’31 Buffs: Strong Defense, Great Pitching

 

In the above photo, Ed Hock is the second from right in the middle kneeling player row, but neither of his arms are visible that might give us evidence of a glove on his right hand and conformation of the recorded fact that he was a left-handed throwing fielder, whether he played or infield. Tis a puzzlement.

On the heels of that wonderful exposition by Timothy Hock of the signed baseball by the 1931 Houston Buffs we ran yesterday here at TPPE in a column, we thought it were a good time to look again at how legendary Houston Post sportswriter Lloyd Gregory reviewed one of the best clubs in minor league history. And, as legendary researcher Cliff Blau raised as a question in a post-column comment, I also am at a loss to explain, even to myself, how a club so dedicated to strong defense could go with a left-handed throwing third baseman like Ed Hock ~ and still be serious in that claim ~ and with no further word from any writer, so far, including Gregory, as to how the use of a left-handed fielder at third would draw so little print from the media, even in 1931?

Could it be that Baseball Reference.com and others are somehow in error about Hock’s throwing arm as an infielder?

At any rate, we hope you enjoy Gregory’s observations. ~ What a pitching staff that ’31 Buffs club had! ~ It’s still hard to see how the Buffs gave up a 3-1 lead in games over Birmingham in the Dixie Series that fall and lost 4-3 to the Barons.

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1931 Houston Buffs: Strong Defense, Great Pitching Hailed

By Lloyd Gregory of The Houston, Texas Post-Dispatch 

For The Sporting News of St. Louis, Missouri

November 1, 1931 Edition, Page 6 

Houston, Tex. ~ Joe Schultz’s Houston, Buffs showed outstanding class to win the championship of the Texas League in 1931, tying with Beaumont for the first half title, whipping that team in a playoff series, and then walking away with honors in the second half by a 14-game margin. Because of their splendid play in the regular season, the Buffs were counted upon by their followers to whip the Birmingham Barons in the Dixie Series, but Clyde (Deerfoot) Milan’s Barons staged a remarkable comeback to beat Houston four games to three.

Birmingham won the first game, and then Houston came back with three consecutive shutouts, apparently to clinch the title. However, the Barons refuse to quit and won the next three games.

The 1931 Houston club was something like the parent club ~ the world’s champion St. Louis Cardinals ~ in that defense was stressed over offense. Great pitching and tight work by the inner defense permitted Houston to win many games on few runs.

Although the league was far from well balanced, the 1931 season was remarkably successful, considering (that these were the days of the economic) depression. President Alvin Gardiner’s circuit played to 768,064 cash customers, an increase of 77,190 over the 1930 total.

Houston proved a life-saver for the circuit, drawing at Buffalo Stadium 229,540 paid admissions, bettering by some 40,000 Houston’s previous record, set in 1928.

Night Games Proved a Real Boon

Night baseball was a boon for the Houston club, and President Fred Ankenman of the Houston club played the nocturnal pastime for all it was worth. Each Monday and Friday night at home was ladies night, with women and children admitted free. On those nights it was not unusual for 15,000 fans to attend, with half of the fans paid customers.

Dizzy Dean, Houston’s erratic young pitcher, was another boon to the league. The big righthander attracted fans wherever he pitched.

Whether Dean the next season will make the grade with the St. Louis Cardinals depends on his ability to buckle down and regard baseball seriously. Despite his remarkable 1931 record, Dean did not seem to have nearly as much stuff on the ball as he did in 1930, when he broke into professional baseball.

The 1931 attendance figures for the several (Texas League) clubs follow: 

1931 TL CLUBS GATE
BEAUMONT 84,070
DALLAS 113,285
FORT WORTH 97,672
GALVESTON 97,163
HOUSTON 229,540
SAN ANTONIO 55,202
SHREVEPORT 57,572
WICHITA FALLS 33,580

A few flowers should be flung in the general direction of the fans who live in the Island City of Galveston. Manager Del Pratt’s Buccaneers on the season standing finished last, 52 games behind Houston; but Galveston partisans supported their club most loyally. Galveston fans contend a first division club would draw around 150,000 in that city of 50,000 population.

Dean Not Alone as Magnet

Dizzy Dean was not the only magnet that enabled Houston to set an attendance record. The veteran George Payne, Tex Carleton, Elmer Hanson and Pete Fowler also turned in great pitching. Carleton won 20 games, although he was out the last month of the campaign with a broken finger. Carleton goes to the Cardinals next spring with every prospect he will make the grade. The lean righthander has a world of ability.

The hard working Hal Funk bore the brunt of the catching for Houston, and won many admirers by his conscientious labor. Funk is the sort of player who is willing to go in every day and bear down.

The colorful Carey Selph and Tom Carey formed a strong keystone combination for Houston. Selph played the best ball of his career, leading the circuit in runs scored with 116, and starring in the field. The aggressive Selph certainly ranks with the greatest second basemen of the league’s history.

Homer Peel and Joe Medwick, outfielders, furnished much of the club’s punch. The veteran Peel, rated by many the best righthanded swatsmith in the loop, clouted .326 and batted in 95 runs. 

The 20-year-old-Medwick, a Carteret, N.J., boy, playing his second year of professional baseball, was nothing less than a sensation. Medwick is a powerful young fellow, with a great pair of legs, and he can hit, run, and throw. At the start, he was a poor judge of a fly ball; but by the end of the season, he was making the hard ones look easy.

Medwick’s performance is led by the fact that he led the league in the following departments: Total bases 308; extra bases 120; home runs 19; runs batted in 126.

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On the same page of TSN’s 11/01/31 edition that displayed Lloyd Gregory’s summary appraisal of the 1931 Houston Buffs, the same Houston Post-Dispatch writers picks for the 14-member Texas League All Star Team glowed from the presence of 8 members who were on board from the league champion Houston Buffalos.

Lloyd Gregory’s 1931 Texas League All Stars: *

POS   BATTERS   TEAM   BA
1B   Buck STANTON   Wichita Falls   .347
2B   Carey SELPH   Houston   .322
SS   Eddie TAYLOR   Beaumont   .300
3B   Ed HOCK   Houston   .299
LF   Homer PEEL   Houston   .326
CF   Joe MEDWICK   Houston   .305
RF   Rip RADCLIFF   Shreveport   .361
C   Hal FUNK   Houston   .254
C   Bernie HUNGLING   Wichita Falls   .329
             
#   PITCHERS   TEAM   W-L
1   Dizzy DEAN   Houston   26-10
2   Dick McCABE   Fort Worth   23-7
3   George PAYNE   Houston   23-13
4   Tex CARLETON   Houston   20-7
5   Whit WYATT   Beaumont   11-3

Gregory picked Dizzy Dean as the 1931 TL MVP.

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

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