Waxing Philosophical About Life Lessons

April 1, 2017

6600 Block of Japonica Street
Once upon a time, I had to travel a little further out of my old neighborhood to start picking up some of the lessons discussed in this column. And in our brief life human terms, that was a very long time ago.

  1. You know you’re getting older when someone you knew slightly years ago comes up at a chance meeting and asks (by your full name): “Didn’t you used to be Bill McCurdy?”
  1. A lot more serious is the same situation described above, but this time, the question is being asked by a spouse, sibling, or parent.
  1. You know you’re getting older when all those beautiful stranger girls who once ignored you back in the 1960s when you held the door open for them in public places, now stop to smile and hold the door open for you under the same mutual time arrival circumstances.
  1. Also, you are getting older when some of the “been there, done that” places on your list of cancelled destination spots are there as a result of painful past experience.
  1. No “been there, done that” experience with people, places, or perspectives is bound to cancel all our return trips to disaster by itself, but we’ve got a good chance at transcendent survival if we are able to get, hold, grow, and not forget the lessons of past painful trips to the same dead ends.
  1. Honest maturity begins to settle into our lives when we start to realize that happiness is more about what we can bring to life by choice than it is about what he can take from life by the compulsive striving for power and control.
  1. Everything we experience in life is a potential lesson – and everyone we meet is a potential teacher.
  1. The more we refuse the lessons of personal experience, the more we guarantee our return to the same painful experiences until we either get the lessons or die from our refusal of the lessons they each offer.
  1. Crime does not pay, but neither does emotional stupidity.
  1. We cannot enjoy life unless we are willing to risk being who we are. Without drugs. Or booze. Or anything else we think we can’t live without.
  1. When Shakespeare wrote the phrase, “To Thine own Self Be True”, the great bard had never heard of television, drugs, big business, or American politics, but he did know a thing or two about theatrical diversions, ales, feasts, and the power hunger of monarchs. And back then too, the future of people was pretty much determined culturally about what they supposedly were born to be. That ancient limitation still didn’t stop people from being drawn to the compulsive pursuit of escape from depression through alcohol and other compulsive relief possibilities. The 21st Century Medical and Drug Provision Industry could have cleaned up back in Stratford too.
  1. Please forgive me for dancing into a subject area that is so much larger in the lives of us all than a 12-point website column by this humble writer. I started to erase this whole track a few minutes ago, but decided against it. These are not lectures. They are simply a trail of conclusions I’ve come to see over more than a half century of doing what I’ve done in my “day job” as a mental health professional. And if any of what I’ve written here makes sense to any of my readers in this primarily baseball subject site, this thematic digression will be worth it. I won’t stay here, but probably will come back to it from time to time.

____________________

HIP! HIP! HOORAY! The 2017 MLB Regular Season is now only 3 days away!

____________________


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

The Genius Wit of Steven Wright

March 31, 2017

“No, I can’t hang a curve. I don’t even own a ball-hanger.”
~ Comedian Steven Wright

The Genius Wit of Steven Wright (Revisited) *

  • (We’ve been here before with him in this Eagle Columns Flight, but we never get enough. Here are some more nimble takes on life by the Steven Wright who does not pitch for the Boston Red Sox.)

All those who believe in psychokinesis raise my hand.

The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

I almost had a psychic girlfriend but she left me before we met.

OK, so what’s the speed of dark?

 

How do you tell when you’re out of invisible ink?

If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked

something.

Support bacteria – they’re the only culture some people have.

 

When everything is coming your way, you’re in the wrong lane.

Ambition is a poor excuse for not having enough sense to be lazy.

Hard work pays off in the future. Laziness pays off now.

Everyone has a photographic memory. Some just don’t have film.

 

Shin: a device for finding furniture in the dark.

Many people quit looking for work when they find a job.

I intend to live forever – so far, so good.

Eagles may soar, but weasels don’t get sucked into jet engines.

 

Dancing is a perpendicular expression of a horizontal desire.

When I’m not in my right mind, my left mind gets pretty crowded.

Boycott shampoo! Demand the REAL poo!

Who is General Failure and why is he reading my hard disk?

 

What happens if you get scared half to death twice?

I used to have an open mind but my brains kept falling out.

I couldn’t repair your brakes, so I made your horn louder.

Why do psychics have to ask you for your name?

If at first you don’t succeed, then skydiving definitely isn’t for you.

“Pitching at Fenway is no laughing matter.”
~ Pitcher Steven Wright

A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking.

Experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it.

For every action, there is an equal and opposite criticism.

The severity of the itch is proportional to the reach.

 

You never really learn to swear until you learn to drive.

The problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard.

Monday is an awful way to spend 1/7th of your life.

The sooner you fall behind, the more time you’ll have to catch up.

 

A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.

If you must choose between two evils, pick the one you’ve never tried

before.

Change is inevitable….except from vending machines.

 

A fool and his money are soon partying.

Plan to be spontaneous tomorrow.

If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple of payments.

Drugs may lead to nowhere, but at least it’s the scenic route.

I’d kill for a Nobel Peace Prize.

 

Bills travel through the mail at twice the speed of checks.

Borrow money from pessimists-they don’t expect it back.

Half the people you know are below average.

A conscience is what hurts when all your other parts feel so good.

I spilled spot remover on my dog. Now he’s gone.

____________________

All of above shared quotes are from comedian Steven Wright, the arguably funniest quick mind in the universe. You have to stop quoting him somewhere because Steven Wright never stops writing new ancient thoughts in funnier and funnier ways.

____________________


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

The Ballparks of New York

March 30, 2017
250px-John_T_Brush_Stairway

The Ravages of Time Upon The John T. Brush Stairway

A little bird tells me (I think he was a Red-hawk) that there isn’t any current plan for a bus tour of the old ball parks and sites of New York at this time for those who will be attending the annual convention of SABR in New York this summer. If that’s so, it’s a damnable shame. Because, if there is not, it means that most of you SABR members who will be visiting the NYC area for the first, only, or last times in your lives as attendees of SABR National Convention 47 in Manhattan are going to miss the golden chance to anchor your memories of the trip to the boldest form of sensory association to the history of baseball that still exists – and that is – being there yourself – where history was made – by GPS travel – at some of the most sacred moments and spots in baseball storytelling folklore.

Here are a few primary examples of the parks and sites that are out there, presented here in certainty that we shall be leaving out some of the lesser known venues of the hardscrabble, quickly relocating 19th century castles of the grand old game.

Try to be a little forgiving on the error finds. I am not writing for gospel or another doctoral degree presentation this evening. I’ve only had since late this afternoon to top what I’ve already known with a little research and editing of material from whomever did the fine job for all of us in putting these independent, scattered summations together for Wikipedia. It’s time we give those people the credit and thanks they deserve for all the good they do in service to the expeditiously inclined.

Hope this helps make the case for some access to ballpark site touring at SABR 47 this summer.

You know, you could have an historical meeting on World War II in Houston and allot no time at all for war site visiting. All we have is the San Jacinto Battlegrounds, a really important battle in the struggle for Texas independence from Mexico, but of no relevance to World War II. On the other hand, you could not move that same subject meeting to Normandy, France and never allow any time or assistance to conference guests to even take brief personal peeks at the nearby beautiful beaches, could you?

OK, here we go. The first one alone makes my head swim.

At Elysian Fields of Hoboken, New Jersey in the 1840’s, the men who wrote the basic rules of our modern baseball played the game into life.

         1. The Elysian Fields of Hoboken New Jersey. (by Wikipedia)

Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey is believed to be the site of the first organized baseball game, giving Hoboken a strong claim to be the birthplace of baseball.

In 1845, Knickerbocker Club of New York City began using Elysian Fields in Hoboken to play baseball due to the lack of suitable grounds across the Hudson River in Manhattan. On June 19, 1846, the Knickerbockers played the New York nine on these grounds in the first organized game between two clubs; Alexander Cartwright was the umpire. By the 1850s, several Manhattan-based member clubs of the National Association of Base Ball Players were using the grounds as their home field.

In 1856, Elysian Fields was the place that inspired pioneering journalist Henry Chadwick, then a cricket writer for The New York Times, to develop the idea that baseball could be America’s National Pastime. As Chadwick relates:

“I chanced to go through Elysian Fields during the progress of a contest between the noted Eagle and Gotham Clubs. The game was being sharply played on both sides, and I watched it with deeper interest that any previous ball match between clubs I had seen. It was not long before I was struck with the idea that base ball was just the game for a national sport for Americans.”

Chadwick went on to become the game’s preeminent reporter developing baseball’s statistics and scoring system.[3]

In 1859, an international cricket match was held with an All-England Eleven[4] as part of an English tour of North America.

In 1865, the grounds hosted a championship match between the Mutual Club of New York and the Atlantic Club of Brooklyn that was attended by an estimated 20,000 fans and captured in the Currier & Ives lithograph “The American National Game of Base Ball”.

With the construction of two significant baseball parks in Brooklyn enclosed by fences, enabling promoters there to charge admission to games, the prominence of Elysian Fields began to diminish. In 1868, the leading Manhattan club, the New York Mutuals, shifted its home games to the Union Grounds in Brooklyn. In 1880, the founders of the New York Metropolitans and New York Giants finally succeeded in siting a ballpark on Manhattan that became known as the Polo Grounds.

The last recorded professional baseball game at Elysian Fields occurred in 1873. The large parkland area was eventually developed for housing. A small remnant of the park remains bounded on the west by Hudson Street, on the north and east by Frank Sinatra Drive, and on the south by Castle Point Terrace. To the west of Elysian Park at the intersection of 11th and Washington Streets is where the original diamond is thought to have been located. In 2003 a civic improvement organization called the “Hoboken Industry and Business Association” renovated the intersection and placed concrete and bronze “base” monuments in the sidewalk corners at the intersection.[1] A bronze plaque denoting the connection to early baseball was placed in the median strip of 11th Street between first and second bases.[1] The restaurant and music club Maxwell’s front door is adjacent to where third base was located.

In 1865, the grounds hosted a championship match between the Mutual Club of New York and the Atlantic Club of Brooklyn that was attended by an estimated 20,000 fans and captured in the Currier & Ives lithograph “The American National Game of Base Ball”

With the construction of two significant baseball parks in Brooklyn enclosed by fences, enabling promoters there to charge admission to games, the prominence of Elysian Fields began to diminish. In 1868, the leading Manhattan club, the New York Mutuals, shifted its home games to the Union Grounds in Brooklyn. In 1880, the founders of the New York Metropolitans and New York Giants finally succeeded in siting a ballpark on Manhattan that became known as the Polo Grounds.

~ (by Wikipedia) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elysian_Fields,_Hoboken,_New_Jersey

The Union Grounds were one of the first places to carry the expansion of the game forward through the second half of the 19th century.

  2. Union Grounds in Brooklyn. (by Wikipedia)

Union Grounds was a baseball park located in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York. The grounds opened in 1862, its inaugural match being played on May 15.[1] It was the first baseball park enclosed entirely by a fence, thereby allowing proprietor William Cammeyer or his tenant to charge admission. This permitted paying customers to watch the games from benches in a stand while non-paying spectators could only watch from embankments outside the grounds.

The ball grounds was built on a large block bounded by Harrison Avenue, Rutledge Street, Lynch Street, and Marcy Avenue. A writer for the Brooklyn Eagle described the field in 1862:

“The buildings occupied last winter are left standing, used pretty much for the same purposes as them.[sic] Near these a long wooden shed has been erected, capable of accommodating several hundred persons, and benches provided for the convenience of the fair sex… Several acres more have been added to the enclosure, which is fenced in with a board fence six or seven feet in height. On the southeast corner a large and commodious club house has been erected, containing accommodations for three clubs. The field is now almost a perfect level, covering at least some six acres of ground, all of which is well drained, rolled, and in a few weeks will be in splendid condition… Several flagstaffs have been put up, from which floated the banners of the clubs o’er shadowed by the nations’ ensign.”[1]

During its early years Union Grounds was the home field for several ballclubs, notably including the Eckford Club, 1862 and 1863 champions of the National Association of Base Ball Players. In 1868, the Mutual Club of New York moved in from Elysian Fields, Hoboken, New Jersey, long-time home of Manhattan clubs but never enclosed. The ballpark’s entrance was on Rutledge Street, and a one-story building in right field, 350 feet away from home plate, was in play.

After formation of the first professional league, the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players, Union Grounds was home to the Mutual Club from 1871 to 1876 (the only year as a member of the new National League), Eckford of Brooklyn of the National Association in 1872, and the Atlantic Club of Brooklyn of the National Association from 1873 to 1875. It also served as home field for the “Hartford of Brooklyn” team during the 1877 National League season. On July 26, 1878, the final major league game was played on the grounds, with Providence defeating Milwaukee 4-1.[3] The grounds continued to host barnstorming major league clubs, amateur clubs and independent clubs through the 1882 season.[4]

The park did not sit idle during the winter. Its field was flooded and served as the rink for an ice skating club.[5] An unusual feature of the park was the presence of a pagoda in center field.[4]

The Marcy Avenue Armory now occupies the southern half of the site of the Union Grounds.

Union Grounds was demolished in July of 1883.[6] Heyward Street now runs through the site, and as of 2009 the Juan Morel Campos Secondary School stands to the north of Heyward Street and the Marcy Avenue Armory stands to the south of it, with no historical marker or any other indication of the land’s significance to the history of baseball.

Early crowds at baseball games were decidedly male back in the 19th century at the Polo Grounds and elsewhere.

          3. The Original Polo Grounds. (Here’s what writer/broadcaster Greg Lucas said about it as a comment on a recent column we did:

A little closer to (midtown) Manhattan is 111th street. Where it is just north of Central Park (and) was the location of the original Polo Grounds. That ball yard disappeared after the 1888 season because the city wanted to build that street which was to go right through the middle. That ballpark, by the way, has been noted as “the worst ballpark in the history of the game” as former pitcher Jack Lynch was quoted in the book, “Diamonds” (and re-quoted in my book. “Baseball-Its More Than Just a Game.” Why? Because the park, which was actually separated into two fields with one for the American Association was built over a dump. As Lynch put it, “a player may go down for a grounder and come up with six months of malaria!” 

“Not likely any sign of the old ballpark along 111th street now, but also not likely a problem with malaria either!” – by Greg Lucas.

Malaria wasn’t the only thing that was catchable at the Polo Grounds as John McGraw took over as manager of the Giants. From that day forward, it became as easy to catch hell, if you crossed the path of the man’s rage – and there was no such thing as “anger management” back in the day.

         4. The Four Polo Grounds Over Time (by Wikipedia)

The Polo Grounds was the name of three stadiums in Upper Manhattan, New York City, used mainly for professional baseball and American football from 1880 until 1963. The third Polo Grounds, built in 1890 and renovated after a fire in 1911, is the one generally indicated when the Polo Grounds is referenced. It was located in Coogan’s Hollow and was noted for its distinctive bathtub shape, very short distances to the left and right field walls, and an unusually deep center field. As the name suggests, the original Polo Grounds, opened in 1876 and demolished in 1889, was built for the sport of polo. Bounded on the south and north by 110th and 112th Streets and on the east and west by Fifth and Sixth (Lenox) Avenues, just north of Central Park, it was converted to a baseball stadium when leased by the New York Metropolitans in 1880.

In baseball, the original Polo Grounds was home to the New York Metropolitans from 1880 until 1885, and the New York Giants from 1883 until 1888. The Giants played in the second Polo Grounds for part of the 1889 season and all of the 1890 season, and at the third and fourth Polo Grounds from 1891 through 1957. The Polo Grounds was also the home field of the New York Yankees from 1913 until 1922 and the New York Mets in their first two seasons of 1962 and 1963. It hosted the 1934 and 1942 Major League Baseball All-Star Games.

In football, the third Polo Grounds was home to the New York Brickley Giants for one game in 1921 and the New York Giants from 1925 to 1955. The New York Jets of the American Football League played at the stadium from the league’s inaugural season of 1960 through 1963.

~ (By Wikipedia)  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polo_Grounds

The John T. Brush Stairway is a chance to physically touch and use something that was built for baseball fans of the Polo Grounds 104 years ago. Try not to miss it.

          4 a. The John T. Brush Stairway (to the Polo Grounds)

The John T. Brush Stairway opened on April 9, 1913 as a stairway built to meet to meet the access needs of fans descending from the landscape heights of Coogan’s Bluff into the Polo Grounds that nestled in the urban valley beneath, and far away from all easy reach by New York highlanders. It had been dedicated by name to the recently deceased owner of the New York Giants, John T. Brush, who died in 1911. After serving as a useful transporter of people far beyond the 1964 demolition of the last Polo Grounds structure, it finally was shut down in the early 21st century as safety hazard, but then again restored in 2015 to its original pristine condition and reopened for usage. It is a living artifact of Polo Grounds history. To come to New York and miss it in exchange for time spent at the convention hotel viewing a power point presentation would be a sad occurrence to say the least. At least, give the people a choice to pursue the places which feed the passion blood of their love for the game of baseball. Some opportunities, like precious time in Manhattan, are a once in a lifetime opportunity for many people.

Here’s the link to our Pecan Park Eagle column of two days ago on the Brush Stairway. If you want more, simply Google the full Stairway name and watch the narrative fallout shower you have invited.

Pecan Park Eagle story link … https://bill37mccurdy.com/2017/03/28/a-tip-for-sabr-2017-manhattan-attendees/

Hill Top Park.
New York City

          5. Hilltop Park. (By Wikipedia)

Hilltop Park was the nickname of a baseball park that stood in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City. It was the home of the New York Yankees Major League Baseball club from 1903 to 1912, when they were known as the “Highlanders”. It was also the temporary home of the New York Giants during a two-month period in 1911 while the Polo Grounds was being rebuilt after a fire.

The ballpark’s formal name (as painted on its exterior walls) was American League Park. Because the park was located on top of a ridge of Manhattan Island, it came to be known as Hilltop Park, and its team was most often called the New York Highlanders (as well as the Americans and the Yankees). This “Highland” connection contrasted with their intra-city rivals, the Giants, whose Polo Grounds was just a few blocks away, in the bottomland under Coogan’s Bluff.

Hilltop Park sat on the block bounded by Broadway, 165th Street, Fort Washington Avenue, and 168th Street. The structure consisted of a covered grandstand stretching from first base to third base and uncovered bleacher sections down the right and left field lines. The bleachers were covered in 1911, and additional bleachers were built in 1912 in center field. Originally built in just six weeks, the park sat 16,000, with standing room for an additional 10,000 or so.

The field was initially huge by modern standards — 365 ft (111 m) to left field, 542 ft (165 m) to center field and 400 ft (120 m) to right field. An inner fence was soon constructed to create more realistic action.[2] Both the park and the nickname “Highlanders” were abandoned when the American Leaguers left, at the beginning of the 1913 season, to rent the Polo Grounds from the Giants. The Polo Grounds had a far larger seating capacity, and by that time was made of concrete due to the 1911 fire. Hilltop Park was demolished in 1914.

~  (By Wikipedia)  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hilltop_Park

Yankee Stadium, 1923, looked more like the lower structure above by the mid-1930s. The upper park across the river is the nearby Polo Grounds.

6. The Original Yankee Stadium, 1923. (By Wikipedia)

Yankee Stadium was a stadium located in the Bronx, a borough of New York City. It was the home ballpark of the New York Yankees, one of the city’s Major League Baseball (MLB) franchises, from 1923 to 1973 and then from 1976 to 2008. The stadium hosted 6,581 Yankees regular season home games during its 85-year history. It was also the former home of the New York Giants football team from 1956 through the first part of the 1973–74 football season. The stadium’s nickname, “The House That Ruth Built”,[3] is derived from Babe Ruth, the baseball superstar whose prime years coincided with the stadium’s opening and the beginning of the Yankees’ winning history. It has also been known as “The Big Ballpark in The Bronx”, “The Stadium”, and “The Cathedral of Baseball”.

The stadium was built from 1922 to 1923 for $2.4 million ($33.9 million in 2016 dollars). The stadium’s construction was paid for entirely by Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert, who was eager to have his own stadium after sharing the Polo Grounds with the New York Giants baseball team the previous 10 years. Yankee Stadium opened for the 1923 MLB season and at the time, it was hailed as a one-of-a-kind facility in the country for its size. Over the course of its history, it became one of the most famous venues in the United States, having hosted a variety of events and historic moments during its existence. While many of these moments were baseball-related—including World Series games, no-hitters, perfect games and historic home runs—the stadium also hosted boxing matches, concerts, Jehovah’s Witnesses conventions (see record attendance) and three Papal Masses. The stadium went through many alterations and playing surface configurations over the years. The condition of the facility worsened in the 1960s and 1970s, prompting its closing for renovation from 1974 to 1975. The renovation significantly altered the appearance of the venue and reduced the distance of the outfield fences.

~  (By Wikipedia) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yankee_Stadium_(1923)

What makes this view of Ebbets Field so complete is the crowd of people walking in – many from their own front doors in the same neighborhood. Ah yes! – Ebbets Field was the real “People’s Cherce!”

           7. Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. (By Wikipedia)

Ebbets Field was a Major League Baseball stadium in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, New York City. It is known mainly as the home of the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team of the National League, from 1913 to 1957, but was also home to three National Football League teams in the 1920s.

Ebbets Field was demolished in 1960 and replaced by apartment buildings.

Ebbets Field was bounded by Bedford Avenue on the east, Sullivan Place on the South, Cedar Street (renamed McKeever Place in 1932[8]) on the west, and Montgomery Street on the north. After locating the prospective new site to build a permanent stadium to replace the old, wooden Washington Park, Dodgers’ owner Charles Ebbets acquired the property over several years, starting in 1908, by buying lots until he owned the entire block. The land included the site of a garbage dump called Pigtown, because of the pigs that once ate their fill there and the stench that filled the air. Even at the groundbreaking, the site was described as containing several old houses, shanties, goats, and tomato cans, and although the streets bordering the field were mapped, two of them had not been built yet. Construction began on March 4, 1912,[2] and the cornerstone, a piece of Connecticut granite that held newspapers, pictures of baseball players, cards, telegrams, and almanacs was laid on July 6, 1912.

~ (By Wikipedia) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebbets_Field

One small, faded plaque marks the former site of home base. – I cannot recall where I read that, but I am assured it’s true. The physical sight of the place is now all but totally removed, but, if you Google around those two words, you will find that people’s love and and memories of the place are still alive and dancing on that string of life we all call “hope.”

Gotta be Washington Park in Brooklyn. They’ve even put their name above the front entry way.

          8. Washington Park. (A name popular enough for three 19th century ballparks in Brooklyn). (By Wikipedia)

Washington Park was the name given to three major league Baseball parks on two different sites in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, located at Third Street and Fourth Avenue. The first two sites were diagonally opposite each other at that intersection. The third site was the same as the second site.

~ (By Wikipedia) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_Park_(baseball)

Shea Stadium
Flushing Meadows NY
A picture that raises thaat never answered question: “Did they really need to tear down this place and and sack the public coffers to build another one?”

         9. Shea Stadium. Flushing Meadow (By Wikipedia)

Shea Stadium (formally known as William A. Shea Municipal Stadium) /ˈʃ/) was a stadium in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, Queens, New York City.[6] Built as a multi-purpose stadium, it was the home park of Major League Baseball‘s New York Mets from 1964 to 2008, as well as the New York Jets football team from 1964 to 1983.

Shea Stadium was named in honor of William A. Shea, the man who was most responsible for bringing National League baseball back to New York. It was demolished in 2009 to create additional parking for the adjacent Citi Field, the current home of the Mets.

~ (By Wikipedia)  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shea_Stadium

Citi Field
Flushing Meadows, NY

10. Citi Field. Flushing Meadow  (By Wikipedia)

Citi Field is a stadium located in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park in the New York City borough of Queens. Completed in 2009, it is the home baseball park of Major League Baseball‘s New York Mets. Citi Field was built as a replacement for the formerly adjacent Shea Stadium, which opened in 1964 next to the site of the 1964–1965 World’s Fair. Citi Field was designed by Populous (then HOK Sport), and is named after Citigroup, a New York financial services company which purchased the naming rights. The $850 million baseball park was funded with $615 million in public subsidies,[8] including the sale of New York City municipal bonds which are to be repaid by the Mets plus interest. The payments will offset property taxes for the lifetime of the park.[9][10] The Mets are receiving $20 million annually from Citibank in exchange for naming the stadium Citi Field. The entire public cost is being borne by city and state taxpayers in New York.

~ (By Wikipedia)  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citi_Field

The New Yankees Stadium
Bronx, NY
2009

11. The New Yankee Stadium, 2009 (By Wikipedia).

Yankee Stadium is a stadium located in the Bronx, a borough of New York City. It serves as the home ballpark for the New York Yankees of Major League Baseball (MLB). The $2.3 billion stadium, built with $1.2 billion in public subsidies,[13] replaced the original Yankee Stadium in 2009. It is one block north of the original, on the 24-acre former site of Macombs Dam Park; the 8-acre site of the original stadium is now a public park called Heritage Field. The stadium incorporates replicas of some design elements from the original Yankee Stadium and like its predecessor it has hosted additional events, including college football games, soccer matches, and concerts. Although Yankee Stadium’s construction began in August 2006, the project spanned many years and faced many controversies, including the high public cost and the loss of public parkland. The overall price tag makes the new Yankee Stadium the most expensive stadium ever built.[17]It is also the home park for New York City FC of Major League Soccer (MLS).

~ (By Wikipedia)  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yankee_Stadium

____________________


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds

March 29, 2017

Polo Grounds (Upper)
Yankee Stadium (Lower)
So Close Together in Space;
So Far Away from Each other in Results.

Although most of you know about it, maybe some of you are also like me. Having not grown up around the Polo Grounds and the original Yankee Stadium, and even though I have enough age to me that I could have been a regular ticket buying customer of both places in my youth, that absence of direct contact with either venue was never offset by the reading I had done on each place during and after the physical disappearance of both places as a close physical pairing. That potential perspective was destroyed in 1964 when the old Polo Grounds was demolished as an entity, save for the John T. Brush Stairway that lived on as a change-of-purpose pedestrian travel path for residents of the immediate neighborhood.

It wasn’t until I started looking at photos that contained both ballparks as the shared content that it really came home to me how close these two great icons of the game really were to each other. The featured photo that mastheads this column is probably the best I’ve ever seen for showing how close these two physical space neighbors actually were.

In a photo that appears to have been taken in either the late 1920s or early 1930s, that’s the original Yankee Stadium on the southeast side Bronx side of the Harlem River and the Polo Grounds on the northeast Upper Manhattan side of the same water channel.

After years of cohabitation as tenants of the NL Giants at the Polo Grounds, the growing tensions between the Al Yankees and their landlord hosts got the break they both needed when the latter club moved to their new 58,000 seat edifice in 1923. Babe Ruth would get credit early for the first home run ever hit in Yankee Stadium and he did it in the very first regular season game ever played on the new Bronx field. Leave it to future Hall of Fame Yankee Manager Casey Stengel, however, to bite a little of Babe’s thunder in the World Series meeting between the two clubs in that first 1923 Yankee Stadium season. As an all out hustling outfielder and premier character player for the Giants at that time, Stengel would bang out an inside the park round tripper in the 9th inning of Game 1 to capture both the game, 5-4, and to register his name in the books as the man to hit the first World Series homer at the new 1923 park. The Yankees would take their first World Series title in that maiden voyage year in “The House That Ruth Built.” As we all know now, the Yankees were just getting started as the greatest championship dynasty team in the history of all American club sports.

Stuff happens. In the 20th century, however,  if we’re talking about long-term championship runs, stuff mainly happened in the Bronx. And not so much at the nearby park across the river at Coogan’s Bluff.

____________________


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

A Tip for SABR 2017 Manhattan Attendees

March 28, 2017

The Ravages of Time
Upon
The John T. Brush Stairway

When the John T. Brush, the owner of the New York Giants, died in 1912, the club wanted to memorialize his importance to the successful foundation of National League baseball in Harlem. So they chose a most practical way to do it. From the high above street level approach on Coogan’s Bluff to the down below  Polo Grounds, the Giants built a sturdy and useful stairway from the street, down the slope, all the way from the famous Coogan’s Bluff to the even more renowned venue that we shall remember forever as the Polo Grounds – the iconic home of so many major moments, but certainly none bigger than Bobby Thomson’s 1951 “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” – or “The Catch” by Willie Mays in the 1954 World Series.

The John T. Brush Stairway was completed and put into service on April 9, 1913. The construction included a dedicatory plaque at a landing about halfway down the meandering path to it’s Polo Grounds destination. It read as follows: “The John T. Brush Stairway Donated by The New York Giants” and it remained in it’s place beyond the day in 1964 that that Polo Grounds was demolished. The Stairway – and its ancient pledge of dedication remained in place, even if they were not protected from the further ravages of time, to survive as a continuing line of service to those New Yorkers with newer Point A to Point B travel assistance uptown.

The stairway’s route is circled in red a the center top of this photo.

By the early 21st century, the stairway had to be shut down as a hazard to public health. The last physical connection the physical life of the once-upon-a-time New York Giants was about to fall off the face of the earth, starting with a vandal-raided and time-razed slide down Coogan’s Bluff.

Lighter spirits among the baseball gods finally awoke. By 2011, a plan had been approved to rehabilitate the still potentially useful people movement value it offered on top of its historical significance. By 2015, the John T. Brush Stairway was reopened in penny-shined shape – complete with a Class  AAA restoration of its original dedication stone of tribute to the New York Giants.

http://m.mlb.com/news/article/135771510/stairway-commemorates-ny-polo-grounds/

It is a not a journey for the short of breath.

If I were twenty years younger and planning to attend SABR 47 this summer, this attractive stairway would be on my list as the only “must see” physical presence in Manhattan. Those of you who know of my keen interest in the possibility of time warp travel are aware of my (wink! wink!) theory that the requisite wormhole we would need to physically travel back in time is likely to be attracted by affinity to places like the John T. Brush Stairway. All it might need to ignition that transcendence could be the approach of someone who both believed in and desired such a trip back in time. One moment you are walking down the stairs. The next moment you are vanishing from view of any other nearby staircase walkers. When you turn around, there’s nothing to see but the bank of trees and huge rocks sloping down the hill from Coogan’s Bluff.

The dedication plaque was rehabilitated.

Of course there’s no stairway to Coogan’s Bluff. You’ve traveled back to 1908. As you turn back to face the entry gates of the Polo Grounds, you buy a paper from the kid in knickers selling them. The date on the paper is September 23, 1908. The Giants are playing the Chicago Cubs today. The two clubs are tied for first.

And suddenly it’s not generic “you” facing the Polo Grounds jewel. It’s me. This is my first person experience. I am blown away by all the different era sights, sounds, and smells that tell me loud and clear. – You’ve finally done it. This is not your time zone. You may never see home again, but that’s OK for now. – For now, I don’t care if I ever get back.

I hear one of two men in trim brown wool suits and matching derbies talking excitedly as they pass me on their way to the stadium turnstiles. One sport notes to his buddy that today’s game should be “quite exciting.” People are streaming in fast all around me. I’ve got to get my ticket quickly.

Did he really say “quite exciting?”

You bet it’s going to be quite exciting today, gentlemen,” I think to myself with a smiling mind that now has no time even to marvel that I finally got here in the first place, after so many years of ardent wishfulness. “Exciting, New York? – This is going to be the day that young Mr. Fred Merkle gives you all something to ponder for the rest of your lives. And I’m going to do my best to keep track of what really happens to the real official game ball when the time comes!”

The John T. Brush Stairway
As it looks today in 2017.

Anyway, again speaking to all of you baseball fans back in 2017, go check out the John T. Brush Stairway the next time you’re in Manhattan. It’s important to history, even if you haven’t been afflicted with an almost psychotic romance with the writings of H.G. Wells, among others, since childhood.

____________________

Thank you Darrell Pittman for the references on John T. Brush that led me to this topic for today’s column. If I ever do figure a way to time travel back into some ancient field manager job, you’ve got to go with me as my bench coach. The honor would be mine. And if Susan wants to come with you, she can be a bench coach too. You guys are simple great people to be around.

____________________


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

What We Don’t Want to See….

March 26, 2017

What We Don’t Want to See…. as the Result of

Our New Shorter CF Porch at Minute Maid Park ~

 

 

 

____________________


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

Quentin Mease: A Modern Houston Founder

March 25, 2017

QUENTIN MEASE
Born: October 25, 1908
Died: February 24, 2009
A Modern Houston Founder

As important as Sam Houston was to the act of establishing the ground we needed to start the city that adopted his name, there’s someone else who deserves the credit for leading our beautiful city out of bondage to segregation in the early 1960’s. Had it not been for the late Quentin Mease, Houston would not be the city of opportunity and diversity it has become in 2017. The man’s as deserving of a bronze statue downtown or in Hermann Park every bit as much as General Sam – and he won’t need a high horse to stand tall. All he will need is a broader public awareness to the sensitive and effective ways he engineered the smooth end of all segregation policies in Houston (between 1960-1962) in time for the coming of major league baseball – and in response to his accurate reading of the then all-white power structure at the local government and business community level that they too wanted a smooth transition for Houston – and no part of the race wars that had exploded in a few other major American cities from blind racist resistance.

By 1960, two factors stood in the way of exponential growth in Houston. One was weather, the heat and humidity of the city’s seven-month summers, and the other was racial segregation. Houston was not going to become a big time international city with little relief from the heat and humidity – nor was the stench of racial segregation going to attract a crowd from any sub-group except that bunch that prefers white bed sheets for everyday dress.

Iowa-born Quentin Mease, then age 52, understood the importance of these conditions in 1960. His natural intuition and broad education had prepared him for the moment. Growing up as the son of an Iowa coal miner. Mease served in the army during World War II, rising in the ranks to Captain by the time of his post-war discharge from action in the Pacific war theater. He returned to school, earning a master’s in social work administration from George Williams College in Chicago. Upon graduation, he accepted a job as executive director of the Bagby Street YMCA in Houston, Texas. There, he launched a successful building campaign for a new facility, which became the South Central YMCA. As leader of the new YMCA, Mease founded the Houston Area Urban League, the Eliza Johnson Home, and the Houston Council on Human Relations. These institutions led to the peaceful desegregation of Houston’s public facilities.

Enter the spirit of Jackie Robinson.

By early 1960, Mease knew that Houston was sitting on the brink of getting an MLB franchise. He also figured that big MLB stars like Willie Mays and Hank Aaron would not react too kindly to the notions of segregation in a city that had declared itself ready for big league baseball. He also knew that the white-owned  business establishment did not want any violence, bad publicity, or loss of sales from resistance to integration in grocery and department stores, movie theaters, or restaurants. The legacy of Jackie Robinson was in flow – even in the heart of another southern city. Breaking the color line was never about the baseball game alone. It was about how we live our lives. Period.

Quentin Mease understood something else. It was something he had to have diagnosed from his everyday contact with the white people of Houston. White Houstonians, by and large, were not racists. They simply had little to no daily contact with black Houstonians 0ver their entire lifetimes due to the vast geographical area that covered the city’s physical reach. It has always been possible to grow up in Houston and only meet the people who live, work, and shop in your particular area. So, in effect, segregation in Houston was largely form – and not something bubbling in a cauldron of hate. And that was a big realization for someone who had not actually grown up here.

Mease lent his mentoring assistance to TSU student Eldrewey Stearns and 13 classmates as they staged their first lunch counter service sit in at Weingarten’s grocery store on March 4, 1960. Weingarten’s responded by quietly closing down lunch counter service.

The next day, March 5, 1960, the students tried the same sit in approach at a nearby Mading’s Drug Store. They got the same treatment. A quiet shutdown of lunch counter service to all.

Before the students could upgrade their plans to take these protests downtown to major businesses, Quentin Mease made sure the right people downtown got the word about what was coming. He both wanted and expected the power structure to have the chance for their own participation in positive change.

Mease got what he hoped for, indeed.

Hobart Black, a black entrepreneur; Bob Dundas, vice-president and head of publicity for Foley’s Department Store; and John T. Jones, publisher of the Houston Chronicle all got together for a plan they proposed to all downtown stores:

Integrate quickly and in unison!

Dundas also got all local radio/tv and print media to …

totally ignore all coverage of the move to total integration for a solid week.

And it worked! In a week’s time, the major resistances to full integration in Houston simply melted away to change. Major places of commerce had been peacefully integrated. Oh sure, there were odds-and-ends redneck hold out businesses in the hinterlands that may have resisted, but they didn’t last long against the tide of permanent gains established by what Dundas always referenced as “The Blackout!”

Quentin Mease got it right, all the way down the line. And because he got it right, Mease helped Houston get it right in a way that spread and shared the credit for getting rid of the ugly flesh of racism that was obvious public discrimination and segregation based upon the color of one’s skin.

Someday, when the City of Houston builds that statue of Quentin Mease, which they really should, they also need to include the names of the people mentioned here and all others, black, white, Hispanic, or Asian who helped end segregation in our city, but let’s don’t over-politic the identity of that public symbol of honor and thanks.

The face on that statue belongs to Quentin Mease.

Quentin Mease passed away in 2009 at the age of 100. The Quentin Mease Community Hospital, 3601 North MacGregor Way, Houston, TX 77004 is named in his honor.

Rest in Peace, Quentin Mease. And thanks for all you did for the City of Houston. We would not be the city we are today without you.

____________________

Footnote on Bob Dundas: Earlier in his career, Foley’s executive Bob Dundas was an announcer and local program host for KPRC-TV in Houston. As a kid, Dundas became a favorite of mine when he hosted “Seems Like Yesterday”, a local program on historical events of the earlier 20th century. His stories always concluded with Dundas using this scripted line, adapted to time and event in this form:

“It’s now been 13 years since the Hindenburg burned to the ground upon landing at a base near Manchester, New Jersey, but it Seems … Like … Yesterday!” 

____________________


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

NEW MMP CF FACE NOW IN PLACE

March 24, 2017

 

 

THE NEW DEEP DISTANCE TO CF AT MMP IS 409 FEET.

 

Opening Day 2017 is Now Only 10 Days Away.

 

CF is no longer the sweeping symmetry that was Tal’s Hill.
Now it simply is what it is everywhere else.- It’s CF.

 

Thanks to Darrell Pittman for forwarding us this Twitter pictorial of the new center field look at Minute Maid Park. It’s not bad, in a patchworky, hodge-podge sort of way. And it may even grow on us in time. But let’s see how the shorter fence distances alter the pitching challenge at the old ballpark before we break into  song.

As for the artistic comparisons with the prior elegance in symmetry that was Tal’s Hill, we also will try real hard to keep in mind the fact that Minute Maid Park is a commercial enterprise baseball venue, and not an art gallery. Given the gargantuan expense of operating an MLB team, the Astros have both the need and the right to style the ballpark in the most productive revenue stream ways they are able to discern. As long as they stay away from the NASCAR advertising approach to uniforms – or selling super fan space to million dollar per season donors who want to suit up and sit in the dugout with the team during games – we will do our most to make the best of the collateral damage to art and architecture that already has occurred to our home park in Houston.

~ The Pecan Park Eagle

____________________


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

March 1966: Writers Review Astroturf

March 23, 2017

 

Going into the second baseball season at the Astrodome, the Houston Astros were busy installing the new Chemstrand artificial turf from Monsanto in the infield of new Domed Stadium. John Lyons, the writer of the following article of Wednesday, March 23, 1966, for the Victoria Advocate was one of 200 scribes that came to the Astrodome by invitation from Judge Roy Hofheinz the previous week to see the turf solution that the club had come up with to solve the need for a surface that played well indoors and stayed green with no help from sunlight. Naturally, Judge Hofheinz felt that “AstroTurf” was a perfect fit name. And who could argue? “The Astros will now play baseball in the Astrodome on an infield covered with Astroturf” simply had a surefire thematic ring to it. And whose going to disagree with the genius of Judge Roy Hofheinz when practically everyone who might not care for the name had a paycheck riding on the outcome?

Besides. The name of the turf was just no BFD (Big Funny Deal).

Thanks to this wonderful research find by Darrell Pittman, here’s how the writer from the Victoria Advocate covered the occasion:

____________________

Victoria Advocate, March 23, 1966

Writers Visit Astrodome

More than 200 baseball writers, radio and television figures were guests of the Houston Baseball Club in the Domed Stadium last week.

They were invited to come and watch the baseball game between the Astros and the World Champion Los Angeles Dodgers, the first games ever played on synthetic grass.

They listened to an explanation about the great potential of this infield covering, then were invited to come on the field and see for themselves. At the same time, the writers had the opportunity of chatting with players and getting their reactions.

It was a fine trip and the writers were treated royally by the Houston Baseball Club.

* * * *

As one enters the Domed Stadium, the bright green infield that is known as the Astroturf, a name given by Roy Hofheinz, head of the Houston Baseball operations, really stuns an observer. It immediately reminds one of a billiard table because of the bright green color.

Later, when one steps on it, it is just like walking on a thick carpet. At first it causes one to wonder if maybe tennis shoes might be more appropriate than then baseball spiked shoes but that was ruled out when a player showed why. The infield ‘gives’ slightly, like you would expect of a carpet and the spikes are needed for a secure footing.

It looked so pretty that some of the writers wiped off their shoes before stepping on the green and one fellow, who was walking on it, was looking around for an ashtray. It looked too bright and clean to sprinkle ashes on it.

Someone asked Nellie Fox, a Houston coach and one of the game’s most prolific chewers, how this innovation would affect tobacco chewers. Nellie appeared surprised and answered, “Gosh, I hadn’t thought about that. It may have an effect at that.”

Astroturf in Experimental Stage

The Astroturf actually is an experiment and whether it will be a great success or a failure remains to be seen. A person just can’t look at something like this and immediately give a definite opinion. If he does, it shows he is not  studying  it closely or he is posing as an expert too quickly.

Even the officials of the Chemstrand Co., division of Monsanto Co., the developers of the Astroturf don’t say for an absolute certainty that this pretty carpet will answer all the problems to a Domed Stadium infield. But they have made a close survey on their subject and they have confidence that it will. And if there are just a few flaws, then they can be remedied.

Most of the observers over the past week end seemed to think that the green carpet was too fast, that hard hit baseballs would shoot at and by the infielders at a terrific clip. Some thought it would be dangerous to the fielders.

* * * *

The foundation, of course, controls the speed of the infield. Judge Hofheinz, himself, conceded that a sand base would provide more softness under the carpet than the dirt base now in use.

He said that the ground would be watered three times more than in the past to help keep the infield from being too hard.

Some of the infielders, like Jim Lefebvre of the Dodgers and Bob Aspromonte of the Astros, declared the bounce of the ball was true on the Astroturf but declared there could be trouble in fielding the ball after it comes off the carpet to the dirt. The ball takes a different spin then, they declared.

It was the general opinion among all of the infielders interviewed that fielding a ground ball on the Astroturf was not as difficult as picking it up after it hit the dirt part of the infield. Hofheinz declares that this problem can be adjusted. He explained that “We just got the fat stock show and rodeo here. We had four inches of topsoil for the rodeo, six inches for the bullfights that were here. We just haven’t had the time to get it fixed.”

The outfield, which was sodded just in the early part of last week with grass from the ball club’s own turf farm, was dyed green to disguise its patched condition.

It is Hofheinz’s plan to lay the Astroturf all over the outfield too.

Officials of the Chemstrand Co. said that the price this synthetic field is $2 a square foot. A satisfactory answer was never given when a question was asked how much the total outlay would cost the Houston team.

A few writers seem to have the opinion that it would cost the Houston National League team very little, if any. Houston is being used as an experiment for this innovation. Also, Hofheinz has taken the privilege of naming the carpet Astroturf and this certainly puts a label on it.

____________________

Remembering Our Mickey. Of course, it remained the province of Houston Post writer Mickey Herkowitz to pen the line about this tour that remains the most entertaining and memorable comment upon the occasion. As Astrodome people were explaining, as part of the installation was happening that day, how the AstroTurf infield was being installed by small sections that zipped into place with each other, Herskowitz must have smiled as he listened.

Hours later, Mickey Herskowitz wrote this iconic line: “Now Houston has the only infield in the big leagues with its own built-in, infield fly.”

____________________


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

A Tribute to the Larry Miggins Family

March 22, 2017

Larry and Kathleen Miggins

 

We have Tony Cavender to thank for this beautiful tribute by Helen Sage Perry to the Larry and Kathleen Miggins family in Houston. The Pecan Park  Eagle tried to publish it on St. Patrick’s Day, but some extant issues in the communication linkage between my computer. scanner, and Internet usage converter got in the way.  Faced with that dilemma, your esteemed Eagle editor did what all “geek-less”  digital outfits do under the circumstances. We were stopped dead in the road of progress by the killer of all favorable movement. Ignorance had struck again.

Fortunately, Mr. Cavender saved the day for a belated St. Paddy’s publication. He brought me a hard card of the open-page piece to our Monday night SABR meeting that I was able to scan and divide  into what appears to be two readable columns of the whole story.

Enjoy the article. And thanks again for your your twice extended opportunity here, Tony Cavender. The rest of us, including all of Larry Miggins’s friends in the Houston baseball community, are in for a real treat.

~ Bill McCurdy, Editor, The Pecan Park Eagle Press

____________________

 

 

___________


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas