Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

What Really Led to the DH?

February 20, 2019

Shane Reynolds

As one who has grown to appreciate and prefer the DH addition to baseball, I only became fully aware of how that major change in the rules for all, but the NL, came to be until last night ~ and it wasn’t really served up on a spoon. It came seeping into my old noggin from the peripheral answers I was getting to another direct question I had asked of two very sharp former Astros pitchers who spoke at the February 18, 2019 meeting of our Larry Dierker Houston SABR Chapter.

 

 

 

Those two former Astros pitchers were Shane Reynolds and Chris Sampson.

After hearing both speak separately on how closely they worked with different catchers. I asked both of them through Shane Reynolds for their thoughts on why catchers, who learn so much about the strike zone from their constant work with it on defense, could not also use that experience to be better hitters themselves. Both sort of shook their heads and smiled.

Reynolds got us past the “good question” leaning-in phase of this inquiry by offering his belief that the physical wear-and-tear of a catcher’s work, with all its labor on every defensive pitch and the heavy sweat-laden equipment that just got heavier as the game moved on ~ these things ~ simply wore the guys down from the primary efforts they were expected put in on the defensive demands of their position.

As I now later recall, Sampson pretty much gave a non-verbal wave of support to Reynolds’ wear-and-tear opinions. ~ i.e., even if a guy has talent for becoming better as a hitter, he gives all his major energy to the side of his job that his club needs him to serve on defense. Few hitters have enough talent to overcome the defensive demands of catcher. Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey, Mickey Cochrane, Roy Campanella, Carlton Fisk, and Johnny Bench jump to mind, but, as you know, those guys also are all members of the Hall of Fame.

Former Astros President and General Manager Tal Smith was in the SABR crowd. It was Tal Smith’s offering that MLB clubs historically were most often willing to give up a poor hitting catcher to the bottom of the lineup for the sake of his superior defensive skills. Chris Sampson followed Smith’s remarks with one of baseball’s oldest bromides of justification for the focus on defense: “Defensively, a club has to be strong up the middle.”

Even our 1950 Pecan Park Eagles remembered the “be strong up the middle” caveat, but our challenge was even more basic. It meant we had to have five guys show up early enough to pitch, catch, and play second, short, and center.

The Real Reason for the DH

Then it hit me. The answer to my unasked question at SABR Monday night has been dangling before my eyes all this time that the DH has been in place. I simply didn’t see it in its full glory. And I don’t think I’ve been alone in this missed deduction.

The DH didn’t take root in baseball simply because the pitcher alone could not hit. ~ It was generated by the notorious presence of usually three guys at the 7th, 8th, and 9th place bottom spots in the batting order who couldn’t hit a fly with a flit gun.

Chris Sampson

The DH was there to break up the three-man bottom of the batting order ~ the pitcher, the catcher, and one other player down the strong defensive middle who could usually sneak into another starter role as a defensive man ~ and this fellow was very often the “good field/no hit” shortstop. ~ The DH would take out the 9th batting pitcher and that improvement would promote the goal of building a batting order in which there also would be no 8th or 7th holes left to kill the offensive threat at the bottom of the lineup. Our 2017 World Series Champion Houston Astros did a great job of doing exactly that ~ building a hitters’ lineup in which there was no place for opposing pitchers to relax.

The DH lives today as the key goal for every club’s primary bonus offensive aspiration ~ whenever possible ~ and that is to have a nine-man hitting lineup in which each player listed is capable of reaching base on an average to better-than-average percentage of the time.

We Also May Need to Re-Think the Way We Use Catchers

Maybe we need to re-think how we use catchers as another position in which their regular rotation, as it does with pitchers, helps their season performance level. After all, catchers are throwing the ball hard every game almost every pitch they return to the pitcher, plus a few others they throw on out plays ~ or other attempted steal plays. Why should we take a starting pitcher out after 100 pitches ~ and then leave catchers in the game for 200 pitches daily for as long as he says he can go in all the days that follow? It seems pretty clear that the ongoing exhaustion derived from the defensive chores of their job keep most catchers from developing as even average hitters.

If catcher hitting could improve with time off between starts, as we do with starting pitchers, how much time would he need ~ and how many catchers would be needed to create a situation in which a catcher went into most games with enough physical recovery time to maybe help them improve their hitting too. Again, the whole thing turns upon whether or not we believe that an ongoing state of exhaustion is the major culprit behind the priority the game places on catcher defense as the two major reasons why most catchers do not hit better than they do.

What do you think?

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

Greatest Movie Runs at MLB Incredibility

February 15, 2019

Perhaps our column title slightly overstates our case. Almost all baseball movies, whether they deserve the viewing time we give them or not, usually reach for and achieve the incredible on some level. And why not? Baseball is the sport which invites its fans and media to anticipate the improbable great joy, but to also find something magical about it.

For example: Once Upon a Time, the greatest legendary slugger, a fellow named Babe Ruth, not only blasted a home run to center field at Wrigley Field to deaden the spirits of the Chicago Cubs in the 1932 World Series, he apparently also “called his shot” on the way to leading the New York Yankees to another victory in Game Three of a Four Game sweep of the World Series. ~ And there’s never been any argument that he didn’t forecast his actions either. …. Right?

These just happen to be nine of the many baseball movies that effected me deeply as a kid, but most-to-all of them required me to make a little credibility stretch that was vital to me loving them too.

My favorite baseball movies aren’t even on today’s list. In no particular order, my favorites include: The Natural ~ Field of Dreams ~ Bull Durham ~ League of Their Own ~ Eight Men Out and Major League. There were others, but this is more than enough for today.

Let us hear from you if you’ve ever been put off by bad acting, bad script, or the absence of baseball ability by an actor in a key role. I would love to hear from you in the comment section below.

 

9. Gary Cooper
as Lou Gehrig
Pride of the Yankees (1942)

 

Gary Cooper had the physical resemblance and personality for his role as Lou Gehrig and he did a masterful job of acting in both his delivery of Lou’s famous “happiest man” speech at Yankee Stadium and his portrayal of how this horrible disease that killed him takes over the body in the early stages.

Credibility Stretch: Cooper was not a ballplayer. We’ve all read the stories of how they reversed the jersey and allowed him to swing right-handed and run to third from home for film that would later make it appear that he had been hitting left-handed. He was just more at home riding horseback than he was hitting a horsehide ball.

 

 

 

8. Robert Young
as “Larry Evans”
Death on the Diamond (1934)

 

Well named. Ballplayers are dying faster than the guys pulling hamstrings, but this one ends well when the club’s star player, Larry Evans, both helps the club solve the crimes as he also leads his team to the championship in one of those typical fast-moving and fast-talking film adventures of the early tinny sound years of movie history.

Credibility Stretch: It’s a little hard to believe that ballpark security was that poor at the big league level, even if it is “only a movie” and the year was way back in the depression culture 1934. They could have renamed this one as “The Gashouse Gang Gets Gassed”.

 

 

 

7. Dan Dailey
as Dizzy Dean
Pride of St. Louis (1952)

 

I’ve always loved the fact that this movie features Dailey as Dean playing at a stadium that is supposed to be Buff Stadium in Houston (but is not) and that it features Dailey as Dean wearing what appears to be a ’51 Buffs uniform (about 20 years past the 1931 time of Dizzy’s big year in our town.)

Credibility Stretch: Dan Dailey was no Dizzy Dean. Speaking in “twang” is not enough to make an actor credible as this unique and funny personality. And Dailey’s movements on the mound are not enough to convince me that he could have thrown the ball for 60 feet, six inches on every pitch at any speed. The script also sucked.

 

 

6. James Stewart
as Monty Stratton
The Stratton Story (1949)

 

Jimmy Stewart does a good job as the small town Texas boy who sees his MLB pitching career ended by a hunting gunshot injury that costs him the loss of a leg. The movie is the story of the man’s rise from depression and despair to pitch again on a limited basis with the help of a prosthetic leg and a whole lot of heart and help from family and friends. And he does it at kind of semi-pro All Star Game, again, at another venue that is posing as Buff Stadium.

Credibility Stretch: On one leg or two, the Jimmy Stewart version of Monty Stratton just shows up again as proof that great actors are, more often not, pitchers who would not last more than a game or two at the Grade D ball level. Stewart, at least, has the power to convince his audiences to forget their “lying eyes” and to buy into what he’s trying to sell as the powers of the character he’s playing.

 

5. Edward G Robinson
as Hans Lobert
Big Leaguer (1953)

 

As former big leaguer Hans Lobert, “Edward G” conducts a spring training camp for young prospects of the NY Giants, managing to get into all kinds of mentoring ship problems the young 18-22 year olds may be having finding the key to their futures. Lobert weaves his way into becoming the Darth Vader of either their success or vexation paths as serious baseball players. Edward G’s character is cool, calm and deliberate. Very convincing in a soap opera kind of way. They could have titled this one “Days of Our Diamond.”

Credibility Stretch: Remember. This is Edward G. Robinson in the lead role. Whenever one of the rookies reacts by word or action in opposition to leader Lobert, you keep waiting for him to light up a cigar and hit back with that famous, “Oh, a wise guy, huh?” It simply never happens. But neither does the story line. You can’t fix all their aches and pains by helping them find a girl.

 

4. William Bendix
as Babe Ruth
The Babe Ruth Story (1948)

 

We’ve been over this road in mind and print here more often than I care to remember, but this first animated version of my 10-year old lives still contains points that make me cry in sadness, appreciation and longing for Babe Ruth. That closing scene in which Ruth is in the hospital, the kids are singing the baseball anthem outside his window, and they are now wheeling the Bambino out of his room and down the hall for experimental drug treatment ~ and the whole thing ends on scenes from a kids’ sandlot game while an angelic chorus concludes “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” As the film ends, even now, it’s still hard for me to type and also think about that moment too much at the same time.

Credibility Stretch: What stretch? Everything in the movie looked absolutely real to me. And that includes the time a teenage Babe left a round hole in a St. Mary’s School window glass with an errantly thrown baseball and, a few minutes later, throws it back outside through the same hole from 60 feet away inside ~ without shedding even one extra sliver of glass.

 

3. Ronald Reagan as
Grover Cleveland Alexander (1952)

 

One thing can be said for Ronald Reagan for sure. He may not have been able to act like Lawrence Olivier, or worse, even come close to pitching with all the ability of the real Grover Cleveland Alexander, but. like him or not, he was keen enough as a major politician to have gotten himself elected President of the United States and the worldwide leader of the real “Winning Team” ~ The United States of America.

Credibility Stretch: It’s the same one that came with every film we may have watched featuring Ronald Reagan. ~ As a viewer, and if you’re really honest with yourself, you will have to admit that you never really get over the fact that you are watching Ronald Reagan in any movie he makes ~ and not the character he is supposed to be playing. By looks, behavior, or skill, Reagan was no Alexander.

 

2. Ray Milland
as Mike “King” Kelly
It Happens Every Spring (1949)

 

A baseball fan/university research chemist accidentally invents a wood-repellant liquid. He cuts a quarter size hole in the pocket of a baseball glove and loads it up with the “stuff” in a sponge placed strategically behind the glove-pocket-hole and then rushes off to the big leagues with a few bottles of his magic to try to win a World Series for “St. Louis” under an assumed name. Although the movie never clarifies if Mike Kelly’s team is NL or AL, assume it to be the Cardinals. This kind of luck never fell into the hungering laps of the old Browns club.

Credibility Stretch: Not once do the befuddled batters ask for or simply receive any help from the umpires on a requested inspection of Kelly’s glove and that doozy of a pocket hole. For that matter, the St. Louis management or other players ever seem to notice or raise any question about Kelly’s possible use of a foreign substance.

 

9. Anthony Perkins
as Jimmy Piersall
Fear Strikes Out (1957)

 

Jimmy Piersall: “Pop, I hit .346 at Birmingham this year. (1951)

Piersall’s Father: “Well, that’s not Boston, is it, Son?”

That paraphrased exchange between Piersall and his dad was pretty much the dynamo of “Fear Strikes Out.” Piersall keeps trying to please his dad, but never quite makes it. Then finally explodes from his mortal fear of failure and has a full-blown psychotic mental breakdown ~ one that includes running the bases backwards on the heels of a home run and then climbing the screen behind home and yelling all the anger that had been building. Perkins’ ability to act far out runs his inability to play baseball with even a smidgeon of credibility.

Credibility Stretch: Anytime actor Perkins was shown throwing a baseball.

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Montreal With Love

February 13, 2019

Montreal red-hearts-

Tomorrow just happens to be Valentines Day so this little homecoming story fits in fine.

Years ago, while Norma and I were meandering through the Strand Area in downtown Galveston ~ closer to the beginning of their reign in Canada than the end, I ran across this Montreal Expos bobblehead in one of the little loose ends gift shops that still exist to bait the appetites of Sunday afternoon Houston tourist perusers.

It reminded me of two close friends from Montreal that I have known for nearly fifty years ~ and longer than my quite lengthy marriage to Norma. Their names are Serge and Ginette Masse’ ~ and they were my apartment neighbors back in the day that Serge and I were just getting started with our health careers in the Texas Medical Center.

Serge was finishing his residency at MD Anderson. The same Dr. Serge Masse recently retired as one of Canada’s foremost oncologists. Now Serge and Ginette live out the life of grandparents, world travelers and passionate contributors to the arts and needs of their beloved Montreal.

The bobblehead I once found in Galveston, which flew from the USA as “Le Grand Orange,” is now on the ground in Montreal and on his way to his new, but permanent home with my good friends. They know that he’s coming and they’ve seen what he looks like. And I get the satisfaction of assurance that this little special item will avoid any garage sales that my wife and son may plan for my stored things, should I be called upon to make an unexpected trip of my own anytime and eventually in the nearby or far-reaching future.

It is better to give those things that we love ~ to the people we love ~ while we still have the options of conscious decision-making at our disposal.

Here’s the “South of the Border” song parody I wrote that already has reached Serge and Ginette prior to the arrival of “Rusty” via e-mail.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Everybody!

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With All My Love to Serge and Ginette Masse’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

North of the Border! ~ Up Montreal Way!

That’s Where We Fell in Love ~ ‘Neath the Stars Above,

To Watch the Expos Play!

 

Then We Were Abandoned! ~ Our Team Went Away!

South of the Border! ~ Down Washington Way!

 

Prepare My Homecoming! ~ Our Spirit Still Lives!

I’m Coming Home to You Two! ~ In a Late Passing Through! 

By the FedEx I Flew ~ Just for You ~ Both of You!

 

Look for Me Thursday! ~ Or by Friday for True!

Please Treat me Gently! ~ And I’ll Never Leave You!

 

My Name is now “Rusty” ~ Le Grand Orange One!

And if you find me a shelf! ~ I’ll be a Good Little Elf!

And Your New Shining Sun!

 

I Never Stop Smiling!  ~ Get Used to It Now!

I’m What You Might Call a ~ Bobble~Head~Sacred~Cow!

 

February 14, 2019

Happy Valentine’s Day,

Love and Peace, Forever,

Your Ancient Houston Friend,

Bill McCurdy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

Bob Friend’s Curious Waco Start

February 5, 2019
Bob-Friend

Bob Friend Died February 3, 2019.

On one sometimes curiously magical level, life will always be a beautiful connect-the-dots experience. Today, and in honor of the great, but now deceased former Pittsburgh Pirate pitching legend, Bob Friend. we’d like to recall such a link that we don’t think enough people about. ~ It was one that involved him. ~ And who knows how much energy he absorbed and used as only one of the results:

Buddy Hancken
At Age 90

(1) It’s 1950 ~ and 19-year old pitcher Bob Friend is breaking into professional baseball with the Waco Pirates of the Class B Big State League.

(2) One of Friend’s teammates is a 24-year old pitcher named Jack Bumgarner of Norman, Oklahoma.

(3) Jack Bumgarner stays in touch by letter and telephone with a younger brother named Jim Bumgarner.

(4) The younger Bumgarner will move to Hollywood and change his name to “James Garner” as he is breaking into the movies on his way to becoming a major film and television star before the 1950s decade concludes.

James Garner

(5) 35-year old veteran catcher Buddy Hancken is the playing manager of the 1950 Waco Pirates.

(6) Hancken’s entire MLB career consisted of one inning of defensive work behind the plate in a May 14, 1940 game that the Philadelphia Athletics won over the Cleveland Indians by 9-7 ~ but without Buddy ever getting a chance to hit in the game ~ or in any other time from that moment thereafter in the big leagues.

(7) The likeable and sociable Hancken will go on to enjoy a long career as a  minor league player and manager, finishing his career as a coach and  administrative employee of the Houston Astros.

(8) Joe L. Brown, the son of famous film comedian Joe E. Brown. is the General Manager of the Waco Pirates. In 1955, we will take the reins as GM of the Pittsburgh Pirates. In the meanwhile, he and his father’s baseball obsession, along with a connection to good old Buddy Hancken are the reasons for the famous Brown’s extensive trips to Waco. While he is there, he dresses  out in a Waco Pirates uniform ~ and he acts out in the dugout during games as though he were a member of the coaching staff, but one with a broad and loud flair for physical comedy.

 (9) Bob Friend (12-9, 3.08) leads all Waco pitchers in 1950. Jack Bumgarner (11-5, 4.90) and Norman Morton (12-12, 4.50) also so well, but the Pirates still finish with a losing record in 6th place.

(10) Bob Friend is the only man among those three named starters who makes it the big leagues for the major part of his time in the big leagues, mostly with the great rising Bucs of that era and a post-1966 career line of 197 wins, 230 losses and an ERA of 4.58. Friend’s best of 16 MLB seasons (1951-66) was the glorious 1960 Pittsburgh Pirate championship year when he won 18, lost 12 and registered a 3.00 ERA.

(11) How much did any of these connected energy dots have to do, if anything, with helping Bob Friend succeed as quickly and as well as he did. ~ Who know? All I know is that ~ years later ~ I may have picked up a lingering brush with some of them that still lingered, even this late in the game.

The date was August 20, 2004. I had driven to Orange, Texas for the 90th birthday party of Buddy Hancken at this large facility the family had retained to welcome all of us who wanted to be there on this special day for one of baseball’s nicest people.

I had just walked over to speak privately with Buddy at what appeared to be a good time when the phone rang and he answered it directly. ~ You could almost see the energy that poured both ways as they went on for quite a while, exchanging laughs, happy animated speech, and emotional hugs via the phone. I later learned from Buddy that he had just been told to wait there by the phone for someone who had to reach him, but could not make it in person. It had been a surprise call for Buddy too, but one that leaked of love and good will for anyone in the general vicinity.

“Wow!” Buddy exclaimed, as he finally got off the line.

“That was James Garner calling,” Buddy added. “Wasn’t that nice of him to call today!”

“Nice, Buddy?” I asked, as I quickly threw in an extra hug, while adding: “How could he forget you?”

May They All Rest in Peace ….

Joe E. Brown passed away on July 6, 1973 at the age of 80.

Buddy Hancken passed away on February 17, 2007 at the age of 92.

Jack Bumgarner passed away on September 11, 2011 at the age of 84.

James Garner passed away on July 19, 2014 at the age of 86.

Bob Friend passed away on February 3, 2019 at the age of 88.

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The following is a link to the New York Times Obituary for Bob Friend;

Thank you, Paul Rogers, too for sending this information our way:

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For those of you with further interest in Joe E. Brown’s baseball movies and Buddy Hancken’s colorful contact with Hollywood types on the west coast, you may also enjoy this column of ours from several years back. Here’s the link:

https://bill37mccurdy.com/2012/05/02/joe-e-brown-was-a-baseball-man/

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The Hall of Very Good” ~ Bryan T. Smith

January 23, 2019

 

hof 4 2019

NEWBIES FROM NOON: Edgar Martinez @12 Roy Halladay @3 Mario Rivera @6 Mike Mussina @9

Writer Bryan T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle put it very well, even if droves of others find themselves sitting in the same puddle of newly reenforced imagery this morning of what the Hall of Fame has been becoming and unabashedly now reached. ~ The Hall of Fame in Cooperstown is now almost full bore into the practice of inducting famous players who once were “very good, but not great” ballplayers during their careers.

I would have to agree. Of the four men inducted by the BBWAA yesterday, only save king reliever Mariano Rivera was “great”. ~ Pitchers Roy Halladay and Mike Mussina ~ and designated hitter Edgar Martinez were only “very good”, but all were were very famous and also good enough to draw visitor crowds and a large TV audience to Cooperstown, New York for the annual induction celebration on the culturally pastoral lawns of upstate New York.

In earlier times, when there were no inductions due to the absence of any great player candidates, the kind of high dollar event that now stages itself each year would have been impossible. Now, however, inductees are necessary to draw attention and financial aid to the induction event. It is the event that is important now. The importance of the specific players being honored? ~ Not so much.

It’s not just a baseball thing.

This is the era of event importance over what is actually happening. One doesn’t have to be qualified to hold public office today at any level to find themselves elected by the voters to service. They just have to be able to make the voters think that their elections are going to make a difference either way, left or right.

Look at today’s movies, if you can sit through the special effects noise of a battle between two “who cares who wins” foes. Movies no longer have to be great or deep in storyline to win Academy Awards; movies based on video games have a chance to win awards today that once were reserved for great story and acting. Now it seems that they just have to succeed in luring the younger crowds and and all their dollars to the theaters ~ and the Academy Awards night simply becomes the event which celebrates their fame and not their greatness.

Please check out Smith’s column for a much more detailed and interesting look at how this is working in the way very good players now are finding their ways wide open through what we might call the “event window” and into the Hall of Fame.

https://www.houstonchronicle.com/sports/columnists/smith/article/There-s-no-correlation-between-Hall-of-Fame-13553618.php

As for these four 2019 BBWAA-inducted players, Mariano Rivera is the only “no-brainer” great one. The rest are obviously very good and only arguably “great” in the eyes of some ~ but enough to get well past the 75% vote total each needed from some of the voters who supported them ~ not because they were great ~ but because they were “good enough” to go in. That’s my read, anyway.

Rivera, in fact, was no surprise, even if his 100% first ever complete voter support was a little shocking in light of the fact that even Ruth never did that well. On the other hand, who could have honestly not voted for the greatest closer of all time ~ especially in light of the “good enough” names he shared space with on this ballot.

“And I say to myself ~ what a wonderful world!” ~ Louis Armstrong.

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

 

 

 

Nine Years Ago on 1/21 in SABR Houston History

January 22, 2019
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JANUARY 21, 2010

While doing some photo file searching this morning on another piece I’m writing, I ran across a whole misplaced series of photos I had taken at one of the last, if not the final event itself, of the late and still missed winter baseball banquets that once were the acme moment of the Hot Stove League Season in Houston. All of these undescribed photos are of Larry Dierker SABR Chapter members who attended the January 21, 2010 dinner at one of the large luxury hotels near Minute Maid Park downtown.

Here they are ~ with no further identification than their individual numbers in this presentation. If you care to comment on any of them in particular ~ or upon the end of the dinners years ago as an annual event, please comment below. What we get from you will be move up to the body of this column by editorial discretion as the major thought content of this post.

Silence speaks volumes too. It’s not always right, but it’s always loud.

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Photo # 1

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

Historic Buildings in Sam Houston Park in Trouble

January 17, 2019

The Heritage Society
Sam Houston Park
Downtown Houston

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

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

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

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

St. John Church
Sam Houston Park
Downtown Houston

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

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

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

We’re Houston Strong! ~ Remember?

Sincerely,

Bill McCurdy

The Pecan Park Eagle

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

The Astrodome’s True Architectural Identity

January 12, 2019

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

Dear Friends & Colleagues,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 MISSION STATEMENT

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

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

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

WHY & HOW

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

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

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

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

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

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

 COST

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

Phase One of A-dome Park will include:

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

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

SCHEDULE

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

SOURCE OF ABOVE

https://www.adomepark.org/about

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IN CLOSING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nobody forgets an Astrodome that lights up the summer sky.

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

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

Sincerely,

Bill McCurdy

Addendum Links

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

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

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Off-The-Wall Time-Framing

December 21, 2018

Bill McCurdy and His Great-Grandmother,
Beeville, Texas 1939.

Eight years ago, I wrote an article on the art of time-framing our lives ~ or history, in general ~ for the sake of finding new levels of appreciation for how we value the spanning of time ~ depending upon when it happened and to whom it happened ~ in relation to our own feel for those same periods of time passage.

For example, 34 years passed from the time Babe Ruth hit a record 60 home runs in 1927 until the time that Roger Maris broke that record by hitting 61* homers in 1961. Since I wasn’t born until December 31,1937, I wasn’t even born when Ruth set the record, but, like many of you, I grew up with the thought of “Ruth’s 60” as something virtually eternal and unbreakable. Then, along comes Roger Maris in 1961, when I’m almost the same 34 years old it took in years time for anybody to become the next HR champion by hitting 61 in 1961 ~ and he does it ~ with the help of the eight extra games that the American League was playing in their 1961 first season of expansion franchise play. That fact alone was said to be the reason that Commissioner Ford Frick attached the infamous apostrophe to 61* for the sake of deference to the Babe’s “greater in fewer” games accomplishment. Unofficially, many added that Frick’s friendship and favoritism to Ruth over Maris may have played a hand in the addition of a qualifier taint to his 61 total in 1961.

Unlike the 34 year Ruth 60 period (1927-61), which had seemed eternal, the 61* year Maris period (1961-98) 37 year period as Greatest Single HR Season seemed to yours truly and others among us like a breath of fresh air. When Mark McGwire of the Cardinals (72 HR) and Sammy Sosa of the Cubs (66 HR) both broke Maris’s mark in 1998, they both made the cover of Time for saving baseball from the the stench of management-labor problems that had destroyed the 1994 season and World Series. Baseball pundits had latched onto their great power run competition as just the kind of tonic the game needed to restore the juices of broad fan support.

How little we knew back then. There apparently was something in that tonic that would threaten the game even worse on the time move into “Y2K” even worse ~ and maybe even destroy the Hall of Fame chances of some then “sure-bet” types. Even though the McGwire/Sosa punch out of the Maris record took three more years than the Maris bust upon the “eternal” Ruth reign, it almost felt like a mere overnight change of clothes when it happened in 1998.

Time-Framing at Home. Of course, we can do time-framing on anything that’s personal to us. The 1939 photo shown here again is me, of course, at age 2 years, in front of my great-grandmother’s farm house near Beeville, Texas. Born in 1857, three years prior to the Civil War, Mrs. Virginia New was “My Gammy” ~ and the sweet lady on my mother’s side who often took care of me ~ while teaching me skills like how to feed the chickens ~ and how to help her search and dig up roots in the woods that she could then clean and use as “toothbrushes” for dipping her “snuff” while we were shelling peas and snapping bean stalks. ~ And we did all this with the help of Polly the Parrot ~ who always had two words for me when Mom or Dad came to pick me up. ~ Polly would say, ~ and with great emotion ~ “Don’t Go!”

Time-Framing with Gammy is easy for me. She was 80 years old when I was born in 1937. Now I’m 80, and about to hit 81 on New Year’s Eve. ~ Geez! ~ I didn’t have this perspective back in 1939, but I do now. I’m actually old enough this deep into the 21st century actually to have been taken care of by someone back in the sweet bye-and-bye who was born prior to the Civil War!

And when you string My Gammy’s life span with mine (so far), the range of years that have passed (1857-2118) with either one, both, or the other of us being contiguously alive is about to hit 161 ~ and that works out to about two-thirds of the time that has passed since the 1776 signing of the Declaration of Independence.

That’s OK, folks. I may be older than dirt, but I wouldn’t trade away that time I had early with Gammy for anything in the world. She is one of my happiest early, everyday, and holiday smile memories.

Love and Peace to You All.

Here’s the link to the other earlier referenced article:

https://bill37mccurdy.com/2010/12/28/the-art-of-time-framing-our-lives/

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

Death of the “CG” Era by the Last 6 Decades

December 3, 2018
6. Larry Dierker

Larry Dierker, Houston Astros

Death of the Complete Game Era by the Last 6 Decades

This is no big news. The “Complete Game” stat is all but a burial away from formal extinction. With the 100-pitches-per-game limit now standing as the great teacher of millennial-aged rookies about what to expect of themselves, even on good days, now the stat to have fun with is ~ is the pitcher one of those new “iron men” ~someone with the stuff, the control, and the stamina to stay in the game to or through seven innings! ~ or is he one of the growing cast of new rocket arms who tries to look good for four, but one who expects rescue after five ~ and really knows that he won’t be around half his starts to even figure in the decision?

Six Decades with the Astros and Complete Game Pitchers

Decade Astros Pitcher W L W% ERA G GS CG IP SO BB
1969 Larry Dierker 20 13 .606 2.33 39 37 20 305.1 247 72
1976 J.R. Richard 20 15 .571 2.75 39 39 14 291.0 214 151
1989 Mike Scott 20 10 .667 3.10 33 32 9 229.0 172 62
1999 Mike Hampton 22 4 .846 2.90 34 34 3 239.0 177 101
2004 Roy Oswalt 20 10 .667 3.49 36 35 2 237.0 206 62
2015 Dallas Keuchel 20 8 .714 2.48 33 33 2 232.0 261 51

I did this little chart this morning just for the fun of it. My goal was to pull up an Astros 20-game winner from each of their six decades in the big leagues and see how the GS-CG stat ratio has held up on the declining CG side ever since one of the last great “CG Men” took the mound to register the franchise’s first 20-game winner season in 1969.

We’re talking here, of course, about our one and only treasured pitcher/broadcaster/manager/author ~ Mr. Larry Dierker ~ who in 1969 once placed the “CG” accomplishment bar at the start of things in our small place in the baseball world at the mountain top of the baseball universe.

Then we simply went through the other five decades that have unfolded since and selected another 20-game winner Astros starter from each period and posted his stats as typical of the entire decade in six instances  to show the down turn change that shows up remarkably clear and self-evident.

There was an instance in the 2001-2010 decade in which we could have chosen Roy Oswalt’s 2005 and that pick would have yielded 4 “CGs” instead of the 2 “CGs” he had in 2005, but that would have been relatively insignificant ~ and in deference to our preference for symmetry, we used 2004 in his case.

The big point that Larry Dierker makes consistently is that the 100-pitch count has changed the game. It has taught rookie starters to expect less of themselves in the matter of how long they are going to be in the game each time they take the mound.

Is that a good thing, a bad thing, or just a difference?

To me, its seems like a big difference, and it’s a difference I think we should be concerned about. Unless throwing more than 100 pitches a game is going to cause one’s arm to fall off ~ or cause cancer or something ~ we are cheating the game and ourselves from ever again seeing the rubber-armed talents that reached the Hall of Fame, at least partially, because of that talent capacity. (See lefty Warren Spahn as a relatively recent example.)

Worse may be the lesson that the 100-pitch count is spreading to young pitchers everywhere.

WOW! As much as we talk patricianly about how baseball offers some lessons that life needs to learn and better use, maybe it’s time to acknowledge that life could teach baseball some lessons that would better serve the interests of these young pitchers as they are learning the game on the 100-pitch count.

Some Personal Reflections

I don’t know anybody whoever succeeded in business on a 100-pitch count ~ and I sure don’t know a soul whoever won their doctoral degree in any academic field on one either. This is about any problem or goal that appears or becomes important to us in life. If it’s valid, if we have the ability and the willingness to resolve or achieve it, and if we are nothing less than relentless in our pursuit of our desired accomplishment, and we have the ability to learn and let people help us when help is truly needed, then there’s nothing that is going to stop us from getting there.

Students have asked me in the past: “When did you actually know for sure that you were going to get your doctoral degree?” ~ My answer was simple: “It happened when I realized that I knew my subject ~ that I had done the work ~ and that there was no one on my faculty doctoral committee that cared more about stopping me than I cared about getting there.”

There are no 100-pitch counts and bullpens in the everyday lives that most of us face.

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle