Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Rusty Staub: How Good Could He Get To Be?

March 19, 2019

 

 

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

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

Who’s on 1st, but Why’s this guy on 2nd?

March 18, 2019

“Hey, Goofy! Yeah, I know we just came in to bat, but you made the last out in the top of the 9th. ~ Now you’re our bonus runner at 2nd to start the top of the 10th! ~ Get out there and score us a run, OK?”
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Photo Credit: Walt Disney Productions

Who’s on 1st, but Why’s this guy on 2nd? The question deserves a better answer than the one we we are likely to find among the high and mighty leaders of the game who now bait it forth to us fans as
“a proposition-to-be-tested.”

What test? Is this MLB’s example of transparency in the search for fan inclusion into the process of ~ not simply adding some speed-up rules to the game ~ but semi-honestly to making changes in the very nature of baseball as a game that forevermore shall alter the way the game is played at a more rudimentary level ~ and, worst of all, are these changes really already decided, but, in the view of MLB royalty, simply in need of some democratic watering on their way to this new basic game status?

We shall see.

When the Atlantic Independent League and our Sugar Land Skeeters pick up their trial period playing by the proposed new rules for MLB and all of organized baseball come September 2019, the one rule change that seems to pique the culture skin of most is that one that’s designed to keep extra innings from shifting into exhaustion gear and playing further as though they were simply two rival crews who also seemed to be now playing the game as though they were trying to build a rope bridge to eternity ~ with each team going up and down “one, two, three” in frames that used up about twenty minutes for the whole one-inning process each time they repeated their mutual displays of tired and worn out offensive impotence and general bearableness.

 

Each time they repeated their act with another inning of boredom on display ~ and with about as much result as that last wordy one-sentence paragraph just provided us here.

Photo Credit: Walt Disney Productions

 

There was no end in sight. The game would go on until some good or goofy looking old infielder got a bad case of 19th inning “wicket legs” and allowed a low speedy grounder to pass through them on a diabolically batted ball that just produced enough energy to plate the tie-breaking win-difference-making run for one of the teams.

 

Most of us puritan nostalgists don’t want to see the 2nd base placement runner rule breathe the light of day, but some of us want it both ways. As writer Dan Kopf expressed it in an article he wrote back in the earlier days of this proposal on February 10, 2017:

 

“For baseball fans (like this one), the prospect of a rule change raises mixed feelings. Going to a baseball game is an exercise in nostalgia—its unchanging nature is part of the allure. So the first time a runner saunters over to second base to start an inning, it’s going to be jarring. But knowing an afternoon at the ballpark doesn’t potentially mean committing an evening there, is a very nice prospect too.”

https://qz.com/907103/major-league-baseball-is-testing-a-rule-to-start-extra-innings-with-a-runner-on-second/

What are we talking about? The most provocative new rule in this test is the one that now aims to shorten extra inning games by beginning the start of each extra inning time at bat with a courtesy runner at second base for the purpose of making the probability of a run scoring greater and the probability of a shorter extra inning game also more likely. The runner will be the last batter from the previous inning or the player who now occupies that spot in the batting order.

What to do? What to do? What to do?

Going back to the Dan Kopf quote, my take is simple. ~ You can’t have it both ways. It’s either baseball or it’s not. ~ And starting an inning with a runner on second in the hope that he scores is not baseball. If you’re going to do that, you may as well start the inning by placing that runner at third base ~ and add to it the corollary rule that any move by the pitcher to hold this straw man runner close to the bag ~ even a five-second mean look in his direction by the pitcher ~ shall be considered a balk by the umpire and serve as sufficient grounds for allowing the man to score as the result of this secondary new balk rule transgression.

If you have small kids, other dependents or obligations at home, or work conflicts as a result of late games. just leave early and accept it as part of both life and baseball itself. If you don’t like staying anyplace too long ~ even the ballpark ~ then find something else to do. Extra innings are part of the game that is baseball. ~ And if you really are a baseball fan with no other real obligations to leave early ~ one  who likes the live experience of being at the ballpark ~ just keep on going ~ and staying until the last man is out. ~ Where else would you rather be?

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

Astros Barracks Stop Complaints: 1965

March 17, 2019

HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY! 

And speaking of all that’s green, thank you, Darrell Pittman, for this timely seasonal reminder of spring training in the first year of the newly renamed Houston Astros:

 

A column by Merrell Whittlesey

Washington Evening Star

March 18, 1965

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

Happy Birthday, Jimmy Wynn!

March 13, 2019

To My Dear Friend, Jimmy Wynn ~

We missed you by a day on these public pages due to an unfortunate technical problem with the website, but, as always, it’s better late than never on the day after ~ your 77th Happy Birthday Passage.

 

 

Happy 77th Birthday, Jimmy Wynn

(Date of Birth: Match 12, 1942)

You floated like the Monarch butterfly ~ your bat was always the bee!

While soaring the Houston summer sky ~ God’s Love flowed endlessly!

And so it goes ~ from then to now ~ thru all, yet undone, we shall see!

The passion flight of the monarch force ~ from here to eternity!

So, Fly, ~ Jimmy, Fly! ~ ….. Fly, Jimmy, fly ~ like the Monarch of Degree!

We shall find our ways to soar with you ~ winged souls in spiritual glee!

We may not be from KC, but neither were the Monarchs of old originally!

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…. and as we here take our swings ~ one day late ~ there’s still time to shout:

Happy, Happy 77th Birthday, Toy Cannon,

Jimmy Wynn, Dear Sweet Beloved Friend!

Love and Peace,

Bill McCurdy and

All Other Monarchs

It’s Your Birthday, Jimmy Wynn!
_________________
Fly, Jimmy, Fly!

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

 

 

 

 

 

 

MLB To Test Changes in Atlantic League

March 10, 2019

… and, hopefully, not the 62 feet, 2 inches that goes into effect when the Atlantic League adds 2 inches to the mound-plate distance during the 2nd half of their 2019 season.

MLB has contracted with the independent Atlanta League (the league that’s home to our Sugar Land Skeeters) to put into play their “up-the-tempo” package of changes for the 2019 season to get a practical idea of how these alterations may help baseball pick up the time-flow of games in ways that shorten game times, but still maintain the flow of that baseball infinity-feel about time ~ while they also implement modern technology for helping the umpires do a better job of accurately getting the balls and strikes calls done more accurately and closer to one standard of the zone from game to game.

References

Fox News ~

https://www.foxnews.com/sports/computer-to-call-balls-and-strikes-in-minor-league

Houston Chronicle ~

https://www.chron.com/search/?action=search&firstRequest=1&searchindex=solr&query=atlantyc+league

Some managerial strategy will be lost. Best example ~ managers will no longer be able to call in a left-handed reliever to pitch to one killer lefty hitter and then take him out in favor of using a righty to pitch to a string of good right-handed batters. Under the trial period rules, any pitcher entering a game, unless he is subsequently injured or taken sick, must pitch to a minimum of three batters before he can be taken out of the game.

Oh really?

Well, how long do you think it’s going to take before the former one-trick pony pitcher comes into a game and now claims illness or muscle-tweaking injury after pitching to only one batter and then demands to be taken out for the sake of his career investment? ~ No umpire can overrule a pitcher’s complaint of new disability and force him to keep pitching under those circumstances, could he? No way.

If they haven’t thought of it already, the rule makers may have to impose an automatic loss of eligibility over the next course of several games when a relief pitcher cannot stand and face his three batter minimum. Maybe one game out for each batter missed would be fair. (Pitch to the minimum 3 batters, no problem; pitch to 2 batters only and he’s ineligible for the next game that’s actually played; pitch to only one batter and the reliever is ineligible for use in the next 2 actually played games.) Sounds fair as a move to hold down bogus injury claims in the first place.

At any rate, watching the total package put into play surely supplies another good reason for watching the Skeeters and their Atlantic League brethren play ball this season. They are doing organized baseball a very important service by allowing themselves to be the Guinean pigs of this trial measure.

If you can spare the time, we’d love to have you leave a comment in the section that follows this column. How do you feel about the trials it undertakes? How do you feel about a digital calls of balls and strikes? Do you think the effort to increase the pace of play will tamper with elements that made baseball great in the first place?

By picking up the game’s tempo of play, is MLB really trying to make the game better? ~ Or is it more a matter of finding a way to make live baseball more compatible with today’s shorter fan attention span? Are we hoping to teach the fans what they should look for in the game on the field? Or are we really trying to lure them away from their cell phones long enough to be entertained by a game that moves quickly and gets them home earlier?

Live baseball strategy only unfolds clearly on television, where you can see what happens between pitcher, catcher, and batter on every single pitch. What happens at the ballpark is a whole lot of other stuff, which is just part of the live experience of being there ~ and for 90% of the wired ballpark fans, whatever takes you away from your always ever-working call phone conversation with “elsewhere” ~ by sudden distraction or attempted ballpark entertainment.

What’s all that got to do with anything? For me it’s the belief that all of this need for change in the flow of a baseball game is more about refining the ballpark entertainment experience for millennial-age digitally indulgent fans. Larry Dierker expressed it best in a comment he left at another recent Pecan Park Eagle column. “If you want to watch the game, watch TV,” said Larry Dierker. “If you want to be entertained while a game is in progress, go to it.”

Even if we do not like and may have to fight certain changes, adaptation certainly not a bad thing. It’s just how it is. Baseball is governed by the same laws governing all living things ~ and that includes the games we play. If people don’t want the game, it cannot survive using a presentation format that was first introduced in the 19th century.

Those of us who don’t so much need a change of tempo format can live with an increase in tee-shirt blasts at the ball park ~ as long as we remain free to watch the real game unfold on television at home ~ and they have not added two feet to the mound-plate pitching distance. Changes of distance there and on the baselines are the changes that turn me rapidly into a dinosaur. To those I am compelled to shout loudly:

“Leave Our Game Alone!”

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

 

 

 

 

 

April 14, 1951: Houston Buffs Win Third in a Row

March 9, 2019

Larry Miggins
Left Field, Houston Buffs
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“To my generation of Houston Buff fans, and by his batting heroics, Larry Miggins was an imposer of happy baseball game indelibilities upon the places in our hearts and memory banks ~ those arenas of spirit and soul ~ where we keep all our lifetime smiles handy forever.”                       ~ Bill McCurdy

Houston Buffs Win Third in a Row

Houston, April 14 (1951), (AP) ~ The Houston Buffs extended their win streak to three here tonight with a 2-0 victory over the Beaumont Roughnecks.

Belsel (“Hisel” is correct) D. (Pat) Patrick pitched five-hit ball for the Buffs, and Larry Miggins connected for a home run in the sixth inning for one of Houston’s four hits.

April 14, 1951 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 ~ R H E
Beaumont 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 ~ 0 5 2
Houston 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 ~ 2 4 0

Larner, Dyck (7) and Tappe; Patrick and Fusselman

~ Wichita Daily Times, April 15, 1951, Page 11.

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Eventual Price of a 1923 Ruth Bat

March 7, 2019

 

Babe Ruth Bat Used
1st Yankee Stadium HR
April 18, 1923
Later Sold for $1.265 Million

On April 18, 1923, the New York Yankees played their first game in history at the brand new Yankee Stadium in The Bronx before a home crowd of 74,200. Would Babe Ruth help christen the place as “The House That Ruth Built” with one of his newly fashioned deadball-air-clearing home runs? It didn’t take long to get an answer.

In the bottom of the 3rd inning, facing Boston Red Sox starter Howard Ehmke, with 2 on and 2 out, Ruth unloaded the first home run in Yankee Stadium history. The Yankees went on to win the game, 4-1, in 2 hours and 5 minutes.

https://www.psacard.com/articles/articleview/6166/historic-bat-used-by-babe-ruth-hit-first-home-run-old-yankee-stadium-featured-tlc-s-accidental-fortune

The linked article reports the historic first Yankee Stadium home run bat by Babe Ruth in these terms:

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Ruth had given the bat to the Los Angeles Evening Herald, and Victor Orsatti won it in a high school home run-hitting contest sponsored by the newspaper. Ruth inscribed on the bat, “To the Boy Home Run King of Los Angeles ‘Babe’ Ruth, N.Y. May 7, 1923.”

Upon his death in the early 1980s, Orsatti gave the bat to his caretaker, who chose SCP Auctions as a partner in the marketing and sale of the bat and to prove that it was indeed the one used to hit the first home run in old Yankee Stadium. Accompanying the bat is a congratulatory telegram Orsatti received from “The Babe.”

After the bat spent 80 years in hiding, SCP Auctions was given the opportunity to showcase and feature the bat in a New York auction in 2004, when it sold for $1.265 million.

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One has to wonder. ~ How much of the $1.265 million dollar sale price actually went to the Orsatti caretaker heir? ~ And how much went to the SCP Auctions company that made the sale possible? ~ And how much did Uncle Sam allow them both to keep? ~ What was the point of the bat’s new acquirement by new ownership? ~ And where is the bat today? ~ Is it on public display anywhere ~ Or is it squirreled away in another dark, secure place? ~ And is it just the power point of ego that drives this hobby to this level of art in big business? ~ And is knowing that one is the power-driven possessor of a special thing like a famous bat the force that drives collectors on this level? ~ Or is it simply another playful version of whoever’s got the most money wins the game?

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

 

 

Was the Fate of Ruth’s Leaner Bat This Bleak?

March 6, 2019

Babe Ruth’s Last Uniformed Appearance
June 13, 1948

On June 13, 1948, two months and three days prior to his death from cancer on August 16, 1948, Babe Ruth made his last uniformed appearance in Yankee Stadium, along with a number of other survivors of the 1923 club that were there for that first Yankee club to play in the stadium on their way to that first World Series championship so long ago.

The high-flying Cleveland Indians were the opposition that June day in 1948 ~ and with Bob Feller pitching ~ but it was the beloved Babe Ruth that 49,641 fans had come to see ~ in full awareness of his current cancer struggle ~ and just to be in his living presence ~ at least ~ one more time.

The Babe didn’t disappoint. When he finally made his solitary last field appearance from the then third base Yankee dugout, he was wearing that familiar number “3” on the back of his jersey and, even though he looked and moved a little frail from the disease, his face lit up in a smile at the sound of the crowd’s roar of approval over his presence one last time.

It was the day of that famous photo of Babe Ruth from behind ~ standing still and leaning on a bat as he looked out at the throng and the beckoning grandeur of his setting there in the stadium ~ and in baseball history.

The “leaner” bat made the picture what it is ~ and what it is today is ~ dramatically unforgettable.

And yet, the Yankees weren’t terrifically far-thinkers in planning this entry. Babe had not brought a bat to lean upon, nor had the Yankees supplied him with one that included instructions on how he should use it for appearances’ sake. Babe just needed one to use as a cane that might prevent him from a stumble or fall that could cause great harm and itself become the picture of the day for all time.

A close baseball friend told me yesterday that it was Bob Feller of the Indians who quickly responded to Babe’s need and got him a bat from Indians first sacker Eddie Robinson to use in the entry. I’m not sure how Feller was the most accessible person to the need ~ given the fact that Ruth was coming in from the Yankee side of things. but that’s only one thing I could not unscramble on a quick Google search for clarification.

My reason for writing even this much about a famous moment on short notice is tied up in what my SABR colleague told me about the eventual fate of that Robinson-owned, Ruth-revered bat. What happened to the bat was so flat-out disgusting that I decided to simply write this piece this morning. My friend has the option of either joining in with the search or remaining anonymous. Surely someone like Paul Rogers of SMU ~ or Eddie Robinson himself ~ knows the whole truth.

My friend and I both realize that what I’m reporting here may be partially to wholly wrong. Please help us clarify and specify the truth ~ by your own documented account ~ or by reference to something that is published and available to those seeking evidentiary documentation or testimony in the matter.

My Understanding. Apparently, after the Yankee Stadium day in June of 1948, the bat was returned to Eddie Robinson and remained in his possession for a period of some time. Then it supposedly moves back into the hands of Bob Feller and is placed on exposition at some kind of midwestern baseball museum for several years. Then something causes the bat to be made available for purchase and is bought by someone ~ from whom we don’t know ~ by some kind of collector/entrepreneur ~ who puts the bat up for sale to the general public ~ wood sliver by wood sliver ~ to those who wish to buy a piece of baseball history. To the best of our limited and totally undocumented knowledge, and at prices we have no idea about, the famous Ruth “loaner/leaner” bat stayed for sale until every last sliver of profit was drubbed from its wooden heart.

My Take on the Wood-Sliver Sale. If the bat wasn’t sold to a fast buck artist ~ if it went back to Eddie Robinson ~ then I say Eddie Robinson had a right to do anything he wanted with the bat that was his in the first place. I’d still hope that he would have found a way to keep it in one piece for history’s sake.

On the other hand, if it were what it appears to have been, that the bat was acquired by a fast buck artist and then converted into a sliver-sale, the whole thing makes me want to throw up. The “entrepreneur” that did this serial deal, if it really happened, deserves all the respect we once reserved exclusively for chewing tobacco spittoons.

As for people who are willing to pay good money for wood-sliver pieces of an old bat, we say go for it! ~ We get what we deserve by our willingness to trust ourselves to the kindness of strangers. And, by the way, I hear that there are still a few barber shops in far west Louisiana that still have a few locks of hair from the head of Clyde Barrow for sale.

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

 

 

M Kates’ SABR Books, Part 1

March 4, 2019

THE SABR CONVENTION BOOKSHELF

AKA: M Kates’ SABR BOOKS, Part 1

(Part I: 2001 to 2007)

By Maxwell Kates

Maxwell Kates

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. (Tax season!)

First of all, it occurred to me that one of my earlier columns contained an error worth exorcizing. One year when the Blue Jays were in the playoffs, Harold Reynolds admonished Canadians for our inability to catch foul balls. I would most certainly support that stereotype. We’re equally skilled at missing players in columns about Astros Hall of Famers. I missed Ivan Rodriguez, who played briefly for the Astros in 2009 and was inducted into Cooperstown in 2017. Pudge hit his 300th career home run in a Houston uniform at Wrigley Field off the Cubs’ Rich Harden (now there’s a Canadian – he may have even caught a foul ball or two).

Ivan Rodriguez and Greg Lucas

Last year at this time, I wrote a two-part essay for the Pecan Park Eagle about twelve reasons to attend a SABR convention. This year, I am also writing about SABR conventions, but this article is about books associated with the twelve I have attended. After preparing a short review of each of the twelve books, I relate it back to the convention in order to justify the association. Now “books associated with SABR conventions” are not necessarily the same as “books on the history of the team from the host city.” There is one team history but otherwise the books are drawn from genres as diverse as biography, fiction, law, and even a couple that are not about baseball. So without further interruption, may I introduce to you the SABR convention bookshelf.

DOWN IN THE VALLEY

SABR 31 – Milwaukee, WI – 2001

Down in the Valley

For the 2001 SABR convention, the first I attended, I have selected Down in the Valley: The History of Milwaukee County Stadium by Gregg Hoffmann. First authorized in 1938, Milwaukee County Stadium was built in the early 1950s in order to attract a major league team. The operation succeeded in spring training 1953 when the Boston Braves announced the move west to Wisconsin. Over the next 48 years, County Stadium became home to the Milwaukee Braves, Milwaukee Brewers, and for a very brief time, the Chicago White Sox. Being a Wisconsin book, there is also a requisite chapter on the Green Bay Packers. Until 1994, the Packers split their home schedule between Green Bay and Milwaukee.

By the time the Ken Keltner chapter hosted the SABR convention in July 2001, Milwaukee County Stadium had been demolished. Not only was 2001 the maiden campaign of Miller Park, but it also marked the centenary of the American League The SABR convention included a bus trip to Pere Marquette Park in downtown Milwaukee to celebrate the birthday of the junior circuit. Chuck Comiskey II had travelled north from Chicago to unveil an historical marker on the site of the Republican House Hotel. Meanwhile another Chuck – Chuck Brodsky – performed a baseball music concert. I may have been the only one who didn’t attend the unveiling ceremony, opting instead to spend time chatting with Hoffmann and former Brewers outfielder Gorman Thomas at a vendors’ table. Schlemiel, Schlimazel, Hassenpfeffer Incorporated!

HUB FANS BID KID ADIEU

SABR 32 – Boston, MA – 2002

Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu

Literary giant John Updike was 28 years old when on September 28, 1960, he took a break from his writing to attend a baseball game in his adopted hometown of Boston. It would be the final opportunity for the Fenway faithful to watch their hero clad in his flannel uniform wearing number 9. And he did not disappoint. With the Red Sox trailing the Baltimore Orioles by a score of 4-2, Ted Williams stepped to the plate with one out and bases empty. He sliced a Jack Fisher fastball over the centre field fence for his 521st and final home run.

Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu is a personal essay about Updike’s impressions of Ted Williams, focusing on his tenure with the Red Sox and his monumental final game. It was in the context of this essay that Updike penned the timeless phrase, “gods don’t answer letters.” Perhaps not, though it is worth noting that the Splendid Splinter uncharacteristically doffed his cap after the round tripper. Williams’ home run proved to be the margin of victory, as the Red Sox came from behind to win 5-4.

As the Boston chapter prepared to host the convention in 2002, Teddy Ballgame did not have much time left. Williams labelled SABR as “the best kept secret in baseball” as was the Society’s highest profile member. For the first time since 1971, a convention forewent the standard keynote address. Instead, the banquet was followed by a panel called “Talkin’ Ted Williams.” Moderated by Bill Nowlin, author of many books about ‘the Thumper and indeed his SABR biography, the panel held on June 29 featured Red Sox teammates Johnny Pesky and Dominic DiMaggio, along with Joe Cronin’s daughter Maureen.

Once again, the Hub fans had bid the Kid adieu. Ted Williams passed away less than one week later, on June 5, 2002. John Updike died seven years later, on January 27, 2009. A decade later, Bill Nowlin’s Ted Williams biography appears in The Team That Couldn’t Hit, a new book about the 1972 Texas Rangers which he co-edited with Steve West.

The Team That Couldn’t Hit (1)

RED LEGS AND BLACK SOX

SABR 34 – Cincinnati, OH – 2004

Red Legs and Black Sox

Red Legs and Black Sox: Edd Roush and the Untold Story of the 1919 World Series was Susan Dellinger’s second book. In 1989, Susan had written Communicating Beyond Our Differences, a business manual on how ‘Psychogeometics’ may manage office personalities to maximize effective teamwork. Fifteen years later in Cincinnati, Susan attended her first convention, along with her husband Bob. Roush, who in 1969 was voted the Greatest Reds’ Player of the Century, was born Oakland City, Indiana in 1893 and died suddenly at a spring training game in Florida in 1988. Red Legs and Black Sox focuses on the infamous 1919 World Series, ‘throwing’ complexities to narratives proposed in earlier tomes such as Eliot Asinof’s Eight Men Out. Susan relies upon interviews and other primary source material to offer Roush’s interpretation to what actually happened in 1919. The book alludes to possible fixes on both teams, associating certain individuals such as Hal Chase who were neither identified in the newspapers nor banned from baseball, and whether two Cincinnati pitchers were themselves corrupted by the gamblers.

If there was anyone to have the authority to write the life story of Edd Roush, it was Susan Dellinger. She happened to be Roush’s granddaughter. Susan participated in a Baseball Relatives panel in Cincinnati; two years later in Seattle, she gave a research presentation on her historiographical methods used in Red Legs and Black Sox. Also appearing on the Baseball Relatives panel were surviving family members of Cincinnati baseball legends Gus Bell, Ted Kluszewski, Cy Rigler, and Slim Sallee.

Bizarre as it may sound, as the Baseball Relatives panel was taking place, I was researching whether I would have qualified to participate. When my uncle, the late Sidney Green, passed away in April 2001, we were told in the rabbi’s eulogy that in 1944, he received a tryout with the Cincinnati Reds. If 15 year old Joe Nuxhall could graduate from high school to the Reds, then why not a 24 year old righthander with a proven record pitching in His Majesty’s service. The only problem was that we knew my uncle was a storyteller. None of his six surviving sisters had ever heard this story before and nowhere was the invitation ever written or documented. My curiosity directed me to write Irwin Weil, a professor of Slavic Studies at Northwestern University. Born in Cincinnati in 1928, Irwin was the son of Sidney Weil, who owned the Reds from 1929 to 1933. Irwin had a 101 year old aunt who had worked for the Red and could access their archives. Her name was Lee Levy and Irwin encouraged me to write her my research request. Was Sid Green ever invited to attend a tryout with the Reds? The results were returned inconclusive.

Edd Roush and the Class of ’62

DIAMONDS OF THE NORTH

SABR 35 – Toronto, ON – 2005

Diamonds of the North

The history of baseball in Toronto from 1886 to 2001 may be reviewed in just two books: Louis Cauz’ Baseball’s Back in Town and Eric Zweig’s Toronto Blue Jays’ Official 25th Anniversary Commemorative Book. When SABR awarded Toronto the convention for 2005, the host committee made it clear that it would celebrate baseball not just in ‘the Big Smoke’ but all across Canada.

Which is why I’ve selected Diamonds of the North by William Humber as the baseball book for SABR 35. Beginning in 1979, Bill Humber taught a community college course in Toronto called ‘Spring Training for Fans.’ He has written several books on baseball in Canada besides Diamonds, became the first Canadian to sit on SABR’s Board of Directors in 1983, and engineered the “Let’s Play Ball” exhibit at Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum in 1989. He was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2018.

Written in 1995, Diamonds is best described as “a concise history of baseball in Canada.” The title even alludes to Donald Creighton’s Dominions of the North, which for decades was considered the definitive history of Canada. Besides chapters on the Toronto Blue Jays and the Montreal Expos, Diamonds explores minor league baseball ‘from sea to shining sea,’ Canadian members of the All American Girls’ Professional Baseball League, Canada’s role in the integration of baseball, a glossary of Canadian players – even a few words on Terry Puhl – and the Vancouver Asahi, an all-Japanese team which played from 1914 to 1941.

The Toronto convention featured presentations and delegates from all across Canada. George Bowering, a poet laureate from Penticton, British Columbia, attended the convention, as did John Carter of the St. John’s, Newfoundland Carters. Presentation subjects included the Canadian connection to the Black Sox Scandal, Elston Howard’s 1954 season with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and yes, Bill Humber answering “How Baseball Explains Canada.” There was even a pancake breakfast with Sam Holman, the Ottawa man who sold his maple bats to Barry Bonds each winter.

If you ask Bill Humber to sign a copy of Diamonds, don’t be surprised if he inscribes it “Keep cheering for the home team.” On the surface, it might seem like an encouragement to support local sports. But no, he’s telling people not to throw away his first book, which was called Cheering for the Home Team!

Bill Humber and Cheering for the Home Team

BECOMING BIG LEAGUE

SABR 36 – Seattle, WA – 2006

Becoming Big League

There have been several books written specifically about the Seattle Pilots. Most recently, Bill Mullins authored Becoming Big League: Seattle, the Pilots, and Stadium Politics. Mullins links the Pilots and their short history back to 1962, when dreams of a major league team emerged after Seattle hosted the World’s Fair. The American League gambled when in 1968, it placed an expansion franchise in Seattle. The ownership contingent, led by British Columbia-born Dewey and Max Soriano and underwritten by Cleveland railroad magnate William Daley, was grossly underfunded. The Pilots boasted the highest ticket prices at a time Boeing was slashing 25,000 jobs from the local economy. Protracted wrangling by local politicians about the construction of a domed facility relegated the Pilots to play in a moribund venue aptly named Sick’s Stadium. After finishing in last place in the American League West with a record of 64-98 in 1969, the Pilots did not know where they would open the 1970 season. Only on March 31, one week before Opening Day, was the decision made to transfer the Pilots to Milwaukee. The King County Domed Stadium was completed in 1976; only after the threat of an antitrust lawsuit did the American League vote to expand once again to Seattle for 1977.

The Pilots became a strong focus at the Seattle convention. Jim Bouton appeared both as the keynote speaker and as a member of the Seattle Pilots panel. Mike Marshall participated in the Collective Bargaining Agreement panel and also presented a workshop on kinesiology. Dave Baldwin, a systems engineer who went to spring training with the Pilots in 1970, presented a research project entitled “Nickel Patterns on Pitches,” while Pilots’ pitching coach Sal Maglie was the focus of a second research project.

A precis of Mullins’ book appears in Time for Expansion Baseball.

A WELL-PAID SLAVE

SABR 37 – St. Louis, MO – 2007

A Well-Paid Slave

One of the more popular topics of discussion at the St. Louis convention was a new book called A Well-Paid Slave: Curt Flood’s Fight for Free Agency in Professional Sports. Written by Washington lawyer Brad Snyder, A Well-Paid Slave provides a thorough examination of the Flood v. Kuhn lawsuit. Born in Houston and raised in Oakland, the 31 year old Flood was at the top of his game in 1969. One morning in October, he was awoken by a telephone call from St. Louis sportswriter Jim Toomey. This is how Flood learned that the Cardinals had traded him to the Philadelphia Phillies. Flood sat out the entire 1970 season and forfeited his $100,000 salary in the process. Instead, he sued major league baseball on the grounds that the reserve clause violated federal antitrust laws. Ultimately, the Supreme Court voted to stand by things decided, ruling 5-3 (with one abstention) in favour of Major League Baseball.

Snyder appeared at the convention and copies of his book sold like hotcakes. Moreover, in 1993, two years before Flood passed away, George Will wrote a famous essay about the case called “Dred Scott in Spikes.” Dred Scott was a slave who in 1846, unsuccessfully sued his master, by the name of Sandford, on the grounds that he and his family had lived in Illinois and Wisconsin where slavery was illegal. The St. Louis court house where Scott v. Sandford was heard is located only blocks from the Adam’s Mark Hotel which hosted the St. Louis convention.

Tune in next month as we look at Part II.

 

Editorial Note: Thanks for another great piece of reporting, Maxwell Kates. Tax season or not, the world of baseball researchers and readers reap the dividends from your passionate investment in the history of the great game.

~ Bill McCurdy, The Pecan Park Eagle

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

 

 

 

 

 

J.R. Richard on Ballot for Shrine of the Eternals

March 3, 2019

Bill McCurdy, John Storenski and J.R. Richard
~ 2003, following J.R.’s induction into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame.

The Baseball Reliquary, located in Southern California, but dedicated to the honor of baseball’s contributions to art and culture throughout the world. has announced  their fifty 2019 candidates for induction into the Shrine of the Eternals ~ their elite body of individuals who have made everything from the art and culture side of things in the history of baseball to the plainly unique and unusual, plus the overpowering statistical accomplishments, as well.

Voting is by all the contributing financial donors ($25.00 per year and up) by all who have paid their 2019 dues by March 31, 2019. Ballots will be e-mailed to the list of eligible voters on April 1, 2019, with the results then going into publication at the Baseball Reliquary website.

For further information about the 2019 voting plan, please check out this program link:

http://www.baseballreliquary.org/2019/02/candidates-for-2019-election-of-the-shrine-of-the-eternals/

Terry Cannon. Executive Director
Minding the store at The Baseball Reliquary.

For all further information the Baseball Reliquary, please contact Executive Director Terry Cannon in one of the ways shown here:

Terry Cannon
Executive Director
The Baseball Reliquary
www.baseballreliquary.orge-mail: terymar@earthlink.net
phone: (626) 791-7647

I’ve only been a member for a little over one year, but had followed their community education activities for most of the past decade. Unfortunately, I was not aware of The Baseball Reliquary in 2009, when our legendary Houston MLB founder and Astrodome contributor to so many baseball, other sport, and cultural events, Judge Roy Hofheinz, was listed as a candidate for “The Shrine”, but was not inducted and fell immediately off the ballot. ~ What! ~ What!! ~ What!!!

As we sometimes mutter in these parts, I’d have been on that omission “like a frog on a June bug” had I seen it earlier. ~ The Judge belongs in this Shrine. As soon as possible. And it isn’t yet April 1, 2019. There have to be a few SoCal printers out there that can handle the late addition of the man whose push for a domed air-cooled ballpark led to a venue that virtually continues to make the bed for how all sports in America are now played.

Not just “by the way”. ~ There is another name that is on the 2019 ballot who deserves and would get southwest, Houston, and southeast support ~ had “BR” suddenly received more mid-country voters than it now has. And that name is J.R. Richard!

Come on, Houston, help us out here!

         Note: When the actual 50-name ballots go out, voters may vote for up to 9 people on the list. Forgive me, but I do not have the details on how the list pares down to the actual inductee names. I’m thinking it’s probably on some kind of voter percentage formula, like the one used by the BBWAA and the Hall of Fame.

Please do give membership to the Baseball Reliquary your serious consideration. The work that Terry Cannon and his group is doing is simply larger than Los Angeles and the greater Southern California area. They need the bloodline of baseball that also includes Houston, Atlanta, St. Louis, Seattle, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Chicago and Miami, et cetera.

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher