Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

NEW MMP CF FACE NOW IN PLACE

March 24, 2017

 

 

THE NEW DEEP DISTANCE TO CF AT MMP IS 409 FEET.

 

Opening Day 2017 is Now Only 10 Days Away.

 

CF is no longer the sweeping symmetry that was Tal’s Hill.
Now it simply is what it is everywhere else.- It’s CF.

 

Thanks to Darrell Pittman for forwarding us this Twitter pictorial of the new center field look at Minute Maid Park. It’s not bad, in a patchworky, hodge-podge sort of way. And it may even grow on us in time. But let’s see how the shorter fence distances alter the pitching challenge at the old ballpark before we break into  song.

As for the artistic comparisons with the prior elegance in symmetry that was Tal’s Hill, we also will try real hard to keep in mind the fact that Minute Maid Park is a commercial enterprise baseball venue, and not an art gallery. Given the gargantuan expense of operating an MLB team, the Astros have both the need and the right to style the ballpark in the most productive revenue stream ways they are able to discern. As long as they stay away from the NASCAR advertising approach to uniforms – or selling super fan space to million dollar per season donors who want to suit up and sit in the dugout with the team during games – we will do our most to make the best of the collateral damage to art and architecture that already has occurred to our home park in Houston.

~ The Pecan Park Eagle

____________________


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

March 1966: Writers Review Astroturf

March 23, 2017

 

Going into the second baseball season at the Astrodome, the Houston Astros were busy installing the new Chemstrand artificial turf from Monsanto in the infield of new Domed Stadium. John Lyons, the writer of the following article of Wednesday, March 23, 1966, for the Victoria Advocate was one of 200 scribes that came to the Astrodome by invitation from Judge Roy Hofheinz the previous week to see the turf solution that the club had come up with to solve the need for a surface that played well indoors and stayed green with no help from sunlight. Naturally, Judge Hofheinz felt that “AstroTurf” was a perfect fit name. And who could argue? “The Astros will now play baseball in the Astrodome on an infield covered with Astroturf” simply had a surefire thematic ring to it. And whose going to disagree with the genius of Judge Roy Hofheinz when practically everyone who might not care for the name had a paycheck riding on the outcome?

Besides. The name of the turf was just no BFD (Big Funny Deal).

Thanks to this wonderful research find by Darrell Pittman, here’s how the writer from the Victoria Advocate covered the occasion:

____________________

Victoria Advocate, March 23, 1966

Writers Visit Astrodome

More than 200 baseball writers, radio and television figures were guests of the Houston Baseball Club in the Domed Stadium last week.

They were invited to come and watch the baseball game between the Astros and the World Champion Los Angeles Dodgers, the first games ever played on synthetic grass.

They listened to an explanation about the great potential of this infield covering, then were invited to come on the field and see for themselves. At the same time, the writers had the opportunity of chatting with players and getting their reactions.

It was a fine trip and the writers were treated royally by the Houston Baseball Club.

* * * *

As one enters the Domed Stadium, the bright green infield that is known as the Astroturf, a name given by Roy Hofheinz, head of the Houston Baseball operations, really stuns an observer. It immediately reminds one of a billiard table because of the bright green color.

Later, when one steps on it, it is just like walking on a thick carpet. At first it causes one to wonder if maybe tennis shoes might be more appropriate than then baseball spiked shoes but that was ruled out when a player showed why. The infield ‘gives’ slightly, like you would expect of a carpet and the spikes are needed for a secure footing.

It looked so pretty that some of the writers wiped off their shoes before stepping on the green and one fellow, who was walking on it, was looking around for an ashtray. It looked too bright and clean to sprinkle ashes on it.

Someone asked Nellie Fox, a Houston coach and one of the game’s most prolific chewers, how this innovation would affect tobacco chewers. Nellie appeared surprised and answered, “Gosh, I hadn’t thought about that. It may have an effect at that.”

Astroturf in Experimental Stage

The Astroturf actually is an experiment and whether it will be a great success or a failure remains to be seen. A person just can’t look at something like this and immediately give a definite opinion. If he does, it shows he is not  studying  it closely or he is posing as an expert too quickly.

Even the officials of the Chemstrand Co., division of Monsanto Co., the developers of the Astroturf don’t say for an absolute certainty that this pretty carpet will answer all the problems to a Domed Stadium infield. But they have made a close survey on their subject and they have confidence that it will. And if there are just a few flaws, then they can be remedied.

Most of the observers over the past week end seemed to think that the green carpet was too fast, that hard hit baseballs would shoot at and by the infielders at a terrific clip. Some thought it would be dangerous to the fielders.

* * * *

The foundation, of course, controls the speed of the infield. Judge Hofheinz, himself, conceded that a sand base would provide more softness under the carpet than the dirt base now in use.

He said that the ground would be watered three times more than in the past to help keep the infield from being too hard.

Some of the infielders, like Jim Lefebvre of the Dodgers and Bob Aspromonte of the Astros, declared the bounce of the ball was true on the Astroturf but declared there could be trouble in fielding the ball after it comes off the carpet to the dirt. The ball takes a different spin then, they declared.

It was the general opinion among all of the infielders interviewed that fielding a ground ball on the Astroturf was not as difficult as picking it up after it hit the dirt part of the infield. Hofheinz declares that this problem can be adjusted. He explained that “We just got the fat stock show and rodeo here. We had four inches of topsoil for the rodeo, six inches for the bullfights that were here. We just haven’t had the time to get it fixed.”

The outfield, which was sodded just in the early part of last week with grass from the ball club’s own turf farm, was dyed green to disguise its patched condition.

It is Hofheinz’s plan to lay the Astroturf all over the outfield too.

Officials of the Chemstrand Co. said that the price this synthetic field is $2 a square foot. A satisfactory answer was never given when a question was asked how much the total outlay would cost the Houston team.

A few writers seem to have the opinion that it would cost the Houston National League team very little, if any. Houston is being used as an experiment for this innovation. Also, Hofheinz has taken the privilege of naming the carpet Astroturf and this certainly puts a label on it.

____________________

Remembering Our Mickey. Of course, it remained the province of Houston Post writer Mickey Herkowitz to pen the line about this tour that remains the most entertaining and memorable comment upon the occasion. As Astrodome people were explaining, as part of the installation was happening that day, how the AstroTurf infield was being installed by small sections that zipped into place with each other, Herskowitz must have smiled as he listened.

Hours later, Mickey Herskowitz wrote this iconic line: “Now Houston has the only infield in the big leagues with its own built-in, infield fly.”

____________________


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

A Tribute to the Larry Miggins Family

March 22, 2017

Larry and Kathleen Miggins

 

We have Tony Cavender to thank for this beautiful tribute by Helen Sage Perry to the Larry and Kathleen Miggins family in Houston. The Pecan Park  Eagle tried to publish it on St. Patrick’s Day, but some extant issues in the communication linkage between my computer. scanner, and Internet usage converter got in the way.  Faced with that dilemma, your esteemed Eagle editor did what all “geek-less”  digital outfits do under the circumstances. We were stopped dead in the road of progress by the killer of all favorable movement. Ignorance had struck again.

Fortunately, Mr. Cavender saved the day for a belated St. Paddy’s publication. He brought me a hard card of the open-page piece to our Monday night SABR meeting that I was able to scan and divide  into what appears to be two readable columns of the whole story.

Enjoy the article. And thanks again for your your twice extended opportunity here, Tony Cavender. The rest of us, including all of Larry Miggins’s friends in the Houston baseball community, are in for a real treat.

~ Bill McCurdy, Editor, The Pecan Park Eagle Press

____________________

 

 

___________


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

1911: West End Park Fire Was Serious Money

March 22, 2017

After 1911 West End fire, principal Buffs franchise owner had a decision to make about staying or going. An unofficial alcohol perk may have may have helped grease the skids on staying.

Galveston Daily News, Dec. 6, 1911

GRANDSTAND IS BURNED

———-

Improvements at West End Park are Destroyed

Loss Will Exceed $5,000

May Rebuild

———-

Special to The News.

Houston, Tex., Dec. 5 (1911) – The baseball grandstand at West End Park, the scene of the Texas League games every season for several years past, was destroyed by fire about 3 o’clock Tuesday morning. Though the baseball grounds themselves are owned jointly by Mrs. Eugenie Flewellyn [?] of Houston and a Mrs. McFarland of Waco, the Houston Baseball Association, represented by Mr. Otto Sens, owned the improvements, which consisted of the grandstand and the bleachers. These improvements were valued at approximately $5,000. It is exceedingly doubtful if they could be replaced for the sum. The grandstand was built when the ball park was leased by Claude Reilly, a former owner of the franchise.

(Current Houston Buffs principal franchise owner) Otto Sens was hunting near Cypress when word was sent to him that the grandstand in Houston had been destroyed by fire. He quit the field and hastened back to the city and is now planning for the future. The fire may possibly mean that Buffalo fans will see the baseball games of 1912 in a brand new ball park, but Mr. Sens has not definitely decided on that point. He has another year’s lease on West End Park, but if baseball is to be played there next year it will devolve upon the club owners to replace the old grandstand.

Whether the owners will be willing to spend as much as $7,000 or $8,000 in erecting new stands to be used just one season remains to be seen. The chances are that they will lose no time considering the question of beginning work on the new baseball plant, plans for which were drawn months ago.

Should the club owners rebuild the old stand there is a possibility that they will have in their possession a new lease on West End Park before the first nail is driven in the construction. Mrs. Flewellyn [?] declined to say whether she would lease the park or not.

~ Thank you, Darrell Pittman, for this verbatim report on one of the local newspaper coverages of the fire story.

____________________

Ongoing Notes and Thoughts. Otto Sens and the Buffs did pony up the $8,000 to rebuild the fire damage to the grandstands at West End Park in Houston. As Mike Vance implies in his chapter from our multiple author SABR work, Houston Baseball, The Early Years: 1861-1961, the decision by the Buffs to put their money into the repair, rather than go the ultimately more expensive route of going elsewhere anew may have been influenced by the addition of some unofficial amenities that resulted from the reconstruction:

In the fire reconstruction, “seats were raised with concessions set underneath.

“One thing not offered at the concessions when West Park first opened was beer. Management announced a strict policy that just as at the old park, no alcohol would be allowed. How strict the enforcement actually was, however, is open to debate. One memoir describes how an empty bucket lowered from the press box would find its way back up the rope with a load of cold beverages for the ‘thirsty scribes.’ One doubts they meant colas.” (page 102, Early Houston Baseball History, et al)

Otto Sens may not have invented “the art of the deal”, but he surely understood that the fire had given him the leverage to shake the giving tree for a few perks in his working agreement with West End Park that weren’t there originally. After all, a baseball team can play their game anyplace there’s room to scratch out a 90-feet square diamond that has a 300-feet field beyond it. On other hand, a fire charred field of rubble that goes unrepaired is only attractive to rodents and trash dumpers.

____________________


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

Perfect: John Paciorek

March 20, 2017

PERFECT
BY STEVEN K. WAGNER
(SEE PHOTO NOTE THAT FOLLOWS DIRECTLY)

 

PHOTO NOTE: We just learned of this book at publication time tonight. We have not read it, but plan to do so. It is available through Amazon in paper back for $9.70 and in Kindle for $6.15. As always, unless it’s one of our own, we have no stake in the sale of this book. We are simply interested in the subject and I’m willing to risk that much change to see if Steven Wagner may bring some new light to the John Paciorek story.

Here’s the Amazon link:

____________________

 

Most of you know the story of John Frances Paciorek, the kid who played one game in the big leagues for the Houston Colt .45s at Colt Stadium back on September 29, 1963, the last day the city’s second season as a member of the National League, but it bears rears repeating for the sake f history and all the younger or transplanted new fans who never heard it. Paciorek did something in that one MLB game career that no one ever had done before. And it may be this side of the twelfth of never before it ever again.

In that single final game of the 1963 season, Houston Colt .45 right fielder John Paciorek registered a perfect day at the plate, gathering three singles and two walks in five times at bat. It was the first and, so far, only time that any major leaguer with a one-game career had recorded a perfect batting average for players with more than three times at bat to their credit. The two walks, of course, added to the luster, giving Paciorek a five-for-five perfect OBP for his one game MLB career.  He also scored four runs and totaled three RBI.

Paciorek began the day with a walk in the second inning. He followed that first trip with a two-RBI single in the fourth that scored a couple of base runners named Rusty Staub and Bob Aspromonte. Then he promptly followed that first hit with a second single in the bottom of the fifth that again found Bob Aspromonte for Paciorek’s third RBI of the game. Paciorek drew another walk in the sixth and then capped the day with a lead off single in the eighth. The deed was done – and with great support from our one-game big leaguer. Mr. Paciorek closed the sunset with a perfect day. The Houston Colt .45s had closed the 1963 NL season with a 13-4 win over the New York Mets.

Going into spring training, John Paciorek looked like a good bet to make the 1964 Colt .45s club roster, but it was not to be. He had some shining moments in ST, but his overall play on both offense and defense got him sent down to the minors, where he continued to struggle with a batting average that netted out at .135 games at Durham and Statesville. Spinal fusion surgery finally shut him down for the most of 1964 and all of 1965. After struggling to come back in the minors for both Houston and Cleveland from 1966-1968, further injuries and unimpressive performance finally shut out the light on John Paciorek’s determined effort to get back to that mountaintop that he found for a single game on September 29, 1963.

It just didn’t happen.

Here’s the link to the box score from Baseball Almanac on the 9/29/1963 game between the home team Colts .45s and the New York Mets:

http://www.baseball-almanac.com/box-scores/boxscore.php?boxid=196309290HO1

____________________


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

 

 

The Real King of Rock and Roll is Dead

March 19, 2017

The King of Rock and Roll is Dead
Chuck Berry
Born: October 18, 1926
Died: March 18, 2017
Rest in Peace.

With all apologies to Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, and Buddy Holly, the true King of Rock and Roll died today.

Chuck Berry passed away today in St. Louis at the age of 90. For many of us, at least, among the young adolescent coming-of-age-males-in-America from 1955 forward, he was the man who wrote the soundtrack of almost all our lives. Beyond issue differences based upon the perceptions so effected by race and region, it was Chuck Berry who played the universal chord of what we were going through in our daily extant lives out here in the trenches of Nowhere-But-Trying-To-Get-Somwehere City, USA. – And it was Chuck Berry who had a song for every passion, striation, or nose-out-of-joint situation we may have found ourselves battling at the time.

The Challenge

It started in 1955, when some of us who were then 17, and Chuck’s first big hit, “Maybelline,” came rolling over the hill:

As I was motivatin’ over the hill
I saw Mabellene in a Coup de Ville
A Cadillac arollin’ on the open road
Nothin’ will outrun my V8 Ford
The Cadillac doin’ about ninety-five
Bumper to bumper, rollin’ side by side
Maybellene
Why can’t you be true
Oh Maybellene, why can’t you be true
You’ve started back doin’ the things you used to do

We were trying to get up to the challenge. The early emotional fragility of teenage love (Oh Maybellene, why can’t you be true) often made it hard to keep track of how we stood with the special girls in our lives. On the other hand, we guys also understood that it was a whole lot easier to get a measurable self esteem score based on which of us dudes had the fastest running machine out there on the road.

The Cadillac pulled up ahead of the Ford
The Ford got hot and wouldn’t do no more
It then got cloudy and started to rain
I honked my horn for a passin’ lane
The rainwater blowin’ all under my hood
I knew that I was doin’ my motor good

Oh, Maybelline! If only I could gain a trust in you – that matched up well with what I knew – 0f what my Rocket 88 would damn-sure do!

The Monkey Business of Life

Working in the filling station, too many tasks
Wipe the windows, check the tires, check the oil, a dollar gas, ahh!

My filling station moments all happened as an empl0yee on the 12-hour Saturday shift at the A&P Store on Lawndale near 75th that always preceded a night of social fun. A lady customer asked me late one Saturday afternoon where she might find our A&P all day suckers. “You’re talking with one of them,” I said. My boss heard my answer. I think he would have fired me too if that lady hadn’t sized up the situation and interceded. “Oh, don’t be too hard on the young man, sir” she said. “It’s nice to run into somebody with a sense of humor every now and then.”

Brown “Haired” Handsome Man

Two, three the count with nobody on
He hit a high fly into the stand
Rounding third he was headed for home
It was a brown eyed handsome man
That won the game; it was a brown eyed handsome man

I remember going to bat once in a senior CYO summer game. Men on 2nd and 3rd. My girl sitting behind the screen plate at the CYO Field near Austin High School in the East End. The Berry song was rolling through my brain as I walked to the plate. Life does not always follow the script. I never got to a 3-2 count, I swung hard at a first pitch and squibbed it down the 3rd base line. Managed to beat it out for a swinging bunt single with one RBI, but got no high fly into the stands to win the game. That’s OK. I never had brown eyes anyway.

The School Days Rainbow Deliverance

It was all right there. In the words. In the beat. In the notion. And in the motion.

Get your work done and there’s something special waiting for you.

You simply have to find a way to make your work passionate and playful to get there.

But it you listen to the beat of Chuck’s songs long enough, you will get his message.

And you will get to keep that jewel as the find of a lifetime.

Millions of us once called it Rock and Roll. – And some of us still do.

Thanks for liberation from what could have been a much less enjoyable ride through life, Chuck Berry!

Up in the mornin’ and out to school
The teacher is teachin’ the Golden Rule
American history and practical math
You studyin’ hard and hopin’ to pass
Workin’ your fingers right down to the bone
And the guy behind you won’t leave you alone

Ring, ring goes the bell
The cook in the lunch room’s ready to sell
You’re lucky if you can find a seat
You’re fortunate if you have time to eat
Back in the classroom, open your books
Keep up the teacher don’t know how mean she looks

Soon as three o’clock rolls around
You finally lay your burden down
Close up your books, get out of your seat
Down the halls and into the street
Up to the corner and ’round the bend
Right to the juke joint, you go in

Drop the coin right into the slot
You’re gotta hear somethin’ that’s really hot
With the one you love, you’re makin’ romance
All day long you been wantin’ to dance,
Feeling the music from head to toe
Round and round and round we go

Hail, hail rock and roll
Deliver me from the days of old
Long live rock and roll
The beat of the drums, loud and bold
Rock, rock, rock and roll
The feelin’ is there, body and soul.

Rest in Peace, Chuck Berry!

____________________


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

_____________________

 

The Quiet Man: Life Imitates Art

March 18, 2017

 

 

“HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY”
From
LARRY AND KATHLEEN MIGGINS
2017

 

What better way to celebrate St. Patty’s Day than to feature it coming from the greatest, most beloved legend and leprechaun of the Houston Irish and baseball communities!

Was the movie “The Quiet Man” really important to Larry and Kathleen back in their younger days? After all, it was only the story of J0hn Wayne as a 6’4″ Irish-American male athlete who meets up with Maureen O’Hara, the love of his life character, on a trip back to to the old country. Wayne’s character is quickly and duly smitten by this dazzling young redheaded Irish beauty of great mind and character.

Important. you ask? – It was their first date movie and social time together in Chicago! – and Larry was already well into the role of being another 6’4″ Irish-American athlete in baseball – and Kathleen was this beautiful young “not-long-off-the boat” girl from Ireland – with a name close to the “Mary Kate” that played opposite John Wayne! The only difference here between fiction and reality was that Larry didn’t have to win the greatest movie fight in history with lovable, but the tough-minded heroine’s brother, Victor McLaughlin, as John Wayne had to do in the movie.

Interesting to note too that Larry and Kathleen later met John Wayne in the lates 1960s, when he came to Houston to make the movie, “Hellfighters,” the one one about local oil-fire fighter Red Adair.

“Yes, that was interesting to actually meet John Wayne,” Larry once told me. “I noticed too,” he added, “even though we both are listed at 6’4″, that I was the taller man by a smidgen.”

Happy St. Patrick’s Day Evening now, folks! I’d like to leave you with the little Irish Blessing pennant that’s been hanging in our kitchen for decades:

“May your roof never fall in and those beneath it never fall out.”

____________________


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

Astros Daily: An Interview with Bob Bruce

March 16, 2017

 

Back in 2001, Ray Kerby of Astros Daily also did this priceless phone interview with former original Colt .45 and Astro pitcher Bob Bruce, who died a couple of days ago. Thanks to Darrell Pittman for reminding us of this gem. If you cared for Mr. Bruce and his contributions to Houston MLB history, you will also find a lot to like at the end of this link:

http://astrosdaily.com/players/interviews/Bruce_Bob.html

Rest in Peace, Bob Bruce!

____________________


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

Former Colt. 45 Bob Bruce is Dead

March 15, 2017

A Tribute to Original Colt .45 & Astro Bob Bruce

By James Anderson

These words from lifelong Houston Baseball Researcher and Fan James Anderson were the most eloquent ever written in behalf of the now deceased former Houston MLB baseball pioneer in 2007.  We believe they remain so today, ten years later, on March 15, 2017, with our sad reception of the news from the same Mr. Anderson that the wonderful Bob Bruce passed away yesterday, March 14, 2017, in North Texas at the age of 83.  As a former member of the last active Board and now moribund Texas Baseball Hall of Fame, I have hereby authorized their reproduction from the still visible, but no longer tended website of that formerly active good-intentioned body.

Thank you for writing this piece, James Anderson. We didn’t know it at the time, but you were circling all the bases when you wrote these words a decade ago.

Sincerely, Bill McCurdy

Former Member and Board Chair for the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame

Current & Forever Committed Publisher, Editor, Principal Writer, & Full-Time Bottle Washer

For The Pecan Park Eagle

Rest In Peace, Bob Bruce!

It was finally over. It lasted 12 innings and took 2 hours and 50 minutes to complete. Jimmy Wynn bounced a single down the third base line off reliever Ron Perranoski that drove in Rusty Staub from second base with the winning run to give the Houston Colt .45s a 1–0 victory against the Los Angeles Dodgers and Don Drysdale. As Staub crossed the plate, Colt .45s pitcher Bob Bruce ran out on the field to give Jim Wynn a big hug in obvious joy of Wynn finally sealing Bruce’s 12-inning effort against LA.

The significance of the game had little impact outside of Houston but to the Colt .45s and their fans it was an end of an era. It was the last game to be played at Colt Stadium and was topped off by Bob Bruce’s 12 inning complete game shutout against the Dodgers and Bruce’s 22nd consecutive inning pitched without giving up a run. Next year, the Colt .45s would don a new name and play in what would be later called “The Eighth Wonder of The World” — The Astrodome.

It was the third and final season of Colt Stadium which opened up to much fan fare on a cloudy day on April 10, 1962 to 25,000 plus excited fans and local dignitaries who were there to watch the first official Major League game to be played in the state of Texas and Houston.

From that illustrious day in April 1962 to September 27th, 1964, hopes were high but reality continued to dampen the hopes of a young and struggling franchise to bring a winning team to Houston. It wouldn’t be until 1969 that the team now called the Astros would finish .500 with an 81–81 season.

To it’s new fans—new to Major League baseball, for many were veteran fans of minor league baseball and the Houston Buffs—1964 was the year that seemed to bring the “hope springs eternal” dreams that infects virtually every fan of the great game of baseball. As 1964 came to an end, there was reason to feel that the future was bright for the franchise and it’s fans looking forward to moving into the newly built and air conditioned domed stadium in 1965. Such stars as Turk Farrell, Hal Woodeshick and Bob Bruce had solidified a pitching staff that finally brought legitimacy and respect for its new loyal fan base. Young phenoms such as Larry Dierker, Jimmy Wynn, Rusty Staub, and Joe Morgan virtually insured a bright future for the team.
Of course, history and back room ownership squabbles would prove otherwise.

To the fans of a new team with a “Colt .45s” six-shooter emblazoned across their jersey’s it was at least a year in which truly legitimate stars of the franchise emerged and would help to lay the foundation of lifelong fans whose second and third generation families and fans would root for the likes of Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Lance Berkman, and others who were to come later.

Bob Bruce became the first legitimate winning pitcher in team history in 1964 as he finished the season with a very respectable 15–9 won/loss record, 7 consecutive wins, and 22 consecutive shutout innings pitched. He allowed fewer that 2 base on balls per 9 innings in over 200 innings pitched with an ERA of 2.76 and 4 shutouts to his credit for 1964. Numbers that to this day still stand up well against many of the future Astros pitching stars.

With Bruce’s teammate Turk Farrell starting the season with a 10–1 won/loss record, Bob Bruce and the Colt .45s staff were putting up eye-popping stats for such a young pitching staff—leading the league in team ERA and strikeouts. Unfortunately, Farrell would suffer arm trouble and finish the season with an 11–10 record and the rest of the staff with the exception of Bruce and reliever Hal Woodeshick, disappointed. Indeed, it was another disappointing season for the Colt’s and their fans.

If Farrell was the colorful and talented fastballer of the staff, Bob Bruce was the steadying force that was to at least give fans a hopeful glimpse of brighter day’s ahead. Because of Bruce’s fine season in 1964, he was chosen to be the opening day pitcher in 1965 for the Astros in the newly built Astrodome in a well pitched 2–0 loss to Chris Short and the Phillies—the same team that nearly “shutout” the Colts team-wise in 17 consecutive victories against Houston in 1962. In the Colt .45s final appearance against the Phils in their inaugural 1962 season, Bruce would silence the Phillies bats on a balmy Tuesday night at Colt Stadium on September 4, when he pitched his team to the one and only victory against Philadelphia for a 4–1 victory. It seemed almost anti-climactic as Bruce set the Phillies down quietly on 4 hits and 7 strikeouts and drove in 2 of the Colt .45s runs with two hits of his own.

As Bruce recalled, “They even called for a Voodoo night for (the doubleheader played) the day before against the Phils and asked fans to bring out horse shoes, voodoo dolls, cow bells, you name it to hex the Phillies.” The Colt .45s lost both ends of that Monday night doubleheader making it 17 losses in a row. Finally, without the help of voodoo dolls, horseshoes, and whatever else, Bruce would silence the Phillies bats on his own in their 18th and final meeting of the 1962 season.

In 2002 Gene Elston wrote his Daily Recap of the 1962 Houston Colt .45s in tribute to the inaugural season of the franchise and had this to say about that September day in 1962: “…in an effort to do everything within the realm of possibility to stop the season long losing streak to the Phillies, the Colt .45s PR department invites fans to the final meeting and called it Voodoo Night. The fans were asked to bring any item that might hex Philadelphia into a defeat. Suggestions varied from voodoo dolls with hatpins, rabbit’s feet, cowbells or other noisemakers, witches and devils’ outfits. In other words use your imagination and come the necromancer—commit sorcery and magically influence the course of events and effect evil on the Phils…”

But all in all, it was Bruce’s fine pitching that finally did in the bats of the Philadelphia Phillies.

With pinpoint control and a number of off-speed pitches that baffled the opposing hitters, 1965 appeared to be a promising year for Bruce based on his fine performance of the previous season.

1965 did indeed start very promising for Bruce even though he suffered a 2–0 loss to the Phillies on opening day, he pitched a 3–1 complete game victory in his next outing and gave up only 1 run in 7 innings to the Pirates in April 23. His next two starts against the lowly Mets and the Braves resulted in early exits for Bruce. When 1965 had finished—and all the fanfare of the new domed stadium over for at least another season—the Astros still finished near the bottom of the standings with only the New York Mets suffering a worst won/loss record. Bob Bruce pitched 229 innings in 1965—the most for a single season in his career—and with a 9–18 won/loss record.

When asked about his performance in 1965, Bruce gave no excuses. “It was just a tough season” Bruce said, “We didn’t score a lot of runs.” He couldn’t remember suffering any arm trouble that he could pinpoint other than mentioning that “since all of our uniforms were always placed in the same dryer we all once came down with an epidemic of jock itch that was so bad that I thought some of us were going to end up at the hospital emergency room!”

Bob Bruce gave the Houston Colt .45s/Astros the best he had. To a man there wasn’t a player on the team who didn’t go out on the field and give it everything they had to put a “W” in the win column. From 1962 to 1964 as the young Colt .45s continued to suffer more losses than victories, personal goals became important in each of the “dog days” of those early years.

As Bruce spoke of that 1964 season, “I think I could have put up numbers similar to Koufax in previous seasons had we not played in that heat of Colt Stadium. I was pitching a day game at Colt Stadium against Bob Gibson and the Cardinals and it was well over 100 degrees down on the field and about a hundred percent humidity it seemed. The heat on the field was so bad on the mound that my shoes got so hot that I had to put my feet in cold water in the clubhouse between innings and so did Gibson. Even Koufax hated pitching at Colt Stadium who was my nemeses. He beat me more times than any other pitcher I faced. He was a great one.”

On April 19, 1964 Bruce accomplished the rare feat of striking out Bill White, Charlie James, and Ken Boyer on 9 pitches in the 8th inning of a game against the St. Louis Cardinals exactly one day after his “nemesis” Sandy Koufax accomplished the same feat in the third inning of a game against the Cincinnati Reds. Ironically, both Bruce and Koufax were to lose each of those games.

A native of Michigan and born in Detroit where he made his home, Bruce even pitched his first three Major League seasons for the Detroit Tigers. Like many of the early stars of the team such as Woodeshick, Aspromonte, Warwick, and others he eventually made his home in Texas where he still resides to this day.

After the 1967 season after being traded by the Astros to the Atlanta Braves for Eddie Mathews, Bob Bruce’s Major League career was over. In the Colt .45s 1963 Press Guide it stated that Bob Bruce was, “employed in the off season as a real estate salesman with designs of becoming a broker after baseball career.”

Bob Bruce’s career only spanned 9 seasons but as one of the original Houston Colt .45s/Astros he endeared himself to the new legion of loyal followers of the franchise which became the foundation of future third and fourth generation fans that now root for and support the team today at Minute Maid Park.

Along with the ballet like defensive skills of Bob Aspromonte at third base, the elusiveness and skill of Hal Woodeshick on the mound, big Walt Bond, the colorful Turk Farrell, and of course Bob Bruce—the guy with the two first names—and the other early stars of the team were indeed to become the seeds of the beginning of the history and heritage of Major League baseball in Houston and the great state of Texas.

In his book, Colt .45s—A Six Gun Salute, author Robert Reed said it best: “In the end, (1964) it was perhaps the most memorable season thus far. A true roller coaster ride all the way, beginning with the wrenching death of Jim Umbricht and followed only two weeks later by Ken Johnson’s contribution to the baseball absurd—a losing no-hitter—the Colt .45s final season left Houston wondering what the future really held for Major League baseball in the Bayou City. As placeholders for next years team that would christen the long awaited domed stadium, the Colts teased fans with a glimpse of respectability, hanging only 6 games out of first place in June on the wings of hard-throwing Turk Farrell’s sizzling 10–1 record and Bob Bruce’s seven straight wins.”*

As Humphrey Bogart spoke in The Maltese Falcon, “Such is the stuff that dreams are made of.”** And Houston Colt .45s/Astros fans have been dreaming every since of that elusive World Series banner. We can thank Bob Bruce, The “Turk”, Aspro, “The Toy Cannon”, Ken Johnson, and others for planting those seeds of hope in our minds long ago!

____________________


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas


The Tommy John Blues

March 14, 2017

 

The Tommy John Blues

By Bill McCurdy

Dedicated to All of Us Who’ve ever Had to Either

Start Over Or Come Up with a Brand New Plan

 

my pitch date is monday

ain’t got no nuthin’ to lose

I said – my pitch date comes up monday

ain’t got no feelins’ – to bruise

 

either I duz – or doesn’t dues it

signed – or waived goodbye again – blues

 

I started young and smoky

peelin’ ninety-nine – worked out fine

I said – I started okey-dokey

The turn on the burn – was all mine

 

and, baby, my curve wuz too – a doozy

Just a sign – on the dotted line – cruise

 

with goin’ good – came frisky

tryin’ moves – that ragged out my arm

I said – an all-out slip-bump slider

Found me a painful swarm harm

 

and now I – couldn’t flick a booger

I had the Tommy John Blues

 

After sittin’ out – last season

I’m back to see – if I can

I said – after sittin’ out – a whole damn season

I’m back in search of the man

 

He’s either on that hill – or elsewhere

And I’m the Tommy John Man

____________________

 


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas