Archive for the ‘culture’ Category

Curt Walker: A Timeline into Father’s Day

June 17, 2018

Happy Father’s Day 2018, Everyone!

16.5 years after the fact, Rob Zimmerman (R) receives the induction plaque awarded to his great-grandfather, Curt Walker, by the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame in December 2001.
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Photo by Bob Dorrill

If they asked me, I could write a book. But they didn’t ask. So, we will settle for a small column on the rich subject of Curt Walker as a timeline into the even taller topic of how culturally bound up the game of baseball was to so many of us when it came down to having a good father figure available when it came down to having a working father figure present in our lives — in some form, or forms — during our critical early time as innocent, but loving-needful boys and girls.

I had to look no further than my own father and his childhood experience to see the waves of paternal need placed into motion in my dad’s life by the loss of his own father early in life. In May 1913, at the age of 2 1/2, and as the 3rd oldest of four children born to William and Elizabeth McCurdy of Beeville, Texas — and only boy — my grandfather William McCurdy died of TB, leaving his family in the hands of my very strong grandmother, but without his presence as a model paternal presence. Grandad was the founder. publisher, editor, and principal writer of The Beeville Bee, the town’s first newspaper.

As a result, Dad got shipped off to boarding school almost as soon as his school age days began. It was there that he discovered his skill and affinity for baseball, a game he also played on the sandlots of Beeville every summer that he was home. It was an interest among the boys of Beeville that found strong reenforcement in the fact that three other slightly older town boys had played their ways to the big leagues by 1925.

Melvin Bert Gallia (YOB: 1891; MLB: 1912-1920), Curt Walker (YOB: 1896; MLB: 1919-1930), and Lefty Lloyd Brown (YOB: 1904; MLB: 1925, 1928-1937, 1940) were the native Beeville trailblazers to big league ball. Because of his own enjoyment of hitting, and also influenced by the fact that he shared the same BL/TR outfield post, easily converted Dad into becoming a big fan of Curt Walker, a condition which apparently worked fine for Walker, who became something of a 14 years older big brother figure to Dad as the two men’s friendship grew over time.

The presence of baseball gave Curt Walker and my dad the basis for a relationship that would last a lifetime. From the late 1920s summer times of Dad and his buddies going down to the Western Union or the Beeville Bee-Picayune offices to get the late afternoon scores for the Cincinnati Reds because that was Curt Walker’s team — to all the cups of coffee they shared later as grown men regular customers of the American Cafe — baseball was healing cultural water that brought new strength to areas of life that could hurt so bad.

Rob and Stacy Zimmerman of Charleston, SC included Houston on their family roots tour of South Texas to participate in the induction materials luncheon ceremony at the Jax Bar and Grill on Shepherd, held as part of our June SABR meeting.
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Photo by The Pecan Park Eagle

We owe a debt of gratitude this Father’s Day to Rob and Stacy Zimmerman of Charleston, South Carolina. Had Rob’s pursuit of information, lost and found, about Curt Walker, the man who turned out to be his great-grandfather, we may have lost the opportunity forever to have been reminded of why baseball is so important to the strength and structure of American culture. Had Stacy not been the patient life partner to Rob that she very obviously is, he might have been inclined to have abandoned the pursuit after we almost got together for a transfer of these awards to him years ago.

To that, I must say this about our newly found brother and sister, with a salute to the service they have each put forth in commitment to the rest of us:

“Nothing can stop the U.S. Air Force ~ especially when its aims are supported by patience and resilience!”

A tight framed 8×10 bust of Curt Walker from this September 1919 photo of his brief stay with the Yankees at the tail end of his rookie season was also presented to the SC couple during the ceremony, along with a few other historical goodies and a round of Curt Walker stories. – Photo compliments of the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library Collection, Cooperstown.

In addition to the 2001 Curt Walker Induction plaque from the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame. Rob Zimmerman accepted possession on Saturday, June 16, 2018, of an 8×10″ tightly framed facial profile of 23 year old Curt Walker dressed out as a 1919 New York Yankee. He also received a replica copy of Curt Walker’s 1926 Cincinnati Reds cap, a signed copy of Curt Walker’s Louisville Slugger bat, and a few books to read on Houston baseball history.

December 15, 2001. The Curt Walker Louisville Slugger bat was signed by Will Clark and all the other living fellow inductees from 2001, plus MLB stars likes Bobby Brown and Texas League icon Bobby Bragan. (Photo by Bob Dorrill.)

The room of our Saturday meeting overflowed with love, appreciation, and good feelings yesterday. And that’s as it should be. Today, Ron and Stacy are in Beeville, where my brother John McCurdy will show them where Curt Walker once lived – and then take them to Glenwood Cemetery to see where Curt Walker is buried.

Baseball is the great uniter of different people, even rivals, who are bound together – even in difference – to the importance of historic connectivity – and our shared commitment to the great game of baseball as the saving grace of us all.

Peace. Love. And Play Ball!

And Happy Father’s Day too!

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

A Brewster McCloud Review by Wayne R. Roberts

June 12, 2018

Brewster McCloud Soars Again
In the Astrodome, 1970.

A Brewster McCloud Review

By Wayne R. Roberts

Thank you, Wayne, for including me as a recipient of an e-mail that was really an Astrodome and Houston history column that cried out loudly for publication. ~ i.e., Welcome to The Pecan Park Eagle as another fine contributing author! ~ Bill McCurdy, Publisher.

I’ve been waiting for 12 years to get Brewster McCloud from Netflix but for some reason they haven’t carried it.  I was tipped that it is now available on Amazon in a new remastered DVD and ordered it.

In the event you haven’t seen it I’ll spare telling the plot of this surrealistic film made in Houston in 1970 by legendary director Robert Altman.  Never his most popular flick, it apparently was done immediately after MASH and uses many actors that appear  over ad over in Altman movies: Bud Cort, Sally Kellerman, Michael Murphy, John Schuck, and Stacey Keach and introduces Shelley Duvall who Altman discovered in early film preparation when she was a clerk in the Greenspoint Mall Foley’s.  It also includes Margaret Hamilton who was the wicked witch in, yes, The Wizard of Oz.

Not particularly politically correct (was Altman ever?), it is a must for those who lived in Houston at that time.  For me, the shots in Astroworld are breathtaking—made in the area in which I groundskept, though not when I was there.

Quickly, here’s what I took away in this first viewing in 20 years, in no particular order:

  • Houston skyline, whoa, was it different
  • The Medical Center sure was smaller
  • Chase scenes occur in the South Main, Loop 610, OST area and the cow pastures and fields are shocking
  • Brewster lives in the bomb shelter in the Dome
  • Incredible behind the scenes shots of the Dome
  • On the radio: Hudson & Harrigan and KILT news
  • 1970 Houston Chronicle
  • Drive along South Main includes Ye Olde College Inn
  • North Main includes the old M&M Cotton Exchange (now UH-Downtown)
  • Love Street/Allen’s Landing
  • Astroworld Hotel exterior and rooms
  • Astrodome gift shop, Domeskeller, The Countdown Cafeteria
  • Houston Zoo
  • Game shots of the Astros from the screen where you passed to go from the outfield bleachers to the Mezzanine (or tried to sneak through)
  • Weingarten’s in Montrose
  • Mecom Fountain
  • Pre rehab buildings along Montrose Blvd
  • Uncrowded freeways—many many driving scenes of downtown and SW Houston, OST-Fannin area chase scenes
  • Humble and Esso gas stations
  • Brays Bayou
  • Allen Parkway at early Tranquility Park (I think that’s its name)

For us old-timers, this is a must watch.

This is worth a more elaborate McCurdy report after you see it!

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

Astrodome Historical Marker Now In Place

May 31, 2018

 

The Astrodome Plaque Awaits Introduction
May 29, 2018
(Photo by Bob Dorrill)

Aptly Guarded By Two Historical Centurions,
Mike Acosta (L) of the Houston Astros
and
Mike Vance of the Harris County Historical Commission
(Photo by Bob Dorrill)

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett
Was Present to Preside Over a Moment
That His Leadership Helped Make Happen.
(Photo by Mike McCroskey)

Dene Hofheinz and Larry Dierker
Two Astrodome Icons in Their Own Rights
Made the Day Even Brighter.
(Photo by Bob Dorrill)

The Astrodome was a place where dreams gave birth to bigger worlds. Tal and Johnie Smith were both a big part of that condition of great hope that was Houston when it entered the big leagues in 1962 and the Astrodome in 1965.
(Photo by Bob Dorrill)

Dene Hofheinz, Daughter of Judge Roy Hofheinz, takes a turn to speak at the unveiled plaque at “the 8th wonder of the world”.
(Photo by Wayne Chandler)

Smiles and happy faces prevail!
(Photo by Mike McCroskey)

Hail! Hail! The SABR Gang’s All Here! ….
In Spirit at Least!
(Photo by Mike McCroskey)

Two of the Iconic Astrodome’s Greatest Early Franchise Legends,
Tal Smith and Larry Dierker,
Finish the Pictorial Part of our Report with Big and Knowing Smiles.
What better way to end this beautiful picture flow of the big day!
Now stay tuned below for the written report by Bob Dorrill.
(Photo by Wayne Chandler)

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Astrodome Historical Marker Now In Place

By Bob Dorrill

Tuesday afternoon, May 29, 2018, a State Historical Marker provided by the Houston Astros honoring the location of the Houston Astrodome was unveiled by Judge Ed Emmett, Dene Hofheinz, daughter of Judge Roy Hofheinz, who had the original vision for the Astrodome, Larry Dierker, former Astros player, manager, and broadcaster, early dome stadium team construction advisor and administrative magnate Tal Smith, and several others. Mike Vance of the Harris County Historical Commission and Mike Acosta, Astros’ team historian, acted as emcees.

Approximately 100 stalwart fans, including 12 members of the Larry Dierker Chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) attended the ceremony where several proclamations were read, stories told and memories relived prior to the unveiling of the marker so craftily worded by Messrs. Vance and Acosta.

On a hot baseball day in Houston we were all so thankful that “The Eighth Wonder of the World” had been built to provide air conditioned comfort for the many venues that were to use the facility over the years. Ironically, our shared memories of the Astrodome’s AC system were of no use to us on this typically hot Houston summer weather day.

The deed has now been done. And even the torrid parking lot heat could not override the smiles of joy that now kicked in over the fact that Houston’s world class contribution to both architecture and the still unfolding history of sporting venue comfort all really started on April 9, 1965, when Houston opened the door to incredible change with an exhibition baseball game played between the newly re-christened Houston Astros and the venerable champions of earlier times, the New York Yankees.

It’s too bad the late Neil Armstrong could not have been with us this Tuesday, May 29, 2018. Perhaps, he may have been able to further anoint today’s event as “one small step for local politics; one giant leap for Houston’s historical respect.”

Mind if we borrow the essence of your spirit, Mr. Armstrong? We’re pretty darn proud of what these people, and others of their “preservationist” minds and voices have done to make this historical marker dedication happen.

The Astrodome is now declared to be a state Antiquities Landmark, and it is now listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. As Judge Emmett said about the Dome, “Let’s not leave here today thinking just about the history, but about how generations to come will use it – and how it will be part of their lives.

Long Live the Dome!

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

The Incredibly Shrinking Fan

May 29, 2018

Baseball As I Knew It Then.

Susan Jacoby is the author of “Why Baseball Matters”, recently published by Yale University Press. Because of a tout from my youthfully old St. Thomas High School compadre and writer friend Rob Sangster, it is also now the next book up on my reading list as a source that seems to offer some intelligent, far-reaching thoughts on how changes in our culture may be playing a major role in the younger generation’s future interest in actively following the game of baseball as it is presently played.

Here’s the link:

http://time.com/5287319/baseball-betting-young-fans-attention-spans/?utm_source=time.com&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=social-button-sharing

Now for the scary satirical fun part. ….

Question: Whoa! — As Jacoby reports, baseball is a ten billion dollar a year industry in 2018. What does baseball do if the fans suddenly go away? — Yikes!

Answer: The answer here may be a gradient one, depending on how many fans leave the game and how quickly they disappear. Let’s play with those possibilities.

Hypothetical Gradient Gate Loss Reactions by Baseball Over The Next 5 Years:

(a) 10% MLB Gate Loss by end of 2019: MLB Reaction: MLB Passes on Gate Loss revenues to season ticket holders; installs pitch clock and runner at 2nd base at start of each extra inning game.

(b) Another 15% MLB Gate Loss by end of 2020:  MLB Reaction: MLB tries to pass on new Gate Loss revenues to season ticket holders, but there aren’t enough left after the first year’s penalty to matter. So, MLB simply raises rates on ballpark and television advertising.

(c) Another 25% MLB Gate Loss by end of 2021. Annual gate is now down 50% since the end of 2018. In a move of haste and desperation, MLB reduces its support personnel payroll in all phases to 50% of what it was in 2018 and rules that complete games will now be shortened to six innings and player salaries reduced to 2/3 of what they were, pending approval by the Players Union. 🙂 Game tickets are reduced to 50% what they cost prior to the big gate dive, but fans are reminded that they are now paying a bargain half price for two-thirds of what used to stand as a full game.

(d) Another 40% MLB Gate Loss from 2018 by the end of 2022. MLB makes only one minor change and that’s at the concessions level. Marijuana, recreational and medicinal, is now made available to fans at all 30 MLB ballparks on game day.

(e) By the end of 2023, attendance had bottomed out to nothing. Baseball fans didn’t want Marijuana, and those that did, like those who like hot dogs, could find a better price elsewhere. MLB offered no further changes, but they did send out a survey request to “fans” that reached the public by way of both newspapers and the Internet.

It read simply, clearly, and succinctly:

“Please tell us what you want baseball to be and we will make it happen, even if you want us to remove bats, balls, or gloves from the game. We want that ten billion bucks a year back that we were used to banking back in 2018 and we will do whatever it takes to make that happen again. If you like, Commissioner Manfred is even willing to schedule himself as the dumping pool subject at all 30 MLB parks during the 2024 season —  just so each of you has a chance to show off your own pitching skills.”

(If only the problem were this simple to solve.)

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Happy Memorial Day 2018

May 28, 2018

To My Own Uncle Carroll
In Honor of All Who Served!
Major Carroll Houston Teas
Pilot / Pacific Theater
UNITED STATES ARMY AIR CORP
1941-1945
Happy Memorial Day, 2018!

Happy Memorial Day, All Fellow Americans, and also to All Those Among Us in Body or Spirit of Good Character Who Aspire to be American by Choice, because of All Our Precious Freedoms and Opportunities that are guaranteed by constitutional law as in no other place on earth!

Today is our annual Memorial Day, a day duly delegated each year to honoring those deceased members of our Armed Forces, our only American working class created exclusively and specifically to the job of defending the rest of us citizens 24/7, 365 days a year, so that we may enjoy the fruits of this wonderful country, even during those rare periods of time we are not getting along so well with each other, from the intrusion of any and all malevolent foreign or domestic forces that aim to further divide or destroy this beautifully inclusive, but never perfect culture that is our home turf.

In baseball, we’ve come a long way since Jackie Robinson did his part by breaking the big league color line for black baseball players in 1947, but we should never take for granted that the war against raw racial hatred is a job that ever will end until we are decades beyond these still dissonant times. Even then, our watchfulness for racism’s attempt to return (or stay alive) in any form must still be clearly traced, as we act to disarm it, always working hard to make sure there is no regression into any part of America again ever becoming a culture of hate. Ever.

Supporting the American Flag and the War Against Racism should always stand together. They are each woven from the same cloth of substance that this country is supposed to be all about.

Equality and Respect. One cannot exist without the other. We need to eliminate any form of racial profiling by the police or any others in authority. We also need to show respect for our flag every day, whether it’s raining outside or not. It’s up to us as a nation to find our way to the best solutions possible for these still dissonant times.

Until we do, racism shall continue to undermine respect for the flag. The undermined respect for the flag, in turn, will undermine the support we need to fight racism. And it will be to the greater loss of both qualities we need working together for the benefit of all. Equality and Respect are the keys to everything.

May God help us.

And May God Bless America! ~ And, Even Under These Trying Circumstances, Thank You Especially for Your Service, Members of the American Military Forces!

World War II was the only thing that ever stopped my Uncle Carroll from standing for Our National Anthem, but, until his death, it never stopped him from saluting the flag whenever the band played at ball games, or wherever his travels carried him.

 

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Astrodome Gets Historical Marker on May 29

May 26, 2018

 

June 3, 2015: Astro fans are allowed to walk on the ground under the hallowed Astrodome ceiling on a day they came to pick up thousands of seats they had purchased from the iconic venue.

June 3, 2015: Ardent Astro fans Bob Dorrill (L) and Yours Truly Bill McCurdy wore the team’s colors for the grand occasion. See all the chairs stacked behind us? They are all set to go home.

6/03/15: If you could simply fit two joined seats together into the back of a Nissan Rogue, you were halfway home, even if your old diehard heart did linger for days in that great hall of all your life.

06/03/15: Our “Love of the Game” includes our ability to share our dreams with each other, our willingness to share bitter disappointment with each other, and our ability to soar with the eagles of hope when our dreams either finally come true, or else, just seem to be getting close to true. ~ We never give up.

Next Tuesday, May 29, 2018, at 3:00 PM, almost two months beyond the 53rd anniversary of the Astrodome’s April 9, 1965 official opening, the Astrodome will receive its State of Texas Historical Marker at a special ceremony that seals its official importance to the city, the state, and the world.

Please check out the linked article by Craig Hlavaty of the Houston Chronicle about this “historic creeper” in Houston cultural development. (You do know what an “historic creeper” is, don’t you? In our contextual belief, it is any historic development that is far larger than the relatively quiet shoes it wore to the gate of mattering.) It isn’t everyday that the City of Houston accepts a sign that any building within its city limits is ever too important to be torn down and turned into a parking lot. Most often, all a Houston building has to do to find the wrecking ball is grow old in the eyes of an owner who wants to do something else with the space.

Kudos to Mike Vance of the Harris County Historical Commission and Houston Astros team historian and authentication manager Mike Acosta for all they did to make this event a reality.

By the way, if you are planning to be there for the 3 PM event, please note that the parking area will open at 2 PM.

THE LINK IS ….

https://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/The-Astrodome-s-long-awaited-historical-marker-12940521.php

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

J. R. Richard Going Into Hall of Game

May 26, 2018

J.R. Richard, Inductee
NLBBM Hall of Game
June 9, 2018

Thanks to the peeled-eye “breaking news” vision of one of our avid TPPE readers and voluntary field reporters — Rick Bush, by name — we’ve become aware on this Friday-going-into-the-Memorial-Day weekend with the news that former Astros pitching great J.R. Richard has been selected for induction this year into the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum’s relatively new baseball “Hall of Game” in Kansas City.

The Hall of Game name honors former baseball players who voters feel exuded “the spirit of the way the game was played in the Negro Leagues,” Museum President Bob Kendrick said, when asked about the identity his group has now assigned to this newest hall of honor to players of greatness by some measure or viewable condition of greatness that most fans could see on sight.

Observable greatness? Game? Look at the other four inductees who will be going into this newly identified hall with Richard. — Do any of them need to put into words what was obvious in their styles of play as “game”?

Second mention here goes to another technically former Astro, Kenny Lofton, who broke into the MLB in a 1991 stretch with Houston, but then had most of his best time as a 17-season big leaguer with Cleveland, as the second of five total inductees. The others include Eddie Murray, Dick Allen, and James “Mudcat” Grant.

Just a note: In 2002, J.R. Richard was inducted into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame.

The NLBBM Hall of Game Induction Banquet is scheduled for the evening of Saturday, June 9, 2018 in Kansas City. Here’s a link to the website. Click there, then scroll down the website page to the “Hall of Game” pictorial words for all the pertinent details on how you too may still attend, if you’d like to be there to help honor J.R. and see the others in person:

https://www.nlbm.com/

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

Starting Nine for the Windsor Royals

May 19, 2018

 

The Duke of Earl will serve as manager of the newly formed WIndsor Royals club, if they can get their British act off the ground and running in the fine arts of American Baseball play.

Congratulations, Harry and Meghan! Now that the royal wedding’s over, we dedicate this lineup to the both of you. Now it’s your turn to start knocking out a few additions to the already complex line of succession to the Royal Throne of England.

I didn’t exactly wake up to see the Royal Wedding this morning, but that’s pretty much how it worked out, even to the point of inspiring some research into the creation of today’s most recent lineup column, which are always fun for me, even if that’s as far as the merriment goes.

“Now Playing Ball for the Windsor Royals ….”

ROYALS POSITION MLB YEARS CAREER YEAR RECORD
Mel Queen Pitcher 1966-1972 1967 14-8, 2.76
Hal King Catcher 1967-1974 1970 .260, 11 HR
Tom Prince 1st Base 1987-2003 1991 .265, 1 HR
Howard Earl 2nd Base 1890-1891 1890 .247, 7 HR
Ray Knight 3RD Base 1974-1988 1979 .318, 10 HR
Harry Lord Shortstop 1907-1915 1911 .318, 10 HR
Zach Duke Left Field 2005-2018 2011 (pitcher) .300, 2 HR
Duke Snider Center Field 1947-1964 1954 .341, 41 HR *
Ray Noble Right Field 1951-1953 1951 (catcher) .234, 5 HR
  • It’s OK for this club of Royals to have two Dukes, even if one of them only uses “Duke” as a first name, as long as the one first-named “Duke” happens to be Duke Snider. Somebody’s got bat somebody in – even if that only happens when this one great hitting “first-name’s-Duke” star knocks it out of the park.

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Larry Miggins: A Man for All Seasons

May 18, 2018

Larry and Kathleen Miggins
St. Patrick’s Day 2017

 

During the early 1940s, our very own Houston SABR baseball treasure was a student at Fordham Prep in New York City, where excelled in baseball, basketball, and football — eventually earning a football scholarship as a tight end, offense and defense in those days, of course, to play for the University of Pittsburgh.

Larry also played baseball at Pitt, but passed on basketball because of the conflict it presented to his scholarship time on the gridiron. And this was in the days in which a young man of 6’4″ in height was considered tall enough to be a dominant force.

Basketball Force? Miggins could shoot too — once totaling 38 points in a single game. And in baseball, Miggins played third base in those days, taking infield grounders and playing catch with one of the Pitt voluntary coaches — a fellow named Honus Wagner.

Well, this winter, the For Prep football people decided it was a high time they recognized Mr. Miggins for all he did in behalf of their good name on the gridiron back in 1943. They selected 92-year old Larry Miggins for induction into the Fordham Prep Football Hall of Fame.

In his usual humble way, Larry Miggins shared this news with us in Houston at the SABR April 2018 meeting. Fordham wanted Larry and his wife Kathleen to come to NYC for the induction at the annual banquet of their Gridiron Club on May 5, 2018.

As things turned out, Larry wasn’t up to the travel requirement this time, but he did appear on video to deliver this very charming and honest acceptance speech to the offer of this honor.

Do yourselves a favor. Pick out a ten minutes time span you may listen in peace. Then turn on the sound to your video replay equipment in advance and click the link below to watch and listen to Larry Miggins accepting this deserved honor in digital person.

Once you click the link and reach the site’s home page, simply click the middle bar — the one noted as “Larry Miggins ’43 Gridiron Hall of Fame Induction Speech” — to see and hear Larry talk it through from the heart — as he does everything else.

Then, when that’s done, do yourselves another favor and read the eloquently thorough article that David E. Skelton wrote on Larry Miggins in behalf of the SABR biography project in 2015.

https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/f925ea43

Larry Miggins turns 93 on August 20, 2018.

God Bless You, Larry! — And May God Bless us for the time He has given us with you!

You are very, very loved — and my own love for you started back in my Pecan Park Eagle days. From that ancient personal time, I am still able to run mental images of you walking to the plate at Buff Stadium, bashing line drives over the left field wall. I just never dreamed back then that you would still be in my life seventy years later.

What a wonderful world this has turned out to be.

Thanks, old friend and hero. From the bottom to the top of our shared Irish being-ness, I thank you too — for being you.

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

The Tommy John World We Live In

May 17, 2018

Tommy-John-2

 

“When they operated, I told them to add in a Koufax fastball.

They did, but unfortunately it was Mrs. Koufax’s.”

– Tommy John, N.Y. Yankees, recalling his 1974 arm surgery

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Can you imagine what it must have been like for Tommy John? Or still may be? He went into baseball as a pretty fair pitching prospect, but a common career-ending injury to his arm transported him to a medical doctor who performed a radical surgery on John that not only saved his place as an MLB pitcher for a while longer, It also forever set up his name — “Tommy John” — to become more the identity of this particular surgery than it ever was as the name of the first pitcher who saved his career because of it.

When we hear today that arm injury to a current big league pitcher is going to cause him to miss the rest of this season and possibly most or all of next year because of “Tommy John”, we all know what that means. There is no time wasted blaming the former pitcher named “Tommy John” for the ballplayer’s bad news.

“Tommy John” is surgery first — a ballplayer barely. But it works in our minds and that’s apparently what counts.

At any rate, the “Tommy John” human expression of humor, about coming back to the game with the fastball speed of “Mrs. Koufax”, did pull me back to all the other human beings who have lost their identities to other matters in life, and we’re not talking anything possible in a single column. It would require more of a book, or a book series, to cover all the streets, airports, and cities in America alone that take their identities directly from adopted or applied human names.

JFK and LaGuardia airports in NYC are great examples. But how about the City of Houston?

Texas History teaches us that Texan Army General Sam Houston won the Battle of San Jacinto in eighteen minutes over General Santa Anna and the Mexican Army on April 21, 1836 at a site just east of present day Pasadena. Today that win is celebrated as Texas Independence Day.

The Irony of San Jacinto probably is the fact that the previously described battle was both the first and last time that anyone got anything done anywhere near “Houston” in eighteen minutes. Today, in 2018, I can’t even drive from home to my office in eighteen minutes, — and I live only five miles away.

Houston street names are often the result of names put forth by elected officials who just happened to think of a name from their own histories that was different enough to stand out among the other nearby street names. Gessner Road on the west side, for example, was a name supplied decades ago when that north-south passage was little more than a two-lane passage through a still fairly agricultural part of the county and not the “new downtown” Houston it is becoming.

Harris County Commissioner Squatty Lyons suggested “Gessner” when he recalled having a classmate by that name at then Reagan High School years earlier. There was no other distinguishing reason beyond the fact that Lyons remembered the name and that it fit the name distinction needs during a year in which that sort of thing was declared as important.

We do have a baseball byway in Houston. The Nolan Ryan Expressway, a north-south artery on the southeast side of town, has proved an apt name for the several miles long section of State Highway 288 that runs near to Minute Maid Park, the home of the Houston Astros, but it certainly hasn’t “Tommy Johned” the old Alvin Strikeout King’s primary ownership of that identity.

Personally, I would like to see the Katy Freeway, from downtown Columbus, Texas, given back its local bullet train parallel track, – all the way to downtown Houston with three strategic stops along the way in Sealy, Katy, and Gessner for passengers prepared to travel at bullet-train speed over short distances. Call it the Larry Dierker49Fastball Line and make it so workable that consumers will reference themselves as being Dierkered to the office for a special meeting with the boss.”

Then just watch the suburbs between here and Columbus continue to grow at an even faster rate.

Along those same lines —

Maybe, if they can get sign-off approval from former Astros great Jimmy Wynn, they could christen that bullet train’s Houston to Dallas ride as The Toy Cannon. Sounds pretty strong and fast to me. What do you think? Of course, if we could get the Dallas people to sign off on the other side, this would be a great place for a railed extension of The Nolan Ryan Expressway as the north to south version of the trip. After all, Nolie and Son did sort of come back to Houston when all was said and done. Did they not?

Lou Gehrig’s Disease comes to mind far easier for what it is in reality. We doubt that many people know it’s scientific name, — or likely would there be many of us shouting out the answer to this question: “What is a more common name for a disease catalogued as “Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis”?

That’s it for now from our side, but we would love your help in further Tommy Johning the world with the individual name identities that are more associated with the action or event itself than the formal name that goes with whatever it may have been called in scientific or legal language.

Have a hope-floating night, Astro friends, as we slide toward the weekend home series with the Indians. If we could simply “Justin Verlander” all our Astro starters into pitching the kind of game that the original “JV” threw against the Angels on the wings of a 2-0 complete game shutout on Wednesday night —  and get the same results — where do you suppose we might be this coming November 1st?

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle