Archive for the ‘Baseball’ Category

Baseball Reliquary: Black History 2018

February 20, 2018

Friends & Reliquarians:

Greetings from the Baseball Reliquary! We’d like to begin by sharing details regarding two outstanding programs being co-sponsored by the Reliquary this week, in Pasadena and in San Francisco.

On Saturday, February 24, at 2:00 p.m., in celebration of Black History Month, the Reliquary collaborates with the La Pintoresca Branch Library, 1355 N. Raymond Avenue in Pasadena, to present “From Monarchs to Barons: The Legacy of the Negro Leagues.”  La Pintoresca is a beautiful library built in 1930, and it is located just blocks from Jackie Robinson’s childhood home; in fact, Jackie and his brother Mack frequented this library while growing up in Pasadena.  The Saturday program will feature a lecture/slide presentation on the Negro Leagues by author and historian Byron Motley, whose father Bob Motley was the last surviving umpire in the Negro Leagues.  In addition, one of Los Angeles’s cultural treasures, folk singer Ross Altman, will perform a couple of his baseball songs: “Ballad of Jackie Robinson” and “Civil Rights and Baseball.”  Arrive early to view an exhibit on the Negro Leagues and Jackie Robinson, including artworks by Bill Cormalis Jr., Tina Hoggatt, and Ben Sakoguchi.  A flyer for what should be a very memorable afternoon is attached.

On Wednesday, February 21, at 6:30 p.m., Robert Elias, Professor of Politics and Legal Studies at the University of San Francisco, will present a lecture/slide show entitled “Before Branch Rickey: The Hidden Forces Behind the Breaking of the Color Barrier.”  The program will be held in the Latino/Hispanic Community Room at the San Francisco Main Library, 100 Larkin Street.  While the story of the Branch Rickey-Jackie Robinson collaboration is familiar, Elias believes that it is also incomplete and, in many ways, misleading.  Aside from the ordeal faced by Robinson, Branch Rickey essentially gets all the credit.  In this version of the story, Rickey — motivated by his moral values and Christian beliefs — pursued an isolated and heroic initiative.  Some have questioned Rickey’s motives, arguing that he was as much, or more so, propelled by money: the profit he would realize from a big new set of paying fans and the championships the Dodgers would likely win with Negro League talent.

While not interested in second-guessing Rickey’s motives in his presentation, Elias will argue that rather than a lonely and heroic initiative, the breaking of the color barrier was the result of a long-term social protest movement, where Rickey was only the last piece in the puzzle.  Rickey always denied that he was influenced by others in signing Robinson and he denied credit to the people, groups, and movements that paved the way for his initiative and made it possible.  As Elias will explain, there were particular, political reasons why Rickey did so.  Pieces of the back story and the hidden history of baseball’s integration have been occasionally raised, but on Wednesday, Elias will provide a more comprehensive picture.  His talk will focus on some of the forgotten heroes of baseball’s integration, including Octavius Catto, Thomas Fitzgerald, Moses Fleetwood Walker, Jack Chapman, Wendell Smith, Paul Robeson, Lester Rodney, Bill Veeck, Sam Nahem, Ben Davis, Pete Cacchione, Vito Marcantonio, Isadore Muchnick, and Fiorello LaGuardia.

Arrive early and visit the exhibition, “A Game of Color: The African-American Experience in Baseball,” being presented by the Baseball Reliquary and the Institute for Baseball Studies in the San Francisco Main Library’s sixth-floor Skylight Gallery.  For more information on the program or exhibition, phone the San Francisco Public Library at (415) 557-4400.

Speaking of “A Game of Color,” the exhibition was the subject of an article by Joe Kukura in the February 14 edition of SF Weekly.  Kukura writes, “If you’ve got baseball on the brain, a new historical exhibit at the S.F. Public Library will give you goosebumps with its mind-blowing array of artifacts and historical items from some of baseball’s most significant African-American players and beloved hellraisers.”  We are pleased to share this link to the online version of Kukura’s article:

Baseball Reliquary. Jackie Robinson. Painting by Michael Guccione

Finally, for this edition of “Baseball Reliquary News & Notes,” we now have an official date for the Shrine of the Eternals Induction Day.  It will be Sunday, July 22, 2018 at the Donald R. Wright Auditorium in the Pasadena Central Library, Pasadena, California.  The festivities will begin at 2:00 p.m.  As usual, the ceremony falls between the Major League Baseball All-Star Game (July 17 at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.) and the National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony (July 29 in Cooperstown, New York).  This summer’s Shrine of the Eternals Induction Day marks the 20th anniversary, with the first ceremony having been held in 1999.  The voting for the Class of 2018 will take place in April, but we wanted to share the date of the induction ceremony now in case anyone wishes to include the festivities in their travel plans for the summer.

Please advise if we can provide any further information or details.

Terry Cannon
Executive Director/The Baseball Reliquary
Co-Director/Institute for Baseball Studies

phone: (626) 791-7647

Support from Pecan Park Eagle readers in, nearby, or traveling to the Los Angeles area – are especially appreciated here too. “TBR” comes across as the cat’s meow when it turns to the matter of preserving baseball on an honest, passionate, and artistic plane. We love and support what they are doing.

Sincerely, Bill McCurdy, Publisher, The Pecan Park Eagle


Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Bill Gilbert’s HOF Vote Report

February 19, 2018

Bill Gilbert’s Back With a DL-Delayed, But Still Timely Report on the Hall of Fame Vote. Welcome Back, William! And Keep on – Keepin’ On, Please! We all both enjoy and treasure all you do in the name of good baseball history and analysis.

Analyzing the 2018 Hall of Fame Vote

By Bill Gilbert

Normally, I write an analysis of the Hall of Fame election within a couple of days of the announcement but a 19 day hospital stay has put me way behind schedule. The Baseball Writers Association of America elected 4 players to the Hall of Fame this year, Chipper Jones (97.2%), Vladimir Guerrero (92.9%), Jim Thome (89.8%) and Trevor Hoffman (79.9.%). They will join Alan Trammell and Jack Morris, previously elected by the Modern Era Veterans Committee, for induction in July. Jones and Thome were elected in their first year on the ballot, Guerrero in his second year and Hoffman in his third. Edgar Martinez received 70.4% of the vote and appears to be in good position for election in 2019, his 9th year on the ballot.

Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds continue to gain a few votes but the gains were small this year. They now have 57.3% and 56.4% of the votes respectively. They have four more years on the ballot to reach the necessary 75%.

Following is a list of candidates that received votes in the election this year. A total of 422 votes were cast. For the holdovers, vote totals for last year are also shown. Newcomers on the 2018 ballot are shown in bold:

2018 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot Results

Player Years 2018 V 2018 % 2017 V 2017 % V Diff %
Chipper Jones 1 410 97.2
Vlad Guerrero 2 392 92.9 317 71.7 75 21.2
Jim Thome 1 379 89.8
Trevor Hoffman 3 337 79.9 327 74.0 10 5.9
Edgar Martinez 9 297 70.4 259 58.6 38 11.8
Mike Mussina 5 268 63.5 229 51.8 39 11.7
Roger Clemens 6 242 57.3 239 54.1 3 3.2
Barry Bonds 6 238 56.4 238 53.8 0 2.6
Curt Schilling 6 216 51.2 199 45.0 17 6.2
Omar Vizquel 1 156 37.0
Larry Walker 8 144 34.1 97 21.9 47 12.2
Fred McGriff 9 98 23.2 96 21.7 2 1.5
Manny Rameriz 2 93 22.0 105 23.8 (-12) (-1.8)
Jeff Kent 5 61 14.5 74 16.7 (-13) (-2.2)
Gary Sheffield 4 47 11.1 59 13.3 (-12) (-2.2)
Billy Wagner 3 47 11.1 45 10.2 2 0.9
Scott Rolen 1 43 10.2
Sammy Sosa 6 33 7.8 38 8.6 (-5) (-0.8)
Andruw Jones 1 31 7.3
Jamie Moyer 1 10 2.4
Johann Santana 1 10 2.4
Johnny Damon 1 8 1.9
Hideki Matsui 1 4 0.9
Chris Carpenter 1 2 0.5
Kerry Wood 1 2 0.5
Livan Hernandez 1 1 0.2
Carlos Lee 1 1 0.2

Three newcomers received enough votes (5%) to remain on the ballot, Otto Vizquel (37.0%), Scott Rolen (10.2%) and Andruw Jones (7.3%). Vizquel’s strong showing on his first appearance on the ballot suggests that he will get future consideration. In something of a surprise, two-time Cy Young Award Winner, Johann Santana, received only 2.4% of the vote and will be removed from future ballots.

Eleven of the fifteen holdover candidates received a greater percentage of the votes in 2018 than in 2017. The four that didn’t were Manny Ramirez, Gary Sheffield, Sammy Sosa and Jeff Kent. The first three have been tainted by the PED issue but it’s not clear why Kent, the leading all-time home run hitter among second baseman has failed to gain support.

The following six players were on the ballot but did not receive any votes: Orlando Hudson, Aubrey Huff, Jason Isringhausen, Brad Lidge, Kevin Millwood and Carlos Zambrano.

For the fifth straight year, the writers averaged over eight votes on their ballots (8.4) versus the historical average of 6-7. If this continues, the problem of an overcrowded ballot should gradually be relieved. The change that reduced a player’s time on the ballot from 15 to 10 years will also help. The 2019 class of ballot newcomers will be another strong one including Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Andy Pettitte and Lance Berkman.

Bill Gilbert




Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Maxwell Kates Celebrates Houston Year One

February 19, 2018

Maxwell Kates’ Collection of Books, Articles, and Other Items  that remind him of his contact with the SABR Larry Dierker Chapter.

Maxwell Kates Writes to The Membership of our SABR Larry Dierker Chapter in Houston. We thought that we would simply beat him to the punch by being the first to express our own high appreciation for his gifting presence in our own lives as members of the even larger baseball community that has thrived in Houston since the mid-19th century.

Max, your thoughtfulness of others bleeds with caring from you for others and their own long paths of hope for baseball’s greatest prize. Somehow, it simply seems part of a larger plan that your physical and conscious spiritual arrival in Houston occurred when it did – in a year that shall be forever remembered too as 2017 – the season in which one of the greatest pitchers in Detroit Tiger history arrived in time to join the Astros as a principal leader in the club’s run over the three most storied franchises in baseball winning history. Down fell the Red Sox, the Yankees, and the Dodgers – as the Houston Astros rolled to their first of what we all hope shall be only the club’s first victory in World Series play.

Keep up the wonderful monthly articles you are now doing for The Pecan Park Eagle too. We love your work and the spirit in which it is done.

Oh yes. In reference to the lead photo above, here is what Maxwell plans to say to us on Facebook tomorrow:

“This is what I plan to post tomorrow (on Facebook).  Everything in this picture is associated with a memory of someone in the Larry Dierker Chapter of Houston.  Tomorrow is the third Monday in February which marks the one year anniversary of my presentation at the Spaghetti Western.  Thank you all for the opportunity and for the memories and see you again on my next visit to Houston.

“Since the Detroit Tigers are going to be awful this year, don’t be surprised to hear me cheer for the Astros to repeat as World Champions in 2018.  Have a good meeting tomorrow for those who plan to attend.  MK.”



Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Fantasy Two-Juice Shot to Astros Lineup

February 18, 2018

Gehrig: “What do you think, Babe? – Do we go back down there to join the 2018 Astros if we get picked?”
Ruth: “Hell yes, Keed! – We GOTTA go! – These heavenly music organs ain’t got no games that follow them – and we are way too long between every whack I crave, as is! – Just hang with me. – Did I ever hand you a bum steer?”

Hey, Astro Fans!

If you could pick two players from the same previous MLB season team – from anywhere in baseball history – and magically plug them into the Astros Lineup 2018 lineup or pitching rotation at their same level of production for that particular team in that season, which of these combinations would you select? Some of these choices offer more power, others offer higher batting averages, still others offer greater speed, along with one that delivers stronger pitching only – and another that goes 50-50 on batting/pitching.

Feel free to pick your own combos, as long as both players are from the same historic team from the same year and at the level they each performed that particular season.

The Pecan Park Eagle welcomes and encourages your feedback. We’d like to know how you would cash in your pick at the “Baseball Fans’ Make-A-Wish Foundation” if this kind of magic were actually possible. Of course, with the talent in reality that is already signed up, your choices are going to also require you to sit a couple of people that would otherwise be playing a lot more this season without their gify-presence, but not to worry. This one’s all in fun!


1) 1927 Yankees: Babe Ruth, RF (.356, 60 HR, 164 RBI) and Lou Gehrig, 1B (.373, 47 HR, 175 RBI)

2) 1911 Tigers: Ty Cobb, CF (.420, 127 RBI, 83 SB) and Sam Crawford, RF (.378, 115 RBI, 37 SB)

3) 1965 SF Giants: Willie Mays, CF (.317, 52 HR, 112 RBI) and Juan Marichal, P (22-14, 2.13 ERA, 240 K)

4) 1948 Cardinals: Stan Musial, LF (.376, 39 HR, 131 RBI) and Enos Slaughter, RF (.371, 11 HR, 90 RBI)

5) 1963 LA Dodgers: Sandy Koufax, P (25-5, 1.88 ERA, 306 K) and Don Drysdale, P (19-17, 2.63, 251 K)

6) 1972 Cubs: Ron Santo, 3B (.302, 17 HR, 74 RBI) and Billy Williams, LF (.333, 37 HR, and 122 RBI)

7) 1959 M Braves: Eddie Mathews, 3B (.306, 46 HR, 114 RBI) and Hank Aaron, RF (.355, 39 HR, 123 HR)

8) 1961 Yankees: Mickey Mantle, CF (.317, 54 HR, 128 RBI) and Roger Maris (.269, 61* HR, 141 RBI)

9) 1966 Pirates: Roberto Clemente, RF (.317, 29 HR, 119 RBI) and Willie Stargell, LF (.315, 33 HR, 102 RBI)

Pick one of these, find a pair from the same year and team, and let us see your new 2018 Astros Lineup or Rotation, if you are willing to share the joy.

Have Fun! – You too, Jeff Luhnow and A.J. Hinch!



Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle


Astros That Got Away

February 17, 2018

Had it not been for former owner John McMullen’s miserly 1988 mind freeze, Nolan Ryan was well on his way to going into the Hall of Fame as a Houston Astro.

Every club loses a few players that come back to bite them later every once in a while. Those are not the guys we are looking at today. The guys on this table are the ones the Astros lost to poor trading, owner bungling, or agent tenacity and the availability of direct and indirect advertising endorsement money in the big market baseball pastures of New York and Los Angeles.

Those are the one that sting forever – or so it seem.

Granted, this is my list – and it is truly the first edition of any listings along these lines I’ve ever attempted. Other whole franchise history – or otherwise emotionally-connected ardent researchers – might surely do such a table a little differently by expansion or contraction – but I still think there are a handful of names that would appear on all really thoughtful lists – and maybe that’s the true list of “the guys that got away” – by hook or crook – to the vagaries of bum dealing, bruised ego, and the color of money.

First of all, let’s look at the full list.

The Pecan Park Eagle Original List of

Houston Astros That Got Away:

SP Mike Cuellar 1969 Orioles 143 Post-Trade Wins
SP Curt Schilling 1992 Phillies 212 Post-Trade Wins
SP Nolan Ryan 1989 Rangers HOF as Ranger.
SP Darryl Kile 1998 Rockies 62 Post-Trade Wins
RP Billy Wagner 2004 Phillies 197 Post-Trade Saves.
RP Brad Lidge 2008 Phillies 102 Post-Trade Saves.
1B Rusty Staub 1969 Expos 17 Post-Trade Seasons.
2B Joe Morgan 1972 Reds HOF as Red.
OF Jimmy Wynn 1974 Dodgers Wynn got his Series.
OF C. Beltran 2005 Mets CBGBITI2017THTHAWTFWSC *

* “Carlos Beltran Got Back In Time In 2017 To Help The Houston Astros Win Their First World Series Championship.”

Now let’s take a closer look, top to bottom, and narrow it down where plausible. Players making our final cut will have a list number preceding their names. The number simply means they are on our final cut list. It carries no weight as to their importance in the comparative scheme of things. We’ll save that judgment for our rank order conclusion – again in the spirit that we may all disagree on this phase, even if 99% of us agree that these remaining few are our true “Astros That Saddened US all When They Got Away.”

1) Mike Cuellar. The Astros lost Mike Cuellar in a multiple player deal with the Orioles on December 4, 1968 that was mainly a “Pitcher Cuellar for first baseman Curt Blefary deal.” In short, Blrfary failed miserably while Cuellar went on to four 20+ win seasons for the O’s, two 18 win years, and one for 14 in the next seasons at Baltimore. – Ouch! Yes, Cuellar makes the final list. He was something at Houston prior to the deal. He was really something special for the O’s once he back east.

Curt Schilling. Schilling was a young nobody when Baltimore threw him into the pot of a big deal for Glenn Davis of the Astros on January 10, 1991. Reaching Houston with a 1-6 career record, the uncreative Astros used him as a reliever in 56 games in 1991 and he finished the year at 3-5 with an ERA of 3.81. The following year, on April 2, 1992, the Astros traded Schilling to the Phillies for Jason Grimsley. The Phillies used Schilling as a starter in 26 of his 42 games and Curt was to the races with a 14-11 mark and a 2.35 ERA. By career’s end, he would have 216 career wins and a few moments of blushing greatness –  a man whose talents could not be sniffed out by the talent appraisers and teachers in Houston during his brief stay. – Schilling didn’t really get away from the Astros. Those in charge never had him in a teachable situation.

2) Nolan Ryan. It still hurts bad. Following the 1988 season, then Astros owner John McMullen thought that Nolan Ryan should take a pay cut on his new contract. – WOW! – How unbrilliant could the man have been to the market value of Nolan Ryan to Houston fans and everything that one day would be leading up to his induction into the Hall of Fame? Ryan already had 273 wins and all of those appetizing gates ahead of him for the games he had left to get there. He was the all-time strikeout leader from Alvin, Texas – with five no-hitters on his record – and the last one coming as an Astro – plus, he was still a mighty big cog in the club’s drive for a championship – and the owner wants him to take a pay cut because he’s getting old? And how about the fan imagery of Nolan going into the HOF as the FIRST Houston Astro to be honored?

Forget about it.

You know the rest. Ryan signs with the Rangers. Picks up a grand total of 324 wins. Pads his career K stats # to 5,714. Adds to more no-hitters fora total of 7 no-no’s by his retirement – and then – THEN (Oh, Holy Mother of Al Mothers) – he goes into the Hall of Fame as a freakin’ Texas Ranger!

I hate stupidity. And this subject reeks of it.

Would you like hear my pick now for the biggest one that got away. – OK, I’ll hold back. Suspense is good.

Darryl Kile. Not sure what happened here. Sometimes it is simply time for a player to move on – and – even if the club could have used him during those years he was being productive elsewhere, Kile feels more like one of those “wasn’t meant to be” cases.

3) Billy Wagner. At the end of the 2003 season, Billy Wagner was publicly critical of owner Drayton McLane for not doing more to help the Astros’ drive for the playoffs. As a possible result, Wagner was traded away to Philadelphia with a lot of gas left in his closer tank, starting with the 2004 season.

Brad Lidge. Four years after Wagner, prior to the 2008 season, Brad Lidge became the second Astros closer traded to the Phillies in that short space in time. In Lidge’s case, he seemed to need the change of scenery from the place where he came down with a bad case of Pujolsitis in 2005. Some players find healing from a trade. Some teams find the start of healing in the departure of a traumatized player – even if he is a nice guy like Brad Lidge.

4) Rusty Staub. Lost to the Astros due to that stupidly initiated and politically amended for the sake of Montreal and Le Grand Orange, the Staub deal serves as one of the best examples of how unchecked power by the commissioner gets things done – and in ways that do not prevent the particular abuser from being inducted into the Hall of Fame later – and also by the same smiling idiots who stand by loyally in ready service to this kind of mindless numbskullery.

5) Joe Morgan. Along with the Staub deal, the other most famous Spec Richardson trade. In this case, another man who could have gone into the Hall of Fame as an Astro, Joe Morgan, gets to go into the Cooperstown shrine as a Cincinnati Red.

Jimmy Wynn. When Jimmy Wynn moved to the Dodgers in 1974, it was Jimmy’s big gain and the Astros big loss. Wynn got to play for a great manager, Walt Alston. He got to have a great season, batting .271 with 32 homers and 108 RBI for the NL pennant winning LA Dodgers and a chance to homer in the World Series. Jimmy was near the end of his career and the trade opened the door an opportunity that never would have come with the Astros of that period.

Carlos Beltran. Carlos Beltran played like a grounded baseball god during the short-time he played for the Astros during the 2004 NL Playoffs. Then, he and his agent, Scott Boras, took the crazy big money and moved to New York and the Mets in 2005 before going through several other clubs over the years before returning to the Astros to become a big part of our first World Series Championship in Houston in 2017.

We never lost Carlos Beltran in 2005 because we never had him. But we found him – because he came back to us in 2017.


Here’s my final version of the list, in order of their importance to me:

The Pecan Park Eagle Rank Order List of

Houston Astros That Got Away:

1) Nolan Ryan

2) Joe Morgan

3) Mike Cuellar

4) Rusty Staub

5) Billy Wagner


My thanks to Fred Soland for suggesting this topic. I had fun with it.

– Bill McCurdy


Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle




284 WINS AND A SAVE By Maxwell Kates

February 15, 2018



By Maxwell Kates

Maxwell Kates

Prior to my introduction to Bob Dorrill in 2013 and my involvement with SABR in Houston, I served as part of a steering committee with the chapter in Toronto for twelve years. It was a four man operation which also included a retired teacher, a banker, and a fraud investigator. We were fortunate to have formed a strategic alliance with the Fergie Jenkins Foundation. Back when I worked in radio in St. Catharines, Ontario, the station promoted the Fergie Jenkins Golf Tournament each year. It was a fundraiser for cancer research and other charitable activities in the Niagara region of Ontario. Through my involvement with the Fergie Jenkins Foundation, I became familiar Fergie and his entourage, including Carl Kovacs, John Oddi, Brent Lawler, and the late Gene Dziadura. We would often contact Fergie’s people to arrange an opportunity for him to speak at a SABR meeting. If he were in Toronto for another event, SABR bore no responsibility for Fergie’s travel costs. On three separate occasions, in 2003, 2005, and 2009, we were successful to organize SABR meetings with Fergie Jenkins. This is the story of the Fergie Jenkins event from 2009.

Fergie’s story is rather well known. He was born on December 13, 1942, in Chatham, Ontario, about an hour northeast of the Windsor-Detroit border. Fergie’s father, ‘Big Ferg,’ was a Barbadian immigrant while his mother, Dolores, was descended of former slaves who fled antebellum America through the ‘underground railroad.’ Fergie broke in with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1965 and a year later, was traded to the Chicago Cubs. He won 20 games each year with the Cubs from 1967 to 1972, garnering the National League Cy Young Award in 1971. In 1974, Fergie was traded to the Texas Rangers, where he won an additional 25 games. He later pitched for the Boston Red Sox before ending his career with the Cubs in 1983. When he retired, Fergie’s lifetime record was 284-226 with a 3.34 ERA. Astonishingly, he struck out 3,192 batters over his career while walking only 997. In 1991, Fergie became the first Canadian to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Fergie was one of thirteen pitchers immortalized in Jim ‘Mudcat’ Grant’s 2006 book entitled The Black Aces: Baseball’s Only African-American Twenty-Game Winners. David Price and C. C. Sabathia have since joined the fraternity for a total membership of fifteen.

Fergie Jenkins’ Jacket

Fergie’s life in civilian clothes is as noteworthy as his accomplishments on the diamond. As a child, he adopted cooking, fishing, and hunting as passions that have lasted a lifetime. Fergie was an outstanding all-around athlete; the 6’5″ righthander played basketball for two seasons with the Harlem Globetrotters and according to his father, his best sport of all was hockey. As a baseball player, he was active in the Major League Baseball Players’ Association. After he retired, he ran for the Liberal party in an Ontario election in 1985. Unfortunately, Fergie also endured his share of adversity. His mother became blind while giving birth to him; she died of cancer in 1970, age 54. When Fergie received news of his enshrinement into Cooperstown, his second wife Marianne was fighting for her life after sustaining injuries in a horrific car accident. She died four days later. Their three year old daughter, Samantha, also died tragically in 1992.

Fergie was scheduled to appear at the annual Maple Leaf Baseball Forum hosted by Jack Dominico on May 2, 2009. Several months prior, we received a tip from Carl Kovacs that Fergie had planned to spend the preceding week in Toronto. As long as we gave Carl a time and place, he could arrange for Fergie to speak before us. Considering the time of year, this was no easy task. Unlike American accountants, who celebrate their tax day on April 15, the end of our tax season in Canada is ‘deferred’ to April 30. When I met with the other members of the steering committee, they assured me not to worry, that they would look after a meeting location for Sunday, April 26.

Inside Pitching – Fergie’s First Book

The weekend before the meeting, I had not heard any resolution on the location. Accordingly, I called each member of the steering committee for updates. Each of their answers were virtually identical, something like “Oh, I thought you were going to take care of that.” Fergie was coming in a week’s time and we had no place for him to speak. Things weren’t looking good for us at that moment.

Now I live in a condominium in the Davisville section of Toronto where there is a party room with two rooftop patios on the top floor. If worst came to worst, we could hold the meeting there. But with every condo there are condo rules. Rule #1, the suite owner must attend all functions in the party room. As the meeting was scheduled for the final Sunday in tax season, there was no guarantee I could even attend. And Rule #2, the party room must be arranged more than one week in advance. The event was now six days away which was less than the required lead time. Fortunately, I had neighbours who agreed to reserve the room and attend the meeting in case I had to work. Moreover, the condominium corporation waived the seven-day requirement in this particular case.

The Author and Fergie at the 2009 Maple Leaf Baseball Forum

At this stage, we could begin to think about the meeting. It was all Fergie Jenkins. The program included a screening of “King of the Hill,” a 1974 documentary by the National Film Board of Canada about Fergie’s 1972 and 1973 seasons with the Cubs. Fergie had just written a book, “Fergie: From the Cubs to Cooperstown,” and we had planned to organizing a book signing. One of the chapter members prepared a Fergie Jenkins trivia contest and Fergie agreed to participate in a question and answer session. Preparing for the meeting was no easy task. It proved to be a comedy of errors, hits, and runs.

In those years I worked for a boutique accounting firm in Concord, Ontario, a suburb to the northwest of Toronto. As we were about to be dismissed on Saturday, April 25, I noticed the sky turn black very quickly as both wind and rain intensified. None of this was in the forecast. I got in my car and headed towards Highway 400, an arterial freeway leading into Toronto. Although I was driving the speed limit, I had to grip the steering wheel because the wind was going even faster. There was almost nobody on the roads. Highway 401, the Allen Expressway, and city streets home were no different. It dawned on me that if weather conditions in Buffalo were this bad, there was no way Fergie’s plane could land. Finally I arrived home where I was greeted by Chuck Rodgers, an elderly security guard originally from St. John’s, Newfoundland.

“You must be out of your mind!” Chuck said to me.

“That was proven long ago,” was my reply.

“Do you have any idea what you just did? You just drove home in the middle of a tornado!”

The Quiet Winner

My 1997 Honda Civic was old and compact but seemingly invincible. I had driven it up a major hill on a sheet of ice without snow tires the previous winter, and now the car got me home safely through a tornado. Somehow, Fergie and his inbound flight from Phoenix managed to land safely in Buffalo that evening as well. We were not out of the woods yet.

It was now April 26, a workday and the final Sunday of tax season. Around 11:00 am, there was a telephone call to the office. It was Carl. He was with Fergie at a hotel near Pearson Airport. The Fergiemobile had broken down and they needed a lift to the meeting. Could I help?

Both Editions of “The Game Is Easy, Life Is Hard”.

“Ordinarily,” I replied to Carl, “I would only be too happy to chauffeur you and Fergie to and from the meeting. The problem is that I have to work all day and I’m not even sure I will be able to attend.” I reached out to the other members of the steering committee to enquire if they could provide Fergie and Carl with travel arrangements to and from the meeting. There was no commitment. Fortunately, Brent Lawler was available to drive up from St. Catharines to Fergie’s hotel in Toronto, and then to the SABR meeting. I thought to myself, “You better stop by the liquor store on your way home from work in order to buy each of them a nice bottle of wine.”

Then there was another phone call. It was a fellow named Peter. He wanted to know if he could RSVP for the meeting at the last minute. I put my head on the desk and thought to myself, “What do I do now?” This was quickly becoming an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” You see, Peter is an Orthodox Jew who adhered to strict dietary laws. In order for him to feel comfortable at the meeting, I would have to stop by a Kosher supermarket in order to purchase snacks for him to eat – not to mention paper plates and plastic cutlery to eat them on. And still there was no guarantee that I would complete my work in time to even attend the meeting.

Big League Dreams

We were dismissed at 4:00, which gave me an hour to get to the liquor store before it closed, another hour to the Kosher supermarket on Bathurst Street before it closed, and a third hour to arrive home for the 7:00 meeting. To my good fortune, there was a private liquor store on the same block as the supermarket. It was open late and their wines were all Kosher. I managed to purchase everything I needed, go home, shower, change, and arrive at the meeting with minutes to spare before 7:00. Someone was looking over me that day.

I’m sure my friends at the Larry Dierker chapter have echoed this concern as they planned SABR meetings. What if the speaker doesn’t show?   The guests were all there. Besides the usual core of regulars, they included Andrew, a sports statistician and Boston Red Sox fan vacationing Toronto from Johannesburg, South Africa. And then there was Bob, who was actually a native Houstonian. A retired teacher, Bob chose to become Canadian after fulfilling his military duties in the United States. Svend was celebrating his birthday and so was Lewis. Even my brother, Ben, attended the meeting, convincing his friends to join him with the incentive to meet “a Baseball Hall of Famer and [eat] free cake.” And Peter was there. I took him aside and explained that all of the baked goods and soft drinks were from Hermes, the above noted Kosher supermarket. The only food that was not prepared under rabbinic supervision was the fruit salad. In other words, there was nothing that he could not eat.

What It Means to Pull a “Pascual Perez”

There was just one problem. It was now 7:00 and where was Fergie? 7:10, no Fergie. 7:20, still no Fergie. At 7:26, Hooshmand Khamooshi the night security guard ran up to the party room to explain that he had a telephone call for me at the front desk. It was Carl. They were lost. As recently as 2009, I still did not own a cell phone. One of the other members of the party asked Hooshmand to give his cell phone number to Carl to call.

Carl called the cell phone number at 7:33. They were still lost. I got on the phone and asked them where they were. It turns out they had pulled a Pascual Perez and had been driving around the block for the past 20 minutes. I asked Carl what street they were on; they were driving west on Merton Street. I told them to drive to the end of Merton and that was Yonge Street. Turn right on Yonge and make another right at the next street, which was Balliol Street (yes, the neighbourhood surveyor was an Oxonian). Once they got to Balliol, I would direct them to the meeting from the roof.

Fergie and a fan named Andrew; at the 2009 Forum.

I described every car I saw driving east on Balliol to Carl and asked if it was their car. After about six vehicles, I had identified the correct one. My instructions were to pull into the parking lot of the supermarket on the north side of Balliol, turn around and revert towards Yonge, turn right, take another quick right on Davisville, and then one final quick right into the first parking lot they see. If they passed the Hasty Market, they went too far. I made a bee line for the elevator to meet them in the parking lot.

There they were, Carl, Brent, and wearing a vintage 1969 Cubs jacket was Fergie. He was not sporting his trademark white cowboy hat but he did wear his cowboy boots. And there were boxes of books. After I signed them in we took the elevator to the roof. That was when we realized one last problem. Both Brent and Carl assumed that the other one had brought the DVD. Neither one had. I got off the elevator at the next floor, returned to my apartment, and somehow managed to find my copy of the DVD in the very first place I looked.

Fergie and Ben Kates, the Author’s Brother; 2009 Maple Leaf Forum.

Problems aside, the meeting went off without a hitch. Fergie was informative and entertaining in the question and answer session. He did not hold back about his managers, identifying Leo Durocher as “the Devil” and Billy Martin as “Simon Legree.” Fergie was equally candid when discussing the effectiveness of umpires.

“We had two American League umpires, Dale Ford and Ron Luciano. I used to call them Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles. I’d argue balls and strikes and call him Ray. Ray, replied, It’s not Ray, it’s Ron’ and I’d say ‘Sure it is, Ray Charles.’ Hey Ray, you know Jose Feliciano? Need a seeing eye dog or something?” Fergie continued to display his sense of humour in the trivia contest. There was one question to which nobody knew the answer.   It was Chicago Cubs’ pitcher Dick Selma. Nobody, that is, except for Fergie. You could hear a pin drop as the audience tried to figure out the answer. That’s when Fergie said, “Come on, this is easy. Didn’t they name a city in Alabama after him?” Only Fergie could get away with that.

Next came the book signing. “Fergie: From the Cubs to Cooperstown” was brand new and still did not have a Canadian distributor. Therefore, the SABR meeting marked the first time the book was ever sold in Canada. Fergie had published several books before. There was “Like Nobody Else: The Fergie Jenkins Story” in 1973, “Ferguson Jenkins: The Quiet Winner” in 1975, and “The Game Is Easy, Life Is Hard” in 2003.

One of the more memorable conversations I can remember having that evening was with Svend. He was an older gentleman, a Danish immigrant who had lived most of his adult life in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Svend was telling me about a business trip he took to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida in March of 1974.

A funny thing must have just happened on the way to the forum;
Fergie and a fan named Svend smile,
With the author smiling in the far left background.

“I was sitting at the bar all by myself when a man walked in. He was a black man and he introduced himself as a baseball player. I had no interest in baseball so I’m sure he appreciated just a normal conversation. I wish I could remember his name. He was famous. I think he said he played for the team in Atlanta.”

My jaw dropped. “Svend, you met Hank Aaron. He was weeks away from breaking Babe Ruth’s home run record in March of 1974. He was under constant FBI security at that time. He received hundreds of thousands of letters, not all of them friendly or supportive. Hank Aaron was the most recognizable man in American not named Nixon, and you met him…by accident!” Svend said that Aaron could not have been nicer.

I’ve met Fergie Jenkins several times since the meeting and he usually greets me with the same expression, “You’re like bad weather, you never seem to go away.” Fergie Jenkins may have won 284 games in the major leagues, but on the evening of April 26, 2009, he recorded his greatest save.

The Black Aces


BOB GIBSON CARDINALS, 1965-66, 68-70
VIDA BLUE OAKLAND A’s, 1971, 1973-75





Thank You, Maxwell Kates. The Pecan Park Eagle and its readership wish to thank you again for another feels-good walk through the eternally green pastures of baseball literature that grow from a writer’s walking company with those who have played the game. If a reader only grasped the deeper meaning of Fergie Jenkin’s book title, he or she would have picked up a priceless wisdom, even if they never read a word of the lessons within. We thank you for repeating it here.

“The Game is Easy, Life Is Hard.” ~ Fergie Jenkins


Rest in Peace, Tito Francona.


Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Happy Valentine’s Day 2018, Astro Champs!

February 14, 2018

Hey! Astros Fans!
How’s this for the Happiest Valentine of 2018?

This season, our 2018 Astros Nation Valentine’s Day began a little early. It began in the waning hours of November 1, 2017 – and it hasn’t stopped since.

The Pecan Park Eagle doesn’t have a poem in words for this Valentine’s Day occasion. Words simply are not needed in times and realms where the heart already soars.

Happy Valentine’s Day 2018, Houston Astros and Fans!

And here is a poem to remind us of the lessons we were just beginning to inhale as an Astros “fan-chise” – in the waning winter days prior to Spring Training in 2015. Its body and message are contained in the column we wrote only three years ago on this date – the one entitled “Happy Valentine’s Day 2015”:

Remember how things were three years ago? The Astros were coming off a 2014 season in which their 11 games below .500 record represented a 19 win improvement over their 2013 season mark.

Come to think of it, the past decade season record of the Houston Astros represents – in numbers – the best concise alpha-to-omega summary of this most incredible era in franchise history – and the Astros did it all while transitioning from membership in the traditional National League to the elasticity of American League hitting rules that favor offense over pitching and defense in the American League.

For starters in 2008, the Astros experienced their last, albeit weak, winning season before the big fall. That one weak winner was followed by two brief seasons (2009-10) in the shallow waters of the losing pool, before all went crashing into the abyss of three consecutive triple-loss losing years. The first two big 1oo+ loss holes 0f 2011-12 commemorated the club’s last two seasons in the National League. The last – and worst of them all – came about in 2013, during their 111-loss first season in the American League. The Astros then rose to the shallow end of the loser’s pool we mentioned in 2014 – and then found the ankle water and competitive baseball niche on the winning side in 2015-16 before ascending into the stratosphere of triple-wins and in-season-championship-joy in 2017.

Maybe it’s appropriate. Our best shot at a 2018 Astros Valentine is the little semi-analytic tabular canvas that follows as our depiction of this decade-old assertive flight into this great blue yonder sky of ceaseless joy:

The Fall and Rise of the Houston Astros, 2008-2017

YEAR LG W L PCT. W +/- 81W*
2008 NL 86 75 .534 + 05
2009 NL 74 88 .457 – 07
2010 NL 76 86 .469 – 05
2011 NL 56 106 .346 – 25
2012 NL 55 107 .340 – 26
2013 AL 51 111 .315 – 30
2014 AL 70 92 .432 – 11
2015 AL 86 76 .531 + 05
2016 AL 84 78 .519 + 03
2017 AL 101 61 .624 + 20

* In our table, a .500 season is portrayed by games won above, or lost below, 81 wins on the regular season, with 81 serving as the .500 p0int for a normally full regular season of 162 completed games. In this tabular period, 2008 was the only one of the ten in which a .500 season was literally impossible due to the fact that the Astros that 2008 season only finished 161 of their 162 scheduled games.

How High The Moon? Now steep was the Astros rise from nadir to zenith? The Astros won only 51 regular season games in 2013, yet the 2014 Sports Illustrated cover story forecat them to win the World Series in 2017. Four years later, as the entire baseball universe now well knows, the 2017 Houston Astros won 101 regular season game, their highest number, on their way to fulfilling all promise as the new World Series Champions. That’s 4 years and a 61-game improvement in the regular season win column. And yes, The question answers itself, How high the moon?

Thanks to Jim Crane, Jeff Luhnow, A.J. Hinch, Jose Altuve, All the Other Astros, and Everyone Else who gave us Astro fans a Valentine this year that is sweeter than candy!



Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Good Luck to The Houston Sports Hall of Fame

February 13, 2018

Congratulations to the Houston Sports Association for finally being the force for getting the idea of a Houston Sports Hall of Fame towed from its long double park on the street of dreams for some serious rumbling down the avenue of a rare opportunity. Allow me to fill in the particulars for a clear, concise description of what is now changed in our town as a result of the splendidly conducted first recognition banquet of honor for the three great number 34s in our three major professional sports last week on Thursday, February 8, 2018.

The names Ryan, Olajuwon, and Campbell speak loudly for themselves to the people of Houston for their contributions to both the positive memory of fans and the history they each carved into the record for their three local teams in the major professional sports. In baseball, Houston will always remember local boy Nolan Ryan for his strikeout pitching tenacity, his 5th career no-hitter coming as an Astro, and his also hard fought major contributions to the near-pennant runs of 1980 and 1986. In basketball, championship-starved Houstonians will never forget that Hakeem Olajuwon led the Rockets to the city’s first two major sport titles in 1993-94 and 1994-95. In football, memory leaps immediately to the fall of 1978 when mighty Earl Campbell ran all over and around the Miami Dolphins as though he were knocking out all the obstacles to Houston Oiler success in one fell Astrodome swoop.

All three of these mega-stars coincidentally wore #34 and they represented the three major professional sports. And they were each drivers of two cars apiece that had been double-parked back on the Houston Street of Sporting Dreams. Each man was vividly recognizable and memorable. Each man was importantly historical to the story of Houston sports.

Whoever picked the # 34 trio to start the banquets is deserving of the genius button – for this time, at least. There are a number of others – and many to nearly all of these folks were also there for the first banquet as attendees who also will clearly qualify as both memorable and historical  when selected for honor/induction at future banquets – the presumed forum for this sort of honoring.

The general points here are multiple:

1) There’s a healthy pool of candidates from all sports who are both very known and historically important to their games in Houston.

2) There will always be disagreement as to who belongs – and who comes next.

3) If this effort flies, the day will come when all the memorable people will be current players – and all of the historical candidates who are already there are either deceased or hidden away in the background of things as coaches, owners, writers, or sports activists.

4) As it also grows from this experience over time, the selection group here needs to grow in its perceptions of how easy it may be to overlook forgotten people from the past who were extremely important to the history of their sport in Houston. Former players, owners, administrators, politicians, and community leaders – going back to the 19th century – may be fair game for consideration.

5) On the future Hall of Fame, as Ms. Janis Burke, CEO of the Harris County Houston Sports Authority so aptly noted: “You have to change exhibits or people stop coming.” She also suggested that “we could open a small space off the sidewalk, but we will start small and grow into it if we do.” A decent museum eventually needs – at least – a really good multi-tasking curator to get a reasonable job done. Other trained staff would help too, but, like all things, your options are easier to see, if you’ve already got the money for them. Tying the future of the museum to either appropriate commercial interests, like a restaurant and shopping mall – or hotel retail display business might be good for downtown.

6) On the selection methodology, vis-a-vis the banquet model, and based upon personal experience with past Texas Baseball Hall of Fame banquets in Houston, I would say that HSA’s start with 3 honorees was the way to go, but I would expand it to 4 and hold it there. Once you go beyond 4 inductees, a program is up against a sharp decline in attention spans due to food. drink and the time of night. Keep three for the 3 major sports and add one as your utility selection.

7) The utility selection would cover individual sports, women, minor team sports, deceased inductees, and the rare occasional time you need more than one inductee from one of the major sports.

8) The following model is just that – a model for the flexibility and attention saving power you need to establish the banquet as something that fans will want to do annually. As you will see in the model below, we used the utility spot in 2019 to make sure that Biggio and Bagwell went into the HSA-SPORTS HOF on the same ticket.

9) One More time. – Never do more than 4 inductees a banquet.

Here’s the demo model. It’s not offered to argue the order or presence of anyone on the projected table. It’s just offered as a model.

All we know for sure is that all these people are both memorable and historical. And that a genuine HOF cannot dismiss a worthy candidate since they are either deceased or no longer memorable.

2018 Nolan Ryan Hakeem Olajuwon Earl Campbell none
2019 Craig Biggio Elvin Hayes Andre Johnson Jeff Bagwell
2020 Larry Dierker Clyde Drexler Andre Ware George Foreman
2021 Bob Watson Yao Ming Elvin Bethea A.J. Foyt
2022 Jimmy Wynn James Harden Dan Pastorini Carl Lewis
2023 Roger Clemens Tracy McGrady Warren Moon Cynthia Cooper
2024 A.J. Hinch Rudy Tomjanovich J.J. Watt Simone Biles

Here at The Pecan Park Eagle, it’s our hope that Houston puts together the best local Sports Hall of Fame in the world.



Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Rest in Peace, Wally Moon, Now Dead at 87

February 12, 2018

Former Cardinal and Dodger Wally Moon Addressed the Larry Dierker Chapter of SABR on Oct. 11, 2011. A link to that article is included at the end of this featured story from the LA Times of his passing.

Thanks to Sam Quintero for directing our attention to this excellent piece on Wally Moon’s passing by Steve Marble @ LA

WALLY MOON, 1930 – 2018

Slugger helped Dodgers to three World Series

Launched towering ‘Moon shots’

By Steve Marble

Wally Moon, the wiry outfielder with the old-school crew cut who helped take the Dodgers to the World Series three times and became a crowd favorite for his towering “Moon shots,” has died.

Moon, who became part of the Dodgers’ lineup shortly after the team moved west from Brooklyn, died Friday in Bryan, Texas. He was 87.

A lefty who had proved to be a steady hitter with decent power while with the St. Louis Cardinals, Moon was nonetheless coming off a down year when he was traded to the Dodgers in 1959. The Cardinals even tossed in a pitcher to make the deal work. For the Dodgers, coming off a seventh-place finish, it seemed an odd way to rebuild.

And there was the ballpark where the Dodgers then played: the cavernous Coliseum, a graveyard for left-handed batters.

It was a staggering 440 feet to the right-field fence. By contrast, the left-field bleachers were a friendly 251 feet from home plate — a chip shot for a decent player. To take advantage of the odd dimensions, the Dodgers stacked their lineup with righties. “I really wasn’t sure how much I was going to get to play,” Moon told The Times in 2008.

After consulting with former teammate Stan Musial, generally regarded as one of the finest hitters in the game, Moon decided to adjust his swing and his stance at the plate so that he could drive the ball to left field. And to get it over the 42-foot screen that hung in front of the left-field bleachers, he learned to uppercut the ball.

The results were impressive. Hitting in a lineup with fearsome players such as Duke Snider, Gil Hodges and John Roseboro, Moon batted .302 and swatted 19 home runs, nine of them to left field. The most dramatic was a towering ninth-inning “Moon shot” to left field in a 2-2 game against the San Francisco Giants in 1959.

The walk-off home run helped carry the team to the World Series, where they knocked off the Chicago White Sox to win it all.

“It was unforgettable,” Moon said decades later. “I can still hear it, still feel it, still see it all these years.”

Wallace Wade Moon was born April 3, 1930, in Bay, Ark., a speck of a town surrounded by cotton fields. Moon said his father dropped out of school in eighth grade, and regretted the decision the rest of his life. Moon was raised with the expectation that he would go to college. When he graduated from high school and was offered a baseball contract, his father persuaded him to turn it down.

After earning a degree in education from Texas A&M, Moon finally signed with the Cardinals but with the stipulation that he would play only during the summer until he finished his master’s degree. The money he made playing part time was set aside so that his younger sister could also go to college.

In 1954, Moon was rushed to the major leagues. He later calculated that he had played all of 17 games in the year before his major league debut and felt overwhelmed when the Cardinals traded away fan favorite Enos Slaughter to clear a spot in the lineup for him.

But hitting a home run in his first at-bat helped ease the jitters, and he went on to hit .304 on the year with 76 RBIs, enough to earn him National League rookie of the year honors. He spent five seasons in St. Louis before he was shipped to the Dodgers in exchange for Gino Cimoli, who — like Moon — was coming off a disappointing season.

It was a golden era for the Dodgers. After winning the World Series in 1955, the team repeated as major league champs in 1959, 1963 and 1965, riding the arms of Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, the bat of Tommy Davis and the base-running prowess of Maury Wills. The team moved into the newly built Dodger Stadium in 1962. But as the years went by, Moon was slowly pushed out of the starting lineup.

In 1965, he called it quits, ending a 12-year career during which he hit 142 home runs and was named to the all-star team three times. His last game in uniform was against the Minnesota Twins in Game 7 of the 1965 World Series. He never got off the bench.

By the end of the year, he’d sold his house in Encino and moved back to Arkansas with his wife and five children.

“The children were growing up, drugs were starting to come on the scene and I decided I didn’t want to raise my family in Southern California,” he explained to the Baltimore Sun in 1990. “My wife and I are both small-town people at heart.”

Moon moved the family to Siloam Springs, Ark., where the plains meet the Ozark Mountains. He took a job as the athletic director and baseball coach at John Brown University, a small private Christian college where he worked and taught for 15 years, aside from one year when he took a leave of absence to take over as the batting coach for the San Diego Padres. He later became manager and an owner of the San Antonio Dodgers minor league team before retiring and moving to Bryan, Texas. In 2010 his autobiography, “Moon Shots: Reflections on a Baseball Life,” was published.

In 2008, when the Dodgers played an exhibition game against Boston in the Coliseum, Moon was invited back to a field where he had created so many memories.

Before the game, he was playfully asked whether he wanted to take batting practice with the team to see if he could launch one last “Moon shot.”

He chuckled. “I haven’t picked up a bat in 30 years, but I’ll take a shot at it. I still play a lot of golf, so I might be able to get it there.”

Moon’s wife, Bettye, died in 2016. He is survived by five children and seven grandchildren.

By Steve Marble, LA


Also, here’s a link to a column we did for The Pecan Park Eagle back 2011 about Wally Moon’s appearance at a Larry Dierker SABR Chapter meeting in Houston:



Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston’s Real Shooting Star Line Up

February 12, 2018

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