The New MMP Plan: A Gift of Greed

August 12, 2016
Photo #1: Current View of Deep Center Minute Maid Park 2016 By Houston Chronicle

Photo #1: Current View of Deep Center
Minute Maid Park 2016
Artist Rendering in Houston Chronicle

Future View of Deep Center Area Minute Maid Park 2017 By Houston Chronicle

Photo #2: Future View of Deep Center
Minute Maid Park 2017
Artist Rendering in Houston Chronicle

Our Current View of Deep Center Minute Maid Park By The Pecan Park Eagle

Photo #3: Our Current View of Deep Center
Minute Maid Park
Actual Photo By The Pecan Park Eagle

A day in the life of this usually laid back small universe Internet columnist is fairly simple. One day you get to write about a gift of love from your brother. They next day you get to write about the gift of greed from another source altogether – one that really has nothing to do with that source’s caring for any of us beyond our value to the bottom line of their most profitable interest in their cash cow – that very expensive franchise they own in Major League Baseball that many of us follow as the Houston Astros.

The Houston Chronicle used their self this Thursday afternoon to report that the Houston Astros finally had released the details of their already one-year delayed plans for changing the configuration of the playing field at Minute Maid Park. From what we can see and read, so far, these changes fail to impress as either improvements – or as complete representations of the truth, but you must decide that matter for yourselves. It still won’t matter in the sense that the Astros are going to do this thing at the end of the 2016 season and have the new face and “services” ready for Opening Day 2017. Here’s the link:

Look! We’re not communists here. We also understand and respect the Astros ownership to do whatever they honestly can to improve the profitability of their investment in their major league baseball club, but not if it diminishes the quality of play in the ballpark – by turning the place into a home run band box – or because it is using “player safety” – by words or suggestion – to justify the addition of three new drinking bars in the new “revenue stream” space obtained by the removal of Tal’s Hill – and the addition of field level seating on the left side of the new dead center field corner spot.

So, what does all this “new” material on the planned changes mean? Here’s what we see, as best as we can barely see it:

  1. Tal’s Hill is definitely gone. The 44-photo slide show provided by the Chronicle works on the impression that center fielders are constantly falling on Tal’s Hill. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the nearly 17 years the current field at MMP has been in play, there have been very few falls relatively to the number of games played and no serious injuries. The imagery of falling players is designed to psychologically make us believe that “the sky is falling” when it comes to the potential dangers of Tal’s Hill. Figure it out for yourselves. – Is Tal’s Hill going away because it is a danger? – Or is it going away because it stands in the way of more profitable ways of using the areas of our still 436′ deepest center field? – Either way, what we think of Tal’s Hill doesn’t matter – even if the Astros are using “player safety” as a political hoodwink akin to Captain Renaud’s shock in his discovery that there’s gambling going on at Rick’s place in the classic movie “Casablanca.” – Love  or hate Tal’s Hill all you want. – The real issue is the shorter center field fence this change brings. – Will MMP now become a home run band box in 2017?
  2. The Band Box Test Will Now Unfold in Regular Season Games. In some of our previous columns on this subject, we have suggested that a season of pre-testing would be helpful before making a decision to bring the center field distance in. (Of course, if ownership really isn’t concerned about the place becoming a bandbox, and they really want those 3 new bars and field level seats added, asap, further pre-testing on the increase in MMP homers per game these changes produce  is no matter of importance, anyway. The new report states that MMP will go from having the deepest CF distance of 436′ to only the 6th deepest in MLB at 409′. Doesn’t sound too bad until you remember that the 315′ distance in left field and the 325′ distance in right field are what have made our 436′ deep CF the only saving grace for pitchers who are smart enough – and talented enough-  to throw pitches that often get batters to hit the ball up the middle as long fly outs in Houston’s soon-to-be departing version of the Death Valley distance that once far exceeded MMP’s at the old Polo Grounds in New York. With the shorter 409′ center field, that advantage will now be lost to pitchers.
  3. What happens to the Conoco Home Run Counter? If you cannot find it on the Astros’ new graphic of how “Deep Center” supposedly looks today in Photo # 1 above, check out our actual Photo # 3 of the present basic configuration. You will find the Conoco HR Counter on the first concourse fence, upper left side, facing out to the field – and usually surrounded by fans. What happens to the Conoco HR Counter now? Even if that question really has no serious bearing on the first big real issue – the potential conversion of MMP into a HR band box – it would be nice know – since the “MMP-all-time-dinger-counter” has been struggling to become a ballpark tradition from Game One at the field since the place’s 2000 beginning.
  4. The Batter’s Eye Green Background in Photo # 2 appears to have been moved to the left side of deep center by the new configuration. – If so, how is that going to work? – If so, it won’t work. Batters do not need moving light colors of shirts stirring around in their head-on to near peripheral field of vision at the same time they are trying to hit. – This one is definitely Major Issue Number Two – and it is every bit as important as the venue band box question.

Oh well, with those three new alcohol bars coming in as new services in the former area of deep center that will be gone next year, it look’s like we Houston fans soon enough will be trading in “Tal’s Hill” in exchange for “Jim’s Still”.


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas



Pecan Park Eagles: A Gift of Soul

August 11, 2016
    "Pecan Park Eagles"     a 28"x15" work of sculptured wood     By John C. McCurdy     As a Gift to his Brother Bill     In the Summer of 2016

“Pecan Park Eagles”
a 28″x15″ work of sculptured wood
By John C. McCurdy
As a Gift to his Brother Bill
In the Summer of 2016


The Pecan Park Eagles. ~ Nine Flew Out of the Eagles’ Nest in 1950. And their Japonica, Myrtle, and Kernel streets in Pecan Park (in southeast Houston) names were Joyce Allyne Deische, Raymond Giese, Randy Hunt, Kenny Kern, Billy McCurdy, Johnny McCurdy, Jackie Perkins, Billy Sanders, and Charles Willis. A few others filled in from time to time, but these were the regular nine that played when we took on clubs from our general area in Mason Park. Our home turf, of course, was “Eagle Field”, the vacant City of Houston lot that could have accommodated four houses at the “Y” meeting of Myrtle and Japonica, but for destiny’s preference that it serve the sandlot dream needs of our neighborhood baseball passions.

We two McCurdy boys are still alive in 2016, as is Kenny Kern. We are not sure about the survivor statuses of Raymond Geise, Billy Sanders, or Charles Willis. And we do know, sadly, that Joyce Allyne Deische, Randy Hunt, and Jackie Perkins are now deceased.

Today I received this beautifully wood-carved and created sculpture from my artist brother, John McCurdy, who now lives in retirement in our birthplace home town of Beeville, Texas. John and I grew up in Pecan Park and he, better than anyone else in this world, knows how much that childhood memory of the Pecan Park Eagles means to me – even to this day – and from here to eternity. John is my only brother – and I love him with all my heart. John is also the same guy who sent me that personally designed “Pecan Park Eagles” tee shirt that I wrote about in an earlier column this summer.

The authenticity of this sculptured Eagle is all encompassing. The American flag is even the same 48-star version that we used back in 1950, nine years before Alaska and Hawaii came into the Union.

Here’s the inscription that John wrote and attached permanently to the back of his sculptured gift. It portrays the heart of this gift – and the heart of the giver – better than any words I could ever write.

A Soul Glimpse at My Artist Brother, John C. McCurdy, From His Own Words and

A Soul Glimpse at My Artist Brother, John C. McCurdy, From His Own Words Here and His Continuous Action Through Art.

Print Version: “God created men in His image and likeness. Maybe that’s why artists have always painted Him as an old, gray-haired, fat man. I can see the resemblance in my mirror. But “God created” …. are two words that describe my passion. Draw anything, make anything from nothing. Create with my mind and hands. That is me! Never perfect but always trying. Plead enjoy my gifts, they come from my soul. – John”

Thank you, Brother John, for your loving gift. Having you as my brother is still the first big home run of my life!

Love Forever – Back at You – in Endless Folds of Time, Love, Joy, and Right Action ~ Brother Bill


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

Winning and Losing Big in the Big Leagues

August 10, 2016
Now it''s 2016 and the Cubbbie Countdown is 108 years to the real possibility of a World Series appearance this year.

Photo Update: It is now 2016 and the Cubbie Countdown to their last World Series win is up to 108 years old, but moving  clearly to the possibility of a Cubs World Series appearance for the first time since 1945 this fall.

In baseball today …

…. It’s very hard and very expensive to become a dynasty big prize club.

…. It’s also hard and temporarily-to-residually expensive for years  thereafter to become a one-shot-pony big prize club.

…. It’s easier to be a mediocre-talent level club with a good marketing plan for selling tickets based upon strong fan faith that your club is actually trying to win big with a good farm system, good common sense, and a way below the winner’s market-sized team payroll.

…. It’s easier to lose and still draw fans if you can think of a way to market your team as “lovable losers.”

…. It’s easier to lose for decades if you can convince the fans that the condition is due to a “curse” that is unrelated to poor talent assessment and low-ball player salaries.

…. If the Cubs break their “1908” jinx by finally winning a World Series in 2016, they will be forced to surrender all of their 108-year old excuses for being “lovable losers.”

…. It will always be easier for any team to lose a game, if that disappointment is always followed by two wins.


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

Hall of Fame Overcame “Separate But Equal”

August 10, 2016
Induction Day at Cooperstown By  Dennis Corcoran

Induction Day at Cooperstown
Dennis Corcoran

Hall of Fame Overcame “Separate But Equal”

Dennis Corcoran is a long time member of SABR from back east. He Has attended 12 national SABR conventions, including SABR 46 that played in Miami last month. He was also one of the 32 abstract presenters on a topic we all might care to know more about. And that is – the process that actually unfolded as the HOF finally came around to deal with baseball’s need to recognize the career contributions of players and other personnel from the Negro Leagues that most certainly only missed the bigs because of segregation.

The Dennis Corcoran SABR 46 presentation was entitled “The Hall of Fame Overcomes Separate But Equal to Honor the Negro Leagues.” According to message we received from Corcoran, he “talked about Ted Williams’ historic induction speech, (50th anniversary of it- 1966) which he closed by asking the Hall of Fame to do something for Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson, stating the only reason they weren’t inducted was because they never had the opportunity in the Major Leagues during their prime years. The Hall of Fame didn’t want to induct Satchel in 1971 because he hadn’t played 10 years in MLB so they decided to put all the Negro stars in another area of the Hall of Fame (Separate But Equal.) There was an immediate outburst from Jackie Robinson , the NAACP and the BBWAA as the Hall’s Board of Directors reconsidered and inducted Paige with equal status to all other inductees. The Hall then went on to honor the Negro Leagues as I gave several examples. All the information in my presentation can be found in my book, “Induction Day at Cooperstown A History of the Baseball Hall of Fame Ceremony.”

The Pecan Park Eagle did a review column on Corcoran’s book a couple of years ago:

Induction Day is Informative and Fun

We had the privilege of meeting Dennis Corcoran in Houston at our own SABR 44 convention. We found him to be intelligent, dedicated, and more knowledgeable of the Baseball Hall of Fame induction process history than any other person we’ve ever spent time with in discussion of the subject. Reading the book he just mentioned in the quote simply reenforced those early impressions. And, oh yes, he’s also a nice down to earth guy too. Dennis also seems to write from his focused passionate love of the game – and with special interest on how well, or poorly, baseball takes care of honoring its greatest contributors. I would recommend the book to any of you who may share that common interest.

Separate but Equal. My foot. The old Hank Aaron metaphor applies here. The Hall of Fame had about as much of a chance of slipping that one by Jackie Robinson and others as the sun has everyday of sneaking daybreak past a sleeping rooster.


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas







Murder & Mayhem in Houston / Vance & Lomax

August 9, 2016



If you think high levels of violence and  and low levels of justice in Houston are bad now, you should have been around to breathe them in during the early to later decades of the 19th century. Back at the very start of our city, in fact, Houston attorney John Hunter Herndon described our precious Bayou City as “the greatest sink of  [vice] that modern times have known. …. What a den of villains must be there.”

That colorful back cover quotation from “Murder & Mayhem in Houston: Bayou City Crime” by Mike Vance and John Nova Lomax pretty much sets the tone of their thematic true story of Houston at its worst – from the ooze of its hot, humid, mosquito and cockroach capitol beginnings – through the sentencing of their most recent criminal case example in 2000, the same old story prevailed. One is left with the impression from this well written and carefully documented 140 page romp through violent crime cases over linear time that says so much about the values of life in these parts. – Houston life always has been precious – unless somebody out there felt they had a good enough reason to kill you. Then the so-called legal justice system kicked in and the aggrieved might get justice in the form of appropriate punishment of the convicted killer, but only if there were enough citizens on the grand jury who didn’t feel “I’d-a-done-the-same-thing, if-I-had-a-been-the-shooter-in-this-case.” In these instances, charges in the 19th century would either be dropped, never filed, or simply thrown in the trash pockets of way too many short memories.

The authors note that the 19th century was “a bad time to be black”. If that statement does sort of ring with as much news value as “it gets cold at the north pole”, the crimes portrayed against blacks by whites in that earlier period are still startling and disgusting to read about. “Murder & Mayhem” does implicitly help the reader to see how easy it was for lynching to become an “acceptable to many” form of street justice as well as a sadistic form of recreation for the ghoulishly ignorant whites whose hatred for liberated slaves was so boundless. In those days. lynching didn’t look that different from the way the formal justice system dealt out “justice”, anyway – if you could really call it justice with a clear conscience.

The cultural picture on justice in the 19th century was pretty much the same as the one that I got in UT law school in 1965-66, the year I decided to get a law degree between getting my master’s and doctoral degrees in the fields of human behavioral sciences. At UT, we learned on the first day of class from Professor Gus Hodges that all attorneys have to get used to potential clients coming at them demanding justice. “When someone comes to you as an attorney, demanding justice,” Professor Hodges always said, “your first question to them as an attorney should always be – ‘Well, how much justice can you afford?’ ” After a year in law school, I felt that I had learned enough about the law to help me with the forensic psychology part of my work without spending two more years getting a degree for a field in which I had no intention or desire of actually practicing as an attorney.

As Vance and Lomax so clearly show in their book,  justice in the 19th century was very much about power – even then. Or especially then. Take your pick.

White monied landholders had the power to get away with murdering poor penniless whites and blacks in Houston, and often times – without ever going to trial for murder.

White monied landholders also sometimes had the power to get away with killing each other, when others among their power peers felt they had “good reason” to do so. Vance and Lomax cover a case in which a monied man gets away with killing a doctor who allegedly made inappropriate advances to his wife during an office visit. To make a more involved story brief, the man escaped going to trial and conviction because too many of the man’s peers felt they would have done the same thing, if they had been in his shoes.

Poor blacks could often get away with killing each other. Black lives simply didn’t matter to most of the segregationist whites who once ran Houston with little to no opposition.. For those of us who love the idea of Houston as our home – and for all the good fair things it strives to be, this dirty actual truth about our community’s cultural history is shameful, ignorant, and hard to digest. We’ve always known it was there among the most salacious records of of our city’s racist history. Now we simply need to thank Mike Vance and John Nova Lomax for making it possible for us to face this history as factual in their well done new book.

We found our copy of “Murder & Mayhem in Houston” in the checkout lane of the big HEB store on Bunker Hill @ Katy Freeway. This $20 priced 2016 paper back publication of the History Press is well worth your investment of reading time and money.

We feel  certain that the book is also available on and at other HEB grocery locations and book stores in Houston.



How the Astros Someday Can Beat the Rangers

August 8, 2016



How the Astros Someday Can Beat the Rangers

It’s a little late now for 2016. Losing the August 5-7 home series by 2 games to 1 leaves our Astros 7.5 games behind the Rangers with 52 total games left to play and way too many wild card contenders ahead of them to hold out much hope for either of the two wild card spots. It’s still possible, of course, but not probable. We’ve been through that differentiation previously and nothing in the actual character of those essential differences has changed, but one. The later in the season it gets to be, the harder it becomes to misunderstand the difference between “slim to none” in any discussion of remaining chances.

In spite of the fact it’s too late to probably help us this year, here are some erstwhile-level worthy ways in which the Astros either can, may, or will – one day beat the Rangers to the punch out in an AL West pennant race:

  1. Have a team that can hit in the clutch. Example: The next time the Astros rally to tie the Rangers in the bottom of the 9th in a game that decides a series, creating a 2-game up-swing in the GB column, have somebody up there hitting with 2 outs and the winning run on second base that isn’t named Evan Gattis. Oh yeah, the replacement guy also cannot be named Preston Tucker, Colby Rasmus, Jason Castro, Jake Marisnick, Carlos Gomez, Tyler White, or A.J. Reed. Unless we intelligently plan to keep Tony Kemp, maybe we can someday be the one  who picks up an aging rental hitter that the Yankees don’t need for the rest of the season in exchange for any of the previous names on this list.
  2. Make a trade at the deadline for an all-star catcher like Jonathan Lucroy – a guy who proved Saturday that he could also be a difference-maker on offense by slamming two homers against the Astros in the Rangers’ 3-2 first of two wins in the series.
  3. Make sure the team that trades a guy like Lucroy to the Astros also throws in a relief pitcher that helps the club in late inning relief during a critical series like the one they just lost to the Rangers.
  4. When the Astros trade with the Brewers, they should only trade for the good players on that club’s roster – and not for the guys that Milwaukee is simply trying to dump elsewhere.
  5. Maybe this wasn’t the best year for it, but someday, the Astros are going to have another chance at the brass ring, but only if they are willing to risk giving something up to acquire the difference-maker. We did it once back in 1998 with Randy Johnson – and he almost fulfilled that role. Unfortunately, we had one of those classic Astros performance meltdowns against San Diego in the first round of the playoffs that year – and it turned out to be the least mentioned heartbreaker in club history. The Padres eliminated the ’98 Astros, 3 games to 1, with Randy Johnson going 0-2 as the culmination of his brief Astros playoff career.
  6. We cannot wait until all our starters and the heart of our pitching roster is developed from players taken with one of the first five picks in the annual amateur draft. We would have to lose too much and too often to get things done that way, and, even if it were theoretically possible, the club would have to dance with losing too long to have much defense against that becoming the culture of the team and the abandonment of MMP by even the most loyal of fans.
  7. It needs to be said directly – and not just left to implication by everything else we’ve already stated here. – The Astros are going to have to intelligently spend more money than the Rangers to beat them out of the advantage spot they now occupy over our Houston club in the AL WEST.

That’s all we’ve got. And it wasn’t all tongue in cheek. Especially so – item # 7.

Meanwhile, hang in there, all you other Astros fans. Hold onto hope and keep the faith. It isn’t technically the start yet of “wait till next year” time and saying our last goodbyes to 2016, but it’s pretty darn close.


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

Out of My Mind for “Out of the Park” Sim Ball

August 7, 2016




A Review of Out of the Park (OOTP) Baseball with an Example

By Bill McCurdy

As some of you know, I’ve been a happy camper player of APBA Baseball in both the original dice and cards model through the current computer game since 1951.

All that old allegiance changed in April 2016 when I followed a tout from Kyle Burns of of our Houston Babies vintage ball club and looked into the relatively new kid on the baseball sim game block by the OOTP Game Company. – OOTP is an acronym for “Out of the Park” – which is exactly what OOTP Baseball turns out to be for pure, deep, comprehensive, and exhaustive simulation of the MLB game from 1876 through 2015 – with upgrades every seasons based upon the always developing new stats from new seasons.

Endorsed by the Major league Baseball Players’ Alumni Association, one can play the OOTP game gradiently from either the wading pool level to the much more complex and deep waters of the Commissioner Mode, from pitch by pitch in real time – to whole seasons in a matter of seconds – and expect to get results that are realistically based on the probability stats for every actual player who participated in those actual years of participation from 1876 through 2015 (0r the last season played from which you may be reading this article.

The game comes with a ton of visual and sensory effects, all optional, and totally dependent upon your own needs for them. This game is for the mind. It will not depend at all upon eye-hand motor facility. These games depend upon the stat match ups between teams, luck, and what ever your own managerial decisions bring to the table.

A Game Example

If you suffer from some variant of “Adult Attention Disorder, OOTP even has an answer for there too. You can program each league or series game to as many innings of quick sim play mode and then take over to manage the last inning or two. We just did that with a “best 4 of 7 games” series between the 2005 NL Champion Astros and last year’s 2015 Playoff Team Astros. After playing the first six games, all in MMP, in serial sim mode, the series was tied at 3-3, with the 2015 slated as the home club in Game 7.

Roger Clemens (1-1) and Dallas Keuchel (1-1) were slated to go against each other in Game 7. Both starters pitched scoreless 2-hit ball over 9 innings, but Jeff Bagwell got a sentimental lead-off HR into the Crawford Boxes in the top of the 10th to give “2005” a 1-0 lead.  The dramatic swat booth cheered some older fans and softly saddened some of the millennial crowd that seemed to favor the more current Astros. It was bittersweet. The almost pure Astros crowd really wanted both the teams to win. “2015” Manager A.J.Hinch then brought in closer Luke Gregerson, who retired the next three men – and the “2015’s” came to bat for one last shot.

“2005” Manager Phil Garner brought in closer Brad Lidge to seal the 1-0 victory deal, but the results were both astonishing and painful.

After Jose Altuve led off the Bottom of the 10th with a hard line-out to Adam Everett at shortstop, Carlos Correa lashed a single to left. Luis Valbuena then lined a 2-strike blow down the right field line that barely failed as a game-winner by going inches foul at the pole. Valbuena then popped out to Craig Biggio at 2nd base, slamming his bat into the ground in frustration.

Victory was one out away for the 2005 NL champs. But this is baseball. And hope can fall from the heavens like a sudden rain in April.

Colby Rasmus reached first base on an infield squibber down third base line that Morgan Ensberg misplayed on a bad no-chance throw to first – and that error allowed the batter to make second as Correa advanced to third.

With the tying run on third and the winning run on second with two outs, Garner of “2005” decided to walk lefty Preston Tucker and have Lidge face free-swinging righthander Chris Carter with the bases loaded and a force out three now possible at any base.

Carter swung and missed badly on two outside sliders in the dirt. ~ And “2005” was one strike away from the series victory. ~ But then fate showed up.

Lidge left a fastball up in the zone. Carter made contact and sent a ball sailing high and far into center. The sound of his bat said “deep and high, but catchable” – especially with a speedy experienced guy like Willie Taveras in the central pasture – turning immediately and running to the deeper spot he knew he needed to be. He turned – almost on cue – the ball was descending – Willie was in position for the catch – the game was almost over – oh yes, – it was almost over all right – but not in the way Willie hoped.

He DROPPED it! ~ The little ball bounced out of Willie’s glove – falling to the ground. The game was over all right. – Correa and Rasmus already had touched home plate with the tying and winning runs for “2015”.

The 2015 aspiring Houston Astros had captured a seven game series from the 2005 only pennant-winning Houston Astros.

And the way it came down – was way too painful to enjoy.

And this was an OOTP simulation baseball game. If the forces of the dramatic muses are not pushing the madness of this game called baseball in all forms, I don’t know who else to credit or blame for such an ending. Can you imagine the horror any of us would feel to see our club lose in this fashion. – Even a victory in this way would be tainted by the “boy, were we lucky?” blackbird thoughts.

Computer systems alone are not capable of sadistic plot resolution – but the dad-gum baseball gods and muses most assuredly are.

At any rate, that’s how it played out on OOTP Baseball.

Final Facts: The Full Game is only $39.99. And no one else gives you more. A game with all the players in MLB  baseball history from APBA would cost you hundreds of dollars – and still not contain all the other goodies that OOTP offers.

Here’s the OOTP site link:


Please Note: The opinions of The Pecan Park Eagle are not for sale. We have endorsed OOTP only because of the pure joy we’ve found in it. There are also forums and leagues available for those who want to connect or play the game with others. And that would probably be helpful to the learning curve needed to play the game at its more advanced levels. Online manuals and videos are also part of the program to help learn the basics for playing the game too. My only criticism is that some of the controls are not as obvious as they could be, but the basics you need to play what we described here in the Astros 2005-2015 series was a piece of cake to master.


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas




Brad Lidge

Eight New Eighth Wonder Book Titles

August 5, 2016
"How long are you going to live with that crack in the wall?"

“How long are you going to live with that crack in the wall?” ~ Nolan Ryan


Eight Mythical New Eighth Wonder Books By Title, Author, Purpose and Critical Comment:


  1. “How Long Are You Going to Live with That Crack in The Wall?” by Nolan & Reid Ryan. ~ a Father and Son Troubleshooter Book on How to Evaluate MLB Organizations from the Top Down. Critical Media Comment: “I love baseball leadership and infrastructure repairs!”
  2. “Fundamentals of Fielding, Running, and Hitting in Baseball” by Carlos Gomez. ~ “Damifino” sums up the purpose. Author’s Critical Comment: “Don’t look at me!”
  3. “Crooks and Creeps Prey on the Peeps; Who Says That Voting Can’t Hurt Us?” by E. Pluribus Unum. ~ Exploring the “Evil of Two Lessers”, says Prof. Rick Bush. Critical Media Comment: “Watermelons are no longer sweet and neither are our presidential candidates.”
  4. “The Pokemon Precedent” by A. Mindless Soul. ~ Whoever captures the most Pokemons between now and November 1st gets to be President. Critical Media Comment: “Could that really be more dangerous than what we are doing now?”
  5.  “Sue Baseball? No way; That Would Be Like Suing the Church!” by Barry Bonds, et al. ~ Tainted by association, if not conviction of HGH use,  several past stars consider their options to passive blackballing by the HOF.  Critical Media Comment: “The convicted pedophile priests had a better chance at beating their far more horrendous and offensive charges.”
  6. “How To Hit Your Way Out of a Paper Bag” by Alex Bregman ~ Hints: Make sure the paper is very thin and slightly wet before advancing to the plate. Critical Media Comment: “Nobody’s perfectly awful. Your 1 for 34 start (including an 0 for 2 extention in your first two times up in Thursday’s August 4th game) proves that point. Then you singled to center in the 6th to break the skein. ~ Way to go against that soggy thin paper bag!”
  7. “Happ and Stance” by J.A. Happ ~ Blue Jays pitcher Happ describes how his early problems as a hitter made it “Happ and Stance” – not happenstance – that caused his conversion to pitching. Critical Media Comment: “It happens every spring – to somebody.”
  8. “A Dummy’s Experiential Guide to Quality in Fly Paper” by Jeff Goldblum. ~ The star of the 1986 movie version of “The Fly” describes how changing the quality of your fly paper can change the world. Critical Media Comment: “I picked it up and couldn’t put it down.”


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

Bill Gilbert: July 2016 Astros Report

August 4, 2016
Analyst and Commentator on the Astros for The Pecan Park Eagle has some smiling hopeful things to say about the club's performance in June 2016.

Analyst and Commentator on the Astros for The Pecan Park Eagle, Bill Gilbert, has some “slip, slidding away” reality  things to say about the club’s late wobbly, but still in the hunt hopes beyond July 2016.


Astros Finish July on a Low Note

By Bill Gilbert


When the Astros wrapped up a 3-game sweep of the Los Angeles Angels with a 13-3 win on Sunday, July 24, I decided that if they could take 2 games out of 3 from the Yankees, the headline on my monthly report would read, “Have the Astros Ever Had a Better Month?” They had cut the Rangers lead in the American League West Division from 10 ½ games to 2 ½ games, they were basically injury-free, they were about to bring up Alex Bregman, widely regarded as the best prospect in baseball and they signed the top player from Cuba, Yulieski Gourriel, to report in August. Dallas Keuchel had appeared to have regained his 2015 form and Jose Altuve was making a strong case to be the AL MVP.

Unfortunately, everything went downhill from there. The Astros did not take two out of three from the Yankees, winning only the third game to avoid a sweep. Things became worse when they were swept in three games in Detroit on two blowouts and a walk-off. The Texas Rangers began winning again and increased their lead over the Astros to six games, Luis Valbuena, Carlos Gomez, Marwin Gonzalez and Luke Gregerson were lost to injuries, Bregman had the same number of hits in his first five games that I did and Keuchel was torched for six runs in the first inning in one of the Detroit games.

The Astros finished the month with a record of 13-12. As a team, the Astros rank pretty much in the middle among major league teams in most offensive categories for the season with a couple of exceptions. They lead the American league in stolen bases and their batters lead the AL in strikeouts and are third in bases on balls. They have scored an average of 4.50 runs per game while allowing 4.13.

Despite the meltdown in the last week of July, the Astros pitching has been better than average for the season and in July. The ERA of 3.88 ranks 8th among all major league teams and third in the American League behind Cleveland and Toronto. The major league average ERA is 4.16.

Individually, Jose Altuve continues to excel. His batting average of .356 is 27 points higher than his closest AL competitor. He hit .354 in July and light-hitting, Jake Marisnick, batted .326. George Springer, Luis Valbuena, Carlos Correa and Marwin Gonzalez all hit between .258 and .269 in July but the other position players were all below .235. Cody Rasmus hit only .074 in July. Altuve had a .400 on-base-percentage in July and he, along with Springer and Evan Gattis had slugging averages of over .500.

Lance McCullers was the Astros’ best starting pitcher in July with three wins and an ERA of 2.08. Ken Giles did not allow a run in any of his nine relief appearances and recorded 18 strikeouts with only 2 walks. Will Harris had 4 of the teams 6 saves in July but had an ERA of 6.75.

The outlook for the final two months of the season does not look promising. Much of the Astros success has come at the expense of the three West Coast teams in the AL West (24-12) including a 10-1 record against the California Angels. A three game series against Oakland at the end of the month is the only time they will meet any of these teams in August and they begin the month with a tough home stand against Toronto (4 games) and Texas (3 games).

The Rangers picked up two All-Stars, Carlos Beltran and Jonathan Lucroy, at the trade deadline and other AL playoff contenders, Boston, Baltimore, Toronto and Cleveland also made deadline deals to strengthen the team for the stretch run. Meanwhile, the Astros attempted to make some deals but fell short and turned out to be a seller, trading pitcher, Scott Feldman, to Toronto for an 18-year-old minor league prospect. Maybe they will be better off not making a deal since the two deadline trades last year for Scott Kazmir and Carlos Gomez did not turn out the way they had hoped.

In order for the Astros to make the playoffs, several things need to happen:

  1. Dallas Keuchel must regain some semblance of his 2015 Cy Young Award form.
  2. Alex Bregman must show he can hit major league pitching.
  3. The team must get more offense from players other than Altuve, Correa and Springer. In the 3-2 loss to the Tigers, the big three had 5 hits and the rest of the team didn’t have any.
  4. They must cut down on blown saves. It may be time to install Ken Giles as the closer and put Harris back in a set-up role where he was very effective.
  5. They must find a way to get some wins in the nine games remaining against the Texas Rangers. They won only 1 of their first 10 games with the Rangers.


This sounds like a tall order but stranger things have happened.

Bill Gilbert



Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas









Max Kates: 1st Hand Report, SABR in Miami

August 3, 2016

Guest Columnist Max Kates and Norm King ~ at previous SABR function in Washington.

 The 46th annual national convention of SABR has just concluded in Miami, Florida. Thanks to SABR member Max Kates and the intercession of his Larry Dierker SABR Chapter friend and member Mark Wernick, via an unsolicited request on our behalf, The Pecan Park Eagle is both blessed and pleased to publish the well written personal perspective of Max Kates on this biggest event in our SABR membership year. Hopefully, some of us from Astros and Rangers Country will make it to next year’s big convention in New York City – on that greatest  island of all islands – the Isle of Manhattan!

Our thanks go out now to Max Kates for his fine report. And our thanks too to Mark Wernick for making Max available to The Pecan Park Eagle!


Meeting Andre Dawson


Reflections on the 2016 SABR 46 Convention in Miami, Florida

By Maxwell Kates

Guest Contributor to The Pecan Park Eagle

   The convention began on Thursday morning with a welcoming speech by Marlins’ general manager Michael Hill.  It was at the business meeting that not only the host city was announced for 2017, but also the host hotel and the weekend.  SABR 47 is going to be held at the Park Hyatt in New York, June 28 to July 2.  The theme of this year’s convention was South Florida and Cuba and the theme factored into a lot of the research presentations.  All told I attended six presentations including one on “Dodgerland” by author Michael Fallon, one on the union’s boycott of Topps photographs in 1967 and 1968 with Mark Armour, one on the International League Miami Marlins, and one on the Havana Sugar Kings.  Dave Smith won the Doug Pappas Award with “The Myth of the Closer” while Francis Kinlaw won the award for best poster presentation with his poster on the Herb Score beaning.
         The first panel featured members of the 2003 World Champion Florida Marlins.  Anchored by manager and storyteller extraordinaire Jack McKeon, the panel also included Marlins players Jeff Conine and Juan Pierre, along with broadcaster Dave Van Horne.  It was a chronology of the Marlins’ unexpected run at the 2003 World Series, with stops at Wrigley Field for the infamous Game 6 and of course Yankee Stadium, narrated by Van Horne and illustrated with anecdotes by the players.  Ozzie Guillen later appeared on a panel of Latino broadcasters and there was also a panel of Cuban players.
         There were a lot of opportunities to get books signed.  Some of the signed books I walked away with included Lyle Spatz’s book on the 1947 Yankees, Burton and Benita Boxerman’s latest on George Weiss, a new SABR book on the Cuban players by Bill Nowlin and Peter Bjarkman, Dodgerland, and Sam Zygner’s book on the minor league Miami Marlins, along with Jack McKeon’s autobiography.
         Thursday night they did a screening of “Fastball” but I passed in order to have dinner with Bob and Susan Dellinger.  Susan is the author of “Red Legs and Black Sox” and the granddaughter of Edd Roush.  She directed a play during the SABR convention when it was held in Toronto.  A number of the actors (including myself) joined us for dinner, along with token non-actor Paul Parker.
         The keynote speech was handled a little differently this year.  We had the luncheon and awards ceremony at the hotel and then boarded buses to Marlins Park.  Prior to the game, Barry Bloom conducted interviews on the field with Don Mattingly, Andre Dawson, and Barry Bonds, while Tony Perez was interviewed by his son and Marlins broadcaster Eduardo.  Bonds was surprisingly lucid and happy go lucky.  There were no autographs or questions from the audience, probably both at Bonds’ request.  We also listened to Claude Delorme about the engineering of Marlins Park.  Delorme oversaw the construction of the ballpark.
         One intrinsic highlight that could never have been scripted was that entering Friday’s game, Ichiro had 2,998 hits.  Would he hit 3,000?  Alas, Ichiro went 0-for-4 (so did Giancarlo Stanton) but Ichiro did execute an incredible 7-2 double play to save a run at the plate.  It was an 11-6 victory for the visiting St. Louis Cardinals.  The next night it was the Marlins turn to score 11 runs as they shut out the Cardinals (but Ichiro was still hitless).
         Still with the 11 theme, that’s the number of conventions I attended.  Houston (2014) is still #1 and Seattle (2006) #2 but Miami is definitely in the top four or five.  Only drawback – the climate of Miami in July, the seemingly Frogger-like attempts it took to cross the street, and the proximity of the hotel to an incredibly unsafe neighbourhood.  We were better off remaining in the hotel.
         That being said, I arrived two days early in order to explore Miami and I’m glad I did.  Tuesday I did a Big Bus Tour of the city of Miami with stops at the Vizcaya Museum, Coconut Grove, Coral Gables, the Biltmore Hotel, the Venetian Pool, and Little Havana.  Wednesday I did another Big Bus Tour of Miami Beach.  There was a lot of Jewish interest on this tour, including the Jewish Museum of Miami, a very gripping Holocaust memorial, and the art deco Temple Emmanuel.  We learned that 22% of Miami Beach is Jewish.  That being said, I was surprised to learn that the Jewish population of Dade County has declined sharply and is now less than 100,000.  Broward and Palm Beach, mind you, have made up for the decline.
         Also on Wednesday, I met with a cousin of mine for lunch – he is a professor of Judaic Studies at the University of Miami who curated the main exhibit at the Jewish Museum of Miami.  In fact, my family and I attended the opening of the exhibit at the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach Gardens back in 1992.  My cousin and I went to Wyndwood, a formerly very bad neighbourhood that is being gentrified – “hipsterfied” – and is now the home of the world’s largest collection of graffiti art.
        What was the highlight?  I can answer that in three words – MEETING ANDRE DAWSON.  I somehow managed to get his attention as he was leaving the podium.  If you ever met Mickey Mantle or any of his Yankee contemporaries – I think Bobby Shantz was your favourite – you know where I’m coming from.  One of my first baseball games the Expos were playing the Cubs and when Dawson came to bat, my dad said “Watch this guy, he’s the best player in baseball.”  The first pitch he saw went over the right field seats for a three run homer.
        Hope this helps summarize the SABR convention.  Hope to see you next year in Manhattan.  MK.
Thanks again, Maxwell Kates! We hope to meet you in person next year too!
Bill McCurdy, TPPE
Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas


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