Archive for the ‘culture’ Category

Where Were You in 1932?

December 16, 2018

“Hey Lou! ~ I know it’s only the 5th inning, but I’m hungry as hell!. ~ Stop that hot dog guy while he’s near the field and get me 2 dogs all the way! ~ I’ll settle up with you after we get this time at bat done.”
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Babe Ruth, 10/01/1932.

 

While making one of my fairly regular sweeps yesterday through the pages of anciently published baseball history, I was reminded of something a friend said to me about another baseball matter that was at the foundation of my reasons for even stopping into the news of October 2, 1932. ~ Does that date recall for you the time a so-called sultan of swat lifted a finger to point out in real-time that he was going to hit a home run to center field during his time at bat in the top of the fifth inning of a World Series game at Wrigley Field in Chicago? ~ And then he did! ~ He hit a center field stadium-exit ball that travelled an estimated 500 feet easy from where Babe Ruth of the New York Yankees launched it off pitcher Charlie Root of the Chicago Cubs as the AL champions went on to a 7-5 win in Game 3 on Saturday, October 1, 1932 and then finished a four-game Series sweep with a 13-6 bone-crusher victory the next day at Wrigley in Game 4.

There wasn’t a single mention of Babe Ruth “calling his shot” on that fifth inning homer in the national article I found yesterday that had been printed in the Charleston (WV) Gazette on October 2, 1932, but that wasn’t surprising. Most are blank on that point, but they all are clear on one point. ~ After Ruth homered in the 5th for the 2nd time in the game ~ he had homered earlier ~ Gehrig homered to right field. These back-to-backs by Ruth and Gehrig in the 5th came on the heels of the fact that each had homered earlier in separate innings. ~ Ruth had smacked a 3-run homer to right center that gave the Yankees a 3-0 lead in the first before even a single out had been posted. ~ Gehrig had led off the third inning with a home run into the right field bleachers to expand the Yankees lead to 4-0.

None of these sometimes record-breaking achievements ~ or the fact the Yankees won the game ~ and the next day, the Series ~ would soon matter. Once the word got around that Ruth had “called his shot” to center off Charlie Root, that’s all that counted with people. The most legendary example of hutzpah-delivering was more important to most than even the man who actually was getting the credit for it.

According to writer Larry Getlin, the magic “called shot” phrase was supposedly invented by New York World-Telegram reporter Joe Williams in that day’s coverage story and then amplified to the nines by an editor who then headlined the phenomenon in these bold words: “Ruth Calls Shot As He Puts Homer No. 2 In Side Pocket.” 

Check out Getlin’s 2014 article. It’s the best short piece I’ve ever found on this event’s flutter of fiction over fact in what apparently hides in the same neighborhood as the truth about the second shooter at the top of the grassy knoll outside the Texas Schoolbook Depository on November 22, 1963. It also does a great job of showcasing the problems that will invariably arise with eyewitness testimony to events that happened long ago.

https://nypost.com/2014/02/01/chicago-journalist-debunks-babe-ruths-called-shot/

People generally prefer fiction to fact ~ allowing the legend to become the event’s legacy ~ and for the same reason that they prefer movies or following the long season fates of their favorite MLB club. ~ They like happy endings that others write for them that they can then take home as their own.

Once these things are embraced by writers fighting for readership, mundane historical facts get pushed aside in favor of unabashed melodrama. For example, when some researchers suggested in the “called shot” that Babe Ruth simply may have been pointing at pitcher Root ~ or the Cubs bench ~ or even picking his nose ~ these possibilities were easy to bury in the shadow of the man in the batter’s box ~ pointing clearly and defiantly ~ at the far distant center field fence. ~ And that’s exactly as Ruth-actor William Bendix played it in the 1948 movie version of “The Babe Ruth Story” ~ right before he cracked that ball from the north side ~ over the center field wall ~ and on its way to the crack of doom.

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Inamorata, 1932 West Virginia Style. ~ I could have stayed lost in that 1932 Sunday edition of the Charleston (WV) Gazette. So much good stuff ~ including an ad for a 75 cent tab on a delicious sounding meal at the Venice Italian Restaurant on 711 Fife Street. For that kind of money, you just bought yourself an entree that includes salad, dessert, and drink ~ and it is prepared especially for you by their very own Chef Alfred!

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1932 College Football News. ~ Ohio State played their first college football game of the season in Columbus “before an opening day crowd of 17, 113” on that same Saturday of October 1, 1932, and they defeated Ohio Wesleyan, 34-7, in an offensive performance that was described as smooth at times, but one that bogged downed miserably at others. The report makes no further reference to the attendance on that particular Saturday, but the Buckeyes obviously needed no horseshoe-shaped stadium thoughts to wrap around their immediate fan ticket needs. …. Here are a few other college scores from October 1, 1932:

Duke 44 – VMI 0. (Lexington, VA)

Virginia 7 – Maryland 6. (University, VA)

Alabama 53 – Mississippi State 0. (What’s new?)

William & Mary 6 – Navy 0. (Annapolis, MD)

Southwest Conference Football Scores from October 1, 1932:

Tulane 26 – Texas A&M 14. (New Orleans, LA)

Baylor 32 – St. Edwards 0. (Austin, TX)

Texas Tech 6 – SMU 0. (Lubbock, TX) *

Centenary 13 – Texas 6. (Austin, TX)

TCU 55 – Daniel Baker 0. (Fort Worth, TX)

Missouri School of Mines 20 – Arkansas 19. (Fayetteville AR)

Rice 10 – LSU 8. (Houston, TX)

* Texas Tech was not an SWC member in 1932.

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

Chestnut Roasting Data on a Christmas Fire

December 14, 2018

Thank You, Chris Chestnut!

 

Without being asked, SABR colleague Chris Chestnut has done a wonderful thing here. ~ In all humility ~ and in great respect for the loss we all suffered in the recent death of analyst/colleague Bill Gilbert, Chris tonight has submitted his own version of the Most Productive Offensive Players in 2018 that Bill Gilbert did for us annually for years prior to now.

Thank you, Aggie Man! ~ Your Aggie pulse for getting things done the right way now has served us proudly too. We can only hope that you may choose to do something like Bill Gilbert did for us here at the Pecan Park Eagle in the future ~ on a regular basis~ and in your own way, based on your own time availability.

We will not expect you to be Bill Gilbert. We’ll be most happy to settle for a guy who is 100% Chris Chestnut.

Gig ‘Em! ~ The Pecan Park Eagle.

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The Most Productive Offensive Players in 2018 – The Bill Gilbert Method

A couple of years ago, Bill Gilbert introduced his method for measuring offensive performance – Bases per Plate Appearance (BPA). In honor of his memory, I’ve performed the calculations for 2018.

I made a slight tweak to his original formula by including pick-offs and triple plays. I also used a different data source – Retrosheet. They have detailed play-by-play data for all seasons from 1921 to 2018.

The formula I used is

BPA = (TB + BB + HBP + SB – CS – PO – DP – 2xTP) / (AB + BB + HBP + SF)

Where:

BPA = Bases per Plate Appearance
TB = Total Bases
BB = Bases on Balls
HBP = Hit by Pitch
SB = Stolen Bases
CS = Caught Stealing
PO = Picked Off
DP = Double Plays
TP = Triple Plays
AB = At Bats
SF = Sacrifice Flies

The numerator accounts for all the bases accumulated by a player, reduced by the number of times he is caught stealing, picked off, or erases other runners by grounding into a double or triple play. The denominator accounts for the plate appearances when the player is trying to generate bases for himself. Sacrifice hits are not included as plate appearances, since they represent the successful execution of the batter’s attempts to advance another runner.

The chart below shows the Major League BPA for the past fifteen years and the number of players with BPA over .550 and .600:

Year 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
BPA .461 .450 .464 .457 .452 .455 .439 .435
>=.550 32 35 45 33 38 36 17 21
>=.600 18 12 14 17 11 11 7 6
Year 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
BPA .440 .430 .420 .434 .450 .460 .446
>=.550 17 16 11 18 22 35 23
>=.600 5 3 3 5 6 13 7

To compare a player’s performance across different seasons, I developed a percentage calculation called the Relative BPA (rBPA). A player achieves a score of 100 if he matches the season’s BPA. An above-average performance would result in an rBPA of greater than 100. Conversely, an rBPA below 100 represents a below-average season.

Highest BPA – 1921 to 2018 (min. 450 PA)
Player Season BPA
Bonds, Barry 2001 .901
Ruth, Babe 1921 .876
Bonds, Barry 2004 .875
Bonds, Barry 2002 .864
Bonds, Barry 2003 .815
Ruth, Babe 1923 .806
McGwire, Mark 1998 .793
Ruth, Babe 1927 .792
Ruth, Babe 1924 .788
Bagwell, Jeff 1994 .766
McGwire, Mark 1996 .765
Gehrig, Lou 1927 .764
Williams, Ted 1957 .764
Ruth, Babe 1931 .759
Mantle, Mickey 1956 .757
Highest rBPA – 1921 to 2018 (min. 450 PA)
Player Season rBPA
Ruth, Babe 1921 211
Bonds, Barry 2001 196
Ruth, Babe 1927 193
Bonds, Barry 2002 192
Ruth, Babe 1923 192
Bonds, Barry 2004 190
Ruth, Babe 1924 188
Gehrig, Lou 1927 186
Williams, Ted 1957 183
Ruth, Babe 1928 182
Ruth, Babe 1931 182
Williams, Ted 1941 182
Williams, Ted 1946 181
Morgan, Joe L. 1976 180
Musial, Stan 1948 180
Williams, Ted 1942 180

The benchmark for an outstanding individual season is .600. Following is a list of the six players with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title (502) and a BPA of .600 in 2018.

Player 2018 BPA 2018 rBPA 2017 BPA 2017 rBPA
Trout, Mike .733 164 .714 155
Betts, Mookie .713 160 .531 115
Ramirez, Jose .649 146 .609 132
Martinez, J.D. .641 144 .675 147
Yelich, Christian .641 144 .499 108
Story, Trevor .610 137 .492 107

Near misses were Matt Carpenter with .593, Paul Goldschmidt at .591, and Bryce Harper at .587. Max Muncy was 21 plate appearances short of qualifying with a BPA of .642.

Looking at the other end of the spectrum, eight players who earned enough playing time to qualify for the batting title had a BPA less than .400 in 2018.

Player Team BPA rBPA
Barnhart, Tucker Cincinnati .399 89
Jay, Jon Kansas City/Arizona .380 85
Gordon, Dee Seattle .368 83
Solarte, Yangervis Toronto .365 82
Davis, Chris Baltimore .352 79
Martinez, Victor Detroit .348 78
Escobar, Alcides Kansas City .335 75
Rojas, Miguel Miami .335 75

In 2018, five Houston Astros qualified with enough plate appearances, but none broke the .600 barrier. Except for Alex Bregman, all these players showed a drop-off from the 2017 season.

Player 2018 2017
BPA rBPA BPA rBPA
Bregman, Alex .579 130 .510 111
Altuve, Jose .490 110 .593 129
Springer, George .476 107 .541 118
Gonzalez, Marwin .437 98 .558 121
Gurriel, Yulieski .414 93 .480 104
Beltran, Carlos n/a n/a .397 86
Reddick, Josh .444 100 .492 107

Carlos Correa did not have enough plate appearances in either 2017 or 2018 to qualify. In 2017, his BPA was .567 (123 rBPA). In 2018, he fell to below average with a .425 BPA (95 rBPA).

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Great job! ~ Thanks again, Chris Chestnut! All of us appreciate you running into the public analysis breech that came along with our recent loss of the wonderful Bill Gilbert!

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

What’s Wrong With the Baseball Hall of Fame?

December 13, 2018

Image result for cooperstown

 

What’s Wrong With the Baseball Hall of Fame?

Nothing. ~ If you take into consideration it’s a human institution ~ created to honor the best of the best in baseball history ~ for the engagement and interest of devoted fans, commercial supporters, the vested management/ownership interests of all MLB clubs and, oh yes, the special economic needs of its permanent and anointed legendary host City of Cooperstown, New York.

Have you ever been to Cooperstown? If not, imagine this. ~ After a long and winding road trip upstate from New York City, you get out of your car and park on Main Street in downtown Cooperstown. You just want to stretch your legs out and get your bearings via a walking pace first personal sight of the Hall of Fame.

You don’t get five feet before it hits you. ~ This place is a dead ringer for Bedford Falls, the hometown of Jimmy Stewart and his family in the classic Christmas movie that some of us know from seventy years after its mid-1940s release as “It’s A Wonderful Life”.

And then you stop in some of the baseball shops on Main Street and you don’t seem to meet a single “Mr. Potter”, the master lying crook of Bedford Falls that Jimmy Stewart finally overcame in the movie on the backs of support he got from the good towns people.

Talk about honesty. Here’s what I mean:

Our only trip to Cooperstown was in June 1994. I asked one card shop dealer during his brief break from heavy traffic business what he did during the snowy days of winter. ~ “Inventory,” he said in a one-word smile.

Here are some other short, clear statements about the Hall of Fame itself. They aren’t so much indictments of the HOF’s integrity as they are examples of the human condition that governs the conduct of their business of honoring the best of the best in baseball history.

About the Baseball Hall of Fame and Human Nature

The Baseball Writer Annual Electors

  1. Sometimes the baseball writers elect the best of the best.
  2. Other times they simply elect the least controversial, most politically popular, at that moment in time.
  3. The writers usually ignore player candidates whose lives are cluttered with doubt on issues of gambling or performance-enhancing drugs, if the weight of evidence or innuendo supports the snubbing.

The Veterans Committee

  1. The Veterans Committee has the power to induct deserving candidates that were ignored by the BBWA during their initial maximum 15-year period of review.
  2. The Veterans Committee has the power to induct undeserving candidates on the strength of emotional/political support from members ~ or through members ~ from those who will champion their cause for personal reasons.

The Hall of Fame Governing Body

  1. Offers no objective statistical parameters for identifying the best of the best players from all eras.
  2. Offers no code of behavior or statement of character that needs to be attached to HOF inductees.
  3. The need for objective and subjective considerations are likely to continue as fodder for debate without change.
  4. Like most enterprises, the Baseball Hall of Fame will continue to operate forever on the Sea of Sociopolitical Economic Opportunity.

The Gist of It

If you are planning a baseball dinner, and you have room for only one more after-dinner speaker, but you do have two comparably well known player candidates to fill the spot, pick the one that tells the funniest stories, not the one who hit the most home runs.

These days, the biggest threat to the Hall of Fame is the same one that threatens all organized sport activities ~ and that’s boredom. And as we move more and more into shorter and shorter attention spans, vis-a-vis digital technology, boredom (stimulation burnout) is happening at scary rates.

We don’t really change anything that needs it ~ until we realize we have no choice. And that’s no criticism of the Hall of Fame. It’s just how the human condition most works. And that is exactly how the human condition is running the Hall of Fame these days ~ even as we conclude today’s column.

Does the HOF need to change anything? Maybe not.

If it does, what needs to change? And how is that ever going to happen?

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

 

 

 

 

Whitley Brings 110 MPH Pulldown Heat

December 12, 2018

 

Ode to Forrest Whitley’s 110 MPH Pitch

 

He was coming ‘oer the shoulder

Firing 110-miles per hour

When the needle on his belt buckle broke

 

He landed in the grass

With his pants below his ass

And he now wears stretch-waist unis

~ That’s no joke.

 

Astros pitching prospect Forest Whitley hit 110 mph in what they call a pulldown exercise Tuesday afternoon at a winter camp program.

So what? ~ This is one of those questions that’s best answered with a question. ~ How many pitchers do we know who can throw even one pitch at the measured rate of 110 mph?

Anybody who can throw even one 110 mph pitch ~ even if it happens in a winter camp for minor league players ~ is a guy a club should want to hold on to through several Christmases or Easters ~ just for the simple sake of finding out if that’s really the phenom’s top speed ~ and in celebration and commitment to the idea that the most joyous Christmas or golden egg Easter is yet to be ~ and in the clear understanding that one time alone is enough to pull the trigger on one of baseball’s most famous bobble head creations on record.

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Here’s how it happened ~ and how Jake Mintz @ Cespedes BBQ covered it this afternoon:

One of the coolest parts about being a professional baseball player must be having the ability to throw a baseball outlandishly hard. Whether it’s across the infield, with a crow hop from the outfield or off the mound, chucking a ball with triple-digit velocity has to be a wonderfully exhilarating feeling that most us of will never get to experience.

Tuesday afternoon, Astros top pitching prospect Forrest Whitley harnessed all of his baseballing power to wind up and chuck a ball a whopping 110 mph.

Obviously, this wasn’t on the mound, so we shouldn’t expect Whitley to be pumping 110 whenever he makes it to the bigs (presumably this upcoming season at some point) — but this is still a super impressive feat. This particular pitching technique is usually referred to as a “pulldown” and is meant to increase a pitcher’s velocity when they step back on the mound if it’s carried out regularly.

Whitley’s pulldown wasn’t quite as fast as Indians hurler Trevor Bauer, who threw a ball 116.9 mph last offseason, but Whitley still has a few years to catch up to Cleveland’s most incessant Twitter fiend.

~ Jake Mintz @Cespedes BBQ

Link to original Mintz article and its pictures:

https://www.mlb.com/cut4/astros-prospect-forrest-whitley-throws-baseball-110-mph/c-301707412

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

A Century Ago in America

December 10, 2018

Sigmund Freud, The Father of Psychiatry
**********
Steven Spielberg should produce, direct, and star in
the bio-movie of Freud’s life.

 

Thank you, fellow St. Thomas High School classmate Ed Szymczak from the Class of 1956 for sending me this list of everyday data on different aspects of Life in America back in 1917. Even though these reports are from an era that transpired only a little more than 100 years ago, it’s still hard to wrap the mind around how much life has changed since that version of everyday life was regarded as someone’s “good old days” ~ and even more mind-staggering to consider how things may be from now ~ for those heading into the Christmas of 2118. ~ Do you think there will still be something called “Christmas” that people celebrate a hundred years from now? ~ Well, if Christmas remains tied to the retail gift industry, or whatever they call it in another hundred years, and why would it not be still so joined, my guess is “yes” ~ there will be.

Here’s The 1917 List of Facts about their era. (I have no idea about their efficacy, or who put them together, but they do sound credible):

The average life expectancy for men was 47 years

Fuel for cars was sold in drug stores only.

Only 14 percent of homes had a bathtub.

Only 8 percent of homes had a telephone.

The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.

The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower.

The average US wage in 1910 was 22 cents per hour.

The average US worker made between $200 & $400 per year.

A competent accountant could expect to earn $2000 per year

A dentist $2,500 per year.

A veterinarian between $1,500 – $4,000 per year.

And, a mechanical engineer about $5,000 per year.

More than 95 percent of all births took place at home.

Ninety percent of all Doctors had NO COLLEGE EDUCATION! Instead, they attended so-called medical schools, many of which were condemned in the press AND the government as “substandard.”

Sugar cost four cents a pound.

Eggs were fourteen cents a dozen.

Coffee was fifteen cents a pound.

Most women only washed their hair once a month, and, used Borax or egg yolks for shampoo.

Canada passed a law that prohibited poor people from entering into their country for any reason.

The Five leading causes of death were:

  1. Pneumonia and influenza
  2. Tuberculosis
  3. Diarrhea
  4. Heart disease
  5. Stroke

The American flag had 48 stars …

The population of Las Vegas, Nevada was only 30.

Crossword puzzles, canned beer, and iced tea hadn’t been invented yet.

There was neither a Mother’s Day nor a Father’s Day.

Two out of every 10 adults could not read or write

And, only 6 percent of all Americans had graduated from high school.

Marijuana, heroin, and morphine were all available over the counter at local corner drugstore. Back then pharmacists said, “Heroin clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach, bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health!”

(A TPPE Addition): Back then, Dr. Sigmund Freud prescribed cocaine to patients suffering from depression.

Eighteen percent of households had at least one full-time servant or domestic help…

There were about 230 reported murders in the ENTIRE U.S.A.

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

The Tootsie Roll Game: May 4, 1975

December 10, 2018

The Tootsie Roll Game: May 4, 1975

By Maxwell Kates

 

PROLOGUE

First, a trivia question, courtesy of former Los Angeles Dodger Wes Parker. Who was the only #8 hitter (as of 2011) to win a Most Valuable Player Award? Maybe this photo can offer a clue.

 

Who Dat Above? ~ Above, I Say!
Just Two Peeps ~ On a Baseball Day!

The genesis of this article arose from a conversation I had with Bill McCurdy earlier in the year. He asked me to prepare an essay about episodes in Astros history where the players crossed paths twice. For example, the first pitch in Colt .45’s history was thrown on April 10, 1962 by starting pitcher Bobby Shantz to Chicago Cubs’ leadoff hitter Lou Brock. Two years later, on June 15, 1964, the two were traded for one another. Moving ahead to Game 4 of the 1980 National League Championship Series, there was a collision at home plate in which Philadelphia’s Pete Rose bowled over catcher Bruce Bochy of the Astros. Five years later, on September 11, 1985, when Rose broke (*) Ty Cobb’s record with his 4,192nd hit in Cincinnati, catching for the visiting San Diego Padres was none other than Bruce Bochy. In the name of factual accuracy, it should be pointed out that two of Cobb’s hits have since been erased from the record book, meaning that Rose actually broke the record on September 8, 1985 in Chicago with his 4,190th hit. But that’s not important right now.

Research the Astros’ history book, I attempted in vain to find other instances in franchise history where the protagonists would cross paths at a later date. J. D. Davis tightening up on his swing as Archie Bell and the Drells performed at Discovery Green? I don’t think so. Then a lightbulb went off. Fantastic, Holmes! I remembered the name…Bob Watson.

Bob Watson and Cesar Cedeno, 1973.

Until John Olerud matched his record in 2001, Watson was the only player in major league history to have hit for the cycle in either league. He turned the trick for the Astros on June 24, 1977 in a 6-5 victory over the San Francisco Giants. Traded to the Boston Red Sox in 1979, he repeated his accomplishment, hitting for the cycle against the Orioles as part of a 10-2 victory in Baltimore. Could there possibly have been someone other than Watson who was present for both games? Reading further, I discovered another footnote to history involving Watson in 1975 when he played for Houston. Both games were against the Giants.

During the 1974-1975 offseason, Connecticut newscaster Mark Sackler uncovered that 997,513 runs had scored in major league history. Using his new calculator and his MacMillan baseball Encyclopedia, Sackler projected that the millionth run would score sometime in 1975. Tootsie Roll Industries saw enough value in the promotion to sponsor a sweepstakes. Fans were invited to predict who would score the millionth run in baseball, along with when and where. The winner would take home $10,000. Ultimately, Seiko was roped in to co-sponsor the promotion as baseball luminaries Stan Musial, Ernie Banks, and Ralph Branca were called upon for public relations purposes. There was a countdown clock in every ballpark and a mission control centre in Rockefeller Center, New York as telephone spotters were on hand to call in every home run.

Now I realize that Bill McCurdy has already written about this topic in a 2011 issue of the Pecan Park Eagle in his article “An Evening with Bob Watson.” While the focus of the previous article was about the SABR meeting itself, this one will focus on the game in which the run was scored.

Stan Musial, Johnny Bench(?), Ernie Banks, and Ralph Branca. Person in Above Photo,

Article Addendum on the Identity Question of 2nd Figure from Left,

In Above Photo, Submitted by Article Writer Maxwell Kates, 12/10/18:

“I submitted the Tootsie Roll photo to a website called “Vintage Baseball Photos” to determine who that is between Stan Musial and Ernie Banks.  The general consensus is that it’s not Bench.  Some of the guesses (all of them wrong, presumably) include Mel Brooks, Pete Townsend, Garry Shandling, Herb Alpert, Nick Buoniconti, Bob Sakamano from Seinfeld, Garo Ypremian, and Chevy Chase.  This is what I call fun when it comes to baseball research.”  ~ Maxwell Kates, writer.

“It also may be a text book example of what happens to people among the “almost famous” group from an earlier time-limited era. People later may scramble to remember from a single photo who the heck they actually were in the long ago and faraway once-upon-a-time land from whence they came.” ~ Bill McCurdy, Editor, The Pecan Park Eagle.

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Robert Jose Watson was born in 1946 in Los Angeles. Watson signed his first minor league contract with the Astros in January 1965, earning a promotion to Houston a year later. He became a regular in 1971 after switching from catcher to left field and later played 1st base. A right-handed power hitter whose aggregate was impeded by the cavernous dimensions of the Astrodome, Watson batted .303 with 122 home runs and 690 RBI in eight full seasons with the Astros. He was selected to his first of two All-Star Games in 1973

Manager Preston Gomez pencilled Watson in as the starting 1st baseman in the first game of a doubleheader on May 4, 1975. Only 9,451 spectators braved the Candlestick Park weather conditions, which remained inhospitable weather after rain curtailed the contest one day prior. Dave Roberts took the starting assignment for the Astros, facing eventual Rookie of the Year John ‘Count’ Montefusco.

A Typical Candlestick Fan Face on a Normal Windy Day?

Half a continent away in Chicago, future Astros’ manager Phil Garner rapped a double off the White Sox’ Jim Kaat in the top of the 5th inning. At 2:26 pm Central Time, Claudell Washington scored home from 1st base for run number 999,999. The next run would be the milestone but who would score it? Would it be Rod Carew? He too was thrown out in a collision at home plate by Al Cowens of the Kansas City Royals. Adding insult to injury – quite literally – the future Hall of Fame injured his leg on the play. Six minutes had passed and nobody had scored the run. Would it be Chris Chambliss? He took off from 3rd base in Milwaukee when Yankee teammate Ron Blomberg rapped a base hit to 1st baseman George Scott. The Boomer decided to go for the lead runner, throwing Chambliss out at the plate.

“We were hoping it would be us,” remembers Marty Appel, then director of public relations for the Yankees. “We weren’t winning pennants then and it would have been a nice moment.” Back in San Francisco, Watson led off the 2nd inning by drawing a walk against Montefusco. He stole second before the Count issued a second base on balls to Jose Cruz. Little did Watson know that he may have been standing 180 feet from immortality as Milt May strode to the plate.

Oakland Had Mr. October. ~ Houston Had Mr. May.

According to Sackler’s research, Wes Fisler of the Philadelphia Athletics scored the first run in major league history on April 22, 1876. Now, as May lifted Montefusco’s pitch into the fog and filthy air before landing in the empty Candlestick Park bleachers, Watson was poised to score baseball’s millionth run. Not so fast, Roll N Roaster. With nobody out in the 5th inning, Atlanta’s Phil Niekro surrendered a home run to Dave Concepcion in Cincinnati. Could the lumbering Watson score from 2nd base in the time it would have taken the limber Concepcion to circle the bases? Living up to his nickname, Watson rounded 3rd and headed for home like a bull in a china shop.

“I got to third,” Watson told Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News, “and our bullpen was right behind third and the guys were saying ‘Run, run, run!'” On the Cincinnati Astroturf before a packed house, Concepcion was running the bases at full steam, but to no avail. He was rounding 3rd as mission control ruled that Watson’s foot had touched home plate. Depending on the source, Concepcion was anywhere from twelve seconds (Dan Epstein) to a second and a half (Bill McCurdy) short.

Bob Watson Scores the Millionth Run in Baseball History.

For scoring the millionth run in baseball, Watson was awarded one million Tootsie Rolls. As it were Watson’s children were allergic to chocolate so he donated his prize to charity. Since nobody guessed the correct answer in the sweepstakes, he was also given the $10,000 grand prize. There was a catch. The money was denominated in pennies, so he donated those to charity as well. As least Watson got a nice watch out of the promotion. In the aftermath of scoring the millionth run, Watson joked that his fan mail doubled – from four letters per week to eight.

It should be stated that Sackler did not count the National Association, the Federal League, or any of the other ‘third’ major leagues. Therefore, Watson did not actually score the millionth run and it may never be determined who did.

Bob Watson, Bill Virdon and Gary Wilson, 1979.

Watson remained an Astro until his 1979 trade to Boston and filed for free agency at the end of the season. He played another five years with the Yankees and the Braves, retiring as a player in 1984. Watson was appointed general manager of the Astros in 1994, only the second African-American after Atlanta’s Bill Lucas. Also in 1994, Watson was diagnosed with prostate cancer before undergoing successful treatment. In 1996, he left the Astros to become general manager of the New York Yankees, overseeing their first World Series championship since 1978. Watson retired from his position as a Major League Baseball executive in 2010.

For the record, five Giants, Marc Hill, Gary Lavelle, Randy Moffitt (’82 Astros), Derrel Thomas (’71 Astros), and Gary Thomasson, who played in the game Watson scored baseball’s millionth run also took the field the day Watson hit for the cycle. Hill was actually catching the Giants both for the millionth run and the home run of Watson’s cycle. And no player on either team for Watson’s cycle with the Astros appeared in the game when he hit for the cycle with the Red Sox.

Bob Watson as the Astros General Manager, 1994.

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

The Casey Illusion

December 9, 2018

The Casey Illusion

 

The Casey Illusion *

 

The ball took off en rapid route ~ for a grand parabolic ride,

A journey of 500 feet was building ~ down the left field side.

Fair or foul could not be known ~ as the ball hugged fast the line,

Eyes bugged out and mouths dropped too as acts of Hope Devine.

 

Home fans gasped ~ as the ball flew past ~ their muted happy roar,

“If only this ball clears as fair ~ we shall play this game no more.”

Down by a score of 4 to 2 ~ in the bottom half of Nine,

The tying runs on base ahead ~ set the win now up ~ just fine.

 

The problem was ~ this ball fans saw ~ was neither fair nor foul.

In fact ~ it had not happened yet. It was merely a mass mind growl.

The stuff that dreams are made of had hatched early in them all,

And caused them all to think they saw sugar victory’s sweet call.

 

In the end, everything remained ~ as Ernest Thayer once told us it had:

 

“Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;

the band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,

and somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;

but there is no joy in Mudville — mighty Casey has struck out.”

 

* Thank you forever too, Ernest Thayer, for your conceptual creativity and for all you have contributed to our basic enjoyment of the big moment in baseball anticipation and deflation, and to the inspirational borrowing art that is so essential to modest baseball writers like yours truly. ~ Bill McCurdy.

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Robbery-Wreck Kills Two Former Astros

December 8, 2018

 

Luis Valbuena
1985~2018
Rest in Peace

 

Jose Castillo
1981-2018
Rest in Peace

Two Days Ago, Thursday, December 6, 2018 ~ Another senseless and sad day is upon us as we receive and try to digest the news from Venezueula that ~ upon this day ~ former Astros Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo both have been killed in a vehicle collision that occurred when their transportation car from a game in winter ball hit a large rock in the road that caused a multiple fatality wreck.

Four men have since been arrested as suspects in an apparently common practice down there in which robbers place these rocks on streets in targeted attempts to stop the cars of affluent travellers for the purpose of their robberies, dead or alive. The bodies of Valbuena and Castillo both had been pillaged at the scene and apparently some to all of their belongings had been found on the personage of the four men arrested.

A friend of mine with some awareness of the harsh conditions that exist all over South America explained it this way:

“South America is a place in which the few ruling class members control all the wealth ~ and some of those got there in the most directly criminal ways ~ like the production, sale and movement of drugs to all places that are reachable by the cartels they have been established to the service of those aims.

“Most of the people live in abject poverty ~ with no middle class ledge inside their countries to inspire hope for any honest pursuit of a stable, secure future.”

And so we leap: Playing baseball was much bigger than a simple career choice for Valbuena and Castillo. It was their chance to rise above the normally poor options of ~ living at home in relative to abject poverty;  going to work for one of the cartels; becoming independent criminals, like the ones whose robbery plan caused their deaths; or, by joining the masses trying to escape these conditions by crashing the US border, becoming two additions, plus their families, to the probable millions still seeking political asylum as illegal aliens who chose to start their own game by “stealing home.”

Here’s a link to one the coverage stories. This one contains some quoted reactions from some Astros people:

https://www.chron.com/sports/astros/article/Former-Astros-infielder-Luis-Valbuena-dies-in-car-13449049.php

Rest in Peace, Luis and Jose! ~ Know too that we fans loved you ~ and that we shall miss ever seeing either of you again playing the beautiful game of baseball!

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Musial’s Take on Hofheinz’s Dome Humility

December 7, 2018

 

roy hofheinz-1965

Judge Roy Hofheinz at the Astrodome during the pre-1965 infrastructure completion phase of construction. I’m guessing that the place was a lot closer to completion when Stan Musial saw it for the first time at the December 1964 Houston baseball meetings.

Musial’s Take on Hofheinz’s Dome Humility. ~ 

To Darrell Pittman: Thanks for this clip from 1964 on Stan Musial’s first tourist visit to the site of the forthcoming 1965 first season of the Astrodome’s place in new indoor, air-conditioned baseball history ~ or as, we are reasonably sure the Judge must have proclaimed it ~ even that early ~ as the new “Eighth Wonder of the World!”

Nothing like inviting an ego buzz-cut from one of the most humble down-to-earth great ones that ever played his way into the Hall of Fame with no need for boastful help from prideful speech.

Enjoy!

Thank You, Stan the Man! ~ On this day that we buried the nation’s most humble and accomplished college first basemen whoever later rose to the office of President (as in POTUS), any reminder of you from any source ~ or any cranny of the mind of your own laid back character is easy to come by. ~ If such things happen wherever you and George now find yourselves, maybe you can invite the guy over for a game of catch sometime.

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Astroball Is a Must Read Book on Change

December 6, 2018

Future Hall of Famer Carlos Beltran.
In 2017, he was a charismatic positive influence upon many of the younger Astro World Series Championship players.

In the December 3, 2018 meeting of our Larry Dierker Chapter of SABR, writer Ben Reiter have a rousing presentation of his new book, “Astroball: The New Way to Win It All” before a packed house of members at the Spaghetti Western Cafe on Shepherd Drive in Houston.

The author started with a well written reading from the text that dynamically addresses how the Astros rose from the depths of a multiple year dip into the well-above 100 season losses early in this decade to becoming World Series Champions in 2017 and an ongoing contender this year forward as a result of the constantly refining influences of a system that combines the best of futuristic analytics and traditional scouting on the talent recruitment and deployment side of things ~ and with an eye toward finding ways to quantify contributing morale factors ~ like the presence of a big positive clubhouse presence of Carlos Beltran as a value to the winning formula.

In 2017, the aging Beltran was often referenced as the guy who just seemed to inspire winning and improved play by the others on the team ~ and, maybe especially among the younger guys, who enjoyed his company on the club, or in the dugout, or the clubhouse, or on the road ~ or any other travel moment when they had a chance to either observe what he was doing during the games ~ or saying to them, both personally and in general.

Does the Beltran 2017 experience suggest that teams should be looking for those kinds of qualities in one or two older players in ways that have only occurred by coincidence in the past?

Good Luck to MLB Thinkers who find an efficacious way to include the intangibles in a more tangible form that does not bastardize the big picture on what it takes to win it all. Otherwise, what good would a definable “charismatic positive influence” be if it left out all those great Yankee champions who apparently hated each other through their ways to World Series victories on the heels of internal discord?

Astroball, the book, is much more than a look into the problems of quantifying the subjective. Ben Reiter has done a first class, thorough job of charting out the change in things from Moneyball through the introduction of Analytics and the integration of new statistical evaluative techniques with traditional scouting evaluations that have gone into putting the Astros championship face together during the successful Jeff Luhnow tenure as General Manager.

Reiter’s book templates an evolving process of change. It’s well written and a must read for everyone who cares about the inner workings of the club and the future of MLB roster planning.

And good luck to you, Ben Reiter, for a book that screams the truth we all seem to put aside too quickly, too often. Life is a constant process of change. And all of us, even the game of baseball, have two choices on how to respond. ~ We can either find a way to participate in and grow with the change ~ or we can just close our eyes and ears and allow ourselves to be swallowed up by it.

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle