author of the book to tell him about Mike McCroskey’s club with the three nails. We shall see how he replies. Congratulations and good luck on your retirement.

  5. bobcopus Says:

    A great day for a great man. You are obviously loved by many!

  6. Wayne Roberts Says:

    Congratulations from Austin, Texas….great event for a great man

  7. Mark W. Says:

    Bill, it was a delight to participate in this opportunity to honor you. You’ve been the glue that holds so much of our baseball life together in this community, and I hope we can honor you like this every year for the next 20 years or 30 years. We can call it the ABMR party (Annual Bill McCurdy Retirement party.)

    My lovely wife Luba is responsible for the photographs. I knew she took a few, but I didn’t realize she basically covered the whole event. She’s stealthier than I realized.

    As a final note, to clarify one small portion of your breathless text a wee bit, Tal Smith came up with what I consider the gift of the century when he bequeathed you with a complete set of the 1961 Houston Colt .45s Newsletter. It is a magnificent chronicle of the very earliest days of our major league franchise. In fact, it is so archaic that the first three issues were called the Houston Hot Stove League because the team had no name yet. The 3rd issue described the fan contest that was to be held for naming the team.
    The 4th issue announced the results of that contest, and I find myself now wondering if Houston salesman William Neder, who submitted the winning entry, is still around. Wrote Neder, “The Colt .45 won the west and will win the National League.”

    This also seems like a good place to share a portion of a piece you wrote for the 2014 National Pastime. You may already have covered this in your column at an earlier date, so please forgive me if I’m repeating it. But I think it’s a great piece of writing and does a great job of explaining how Houston’s incredible summer heat pushed MLB to change its sacred “no night baseball on Sunday” rule.

    “ It is something of a minor irony that Houston, the city that brought totally covered stadiums and air conditioning to baseball and football, also became the place that pushed the envelope on the approval of baseball on Sunday nights … Some referred to Colt Stadium as ‘The Sizzler’ because of the guaranteed double roast that fans got from the direct sun and reflected heat from the seats, sidewalks, and parking lot pavement … As of June 1962 … fans at Colt Stadium were not simply placed in positions of inconvenience and mild discomfort; they literally were placing their lives at risk during day games … Although the summer of 1962 was one of the hottest on record, the reality is that summer sizzles in Texas. Night baseball had saved the minor league game in Houston from 1930 forward … The weekend that turned the corner, moving it from concern to action on the Sunday night baseball problem, was the weekend of June 9–10. The Colt .45s faced the Dodgers … Over the course of the Colt .45s 13–1 slaughter of the Dodgers, the stadium medical staff saw numerous people with heat stress issues and at least six of them were taken from the ballpark to the Texas Medical Center with clear symptoms of full-blown heatstroke. When the score hit 11–1 after five innings, Dodgers manager Walt Alston pretty much threw in the towel in an effort to save the health of some of his valuable starters. He removed Maury Wills, Jim Gilliam, and John Roseboro as a group. None of the players on either side were injured that day, but all dragged their bodies around the field as though they could drop at any moment from the sheer weight of added water in their baseball uniforms. Houston General Manager Paul Richards put forth an immediate appeal to the Commissioner’s Office and to the other National League clubs for permission to lift the ban on Sunday Night Baseball in Houston for as long as the team continued to play outdoors for the health and safety of fans, players, and staff. The answer came at a meeting of National League clubs in Chicago on July 31, 1962. Every NL club and the Commissioner approved a time-limited removal of the ban in Houston for one season, starting in 1963, on Sunday games played after June 1. For the balance of 1962, from August 1 forward, Houston also was given permission to start their Sunday games at 4:00 PM.”

    “Houston’s Role in the Initiation of Sunday Night Baseball” by Bill McCurdy, “The National Pastime”, 2014

  8. Mark W. Says:

    So Paul Richards appealed for help after the broiler weekend of June 9-10, and the league provided some merciful relief on July 31 … SEVEN WEEKS later. Allowing a 4:00 PM game-time start in mid August in Houston is scant relief, since the daytime temperature often peaks around 5:00 PM. But now, thanks to Houston, we have covered and air-conditioned ballparks. My gratitude to, and appreciation for, the people who patrolled that field and populated the grandstands in the summer of 1962 is boundless.

    Thank you for this great history lesson Bill.

  9. strider49 Says:

    Fitting tributes all, leaving little to add—except this. The name Japonica Park is uninspired, bereft of defenders. There will be no objection to righting an ancient wrong by renaming it Eagle Field. An appropriate plaque will explain its importance in the dark days when Houston baseball supremacy was only a mirage. Let’s wield the SABR sabre and get this done. Rob

  10. Mark W. Says:

    A little googling … Mr. Neder, per this article from 6 years ago.

    https://www.khou.com/article/news/astros-name-change-weve-been-down-this-road-before/285-339812874

  11. Mark W. Says:

    Interesting epilogue to the Bill Neder story:

    https://www.wacotrib.com/sports/from-houston-colt-s-to-waco-bluecats-naming-baseball-teams/article_6961e80a-e044-59a9-9c64-02b36502ae19.html

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