Greatest Pen Call Theme Never Adopted

February 19, 2017
"Hold on! I'm Coming!" By Sam & Dave 1967

“Hold on! I’m Coming!”
By Sam & Dave
1967

 

Sure, “The Sandman” by Metallica worked wonders as the bullpen call “closer theme” for both Mario Rivera of the Yankees and Billy Wagner of the Astros back in the 1990s and early 21st century, but we’ve often thought that some other great baseball lights-out themes from a slightly earlier, less music-branded bullpen killer-guy call time because of a branded closer dog present in that earlier era to grab it up. 1967’s big soul music hit by Sam and Dave, “HOLD ON, I’M COMING” is exactly the number we have in mind.

Wrap your mind around this list of MLB Save Leaders in 1967 as you hit the following link of “Hold On, I’m Coming” on YouTube. The low save totals and the scarcity of disgruntled old-timers still alive beating up on the Hall of Fame for passing them by is simply not a credible mix for protest here, but please, give these less rally-killer-reputed relievers a chance for earning this great identity-call-song from 1967 as their mantle of promise. Imagine your favorite pitcher-pick from either the list, or from your own choice from those relieved over the next  five to ten years (1967-1977) that followed.- Now visualize this guy coming out of the pen in the 9th with his club leading, 3-2, with 1 out, and the bases loaded, as “Hold On, I’m Coming” blasts their first appearance, as they are coming in from the distant bullpen gate to handle the situation.

Multiple answers are less clarifying, but still acceptable, if you absolutely can’t pull the trigger on a one-man call.

Top Ten MLB Save Leaders in 1967

1) TED ABERNATHY, NL REDS (28)

2) MINNIE ROJAS, AL ANGELS (27)

3-4) BOB LOCKER, AL WHITE SOX (20)

3-4) JOHN WYATT, AL RED SOX (20)

5) DOOLEY WOMACK. AL YANKEES 18

6-7) FRANK LINZY,  NL GIANTS (17)

6-7 ) ELROY FACE, NL PIRATES (17)

8-9) RON PERRANOSKI, NL DODGERS (16)

8-9) AL WORTHINGTON, AL TWINS (16)

10 tie) JOEL HORNER, NL CARDINALS (14)

10 tie) DAROLD KNOWLES, AL SENATORS (14)

“Closer” was not even yet a part of the everyday baseball game plan or language in 1967. The 1967 leader board “Save” numbers speak to that point right away, but there still were some pretty tough late inning pitching dudes birds on this list. If their clubs could just hold on to a late inning lead, these were the guys who would be most ready to come in for the more rarified, but still important “save” of that era. Help us decide who was best among them. And please. you “gotta” listen to the song as you are reflecting on your best answer as to who best deserves this number as their late inning call from bullpen into game-saving action.

Just hit the play arrow on the yellow Sam & Dave album cover. Kick back and listen.

 

Then, whenever you are ready, please record your answer in the comment section that follows this column.

Thanks too for going along with the fun!

____________________

eagle-0range
 Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

Yes, Athletic Ability Has Expiration Date….

February 18, 2017
Carlos Beltran is Back! Hopefully, he will retire as a Houston Astros in a Blaze of Glory that spreads like an incurable infection of the clubs great talent base.

Carlos Beltran is Back!
Hopefully, he will retire as a Houston Astro in a Blaze of Glory that spreads like an incurable wisdom and positive attitude infection of the club’s younger great talent base.

Yes, athletic ability comes with an individually variable expiration date, but the great ones – the ones with the hearts of champions – often fail to see it. You just have to hope that some to all of the lessons of the elders pass on to the younger players on their last teams during the brief open window of opportunity that exists in that precious nanosecond of contact through those same elders with the baseball gods. In life, we can’t all be great in all things, but we can sure learn from greatness, when we have the humility to recognize those moments we are in its presence.

It is our impression that the great Carlos Beltran realizes how happy most of us in Astros Nation are to see him back in Houston after 13 years – and this time – we welcome him as both a great player – as well as a strong teaching influence upon our Astros’ many talented younger players.

From the very top of them all, some of our greatest former players had a little trouble seeing or accepting that their playing days were done before they actually stopped. We don’t see Carlos Beltran. He’s still quite talented at age 39 just may be one of those guys with 3 to 5 five seasons left in the tank. And let’s hope so. For his sake and the Astros club as well. Our younger guys could learn much from him.

I’ve always been interested too in the guys who played past their primes when it came to playing too long. Three of my favorite tough retirement stories are summarized here. Another is Willie Mays. I simply did not write him up this time:

Babe Ruth (1914-1935) hit .342 over the course of those 22 seasons he banged out that iconic total of 714 career home runs. He probably would have done well to have retired at age 37, following his last great season of 1932, and perhaps immediately after his last as a New York Yankee World Series champion – and maybe right after he hit that so-called homer shot off Charlie Root of the Cubs at Wrigley Field. What an eloquent last statement that time at bat would have imprinted upon his already illustrious trip to Chicago that year. – It simply didn’t happen. Babe still hit .301 and 34 homers in 1933 and .228 with 22 homers in 1934. Good numbers, but not Ruthian figures. The Yankees knew it and found a way to deal Ruth off to the Boston Braves for an illusion in Ruth that his short playing career there would next lead to his appointment there as their manager. Didn’t happen. Never was going to happen. And at age 40, the Babe’s career was almost totally dead. He quit by the start of summer with a final season batting average of .181 with only 6 homers in 28 games. Too bad the Babe could not have retired himself the way his 1948 bio-picture did. The movie version of Babe went out on top – 0n the same afternoon he hit the 3 last hurrah homers off the Pirates in Pittsburgh. What a way to go.

Stan Musial (1941-1944, 1946-1963) never under .300 through his first 17 MLB seasons. Then came 1959 and “The Man’s” BA dropped to .255 and his HR total shrank to 17. His power gun was already gone. He hit only 14 in 1958. After four last seasons (1960-1963) in which Musial hit under .300 for 3 more times, Musial finally hung them up for good. In so doing, he missed being a playing part of the 1964 Cardinals club that rallied past the famous faltering Phillies and went on to take the World Series from the New York Yankees. Had Musial continued one more season, it would have been his first World Series participation since the Cardinals defeated the Boston Red Sox in 1946. Musial did have one more great batting for average year. In 1962, he hit .330 in 505 plate appearances as he also registered a .924 OPS on the season.

Mickey Mantle (1951-1968) Too bad Mickey Mantle needed the money from those last four seasons he played beyond the 1964 World Series Yankees loss to the Cardinals. Mantle’s batting average nose-dived in those four seasons, pushing him below .300 to a career .298 level. His failure to hit .300 over his entire career was Mantle’s biggest regret about his final MLB stats. What stings the most is that Mantle already had done enough in 14 seasons to qualify for the Hall of Fame. Four last little power seasons (1965-1968), with BA’s of .255, .288, .245, and .237 only served to distract how great Mantle  had been – and how much greater he might have been – had he played his entire Yankee career in a state of healthier mind and body.

So many other examples abound, but they represent more of a book research challenge than does this happy weekend dance column.

All I know for sure is that Ted Williams is my favorite retirement stylist. He quit after finishing the 1960 season with a home run at Fenway. Then he passed on a final weekend road trip to New York for a meaningless series with the Yankees. Ted wanted that last home run to stand up as his final goodbye as a player who would neither acknowledge, nor accept in gratitude, what he long suspected was only the gratuitous applause of him by otherwise critical Red Sox fans. Ted didn’t know it at the time – we don’t think – but the great New England writer John Updike just happened to be at the park that day and ended up writing an iconic column on the whole occasion and its outcome.

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1960/10/22/hub-fans-bid-kid-adieu

____________________

eagle-0range
 Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

Baseball and Football by George Carlin

February 18, 2017

war-game

 

We’ve run this piece here in The Pecan Park Eagle in the distant past, but it always loudly again in our heads, anytime something comes up, or makes reference to essential differences between baseball and football. Yesterday, the stimulus again landed, begging for another scratch, when Larry Dierker wrote these words in his brilliant summary of how the game of baseball has changed over time – and continues to change – and more to fit the culture’s growing sports market culture – the one that seems to emanate full throttle from the NFL’s warlike perception of victory over defeat.

Larry Dierker wrote the following: “Like golf, baseball is (was) pastoral. Like golf, it is not played on a rectangle like an old fashioned war.” He could have added “as is football”, but it wasn’t necessary. Most of us haven’t been standing in the rain for the past half century, looking up at the sky – and simply drowning from all the water we’ve been taking in through our agape mouths of open relentless concern for finally solving the mystery of what has uprooted baseball from its long time identity as “our American national pastime.”

It’s really no mystery. We’ve always already known the answer, sort of.

Or, at least, we thought we did. – We thought the answer was football, but that was only partially true. The deeper answer may have germinated from our growing attraction to television – and the way that the violent battleground of football’s rectangular world played out so well on the small screen. It did well because it was playing to viewers who seemed to have grabbed hold of a growing smash-mouth cultural need for victory of “us” over “them”. Football gave the sponsors what they wanted. Better than any other sport, the televised big football game became the best place to sell everything from beer to cars to Viagra.

By the time the television medium finally grew in its ability to show the game of baseball in a much better light, the role of football as the Judas Goat leader in the marketing field – the same one that now takes aim at all discretionary spending – was already set at the way beyond challenge level in all sports. (If it doesn’t sell anything, don’t expect to see it anywhere.)

So, why does football still grab a larger audience than baseball? The answer should be very easy to see, by now. Baseball is to football on TV – as Shakespeare is to a helicopter telecast of a car chase scene. – Which of these subjects is easier to follow without paying much attention?

No contest.

Many people watch TV to escape the ambiguity, loneliness, and stress of everyday life. Shakespeare can’t help them there. If they can even get past the difficulty of learning what Shakespeare’s old English words even mean, how is that an escape? They will still have to think and follow plot lines over time to get the point of the thing, if that can happen for them at all.

Besides, whether we are pulling for the car chase lead driver to get caught – or get away – like football – it’s much easier for any viewer to watch a TV car chase for twenty minutes than it is for a casual baseball fan to watch TV baseball for five minutes.

Some new baseball fans, for example, will never come to understand the rationale behind the bunt in baseball the first time they see one attempted. Like Shakespeare, the bunt does not fit the way they think about things.

“Why would a batter just mildly poke at the ball when all this other, much farther away space is available to them, if they strike it hard enough,” a one-time baseball game companion once asked of me.

As with Shakespeare, some new observers to baseball will never see a second bunt attempt either.

At any rate, here’s the never-grows-old George Carlin comparison of baseball and football as it currently is shown at the wonderful Baseball Almanac site:

Baseball has no time limit: we don't know when it's gonna end - might have extra innings. Football is rigidly timed, and it will end even if we've got to go to sudden death.

“Baseball has no time limit: we don’t know when it’s gonna end – might have extra innings.
Football is rigidly timed, and it will end even if we’ve got to go to sudden death.”
~ George Carlin

BASEBALL AND FOOTBALL

BY GEORGE CARLIN

Baseball is different from any other sport, very different. For instance, in most sports you score points or goals; in baseball you score runs. In most sports the ball, or object, is put in play by the offensive team; in baseball the defensive team puts the ball in play, and only the defense is allowed to touch the ball. In fact, in baseball if an offensive player touches the ball intentionally, he’s out; sometimes unintentionally, he’s out.

Also: in football,basketball, soccer, volleyball, and all sports played with a ball, you score with the ball and in baseball the ball prevents you from scoring.

In most sports the team is run by a coach; in baseball the team is run by a manager. And only in baseball does the manager or coach wear the same clothing the players do. If you’d ever seen John Madden in his Oakland Raiders uniform,you’d know the reason for this custom.

Now, I’ve mentioned football. Baseball & football are the two most popular spectator sports in this country. And as such, it seems they ought to be able to tell us something about ourselves and our values.

I enjoy comparing baseball and football:

Baseball is a nineteenth-century pastoral game.
Football is a twentieth-century technological struggle.

Baseball is played on a diamond, in a park.The baseball park!
Football is played on a gridiron, in a stadium, sometimes called Soldier Field or War Memorial Stadium.

Baseball begins in the spring, the season of new life.
Football begins in the fall, when everything’s dying.

In football you wear a helmet.
In baseball you wear a cap.

Football is concerned with downs – what down is it?
Baseball is concerned with ups – who’s up?

In football you receive a penalty.
In baseball you make an error.

In football the specialist comes in to kick.
In baseball the specialist comes in to relieve somebody.

Football has hitting, clipping, spearing, piling on, personal fouls, late hitting and unnecessary roughness.
Baseball has the sacrifice.

Football is played in any kind of weather: rain, snow, sleet, hail, fog…
In baseball, if it rains, we don’t go out to play.

Baseball has the seventh inning stretch.
Football has the two minute warning.

Baseball has no time limit: we don’t know when it’s gonna end – might have extra innings.
Football is rigidly timed, and it will end even if we’ve got to go to sudden death.

In baseball, during the game, in the stands, there’s kind of a picnic feeling; emotions may run high or low, but there’s not too much unpleasantness.
In football, during the game in the stands, you can be sure that at least twenty-seven times you’re capable of taking the life of a fellow human being.

And finally, the objectives of the two games are completely different:

In football the object is for the quarterback, also known as the field general, to be on target with his aerial assault, riddling the defense by hitting his receivers with deadly accuracy in spite of the blitz, even if he has to use shotgun. With short bullet passes and long bombs, he marches his troops into enemy territory, balancing this aerial assault with a sustained ground attack that punches holes in the forward wall of the enemy’s defensive line.

In baseball the object is to go home! And to be safe! – I hope I’ll be safe at home!

____________________

eagle-0range
 Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

Almost Finished Look of MMP CF in Place

February 17, 2017
Minute Maid Park is Game Ready Winter Invitational D-II tournament Begins Februrary 16, 2017

Minute Maid Park is Game Ready
Winter Invitational D-II tournament Begins
February 16, 2017

Based on the lead picture, the Almost Finished Look of MMP in CF is Now in Place. We say “almost finished,” but if you look at the cropped close-up of the center field area, which follows, you will see that  it’s pretty obvious that much yet needs to be done. A green curtain has been hung to cover that unpainted yellow-block structure to the left of dead CF – and only a small tarp of green hangs over the tops stairs that lead down into that right of dead CF stands. Their current light yellow to concrete grey appearance today is certainly not the Astros Opening Day hand they plan to play.

Deep Center ~ Minute Maid Park February 16, 2017

Deep Center ~ Minute Maid Park
February 16, 2017
“Some Work Remains”

This note just came in from Mike Acosta, via to us by a notification from Darrell Pittman.

“The first baseball game of the year at Minute Maid Park is underway with the Winter Invitational D-II tournament.”

~ Mike Acosta, Authentications Administrator, Houston Astros, February 16, 2017.

We have no idea what the “Winter Invitational D-II tournament” is all about, but that isn’t pertinent to the point here. – The point here is that an actual game is now taking place for the first time today with the new MMP modified center field area now in play as part of the new home turf scenario for clubs at all levels of competency now using MMP as a place to play the game of baseball in 2017. The work isn’t finished, but it was far enough along to allow these amateur games to go go as scheduled.

I am not really sure what we were expecting to see, but whatever it was, it’s certainly less ground-sweepingly dramatic as we may have once expected it to be. Center field now has dark green where it is always needed as the background aid to hitters, but it does seem as though people movement in that new field level fenced in section could still be a distraction to some hitters – particularly to right-handed batters, but we will have to await the feedback of the MLB types to get a read on whether any remaining problem will be enough to force further fine-tuning. In general, and this comment takes into account our Eagle opposition to the removal of Tal’s Hill as a possible influence here on this generality, but, the once fluid green look of center field now seems a lot more “patchworky” by design. (I couldn’t find a legal word that truly expressed what I see here, so I took it in my own hands to invent a word that has been around the literary block a few times without finding universal acceptance as a legal English adjective or adverb candidate.)

Patchworky, it is, then – until we’ve all had a better chance to give it a full rating in person – from the completely finished product – and heard more from the people who actually play the MLB games down there on the field.

Have a nice weekend, everybody!

____________________

eagle-0range
 Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

The Real Problem with Extra Inning Games, Etc.

February 16, 2017
Baseball's Man For All Seasons Larry Dierker February 15, 2017

Baseball’s Man For All Seasons
Larry Dierker
February 15, 2017

The Proposed Insertion of a 2nd Base Runner in Extra Innings

(1) It stinks as an imposition of an arbitrary change into the organic flow of the game; (2) Any player who reaches 2nd base should only be there if he arrives as a direct result of play on the field; (3) Arbitrary rules placement of a runner at 2nd base at any time – for any purpose – tears at the integrity of the game; and (4) The extra inning bonus runner proposal is not really about getting the fans home early by hopefully shortening the time of the game; (5) Its a proposal which aims to keep the amusement center (baseball park) from being forced to stay open beyond the times that the club’s revenue streams are closed. – Extra innings into the night translate into that time zone in which park expenses are going on beyond the time that television commercials are reaching much, if any, an audience – and beyond the time that beer and other concession stand items are still for sale.

In the 21st Century, MLB May as Well Call Themselves the MLE

In the 21st Century, at any MLB park, the game has to compete for contact with the short attention spans of wired younger fans – who no longer come to the venue as their parents or grandparents once did – to supposedly relive some kind of 19th century pastoral scene 0f the game that maybe never was quite the way we’ve brewed it as a myth over time.

Good Luck to All 30 Clubs! Once you get past shooting tee shirts at them, providing them with swimming pools that are protected with high-speed baseball nets, and every other scoreboard variation on the old Three-Card Monte game, where else do you go? How about a monthly Lady Gaga concert in an area like the Crawford Boxes?

And tell it like it is. This isn’t the MLB. – This is the MLE. Baseball people are now involved in finally admitting that they are heavily invested – beyond baseball alone – in the Major League Entertainment industry.

What this suggests about the sanctity and integrity of baseball – from here to eternity – is now fairly in the air – and up for grabs – or a fall to earth like none it’s previously ever taken since the first games played by the Cartwright Rules on the Elysian Fields of Hoboken, New Jersey back in 1845.

To Larry Dierker

Since both of the thoughts expressed here found a lot of traction in the discussion you and I shared with each other yesterday, your comments as a column addendum, enlargement, or redirection of each note expressed here today would be appreciated.

It’s up to you. I will not insist you speak up now  – nor will I presume to speak for you. All I know is – your unique role in the transition of MLB from what it was in 1963 – to what it is now – combined with the powerful respect that so many of us have for your thoughts on the game – would sure make for a great book – someday.

An Addendum By Larry Dierker, Iconic Houston Astros Pitcher, Manager, Broadcaster, Historian, Writer, and Baseball Subject Book Author:

“I am chagrined by the direction baseball has chosen, starting in the 70’s with the DH and Marvin Miller. For more on that, read The Game.

“Like golf, baseball is (was) pastoral. Like golf, it is not played on a rectangle like an old fashioned war.

“Golf still maintains an aura of class and tradition. When baseball lunged for more offense in 1973, it left those notions behind. The new model was the NFL. Arbitration and free agency worked like a ratchet on salaries and the union was never statesmanlike enough to give up the stranglehold.

“As a result, we now have what I would call MLE&B, Major League Entertainment and Baseball. Thank Bud Selig for that. He figured out how they could bankroll it. Forget it if you can’t afford to take your kids to the game. You can watch it on TV while they play video ball with their thumbs. You can have some quality time with them later, maybe.

“Many of the changes that technology has brought to the game have been good for it. But most have been bad, in my opinion. There used to be a sense of fraternity in the game. Now it is totally impersonal. We (if I can still include myself in the family) should have followed golf instead of football. But no one on the owners or players side had enough class.”

~ Larry Dierker

____________________

eagle-0range
 Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

Politics Prevails as Time Goes By

February 15, 2017
    Captain Renault:

Captain Renault: “Tweet! Tweet”
(Back in the day when tweeting was done with a whistle.)

Rick: How can you close me up? On what grounds? Captain Renault: I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!

Rick: “How can you close me up? On what grounds?”
Captain Renault: “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!”

[a croupier hands Renault a pile of money] Croupier: Your winnings, sir. Captain Renault: [sotto voce] Oh, thank you very much. [aloud] Captain Renault: Everybody out at once!

[a croupier hands Renault a pile of money]
Croupier: “Your winnings, sir.”
Captain Renault: [sotto voce] “Oh, thank you very much.”

    Captain Renault:

Captain Renault (again and loudly: ‘TWEET! – TWEET! – EVERYBODY OUT AT ONCE!”

 

As Time Slips By

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

You must – remember this

A miss – is still a miss

Too high – is still too high

The fundamental things apply

As time slips by

 

And when two players woo

They still think – I’ll best you

On that – you can rely

No matter what the future brings

As time slips by

 

Bulls ship for cash in – as they leave the gate

Hearts swing with passion – jealousy and hate

Big plans need money – or else – there is no date

That – no one – can deny

 

It’s still the same old story

A fight for power glory

A case of do or die

The world will always have – its players

As time slips by

 

Some make your vote count – where they think it should

Bleeding in blind hope – your vote does them good

Settling for time loss – that keeps things where they’ve stood

That also – tilts their way

 

It’s still our same old story

The fight for our Dome’s glory

Our case of do or die

World Wonder needs our dogfight effort

‘Fore this chance – slips – away

____________________

eagle-0range
 Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

The Pecan Park Eagle All Texas-Born All Stars!

February 14, 2017
Willie Wells By Opie Ottersttad 2007 Upon his induction into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame

Willie Wells
By Opie Otterstad
2007
Upon Wells’ induction into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame

 

Most of you know that putting together all time baseball teams is one of my go-to guilty writing pleasures. I  say “guilty” because putting a roster – or nine men on the field – based upon some singular commonly denominating creative factor never is – and never will be – enough to make the collection a real team. I say “pleasures” because I really do enjoy the process of searching deeply into absurdity. It rests my mind from more serious matters of the mind and heart – and these include all the snares of reality that get in the way of ever working out our original life plan for finding “happily ever after” – once we find out from life on our own paths of adventure that the “good guys” don’t always win – and – for some dedicated church-going criminals – that crime really “does” pay – in the frustrating temporal blink of our drive-by look at the lessons of life.

So, what’s the point of this preface? This morning, I find that it is finally OK for me to present my “All Texas-Born” collection of greatest baseball players – as long as I do not the name “team” to them. These incredible talents never were anything close to being a team by some kind of cultural recipe for “baseball team chili” – nor were they of the same eras of play – the same parts of our really huge state – the same racial or religious ethnicity – the same deep or log-lasting roots of connection to the state’s history – or the same apparent humors of the mind about other people’s rights to be different.

For example, shortstop Willie Wells of Austin and second baseman Joe Morgan of Bonham could likely have pulled off numerous double plays and hit-and-run plays together, but Wells was a lifelong Texan while Morgan’s family moved away when he was in early childhood. Wells was an early 20th century Negro Leaguer while Morgan was a late 20th century major leaguer. They were both excellent back baseball players, but you get the idea. They were not even close to being the same guy from so many of other factors.

Eddie Mathews, Frank Robinson, Greg Maddux, Curt Flood, and  a few others are also connected to Joe Morgan and a few others by only the fact that Texas is the ground upon which they were born.

That being said, I do enjoy calling this 19-man (Texas League sized post WWII sized) roster by a name that fits. They are – The Pecan Park Eagle All Texas-Born All Stars!

Now, if they only had a chance to play together as a “team”.  ~ Maybe they could get there. ~ What do you think?

The Pecan Park Eagle All Texas-Born All Stars!

P – Nolan Ryan (Refugio TX)

P – Smokey Joe Williams (Seguin TX) *

P – Hilton Smith (Hilton TX) *

P – Greg Maddux (San Angelo TX)

P – Rube Foster (Calvert TX) *

P – Bill Foster (Calvert TX) *

P – Andy Cooper (Waco TX) *

C – Biz Mackey (Eagle Pass TX) *

C – Louis Santop (Tyler TX) *

 1B – Ernie Banks (Dallas TX) **

2B – Rogers Hornsby (Winters TX)

2B – Joe Morgan (Bonham TX)

3B – Eddie Mathews (Texarkana TX)

SS – Willie Wells (Austin TX) *

LF – Frank Robinson (Beaumont TX)

CF – Tris Speaker (Hubbard TX)

RF – Ross Youngs (Shiner TX)

OF – Curt Flood (Houston TX)

OF – Curt Walker (Beeville TX)

____________________

* Played Negro League Baseball

** Played in Negro League and MLB

Bold Type = Baseball Hall of Fame Member

___________________

eagle-0range
 Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

Ancient and Recent Looks at New MLB Seasons

February 13, 2017

1962: Harry Craft Previews 1st Season of the Houston Colt .45s

Darrell Pittman

Darrell Pittman

1962 and 2017 are the years involved here today. Both seasons of mention pertain to the immediate MLB futures of our Houston clubs – the first and ancient one being one of a series written by Manager Harry Craft prior to the start of the first NL season of the Houston Colt .45s – the second being a visual on how Minute Maid Park is shaping up as a restructured playing field for the Houston Astros of the AL as they now play their first schedule, sans Tal’s Hill.

Both of the stories for this column are made possible by the contributions of friend, colleague, and frequent publishing flyer of The Pecan Park Eagle, the amazing Mr. Darrell Pittman of AstrosDaily.com. Thanks again, Darrell, and please extend my appreciation to your dear spouse, Susan Pittman,  for all you guys both do to research and study “the game” for all its worth – and also – please send the word to your website compadre and our baseball pal, Bob Hulsey, to keep up all the good work he does too to document the history of Houston baseball in every way imaginable. All that some of us can do now is build an energized and accurate digital reliquary floor that will be strong enough to hold all that is yet to come beyond this era as the need for a strong, safe, and permanent home for accessible and usable information on local baseball history continues to grow, as time goes by.

____________________

haryy-craft-62

The above copy of the Manager Harry Craft comments on the first MLB season that was coming up for the new NL Houston Colt .45s was published in the Gettysburg (PA) Times on February 1, 1962.

____________________

2017: How Minute Maid Park is shaping Up, From another Work-in-Progress Photo taken on 2/11/2017

Photo by Denis Costello February 11, 2017 Submitted to The Pecan Park Eagle By Darrell Pittman

Photo by Denis Costello
February 11, 2017
Submitted to The Pecan Park Eagle
By Darrell Pittman

A note attached to the photo submission indicated that the new grass is scheduled for installment this coming week. We presume that the large presently yellow section in center field also will be getting a coat of dark green paint at some time soon as another phase of the job completion agenda also.  Pitchers would undoubtedly prefer to leave the thing yellow, but there would sure be a lot of screaming from batters if they did.

Hot Damn! Pitchers and catchers report to the new spring training base of the Houston Astros in West Palm Beach, Florida on Tuesday, February 14, 2017. That’s the day after tomorrow from this Sunday eve writing! And also Valentine’s Day!

“And I say to myself – what a wonderful world!”

Addendum Photo, Monday, February 13, 2017 – Submitted also by Darrell Pittman

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This Monday photo features the installment of the new Minute Maid Park pitching mound. It also provides a little closer look at the new batter’s backdrop in center field, at least, as it is shaping up as a work in progress.

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eagle-0range
 Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

Hey Astros! Here’s a Guy with a Pitch that Hops!

February 12, 2017
Saturday, February 11, 2017 Player agent Elwood P. 0Dowd gave Astros GM Jeff Luhnow an oil painting of himself with his top pitching prospect, Harvey Pucca, yesterday. The painting now hangs in Luhnow's office while he mulls whether the Astros have any interest in signing the guy that some are now already calling

Saturday, February 11, 2017
Player agent Elwood P. Dowd gave Astros GM Jeff Luhnow an oil painting of himself with his top pitching prospect, Harvey Pucca, yesterday. The painting now hangs in Luhnow’s office, while he mulls whether the Astros have any interest in signing the guy that some are now already calling “The Rapid Rabbit.”

Baseball agent Elwood P. Dowd dropped by the office of Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow on Saturday to see if he could interest the Houston AL club in the services of a rookie starting pitcher by the name of Harvey Pucca.

“Let me give you an original oil painting of Harvey and me for your walls, while you’re thinking about it, Mr. Luhnow,” Dowd blithely continued during the early moments of his spiel. “After you see Harvey throw some of his stuff down there on the floor of MMP in a short while, the painting will help you remember who you were watching. It should also give you pause to think: ‘Wait a minute! The long-eared tall guy in the painting upstairs is the real painter here! He can find any corner of the strike zone that the worst umpires can also see – and without the help of an attached GPS!’.”

Harvey Pucca showed his stuff to Luhnow, all right. His repertoire includes:

  1. a moving fastball that approaches 97 MPH on average.  (“That Pucca fast ball had more hop on it than any pitch I’ve ever seen on a right-pawed rookie starter prospect,” Luhnow said. As a matter of clarification, Luhnow pointed out later that Harvey Pucca was also the first right-pawed pitcher he had ever seen.)
  2. a 92 MPH slider that Dowd has tagged as Pucca’s “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” pitch.” (“At the very moment this pitch reaches the plate and the batter thinks it’s going to ‘Zip-A-Dee-Du-Dah’ at the last second,” Dowd says, “the ball ‘Zip-A-Dee-A’s’ instead – and the batter’s swing misses it by a mile.”)
  3. an 80 MPH change of speed pitch that leaves the “paw” looking and feeling to the batter exactly like a 97 MPH fastball that is heading for the center of the plate. (Nuf sed.)

“Young Harvey here has an interesting philosophy about his pitching style,” agent Dowd also explained to Luhnow. “He calls his approach a variation on the old “Carrot and Stick” philosophy.  Harvey thinks of the ball as the carrot and, of course, the bat as the stick. It’s the batter’s goal to make sure that the bat and the ball meet early and often in each game. It’s the pitcher’s goal, of course, to either keep them from meeting at all, or more practically, to get the batter to only hit balls that have a greater chance of becoming playable outs as ground balls or short distance fly balls.”

Harvey also communicated through Dowd that he has other pitches he could add to the mix, but that right now he’s confident that the three that are present in his current playbook are enough to get the job done by a country mile.

Is there a chance that the Astros might take a chance on a talented out-of-the-blue mythical creature like Harvey Pucca in 2017?

Jeff Luhnow told us that he was impressed by what he saw in Harvey Pucca, but he quickly added that he needed to take some time to think about whether the Astros’ current needs for superior starting pitching were worth the risk of using money to sign an unproven, and, yes, legendary talent like Harvey Pucca.

Let’s hope for the best on this one, Astros fans.

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eagle-0range
 Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

New Extra Inning Rule Idea Sucks

February 11, 2017
Elysian Fields ~ Hoboken NJ About 1845

Elysian Fields ~ Hoboken NJ
About 1845
“If they don’t score this time, let’s allow the next inning to start with a runner on 2nd base – just to help the chances of getting this thing finished soon. OK?  I’ve got a hot date at Delmonico’s tonight and need to get out of here soon as possible! – Does that make sense to everybody?” – Alexander Cartwright

 

Baseball began in the 19th century – and not as a 21st century millennial game-time-saver thought. In fact, it began as a game that flat-out portrayed life – without trying to fit the needs of the living into a two-hour game time frame that guaranteed protection of its fans and teams from the unforeseen and inconvenient interference that an unduly long game might cause to the needs of those same human beings for rest, sleep or social, work and travel plans to be elsewhere after the game, doing something else.

The game of baseball that first crawled out of the grass as it also descended gracefully from the sunny skies over the Elysian Fields across the Hudson River from Manhattan onto the welcoming shores of New Jersey was special to all as an amusement in the sense that it wasn’t set up merely as a miserly way to squeeze the essence of life, which included the beyond-time framework for eternity, into a mostly probable two hours, or less, controlled game-time investment from all participants, players or fierce watchers.

Baseball from the start was still more a life-play than a game, and an occupation of time with a clearer understanding about the scoring of victory and a sharper awareness of the absence of control we all have over time. As an activity based upon life itself, that meant that there would be some surprising, toiling or challenging days – some that would run longer than others. To play this “game” of baseball, one had to understand, at some point, that participants had to be made of enduring stuff. They had to know how to chill. And to hang in there.

For hope to prevail, players needed to give their best to the moment and to never give up on the goal of victory over the course of a long day. “Players” even had to put aside all due concern about how much worse they were going to feel, if they expended all this heart and energy – over time – and still failed to prevail at the end of the day. – And they had to duly reckon with the reality that there would never be a guarantee, win or lose, that they would not have to go through the same thing again tomorrow – if that’s when the next game was scheduled for their club.

It seems a lot. But that’s life. And baseball is the play of life. The more we move deeper into this third baseball century culture from our root understandings about the eternal struggle for everything that’s really important in life through baseball, the more some people seem to grow in numbers as those who want to change the rules of baseball as a game for the added convenience of tired players and fans who need their sleep too.

The dynamic that’s at play

The more they tamper with the rules of baseball, the less baseball lives as a breath-taking entity of life itself. And, if baseball has no business being independent of the clock, why don’t they also throw out the long regular season of 162 MLB games each year and simply play out the season as a 30-team, best-of-seven games tourney, and simply offer that as the fan’s annual game offering. Something like that works for the NBA, doesn’t it?

The rule that MLB wants to test

Here’s what lit the flame on a possible need for change: On April 10, 2015, the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox got hooked up in a 19 inning game that lasted six hours and forty-nine minutes. It didn’t finish until 2 o’clock in the morning – and before only a handful of fans who remained to see the end.

Major League Baseball is testing a rule to start extra innings with a runner on second

OUCH! The baseball gods could not have picked a more powerful audience than the owners, players, and fans of these two storied MLB franchises to inconvenience. As you read the linked article, it’s pretty easy to see how this game became the epicenter for a rule change proposal that could soon “protect” all from the recurrence of such a real life inconvenience.

The rule proposes that extra innings shall begin for each team with a gift runner on second base to increase the probability of a run scoring and the game ending in that same frame. All further questions as to who shall be that runner – how earned or unearned he shall be tallied, if he does score – and what this does to the ongoing flow of baseball records  – are all undecided.

The Legacy of Radical Rules Change

Some of us shall regret the loss of baseball as an archetypal athletic depiction of life itself, but that doesn’t matter. Most of us who feel that way won’t be around too much longer – and most of the people who remain to make the decision on this latest radical “rule change” have lived their entire lives with the implicit understanding, even now, that there already are two similar, but different games of baseball, anyway, so what’s the harm?

In 2017, we have NL No-DH baseball, played with the 19th century traditional rules about each of the nine fielders batting. And we have the AL DH brand of baseball, in which a special designated hitter is allowed to bat for the often anemic hitting pitcher.

“Where’s the harm in this extra inning special runner rule change – if it gets everybody home early?” We are betting that a decision based upon that kind of thinking is now more probable than possible.

When it happens, baseball will no longer be the game of relentless heart, hope, and life, but maybe that’s already happened, and some of us elders simply missed it in our sleep.

At any rate, if it still maters to you, please consider letting Joe Torre know your thoughts in this matter. He seems to be the MLB force behind the possibility of this rules change.

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A Couple of Baseball and Life Ironies

The Blue Pill

If baseball were really life, there would have been no DH in the game today. Some scientists would have solved the problem of soft hitting by pitchers with a miraculous little blue pill – one that firmed up the hard-banging purposeful tool swings and batting averages of all pitchers. In turn, pitchers could have made some good side money selling their extra blue pills to some of the catchers and shortstops who sometimes also needed the same help, but who did not want go public about their use of the same biochemical solution.

How To Get Past 1st Base with the Girls

A lot of great single MLB players lack the good looks or social skills it takes to get to 1st base with the really hot and attractive girls. Maybe God – or the baseball gods – could introduce a new social rule in which the 30 years plus age and still awkward MLB players could be allowed to start with each girl they pursued from 2nd base now that their lonely private lives are headed for extra innings. – That could give each qualifying player a better chance to score – if he, at least, can start his run at the lovelies in the knowledge that he no longer has to worry about getting to 1st base. – He’s half way home from the start.

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eagle-0range
 Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas