Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Time Travel Tease: The Ruth-Gehrig Film

January 20, 2019

Babe Ruth (L) and Lou Gehrig
(You didn’t really need the help, did you?)

It happened on April 11, 1931. The New York Yankees made a short trip to Brooklyn to play the Dodgers in an exhibition game at Ebbets Field and Fox Movietone was there to get this great film footage (with sound) of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig taking batting practice prior to a growing stadium crowd. It’s just what it appears to be ~ a fortunate capture of the two great Yankee sluggers back in 1931, simply doing their ordinary pre-game routine for the action to follow.

The Gehrig-Ruth BP Film Link:

Video of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig's batting practice shows how bizarre their swings were

Filmed from behind the two left-handed batters as they took their cuts, we also get a pretty good view of the lower near home plate left field side  of home box seats and the stir of early fan and concession sales personnel. Hardly anyone seems to be paying much full attention to either of the two swat-meisters taking their practice cuts. That’s right! Even though they may have not bragged about it even then, New York fans always have been self-entitled to more than one team “sultan of swat” at a time. And besides, nobody pays big-ticket bucks just to go watch batting practice anywhere ~ even at these exhibition games. ~ Unless ….

Unless what? ~ We’ll get to that question soon, but just a word or two more about the crowd first.

People are dressed to the nines. Women are adorned in beautiful stepping-out long skirts and caps; men are dressed in suits and ties and hats. The food sales guys are the younger worker and older rummy type men in the white jackets and caps who all seem to share the ability to statue-of-liberty a hot dog with their shouts of “right here” appeal to the fans.

Many people in the stands sit and talk in twos and threes, with eyes facing each other, while others stare out beyond the infield on a thought path that may run as short as ~ “should I eat now or later” ~ to ~ “is baseball the meaning of life for everyone that it is for me?”

The fans in the Ruth-Gehrig film clip also share another common trait that is immediately noticeable to all of us who’ve almost made it through the first decades of the 21st century. ~ No one is talking or playing digital games or texting or taking selfies on a cell phone. If they are not watching Ruth and Gehrig take a few knob-nubber hacks, it’s as we said at the start here, these early 20th century fans didn’t come to the ballpark to watch the big boys practice. In 1931, If they were Yankee fans, they came to watch their club destroy the not-so-good Brooklyn Robins, whose 1931 nickname for the eventual Dodgers trademark moniker was still in use as an homage to their revered long-time manager, Wilbert Robinson.

Now let’s get back to our “unless what” qualifier from above.

Maybe a fan, or a small group thereof, wouldn’t pay more for their best tickets unless this one trip to see Ruth and Gehrig was possibly going to be their only opportunity to ever see them live again! ~ And why so? ~ Because of the possibility that these rare game viewers were time travellers from the future who might either get lost when they tried to return to their own future era of origin. Look for the ones who seem to be paying constant attention to Ruth and Gehrig as much as you or I might.

Now, before you call to place my commitment in action, please be aware that even the great genius mind of the late Stephen Hawking conceded in his last book that time travel to the past is theoretically possible. In fact, the light from earth for every second in history already recorded still exists at an unspeakably high number of light years away from us now ~ and all we have to do to retrieve it is to bring our time and space technology up to the task of its full recovery and then take the next step into energy conversion that will allow us to enter into those recovered fields as though we were already there when they originally occurred. Congruent time and space travel will make that possible, if we can work out some of the bugs that got in the way of that basic step attempt in the 1958 Vincent Price movie, “The Fly”.

Simple as that! ~ Simply enjoy this gift to our times. The short film shows two of the greatest players in baseball history going through “a day at the office” in their very different era.

As for the present or near availability of time travel, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. By now, we all know from both fictional and philosophical works that the major danger of time travel at full interactive capacity with people or past events is that anything we might change ~ changes everything else ~ and all it would take is for our presence in the past mix to alter the conditions that made our existence today even possible.

And why in the world would any of us want to be rendered non-entities by time travel when anyone among us can stay in their own time zone and be rendered has beens or non-entities in our normal flesh location?

It ought to be a no-brainer! 🙂

” Two words about me going back in time to correct my mistakes and then becoming the greatest pitcher in history ~ ‘You never know!’ ” ~ Anonymous.

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rest in Peace, Eli Grba

January 19, 2019

Eli Grba

Former big leaguer Eli Grba has died at age 84. Sadly, but gratefully, we now have the news, courtesy of the death notice story we have received from our wonderful SABR colleague Paul Rogers in Dallas.

Here’s the story link below: *

Grba’s MLB record was mediocre by both service time and accomplishment. You will find it entrenched in the walls of mediocrity that account for most of the masses who actually make it as big leaguers for a little more than a cup of coffee exchange. As a right-handed pitcher for five seasons (1959-1963), Grba won 28, lost 33, and posted a 4.48 ERA for 536.1 innings of work. For the course, he surrendered 532 hits and 62 home runs, walking 284 and striking out 255. He managed to start in 75 of his 135 MLB appearances, with 10 of those starts resulting in complete game efforts.

Forget mediocre. Eli Grba was a passionate human being whose limited time in the bigs was no doubt made shorter by his abuse of alcohol. Some time after his time in the majors, Grba reportedly fell drunk through an open window and could have died from it, but he survived, and he came out of it with the desire to stop drinking. Which he did, with help, I’m sure. But don’t look to me for explanations. It has something to do with miracles working out in mysterious ways.

Eli Grba always took pride in four major firsts that will never be removed from his MLB record:

December 14, 1960: Eli Grba was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels from the New York Yankees as the 1st pick in the 1960 expansion draft. This transaction actually stands as double-first in MLB annals. Grba was the first pick in the very first draft ever held by big league baseball for the purpose of stocking expansion teams.

April 11, 1961: Eli Grba was both the first starting and winning pitcher in the history of the new Los Angeles Angels, a 7-2, complete game win over the Orioles in Baltimore. One could make the easy argument that credit for also pitching the first complete game, getting the first strike out, etc. are all worthy of note too, but we feel we’ve mentioned enough to explain these famous treasures in his own eyes contained in the Grba quote published in the linked article:

“I’m a trivia question until I die,” Grba said in a 2011 television interview. “I’m the first guy that’s ever been drafted — and the first Angel. You know, that’s kind of nice.”

Sometimes we have to fall before we can really walk tall. Thank you for being a shining example of the fact ~ and now rest in peace, Eli Grba ~ wherever you now may be.

 

* https://www.latimes.com/local/obituaries/la-sp-angels-eli-grba-obit-20190115-story.html

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

Why Grantland Rice was Grantland Rice

January 18, 2019

Back in the 1920s and 1930s, most of us who then lived in the boondocks ~ and far away from big league baseball ~ had little other choice but to read about the action in whatever newspapers were available to us. There was no television in those days, of course, and very little radio coverage. You either went to the ballpark ~ or you read about the games in whatever newspaper that was available to you ~ or you took in minor league or barnstorming baseball games ~ or you just gave up the game in favor of dancing or whittling.

It was under these daunting, but extant 1920-30 conditions that a fellow named Grantland Rice wrote to the rescue of a nation that starved for the news of baseball, football, and boxing for timely reports that American fans at large could not otherwise hope to receive out there in the hinterlands.

And, man, did Rice ever do his job! He wrote game stories that coupled words and visual portrayals like powerful box trains of thought ~ ones that chugged through our sporting news-starved stationary minds like magical lines of play that settled as clearly in our corn field farm homes as they did in town in the Saturday afternoon barber shop chair.

Here are a few examples from the syndicated story that Grantland Rice did for publication on October 2, 1932 on the action from Game Three of the World Series in Chicago the previous day. Game Three on October 1st was the one in which Babe Ruth supposedly “called his shot” in a Yankees victory over the Cubs that now sent New York into a 3-0 position on games won ~ and set them up as enormous favorites to finish the job in Game Four. ~ Which they did.

You won’t read Rice concluding that Babe Ruth called his shot, but you should be able to get the impression from his quoted game account that such a claim may have been easily perceived from what Grantland Rice and others did write ~ and what other people saw ~ and wanted to see in Ruth’s second home run of the game:

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….Ruth Jeers Cub Players

By Grantland Rice

Chicago, Oct. 1 – “That far-echoing rumbling roar you must have heard Saturday afternoon was the old rock-crusher-rolling over the flattened, crushed bodies of the Cubs. In the driver’s seat were those two mighty men of baseball, Ruth and Gehrig. Babe and Lou, the dynamite twins.

“In the presence of 50,000 startled Cub rooters and (NY) Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt, this dynamic pair of slugging mastodons lit the fuse to four home runs with a fusillade that drove Charley Root from the field with his ears still ringing in the wake of a bombardment he will never forget.

“The Yankees won the scrappy slugfest, 7 to 5, to make it three in a row. and thereby step within one battle of making it a murdering four straight march.”

~ Syracuse Herald, October 2, 1932, page 1

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(Legends Feed Easy on The Realities That Precede Them)

“With one down in the fifth, and the score tied 4-4, Ruth came to bat for the third time. Ruth and Cubs players in the dugout had been carrying on a lively repartee all afternoon and it now reached its height with the Babe waving his hands and yelling to the players between each pitch.

“With the count 2-2, Ruth motioned to the Cubs dugout, that he was going to hit the next one to his liking out of the park and, when he saw a low curve floating up the alley, he swung with all his powerful body. The ball sailed more than 450 feet into the farthest corner of the center field bleachers for his (Ruth’s) second home run of the series and his 15th in World Series play.”

~ Syracuse Herald, October 2, 1932, page 11

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“Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore their names are Death, Destruction, Pestilence, and Famine. But those are aliases. Their real names are: Stuhldreher, Crowley, Miller and Layden. They formed the crest of the South Bend cyclone before which another fighting Army team was swept over the precipice at the Polo Grounds this afternoon as 55,000 spectators peered down upon the bewildering panorama spread out upon the green plain below.”

~ The Four Horsemen of Notre Dame by Grantland Rice

If Grantland Rice were ever home, his kids must’ve heard some great bedtime stories.

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

Historic Buildings in Sam Houston Park in Trouble

January 17, 2019

The Heritage Society
Sam Houston Park
Downtown Houston

Wow! What a shock, but not a surprise it was to learn this morning that public support for the downtown exhibit of historic homes and other places in the downtown Houston Sam Houston Park are in danger of being lost due to the fading away of private support.

In addition, the absence of operational funds has effectively caused all the conservatory professional and support staff of the Heritage Society that manages the showing of the old homes and thousands of other historic items to either remain as lightly paid, mostly volunteer staff ~ or else, look for other work. ~ And their departures from jobs they love are a double loss ~ both for them ~ and the community they serve so well.

Here’s the link to the story. And thanks again to frequent researcher/contributor Darrell Pittman for alerting The Pecan Park Eagle to this distressing development.

https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Historic-Houston-buildings-threatened-by-budget-13539841.php

St. John Church
Sam Houston Park
Downtown Houston

If Houston is going to be successful with its preservation efforts downtown ~ or with a permanent design for showing the Astrodome to the world for what it actually is ~ it’s got to have the private sector support that those kinds of first class city projects require. It will never be enough to simply patch each thing along over time on the backs of small public fundings and short-term private interest usage contracts that first blur away and eventually discard any serious reliquarian reference to what’s really historically important about the saved entity.

Our hearts and prayers go out to the people and friends of the Historic Society ~ and for the future of the buildings and other important historical items under their care.

Hang in there, people! ~ It ain’t over til it’s over ~ and it’s going to get better. ~ Gotta happen!

We’re Houston Strong! ~ Remember?

Sincerely,

Bill McCurdy

The Pecan Park Eagle

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

Mel Stottlemyre Dead of Cancer at 77

January 16, 2019

Roger Clemens and Mel Stottlemyre

The death of the great Mel Stottlemyre is a sad day for baseball. He was one of the great pitchers whose career win total was shortened by injury, but he also was one of those great pitchers who was able to teach others how to build their own games in the direction of greatness as a successful coach for the Yankees and Mets. Unfortunately for those of us whose allegiance was to certain other clubs, Stottlemyre was one of the main reasons our own clubs hit the wall on short runs as World Series candidates. Our 1986 Houston Astros’ crushing 16th inning loss to the New York Mets at the Astrodome in the NLCS jumps immediately to mind.

How much was that last-play-of-the-game critical strike out of Astro batter Kevin Bass the work of veteran Mets reliever Jessie Orosco ~ and how much of that baleful silence that befell the home Astrodome crowd the moment it happened the spiritual needle work of Mets pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre?

The modest man with the best answer to that question took any impressions he may have privately held with him to the other side on Sunday. My guess is that he would have given all the credit to pitcher Orosco. That’s the kind of guy he apparently was. ~ And he’s going to be missed.

Rest in Peace, Mel Stottlemyre!

What follows is a nice obituary article on the life and death of Mel Stottlemyre by Ryan Gaydos of Fox News. If you want to read the same material at its base source, a link to that reference follows its presentation here.

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Mel Stottlemyre, former New York Yankees great, dies after long battle with cancer

By Ryan Gaydos | Fox News

Former New York Yankees legend Mel Stottlemyre — who starred on the mound for the Bronx Bombers before presiding over five World Series titles as a pitching coach for the Yankees and Mets — died Sunday, January 13, 2019, in Seattle after a battle with bone marrow cancer. He was 77.

Stottlemyre pitched in 11 seasons with the Yankees and was a five-time All-Star. He also served as pitching coach on the 1986 New York Mets World Series team and the great Joe Torre-led Yankees teams of the late 1990s and early 2000s. The Yankees won the World Series in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000 during that run. In the process, Stottlemyre worked with some of the greatest pitchers of the times: Dwight Gooden with the Mets and Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, David Cone, David Wells and Mariano Rivera with the Yankees.

The Hazelton, Mo., native was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in the spring of 1999 and underwent experimental treatment for the disease, including stem cell transplant and chemotherapy, according to the New York Daily News.

Stottlemyre made one of his final appearances at Yankee Stadium in June 2015 during the franchise’s annual Old Timers’ Day. The Yankees honored Stottlemyre with a plaque in Monument Park.

“Today in this Stadium, there is no one that’s happier to be on this field than myself,” he said at the time. “This is such a shock to me because the era I played in is an era where, for the most part, the Yankees have tried over the years, I think, somewhat to forget a little bit…If I never get to come to another Old Timers’ Day, I will take these memories and I’ll start another baseball club, coaching up there, whenever they need me.”

Stottlemyre was 164-139 with a 2.97 ERA in 360 career games. As a player, he only appeared in the World Series once – in 1964 against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Yankees lost that series in seven games, beginning a period of mediocrity for the club after decades atop the sports world.

He is survived by his wife Jean and two sons Todd and Mel, Jr. — both of whom were also major league pitchers. His third son Jason died in 1981 of leukemia, according to the New York Daily News.

https://www.foxnews.com/sports/mel-stottlemyre-former-new-york-yankees-great-dies-after-battle-with-cancer

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

An Adapted Astrodome Love Song

January 15, 2019

The Houston Rodeo Carnival
Unfolding Under the Astrodome Night Sky

 

In Respectful Appreciation to Sammy Fain

(with no commercial performance intended)

 

The lightning seems to fly ~ across the summer sky

And shooting stars begin to fall ~ around us

The most amazing things take place

Each time that we come face to face

 

And simply ’cause you’re there, ~ there’s music everywhere

The melodies we hear ~ will just astound you

And they invite us to embrace

Each time that we come to this place

 

And when ~ we aren’t here, the world’s a wintry thing

But then ~ here we appear, it’s spring again, it’s spring

 

The first time that we kissed ~ we heard our hearts insist

Don’t ever lose the Dome ~ now that she’s found you

And if the skies be grey or blue

She’ll face them face to face with you

 

If you would like to hear the music that works for me with this respectful “Astrodome as Art” homage adaptation of the words to writer Sammy Fain’s “Face to Face” from 1954, please click on to a YouTube presentation of that ancient hit song’s most popular “record” version by Gordon McRae from the same year. Then go over our humble adopted lyrics above again ~ as you listen this time with the McRae music re-playing behind them:

Those of you with stronger millennial ties by age are certainly free to find your own musical soundtrack to the way the networks will handle the first night sky shot of the Astrodome as coverage of some later date Super Bowl unfolds from Houston into the dark of evening. Or just imagine this true version of the Dome Heart, lighting up like a Christmas tree ~ or grandest Fourth of July Fireworks Show in Houston history.

The way this baby lights up the sky by shape and color variance will say “Houston” to the world as loudly as the Statue of Liberty, the Gateway Arch and the Space Needle all visually flash the names of their home cities to the world.

Would you care to get some of your health walking done at the Dome? With this beautiful plan, you will be able to take a two mile walk to the top and back. For more information, check out all the visual and written data on what will be there for you if the community decides to support the most awesomely beautiful and accurate version of what the Astrodome actually is as a contributor to Houston’s history, art, and world class architecture status.

The A Dome Park website is loaded with information in visual and clearly written form. Please be sure to see the vivid pictures of how the old girl is going to look because of her gentrification gift to the neighborhood.

adomepark.org

Please check it out with an open heart and mind. The Astrodome and the community both deserve the dynamic beauty and joy that the Richards Group Proposal brings to the table. I’ve never seen a more beautiful plan. As both a life-long fan and very, very minor and short term former Astrodome performer, I have been in love with the Astrodome since its earliest conceptual stage. ~ And now I’m in love again with its eternal essence.

In the words of Yankee broadcaster, Mel Allen ~ “How about that!”

Have a great Tuesday, Everybody!

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

Frequently Asked Questions: By Maxwell Kates

January 14, 2019

Maxwell Kates

About a year ago, I attended a fundraising meeting at my alma mater, the University of Toronto. One of the women at the meeting seemed perplexed. She asked, “I was doing some research and found two different people named Maxwell Kates, an accountant from Toronto and a baseball writer from Houston. Why did the Houston one show up to the meeting?” And so I replied “I got news for you! There are in fact two Maxwell Kates but only one of them is human. The other is a property management firm in New York. The accountant and the Houston one are both me!”

But seriously, since I began writing for the Pecan Park Eagle, I am asked a number of questions relating to how I got here in the first place. I will now attempt to answer them all. And here we go.

Q: You’re Canadian. In a country that lives and breathes hockey, lacrosse, and even Canadian football, how did you get to be so interested in baseball?

Ottawa vs. Houston
January 15, 1976

A: While it’s true, hockey and lacrosse are our national sports, but when I was growing up, baseball was popular throughout Canada – at least once the Stanley Cup finals were over. In Ottawa, where I grew up, it was divided 50/50 between the Blue Jays and the Expos. Where I really developed my interest in baseball was on family trips to Florida. We had one aunt and uncle in the Ft. Lauderdale area and another aunt and uncle up the Turnpike in West Palm Beach. We used to visit them all during spring break which coincided with spring training. In Ft. Lauderdale, we had the Yankees and in West Palm Beach it was the Expos and the Atlanta Braves. Plus there was the time we ran into Cal Abrams at a strip mall, which I’ve written about in an earlier column.That was baseball immersion!

People are often surprised when I tell them the team I grew up with was the New York Yankees. My father would drop me off at the ballpark first thing in the morning and I’d stay all day. Tommy John was my first spring training autograph. I used to read all the New York journalists and sportswriters. Besides which, Ottawa was so close to upstate New York that it was easy to find old Yankees yearbooks at shows. At one time, I probably knew the Yankees better than I knew the Blue Jays.

Fort Lauderdale Stadium

Q: But it was in Toronto that you got involved with SABR?

A: Yes, albeit by way of Ottawa and south Florida. Allow me to explain. The year the SABR convention went to West Palm Beach, a sports journalist named David McDonald wrote about it in the Ottawa Citizen. That was 2000. My father read the article and told me I should join SABR. What’s that? An undergraduate student living away from home who listens to their parents? Right. This was one time I did. The year I joined, the convention went to Milwaukee and the following year, I started to get involved with the local chapter in Toronto.

Q: But that still doesn’t explain Houston, does it?

Joe Sambito and Alan Ashby, 1979

A: Hold on, it’s 2019 and we’re only at 2007 in the story. That was the year the Blue Jays announced that Alan Ashby would be their new colour commentator, joining Jerry Howarth in the broadcast booth. A light bulb went off. “We should get this guy for a SABR meeting!” I approached the Blue Jays’ flagship radio station and sure enough, Ashby agreed to do the SABR meeting. We had a question and answer session at the Rogers Centre following the last Saturday home game of the season.

Q: And you got involved with Houston when Alan Ashby returned to the Astros?

A: You’re on the right track. Alan Ashby returned to the Astros in 2012, the same year that SABR announced that the 2014 convention was going to Houston. I had all this interview footage we did on a VHS cassette. I had it converted to a DVD, transcribed it, and the final product formed the basis of an essay I wrote for a publication called “Baseball in the Space City.”

Alan Ashby on Star Wars Night in Houston, 2016

Q: Catching Rainbows and Calling Stars?

A: You got it. I called it that to emphasize Ashby’s dual role with the Astros, catching when they wore rainbow uniforms and calling the game when the players wore the updated shooting star look. I was able to get in touch with Tal Smith, Bill Brown, and Larry Dierker for interviews. The day I spoke to Tal there was a polar vortex; he said “I should be used to this – I’m from Massachusetts!” Another person I interviewed was a fan from Houston, a psychologist with an impressive collection of baseball books and Colt .45s memorabilia. His name was Mark Wernick and he and I had corresponded for years. I showed Alan the final product, he gave it the green light, and that was the name of that tune.

Q: But how did you go from Alan Ashby to the Pecan Park Eagle?

A: Again, it goes back to Mark Wernick. When I went to the 2016 SABR convention in Miami, Mark asked me to prepare “a full report,” in his words. After he had read it, he asked if he could forward it to a fellow psychologist named Bill McCurdy. I didn’t see why not. I had remembered meeting Bill at the Houston convention because he had co-authored “The Toy Cannon” with Jim Wynn. Bill published the Miami report in the Pecan Park Eagle and that was my first column. A year later, I wrote a similar synopsis of the SABR convention in New York, and as they say in show business, the rest is history.

Tony and Eduardo Perez at SABR 46

Q: So you didn’t want to write a column for a baseball newspaper in Toronto?

A: Are you kidding? I would have loved to have done that. There just wasn’t the opportunity. I wrote a couple of guest columns for a Blue Jays fan club magazine but that periodical no longer exists. I have sent a few things to the Jays over the years but there has never been a vacancy; that’s understandable. This has been a great experience, writing for the Pecan Park Eagle. I’m able to learn about the baseball history and culture in southeast Texas and formulate those facts and arguments into stories and articles. Before I went to the SABR convention in 2014 I read anything I could get my hands on about Houston, baseball or otherwise. There was Dan Rather’s “The Camera Never Blinks,” and then there was also a book called “Murder and Mayhem in Houston.” And I also watched “Deli Man,” a documentary which focused on Kenny and Ziggy’s.

Q: So now that people know you in Texas, has that opened opportunities closer to home?

A: As a matter of fact, yes. The week before I spoke in Houston last November, I also spoke at the Canadian Baseball History Conference in London, Ontario. I presented a paper called “Birth of the Blue Jays,” which also appears as an essay in “Time for Expansion Baseball.” In 2019 I’ll be repeating the paper at the University of Toronto and at Seneca College. My Wayne and Shuster paper, which appeared in the Pecan Park Eagle last year, they have asked me to present at next year’s Canadian Baseball History Conference.

Q: Are there any plans for a return trip to Houston?

A: I get asked that one a lot. You know, when Joaquin Andujar pitched for the Astros, he had this great word to answer questions and it was “youneverknow.” Hopefully I’ll leave the snow at home next time, thank you very much.

Joaquin Andujar
Senor You-Never-Know

Q: You never did answer the question in your last column. Who was the pitcher with the most strikeouts who never played for the Houston Astros?

A: It was actually Steve Carlton. He’s #4 on the list with 4,136. Nolan Ryan is first with 5,714 strikeouts, followed by Randy Johnson with 4,875 and Roger Clemens with 4,672.

Still, on the subject of that particular article, I belong to a group on Facebook that is all about the World Series Champion 1968 Detroit Tigers. One of the members is John Adam Smoltz, father of Hall of Fame pitcher John Andrew Smoltz. Anyways, he told me that not only did Hal Newhouser scout Derek Jeter for the Astros, he also scouted Smoltzie. Imagine for a minute an Astros rotation with Darryl Kile, Mike Hampton, Shane Reynolds that was fronted by John Smoltz!

Smoltz had a few relatives employed by the Tigers. The Atlanta pitcher’s grandfather, the late John Frank Smoltz was an usher and clubhouse assistant. And then there was another relative of John’s grandmother who used to play 2nd base for the Tigers. Did I mention that her maiden name was Gehringer?

The Smoltz-Gehringer Family

Q: One last question. What is the phonetic pronunciation of p-e-c-a-n?

A: You mean “puck-on”? As in “Gordie Howe put the puck on the ice”? You can take the boy out of Canada…though in fairness, Gordie did play for Houston, as did two of his sons.

 

 

Now Pitching for Detroit, Gordie Howe!

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

The Astrodome’s True Architectural Identity

January 12, 2019

With the infrastructure on display as the thing that makes it the Eiffel Tower of large covered stadium construction, the immortality of the Astrodome would be a guaranteed thing of beauty ~ just as Patrick Lopez knew it could be.
~ A work by Houston architect James Richards.

Dear Friends & Colleagues,

Regarding the Astrodome, why do we have to settle for a plan that addresses only the present economic needs of the county and near neighboring tenants at NRG ~ and all in return for a scrubbed down facsimile face of the Astrodome that probably gets an historical identity plaque for the benefit of those younger people in 10 to 20 years who need the label to know what they are looking at.

Yes, we know, politics and pragmatism contain the answer, but these usual suspects behind the smiling faces and shaking hands of big money agreements still do not visually explain what made the round-shaped building in Houston so important to the history of enclosed unit stadium sports and the annals of international architecture in particular.

I am in possession of a picture and proposal, on the other hand, which do visually portray the Astrodome for eternity by her true identity as both a mark of architectural genius ~ and a work of art on a grand scale. The infrastructure of the Astrodome, all  this time, are what have made this piece our community face as a contributor to architectural acclaim.

Credit for the above artistic rendering belongs to architect James Richards and his group. Although we have never met nor even talked by phone at this writing, Richards was kind enough to share with me by e-mail that he and others had been inspired by a column I had written about our late friend and colleague Patrick Lopez in reference to his ideas for using the dome infrastructure as the symbol for what was really important as art to architecture about our abandoned waif of concrete and metal.

The date of this nearly seven-year old column in The Pecan Park Eagle was April 19, 2012:

https://bill37mccurdy.com/2012/04/19/the-astrodome-a-future-as-art/

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Here too is the James Richard Group’s Proposal for A Dome Park. Please read it over as openly minded as possible.

 MISSION STATEMENT

A-Dome Park is a conceptual Master-Plan that proposes to transform, Harris County’s & NRG Park’s Astrodome and adjacent parking lots into a Forty acre active urban park. The proposed park aims to bring the same economic, recreational, and cultural success to NRG Park that Discovery Green Park has brought to Downtown Houston.

At the heart of this plan, we imagine the gentle removal of the Astrodome’s exterior and interior nonstructural surfaces, to reveal and celebrate the groundbreaking work of structural engineering that lies hidden within. Like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Astrodome will stand proudly as an iconic, unenclosed, open air, painted steel structure, surrounded by a picturesque tree filled park.

In addition to the surrounding park, the uncovered steel structure of the Astrodome will contain a network of new infrastructure components; restaurants, a Astrodome history museum, public restrooms, indoor air-conditioned parking for 1500 cars, elevators, and a connected sequence of flat and inclined boardwalks making it possible to hike, bike, and wheelchair from street level to the very top of the dome!

WHY & HOW

In the early 1960’s the Astrodome was purpose built as a Baseball stadium. Football was also played in the dome, but it was not designed specifically for that game. The Houston Oilers football team played their last game in the Astrodome in 1996 and in the year 2000 the Astros baseball team moved to a new stadium in downtown Houston. The last concert was performed in the dome in 2003 and in 2008 the building officially closed to the public due to building code violations and life safety concerns. Since 2008 it has not been used in any significant way. The exterior and interior finish surfaces have been partially demolished and those that remain in place are slowly deteriorating to this day. If the Astrodome is to survive and prosper for the citizens of present day Harris County and future generations to come it must be transformed to become an icon of strength and ingenuity.

We believe that the most significant aspect of the Astrodome is its contributions to humanity as a masterpiece of structural engineering and building technology. At the time of its construction it achieved a clear column free span of six hundred forty three feet, nearly twice as long as any dome in the world! We propose to celebrate this engineering tour de force by removing the remaining decaying exterior and interior finish surfaces to reveal the magnificent framework of structural steel, columns, beams, ring girders, and lamella trusses that lie hidden within. For the first time, the public will witness the movement of the seventy two pivoting columns at the top of the base structure that allow the mighty dome structure above to expand and contract up to twelve inches with outside air temperature changes. The steel structure, unlike the exterior and interior finish surfaces is nearly perfectly preserved and only needs treatment with corrosion resistant paint to weather outdoor exposure.

The unenclosed steel structure of the Astrodome will contain a network of new infrastructure components; restaurants, a Astrodome History Museum, public restrooms, indoor air-conditioned parking for 1500 cars, elevators, and a connected sequence of flat and inclined boardwalks making it possible to hike, bike and wheelchair from street level to the very top of the dome! This new infrastructure will help to defeat Harris County’s current public health crisis of extremely high obesity and diabetes rates by providing the public with miles of outdoor pedestrian, wheelchair, and bicycle paths to enjoy all year long.

The new infrastructure described above will also support a distributed matrix of electrical power, lighting, information technology, outdoor cooling, and plumbing, creating a plug and play environment to facilitate and enhance any event, from the complexity of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo to the simplicity a small group friends on a sunset hike up the dome.

Our vision for the transformed Astrodome imagines it surrounded by thirteen acres of Live Oak tree filled park space. To accomplish this we propose to relocate 1500 existing outdoor car parking spaces to a two level indoor air-conditioned garage placed within the dome footprint between the existing sunken playing field and ground levels. Not only will this new park space provide endless recreational and event possibilities, it will help to reduce flooding by transforming the impervious asphalt surface parking into water absorbing green landscaping. The new park will also help to naturally cool the adjacent NRG Park by significantly reducing the surface area of the existing black top parking lots.

The Astrodome will be reborn as the Eiffel Tower of Harris County, an iconic work of long span structural engineering set within a picturesque tree filled active urban park.

 COST

A-Dome Park will be funded using the same private/public partnership model used to pay for and maintain Discovery Green Park. We estimate the cost of Phase-One of the park to be 90 million dollars and like Discovery Green, most of the funding will come from public donations, and the many private foundations and endowments that support public health, environmental and cultural projects in urban areas.

Phase One of A-dome Park will include:

1-Demolition of selected exterior and interior non structural surfaces
2-Parking for 1500 cars on two levels
3-Two elevator/stair towers
4-The Great Floor
5-The Inner Perimeter Ramp
6-Ten acres of landscaping
7-Restrooms
Miscellaneous structural modifications
Miscellaneous mechanical, electrical and plumbing
10-Interior and exterior lighting

Maintenance costs of the park will be generated by a combination of revenue streams; private sector rental of the park for private and public events, private amenity rental, and indoor parking fees. Discovery Green Park successfully deploys this strategy to fund most park maintenance costs.

SCHEDULE

We believe the entire project could be built within a two year time frame.

SOURCE OF ABOVE

https://www.adomepark.org/about

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IN CLOSING

After coming this far with our efforts to save the Astrodome for the generations to come, we should still be open to asking, “What is it, here and now, that could make any plan at this late planning stage even better?”

In this instance, I believe the answer is ~ let’s at least listen to the proposal of the James Richards group. After kicking its tires a few times in solitude over time and, by the way, no other soul in the world ~ not Richards ~ not nobody ~ not anybody ~ even knows I am writing this column this Saturday ~ I simply now have to say that I really, really love it.

The James Richards Group Plan is the glimpse that the late Patrick Lopez had of the Astrodome a few years ago. It is not the preserve-our-memories of the Astrodome past that we all carry with us down the road. ~ It will be the eternal face of The Astrodome by art that new visitors will recognize at first sight as surely as they now do The Eiffel Tower ~ and they will be able to do so ~ even if they do not know an Astro from an Oiler ~ or a Bobby Riggs from a Billy Jean King.

Those sports, rodeo, concert, and convention histories will still be known to future first time visitors who come to see the Astrodome, but the much larger group of tomorrow’s visitors may be those who come to see Houston’s artful homage to the history of world class architecture.

Now we get to find out if we Harris Countians have all of the will, courage, and insight as a community it is going to take to set our preservation planning at a little higher level so that our deeper into the future gift to the world and history is rendered possible.

I love what you’ve done here, James Richards! ~ You’ve also shown that you have included a specific plan for an Astrodome Hall of Fame ~ That’s really important. Your plan seems aimed at clarifying the Astrodome’s identity for the future while you also build and enrich upon the creation and growth of the place’s incredible history. Maybe the Harris County Astrodome Preservation Group and new Harris Commissioner Lina Hidalgo will give your plan a serious look-see.

If we forget the needs of future generations in the process of preserving a bargained away blurry reminder of the past, vis-a-vis, the rental room route, I feel that we are only a step up from razing the Astrodome and turning it into a parking space. ~ People forget parking spaces, they just use them. ~ Unfortunately, over time, people also forget rental space too, they just use it. ~ On the other hand, people do not forget art that shall forever inspire yet unborn generations of the Astrodome’s once greatness of purpose ~ and even more importantly ~ of its true identity as a major contributor to world architecture.

Nobody forgets an Astrodome that lights up the summer sky.

It’s time we pushed our Astrodome plans a little further, and a little higher, up the road.

That’s it, friends. Now it’s time to read up. Catch up. Talk it up. Get the word out to one and all.  Some action is needed. And soon.

Sincerely,

Bill McCurdy

Addendum Links

If you are interested in communicating your questions or support for A-Dome Park, here’s a list of links that will be important to you:

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo / email:
judge.hidalgo@cjo.hctx.net
A-Dome Park website:
adomepark.org
A-Dome Park instagram:
https://www.instagram.com/adomepark/
Houston Public Media Video on A-dome Park:
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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Honoring the Founder of the Beeville Bee

January 10, 2019
beeville bee - 1

Imagery of the Bee Office By Helen Ezell

On the last day of November 2018, the eight surviving grandchildren of 19th century South Texas newspaper man William Oscar McCurdy convened to celebrate the life of our shared ancestor in Beeville, Texas. It was great. Even the fact that I was the only UH Cougar in the midst of a prairie range of Longhorns and Aggies failed to detract from our powerful blood connection with each other.

What follows today is the nice story that writer Gary Kent did for the Beeville Bee-Picayune about the gathering and the portrait sketch distribution of Grandfather McCurdy that I was happy to have commissioned and finally reproduced for sharing with every genealogical column link in the William Oscar McCurdy bloodline.

One irony is the thought I had that even our grandfather might not have published this story so long as a month after its actual happening, as was the case here because of the timing factor, but that delay is on me. I didn’t plan this event as a newspaper story and the Beeville Bee-Picayune didn’t learn of it until the time they got swallowed up by their own local Christmas news stories. Those factors delayed their publication of the story that follows until this week.

The ironic story of what a young Grandfather McCurdy once wrote back in the late 1880s is still funny on its own. Some readers in Port Lavaca one year had sent “The Beeville Bee” a summary of their Christmas celebrations, but they waited until a week prior to the following Easter before they mailed it in.

Grandfather McCurdy responded in published words to this effect: “Our readers in Port Lavaca will have to accept that we cannot publish their Christmas news this late after the fact. And we ask all our reader/contributors to bear in mind this simple fact. ~ The hoary hand of time has quite a different effect upon local news than it does upon wildcat whiskey. ~ It doesn’t get better with age.”

Thank you, Gary Kent and the Beeville Bee-Picayune! The McCurdy family appreciates the nice job you did for us on this story!

Honoring county’s first newspaper publisher

by Gary Kent, Beeville-Bee Picayune, January 8, 2019.

BEEVILLE – The progeny of Bee County’s first newspaper publishers came together on Nov. 30 at the Beeville Country Club to celebrate their lineage.

All could claim to be the grandchildren of William Oscar McCurdy, founder of the Beeville Bee.

William Oscar McCurdy
1866-1913
Founder-Owner
The Beeville Bee
1886-1913
Artwork-Craig White-1967

John McCurdy reported that the gathering was organized by one of the grandsons, Dr. William O. McCurdy, III.

He received substantial assistance by Elizabeth Galloway.

Those who attended included Louise Welder-Hall, Raymond Welder, Josephine Welder-Miller, Dr. McCurdy and his wife, Norma, John C. McCurdy and his wife, Linda, Elizabeth Helvenston-Galloway, and her husband, John.

Other living grandchildren who were unable to attend included Martha Helvenston and Lucy Helvenston-Hamm.

Deceased grandchildren were listed as Mary Elizabeth Welder-Knight and Margery Ruth McCurdy.

During the gathering, each of the McCurdy grandchildren were presented with a drawing that Dr. McCurdy had contracted to have done by Houston artist Craig White.

Each drawing had been professionally reproduced and framed.

Dr. McCurdy also presented each of his fellow grandchildren with a copy of a composition of memories and history that W.O. McCurdy had compiled.

The contribution that McCurdy brought to Bee County was told by former Beeville Bee-Picayune editor Camp Ezell in his book “The Historical Story of Bee County” published in 1973.

Ezell said McCurdy first came to Beeville in the spring of 1886 from his native Clairborne, a city in Jasper County, Mississippi, to visit his uncle and aunt, Dr. and Mrs. C.S. Phillips.

McCurdy had been working as a printer and editor, and after spending several days here he decided to move to the village of Beeville and start a newspaper.

His uncle, a local dentist at the time, loaned McCurdy some money to help him with his project.

McCurdy was only 20 years old at the time, but he knew what he needed to start a newspaper.

The entrepreneur bought a George Washington hand press and went to work.

The press was a small job machine made for commercial printing. It was operated by a treadle, and it required four pedal movements to print one sheet of paper.

McCurdy also bought two cases of type for the machine.

Capt. A.C. Jones and Sheriff D.A.T. Walton helped McCurdy develop a list of subscribers.

The shop was established in the loft of a building adjoining a livery stable on the east side of St. Mary’s Street about where the building now stands that once held the natural gas office.

Ezell described the space as being so small that McCurdy could stand in the center of the office and reach almost anything he needed.

Later, the operation was moved to the north side of the courthouse square where the Joe Barnhart Bee County Library now stands.

Later McCurdy moved the operation to a frame building where Prosperity Bank is located today. In the early 1900s, the frame building was replaced by one made of concrete blocks.

Over the years, McCurdy  added equipment including a Potter cylinder press that was powered by a steam engine.

He also bought a Blickensderfer typewriter and taught himself to type by the two-fingered hunt-and-peck system.

Ezell described McCurdy as a “colorful and forceful writer and with his persuasive words his philosophy wielded a beneficent influence upon the community during the 27 years he published the Bee.”

After McCurdy died, his widow sold the newspaper to R.W. “Whizzie” Barry, who was a reporter for the newspaper.

The publication changed hands over the years until 1928 when George H. Atkins, publisher of the Picayune, organized the Beeville Publishing Company and bought the Bee.

Atkins consolidated the two newspapers under the name of the Beeville Bee-Picayune.

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Link to Beeville Bee-Picayune story:

https://www.mysoutex.com/beeville_bee_picayune/news/features/honoring-county-s-first-newspaper-publisher/article_19612288-1030-11e9-b2bf-d76cbedf6c36.html

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Ground Rules and Short Porches Unleashed Ned

January 8, 2019

Back in the 19th century, through the 1883 season, Lakeshore Park in Chicago served as home to the Chicago White Stockings and fiery leader Cap Anson. Its outfield distances to the fences were 186′ in left, 300′ in center, and 190′ in right. Because of their short distances, balls hit over the fences prior to 1884 were scored as ground rule doubles.

In 1884, under the weight of an offense-demanding Cap Anson, the rules were changed for that season. ~ And they changed because back in that day, the home team leader possessed the authority to say what they were going to be. In this case, fair balls hit out of the park would then be ruled as home runs in 1884. ~ As a result, a slick fielding and pretty good hitting infielder named Ned Williamson dove into the arms of opportunity and hit 27 home runs over the course of the 114-game 1884 season ~ and 25 of those 27 homers came at home in the comforting nest of the short fences and the place’s generous new ground rules.

It must have been one-season thing because Williams only had 2 season homers in 1883 and 3 in 1885, while playing in the same place at home he hit 25 in 1884.

Williamson’s 27 homers in 1884 broke the new one-season HR record set the previous year by Harry Stovey, who hit 14 homers in 1883 for the Philadelphia Athletics. ~ Williamson’s new 1884 mark of 27 lasted 35 years ~ until it was broken by a fellow named Babe Ruth for the Boston Red Sox in 1919 with 29 homers in a 140-game season. ~ From there, as we all should know by now, the home run season mark would belong to Babe Ruth of the Yankees until it’s bronzed 1927 60-homer version was broken with 61 swats and an asterisk beside the name of another Yankee slugger named Roger Maris in the year 1961.

And the era of the pumped up record breakers to follow still awaited baseball at the turn of 21st century century.

Irony. It once was OK to give big leaguers a better shot at more home runs with ground rules that essentially gave grown men credit for homers by allowing them to play their games in a kid-sized ballpark, whereas, the consumption or topical use of PED chemicals would much later get them banned in shame from the game in ways that may not have been nearly as helpful as that “little league ballpark” effect from that earlier-than-little-league 19th century era. The White Sox were playing in a “performance enhancement park” ~ a PEP.

So. over time, what’s the message? ~ Is it that PEPs are OK, but PEDs are not? Where’s the consistency here?! ~ Better yet ~ it leads one to consider. ~ If, indeed, there’s anything consistent about the game of baseball, it’s our sport’s dedication to the long-term course of inconsistency.

And that course of inconsistency may just as well be the most consistent path we take in our loyalty and love for the game. As a thought, however, it is almost too cruel an issue to contemplate for any length of time.

Have a nice day, anyway, with this one. ~ Spring training is getting closer by the day.

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle