Farewell to Upside-Down Standings Days

July 16, 2017

My old friend Jerry Witte led the 1950 Buffs with 30 HR, but even Jerry’s talent and fan charisma – or the club wearing short pants for a couple of weeks – could lift the upside-down 1950 Houston Buffs from the cellar. (The mosquito bites and the sliding strawberries put an end to the short pants game-attraction gimmick reach by club president Allen Russell.)

 

Back in the post-World War II days of our old minor league Houston Buffs, my dad was a great newspaper reader.

Let me clarify that comment. We lived in Houston. We didn’t necessarily have great newspapers in Houston, even then, but Dad had a great need to read fresh print twice daily, before and after work. So, we took both the morning Houston Post and the afternoon Houston Press on home delivery.

One of those newspapers embarked upon a quirky little practice as an attention-getting novelty item during the Texas League baseball season of 1950. Although it may have been the almost as sick 1949 or 1952 performance seasons, the exact year doesn’t matter as much as what they did. I simply cannot remember if it was the morning Post or the afternoon Press that pulled the trigger on the baseball standings publication format they inserted for a brief while. Once the paper got the attention-grab they sought, they pulled the “travesty to truth” and went back to over-the-plate standard reporting.

What was the gag?

The Houston newspaper was publishing the daily standings of the Texas League in “upside-down” form.

The “Upside-Down” Texas League Standings were accurate in every essential aspect, but they had been reconfigured into what the newspaper suggested would be a more optimistic point of view for Houston Buff fans. The standings were being printed in upside-down order – with the worst team in the league now appearing at the top of the list and the best team now resting at the bottom of the pile.

Upside-Down? – Did that newspaper gimmick help the morale of Houston fans? – Not really. In fact, I do remember a number of my fellow minor minions expressing the hope that they would “put a stop to it soon.” And why? – “Because it’s just calling even more attention to the fact that the Buffs are a pretty lousy team this year!”

Lousy? Yeah. And those apparently bottom-feeding first place Beaumont Roughnecks were pretty darn good too. Their 1950 manager was Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby and their notable stars were infielder Gil McDougald of later Yankee fame and catcher Clint Courtney.

They pulled it in short time. Like a lot of of bad ideas that don’t quite work, it just went away. No explanation needed. Or wanted.

Had the newspaper carried the 1950 Upside-Down Texas League Standings to season’s send, here’s how it would have looked on the last day:

 

1950 TEXAS LEAGUE upside-down W L W% GB
HOUSTON BUFFALOES 61 93 .396 30.5
SHREVEPORT SPORTS 63 91 .409 28.5
OKLAHOMA CITY INDIANS 72 79 .477 18.0
DALLAS EAGLES 74 78 .487 16.5
SAN ANTONIO MISSIONS 79 75 .513 12.5
TULSA OILERS 83 69 .546 7.5
FORT WORTH CATS 88 64 .579 2.5
BEAUMONT ROUGHNECKS 91 62 .595

 

It only took us another 67 years to get here, but we’ve finally made it in 2017. Houston finally has a baseball team that doesn’t appear to need a cosmetic news publisher to make it look good in print.

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Welcome, AT&T SPORTSNET

July 15, 2017

 

Welcome, AT&T SPORTSNET, whoever your are! – And Goodbye, ROOT SPORTS, SOUTHWEST, whoever you were!

Here’s the link to today’s change announcement.

http://www.chron.com/sports/astros/article/Root-Sports-Southwest-is-now-AT-T-SportsNet-11290112.php

As the consumers in this sports presentation market, it is almost always our role to simply wait for change to force its way upon us from behind a dynamic corporate wall that is totally opaque to our eyes until we find out for ourselves what it means on our daylight side of the wall in terms of how the game is presented, made available, and priced.

We are allowed to have questions. I think. So, The Pecan Park Eagle will open with these obvious ones:

  1. For 2017, will AT&T SPORTSNET be little more than a new spelling of ROOT, with no changes in price or availability to present cable and satellite system subscribers?
  2. Will AT&T SPORTSNET make Astros games more available to Astros fans in all parts of Texas – especially to those Time Warner/Comcast system areas that only provide access to Astros games when the best team in baseball is playing the deadly dull Rangers?
  3. On the personnel side, what’s the deal with Todd Kalas? He’s missed working a number of road games recently and here we go again. The second half of the seasons breaks – and, guess what? – There’s no Todd Kalas in the booth – and no word from anyone about his recent or ongoing absence. He’s just treated as the little man who may never even have existed. – What’s the story? – The man was doing a good job. – Why is he suddenly M.I.A. at this critical turn into the rest of this really big year?
  4. Is it OK to ask someone for some explanations? Look. We are not total dummies out here. We know that we are going to get the bill for something tied to all these changes down the line, so, we’d just like to know what’s going on. OK?

Hopefully, some of our readers may have some questions they want to ask of you too. If so, please readers, record them in the comment section that follows this column.

Thanks,

Bill McCurdy

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Old Buff Freebie Ducats Part of Larger Plan

July 14, 2017

In 1960, these cards were redeemable at Buff Stadium for a free reserved seat at future Houston Buffs game in which comp seats were available. They were even signed by club president Marty Marion to make them look more authentic to the fan who used them.

 

KTHT, 790 kc, whose call letters are now associated with an FM music station, was the primary identity for Houston’s AM 790 main host of Buffs baseball broadcasts from 1950 through 1961, the final year of minor league baseball in Houston. Judge Roy Hofheinz was the KTHT station owner during most, if not all of that period, with Loel Passe handling the play-by-play, mostly solo, until Gene Elston joined him in 1961 in preparation for their continuing team effort in 1962, Houston’s first year in the big leagues as a National League expansion club.

KRCT, 650 kc, was a small 250 watt station in Goose Creek near Baytown that soon moved to Pasadena and found itself renamed KIKK as country and western music station in 1961. A lot of stuff hit the fan before that change occurred. If you really want more, this link will take you to a site on earlier Houston radio that you may find helpful:

http://houstonradiohistory.blogspot.com/2007/06/60-years-on-650.html

What was the purpose of these tickets?

Marty Marion was strong on marketing. We are only assuming here, but given the fact that these ticket redemption ducats were issued in 1960, that they were part of Marty Marion’s plan to boost the gate at Buff Stadium in ledger-line support of his group’s bid for the new NL expansion club franchise later that fall.

On October 17, 1960, Marion’s ownership group, in fact, lost out to Judge Roy Hofheinz and the Houston Sports Authority for that expansion club award. Once that domed baseball stadium commitment hit the bidding fire before the NL people, Marion’s group had no snowball’s chance at all of getting the nod. Besides, Judge Hofheinz was the one throwing around the creature-comfort snowballs of a new world of tomorrow. As a result of his loss, many say that Marion tried to stick it to Hofheinz on how much the HSA would have to pay as compensation to Marion and company for the loss of the Marion group’s AAA minor league territorial rights to Houston.

Hofheinz saw Marion’s AAA rights price demands as highway robbery.

All that rancorously forced payment did was stiffen Hofheinz’s resolve to abandon HSA’s original cheaper plan to keep Houston’s first MLB years of play in Buff Stadium until the new domed stadium was ready – and to build the temporary Colt Stadium on the property where the Dome was going up. Hofheinz found the extra expense of a new temporary stadium justifiable. – It would give the fans a chance to build their hunger for air-conditioned baseball as the new NL team played their first years amidst the heat, humidity, and mosquitos of “Colt Stadium.”

The fans would get to watch as they sweated and scratched.

The bad blood that resulted between Marion and Hofheinz destroyed any last hope of some Houston fans that the club would simply play their way into the big leagues, but retain their historical identity as the Houston Buffaloes. Personally, I doubt that would have happened with Hofheinz, anyway. The Judge liked to put his personal brand on things. I do think that Marty Marion would have left the club’s “Buffs” identity intact for the 1962 big league club debut, had his group gotten the franchise award.

There was just no way for the Buffs to survive as our local baseball identity. Even as early as the October 17, 1960 franchise award date, Judge Hofheinz was busy getting ready to build Houston the only unique baseball venue in the world. Ever.

Indeed. In time. In 1965. The Astrodome would open as a new Houston baseball home – where no buffalo ever roamed.

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

 

mmmmmmmmmm

Surviving St. Louis Browns Down to 14

July 13, 2017

Bill McCurdy and Ned Garver
1996 St. Louis Browns Banquet
St. Louis, MO

The recent deaths of former St. Louis Browns pitcher Ned Garver and outfielder Roy Sievers brought the question home: How many of the former Browns are still alive to this date in 2017? As a younger fan, I used to know the answer like the back of my hand, but not so much in recent times. The Browns haven’t existed since their last game of the 1953 season. As you probably know, they left St. Louis after 1953, moving east to become the Baltimore Orioles in 1954.

Ned Garver was the amazing right-handed pitcher who won 20 games for the last place 102 season-team-loss last place 1951 Browns. That’s right. He was the same guy who was refused a raise in 1952 by club owner Bill Veeck with the simple explanation that “we can’t give you more money. Look at us. We could have finished 1951 in last place without you!”

Roy Sievers was 1909 AL Rookie of the Year, who later went on to have his best home run production years as a member of the Washington Senators. As a St. Louisan, however, he remained a loyal Brown alumnus into retirement and he would become one of the pillars of the community that started the St. Louis Browns Historical Society and Fan Club, an organization that continues to this day under the able care of Executive Director Bill Rogers and the club’s amazing “Pop Flies” periodical and few local annual gatherings.

As a member of the clubs, I remember when we could have annual banquets and player-fan gatherings in St. Louis annually, but that future has dwindled away with the availability of survivors of every kind.

Thanks to a quick turnaround to my request for an update from Bill Rogers, here’s the tab on the 14 surviving former Browns:

Surviving St. Louis Browns

By Birthdates & Ages in 2017 *

01) Chuck Stevens 07/10/18 – 99
02) Tom Jordan 09/05/19 – 98
03) George Elder 03/10/21 – 96

04) Johnny Hetki 05/12/22 – 95
05) Jim Rivera 07/22/22 – 95

06) Tom Wright 09/22/23 – 94
07) Billy DeMars 08/26/25 – 92
08) Frank Saucier 05/28/26 – 91

09) Johnny Groth 07/23/26 – 91
10) Ed Mickelson 09/09/26 – 91
11) Al Naples 08/29/27 – 90

12 Billy Hunter 06/04/28 – 89
13) Don Larsen 08/07/29 – 88
14) J.W. Porter 01/17/33 – 84

* Ages each will be on this year’s birthday.

Notes:

With 11 of their 14 survivors now already in their 90’s, maybe it really was true what some coaches used to yell at us kids: “Go out there and give it your best! Losing won’t kill you!”

Don Larsen is the most famous survivor, best remembered for his perfect game victory for the New York Yankees in the 1956 World Series. Larsen is also a surviving member of the last 1964 Houston Colt .45s club of 1964 and also a survivor of the first Astros club to play in the Astrodome in 1965.

Errata: As my friend and colleague, Tom White, has pointed out to me, I mistook Chuck Stevens for former Dodger/Pirate Ed Stevens when I wrote that Chuck once addressed our Larry Dierker SABR Chapter. I do know better. (Most of the time). – Yes. We heard from Ed Stevens. Not Chuck Stevens. – Thanks, Tom. At least it was an error that serves itself appropriately on a column about an aging group of ballplayers.

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

Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Two Young Fans of the 1897 Houston Buffs

July 13, 2017

Two Young Houston Buff Fans
As Pictured in the Houston Daily Post
On June 20, 1897
And Research Mined by Darrell Pittman
Thank You, As Always!

 

The Short Story
As Described in the Houston Daily Post
On June 20, 1897

 

The Short Story (As Re-Typed by Darrell Pittman for Easier Reading)

Recently two little boys appeared at League park during a game, each of whom was attired in a full uniform of the Houston team. No one in the audience could recognize them. When asked their names they would reply: “Reed and Cote.” They occupied seats on the bench as Mascots. The father of one of the young fellows had them photographed and one of the pictures was presented to the sporting editor of The Post, and it appears above, the boys’ names being shown under each of them.

~ Houston Daily Post, June 20, 1897

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

Bill McCurdy
Age 10
Summer of 1948

John McCurdy
Age 6
Summer of 1948

Fifty-One Years Later, in 1948, Houston kids were still decking out in Buff facsimile uniforms that their parents helped them acquire in the years prior to Little League coming to town. Here we are, my little brother John and me, at ages 10 and 6, standing in the front yard of our Pecan Park home, wearing Houston Buff uniforms that our mom made for us. They had those “iron-on” letters available to uniform creators in those days and Mom just used them to spell out “HOUSTON BUFFS” in two lines across the chest of the jerseys. I tried to tell her that she wasn’t following the Buffs plan for putting their jerseys together, but she just told me to shut up and be grateful I was getting anything at all.

I did. I just wish I’d had possessed the gumption back in the day to save items like this for my later-in-life appreciation. If they were thrown out, and they were, it wasn’t Mom who did it. It was Dad who did it. But that was a useful trait too. Dad believed in throwing anything out that was no longer useful to everyday life in the household. I’ve always felt that Dad’s attitude in that regard was helpful to both my younger brother John and me both knowing when it was time to go.

That’s Japonica Street behind each of our pictures. And that’s “Eagle Field” – our Pecan Park field of dreams, across the street beyond my left shoulder.

Fly again, Eagles! ~ Roam Again, Buffs!

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

Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Chronicle’s Brian Smith is an Honest Man

July 12, 2017

Aside from the fact that probably thousands of Astros fans swore back in 2013 that they would never again see a Houston game because of the Bud Selig shift of the franchise to the American League, the 2017 Astros and their juggernaut-level winning style seems to have softened a few hearts. If the Astros’ current plus 30,000 attendance average is any measurement, it appears that either a lot of broken local hearts have either mended in four years – or that there’s an endless stream of new followers who will gladly pay to watch a club that possesses the ability to bludgeon a foe by 19-1 at any time and place.

Houston Chronicle writer Brian Smith, whom I’ve come to enjoy more and more over time, is that he dances through the case for Astros fans forgiving Bud Selig as though he were Demosthenes himself.

Smith doesn’t bully pulpit that we should forgive Selig for moving the Astros to the American League. He simply uses his own words to suggest that many fans may now have done so, based upon what has happened.

Here’s an example of Smith’s honesty in his search for the larger truth:

Had it not been for the AL move and the concurrent rise of Jeff Luhnow as our Astros GM, we would not have had the rebuilding opportunity to pick some of the young talent that is now propelling the club into the “best club in baseball” discussion that goes with our 60-29 mark at the All Star Game break. Or, as Smith puts it, the league shift now leaves the Astros as one of the five best teams in baseball, but the only one now located in the more somnolent AL.

Smith even writes in language that would have been read as heresy in 2013, but maybe not so much in 2017 – due to the monster offensive club the Astros now possess. Smith says “…. this (2017 Astros) team isn’t as dangerous if (pitcher) Brad Peacock is hitting instead of Carlos Beltran or Evan Gattis.”

Better watch out, Brian! It almost sounds like you don’t mind the presence of the DH in the current Astros lineup! Are you implying that you would rather see Marwin Gonzalez come to bat as a DH in the 6th inning of a tie game with the lead run on 3rd base and two outs – when you could be watching reliever Chris Devenski take his cuts at helping his own cause at the plate?

Here’s the link to Brian Smith’s column. Read it over and let us know what you think. Is Houston really ready to thank Bud Selig for all he did to put us in this winning position?

http://www.houstonchronicle.com/sports/columnists/smith/article/Switching-leagues-actually-a-good-thing-for-Astros-11281919.php

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

Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

1934: Hubbell Fans 5 Future Hall of Famers

July 12, 2017

It happened in the 1934 All Star Game.

 

Here’s a brief synopsis of one of baseball history’s most legendary moments. Enjoy. We never know if or when something this big is ever going to happen again. And sometimes, as is the case here, we had to wait a number of years to fully appreciate the greatness of Carl Hubbell’s accomplishment on this particular day. We would be reminded six times. Once for the time that Carl Hubbell entered the house of the baseball gods at Cooperstown, and five other times for each of the other future Hall of Famers who joined him in this milestone day as failed resistant participants at the second All Star Game in 1934.

I have to add this personal note. When Carl Hubbell died at age 85 in 1988 in a Greater Phoenix area traffic accident, I was really taken back by the very thought of it. – Is that any way for one of the greats of our game to go out? Yeah,  I know. Our baseball “gods” are really as mortal as the rest of us. I only wished it could have been a gentler launch for old Carl. He deserved something better than a t-bone hit propulsion into eternity.

That’s. OK. We love him anyway. And his memory always will be connected more to dates in the 1930s than it ever will be to anything that happened in 1988.

Here’s the story account:

Top of the 1st, AL Batting, Carl Hubbell Pitching for the NL. No Score, Game Starting

# 1) Charlie Gehringer of Detroit opens the game with a single to center; he advances to 2nd base on the same play when an E-8 mishandling of the ball by center fielder Wally Berger of the Reds makes it possible.

# 2) Heinie Manush of the Senators then coaxes a walk to place runners on 1st and 2nd with no outs – and things not looking good for Hubbell of the Giants and the NL.

# 3) Lightning strikes the 1st time. Hubbell screwballs Babe Ruth into a strikeout for his first K of the day.

# 4) Gehringer and Manush pull off a double steal to 3rd and 2nd during Lou Gehrig’s time at bat, but Hubbell then derails “The Iron Horse” with his second consecutive K of a future HOF god.

# 5) Hubbell retires the side with no harm done by striking out Jimmie Foxx of the Athletics for his 3rd straight K-kill of a baseball immortal. (Wait a minute! How do you kill an immortal?)

Inning Tab: 0 runs, 1 hit, 1 error, 2 LOB. Score: AL All-Stars 0, NL All-Stars 0.

 

Bottom of the 1st, NL Batting, Lefty Gomez Pitching for the AL, Score 0-0

# 1) Gomez of the Yankees gives up a HR to deep RF by Frankie Frisch of the Cardinals; NL Leads, 1-0.

# 2) Pie Traynor of the Pirates grounds out 4-3 for the first out.

# 3) Gomez fans Joe Medwick of the Cardinals for out # 2.

# 4) Kiki Cuyler of the Cubs grounds out 6-3 to retire the side.

Inning Tab: 0 runs, 1 hit, 0 errors, 1 LOB. Score: AL All-Stars 0, NL All-Stars 1.

 

Top of the 2nd, AL Batting, Carl Hubbell Pitching for the NL, NL All Stars Leading, 1-0.

# 1) Hubbell strikes out Al Simmons of the A’s; his 4th straight K of a future Hall of Famer in this game.

# 2) Hubbell fans Joe Cronin of Washington for his 5th and final Hall of Famer in a row – and out 2 in the inning.

# 3) Bill Dickey singles, saying “no thanks” to the idea of becoming the 6th future Hall of Famer to fall before the Hubbell screwball on this day in baseball history.

# 4) Hubbell strikes out mound rival Lefty Gomez to retire the side. Gomez technically is the 6th future Hall of Famer in total to be fanned by Hubbell today, but Lefty didn’t get there as a hitter, so it hardly counts and, besides, it wasn’t connected with the first five, anyway.

Inning Tab: 0 runs, 1 hit, 0 errors, 1 LOB. Score: AL All-Stars 0, NL All-Stars 1.

 

Hubbell Summary

Carl Hubbell would leave the game for a pinch hitter to start the bottom of the 3rd with a 1-0 lead and no real damage to him on the day. He gave no runs and 2 hits in 3 innings, striking out 6 and walking 2. The NL would a 3-spot to their 1-0 lead in Hubbell’s inning of departure, but it would not hold up over time. The AL would go on to win the game by 9-7, but the final score would not be what history remembered about this day. Even though he wasn’t involved in the final decision, Carl Hubbell would be remembered as the pitcher who once struck out Babe Ruth and four other future great Hall of Fame hitters in a row in the 1934 second game contest in All Star Game history.

Here’s a link to an enjoyable page of facts and stats about the memorable Hubbell game:

http://www.baseball-reference.com/allstar/1934-allstar-game.shtml

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

A Mid-Season Numbers Tale of Jose Altuve

July 11, 2017

“Swing hard.
Drop a bunt.
Run as fast as you can.
You won’t catch me.
I’m the Venezuela Man.”

 

The Top Ten MLB Hitters for Batting Average, July 1o, 2017

RK PLAYER TEAM AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO AVG OBP SLG OPS
1 Jose Altuve HOU 334 62 116 25 2 13 50 18 4 37 46 .347 .417 .551 .968
2 Daniel Murphy WSH 325 57 111 29 2 14 64 1 0 27 33 .342 .393 .572 .966
3 Jose Ramirez CLE 328 62 109 27 5 17 48 10 4 30 42 .332 .388 .601 .988
4 Ryan Zimmerman WSH 297 52 98 22 0 19 63 1 0 22 62 .330 .373 .596 .969
5 Aaron Judge NYY 301 75 99 13 3 30 66 6 2 61 109 .329 .448 .691 1.139
6 Carlos Correa HOU 317 62 103 18 1 20 65 0 0 41 68 .325 .402 .577 .979
7 Bryce Harper WSH 305 69 99 21 0 20 65 2 2 57 69 .325 .431 .590 1.021
8 Buster Posey SF 275 36 89 18 0 10 35 1 0 33 33 .324 .406 .498 .904
9 Ben Gamel SEA 254 42 82 16 2 4 29 2 0 24 68 .323 .379 .449 .828
10 Charlie Blackmon COL 367 72 117 17 10 20 61 8 6 29 81 .319 .372 .583 .955

The Top Six Astros for Batting Average at the ASG Break

(All Stars in Bold Type)

PLAYER BA HR RBI OBP
Jose Altuve .347 13 50 .417
Carlos Correa .325 20 65 .402
Josh Reddick .313 09 41 .365
G. Springer .310 27 61 .380
M. Gonzalez .308 16 53 .391
Yulie Gurriel .297 11 44 .321

Enjoy tonight’s 2017 All Star Game from Miami this Tuesday, July 11th. This great season will resume regular season play on Friday, July 14th, with our Houston Astros entertaining the Minnesota twins for the first of a three game weekend series at Minute Maid Park.

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

Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

And May the Best Be Yet to Come

July 10, 2017

July 9, 2017: The Houston Astros put on another of their game-ready demonstrations of “The Big Bang Theory” today, demolishing the Toronto Blue Jays in their own home garden by a score of 19-1. The victory pulled the Astros to an MLB-leading win total of 60 games at the All Star Game Break.

 

Unbelievable!!!

Unbelievable to those of us who’ve lived in the long shadow of Houston sporting teams, not merely the Astros, taking our fan hearts and then dropping them off the invisible barrier cliffs that have almost forever separated us from meaningful championships on the various fields of athletic endeavor. Hats off to the Houston Rockets for winning back-to-back NBA crowns during the 1994 and 1995 seasons that Michael Jordan went on sabbatical from the round ball game to demonstrate that hitting a basket with a bottomless net underneath was a heck of a lot easier than hitting even a lower minor league curve ball, but there was no big sense of fulfillment here for a lot of us Houston fans over those early AFL crowns of the rag-tag Oilers – or from those thrilling football conference victories in the Missouri Valley Conference by UH, or any of those Grandpa Gordy Howe lesser light hockey league crowns in the early years of the old Summit.

Bringing the point home more personally now – as a baseball fan, beyond all else – we’ve never won a World Series in Houston up until now – (didn’t even win a game in that 2005 shot against the White Sox) – and now it seems we’ve even go a chance to get there again – in spite of the heart-daggers to our baseball souls we had to fight off from the disappointments of 1980 and 1986.

This juggernaut offense of the 2017 Houston Astros renews the fire of hope in that possibility, even if we do stay on guard to the contrast that was so clearly demonstrated in the Toronto series. If the Astros continue to play like the team that won Games 2 and 4 this long weekend – and not like the club that coughed up Games 1 and 3 – and, if they are able to keep that going through the playoffs, a Mack Truck won’t stop us this time.

Check out this current quick view of the 2017 Houston Astros offense:

2017 Houston Astros Offense Through Games of 7/09/2017

PLAYER BA HR RBI OBP
Jose Altuve .347 13 50 .417
Carlos Correa .325 20 65 .402
Josh Reddick .313 09 41 .365
Geo. Springer .310 27 61 .380
Mar. Gonzalez .308 16 53 .391
Yulie Gurriel .297 11 44 .321
Evan Gattis .284 08 39 .343
Nori Aoki .264 01 12 .316
Alex Bregman .256 08 27 .338
Brian McCann .255 10 43 .333
Jake Marisnick .248 10 24 .320
Carlos Beltran .227 11 35 .284

When have the Astros ever gone into the mid-season break with 5 legitimate .300 hitters and another knocking at the door? Answer: Never.

When before have the Astros ever posted a strong plus 7 runs road game scoring average going to break? Answer: Never. The Astros are now in territory only occupied previously by some of the great Yankee teams of the 1930s.

When have the Astros ever had 6 players, including 3 starters, named to the All Star team? Answer: Again never.

When have the Astros ever had 8 players in double-digit figures for home runs at the break? Same answer as redundantly answered above.

When was the last time the Astros led all MLB clubs with 60 wins at mid-season – or even had that many wins by the All Star game? Answer: You know the answer by now. We’ve called its name here incessantly tonight.

When Astros relief pitcher Francis Martes gave up what would have been a 19-0 franchise margin of victory shutout win today by surrendering a home run in the 9th with two outs,  I was, of course, offended by its blight upon our perfectly level joy with the job of Blue Jay demolition, but even more so by its reminder of our pitching vulnerability. Pitching mistakes at critical moments, especially with pitcher Mike Spiers on Saturday, aided by sloppy play in the field got us beat in Games 1 and 3 in Toronto. We need better pitching and heads up fielding to go from here and our easy to say “best team in baseball proclamation to – performing well all the rest of the way forward for the sake of becoming World Series Champions of 2017.

The long season is far from over, but let’s catch our collective breath for now and simply enjoy all of the All Star Game activities on our digital plate over the next couple of days.

____________________

Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

 

Babe Ruth’s Busy Life

July 8, 2017

Time Never Runs Out on The Babe.

 

How Busy Was The Babe?

First, let’s remember – Babe Ruth was a superstar player with a grinder life schedule most of the year. No player today would be asked to do what he was expected to do back in the mid-1920s. Each season he played a ton of games in spring training that were every bit about gate as they were season skill-honing. Nobody honed the Babe. Yankee manager Miller Huggins just put him in the #3 hole and then sat back like everyone else and watched him blast golden eggs, whether he got to the park on time – or just came in from an all night romp in time to blast a homer in his first eye-rubbing trip to the plate. Give the Yankees a four-hour delay on their pre-season trip home from spring training and they would quickly find a game to play against a jaw-dropping over-matched put-together team of local amateurs before a paying crowd.

Once the 154-game American League season schedule began back in the Babe Ruth 1920s Era, the Yankees would continue to schedule off-days paying gate games against nearby minor league and amateur club, using their front line players, when possible, or Babe Ruth and bench players, if necessary. Either way, there would be a game, every time.

No Ruth. No game. No payday. That simple.

These sidebar risks to injury – or real AL game performance decline due to fatigue – just were not figured into the decision to play all these extra-buck contests. The Yankees were merely like chickens in the yard, pecking up every loose piece of corn they could see.

And That’s Not All

Once the season ended, and that was often with the World Series for the Yankees, Babe Ruth and others were off to play the barnstorming circuit across America on their own. For the balance of post-season October and most of the part of November that leads up to Thanksgiving, clubs like the “Bustin’ Babe” and “Larrupin’ Lou” (for Gehrig) All Stars would each other or others another thirty or forty games in whole or in part – as members of a local club – just so people could watch their daddies play ball with or against – Babe Ruth – or his lesser light major league buddies. Unlike organized white baseball, Babe Ruth and company welcomed the opportunity to cross the color line and play games with some of the ancient greats of the Negro League too. And that’s where the Babe and his white buds got to learn full bore that some excellent great players were being denied their opportunity to play the game on its self-proclaimed “biggest stage.”

Aside from the really racist white players who did not play in games with Negro League barnstormers, there had to be at least as many marginally talented white guys who did play inter-racial games – who saw the color line as the only thing out there protecting their shelf life in the big leagues.

Babe Ruth had nothing to fear from integration. He launched iconic distance homers against some of the best Negro League pitchers. And he struck out in gusto too. He was the Babe. He could play the game like no one else, but like everyone else in the thirty years prior to Jackie Robinson he did all these things, even the greatness of Babe Ruth wasn’t big enough to push aside the deep level of blind ignorance and bigotry that protected racism in the 1920s like the Grand Canyon from the better America that awaited us on the other side of racial change.

I Had A Dream!

“I had a dream …. now fulfilled by men named Robinson, DiMaggio, Doby, Williams, Paige, Musial, Irvin, Mantle, Mays, Kaline, Aaron, Aparicio, Clemente, and so many others …. that one day …. the greatest baseball players of all time shall meet on the same field with each other …. and not have the sides they played for determined by the color of their skins …. whether that color happened to be black …. white …. brown …. or whatever! …. And may the team of best color-blind strength and ability emerge victorious as the ultimate triumph of justice in human effort! …. I had a dream!”

~ MLK didn’t actually include this stanza, but he could have.

The Year Babe Ruth Hit 104 Home Runs

“The Year Babe Ruth Hit 104 Home Runs” is the playful title of Bill Jenkinson’s wonderful 2007 book. It chronicles the official activity level of Babe Ruth in 399 pages, 412 pages, if you include it’s jewel of an index for further research. The author could just as well have called it any year he picked during Ruth’s 1920-1934 Yankees career, maybe cutting a little fat off the earliest and latest years in that fabled run. Even the Babe had to wind up for starters and wear down as eventuals.

And the activity only side-brushes the amount of time and energy that Ruth spent dealing with the public on these side jaunts – signing baseballs, taking pictures, shaking hands, visiting sick kids, and even make short speeches. And this doesn’t explain either how Babe found time to work in his compulsive pursuits of debauchery that flew into high gear priority for the Babe during his early and mid-career years. Chalk those up to the magnetic pull that “wine, women, and song” had upon Babe Ruth during his salad days. Nothing ever opens a closed and rusty locked gate that stands between supply and demand faster than the driving forces of addiction – and Ruth had his full load bag of things he compulsively required in his pursuit of happiness to the point of addiction on a close to daily basis.

All that. And 714 career home runs. The public loved him in 1927. And we still love him in 2017.

And September 30, 2017 is the 90th anniversary date of Babe Ruth’s 60th one-season home run record. The record lasted until 1961, when Roger Maris broke the mark by hitting 61*

* The record fell in the first season of the new 162 game season and was hit by Roger Maris on October 1, 1961, in the last game of the new longer season.

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Check out a copy of Jenkinson’s book too. You probably will find a used copy for sale on Amazon or E-Bay.

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle