Archive for the ‘Baseball’ Category

Items from The Sangster Kid’s Dream Reliquary

April 4, 2019

 

0ld keepsake boxes in the attic do have their little stories to tell, if we once in a lifetime of rainy Saturdays decide to let them out to speak about what we treasured at earlier points in our lives..

Rob Sangster

Rob Sangster, old friend, former writer colleague on the 1955-56 Eagle senior class writing staff at St. Thomas HS did one of those rare rainy Saturday searches recently when he opened the lid on his kid memories of Houston Buffs baseball and Houston schoolboy football during the 1950s. The following is a sample of what Rob has found, so far.

Rob found his 1953 Houston Buff Knot Hole Gang card.

So why does the card read “Bob” Sangster and not “Rob” Sangster? ~ Changes over time and personal choice is my best answer. Bob Sangster and I left St. Thomas as 1956 graduates. He stood about 5’10” when he went to Stanford that fall. Years later, he left Stanford with an undergraduate degree and then added a Stanford law degree to his cool  academic resume. By this time, he was 6’4″ inches tall and was now shortening his formal first name “Robert” to Rob.

Many of us have made comparable brand narrative variant identity name changes in our legal identities as we have “matured” in our early years. My formal first name is William, of course, but, thanks to my parents, I was “Billy” from birth through the 8th grade. Once I moved up to the 9th grade at St.Thomas (Houston), I introduced myself to new people as “Bill” and I insisted that even my old “Billy” chums start calling me “Bill” as well. Most complied ~ at least to my face. ~ How many Bills, Johns, Teds, and how many other people, male and female, have gone through similar kinds of street name identity adjustments as adolescents? The historic count has to be way up there in the millions is my guess.

The main thing here (for kids about 7 to 17) is that possessing that Knot Hole Gang Card got you into the Houston Buff games for two-bits (a quarter). We had to sit together in the Knothole Gang section down the far left field line. That restriction kept most of the older kids from coming. Even then it wasn’t cool for older teenagers to be hanging out with us younger goofballs.

For those of us who loved the Texas League Buffs, we Knot Hole Gang members caught the break of our stands being located directly in front of the Houston Buffs clubhouse. Getting a wave of the hand or a shouted “thanks for being here for us” from one of the players was enough to boost our spirits for days.

KNOT HOLE GANG RULES
1. I will not attend any Buff game without my parents (sic) permission.
2. I will not throw anything while in the park.
3. I will not smoke in the park.
4. I agree to remain in the Knot Hole Gang section (at) all times.
5. I agree that breaking any of the above rules may forfeit my membership in the Knothole Gang.

Knot Hole Gangsters used any kind of paper they could find to collect their pencil-driven autographs whenever the opportunity presented itself. We doubt that Rob Sangster knows all the recognizable names presented here, but the point is ~after 66 years, he’s still got ’em!

Here’s a more focused look at the top of the previous Sangster autograph paper. Don’t ask me who they are?! ~ I’m growing blinder by the day.

straight from a page that once existed as part of a really cool notebook.

A St. Thomas Eagles High School Football Lineup program from
1954.

Check the weights on these St.Thomas football players from 1954.

We believe this to be a copy of Bob/Rob Sangster’s “last hurrah” as an actual football player for any football team. He must have been a 13-year old 8th grader at Vincent Catholic School in Houston in 1951.

St. Vincent DePaul
1951 Football Roster
Parochial School Level

Bob/Rob Sangster always demonstrated a knack for logically predicting the consequences of his actions upon his future career and making adjustments accordingly. This talent has served him well through his adult life, but in the St. Vincent case, his 95 pound weight as a 13-year old lineman obviously helped him foresee that college football or the NFL were not his likely soul-seering destinies.

Thanks, Rob, for sharing these few treasured relics of your own early path search. They are all beautiful.

About Rob Sangster

The whole picture of this man already is served up well at https://www.amazon.com/Rob-Sangster/e/B006ZN9KTS

Rob has lived the kind of life that many of us only have dreamed about ~ as shone in this italicized Amazon.com quote:

Chased by a Cape Buffalo in Botswana and then by a corrupt governor in Tennessee. Abducted by a black market money changer in Mombasa. Spent one New Years Eve in Paradise Bay, Antarctica; another in the Himalayas. And throw in swimming with Humpback whales, spending the night on top of a Mayan temple in Tikal, Guatemala, and traveling in seven continents and more than 100 countries – all of which were more important to him than earning the last possible dollar. And that attitude led inevitably to . . . becoming a writer.

Rob’s first novel, Ground Truth, will soon be followed by an adventure with a wildly different plot featuring three of the same key players. Now living half of each year on the coast of Nova Scotia, his curiosity about the far corners of the world remains undiminished, but he’s hooked on fiction.

Publications:

– Traveler’s Tool Kit: How to Travel Absolutely Anywhere, was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection.

– Traveler’s Tool Kit: Mexico & Central America (2008) won a national award.

– He wrote a weekly newspaper column titled On the Road Again and delivered weekly essays on public radio. He’s written regularly for various national travel-related publications and was Travel Editor for GORP, a large adventure travel web site (gorp.com).

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{Publications Update, April 2019}: Rob Sangster has now written and published thee books in the Jack Strider action/adventure series, each moving deeper into character and mired into fast-grabbing action and great layered plot. The series includes Ground Truth, Deep Time, and No Return. These works hold their own easily with the likes of John Grisham and Tom Clancy in all ways.

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Education: BA from Stanford University, MA at the UCLA School of Architecture and Urban Planning, and JD from Stanford Law School. Admitted to practice in California and before the Supreme Court of the United States.

Work: Disguised in a three-piece suit, he practiced law for a several years and then administered national subsidized housing programs from Washington, DC. He returned to the private sector to develop multi-family and single-family housing for lower-income persons.

As sidelines, he also operated three restaurants, started a non-profit foundation that donated equipment to disinfect contaminated water in less-developed countries, and took 30,000 photographs. 

**********

One day in our senior Latin class at St. Thomas, I noticed that my buddy “Bob” Sangster, sitting next to me, seemed to be working way too much on taking notes in a class in which he hardly ever wrote anything down. When he finished, Ron sat back and left the scribbled page open for all who cared to read what he had been creating. It was a fancy-lettered four word phrase:

“Chairman of the Bored” 

Something tells me that Rob Sangster hasn’t been bored for long in a very long time. If he has been bored at all, which I’m certain he has, he’s found a quick solution for it in the wonders that surround him in this world and in the company of his beautiful mind.

Married to fellow writer Lisa Turner, the couple splits the year living in their two homes in Memphis and Nova Scotia. All you have to do to confirm that Lisa brings her own light to this party of life is talk with her for a while. And how sweet it is too ~ in Rob’s case ~ that surviving evidence of his passion acquirements all start with a 1953 Knothole Gang Membership Card and a few faded paper scrap baseball wannabe player autographs that Rob/ne:Bob Sangster never threw away.

Baseball ~ as it always has been ~ and, hopefully, always will be ~ is one of the great inspirations to cultures that embrace the game’s legacy to all of us on so many levels of what’s good about life.

 

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

M Kates’ SABR Books, Part 2

March 31, 2019

Marty Appel at Casey Stengel Book Signing

THE SABR CONVENTION BOOKSHELF

 

(Part II: 2008 to 2017)

 

By Maxwell Kates

 

Maxwell Kates and the Mensch on the Bench

Last month, we revisited six SABR conventions by turning the pages on books about Milwaukee County Stadium, Ted Williams, the 1919 World Series, baseball in Canada, the Seattle Pilots, and Flood v. Kuhn. Not too shabby in terms of baseball history coverage. We’re going to start this month’s column in Cleveland through the eyes of a sportswriter who covered the Indians from Mel Harder to Rocky Colavito.

PLAIN DEALING

SABR 38 – Cleveland, OH – 2008

Plain Dealing

Plain Dealing is James Odenkirk’s biography of Cleveland sports journalism pioneer Gordon Cobbledick. The title is a pun on the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Cobbledick’s newspaper for over 40 years. Born on the final day of 1898, Cobbledick ultimately became sports editor from 1947 until he retired in 1964. He covered the Battle of Okinawa as a war correspondent and in 1966, wrote a biography of Rocky Colavito entitled Don’t Knock the Rock. Cobbledick died in 1969 and was awarded his J. G. Taylor Spink Award posthumously in 1977.

Baseball and the media was one of the themes inherent to the Cleveland convention. Bob DiBiasio of the Indians moderated a Baseball Media Panel attended by broadcasters Tom Hamilton and Rick Manning along with sportswriting legend Russ Schneider. A second panel, specific to broadcasters, was moderated by Curt Smith. Hamilton appeared on this one as well, alongside mike men Jon Miller and Duane Kuiper of the visiting San Francisco Giants. Merle Harmon was also scheduled to appear on the Broadcasting Panel, only to cancel because of a conflict with an ecclesiastical commitment in Dallas that weekend.

An added bonus to my copy of Plain Dealing was the inscription I found when I opened the book. Odenkirk had signed and dedicated the copy to Paul Gustafson. A native of Gig Harbor, Washington, Gustafson was the first person I ever met at a SABR convention. He was born in 1941 and died in 2005.

512 and ROY SIEVERS

SABR 39 – Washington, DC – 2009

512 and Roy Sievers

Like Houston, Washington boasts a strong local network within the parameters of SABR. It was at the Washington convention that I got to know several members of the organizing committee, including Dave Raglin, Barb Mantegani, Mark Pattison, Gary Sarnoff, and D. Bruce Brown. It was through my Washington connections that I learned about the Talkin’ Baseball Book Discussion. Moderated by Dave Paulson, the book discussion takes place on the first Saturday of every month in Columbia, Maryland. I attended twice, once in 2015 and again in 2018. Accordingly, the two books I have selected to represent the Washington convention are the two presentations I attended in Columbia.

The speaker at the 2015 discussion I attended was Ralph Peluso, whose novel 512 answers the question “What would have happened in Babe Ruth had played his entire career as a pitcher?” The title should provide a clue. The 2018 session featured Paul Scimonelli, author of Roy Sievers: The Sweetest Right Handed Swing. Whether Scimonelli’s claim that Sievers is worthy of a plaque in Cooperstown is a matter of debate. On the other hand, Sievers did provide Washington fans something to cheer for at a time the franchise finished “first in war, first in peace, and last in the American League.” I was fortunate to have purchased one of only 240 copies of the book Sievers was able to sign before his death in late 2017.

No story about the Talkin’ Baseball Book Discussion would be complete without the following anecdote about Dave Paulson. Years earlier, in 2003, he contacted me to enquire if I could ask Fergie Jenkins to autograph a first day cover in his collection. Paulson told me that his daughter was actually engaged to a Canadian, but that they had to postpone the wedding due to the SARS outbreak which shut down Toronto in March and April 2003. I replied, “Funny you should say that. My parents have friends whose son is engaged to an American woman. They too had to postpone their wedding on account of SARS.”

On my next visit to my parents’ house, I saw the wedding invitation. The bride’s parents was indeed from Columbia, Maryland and their names happened to have been Dr. and Mrs. David Paulson!

THE BILKO ATHLETIC CLUB

SABR 41 – Los Angeles, CA – 2011

The Bilko Athletic Club

Before the Dodgers moved west from Brooklyn, the Los Angeles area hosted two Pacific Coast League teams. There were the Hollywood Stars, who played at Gilmore Field, and then there were the Los Angeles Angels, who played at Wrigley Field. Established in 1903, the Angels were a top minor league affiliate of the Chicago Cubs for decades. The California version of Wrigley Field opened in 1925 and was modeled after 1060 West Addison. The calibre of play in the Pacific Coast League was exceptional to the point that in 1952, it abandoned its AAA status in favour of an ‘Open’ classification, with the hope to ultimately become a third major league.

Gaylon Hooper White’s The Bilko Athletic Club tells the story of the 1956 Los Angeles Angels. Managed by Bob Scheffing, the Angels went 107-61, demolishing the opposition en route to the Pacific Coast League pennant. The only thing on the field more colossal than the Angels’ performance was the larger than life presence of Steve Bilko. The gargantuan 1st baseman from Pennsylvania won the Pacific Coast League triple crown, hitting 55 home runs and driving in 164 while batting a robust .360. Bilko also rapped 215 base hits, scored 163 runs, and most importantly, had a television series named after him.

To sports fans of a particular age in the Southland, the Pacific Coast League was at least as important as the major leagues. One of the hallmarks of the Los Angeles convention was a tour of five ballpark sites, including Wrigley Field. In 1957, the Cubs surrendered its affiliation with the Los Angeles Angels to the Brooklyn Dodgers, which helped pave the way for the franchise’s move from the Borough of Churches a year later.

Phil Silvers (TV’s “Sgt. Bilko”) Meets Joe Bilko.

THE CAMERA NEVER BLINKS (TWICE)

SABR 44 – Houston, TX – 2014

The Camera Never Blinks

One of the greater challenges in preparing this exercise was to arrive at an appropriate selection for Houston. Most of the readership of the Pecan Park Eagle is from Houston. Therefore, the majority of baseball books about the Bayou City would fall into the category of “one few people outside of Houston have ever heard of and everyone from Houston has already read.” Then I found a two-volume series written by a Houston sportswriter about a former broadcaster for the Houston Buffs. A-Ha!

The books are The Camera Never Blinks and the Camera Never Blinks Twice, by Dan Rather and Mickey Herskowitz. Volume 1 was written in 1977 and follows an autobiographical format. Born in Wharton, Texas in 1931 and raised in Houston, Rather was graduated from Sam Houston State University with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism in 1953. After a two-year tour of duty with the Chronicle, Rather called football play-by-play for the University of Houston Cougars, and one season of Buffs’ baseball in 1959. Rather also describes his tenure at Houston’s CBS affiliate, in particular his coverage of Hurricane Carla in 1961. Rather departed Houston for New York a year later, where in 1975, he became a correspondent for 60 Minutes.

By the time The Camera Never Blinks Twice was written, in 1994, Rather had succeeded Walter Cronkite as the anchor for the CBS Evening News. Volume 2 is thematic rather than chronological, focusing on the world events Rather covered in the 1980s and early 1990s, including Afghanistan, Tiananmen Square, and the time Mr. Gorbachev “tore down that wall.”

Mickey Herskowitz was a speaker at the Houston convention, appearing as part of the Colt .45s Panel moderated by Greg Lucas. Dressed in a lime green suit, Mickey and I had a lengthy conversation about Howard Cosell after the panel. That’s when he noticed Toronto on my badge. He pointed, exclaiming that “You know, I’m half-Canadian!” I rolled my eyes and thought “Right you are.” Returning home after the convention, I found an online article about Mickey. True enough, Milton Leon Herskowitz’ mother came from the small but vibrant Jewish community in Saint John, New Brunswick.

Happy birthday Mickey on April 4!

Mickey Herskowitz

BOBBY MADURO AND THE CUBAN SUGAR KINGS

SABR 46 – Miami, FL – 2016

Author Lou Hernandez and  Subject Bobby Maduro

Bobby Maduro and the Cuban Sugar Kings is a new book, written by South Florida author Lou Hernandez. Maduro was born in Havana in 1916 and by the age of 30, had established himself as a Cuban baseball executive. One of the builders of Gran Stadium in Havana, Maduro believed that baseball was the bridge of diplomacy to link the United States and Latin America. Maduro was a visionary whose ultimate goal was to bring a major league team to Cuba. By 1953, he was the majority owner of the Havana Cubans of the Florida International League. A year later, the AAA Cuban Sugar Kings played their inaugural season (and it is the Cuban Sugar Kings). The high water mark for the franchise took place in 1959 when the Cuban Sugar Kings defeated the Minneapolis Millers to win the Junior World Series. Political turmoil beyond anyone’s control forced the International League to transfer the franchise to Jersey City in July 1960.

Maduro and his family had all followed the Sugar Kings out of Cuba by 1961. He became the President of the Jacksonville Suns, acquiring the territory from the Houston Colt .45s in a trade for outfielder Jim Pendleton. In 1979, Maduro founded the Inter-American League. With teams throughout Latin America from Miami to Maracaibo, the league played AAA calibre baseball until its suspension in June. Maduro passed away in 1986, age 70.

Maduro’s life in many ways mirrors the Cuban American experience of success, resilience, family, multiculturalism, and pride. Cuba formed a significant component of the curriculum in Miami. Lectures included “The Short But Sensational Life of the Sugar Kings,” “The Night Frank Verdi Got Shot,” and “The Five Greatest Myths of Cuban Baseball.” Among those to attended the convention were Maduro’s grandson Jorge. Havana native Jose Ramirez and the late Peter Bjarkman figured prominently at the convention, while Kit Krieger of Cubaball Tours had set up a booth in the vendors’ room. Prior to the Cuban Players Panel, I had asked former infielder Mike de la Hoz to sign a brand new book on Cuban players, speaking to him in Spanish. He replied, “Don’t you speak English?” to which I followed, “Of course I speak English!”

It is also worth noting that Marlins Park is built adjacent to the site of the Orioles’ spring training facility for many years, a venue which in 1987 was re-baptized as Bobby Maduro Stadium. While it was still called Miami Stadium, Baltimore pitcher Mike Cuellar often received parking tickets for stationing in a spot reserved for a local newspaper. Among the dailies to cover spring training in Miami was the Cuban Star. Cuellar defended his parking position by arguing, “That’s me – Cuban star!”

CASEY STENGEL: BASEBALL’S GREATEST CHARACTER

SABR 47 – New York, NY – 2017

20. Marty Appel and Casey Stengel

Marty Appel at Casey Stengel Book Signing.

For a convention hosted by the Casey Stengel Chapter, why not select a book about Casey Stengel? Written by Marty Appel, Baseball’s Greatest Character is the biography of a baseball legend shared by all four of the Big Apple’s modern baseball teams. Born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1890, Stengel played nine of his 14 seasons as a National League outfielder with the Brooklyn Robins and the New York Giants. As a member of the visiting Giants in 1923, Stengel held the distinction to have hit the first World Series home run at Yankee Stadium. As a manager, he piloted the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1934 to 1936, the New York Yankees from 1949 to 1960, and the New York Mets from 1962 to 1965. Stengel’s managerial record with the latter two teams is well known, ten American League pennants and seven World Championships in Yankee pinstripes, followed by four consecutive last place, 100-loss seasons with the Metropolitans. Stengel died in 1975.

Marty Appel was an important player of the New York convention. He participated in both the Casey Stengel panel and the Jim Bouton panel. Prior to the SABR game at Citi Field between the Mets and the Philadelphia Phillies, Marty conducted a book signing of Casey Stengel: Baseball’s Greatest Character. Marty had previously written about Stengel in Pinstripe Empire: The New York Yankees from Before the Babe to After the Boss, and has an additional 20 titles to his credit. There is no word yet on any pending translations of the biography into Stengelese.

CONCLUSION

San Diego Baseball Research Center

Well, that’s my selection for the SABR convention baseball bookshelf. SABR 49 is scheduled for June 26 to 30, 2019, in San Diego. Keep monitoring the website for developments as they become official. While in San Diego, do not hesitate to visit the Sullivan Family Baseball Research Center. Founded in 1998 by the Ted Williams Chapter of SABR and the San Diego Public Library, the Center contains over 6,000 baseball books and DVD’s in its archives. Maybe someone will write a book on baseball in San Diego and call it “The Kid Did Not Doff.” And yes, that is the actual size of a 1962 Cleveland Indians yearbook. According to hobbyist Kyle Boetel, the Indians printed yearbooks with a wingspan equal to the width of three seats at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. In the days when played before a sea of empty bleachers, the thought was that if everyone opened their yearbook at the same time, the crowd would appear three times as large on television. Let’s close with a photo of the Padres emulating Dr. Dolittle as they ‘talk to the animals.’

The Padres at the San Diego Zoo

 

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The following link will take you to Part 1 of this two-column report:

M Kates SABR Books Part One

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

Houston Babies Couple in Channel 2 Spotlight

March 30, 2019

Jo Hale
Houston Babies Vintage Baseball
Houston Senior Softball
__________
Sketch By Patrick Lopez

 

Bill and Jo Hale are two of the happiest, nicest, funnest people to be around in our little Houston baseball circle and what happened this past week could not have happened to two finer human beings and passionate lovers of the game.

As senior league Houston area softball players, the Hales were the special report videotape segment guests this past Wednesday on KPRC-TV Channel 2’s 1:00 PM daily show, Houston Life, hosted by Courtney Zavala & Derrick Shore.

Smiles effusing as ever, the youngest early 70’s couple we know happily reported on their long time love for anything that invited their play of the baseball game format, even if it has to be, in this instance, a larger, softer, thuddier kind of ball than the one we see flying out of Minute Maid Park on wings.

Bill Hale
Houston Babies Vintage Baseball
Houston Senior Softball
—————
Sketch by Patrick Lopez

 

Must add here. ~ The Hales are both veteran members of our SABR-based Houston Babies vintage baseball team, a club that has been playing the gloveless version of baseball by the 1860 rules since 2008. As with senior softball, Jo Hale is one of the few women vintage ball players, but she can hold her own with the best of the cloud-free Saturday morning players on the George Ranch plains of vintage contestation any time you care to drop by and watch a game in progress.

And now we hear more in the Houston Life report that she and Bill have been going at it even longer at the “stayin’ alive” local fields of Senior softball. Both Hales are very much in touch with the “use it or lose it” aspect of aging and do a super great job of committing themselves to keeping the motion of body and soul going in the right direction for all the right reasons.

Asked how he felt about competition with younger players, Bill Hale made grinning reference to the fact that he looks forward to taking on the “flat-bellies” any time he gets the chance. Asked how she felt about competing with the men, Jo Hale tossed that one into the gender blindness bag. “Whoever takes me on is going to get my best efforts working to beat them!”

Winners both. ~ Winners all. ~ I am so happy to have met and gotten to know these two great friends and lovers of the game we call baseball!

ESSENTIAL ADDENDUM: This just in from Bill Hale himself ~ as a comment below that could have been the headline of this column, had we know about it in time. ~ Here it is, in the words of Bill Hale that really belong up here as the icing on the cake part of our story: “Humble to announce that Jo and I were inducted into the Texas Senior Softball Hall of Fame this past Friday. We are both really honored to receive this acclaim.”

The thing speaks for itself. ~ Congratulations to Bill and Jo Hale upon their 2019 inductions into the Texas Senior Softball Hall of Fame!

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

MLB’s Identity Crisis ~ Desanctis

March 29, 2019
cooperstown

Doubleday Field ~ Cooperstown, NY

Thank you, Darrell Pittman, for being the friendship gift that simply keeps on giving to our understanding and focus upon issues that now effect our game of baseball in ways that will likely continue at a relentless pace. Are going to protect our beautiful game’s independence from the clock and replace it with time measured and limited possibility?

Are we going to simply stand by and watch the game of baseball get gang-flanked by an ego-bushel of opportunistic “executives” in the Commissioner’s Office ~ corporate minds who think as veiled scoundrels who would gladly sell-out the foundation of baseball for the benefit of their own personal advancements.

Everyone who cares about the preservation of the game needs to read this incisive article by Alexandra Desanctis for the National Review about the tenet issues that are at stake here:

Major League Baseball’s Identity Crisis | National Review

In brief, the author’s final two paragraphs sum it up very well:

“There’s a faction of baseball fans who never want to see any changes to their sport — many still mourn the decades-old decision to introduce the designated hitter in the American League. But for even less diehard fans, it isn’t clear what problem these alterations are meant to solve. If anything, fans are more concerned about rising rates of strikeouts and home runs than they are about pace of play, yet these concerns receive comparatively little attention. *

“Baseball’s identity crisis exists not because the game is ill-suited to modern times, but because the people in charge care more about catering to people who will never love baseball — no matter how fast the game might fly — than they do about satisfying the fans they already have.”

* Hours after after this article was written, on March 28, 2019, the Los Angeles Dodgers set a new MLB record by hitting 8 home runs on Opening Day.

Thank you for your clairvoyant brilliance, Ms. Desanctis!

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The One-Minute Long Season

March 28, 2019

flag bunting

The One-Minute Long Season

“Welcome to Opening Day! … Nice start! … Can’t win ’em all! … There’s a long drive to left field ~ It’s going ~ It’s going ~ It’s GONE! … Ground ball going down shortstop way. ~ Second to First. ~ It’s a double play! ~ And there goes manager Kayser to the mound. ~ That’s going to be all for Ish Kabibble! … Here comes some mean looking dark clouds at us from out of the right field sky! ~ We could be headed for a little trouble here pretty soon! … And batter Dawkins doesn’t like that call at all! ~ And Umpire Justice doesn’t seem to be too happy with Dawkins either! ~ Whatever Dawkins said ~ his articulation just earned him a run he hadn’t planned to take in the 2nd inning! ~ ‘Cause this one is all the way back to the visitor’s clubhouse! ~ That’s the 4th error on Sure-hands Sewell this afternoon. ~ Maybe he’s finally found a way to ditch that nickname they pinned on him for playing 145 rookie games at short last year without committing a single miscue! … Here comes Rick Rudely in from the pen again. ~ The guy either has a rubber arm or a manager with little to no imagination! ~ (Will I get fired for saying that? ~ After all, Rudely does pitch for the other team?) … Uh Oh! … Another coming and going pitch off the bat of Tommy Twister has just taken wings and departed the field in left! ~ This one hit an altitude of 500 feet in about 1.5 seconds and is headed east in the general direction of Beaumont! ~ That was Tommy’s 31st home run of the season! … And Sammy Swerve slides into 3rd base for his 21st steal of the season! … Back from a hamstring injury, home club all star ace Ish Kabibble goes for his 20th win on the last day of the season. ~ If he can get the job done, the home town Houston Buffs will take the regular season top spot and be favored to win the playoffs for the Texas League Championship! … Wish we could’ve told you more, but we only had a minute to get all this stuff you see here written down. ~ Like always, the long season for winners is a beautiful life to lead while it lasts. … Gotta go now, the Last Day of the Season is upon us!”

Good Luck to the Houston Astros today ~ as the club opens the 2019 American League season at Tropicana Field in Florida against the Tampa Bay Rays. If you are an Astro fan, let’s hope too that this first day of the long season is but the first step on our way back to some post-season retribution and a return of the World Series Championship trophy to the Bayou City!

flag bunting 2

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

Some Perfect Games May Be Ruled Out

March 26, 2019

 

OK, we know. We get it. It’s extraneously clear. ~ The projected probability of an extra inning perfect game already is so off-the-stathead-radar-screen as to be unworthy of much practical discussion, but this is baseball ~ a sport that lives and breathes on its courtship with eternity and its romantic long season attraction to the possibility of the most highly improbable events.

Need a few examples? How about just the ones exposed in fictional form through movies like “The Natural” and “Field of Dreams?” ~ Prefer a hip-hugging clutch upon the game’s history in reality, try that incredible run in 1951, when the deliverance of the strongly improbable played out as serious melodrama over the course of the second half of the National League season and culminated in something we still relish today as “The Shot Heard ‘Round The World.”

Now, one of the new measures to be tested as one of many possible changes that could help the game of baseball pick up its pace of play and shorten games has arisen as a threat to end, once and for all, a possibility that is immeasurably more remote at the MLB level than the 1951 NL season outcome was for the New York Giants.

I’d put it this strongly: We might see another season outcomes like 1951 for another 100 times ~ and still be waiting for the arrival of this possibility ~ the arrival of an extra inning perfect game. One of the trial devises makes it absolutely impossible and here’s obviously why that’s true:

A true perfect game must be pitched by one pitcher for a nine inning win who does not allow a single runner to reach base by any means ~ and whose team does not allow any runner to reach base safely as a result of error or any ruled play of fielder interference upon a batter or runner to first.

The proposed death of that possibility for extra inning games is subtly stated in the Atlantic Independent  League trial plan: – Both clubs will start the 10th inning of the All-Star Game, and each subsequent inning, with a runner on second base (re-entry substitutions allowed for runners). 

While that automatic runner at 2nd base to start the 10th inning doesn’t sound like any big harm as a measure of help to ending a day-at-the-park exhibition game finish earlier, it would change baseball completely, if it ever developed support for becoming the rule in regular season MLB games.

Example: Let’s say the home club pitcher has a perfect game going into the top of the 10th in a scoreless tie. The automatic runner at 2nd base then becomes the first runner of the day for the visitors.

Let’s say the home club pitcher gets the three men he faces out and his club’s first batter leads off the bottom of the 10th with a game winning HR and a 2-0, 10-inning, no-hitter, but no perfecto. ~ Remember: the homies also had an automatic runner at 2nd base from the start of their first extra inning time at bat. ~ The automatic runner from the visitors top side time was only there long enough to provide an LOB (left on base) box score stat, but that was long enough to cancel the word “perfect” out of the no-hitter game equation.

An Eagle Field Illustration
Japonica @ Myrtle Street
Pecan Park, Houston, 1950

So What’s the Big Deal? Go back to what we said earlier. Baseball is “a sport that lives and breathes on its courtship with eternity.” We are not mourning the loss of something improbable. We are hurt by the elimination of an extra inning perfecto as a possibility.

Our hope for eternity hinges upon our faith in possibility. As post World War II sandlot kids, we didn’t care anything about the difference between possibility and probability. ~ We didn’t even know the words. ~ But we did get the message about baseball from the heroes we watched at Buff Stadium in Houston and other minor league club ballparks all across America ~ and from the smiling faces of uniformed big leaguers that we only saw on bubble gum cards ~ and first hand ~ from the sandlots where we played the game too: Baseball is forever. If we love it ~ and if we work at it it and get better at it ~ just maybe ~ we too could play at Buff Stadium someday ~ and maybe too ~ some of us could also even make it onto our own baseball cards in the same way!

We ancient sandlotters didn’t even have to wrap the words “possibility” and “probability” into our minds to find them each working their way into our early dreams about a baseball future ~ and the future, furthermore, was heaven ~ a place that is all about forever.

Take away the possibility of an extra inning perfect game ~ one that most probably isn’t going to happen anyway ~ and you tear a tiny hole in baseball’s dance picture with eternity. Strip away enough of these little hope connections that the game so deeply rests upon as its connection to the future of forever ~ and baseball goes “pop” as an ideal that sets it above and apart from all the other major team sports that are governed by the clock.

Whatever we choose to believe about what happens, if anything, beyond death is up to each of us. Everything we all do collectively, however, is the legacy that all of us leave to the world of tomorrow ~ and, so far ~ the legacy of baseball has been that we care about those long-range hopes for the game as our time era culture’s legacy gift to whatever the world of the future may choose to become.

The runner on 2nd base proposal at the start of extra innings simply goes against the grain of baseball’s legacy of time independence and it acts as a killer of possibility and a nod to saving “time”.

Let’s try not to kill baseball’s independence from the clock and rare possibility as our answer to what now seems like a mere problem with shorter attention spans in the burgeoning new digital age. Maybe SABR needs to put together a new study group on the importance of baseball’s independence from the clock.

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

 

Home, Home at The Game

March 25, 2019

Artwork by the Late Patrick Lopez.

Home, Home at The Game

By Bill McCurdy

Oh give time a home ~ where the buffalo roam,

Where our dear ~ and sweet memories ~ play.

Where seldom was heard ~ a tweet ~ ‘cept from birds,

And the landlines lay sleeping ~ all day!

 

Home! ~ Later home at ~ the Dome!

We still came ~ for baseball ~ first hand!

To scorecard the game ~ watch each pitch ~ frame to frame

Our hearts soared ~ this is why ~ many came!

 

Now we’re seeking ~ a home,

Where new rules are the comb,

For untangling baseball’s ~ great might,

With inglorious victories in sight!

 

It should be ~ SHOULD be ~ should BE! ~ SHOULD BE ~

Should be a vainglorious PLIGHT! ~ OUTTA SIGHT!

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MLB TODAY: Put Your Money Where Your Ouch Is!

March 22, 2019

The 1927 New York Yankees

 

That $426.5 million dollar record-in-all-sports contract that 27 year old outfielder Mike Trout signed the other day for 12 years (2019-30) of allegiant effort and service to the Los Angelus Angels of This Galaxy may someday be made to look like a bargain-of-the-week business by some newer, more far-reaching deal! ~ Who knows? ~ All I know about economics comes from a more attached-to-Planet-Earth model of the way currency works in law-abiding circles.

You have to have money ~ or a good line of credit ~ to buy things ~ and you have to understand that cash and credit are not one and the same. ~ Nothing is ever really ours until we give up something to the other party who also keeps their part of the deal by delivering what they promised to give us over some agreed upon period of time in exchange for whatever we put into play in our “value for value” deal.

Revenue Streams. In the early 20th century, MLB clubs had one revenue stream ~ and that was the income that clubs derived from the sale of game day tickets and concessions at the ballparks. Unless your favorite club was the New York Yankees, or a few other perennial big market city teams, there wasn’t much to hang your hopes upon, and, even then, the salaries, except for Babe Ruth, were contained to a reasonable range of figures for most ballplayers. Our chart for salaries earned by the great 1927 New York Yankee starters speaks quietly, but loudly to the point.

Salaries for the Starters of the 1927 New York Yankees

ORDER NY YANKEES POS/BL-BR 1927 SALARY
1 Earle Combs CF / L $         10,500
2 Mark Koenig SS / Both $          7,000
3 Babe Ruth RF / L $         70,000
4 Lou Gehrig 1B / L $          8,000
5 Bob Meusel LF / R $        13,000
6 Tony Lazerri 2B / R $          8,000
7 Joe Dugan 3B / R $        12,000
8 Pat Collins C / R $          7,000
9 Herb Pennock SP1 / LHP $        17,500
SP Waite Hoyt SP2 / RHP $        11,000
NYY Opening Day Annual Pay= $      164,000

Now skip forward to our toe-stubbing entry into the digital age ~ and all the new revenue streams through electronic media that are out there feeding the appetite for baseball to way more than the few hundreds or thousands of fans that can make it physically to the ballpark, but to the millions and even billions who may want to watch the more democratic pennant race of these early 21st century days by an ever-growing choice list of electronic media connections available today. The projected salaries for the starting lineup of the 2019 Houston Astros speaks clearly to the point. Owner Jim Crane isn’t planning to pay these salaries on ticket sales, peanuts and Cracker Jack. Nor can he be expected to cut back the expense of season tickets and remain competitive at the highest level ~ even with the extra digital stream cash goodies burning brightly on the modern baseball income revenue range. Like all other clubs, the Houston Astros could have cheaper season tickets in 2019, but they could not have this equivalent starting line up as well.

Salaries for the Starters of the 2019 Houston Astros

ORDER HOU ASTROS POS/BL-BR 2019 SALARY
1 George Springer RF / R $   12,000.000
2 Jose Altuve 2B / R $     9,500,000
3 Alex Bregman 3B / R $   16,666.667
4 Carlos Correa SS / R $     5,000,000
5 Michael Brantley DH / R $   16,000,000
6 Yuli Gurriel LF / R $   10,400,000
7 Josh Reddick 1B / L $   13,000,000
8 Rob’son Chirinos C / R $     8,251,222
9 Jake Marisnick CF / R $     2,212,000
SP Justin Verlander P / no bat $   28,000,000
Astros Opening Day Annual Pay= $ 121,029.889

Some’s Gotta Win! ~ Some’s Gotta Lose!

Season Ticket Owners ~ Get the Blues!

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

 

 

 

 

Houston ML Baseball No Immaculate Conception

March 20, 2019

Marty Marion & Bill McCurdy (2003)
Even later in life, Marty didn’t talk much about his 1960 negotiations with Judge Roy Hofheinz.

The expansion of major league baseball into Houston as a decision back in 1960 proved to be anything but an immaculate conception as the gestation period into the city’s first 1962 season bogged down in something as more than a pillow fight between MLB owner Judge Roy Hofheinz and the Houston Sports Association and President Marty Marion of the Houston Buffs over the former’s purchase of the latter’s minor league territorial ownership rights in the Houston area.

The following side-bar column by iconic Houston writer Clark Nealon in the November 9, 1960 edition of The Sporting News nails the salient issues of disagreement in a beautiful exercise in word economy. If you need to hear it expressed any shorter and more simply, just keep in mind the familiar lead actors in this all so common tale. Their Names are Ego, Power, and Money. How simple is that prescription for any safe predictions on the outcomes? This play of fortune was about as mysterious as the unfolding of a contemporary Dwayne Johnson action figure hero movie.

As a result of the acrimony that evolved between Hofheinz and Marion, any plans to use Buff Stadium as the temporary home of the new NL club until the domed stadium were completed ~ and any long-range plan to keep “Buffalos/Buffs” as the mascot of Houston in the big leagues ~ were both destroyed ~ even if Judge Roy Hofheinz’s ego never seriously intended to pass on this opportunity to put his own original imprint upon them in the first place. Now he simply had new cause to abandon that veiled salute to the sixty plus years old Houston “Buffs” tradition.

 

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

 

Rusty Staub: How Good Could He Get To Be?

March 19, 2019

 

 

Long before Les Grand Orange ripped him away from our broken Houston hearts, the above was another Clark Nealon story from the same page in The Sporting News, December 26, 1964 upon which he published his account of the MLB mascot change in Houston from Colt .45s to Astros. This time the story focus is upon the 20-year old Rusty Staub and the illusory possibility of his future greatness in reality.

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher