Archive for the ‘Houston’ Category

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

******************************

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!

 

******************************

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!

 

******************************

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/

******************************

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

******************************

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:
******************************

Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Former Houston Eagle Dies Near Age 96

January 4, 2019

Porter Reed, Outfielder, Houston Eagles, 1949
Born: January 21, 1923 ~ Died: January 2, 2019
**********
Photo compliments of Muskogee Phoenix.

 

Former 1949 Houston Eagle Porter Reed has died, according to this story by Mike Kays in the Muskogee (OK) Phoenix newspaper on January 2, 2019. One of the last of the Negro League players, Reed died on Wednesday, January 2, 2019 at a Tulsa, Oklahoma hospital from chronic heart disease. Had he survived until January 21, 2019, former outfielder Porter Reed would have reached age 96. We will give him due credit for coming as close as he did.

Here’s the link to both the story and the source for all we know about him, as well as the picture shared here with this referral link story of this one player from Houston’s brief history as a team performing at the highest level of play in Negro League baseball:

https://www.muskogeephoenix.com/news/local-baseball-legend-porter-reed-dies-at/article_513aac20-0ecc-11e9-b2ab-13d352183b81.html?fbclid=IwAR24WtEYqKhRo35AXfECSI6KP5xqXgImRsBfqPbQ_y3aI8zpdj-shJVQylo

 

******************************

Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

 

January 1, 1949: Houston Gets TV

January 3, 2019

KLEE-TV ~ Channel Two ~ Houston, Texas
The Birth Name of KPRC-TV ~ January 1, 1949
Also the Date Our Daily Lives Changed Forever

Saturday, January 1, 1949, was one of those pleasantly comfortable Houston days. We didn’t need a jacket to ride our bikes or dress for the usual Saturday afternoon double feature with ongoing serial and cartoon at the Avalon Theatre over on 75th, just north of Lawndale on the east side of the street and, as always, just south of Mason Park in the city’s east end.

Although I’ve forgotten the exact Avalon play-bill for that developing special Saturday, otherwise, it would no doubt have included a western film starring someone like Johnny Mack Brown, plus a possible Bowery Boys movie starring two kid favorites (Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall), something like a Popeye cartoon, movie previews of things to come, and a new chapter in an ordinarily 12-week series of chapters in something like “The Purple Monster Strikes” or “The Crimson Ghost”.

We were so innocent that morning in Pecan Park. Even the adults. It’s doubtful that any of us realized at the time that something was about to happen during that one 24-hour dose of daylight that was going to change all our lives forever.

The thing that came along that day was the arrival of television in Houston ~ and it was coming to town like the door to tomorrow at light speed. And that door pulled hard at us kids and young folks, but it also pushed strongly on our older people too. And it wasn’t long before “I’m going home to watch some TV” became our united call to cultural passivity.

Watch what?

In 1949, it was whatever they (the broadcasters) put on the screen for us to watch at home in the dark.

“In the dark?”

Yes! ~ In the dark! ~ You see, it took us first generation TV viewers  (or maybe just all of us dumb-bunny viewers in places like Pecan Park) to realize that our seated viewing of the direct light screen of television differed from our movie length viewing of the reflected light theater screen. ~ We didn’t have to darken the other lights in the room to keep the TV picture bright. The TV picture was going to stay as bright as any of the other lamps in the room, even if they were all turned on. TV light simply had the ability to show you any kind of activated story that was always absent in the radiance from table lamps and chandeliers.

Small Screens Helped Make for Darker Viewing Rooms. In all fairness, those early 10″ screens helped viewers keep the other room lights off (or on low intensity) due to the fact that the early small screens made for a high rate of viewer distractibility in a bright room. By 1954, I’m betting, that affordable TV screens in the 14″, 17″ and 21″ size ~ and our improved general understanding of the direct and indirect light factor ~ had jointly lifted Houston home lighting back to its pre-TV era levels.

Houston TV in 1949. As Houstonians got busy training themselves to “watch” TV in that first year, there was no coaxial cable here yet that could transmit live programming from the broadcasting hub east ~ or anyplace else, for that matter. As a result, Channel 2 basically just showed anything decent they could find in the hope that people’s curiosity with the new medium would compel them to watch whatever was on the screen.

The first year fare included live wrestling from the City Auditorium, Houston Buffs Baseball, Kinescope copies of shows done live a week earlier from New York, cartoons, old movies, musical acts, kid show copies of Kukla, Fran and Ollie, live musical performances, local talk shows, and, of course, the daily local news of the world, weather, and sports.

Were we subject as viewers to addictive watching? ~ What do you think? ~ Here’s a reconstructed exchange between my parents that I still recall from one day that Dad got home early and turned on the TV at 4:30 PM, expecting  to watch the local news:

Mom (from the kitchen): “Why did you turn on the TV, William? The news doesn’t come on until 6:00 PM!”

Dad (sitting across the living room from the TV, waiting for the picture to heat and show up on the screen): “Oh! That’s right. I’m home early. Well then ~ what is this ‘Adventures in Sewing’ that’s coming on now?”

Mom: “Just what it says it is. ~ It’s a show that teaches women how to sew new clothes from patterns. ~ And that one is followed by ‘Crusader Rabbit’ ~ a little kids’ show at 5:00 PM ~ and ‘Mr. I. Magination’ ~ an older kids’ storytelling show. ~ Do you want me to just turn off the TV until the news comes on?”

Dad: “No, just leave it on! ~ I’ve already paid for the TV and the electricity it’s using. ~ I may as well watch.”

Baseball on TV in 1949 was both thrilling and painful. ~ We were thrilled to watch the Buffs from Buff Stadium on TV, but it was also painfully hard to follow the game from the view through those two grainy stationary cameras behind home plate. As we’ve written previously, the baseball appeared on-screen as a tiny white blurry orb that disappeared quite quickly when it was struck hard and fast to the outfield. You had to follow the body language of the fielders to have some idea about the ball’s chances for being caught or cut off so far away, so what? Old Man Relativity has a way of kicking into gear: The TV pictures we got at home from Buff Stadium in 1949 were 100% better than the ones we got from the same sacred ground in 1948.

Wrestling Addendum (Thanks to Patrick Callahan, STHS ’56) ~ Thanks, Pat! Even though we’ve always included Paul Boesch and Wrestling in our stories of the early Houston TV era, this time we needed you to remind us. Here’s what my former St. Thomas High School classmate, Pat Callahan, had to say in the comment section below:

********************

Irish Danny McShane

BILL: — you missed the big one on Houston TV – Paul Boesch and WRESTLING from the Houston Coliseum; Boesch was a WW II veteran (European Theater) and saw combat in the Hurtgen Forest – and became the home town Promoter of wrestling into the big time locally and nationally – I remember Irish Danny McShane and Bull Curry and Duke Keomuka and Rito Romero, all sometimes villains or good guys, dependent upon the opponent – but mostly bad guys. And….. Danny McShane would come by our office in the Melrose Bldg. the following week to solicit truck load transportation of various packaged chemical products…he worked for Herrin Trucking Co.

Those were the days – round screen B&W – and you’re right – lights out!

~ Pat Callahan

Yes! Houston TV belonged to wrestling from the Municipal Auditorium downtown every Friday night. ~ That place was torn down years ago to become the current site of Jones Hall. ~ And, yes! ~ Dirty Don Evans (we thought) was a member of our St. Christopher Parish Church. And I used to wait on Black Guzman years later at Merchant’s Whole Exchange, a men’s clothing store downtown where I worked as a salesman while I was a student at UH.

********************

Everything on TV in 2019 now has a bad aftertaste blending character about it whenever we have to listen to a dead aim politician trying to do stand up comedy ~ or maybe even worse ~ we have to listen to late night so-called talk show hosts trying to pass themselves off as political pundits by devoting themselves to the ultimately always fatal environs of one-joke comedy.

And they do it. ~ Every. Mother. Jumping. Night. ~ Is that what we need? ~ A constant negative bombardment of all the neurological synapses in our bodies? ~ And right before we go to sleep? ~ Every weekday night, while leaving only Saturday night to SNL ~ and Sunday all day to the NFL?

Today it is even more important than ever to remember that our TV remotes have an “off” button and that books have no “on” or “off” buttons at all. And sometimes ~ meditation ~ and the practice of keeping track of our reasons for so many life blessings is the turnaround for good sleep.

Just never underestimate the far-reaching power of TV as the “One-Eyed Cyclops” monster in our daily lives. With the help of everything that feeds to us through TV in 2019 from the Internet and all of its ideational apps, the Cyclops Monster now circumnavigates our passive minds at light speed, but it only has the power that we surrender to it when we forget that we have a choice about watching at all ~ and when we use passive TV viewing as a drug that blocks remembering anything in our mind, soul, or spirit that has never healed.

To have peace of mind, we must heal from any unresolved resentment or regret that gets in our way. As for TV watching, allow “choice” to be your TV Guide as to what to watch, when to watch, and how much to watch.

Happy New Year, Everybody!

 

******************************

Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Fearless Houston Pro Sports Predictions

January 1, 2019

The Pecan Park Eagle will celebrate its 10th online anniversary on July 21, 2019. Thanks to all of you for making our journey such a fun ride. We’ll make it too ~ as long as the old guy’s heart holds out ~ and the creek don’t (doesn’t) rise.

 

Happy New Year, Everybody! ~ And thanks so much for all the Happy Birthday wishes that so may of you sent my way yesterday by Facebook and personal e-mail. It makes this one old guy out here very happy that so many of you cared enough to drop an electric buzz on me ~ one way or the other. I literally could not answer them all personally today and also have had much time remaining for anything else.

Today’s prognostication column should cover some ground on reducing the message toll next birthday New Years Eve ~ if there is one for me to celebrate again at age 82 ~ but it’s best to take nothing for granted. All of us, at any age, only have one day to start with each 24-hour cycle, and that’s the one our eyes awaken to behold each time.

When that happens, measure it with fragility, treasure it wholly, and use it for all we’ve got to give in the moment at hand. ~ But, as we’ve already said once ~ and also with a nudging, murmuring cry for repetition ~ never take it for granted.

********************

Our Pecan Park Eagle Houston Pro Sport Outcome Predictions for 2019 by Date

I. February 3, 2019: Behind four Watson-to-Hopkins TD passes, the Houston Texans will defeat the Los Angeles Rams in the Super Bowl by a score of 28-24 to become the 2018 NFL Season Champions of Professional Football.

II. Some Time in March 2019: Houston’s Dynamo and Dash men’s and women’s soccer teams will be named as the 2019 champions in their respective gender fields of competition as the result of a complex formula for evaluating team style points during a double season in which no actual goals were scored by any teams in either the male or female brackets of play.

III. June 11, 2019: Boosted by a 53-point James Harden triple-double Game Four sweep, the Houston Rockets shall roll to a crunching 122-101 win over the Eastern Champion Toronto Raptors in Houston to claim the NBA Championship for 2019. (We had seen this originally as a win over the Golden State Warriors, but as Rick B. so keenly observed in the comment section, that could not be ~ given the fact that they and the Rockets both play in the Western Division. ~ Wait a minute. ~ Now the true story is coming through in a fully corrected telepathically driven imagery. ~ The Rockets will reach the Western Division finals by beating the Golden State Warriors in a record scoring 149-112 rout.)

IV. October 28, 2019: Led by AL Batting Champion Jose Altuve (.368) and Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander, the Houston Astros sweep the Los Angeles Dodgers of the NL to regain their title as World Series Champions of the Baseball Universe for the year 2019.

That’s it, but that should be enough. Try not to break your necks getting to Vegas and putting some money down on the successful outcome of all these sure-thing calls.

********************

Bonus Prediction in College Football:

January 7, 2019: Regardless of who wins the 2018 NCAA, Division 1 Season Title ~ Alabama or Clemson ~ ‘Bama Coach Nick Saban’s post-game comments will include the qualifier statement that he “saw some things we could have done better.”

On this totally light note, let’s get this 2019 new year started. ~ In Houston Sports, we could use one that floats a little more fun than frustration this time around the sun.

 

********************

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Hello There, 2019!”

Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Accidental Astros in Cooperstown

December 29, 2018

 

Maxwell Kates

 

By Maxwell Kates

 

Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio

The first player to wear an Astros cap on his plaque in Cooperstown was Craig Biggio, enshrined in 2015. The dependable 2nd baseman was joined in the Hall of Fame by his infield neighbour Jeff Bagwell two years later. Despite wearing Rangers and Reds caps on their plaques, respectively, Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan and Joe Morgan logged more service in Houston than in any other city. The article you are about to read features the other Astros in the Hall of Fame. The players all spent two years or less in Houston. In addition, you will read about an Astros’ coach, a manager, a scout, and an executive who are all in the Hall of Fame. This fraternity is known as ‘the Accidental Astros in Cooperstown.’

Nolan Ryan and Joe Morgan

PAT GILLICK

1937-

Position:                        Executive

Years in Houston:            1963 to 1974

Year of Induction:            2010

 

One of several former Orioles to follow Paul Richards from Baltimore to Houston, Pat Gillick joined the Colt .45s as the assistant director of scouting. Both the director of scouting and the director of player personnel were roles handled by Tal Smith:

“An incredible work ethic,” Smith remarked to Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle in 2010, “always looking for something somebody may not find or may not notice.” Gillick had been promoted to the role of Director of Scouting by 1974, when he followed Smith from Houston to the New York Yankees. While in Houston, Gillick’s major coup took place in 1967, when he relied on a bird dog scout in the Dominican Republic to sign an outfield prospect. The prospect’s name was Cesar Cedeno; the scout, Epifiano Guerrero. The Astros hired Guerrero as a scout who later worked alongside Gillick both with the Yankees and the Toronto Blue Jays, responsible for signing the multitude of Dominican players on both teams.

Gillick served as general manager for the Baltimore Orioles, Seattle Mariners, and Philadelphia Phillies as well as the Blue Jays. His teams earned a collective 11 playoff berths, including World Championships with the Blue Jays in 1992 and 1993 and the Phillies in 2008. He continues to serve as a consultant with the Phillies.

NELLIE FOX

1927-1975

Nellie Fox

Position:                        2nd base

Years in Houston:            1964 to 1965

Year of Induction:            1997

After the 1963 season, Colt .45s general manager Paul Richards acquired Nellie Fox, his 2nd baseman for four years in Chicago, in a trade for pitcher Jim Golden and outfielder Danny Murphy. Long before it became a hit record for the 1970s glam rock band Sweet, “Fox on the Run” became a familiar sight on the South Side of Chicago. Acquired from the Philadelphia Athletics in 1950, the speedy infielder was a 15 time All-Star, earning Most Valuable Player honours for the ‘Go-Go Sox’ in their pennant-winning season of 1959.

Fox played in 133 games for the Colt .45s in 1964, batting .265 and rapping 6 triples in 133 games. Reduced to part-time duty in 1965, Fox remained in Houston for one last season to tutor Joe Morgan how to play 2nd base. The first indoor baseball game was played on April 9, 1965, as the Astros hosted the Yankees to open the Astrodome. Nellie Fox’ pinch hit single in the bottom of the 12th proved to be the margin of victory, sending Jim Wynn home in a 2-1 decision.

Fox remained with the Astros as a coach until 1967 before moving to the Washington Senators’ organization. Sadly, Fox lost his battle with cancer in 1975, age 47.

ROBIN ROBERTS

1926-2010

Robin Roberts with Unknown Astros Pitcher *
——————
*Unknown only to Canadian tourists.

Position:                        Pitcher

Years in Houston:            1965 to 1966

Year of Induction:            1976

One of the most popular athletes in the history of the city of Philadelphia, Robin Roberts claimed 234 of his 286 victories in a Phillies uniform. He joined the Astros in August 1965 after pitching in parts of four seasons with the Orioles. Roberts enjoyed a renaissance after arriving in Houston. His first two decisions for the Astros were shutouts and was 5-2 with a stunning 1.89 ERA on ten starts in a Houston uniform.

Luck did not continue for Roberts and his newly reconstructed elbow in 1966. The Astros’ opening day starter posted a record of 3-5 through the 4th of July and was released. Roberts caught on briefly with the Chicago Cubs, tried to make a comeback in the Phillies’ farm system in 1967, and then called it a career.

While in Baltimore, Roberts advised a 19 year old righthanded pitcher that the key to his success was to “throw the hell out of the ball and go to sleep.” That young pitcher was Jim Palmer.

EDDIE MATHEWS

1931-2001

Eddie Mathews’ 500th Home Run

Position:                        3rd base

Years in Houston:            1967

Year of Induction:            1978

While Robin Roberts defeated the Braves in Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta, Eddie Mathews was the only player to have appeared for the team in all three cities. One of the few power hitting 3rd basemen of his era, Mathews was traded to Houston in 1966 with 493 home runs to his credit. He led the National League with 47 round trippers in 1953 and 46 in 1959, earning a World Series championship for ‘Bushville’ in 1957.

Hall of Famers rise to the occasion while facing other Hall of Famers. When the Brookfield Bomber faced the Dominican Dandy on July 14, 1967, he was sitting on 499 home runs. Neither Mathews nor his Astros teammates were wearing flowers in their hair during their visit to San Francisco in the ‘Summer of Love.’ After an errant mouse interrupted a Mathews plate appearance earlier in the game by running onto the field, he once again faced Juan Marichal in the 6th inning. With the Astros trailing 4-3 and two runners on base, he stroked the pitch over the right field fence for his milestone 500th home run.

Mathews’ days in a Houston uniform were numbered, as his contract was assigned to the Detroit Tigers on August 17. He retired after the 1968 season, but not before helping the Tigers to a World Series championship over the St. Louis Cardinals.

LEO DUROCHER

1905-1991

Leo Durocher

Position:                        Manager

Years in Houston:            1972 to 1973

Year of Induction:            1994

Contrary to general belief, Leo Durocher never actually said “nice guys finish last.” The original quotation, while managing the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1946, was “the nice guys are all over there, in seventh place.” Describing his crosstown rivals at Coogan’s Bluff, Leo the Lip would ultimately manage the Giants two years later, leading them to a World Series championship with his prize pupil, Willie Mays, in centre field.

Nearly two decades later, in 1972, Durocher was hired to manage in Houston after resigning from the Cubs at the All-Star break. After finishing in 2nd place to Cincinnati, the Astros were touting 1973 as ‘the Year of the Leo.’ Despite an early season injury to Larry Dierker, Durocher led his team to a respectable 29-22 record through May 31. That proved to be the high water mark. Durocher clashed with Don Wilson, Cesar Cedeno, and Marvin Miller. Before the season was over, Jerry Reuss had rechristened ‘Leo the Lip’ as ‘the Dummy in the Dugout.’ While the Astros did not finish last, off-years by most of the starters excluding Roger Metzger doomed the team to 4th place with a record of 82-80. Durocher would not be back in 1974.

Leo Durocher was suspended for the entire 1947 season amid allegations of “association with known gamblers.” Consequently, he did not expect to live to see his enshrinement in the Hall of Fame. Durocher was right. He died in 1991, three years before his induction day at Cooperstown.

DON SUTTON

1945-

Don Sutton

Position:                        Pitcher

Years in Houston:            1981 to 1982

Year of Induction:            1998

The Astros in 1980 won their first division title and battled the Phillies in a riveting National League Championship Series before losing in Game 5. Compounded with the gargantuan absence of J. R. Richard, the Astros needed a top quality starter to bolster their pitching rotation. They found that pitcher in free agent Don Sutton.

In fifteen seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Sutton went 230-175 with 2,652 strikeouts, 156 complete games, 52 shutouts, and an ERA of 3.07. During his first year with the Astros in 1981, Sutton went 11-9 with a 2.60 ERA. Unfortunately, just when the Astros needed him most, he fell prey to the injury bug. During Sutton’s final start of the season at Dodger Stadium, a bunt by former teammate Jerry Reuss fractured his kneecap, sidelining him for the playoffs. Shortly after Sutton underwent successful surgery in Inglewood, the Astros lost Game 3 of the National League Championship Series to the Dodgers. They had a 2-0 lead in the best of 5 series, and would go on to lost the last two games.

The Astros never could get their act together in 1982 and in August, they traded Sutton to the contending Milwaukee Brewers for prospects Kevin Bass, Frank DiPino, and Mike Madden. Sutton earned his 300th win as a Brewer and after stops in Oakland and Anaheim, returned to the Dodgers for one final season in 1988.

HAL NEWHOUSER

1921-1998

Tom Seaver, Rollie Fingers. and Hal Newhouser

Position:                        Pitcher

Years in Houston:            1984 to 1992

Year of Induction:            1992

Newhouser, along with John Smoltz, are the only Hall of Famers born in Detroit. In his 17 year career as a left-handed pitcher, Newhouser went 207-150 with the Tigers and the Cleveland Indians, striking out 1,796 and posting a lifetime ERA of 3.06. After retiring as a player in 1955, Newhouser worked as a bank executive while scouting the Orioles, Indians, Tigers, and from 1984 to 1992, the Astros.

Newhouser scouted Milt Pappas and Dean Chance for the Orioles and Mike Marshall for the Tigers but perhaps was best known for the player his team refused to sign. In 1992, he became impressed by the glove, bat, and work ethic of a young shortstop he watched at Kalamazoo Central High School. His name was Derek Jeter. The Astros had the first overall pick in the June amateur draft and had narrowed their choice between Jeter and Phil Nevin.

“Hal Newhouser was about as firmly as committed on behalf of Derek as a scout could be,” remembers Astros’ scouting director Dan O’Brien Jr. “Ultimately, the Astros decided that Phil [Nevin] would be closer to the big leagues than Derek would be.” The Astros signed Nevin and Newhouser soon resigned.

As it turned out, both Nevin and Jeter broke into the major leagues in 1995. Can you imagine what kind of an infield the Astros would have boasted with Jeff Bagwell at 1st base, Craig Biggio at 2nd base, and Derek Jeter at shortstop?

YOGI BERRA

1925-2015

Dale and Yogi Berra

Position:                        Coach

Years in Houston:            1986 to 1989

Year of Induction:            1972

The Township of Montclair, New Jersey was well represented on the Yankees as they returned to the Bronx in 1976 after two years at Shea Stadium. Serving on George Steinbrenner’s board of directors was John McMullen, while a neighbour of his was added to Billy Martin’s coaching staff. That neighbour’s name was Lawrence Peter Berra. Yogi’s story as an All-Star catcher, three time Most Valuable Player, World Series regular, and Yoo-Hoo pitchman is well documented.

A decade later, both McMullen and Berra had resurfaced in Houston. McMullen had purchased the Astros in 1979 from Roy Hofheinz’ creditors. Berra, meanwhile, was added to new manager Hal Lanier’s coaching staff in time for the 1986 season. Berra had managed the Yankees to a commendable record of 87-75 in 1984, his first year as the skipper, but after losing 10 of their first 16 games in 1985, he was fired by George Steinbrenner.

Casey Stengel once described Berra as someone who could “fall in a sewer and come up with a gold watch.” Berra’s luck was evident in his first season with the Astros. They set a new team record with 96 wins, capturing the National League West division title. Berra was in uniform for the climactic Game 6 of the National League Championship Series, a game that quite literally wasn’t over until it was over. Although the 7-6 final score fell in favour of the Mets after 16 innings, Berra was back in 1987, joined by his son, Dale. Among Berra’s projects with the Astros, to develop a young prospect from Seton Hall into a top calibre catcher. You might have heard of him, Craig Biggio. At the end of the 1989 season, Berra decided to retire. It was finally over.

Yogi Berra and His Astro Protege

RANDY JOHNSON

1963-

Position:                        Pitcher

Years in Houston:            1998

Year of Induction:            2015

Houston Astros pitcher Randy Johnson, right, leaves the field with his teammates after beating the Philadelphia Phillies 9-0 Friday, Aug. 7, 1998, in Houston. Johnson gave up only five hits in his Astrodome debut. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) (DAVID J. PHILLIP / AP)

The last and tallest member of the Accidental Astros in Cooperstown was left-handed pitcher Randy Johnson. Measuring 6’10”, Johnson broke in with the Montreal Expos in 1988 and was traded a year later to the Seattle Mariners. During his decade in the Emerald City, Johnson went 130-74, striking out 2,162 batters and posting a 3.42 ERA. ‘The Big Unit’ pitched a no-hitter in 1990 and in his Cy Young Award campaign of 1995, he led the junior circuit with 294 strikeouts and a 2.94 ERA, going 18-2 for a team that ‘refused to lose.’

Johnson was an impending free agent in 1998 and made it perfectly clear that he had no plans to resign with Seattle. At the 11th hour before the July 31 trading deadline, he accepted a deal that sent him to Houston for the lion’s share of the Astros’ prospects. Johnson was invincible in August and September. His record in 84 1/3 innings was 10-1 with 116 strikeouts, four shutouts, and a 1.28 ERA. The Astros reached the playoffs in 1997 but were swept by the Atlanta Braves in the National League Division Series. Much like the Don Sutton signing of 1981, the Astros had hoped that a trade for Johnson would augment their playoff bid. Unfortunately for the Astros, they lost to the Padres 3-1, including both of Johnson’s starts. Although he held San Diego to only three runs, that’s still two runs greater than the Astros scored.

Johnson signed his free agent bonanza with the Arizona Diamondbacks, leading them to a World Series championship in 2001. After stints with the Yankees and the Giants, Johnson retired from baseball in 2009. He walked away from the game with 303 victories and 4,875 strikeouts – more K’s than any pitcher not born in Refugio, Texas.

Here’s a question: Who struck out the most hitters of any pitcher never to play for the Astros?

Will Curt Schilling, Jeff Kent, or Miguel Tejada join the other Accidental Astros in Cooperstown in January? What about Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte, both local products who each pitched three seasons in a Houston uniform? Stay tuned. For further reading, check out the June 9, 2011 edition of the Pecan Park Eagle for “Houston Buffs of the Hall of Fame.”

Jody Davis (Not in the Hall of Fame)

******************************

… Thanks again for another wonderful article, Maxwell, and Happy New Year to All Our Great Neighbours ~ North and South of the Border Too! Now let’s all go out ~ in gratitude for all the good we do have ~ and try to make 2019 all the even better for things that did not turn out so well in our hands and hearts in 2018 ~ for ourselves, our family and dear friends ~ and all the the other fun and necessary playing fields of life that we take upon ourselves ~ some by choice ~ and so many more by necessity!

One day at a time, let’s just give 2019 all we’ve got ~ without waiting on any public box scores on how well we did. Most worthwhile goals don’t come with box scores anyway. They either register in our hearts or come again later in some other form to see if we are finally ready to get the point.

Love and Peace to One and All ~ Says the Spirit of The Pecan Park Eagle ~ and know this too ~ that if you have taken the time to read and feel all the Maxwellian energy that went into this latest Kates baseball essay, and all the other things we try to do here, that you have allowed our efforts to go even further than they could have gone without you.

We thank you for your support!

Kind regards,

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

******************************

Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

The Tootsie Roll Game: May 4, 1975

December 10, 2018

The Tootsie Roll Game: May 4, 1975

By Maxwell Kates

 

PROLOGUE

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

 

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

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

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

Bob Watson and Cesar Cedeno, 1973.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

******************************

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

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

A Typical Candlestick Fan Face on a Normal Windy Day?

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

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

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

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

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

Bob Watson Scores the Millionth Run in Baseball History.

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

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

Bob Watson, Bill Virdon and Gary Wilson, 1979.

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

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

Bob Watson as the Astros General Manager, 1994.

 

*********************************

Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Musial’s Take on Hofheinz’s Dome Humility

December 7, 2018

 

roy hofheinz-1965

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

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

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

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

Enjoy!

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

 

******************************

Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle