Ground Rules and Short Porches Unleashed Ned

January 8, 2019

Back in the 19th century, through the 1883 season, Lakeshore Park in Chicago served as home to the Chicago White Stockings and fiery leader Cap Anson. Its outfield distances to the fences were 186′ in left, 300′ in center, and 190′ in right. Because of their short distances, balls hit over the fences prior to 1884 were scored as ground rule doubles.

In 1884, under the weight of an offense-demanding Cap Anson, the rules were changed for that season. ~ And they changed because back in that day, the home team leader possessed the authority to say what they were going to be. In this case, fair balls hit out of the park would then be ruled as home runs in 1884. ~ As a result, a slick fielding and pretty good hitting infielder named Ned Williamson dove into the arms of opportunity and hit 27 home runs over the course of the 114-game 1884 season ~ and 25 of those 27 homers came at home in the comforting nest of the short fences and the place’s generous new ground rules.

It must have been one-season thing because Williams only had 2 season homers in 1883 and 3 in 1885, while playing in the same place at home he hit 25 in 1884.

Williamson’s 27 homers in 1884 broke the new one-season HR record set the previous year by Harry Stovey, who hit 14 homers in 1883 for the Philadelphia Athletics. ~ Williamson’s new 1884 mark of 27 lasted 35 years ~ until it was broken by a fellow named Babe Ruth for the Boston Red Sox in 1919 with 29 homers in a 140-game season. ~ From there, as we all should know by now, the home run season mark would belong to Babe Ruth of the Yankees until it’s bronzed 1927 60-homer version was broken with 61 swats and an asterisk beside the name of another Yankee slugger named Roger Maris in the year 1961.

And the era of the pumped up record breakers to follow still awaited baseball at the turn of 21st century century.

Irony. It once was OK to give big leaguers a better shot at more home runs with ground rules that essentially gave grown men credit for homers by allowing them to play their games in a kid-sized ballpark, whereas, the consumption or topical use of PED chemicals would much later get them banned in shame from the game in ways that may not have been nearly as helpful as that “little league ballpark” effect from that earlier-than-little-league 19th century era. The White Sox were playing in a “performance enhancement park” ~ a PEP.

So. over time, what’s the message? ~ Is it that PEPs are OK, but PEDs are not? Where’s the consistency here?! ~ Better yet ~ it leads one to consider. ~ If, indeed, there’s anything consistent about the game of baseball, it’s our sport’s dedication to the long-term course of inconsistency.

And that course of inconsistency may just as well be the most consistent path we take in our loyalty and love for the game. As a thought, however, it is almost too cruel an issue to contemplate for any length of time.

Have a nice day, anyway, with this one. ~ Spring training is getting closer by the day.



Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Wide and To The Right

January 7, 2019

Russell Erxleben
FG Kicker Savant
(In College)

The New Orleans Saints once had a chronically errant field goal kicker named Russell Erxleben. Erxleben got into some serious legal trouble after his football career was in the can, but our anecdote is about a moment in his football playing career.

OK, let’s get started. ~ All of you Longhorn fans should remember Russell Erxleben from his happier kicking days at UT (1976-78), during part of the Earl Campbell era.

Among college kickers, there weren’t any better than this guy. ~ He was so good, in fact, that his 67 yard FG for UT against Rice in 1977 still stands today as the longest FG in college football history. *


Supplementary Correction

* There is never a good time to simply go with the data that has registered in your own head without further corroboration. (Other than the fact that Babe Ruth hit a record 60 home runs during the 1927 American League season, of course,  all other sports records need to be checked and rechecked prior to publication. We have been reminded by the gentle correction we have received today from colleague/reader Fred Soland on Russell Erxleben’s actual place among the long distance college football field goal kickers, along with our apologies for the error.)

This excerpt from a Wikipedia article seems to confirm the ties and surpassing efforts of others to the distant college field goal record of Russell Erxleben:

  • 69 yards, Ove Johansson, Abilene Christian vs. East Texas State on October 16, 1976. (NAIA)
  • 67 yards, Tom Odle, Fort Hays State vs. Washburn, 1988. (NCAA)
  • 67 yards, Joe Williams, Wichita State vs. Southern Illinois, 1978. (NCAA Division I)
  • 67 yards, Russell Erxleben, Texas vs. Rice, 1977. (NCAA Division I)
  • 67 yards, Steve Little, Arkansas vs. Texas, 1977.[22] (NCAA Division I)
  • 65 yards, J. T. Haxall, Princeton vs. Yale, 1882.

All of the above kicks were successful with the use of a kicking tee, which was banned by the NCAA after the 1988 season.

The longest known drop-kicked field goal in college football was a 62-yard kick from Pat O’Dea, an Australian kicker who played on the Wisconsin Badgers football team. O’Dea’s kick took place in a blizzard against Northwestern on November 15, 1898.[24]

whole article link:


A straight-on kicker off the tee, Erxleben made All-America as a punter for his three years of varsity play. Helped a great deal by his exceptional ability as both a place kicker and a punter, Russell Erxleben then went to the New Orleans Saints as the 11th pick in the 1st round in the 1979 NFL draft.

The pressure apparently got to Erxleben in the NFL and he began to miss field goals ~ both in numbers and moments of critical game notoriety.

The depression that grew from this kind of NFL heat upon one of the greatest kickers in college football history apparently wasn’t lost upon the media observers who followed Erxleben around, probably looking as much for a story angle than they were anything that might actually help the distraught young man.

Maybe they had not counted on the fact that Russell Erxleben also carried with him an incredible sense of self-deprecatory humor about his dilemma.

Wish I could recall the writer who originally reported the great upcoming punch line exchange. I’d like to give him credit, but it has been too many years. And I have forgotten.

Nevertheless, feel free to laugh whenever you can’t keep from laughing.

The writer asked Erxleben if his failures as an NFL FG kicker ever had driven him to thoughts of harming himself?

“Well,” a straight-faced Russell Erxleben supposedly offered. “I did put a pistol to my head and pulled the trigger the other night, but no harm was done. ~ You see ~ the bullet sailed wide and to the right!”


Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle










What Off Season?

January 6, 2019

As post-World War II kids in Houston, we thought of the three big sports (Baseball, Basketball, and Football ~ and truth to tell, we didn’t think much about basketball at all back in those days) as having distinct and separate seasons from all others over other parts of any given year.

Maybe it was never that way, but today it sure is not. In 2019, the seasons overlap and cover almost every month of the year in some form of pre-season practice activity or extended playoff game extension ~ so much so ~ that there’s little time left for any of them from competition with one of the other majors for the public attention and dollar they all seek.

This little table we drafted this morning to show all the months of the year in which the Big Three professional sports are normally in business from early practice to final championship game shows the gross overlap very well ~ and it doesn’t even include the additional traffic that would be there had we also added hockey, soccer, and all the women sports leagues that take to the field and court each year.

One Lesson: Any human activity that generates a prolific revenue stream also generates a need to use considerable portions of that income river to pay for the people, activities and resources that are needed to keep the product moving in some positive direction all the time. Bottom Line: There is no true off-season for any serious professional sport.

Our Table: How Many Months Per Year

Are Each of the Big Three Sports Obviously at Work?

SPORT Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
MLB Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes *
NBA Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
NFL Yes ** Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

* One could make the argument that Houston’s clinching of the 2017 World Series in a Game season win on November 1, 2017 creates an argument for including November in the baseball season, but we chose to not take that step. With MLB moving the start of official games back to March this year, reaches into November are expected to possibly disappear, barring disruption by the appearance of an extensive period of inclement weather in late October.

** The Super Bowl usually happens during the first week in February. That one big day wasn’t enough for me to give the NFL the whole month of February, but I wouldn’t have any problem with anyone who did. To me, two asterisks were enough ~ and I didn’t give those to MLB for any further Game 7 possibilities, now that the season will start earlier.


Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Happy New Year 2019 Lagniappe

January 5, 2019


Bevo the Longhorn going after Uga the Bulldog prior to the 2019 Orange Bowl.


That Longhorn-Chasing-The-Bulldog TV scenario still breathes life this morning, Saturday, January 5th. They showed it again on the NBC Today show among a series of amusing clips that have befallen us lately at the new year turn into 2019 ~ and if you watched the actual Orange Bowl, you will recall that Bevo the Longhorn’s stunning dart toward Uga the Bulldog prior to the kickoff that it pretty much held up as a prophetic look at how UT would run Georgia early in the actual football game that followed.

Come to think of it, the mascots of the four teams in the College Playoff Field of Four pretty much held up as the logical winners in those two games too, don’t you think?

The # 2 Clemson Tigers defeated the # 3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish,


The # 1 Alabama Crimson Tide defeated the # 4 Oklahoma Sooners.

Now what happens this coming Monday night in the national championship game, when the Alabama “flood of blood” Crimson Tide (or even their alter mascot Elephant) goes up against that same hungry Clemson Tiger?

Based on my belief that Tigers can swim through seas of blood ~ and also eat any elephants they encounter along the way, I’m betting on Clemson (and their super tall and cool-headed freshman QB) to get past Bama and their also very talented Hawaiian QB.

If you even care, what do you think?


The New Years Eve Resolution Breakdown Pattern

Dec. 31, 2018: You write them all down and swear to lose weight, get in shape, quit a bad habit, be more frugal with your money, give more of yourself to worthy causes, and do whatever else that comes to mind that will make you feel better about yourself by way of addition or subtraction.

Jan. 31, 2019: All vows are off for now. ~ Losing weight disappeared with a late night pizza order during the first week in January. ~ Getting in shape vanished when you couldn’t find a convenient place to park the first time you went to the mall to walk for the first time in five years. ~ Then you purchased a new cell phone that you didn’t need after receiving an earlier new one as a gift on Christmas Day. You rationalized your purchase of a second new phone by reminding yourself that the Christmas gift phone was not the one you wanted. ~ After examining nearly a month of charity donor requests, you decide that you still haven’t seen one you trust with your money. You agree to postpone giving until some charity out there blows you over as being honest and sincere. ~ You finally settle everything by subtracting the pressure to do anything with resolutions until the first day of summer, when the weather is more predictable. The adjusted start date for all your resolutions immediately adds some relief you had been hoping to feel about the uneven January effort.



Welcome Home to Houston, New UH Football Coach, Dana Holgorsen!

All of us who truly are deep red UH Cougars welcome you home! And thanks to Board Chair Tillman Fertitta, UH President/Chancellor Renu Khator and UH Athletic Director Chris Pezman for all you collectively did to make this perfect fit reunion at UH with hope possible.

Hope? ~ Yeah, hope! ~ Hope that we finally have our guy ~ the one who truly values UH as a destination school and not another mere “stepping stone” opportunity for either another less qualified or great actor-poor character football coach. Those types have taken their toll on hope at UH for way too long.

And, yeah, “Coach Holgy”  ~ in redundant answer to your question at the press conference ~ do we want to win some football games at UH? ~ “Heck, Yes! ~ Let’s go win some football games, Dana!”

Please forgive me another moment of partisan joy:


Bill McCurdy

UH Class of 1960



Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Former Houston Eagle Dies Near Age 96

January 4, 2019

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


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

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



Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle



Early TV Commercial Jingles *

January 4, 2019

* My apologies to those clicking here on the link entitled “early tv jingos” expecting to see an early times list of chauvinists, nationalists, and super-patriots who may have tried to use TV in the early days as a bully pulpit with the American people. That was never my intention. I meant to write “jingles” ~ little sales songs ~ and not human political type “jingos”  that we usually associate with politics ~ but I was overwhelmed by a life-long running pattern of human error that I cannot change in the way the post originally was put in place for the column notification e-mail.

Thanks to my good friend, Tom Hunter, I was able to jangle over to the word “jingle” ~ the correct intended word ~ on the places in need of change in the title and text of this actual column. I’m glad I don’t have to be perfect or I’d never get anything written into print. ~ I’d rather have an honest problem with random error than be one who has the need to always be right ~ even when I’m proved wrong.

Hope you will understand and forgive. ~ Bill McCurdy

The Merry Texaco Men
The Milton Berle Show
Texaco Star Theater

The Merry Texaco Men

Oh, we’re the men of Texaco!

We work from Maine to Mexico!

There’s nothing like this Texaco of ours!


Our show tonight is powerful!

We’ll wow you with an hourful!

Of howls from a showerful of stars!


We’re the merry Texaco-men!

Tonight we may be showmen!

Tomorrow we’ll be servicing your cars!





BRYLCREAM! ~ a little dab’ll do ya!

BRYLCREAM! ~ you’ll look so debonair!

BRYLCREAM! ~ the gals will all pursue ya!










(I never lost my hair so maybe that’s why today I only recall the jingle’s dilemma ~ and not its commercial solution.)





































You deserve a break today!

So get out ~ and get away,

~ To McDonald’s!

We’ll do it all for you!














Song writer Dene Hofheinz could deliver the lyrics precisely, but here’s hoping we all got the message on that earlier simpler time in Houston’s history from the above singularly flawed recollection. ~ Astroworld was a great dual place for either a good old-fashioned date or family fun. It’s too bad we couldn’t have brought it with us into the cellphone and internet surreal world of the 21st century, but that’s how life and change variantly work over time, isn’t it?

“We can’t always get what we want.” ~ Mick Jagger.


If you have some early TV commercial jingles that have stuck in your mind all these years, we would love to read them in the comment section below, so please be generous with us. We were all in same boat with the great electronic Cyclops that invaded and forever changed our culture in the middle of the 20th century. It’s a good feeling for us to share these memories with you ~ and we hope you will now treat yourself to the same possibility.

Regards and One More Time ~ Happy New Year!



Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle


January 1, 1949: Houston Gets TV

January 3, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Watch what?

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

“In the dark?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Irish Danny McShane

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

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

~ Pat Callahan

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


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

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year, Everybody!



Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Fearless Houston Pro Sports Predictions

January 1, 2019

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Bonus Prediction in College Football:

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

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












“Hello There, 2019!”

Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Nostradamus and The Crimson Tide

December 30, 2018


Shortly before I slipped into something like a weekend coma with flu-like symptoms early Saturday morning, I had been working here and there on a coach-speak article that focused upon what we constantly hear college football coaches say in these fifteen second pre, middle, and end game statements they make to the sideline TV reporters as their teams are running on and off the field.

Thanks, Coma! ~ You caused me to miss out on a pre-event publication of a pretty much literal peg on what Alabama head coach Nick Saban had to say last night about the Crimson Tide’s 42-31 win over Oklahoma last night. It wasn’t anything Nostradamus would have e-mailed home, but even these no-brainers are an act of artful pride out here in the boonies of 21st century blogging.

When asked by ESPN what he thought of Alabama’s performance in their win over Oklahoma, Nick Saban said, “I saw some things we could have done better, but I was pleased with our overall effort.”

What I had written at least sixteen hours earlier in my unfinished draft read as follows: “Win or Lose the 2018 National Championship, Nick Saban of Alabama will humbly express his final post-game view that he saw some things the Tide could have done better.”

As I watched the game bedside in the second half, I recall seeing Saban barking at one of his players that he had just removed from the game for causing the Tide to miss the benefit of a completed pass deep into the Clemson red zone because of an illegal procedure move he made in the ‘Bama backfield on the same play.

The rapidity of Saban’s speaking lips and the lurching motions of his body toward the player suggested that he was trying to be instructive on some level, but the coach’s general demeanor suggested that the subject was along the lines of the player’s need to re-locate his head from some dark nearby crevice and get it refocused on his duties in the game.

Forgive me. I’m going back to bed now.

Since tomorrow is New Year’s Eve ~ and also my friggin’ birthday and a planned reunion with an ancient cousin on my mother’s side ~ I will be quietly busy through New Years Day and not catching up on non-urgent calls until Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Happy New Year, Everybody! ~ Please know that you are both loved and appreciated!

As long as they are making new baseball seasons ~ and as long as we can keep our head clear and our eyes open ~ there will always be a sandlot game going on of some kind here at The Pecan Park Eagle.

Come by anytime.



Bill McCurdy



Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Accidental Astros in Cooperstown

December 29, 2018


Maxwell Kates


By Maxwell Kates


Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio

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

Nolan Ryan and Joe Morgan



Position:                        Executive

Years in Houston:            1963 to 1974

Year of Induction:            2010


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

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

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



Nellie Fox

Position:                        2nd base

Years in Houston:            1964 to 1965

Year of Induction:            1997

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

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

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



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

Position:                        Pitcher

Years in Houston:            1965 to 1966

Year of Induction:            1976

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

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

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



Eddie Mathews’ 500th Home Run

Position:                        3rd base

Years in Houston:            1967

Year of Induction:            1978

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

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

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



Leo Durocher

Position:                        Manager

Years in Houston:            1972 to 1973

Year of Induction:            1994

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

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

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



Don Sutton

Position:                        Pitcher

Years in Houston:            1981 to 1982

Year of Induction:            1998

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

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

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



Tom Seaver, Rollie Fingers. and Hal Newhouser

Position:                        Pitcher

Years in Houston:            1984 to 1992

Year of Induction:            1992

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

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

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

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



Dale and Yogi Berra

Position:                        Coach

Years in Houston:            1986 to 1989

Year of Induction:            1972

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

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

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

Yogi Berra and His Astro Protege



Position:                        Pitcher

Years in Houston:            1998

Year of Induction:            2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jody Davis (Not in the Hall of Fame)


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

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

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

We thank you for your support!

Kind regards,

The Pecan Park Eagle



Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle