Posts Tagged ‘Baseball’

Barker Red Sox Spank Houston Babies, 10-3

June 12, 2016

 

On Friday, June 10, 2016, the Bark Red Sox defeated the Houston Babies, 10-3, in a game of vintage baseball played at Constellation Field in Sugar Land prior to the regulation professional game of the Sugar Land Skeeters at the city's Constellation Field. A good time was had by all.

On Friday, June 10, 2016, the Bark Red Sox defeated the Houston Babies, 10-3, in a game of vintage base ball played prior to the regulation professional game of the Sugar Land Skeeters at that city’s Constellation Field. A good time was had by all. (Well, at least for the Barker Red Sox, that turned out to be totally true.) ūüôā

Bob Dorrill

Bob Dorrill

 A Marvelous Day for Vintage Base Ball

By Bob Dorrill, Houston Babies Manager and Special Correspondent Writer for The Pecan Park Eagle.
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It was a marvelous day for baseball in Sugar Land, Texas where the Houston Babies and the Barker Red Sox met at Constellation Field, the home of the Sugar Land Skeeters for their second classic vintage baseball game of the season.
Last year, on June 12, 2015, the Houston Babies and the Katy Combine played the first in what we hope will be an annual vintage game at beautiful Constellation Field. Today's June 10, 2016 event was Vintage Annual Big Venue Game # 2.

Last year, on June 12, 2015, the Houston Babies and the Katy Combine played at beautiful Constellation Field. Our Friday, June 10, 2016 event extends the annual tradition.

Both teams enjoyed the outstanding facilities and hospitality of the local professional team. The grounds were in superior shape and there was plenty of water and Gatorade for the thirsty participants in the 95 degree weather.
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Alex Schmelter, Alex Hajduk, Jim Markin ~ Youthful Houston Babies!

Alex Schmelter, Alex Hajduk, Jim Odasz
~ Youthful Houston Babies!

It was Turn Back the Clock Night at Constellation Field and while both vintage teams wore uniforms of the day, so too did the Skeeters who featured a uniform with “Imperial” across¬†their chests modeled after¬†the local team of years gone by.¬†
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Phil Holland and Greg Moore ~ Highly Seasoned Houston Babies.

Bob Stevens, Phil Holland and Greg Moore
~ Highly Seasoned Houston Babies.

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Pina-Odasz-Hajduk
Robert Pina, Jim Odasz, and Starting Pitcher Larry Hajduk
(More Seasoning!)
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A nice crowd showed up at 5:00 PM to see the early game and watched both teams battle for 4 innings in a closely contested contest. In the 5th inning, however,  the Babies brought in their ace reliever whose pitches were to the Red Sox liking, and along with a few fielding problems, the visitors scored 7 runs to break the game wide open. Due to time limitations the score ended 10-3 for the Barker nine in a 6 inning contest.
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Mark Rowan ~ Of course, he needs his late afternoon rest. He's a "Baby"!

Mark Rowan
~ Of course, he needs his late afternoon rest. He’s a “Baby”!

Matt (One Eye) Grantham and Mike (Bam Bam) Hayes led the Red Sox with 3 hits each and scored 3 and 2 runs respectively. Hurling for team of knicknames were Jon (Woody) Woodard and Adam (Doc) Alligood. Congratulations to Bob (Chowder) Copus who managed this fine group.
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Marc Hudec (as in) "Who dat sayin' Hajduk when you mean Hudec?"

Marc Hudec (as in)
“Who dat sayin’ Hajduk when they mean Hudec?”

The¬†Babies¬†were led by newcomer Jim¬†O’Dasz with 3 hits and hurler Larry Hadjuk who had a quality start. A highlight in the field was¬†a¬†spectacular backward falling summersault catch by third baseman Greg Moore. While we won’t name the pitcher who gave up the 7 runs in one inning we will say that he is keen observer of baseball on a daily basis.¬†¬†
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 Alex Hajduk  "And - back at you - who dat callin' Hudec when they mean Hajduk?"


Alex Hajduk
“And – back at you – who dat callin’ Hudec when they mean Hajduk?”

All 15 Babies and 10 Red Sox got to play in this wonderful atmosphere and we look forward to returning to Constellation Field next year for the 4th consecutive year.  
 

~ Bob Dorrill, Special Correspondent, The Pecan Park Eagle

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thompson-photo

The End of a Perfect Day. The above story featured a beautiful photo of both teams (taken by Babies player Joe Thompson) that provides us also with a perfect reflection on the remarkable spirit of this vintage base ball movement in Houston. Playing “base ball” by 1860 rules, in 19th century attire, and with bats and balls from that early era ‚Äď and with no gloves in use to help catch the ball ‚Äď and with a few other delightful little changes in the rules from today, vintage base ball is about the closest game we adult fans of the diamond will ever hope to find of our earlier life kid times on the sandlots of America.

That same old joy didn‚Äôt die when we “grew up”. It lives again. Through vintage base ball.

Come join us. Find out for yourself. The joy never died. We simply left it in the attic, with all of our other childhood toys and dreams.

~ The Pecan Park Eagle.

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Editorial Note: Thank you, Bob Dorrill, for that wonderful summary with pictures. The Pecan Park Eagle also wants to extend our appreciation to the Sugar Land Skeeters for their support of vintage base ball in the Houston area. If any of you readers care to join the fun by forming your own vintage base ball club, or if you might be interested in joining our Larry Dierker Chapter of SABR (The Society for American Baseball Research)¬† please contact our Bob Dorrill for assistance on information on how to to get started with either goal. We are dedicated to the joy of life and you will be under no pressure to join anything, do anything, or pay anything. SABR and vintage ball are separate non-profit entities – and you most certainly can have one without the other. We are 100% about the pursuit of passion for baseball as an ingredient to both leisure and a more enjoyable life – but only for those of who want it. We are not about profits, sales, or conversions. Simply the joy of shared enjoyment of baseball with others who also share our fire for preserving one of the truly American inventions is the biggest blanket we can find to cover all we engage. ~ Bob Dorrill can be reached by e-mail at ….>¬† bdorrill@aol.com

~ The Pecan Park Eagle

 

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eagle-0range
Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

Reprise of The Pecan Park Eagle

July 9, 2012

“In our sun-down perambulations, of late, through the outer parts of Brooklyn, we have observed several parties of youngsters playing ‘base’, a certain game of ball. – Let us go forth awhile, and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our close rooms – .the game of ball is glorious.” … by Walt Whitman, excepted from the July 23, 1846 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

 

The resurrection of my personal love of the game of baseball dates back to the summer of 1993, the 4th of July, to be exact. My eight-year old son Neal and I had walked from home to an abandoned school yard that then existed near our house to bat and throw the ball around for an hour in the late morning light. It was beautiful. The visual wisp of purple wild flowers sprouting everywhere still covers the canvas of my memory of the baseball sounds and cries of childhood delight that filled air the kind of summer fun that used to pepper the sandlot days of my own early times in Pecan Park over in the Houston east end. I held on to that feeling that I once feared had been lost forever. My only son had come along late, but just in time to help me find it again on this new and nearby field of dreams.

On the walk home, I spied what appeared to be an old baseball in the tall weeds. It turned out be only the cover of an old ball that had been tightly ensnared in the wild overgrowth some time in the past. Still, I pulled it free and carried it home with me.

“What are you going to do with that old thing, Daddy?” Neal asked.

“I have no idea,” I answered.

When we got home, I placed the ancient baseball cover on the kitchen table and sat down with it and my writing notebook. In ten minutes time, “The Pecan Park Eagle” had written itself. As the “writer,” I was only the cardiovascular vessel that carried the rushing blood of its own life. In time, of course, it became the signature reason behind the name ¬†and purpose of this blog column. So, I drag it out every now and then, usually around July 4th, for those who have never seen it before.

Have a nice week, everybody – and keep your spirits soaring high.

 

The Pecan Park Eagle By Bill McCurdy (1993)

 

Ode To An Old Baseball Cover I Found While

Playing Catch with My 8-Year Old Son Neal

In An Abandoned School Yard.

 

 

Tattered friend, I found you again,

Laying flat in a field of yesterday’s hope.

Your resting place? An abandoned schoolyard.

When parents move away, the children go too.

 

How long have you been here,

Strangling in the entanglement of your grassy grave,

Bleaching your brown-ness in the summer sun,

Freezing your frailness in the ice of winter?

 

How long, old friend, how long?

 

Your magical essence exploded from you long ago.

God only knows when.

Perhaps, it was the result of one last grand slam.

 

One last grand slam, a solitary cherishment,

Now remembered only by the doer of that distant past deed.

Only the executioner long remembers the little triumphs.

The rest of the world never knows, or else, soon forgets.

 

I recovered you today from your ancient tomb,

From your place near the crunching sound of my footsteps.

I pulled you from your enmeshment in the dying July grass,

And I wanted to take you home with me.

 

Oh, would that the warm winds of spring might call us,

One more time, awakening our souls in green renewal

To that visceral awareness of hope and possibility.

 

To soar once more in spirit, like the Pecan Park Eagle,

High above the billowing clouds of a summer morning,

In flight destiny – to all that is bright and beautiful.

 

There is a special consolation in this melancholy reunion.

Because you once held a larger world within you,

I found a larger world in me.

 

Come home with me, my friend,               

Come home.

 

 

 

 

 

Hell’s Big Game

June 22, 2012

Hellzapoppin Park, The Netherwprld. (Actually photographed in Colt Stadium, Houston Texas, on just about any Saturday afternoon in June 1962.

Hell’s Big Game

 

Once upon a red-sky time – in a ballpark down below,

All hell was burnin’ brimstone Рas was the usual show.

They had a game a churnin‚Äô ‚Äď as they played into the last,

The Devils 3 ‚Äď The Demons 3 ‚Äď the 9th came hard and fast.

 

The game had much a ridin‚Äô ‚Äď as the Demons came to bat,

The Devils aimed to goose ‚Äėem ‚Äď and then to drown the cat,

By bringin‚Äô Dolphie Hitler in ‚Äď to panzerize the Demons,

Lucifer hoped to kill the need ‚Äď for extra inning schemins‚Äô.

 

Old Dolphie was a cranker arm ‚Äď goose-steppin‚Äô every pitch,

But when he let each damn ball fly ‚Äď many slipped a hitch,

And sailin‚Äô wide and wild, they flew ‚Äď and landed in the ditch,

And Dolphie walked four Demons ‚Äď before he killed the glitch.

 

And headed for the bottom ‚Äď of Lucifer‚Äôs last hope,

The Demons led the Devils ‚Äď by a 4-3 Hitler mope,

Twas time for Satan‚Äôs big sticks ‚Äď to show up with the soap,

And wash away disaster; – they simply had to cope.

 

But Saddam went down swinging ‚Äď and Osama pulled up lame,

And Qaddafi bit the bullet ‚Äď the lodged one in his brain,

And the Demons took the Devils ‚Äď moved up to higher ground,

To the Underworld Series Рoff they go, …

 

Are the Unholy Ghosts around?

Forever in the Wind

August 4, 2011

Forever in the Wind

Kicking tin cans clanging down a dusty red dirt road,

Tromping through the pine light, specks of sun and shade explode.

Quiet, steamy wind stirs the needles at our feet,

Sending up a sometimes roar that quells the summer heat.

We’re walking in our bare feet, but our soles are tough as leather,

We rise each day to play the game – in any kind of weather.

We’re on our way to the Sweet Lake Field – down by the Pokee River,

It’s time to pound the baseball ’round – and crush it to a sliver.

The sound of bats in metered bang – upon the rock-hard dirt,

It’s something just to do in time – we are warriors on alert,

As we jog and march and muscle and hop – our way to Saddler’s End,

The sandlot we are seeking – lays awaiting – ’round the bend,

And we are fast approaching – a day that has no end.

Where life on the summer sandlot – rolls on – forever’s friend.

Come home with your mind and soul – to the sandlot, even now,

If only for ten minutes – or so – let reverie be your plough,

Do it – and inhale, once more – the precious fragrance – of eternity.

Chick Hafey: Rifle Arm of the ’24 Buffs

July 23, 2011

Chick Hafey

21-year old Chick Hafey (BR/TR) shined as a line-drive slashing, rifle-armed outfielder for the 1924 Houston Buffs, hitting .360 in his single season in our town. He was edged out for the Texas League batting championship that year, but he still was well on his way to becoming the first shining example of Cardinal GM Branch Rickey’s genius for the general farm system way of player development. – Because he saw the greater potential in his bat, Rickey had shifted Hafey from an amateur level pitcher to a professional level outfielder in 1923, his first season in the game. Hafey’s .360 full season mark with the ’24 Buffs just made the case for Rickey’s aspirations.

Other than another partial season in 1925 at Syracuse, Chick Hafey was on his way to a very successful major league career with the St. Louis Cardinals (1924-31) and the Cincinnati Reds (1932-35, 1937). Hafey was a member of two World Series Champion Cardinals teams in 1926 and 1931.

From 1928 to 1930, Hafey averaged 27 home runs and 114 RBI per season. In 1931, he won one of the tightest NL batting title races of all time, His .349 BA in 1931 edged out Bill Terry of the Giants by .0002 points and Cardinal teammate Jim Bottomley (also a former Buff) by .0007 percentage marks. – How close was it? – Hafey had to get a hit on his last time at bat of the season to win it all. And he did.

Hafey developed as the kind of line-drive hitting slugger that Rickey hoped he would become, leading the National League in slugging during the 1927 season with a .590 mark. Even then, however, he was starting to have visual problems from all the beanings he had taken in 1926 from pitchers who perhaps saw the closer-than-brushback pitch as their answer to the quiet young man who dug in against them.

Hafey started wearing glasses as a result of the changes inflicted upon his eyesight. He was only the second big leaguer to wear glasses on the field on a regular basis (Specs Toporcer was the first.) and only the first of two future Hall of Famers (Reggie Jackson would be the second.) to wear glasses as a player.

Chick had some memorable moments. In July 1929, Hafey tied a National League record by racking up ten hits in ten consecutive times at bat. In August 1930, he hit for the cycle. In 1933, after being traded to a last place Cincinnati club in 1932 as a punishment for giving Branch Rickey so much trouble in annual salary negotiations, Hafey was chosen for the first All Star Game and then went out and delivered the first All Star Game hit in history.

Hafey batted .344 in an 83-game partial season for the 1932 Reds, but vision issues and serious sinus problems were starting to seriously limit his playing time and his effectiveness. fifteen games deep into the 1935 season, Hafey retired. He laid out the 1936 season before making one weak attempt to come back in 1937. That last hurrah of 89 games resulted in a .261 final mark and a permanent goodbye as an active player.

At 34, Chick Hafey was done, retiring from the major leagues with a career BA of .317 and a career SA of .526 BA.Hafey had 164 career HR and 833 RBI to go with his 1.466 career hits.

In 1971, former Houston Buff outfielder Chick Hafey was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

 

Prodigy Pollet, Impossible to Forget

June 10, 2011

Howie Pollet

The kinship ideas of seasoning and player development hardly ever applied to young lefty Howie Pollet of New Orleans. The kid signee of the St. Louis Cardinals began his pitching career at the age of 18, going 14-5 for New Iberia of the Evangeline League before moving up to Houston of the Texas League to add a 1-1 mark to his rookie season totals. At age 19, Pollet went 20-7, with a 2.88 ERA for the 1940 Houston Buffs. He returned to the Buffs at age 20 to go an amazing 20-3 with a 1.16 ERA for the 1941 Houston club. Pollet did turn age 21 on June 26, 1941. By the time he had finished the season at that tender age of new adult status, hie had registered a minor league record of 55 wins against only 16 defeats and a minor league career ERA of 2.28.

Cardinals General Manager Branch Rickey watched Pollet win his 20th game of the 1941 Buffs season and then called him up to help the Cardinals in their close near-miss pennant race with the Brooklyn Dodgers. ¬†The loss of Howie Pollet unquestionably cost the 103-win first place Buffs the 1941 pennant as they went on from there to lose to fourth place Dallas, 3 games to 1, in the first round of the post-season playoffs, but that’s the way things still work in professional baseball. In a pinch, the needs of the major league club always come first.

Pollet finished the 1941 season with a 5-2, 1.93 ERA. He reported to spring training with the 1942 Cardinals with a sore arm. That would be the start of an arm injury history that would haunt and deaden the final results of his total career. More serious shoulder issues were yet to come a few years down the road.

Howie went into the army after posting a 7-5 record and an 8-4 mark for the 1942 and 1943 Cardinals. Pollet didn’t have the greatest fastball in the world, but he had great location ability on his pitches and an uncanny, hard-to-discern capacity for changing the speed at three leels on the pitches he did deliver.

After the war, Howie Pollet pitched the 1946 Cardinals to a World Series championship, posting a season record of 21-10 with an amazing 2.10 ERA. Pollet enjoyed one more 20-win season in 1949, going 20-9 with a 2.77 ERA for yet another near-miss Cardinals club, but painful shoulder trouble would continue to haunt his 14-season MLB career with the Cardinals, Pirates, Cubs, and White Sox through his last season of 1956.

Howie Pollet finished his MLB career with a record of 131 wins against 116 defeats and an ERA of 3.81.

After baseball, Pollet retired to his adopted home town of Houston to enter the insurance business in partnership with his former Buffs and Cardinals manager, Eddie Dyer. Pollet also kept an active connection with major league baseball, serving as pitching coach for the Houston Astros in 1965  Sadly, Howie Pollet passed away only nine years later in 1974 at the age of 53.

How many potential Hall of Fame pitchers have lost their way to greatness due to arm injury? Probably more than we shall ever know, but we have to place the name of Howie Pollet high on that list. Were Pollet’s arm and shoulder problems the result of genetics, a freak injury, or the product of too much pitching work too early? I doubt we’ll ever know.

On the other hand, there seems to be no doubt where Howie’s talent was taking him, had he not been injured. It’s also too bad that his family had to lose him so early, but that’s the way life works. We don’t always get what we want, but there are a number of lessons wrapped up in that reality too, starting with my favorite:

Every morning we wake up on the sunny side of the grass is reason enough to celebrate our gratitude by making the most of our day.

Houston Buffs of the Hall of Fame

June 9, 2011

The nine Houston Buffs of the Hall of Fame are simply those nine players who passed through our town and put in some big and small playing time with the old Texas League/American Association Houston Buffs on their ways onto, and away from,  greatness as major leaguers and career minor leaguers with incredible major league managerial experience.  Here they are in basic  chronological appearance of their various seasons with the Houston Buffs:

The list has been modified from the original seven Buffs I had identified as the whole body of those who later made it to the Hall of Fame. Thanks to diligent researcher Cliff Blau, we today add the names of Earl Weaver (1951-52) and Willard Brown (1955) to the list. Both were favorites of mine, making it harder to imagine how I missed either in my own search. I even played in the 1952 Earl Weaver League that waaa sponsored by the City of Houston Parks & Recreation Department and named for one the several youth program circuits identified by the names of various Buff players.

The lesson is always the same in baseball research. More than one brain and two pair of eyes are always preferable to the goal of due diligence in our search for accuracy. – Thanks again, Cliff!

Tris Speaker

 (1) Tris Speaker, OF,  (1907) batted .314 to lead the Texas League in hitting during his one 1907 season as a Houston Buff outfielder, Speaker, of course, went on to become one of the 1937 earliest inductees into the not-even-opened-until-1939 Baseball Hall of Fame. His career major league batting average weighed in at .345 and, at the time of his retirement, he was regarded by most to hae been the greatest fielding center fielder in the history of the game.

Jim Bottomley

¬†(2) Jim Bottomley, 1B, ¬†(1921) had few “Sunny Jim” days with the 1921 Buffs. He hit only ..27 during his season with Houston before going on to a career .317 mark as a major leaguer and great first baseman. ¬†Bottomley was inducted into the Hall of Fame in in 1974.

Chick Hafey

(3) Chick Hafey, OF, (1924) hit .360 for the 1924 Buffs, but still  failed to lead the league in hitting because a fellow named Art Weis of Wichita Falls hit .377 that year. Hafey went on to hit .317 as a major leaguer. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1971.

Dizzy Dean

¬†(4) Dizzy Dean, P, (1930-1931) was 8-2 with a 2.86 ERA for the 1930 Buffs and then came back for a big leadership wins record of 26-10 and a 1.53 incredible ERA for the high-flying 1931 Buffs club. Dean’s 1.53 ERA tied Whitlow Wyatt of Beaumont for the league lead and his 303 strikeouts for the year blew away everyone else. Dean, of course, went on to a 30-win season with the 1934 Gashouse Gang World Champion St. Louis Cardinals and an injury-shortened career record of 150-83 and 3.02 career ERA. Ole Diz was inducted into the Hall of fame in 1853.

Joe Medwick

¬†(5) Joe “Ducky” Medwick, OF, (1932-1933, 1948) batted .305 for the 1931 Buffs; he led the league that years 19 home runs and 126 RBI. In 1932, Medwick’s Buff Batting average jumped to .354, but he lost the batting title to Ervin Fox of Beaumont and his .357 mark. After banging out a career major league BA of .324, Medwick came back down the Baseball ladder to hit .276 in limited action for the 1948 Buffs. Joe Medwick was voted into te Hall of Fame in 1968.

Earl Weaver

¬†(6) Earl Weaver, 2B, (1951-1952) hit .233 in 13 games for the 1951 Buffs and .219 in 57 games for the 1952 Buffs. Weaver never made it to the big leagues as a player, finishing a 14-season (1948-1960, 1965) minor league career with a BA of .267. Earl Weaver, of course, went on to a 17-season Hall of Fame major league managerial career record with the Baltimore Orioles from 1968 to 1986, winning 1,480 and losing 1,060. Under Weaver, the O’s won four pennants and a World Series, boosting Earl to Hall of Fame induction as a manger in 1996.

Willard Brown

¬†(7) Willard Brown (1955) hit .301 and crunched 19 home runs for the 1955 Buffs in 149 games as the club’s right fielder. Already in the record books as the first black player in the history of the old St. Louis Browns, and as the first black player to homer in the American League during the 1947 season, Brown was rewarded for his earlier, deeper record of achievement in the Negro Leagues with induction into the hall of Fame in 2006. In 1955, however late it ma have been, he was one of the most valuable members of the Houston Buffs and a man who definitely deserves remembrance on this list of “Houston Buffs of the Hall of Fame.”

Billy Williams

  (8) Billy Williams, LF, (1960) batted .323 with 26 home runs for the Houston Buffs in their next to last season of existence.  He went on to hit .290 with 426 home runs as a career major leaguer and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987. Billy  had a teammate on that 1960 Buff club that some of us over time felt was also worthy for Hall of Fame consideration, but it never  happened. His name was Ron Santo.

Enos Slaughter

 (9) Enos Slaughter, Manager-PH, (1960) was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985 after hitting .300 over the course of his very successful and legendary major league career with the Cardinals and Yankees. He became Houston Buffs hall of Famer when he later managed the 1960 Buffs club and gave into his passion for playing the game by using himself as a pinch hitter and spot player, hitting .289 in 45 official trips to the plate.

Without requesting a cross-reference check from the Hall of Fame Library, these are the only Houston Buffalo Hall of Fame players that I have ever been able to identify from a tedious review of available records. If you happen to find anyone I’ve missed, please let me know. I don;t do this kind of research for pride or ego. I do it because I care about baseball history and getting it right. I will take all the help I can get – just as those of us who are now working on the SABR Project we call “Houston Baseball: The Early Years, 1861-1961” will take all the help any of you may care to offer us that serves the aims of “getting it right.”

Just get in touch with me here at any times by leaving a comment on a column, along with whatever contact information you care to provide.

Thanks.

Floyd Bevens: The Legacy of Disappointment

May 26, 2011

World Series Game 4, Oct. 3, 1947, Yankees vs. Dodgers at Brooklyn. Dodgers win, 3-2, on last pitch with their first hit of the game. Lavagetto's double ties Series. Pitcher Floyd Bevens & Joe DiMaggio walk away from heartbreaking loss at Ebbets Field.

Had it not been for a single pitch on a singular afternoon on an Indian Summer day back in Brooklyn in 1947, it’s likely that even fewer people would remember the name of the late Floyd “Bill” Bevens these 63 plus years later. But baseball people remember him – for what he did and didn’t do.

With the Yankees tying into their second World Series competition against their down-from- “snob hill” neighbors, the Brooklyn Dodgers, ¬†the Yankees were leading the Series, 2-1, through three games, but their pitching corps was running thin do a combination cause of injury, tiredness, and a general lack of normal Yankee talent. As a result, Manager Bucky Harris made the call to go with a little known, but not-too-accomplished right hander named Floyd “Bill” Bevens.

Bill Bevens brought a 1947 season record of 7-13 and a 3.82 ERA into Game Four. In his four seasons in the major leagues (1944-1947), all played as a WWII talent shortage Yankee roster guy, Bevens had achieved the unremarkable record of 40-36 and a 3.08 career ERA.

Bevens settled on Game Four to have the best stuff of his life. He had control problems, walking 10 against only 5 strikeouts, but had surrendered no hits in guiding the Yankees into the bottom of the 9th with a 2-1 lead. He also had thrown a ton of pitches, far more than his tired aching arm could handle, but this was 1947 and nobody did pitch counts back then. On top of the cultural value from that era that said “pitchers should finish what they start,” the man had a no-hitter going. No way Harris was going to take him out in favor of ace reliever Joe Page.

Then came the 9th.

With two outs, Bevens walked center fielder Carl Furillo. Dodger Manager Burt Shotton then quickly subbed the speedy Al Gionfriddo as a pinch runner for Furillo. Gionfriddo then quickly took off for 2nd, getting there about the same time a great throw from catcher Yogi Berra to shortstop Phil Rizzuto.

The Yankees thought for sure they had the third out – the win – the first World Series no-hitter in history – and a 3-1 lead in games for the 1947 World Series!

No. No. No. Much to the Yankees’ dismay, Gionfriddo got the safe call. ¬†The game would play on – with the tying run now on 2nd and the dangerous Pete Reiser coming to bat for Brooklyn.

That’s when Yankee manager broke the yolk of baseball wisdom that usually bridled these situations. He made the call to Bevens for an intentional ¬†walk of the once speedy, but now more hobbled Pete Reiser, putting the winning run on 1st with two outs in the bottom of the 9th.

Bevens would face the pesky, but powerless Eddie Stanky with the tying runner on 2nd and the winning run at 1st, needing only that one more out to nail down his place in World Series history.

Hold up again. Dodger mentor Shotton had other ideas. Instead of facing Stanky, Bevens would face the right-handed veteran Cookie Lavagetto as a pinch hitter. Cookie wasn’t a power hitter, but he did possess some pop in his bat that Stanky could only have dreamed about. Shotton’s move provoked no further adjustments by Harris. It would be left up to righty Bevens and righty Lavagetto to write the next big moment in World Series history.

Shotton of Dem Bums had one more move. He inserted the faster Eddie Miksis at 1st as a pinch runner for the intentionally walked Reiser.

The final battle was now joined. Bevens vs. Lavagetto, with young Yankee catcher Yogi Berra relying upon the clubs book that said they could get Cookie with a fastball, high and away. And that’s what Bevens threw. And Lavagetto flailed away and missed for strike one on the very first pitch.

Yogi called for another hard one, high and away on the second pitch to Cookie. Bevens had second thoughts, but he delivered it anyway. This time, Lavagetto reach our and up and got it. A loud crack resounded, inciting a moment of stunned silence, then a roaring wave of euphoria from the home crowd as the ball bounced high off the screen in right field.

Gionfriddo easily scored the tying run. And here came Miksis from first on his teammate’s heels with the winning run. The Dodgers got only their first hit of the game from Lavagetto, but it was enough to produce a 3-2 Dodger win, tying the Series at 2-2 in games, and destroying Bill Bevens’s bid to become the first pitcher in history to throw a no-hitter in a World Series.

Bill Bevens lost more than a no-hitter that day. He pretty much ruined his arm pitching that game. Aside from some brief relief work after Game Four, Bevens would never pitch for the Yankees, or any other big league club again after 1947. The Yankees did win the Series in seven games, of course, and Bevens will always have that association to his credit, but all he would get from the Yankees in 1948 is his unconditional release in spring training.

The stories of Bill Bevens walking off the mound in tears that day at Ebbets Field, as well as those memories of Bevens and Yogi crying together in the clubhouse, all fly in the face of that “no crying in baseball” myth. That loss had to hurt bad. I concede the guy’s right to his expression of pain from that very hurtful¬†experience.

Like no other sport, baseball moves deliberately through a succession of events that eventually determine winning or losing, joy or despair. Can you imagine the nanosecond of joy that must have spawned in the Yankee dugout when they thought they had thrown out Gionfriddo at 2nd for the final out of the game?

Didn’t happen. Keep playing. Keep playing until the cracking sound of Lavagetto’s bat is your final memory of this game, for better or worse.

Floyd “Bill” Bevens kept on playing minor league ball beyond 1947. In fact, in his 14 seasons as a minor leaguer from 1937 to 1953, he compiled a minor league record of 117-118 and a career ERA of 3.76. He could have retired with a winning record in 1952 but he came back in 1953, ¬†just long enough to take it into the negative side with an 0-2 mark at Salem ¬†of the Class A Western International league.

Bevens’s minor league history even included a brief stopover in 1949 with the Houston Buffs. Bevens was a Buff only long enough to give up six hits in four innings and two games with no record before moving on to Seattle of the Pacific Coast League that same season.

In the end, it was the legacy of Floyd “Bill” Bevens to be the man who lost a chance to post the first no-hitter in World Series history with two outs in the 9th inning. Perhaps, the question is: Did Bevens really lose his no-hitter to Lavagetto’s walk-off double – or did he earlier in the 9th lose it to Gionfriddo’s safe call on the steal of 2nd?

Bill Bevens passed away at his home in Salem, Oregon on October 26, 1991 at the age of 75.

Baseball Games: How Long Is Too Long?

May 25, 2011

"Astros have the tying and winning runs on 3rd and 2nd with two outs in the bottom of the 9th. ... Can Pence bring them in? ... We'll soon find out .... right after we see the answer to this question: 'Can Geico save you $1500 on car insurance?' ... Let's find out. ... Back soon."

I received a refreshing e-mail note from Houston Astros President Tal Smith yesterday in response to my column about the first May 6, 1888 Houston professional game played by a Houston team in Houston as Houston. Houston lost to Cincinnati, 22-3, in one hour and forty-five minutes that day, prompting Tal Smith to write this comment: “Given the score, it’s interesting that they played this in 1:45. ¬†Goes to show pace of the game when you don’t make a lot of pitching changes.”

Thanks for ringing the bell on that whole recycling subject, Tal!

I responded to Tal as follows: “It’s long been my contention that it’s not the playing of the game that makes baseball games run longer,¬†but all the non-playing moments that are given over to mound conferences, pitching changes, and all¬†those photo-op argument moments that some managers seem to feed their egos upon.”

In my short-form reply, I totally left out the big clock killer of all those lengthy and extensive time-out sectors that the networks riddle through the game to show all those television commercials they need to show to pay for all that money they shipped to Major League Baseball for the rights to show games so that teams could then turn around and use gobs of that dough to make multi-millionaires of pillow-heads like Alex Rodriguez!

Today is not like the early days of Yogi Berra’s career when the kid from “The Hill” in St. Louis went home in the off-season and worked as a nuts and bolts salesman at his local Sears store to help compensate his meager (by today’s standards) baseball salary. Today its a rich man’s game that depends upon the pipeline of that media money that has paid for all the changes that have come down upon the baseball culture over the past thirty-five years. If you want to follow the TV Man piper, you have to march to his tune. And that pretty much describes everything that now slows down the game.

A Rod is a pillow head for numerous reasons, but this subject provides a good example: It was TV money in the first place  that gave him the bucks he needed to pursue his lifestyle of attraction to dating movie stars, and easily what also attracted the film fatale crowd to him in the first place.

Do you really think that a Kate Hudson or a Cameron Diaz would have been available to A Rod had he been topping out on Babe Ruth’s $80,000 per year? Then Rodriquez gets upset because the same tool that made him rich, the TV camera, catches a candid shot of diva Diaz feeding him pop corn as a spectator at some other sporting venue during the off-season. – Alex, TV is the god that butters your pop corn! Don’t you know that?

So, can the games really be shortened from their near three-hour average, given the fact that all these non-playing issues that lengthen the game are tailor-made for the appetites of TV networks that cover the game?

Probably not.

Pitching changes provide natural commercial breaks. Egoists who play the camera with their arguments on the field provide the kind of drama that TV feeds upon, sort of like those real-life car chases that take up the whole TV news hour. On days we maybe need to be paying more rapt ¬†attention to the actions of Congress, the stock market, or the terrorists, we are hooked into watching from a helicopter’s POV while the police chase some guy who simultaneously speeding down Westheimer¬†Road while he tries to eat a few nickel bags of crack that he happened to have with him as he knocked off that convenience store in Pearland.

Putting a clock on the playing of the game itself to me is also tantamount to sacrilege. I would rather have it as is than to see it changed artificially for the sake of today’s shortened attention spans. We could shorten the non-playing delays, but we will not because they are tied in to the needs of great gobbling benefactor – network television.

As for me, I’ll take baseball as it is, however long it runs. When I’m at the ballpark, I’m one of those people in our sport’s anthem throng.

I don’t care if I never get back!”

Houston’s 1st Game: March 6, 1888

May 24, 2011

Houston Babies, 1889: Uniforms were olive green, The lettering & trim were red.

March 6, 1888 in Houston came to light in the middle of a rainy period. The new Houston base ball club was set to play what we think was their first competitive professional game against a team from elsewhere, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, at 3:30 PM that same afternoon. The game would be played at the Houston Base Ball Park at a still unconfirmed location near our present downtown area.

Some say Houston came into stick and ball battle that day decked out as the Houston Babies, a tribute to the fact that they were the last of the new Texas League clubs to get their organizational act together to join the loop. Others say that the Houston club, like their guests from Ohio, hit the field that first time as the Houston Red Stockings. Still others contend that our first local professional team may not have even bothered to drag a nickname with them for those first few games. These guys wore their team identity splashed in large red letters across the jerseys covering their hearts – and, as was the case for the men in today’s photo of the 1889 club, the letters in 1888 also spelled out “HOUSTON.”

Houston didn’t fare too well in that first game. A pitcher named “Flood” went the distance for Houston, but Cincinnati still won big, 22-3. Deep water puddles dotted the playing field that day, necessitating a search for several lost balls in play. Apparently the game ball lacked a certain buoyant quality – and probably aided by their use of the same ball for the whole soggy game.

Here’s the first box score from that first Houston professional game in town played between a team representing Houston against a club from another city on March 6. 1888:

Cincinnati Red Stockings – 22

REDS AB R H PO A E
Nicol. RF   7   4   3     1   0 0
McThee, 2B   7   4   4     2   4 0
Fennelly, SS   5   1   1     0   0 1
Riley, 1B   5   3   1   13   0 0
Kappel, CF   5   3   1     1   0 0
Keenan, C   6   2   4     8   2 0
Tebeau, LF   5   1   1     1   0 0
Carpenter, 3B   6   3   3     1   1 0
Serad, P (W)   6   1   2     0   9 2
   TOTALS 52 22 20   27 16 3

Houston Babies – 3

BABIES AB R H PO A E
Harry Howard, 2B    4   1   1    1  1  2
H.B. Dauthett, CF    4   0   3    3  0  1
Pat Flaherty, LF    4   0   0    1  0  0
Daniel Murphy, 3B    4   0   0    2  0  2
James Vogel, RF    4   0   1    1  0  0
Thomas J. Flood, P (L)    3   0   0    1 10  6
R.H. Craig, 1B    3   1   0  11   0  0
Joseph Lohbeck, C    3   0   0    7   4  2
Jack Horan, SS    3   1   1    0   5  1
  TOTALS  32   3   6   27 20 13

Earned Runs: Cincinnati 8, Houston 3.

Bases on Balls: Cincinnati 4, Houston 2.

Strike Outs By: Flood 7, Serad 5.

Left On Base: Cincinnati 7, Houston 4.

2BH: McThee (2), Kappel, Serad, Dauthett, Horan.

3BH: Fennelly

HR: none.

Passed Balls: Lohbeck 6, Keenan 1.

Wild Pitches: Flood 3.

Stolen Bases: Howard, Dauthett, Craig (1 each), Cincinnati 8.

Umpire: Kid Baldwin.

Time of Game: 1 Hour & 45 minutes.

Assuming this contest really was the first Houston professional home game, first baseman R.H. Craig scored the first run in home game (or any game) history in the fourth inning. Already trailing 4-0, Craig led off with a walk and then stole second. After Lobeck then flew out to right and Horan was retired in some unspecified way, second baseman Harry Howard singled to left to plate Craig for the locals’ first run in history. The boys would score two more on the day before going down hard by ¬†finl tally of 22 to 3.

Our anonymous Houston Post reporter described Howard’s historic RBI line drive over the Cincy shortstop’s head as “a corker.” The same reporter left this comment for the ages about Houston pitcher Thomas Flood: “Flood’s speed surprised (Cincinnati), but owing to a sore finger he could not control his balls or get in any of his deceptive curves.”

The Post reporter also admitted to giving up scorekeeping in the sixth inning, His opinion of the Houston team pretty much imbedded itself in this throwaway comment about the fielding of second baseman Howard: “…like every other man in the (Houston) team, (Howard) appeared to be stiff.”

Unfortunately, 1888 would not be the last year that a bunch of stiffs took the field for Houston.