Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Items from The Sangster Kid’s Dream Reliquary

April 4, 2019


0ld keepsake boxes in the attic do have their little stories to tell, if we once in a lifetime of rainy Saturdays decide to let them out to speak about what we treasured at earlier points in our lives..

Rob Sangster

Rob Sangster, old friend, former writer colleague on the 1955-56 Eagle senior class writing staff at St. Thomas HS did one of those rare rainy Saturday searches recently when he opened the lid on his kid memories of Houston Buffs baseball and Houston schoolboy football during the 1950s. The following is a sample of what Rob has found, so far.

Rob found his 1953 Houston Buff Knot Hole Gang card.

So why does the card read “Bob” Sangster and not “Rob” Sangster? ~ Changes over time and personal choice is my best answer. Bob Sangster and I left St. Thomas as 1956 graduates. He stood about 5’10” when he went to Stanford that fall. Years later, he left Stanford with an undergraduate degree and then added a Stanford law degree to his cool  academic resume. By this time, he was 6’4″ inches tall and was now shortening his formal first name “Robert” to Rob.

Many of us have made comparable brand narrative variant identity name changes in our legal identities as we have “matured” in our early years. My formal first name is William, of course, but, thanks to my parents, I was “Billy” from birth through the 8th grade. Once I moved up to the 9th grade at St.Thomas (Houston), I introduced myself to new people as “Bill” and I insisted that even my old “Billy” chums start calling me “Bill” as well. Most complied ~ at least to my face. ~ How many Bills, Johns, Teds, and how many other people, male and female, have gone through similar kinds of street name identity adjustments as adolescents? The historic count has to be way up there in the millions is my guess.

The main thing here (for kids about 7 to 17) is that possessing that Knot Hole Gang Card got you into the Houston Buff games for two-bits (a quarter). We had to sit together in the Knothole Gang section down the far left field line. That restriction kept most of the older kids from coming. Even then it wasn’t cool for older teenagers to be hanging out with us younger goofballs.

For those of us who loved the Texas League Buffs, we Knot Hole Gang members caught the break of our stands being located directly in front of the Houston Buffs clubhouse. Getting a wave of the hand or a shouted “thanks for being here for us” from one of the players was enough to boost our spirits for days.

1. I will not attend any Buff game without my parents (sic) permission.
2. I will not throw anything while in the park.
3. I will not smoke in the park.
4. I agree to remain in the Knot Hole Gang section (at) all times.
5. I agree that breaking any of the above rules may forfeit my membership in the Knothole Gang.

Knot Hole Gangsters used any kind of paper they could find to collect their pencil-driven autographs whenever the opportunity presented itself. We doubt that Rob Sangster knows all the recognizable names presented here, but the point is ~after 66 years, he’s still got ’em!

Here’s a more focused look at the top of the previous Sangster autograph paper. Don’t ask me who they are?! ~ I’m growing blinder by the day.

straight from a page that once existed as part of a really cool notebook.

A St. Thomas Eagles High School Football Lineup program from

Check the weights on these St.Thomas football players from 1954.

We believe this to be a copy of Bob/Rob Sangster’s “last hurrah” as an actual football player for any football team. He must have been a 13-year old 8th grader at Vincent Catholic School in Houston in 1951.

St. Vincent DePaul
1951 Football Roster
Parochial School Level

Bob/Rob Sangster always demonstrated a knack for logically predicting the consequences of his actions upon his future career and making adjustments accordingly. This talent has served him well through his adult life, but in the St. Vincent case, his 95 pound weight as a 13-year old lineman obviously helped him foresee that college football or the NFL were not his likely soul-seering destinies.

Thanks, Rob, for sharing these few treasured relics of your own early path search. They are all beautiful.

About Rob Sangster

The whole picture of this man already is served up well at

Rob has lived the kind of life that many of us only have dreamed about ~ as shone in this italicized quote:

Chased by a Cape Buffalo in Botswana and then by a corrupt governor in Tennessee. Abducted by a black market money changer in Mombasa. Spent one New Years Eve in Paradise Bay, Antarctica; another in the Himalayas. And throw in swimming with Humpback whales, spending the night on top of a Mayan temple in Tikal, Guatemala, and traveling in seven continents and more than 100 countries – all of which were more important to him than earning the last possible dollar. And that attitude led inevitably to . . . becoming a writer.

Rob’s first novel, Ground Truth, will soon be followed by an adventure with a wildly different plot featuring three of the same key players. Now living half of each year on the coast of Nova Scotia, his curiosity about the far corners of the world remains undiminished, but he’s hooked on fiction.


– Traveler’s Tool Kit: How to Travel Absolutely Anywhere, was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection.

– Traveler’s Tool Kit: Mexico & Central America (2008) won a national award.

– He wrote a weekly newspaper column titled On the Road Again and delivered weekly essays on public radio. He’s written regularly for various national travel-related publications and was Travel Editor for GORP, a large adventure travel web site (


{Publications Update, April 2019}: Rob Sangster has now written and published thee books in the Jack Strider action/adventure series, each moving deeper into character and mired into fast-grabbing action and great layered plot. The series includes Ground Truth, Deep Time, and No Return. These works hold their own easily with the likes of John Grisham and Tom Clancy in all ways.


Education: BA from Stanford University, MA at the UCLA School of Architecture and Urban Planning, and JD from Stanford Law School. Admitted to practice in California and before the Supreme Court of the United States.

Work: Disguised in a three-piece suit, he practiced law for a several years and then administered national subsidized housing programs from Washington, DC. He returned to the private sector to develop multi-family and single-family housing for lower-income persons.

As sidelines, he also operated three restaurants, started a non-profit foundation that donated equipment to disinfect contaminated water in less-developed countries, and took 30,000 photographs. 


One day in our senior Latin class at St. Thomas, I noticed that my buddy “Bob” Sangster, sitting next to me, seemed to be working way too much on taking notes in a class in which he hardly ever wrote anything down. When he finished, Ron sat back and left the scribbled page open for all who cared to read what he had been creating. It was a fancy-lettered four word phrase:

“Chairman of the Bored” 

Something tells me that Rob Sangster hasn’t been bored for long in a very long time. If he has been bored at all, which I’m certain he has, he’s found a quick solution for it in the wonders that surround him in this world and in the company of his beautiful mind.

Married to fellow writer Lisa Turner, the couple splits the year living in their two homes in Memphis and Nova Scotia. All you have to do to confirm that Lisa brings her own light to this party of life is talk with her for a while. And how sweet it is too ~ in Rob’s case ~ that surviving evidence of his passion acquirements all start with a 1953 Knothole Gang Membership Card and a few faded paper scrap baseball wannabe player autographs that Rob/ne:Bob Sangster never threw away.

Baseball ~ as it always has been ~ and, hopefully, always will be ~ is one of the great inspirations to cultures that embrace the game’s legacy to all of us on so many levels of what’s good about life.




Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

M Kates’ SABR Books, Part 2

March 31, 2019

Marty Appel at Casey Stengel Book Signing



(Part II: 2008 to 2017)


By Maxwell Kates


Maxwell Kates and the Mensch on the Bench

Last month, we revisited six SABR conventions by turning the pages on books about Milwaukee County Stadium, Ted Williams, the 1919 World Series, baseball in Canada, the Seattle Pilots, and Flood v. Kuhn. Not too shabby in terms of baseball history coverage. We’re going to start this month’s column in Cleveland through the eyes of a sportswriter who covered the Indians from Mel Harder to Rocky Colavito.


SABR 38 – Cleveland, OH – 2008

Plain Dealing

Plain Dealing is James Odenkirk’s biography of Cleveland sports journalism pioneer Gordon Cobbledick. The title is a pun on the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Cobbledick’s newspaper for over 40 years. Born on the final day of 1898, Cobbledick ultimately became sports editor from 1947 until he retired in 1964. He covered the Battle of Okinawa as a war correspondent and in 1966, wrote a biography of Rocky Colavito entitled Don’t Knock the Rock. Cobbledick died in 1969 and was awarded his J. G. Taylor Spink Award posthumously in 1977.

Baseball and the media was one of the themes inherent to the Cleveland convention. Bob DiBiasio of the Indians moderated a Baseball Media Panel attended by broadcasters Tom Hamilton and Rick Manning along with sportswriting legend Russ Schneider. A second panel, specific to broadcasters, was moderated by Curt Smith. Hamilton appeared on this one as well, alongside mike men Jon Miller and Duane Kuiper of the visiting San Francisco Giants. Merle Harmon was also scheduled to appear on the Broadcasting Panel, only to cancel because of a conflict with an ecclesiastical commitment in Dallas that weekend.

An added bonus to my copy of Plain Dealing was the inscription I found when I opened the book. Odenkirk had signed and dedicated the copy to Paul Gustafson. A native of Gig Harbor, Washington, Gustafson was the first person I ever met at a SABR convention. He was born in 1941 and died in 2005.


SABR 39 – Washington, DC – 2009

512 and Roy Sievers

Like Houston, Washington boasts a strong local network within the parameters of SABR. It was at the Washington convention that I got to know several members of the organizing committee, including Dave Raglin, Barb Mantegani, Mark Pattison, Gary Sarnoff, and D. Bruce Brown. It was through my Washington connections that I learned about the Talkin’ Baseball Book Discussion. Moderated by Dave Paulson, the book discussion takes place on the first Saturday of every month in Columbia, Maryland. I attended twice, once in 2015 and again in 2018. Accordingly, the two books I have selected to represent the Washington convention are the two presentations I attended in Columbia.

The speaker at the 2015 discussion I attended was Ralph Peluso, whose novel 512 answers the question “What would have happened in Babe Ruth had played his entire career as a pitcher?” The title should provide a clue. The 2018 session featured Paul Scimonelli, author of Roy Sievers: The Sweetest Right Handed Swing. Whether Scimonelli’s claim that Sievers is worthy of a plaque in Cooperstown is a matter of debate. On the other hand, Sievers did provide Washington fans something to cheer for at a time the franchise finished “first in war, first in peace, and last in the American League.” I was fortunate to have purchased one of only 240 copies of the book Sievers was able to sign before his death in late 2017.

No story about the Talkin’ Baseball Book Discussion would be complete without the following anecdote about Dave Paulson. Years earlier, in 2003, he contacted me to enquire if I could ask Fergie Jenkins to autograph a first day cover in his collection. Paulson told me that his daughter was actually engaged to a Canadian, but that they had to postpone the wedding due to the SARS outbreak which shut down Toronto in March and April 2003. I replied, “Funny you should say that. My parents have friends whose son is engaged to an American woman. They too had to postpone their wedding on account of SARS.”

On my next visit to my parents’ house, I saw the wedding invitation. The bride’s parents was indeed from Columbia, Maryland and their names happened to have been Dr. and Mrs. David Paulson!


SABR 41 – Los Angeles, CA – 2011

The Bilko Athletic Club

Before the Dodgers moved west from Brooklyn, the Los Angeles area hosted two Pacific Coast League teams. There were the Hollywood Stars, who played at Gilmore Field, and then there were the Los Angeles Angels, who played at Wrigley Field. Established in 1903, the Angels were a top minor league affiliate of the Chicago Cubs for decades. The California version of Wrigley Field opened in 1925 and was modeled after 1060 West Addison. The calibre of play in the Pacific Coast League was exceptional to the point that in 1952, it abandoned its AAA status in favour of an ‘Open’ classification, with the hope to ultimately become a third major league.

Gaylon Hooper White’s The Bilko Athletic Club tells the story of the 1956 Los Angeles Angels. Managed by Bob Scheffing, the Angels went 107-61, demolishing the opposition en route to the Pacific Coast League pennant. The only thing on the field more colossal than the Angels’ performance was the larger than life presence of Steve Bilko. The gargantuan 1st baseman from Pennsylvania won the Pacific Coast League triple crown, hitting 55 home runs and driving in 164 while batting a robust .360. Bilko also rapped 215 base hits, scored 163 runs, and most importantly, had a television series named after him.

To sports fans of a particular age in the Southland, the Pacific Coast League was at least as important as the major leagues. One of the hallmarks of the Los Angeles convention was a tour of five ballpark sites, including Wrigley Field. In 1957, the Cubs surrendered its affiliation with the Los Angeles Angels to the Brooklyn Dodgers, which helped pave the way for the franchise’s move from the Borough of Churches a year later.

Phil Silvers (TV’s “Sgt. Bilko”) Meets Joe Bilko.


SABR 44 – Houston, TX – 2014

The Camera Never Blinks

One of the greater challenges in preparing this exercise was to arrive at an appropriate selection for Houston. Most of the readership of the Pecan Park Eagle is from Houston. Therefore, the majority of baseball books about the Bayou City would fall into the category of “one few people outside of Houston have ever heard of and everyone from Houston has already read.” Then I found a two-volume series written by a Houston sportswriter about a former broadcaster for the Houston Buffs. A-Ha!

The books are The Camera Never Blinks and the Camera Never Blinks Twice, by Dan Rather and Mickey Herskowitz. Volume 1 was written in 1977 and follows an autobiographical format. Born in Wharton, Texas in 1931 and raised in Houston, Rather was graduated from Sam Houston State University with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism in 1953. After a two-year tour of duty with the Chronicle, Rather called football play-by-play for the University of Houston Cougars, and one season of Buffs’ baseball in 1959. Rather also describes his tenure at Houston’s CBS affiliate, in particular his coverage of Hurricane Carla in 1961. Rather departed Houston for New York a year later, where in 1975, he became a correspondent for 60 Minutes.

By the time The Camera Never Blinks Twice was written, in 1994, Rather had succeeded Walter Cronkite as the anchor for the CBS Evening News. Volume 2 is thematic rather than chronological, focusing on the world events Rather covered in the 1980s and early 1990s, including Afghanistan, Tiananmen Square, and the time Mr. Gorbachev “tore down that wall.”

Mickey Herskowitz was a speaker at the Houston convention, appearing as part of the Colt .45s Panel moderated by Greg Lucas. Dressed in a lime green suit, Mickey and I had a lengthy conversation about Howard Cosell after the panel. That’s when he noticed Toronto on my badge. He pointed, exclaiming that “You know, I’m half-Canadian!” I rolled my eyes and thought “Right you are.” Returning home after the convention, I found an online article about Mickey. True enough, Milton Leon Herskowitz’ mother came from the small but vibrant Jewish community in Saint John, New Brunswick.

Happy birthday Mickey on April 4!

Mickey Herskowitz


SABR 46 – Miami, FL – 2016

Author Lou Hernandez and  Subject Bobby Maduro

Bobby Maduro and the Cuban Sugar Kings is a new book, written by South Florida author Lou Hernandez. Maduro was born in Havana in 1916 and by the age of 30, had established himself as a Cuban baseball executive. One of the builders of Gran Stadium in Havana, Maduro believed that baseball was the bridge of diplomacy to link the United States and Latin America. Maduro was a visionary whose ultimate goal was to bring a major league team to Cuba. By 1953, he was the majority owner of the Havana Cubans of the Florida International League. A year later, the AAA Cuban Sugar Kings played their inaugural season (and it is the Cuban Sugar Kings). The high water mark for the franchise took place in 1959 when the Cuban Sugar Kings defeated the Minneapolis Millers to win the Junior World Series. Political turmoil beyond anyone’s control forced the International League to transfer the franchise to Jersey City in July 1960.

Maduro and his family had all followed the Sugar Kings out of Cuba by 1961. He became the President of the Jacksonville Suns, acquiring the territory from the Houston Colt .45s in a trade for outfielder Jim Pendleton. In 1979, Maduro founded the Inter-American League. With teams throughout Latin America from Miami to Maracaibo, the league played AAA calibre baseball until its suspension in June. Maduro passed away in 1986, age 70.

Maduro’s life in many ways mirrors the Cuban American experience of success, resilience, family, multiculturalism, and pride. Cuba formed a significant component of the curriculum in Miami. Lectures included “The Short But Sensational Life of the Sugar Kings,” “The Night Frank Verdi Got Shot,” and “The Five Greatest Myths of Cuban Baseball.” Among those to attended the convention were Maduro’s grandson Jorge. Havana native Jose Ramirez and the late Peter Bjarkman figured prominently at the convention, while Kit Krieger of Cubaball Tours had set up a booth in the vendors’ room. Prior to the Cuban Players Panel, I had asked former infielder Mike de la Hoz to sign a brand new book on Cuban players, speaking to him in Spanish. He replied, “Don’t you speak English?” to which I followed, “Of course I speak English!”

It is also worth noting that Marlins Park is built adjacent to the site of the Orioles’ spring training facility for many years, a venue which in 1987 was re-baptized as Bobby Maduro Stadium. While it was still called Miami Stadium, Baltimore pitcher Mike Cuellar often received parking tickets for stationing in a spot reserved for a local newspaper. Among the dailies to cover spring training in Miami was the Cuban Star. Cuellar defended his parking position by arguing, “That’s me – Cuban star!”


SABR 47 – New York, NY – 2017

20. Marty Appel and Casey Stengel

Marty Appel at Casey Stengel Book Signing.

For a convention hosted by the Casey Stengel Chapter, why not select a book about Casey Stengel? Written by Marty Appel, Baseball’s Greatest Character is the biography of a baseball legend shared by all four of the Big Apple’s modern baseball teams. Born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1890, Stengel played nine of his 14 seasons as a National League outfielder with the Brooklyn Robins and the New York Giants. As a member of the visiting Giants in 1923, Stengel held the distinction to have hit the first World Series home run at Yankee Stadium. As a manager, he piloted the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1934 to 1936, the New York Yankees from 1949 to 1960, and the New York Mets from 1962 to 1965. Stengel’s managerial record with the latter two teams is well known, ten American League pennants and seven World Championships in Yankee pinstripes, followed by four consecutive last place, 100-loss seasons with the Metropolitans. Stengel died in 1975.

Marty Appel was an important player of the New York convention. He participated in both the Casey Stengel panel and the Jim Bouton panel. Prior to the SABR game at Citi Field between the Mets and the Philadelphia Phillies, Marty conducted a book signing of Casey Stengel: Baseball’s Greatest Character. Marty had previously written about Stengel in Pinstripe Empire: The New York Yankees from Before the Babe to After the Boss, and has an additional 20 titles to his credit. There is no word yet on any pending translations of the biography into Stengelese.


San Diego Baseball Research Center

Well, that’s my selection for the SABR convention baseball bookshelf. SABR 49 is scheduled for June 26 to 30, 2019, in San Diego. Keep monitoring the website for developments as they become official. While in San Diego, do not hesitate to visit the Sullivan Family Baseball Research Center. Founded in 1998 by the Ted Williams Chapter of SABR and the San Diego Public Library, the Center contains over 6,000 baseball books and DVD’s in its archives. Maybe someone will write a book on baseball in San Diego and call it “The Kid Did Not Doff.” And yes, that is the actual size of a 1962 Cleveland Indians yearbook. According to hobbyist Kyle Boetel, the Indians printed yearbooks with a wingspan equal to the width of three seats at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. In the days when played before a sea of empty bleachers, the thought was that if everyone opened their yearbook at the same time, the crowd would appear three times as large on television. Let’s close with a photo of the Padres emulating Dr. Dolittle as they ‘talk to the animals.’

The Padres at the San Diego Zoo



The following link will take you to Part 1 of this two-column report:

M Kates SABR Books Part One



Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

MLB TODAY: Put Your Money Where Your Ouch Is!

March 22, 2019

The 1927 New York Yankees


That $426.5 million dollar record-in-all-sports contract that 27 year old outfielder Mike Trout signed the other day for 12 years (2019-30) of allegiant effort and service to the Los Angelus Angels of This Galaxy may someday be made to look like a bargain-of-the-week business by some newer, more far-reaching deal! ~ Who knows? ~ All I know about economics comes from a more attached-to-Planet-Earth model of the way currency works in law-abiding circles.

You have to have money ~ or a good line of credit ~ to buy things ~ and you have to understand that cash and credit are not one and the same. ~ Nothing is ever really ours until we give up something to the other party who also keeps their part of the deal by delivering what they promised to give us over some agreed upon period of time in exchange for whatever we put into play in our “value for value” deal.

Revenue Streams. In the early 20th century, MLB clubs had one revenue stream ~ and that was the income that clubs derived from the sale of game day tickets and concessions at the ballparks. Unless your favorite club was the New York Yankees, or a few other perennial big market city teams, there wasn’t much to hang your hopes upon, and, even then, the salaries, except for Babe Ruth, were contained to a reasonable range of figures for most ballplayers. Our chart for salaries earned by the great 1927 New York Yankee starters speaks quietly, but loudly to the point.

Salaries for the Starters of the 1927 New York Yankees

1 Earle Combs CF / L $         10,500
2 Mark Koenig SS / Both $          7,000
3 Babe Ruth RF / L $         70,000
4 Lou Gehrig 1B / L $          8,000
5 Bob Meusel LF / R $        13,000
6 Tony Lazerri 2B / R $          8,000
7 Joe Dugan 3B / R $        12,000
8 Pat Collins C / R $          7,000
9 Herb Pennock SP1 / LHP $        17,500
SP Waite Hoyt SP2 / RHP $        11,000
NYY Opening Day Annual Pay= $      164,000

Now skip forward to our toe-stubbing entry into the digital age ~ and all the new revenue streams through electronic media that are out there feeding the appetite for baseball to way more than the few hundreds or thousands of fans that can make it physically to the ballpark, but to the millions and even billions who may want to watch the more democratic pennant race of these early 21st century days by an ever-growing choice list of electronic media connections available today. The projected salaries for the starting lineup of the 2019 Houston Astros speaks clearly to the point. Owner Jim Crane isn’t planning to pay these salaries on ticket sales, peanuts and Cracker Jack. Nor can he be expected to cut back the expense of season tickets and remain competitive at the highest level ~ even with the extra digital stream cash goodies burning brightly on the modern baseball income revenue range. Like all other clubs, the Houston Astros could have cheaper season tickets in 2019, but they could not have this equivalent starting line up as well.

Salaries for the Starters of the 2019 Houston Astros

1 George Springer RF / R $   12,000.000
2 Jose Altuve 2B / R $     9,500,000
3 Alex Bregman 3B / R $   16,666.667
4 Carlos Correa SS / R $     5,000,000
5 Michael Brantley DH / R $   16,000,000
6 Yuli Gurriel LF / R $   10,400,000
7 Josh Reddick 1B / L $   13,000,000
8 Rob’son Chirinos C / R $     8,251,222
9 Jake Marisnick CF / R $     2,212,000
SP Justin Verlander P / no bat $   28,000,000
Astros Opening Day Annual Pay= $ 121,029.889

Some’s Gotta Win! ~ Some’s Gotta Lose!

Season Ticket Owners ~ Get the Blues!



Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher





Houston ML Baseball No Immaculate Conception

March 20, 2019

Marty Marion & Bill McCurdy (2003)
Even later in life, Marty didn’t talk much about his 1960 negotiations with Judge Roy Hofheinz.

The expansion of major league baseball into Houston as a decision back in 1960 proved to be anything but an immaculate conception as the gestation period into the city’s first 1962 season bogged down in something as more than a pillow fight between MLB owner Judge Roy Hofheinz and the Houston Sports Association and President Marty Marion of the Houston Buffs over the former’s purchase of the latter’s minor league territorial ownership rights in the Houston area.

The following side-bar column by iconic Houston writer Clark Nealon in the November 9, 1960 edition of The Sporting News nails the salient issues of disagreement in a beautiful exercise in word economy. If you need to hear it expressed any shorter and more simply, just keep in mind the familiar lead actors in this all so common tale. Their Names are Ego, Power, and Money. How simple is that prescription for any safe predictions on the outcomes? This play of fortune was about as mysterious as the unfolding of a contemporary Dwayne Johnson action figure hero movie.

As a result of the acrimony that evolved between Hofheinz and Marion, any plans to use Buff Stadium as the temporary home of the new NL club until the domed stadium were completed ~ and any long-range plan to keep “Buffalos/Buffs” as the mascot of Houston in the big leagues ~ were both destroyed ~ even if Judge Roy Hofheinz’s ego never seriously intended to pass on this opportunity to put his own original imprint upon them in the first place. Now he simply had new cause to abandon that veiled salute to the sixty plus years old Houston “Buffs” tradition.




Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher


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.



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?”
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.”

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?



Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

Astros Barracks Stop Complaints: 1965

March 17, 2019


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


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!


…. 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!


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.


Fox News ~

Houston Chronicle ~

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!”



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
“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.



Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher