Posts Tagged ‘Baseball’

Mariano Rivera: The Duke of Deception

May 19, 2011

Mo Rivera's active career ERA of 2.22 is now 11th best, all time.

Mariano Rivera may well be the quietest speaking baseball superstar of all time, but that’s OK. His greatness isn’t measured by words, but by the action results of his brilliant arm and his incredible ability to get batters out with one pitch that simply changes speeds and almost always goes exactly where Rivera wants it to go.

At age 41 and now pitching into his 17th season as a big leaguer, Rivera will be playing in his 1,000th game with his next appearance. In 20 innings of work in 2011, Mo has added another 13 save to his career total and he done it with a 1.80 ERA that has now dropped his career ERA mark to 2.22, good enough for 11th place in the top twenty lowest ERA crowd. Everyone else on this list played in the earlier decades of the 20th century, with the guy just above Rivera being Walter Johnson himself.

Earned Run Average 
All Time Leaders‘Top 20’
Name ERA (Raw ERA) Rank
Ed Walsh 1.82 (1.816) 1
Addie Joss 1.89 (1.887) 2
Jim Devlin 1.89 (1.890) 3
Jack Pfiester 2.02 (2.024) 4
Joe Wood 2.03 (2.030) 5
Mordecai Brown 2.06 (2.057) 6
John Ward 2.10 (2.102) 7
Christy Mathewson 2.13 (2.133) 8
Rube Waddell 2.16 (2.161) 9
Walter Johnson 2.17 (2.167) 10
Mariano Rivera 2.22 (5/19/11) 11
Jake Weimer 2.23 (2.231 12
Orval Overall 2.23 (2.233) 13
Tommy Bond 2.25 (2.254) 14
Will White 2.28 (2.276) 15
Babe Ruth 2.28 (2.277) 16
Ed Reulbach 2.28 (2.284) 17
Jim Scott 2.30 (2.298) 18
Red Russell 2.33 (2.334) 19
Andy Coakley 2.35 (2.350) 20

Mariano’s 13 saves from this year alone have elevated his career total to 572 – or 29 behind recently retired career saves leader Trevor Hoffman. Unless Rivera’s arm suddenly ages, or falls off, he most likely will surpass Hoffman’s 601 career saves total before the battle of the day is done.

I’ve been a Mariano Rivera fan, if not a Yankees fan, from early in his career. “Mo”, “Super Mariano”, and “The Sandman’ were all almost the inevitable nicknames for Rivera during his generation in the sun, although, he held no exclusivity on that Sandman tag. Houston fans bestowed it upon closer Billy Wagner, as well. The popularity of “Enter Sandman” by Metallica cast a broad blanket over the minds and eyes of baseball fans everywhere during the late 1990s and early 21st century. Apparently everybody who heard it thought they were the only members of the audience.

It doesn’t matter. Greatness by any name spells the same. I think Will Shakespeare said something far more eloquently about roses and it’s too bad we don’t have old Will here today to help characterize the incredible career of the great Mariano Rivera, a fellow who s well on his way to a first ballot shot into the Baseball Hall of Fame someday.

How about either “The Prince of Panama” or “The Panamanian Prince” as tags for Mariano Rivera? Have either of those been offered,? I haven’t heard them, but they work, as would “The Duke of Deception” or “The Swami of Swerve.”

I’d better stop on those offerings. I need to save a few brain cells for the remainder of a very long day.

Killebrew: Another Good Man Gone

May 18, 2011

11 Times an All Star; 573 HR in 22 years; Hall of Fame in 1984.

As you’ve no doubt heard by now, Harmon Killebrew died yesterday in a Scottsdale, Arizona hospice of cancer at the age of 74. In giving up another great one in its recent stream of losses among the Hall of Fame living, baseball gave up, perhaps, one of its most dedicated special singular talent players of all time.

My own partiality to Harmon Killebrew goes back to the fact that he came of age in the big leagues at just about the same time I was growing into my own adult world beyond kid baseball life. Killebrew was special in many ways, but one thing has stuck out in my own recognition and now memory of him through this very moment. Back when my generation was growing up, and we were also being told, ad nauseum, to pick out something we wanted to do in life and go do it, Harmon Killebrew was living those words.

Killebrew broke into the big leagues with the Washington Senators in 1954 at the age of 18. Except for one last limited-use  season as a Kansas City Royal in 1975, he spent his entire big league career as a fantastic slugger for the Washington Senators (7 years) and Minnesota Twins (14 years) franchise, anchoring both as the last great Senator and the first great Twin. Along the way, “the man they called ‘The Killer’ banged out 573 home runs, good enough for 11th place on the all time big league career home run list.

Coming to the Senators almost straight from high school in Payette, Idaho, Killebrew recognized early that he possessed an ability to hit a baseball a very long way – and longer than most other players he encountered. As such, hitting baseballs a long way became his early passion, the thing he wanted to do in life.

It was the sort of thing that paid the big bucks, if a player had both the passion for it and the matching ability to do it – and Harmon Killebrew did. By his own admission, he never gave much thought to batting average, but he never forgot either what his bosses paid him to do. Hitting the very long ball into space when he did catch up with a pitch was both his everyday meal ticket and, based upon the spectacular results of his effort over time, his eventual passport in 1984 to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Home Runs 
All Time Leaders‘Top 11 Players’
Name Home Runs Rank
Barry Bonds 762 1
Hank Aaron 755 2
Babe Ruth 714 3
Willie Mays 660 4
Ken Griffey 630 5
Alex Rodriguez 613 6
Sammy Sosa 609 7
Jim Thome 589 8
Frank Robinson 586 9
Mark McGwire 583 10
Harmon Killebrew 573 11

Killebrew’s .256 lifetime batting average is testimony to his lack of concern for hitting percentage. Had he tried to become a placement or Punch and Judy style hitter for the sake of keeping defenses honest and helping his batting average to climb, he knew from early on that it would not have been worth the damage to his power production – and power was not merely measured by his homer total alone. Killebrew also concluded his career with 1,584 runs batted in – and driving runners across the home plate pay station is what owners really pay their slugging stars  to do. It also doesn’t hurt if those home runs are Goliath-level works of power art that leave the ballpark on jaw-dropping arches into the wild blue yonder.

Oh, Harmon, since you’re up there in Heaven now, would you mind taking batting practice over Houston today, and maybe for a few weeks to come? We could use the rain produced by the thunder of your bat.

Larry Miggins: His Link to Jackie Robinson

May 17, 2011

Larry Miggins (1953)

Larry Miggins was one of my four major Houston Buff heroes during those kids days I traveled in the years following World War II. The others were my late great friends, Jerry Witte and Frank Mancuso, plus the still going and thriving “Little Pepperpot,” Solly Hemus. Through today, the irrepressible Mr. Miggins remains on this Good Earth as one of my dearest friends in the world.

Miggins is also a member of SABR, the Society for American Baseball Research. In fact, this past Saturday, at the Larry Dierker Chapter meeting of SABR held prior to the game in the board room at Minute Maid Park, Mr. Miggins entertained by playing a CD he had written and performed in honor of the great home run year of Mark McGwire back in 1998. I know the song, but unfortunately had to miss this special performance due to the fact that Jimmy Wynn and I were tied into a book signing of “Toy Cannon” at the ballpark’s retail store that ran through the meeting time. I’m sure it went great.

What brings it to mind is the e-mail I received from fellow SABR member Tim Gregg late yesterday, reminding me of Larry’s special place in the history of Jackie Robinson. My God! Most of us around here know about it. Why haven’t we snapped to the fact earlier that we harbor  a member within the sheltering coves of  our very own SABR chapter who rides high as an historical  participant in one of Jackie Robinson’s landmark moments of breaking the color line? We have to wonder too: Why haven’t the Astros thought of Larry Miggins each season when the special day for honoring the memory of Jackie Robinson comes about on the schedule? Maybe they do not realize that the connection exists.

Here’s the connection: When Jackie Robinson stepped across the ancient color line to play regular season integrated professional baseball for the first time since the late 19th century that a black man had been allowed on the field of competition with whites, Larry Miggins was there as a member of the other team. On April 18, 1946, when Jackie broke in as second baseman for the visiting Montreal Royals, Larry Miggins was there playing third base for the home club Jersey City Giants.

That historic game was played at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, New Jersey on a spring afternoon opening day and 51,000 jubilant fans showed up to celebrate the fall of a wall that never should have been there in the first place.

The Royals won, 14-1, and Robinson’s performance that day was pure Hollywood. After grounding out 6-3 in the first, Jackie came up in the third and bashed a long three-run homer to left, followed by three singles before the day was done. In addition to his four hits, Robinson also had four runs batted in and two stolen bases on the day.

Larry Miggins has a great photo of one stolen base. It shows Jackie Robinson sliding in safely at third underneath Larry Miggins’ swiping glove. What a day that must have been.

Next time “Jackie Robinson Day” comes around, I hope the Houston Astros will invite Larry Miggins to be a participating celebrant. Maybe our SABR chapter will find a way to pass on a reminder to the new ownership.

Congratulations, Mr. Larry Miggins! – We are all quite proud to have your company in SABR, and that would be true, even if you had never played a game anywhere near Jackie Robinson. Your humor elevates our spirits – and your sterling character raises our standing as a baseball community.

Jimmy Wynn Signing at MMP

May 15, 2011

Jimmy Wynn signed his book for buyers at MMP on Saturday.

It was a day out of the weatherman’s dream book in Houston on Saturday as fans (a few of them, anyway) gathered at Minute Maid Park to watch their Houston Astros build a new one-game winning streak by taking down the not-so-tall-either New York Mets, 7-3. Juicing up the azure blue sky day behind the pitching of starter J.A. Happ and three Kong-like homers from Bill Hall, Matt Downs, and Carlos Lee, the Astros pounded their way into resembling that team that diehard fans like to hope they really are, if only they could do it more often.

Astros Icon alumnus Jimmy Wynn was also there at the ballpark yesterday to sign purchased copies of the book he and I wrote together, “Toy Cannon: The Autobiography of Baseball’s Jimmy Wynn.”  Watching Jimmy talk with the fans is worth the price of admission in itself. The man has more genuine caring and niceness in his little pinkie finger than a lot of players have in their whole beings. It’s simply a revealing window into the man’s character to sit with Jimmy Wynn at the ballpark for a few such hours and watch what goes on. Here’s the best example from yesterday that I can offer.

Saturday was also “Chris Johnson Bobble Head Day” at MMP, with the first 10,000 fans receiving copies of the “bobber” supposedly imaged after the young Astros third baseman, Well, Jimmy came early and the ushers earlier had brought him one of the bobber copies to take home, but that never happened. Shortly before the 3:00 PM game time, a man and his five-year old son came by our table, asking where they could pick up a bobber. We explained that they were all gone, but then, right away, Jimmy says, “Wait a minute.”

Jimmy Wynn then reached under our signing table and pulled up his copy of the souvenir bobber, giving it to the boy and his dad. “Take this home with you, young man,” said Jimmy, “and take care of it.” The stunned father first asked, “Can I pay you for it?” he quietly asked.

“No way,” Jimmy answered, “that’s not what this is all about.”

Jimmy just wanted the young father and son to have a souvenir of their beautiful day together at the ballpark. Once that became apparent to the man, he almost collapsed in quiet gratitude. “Thank you, Mr. Wynn,” the man said. “I’ll never forget what you’ve done for us today.”

And neither will I.

"Beyond the blue horizon, waits a beautiful day!" And it arrived in Houston on 11/14/2001.

Have a beautiful Sunday, or whatever other day it may be whenever you finally read this little sketch of a good man’s soul. Through his mellow everyday acts of empathy for others, the “Toy Cannon” continues to fire with all his God-Given might – and it shows up all the time in his caring for others through so many random acts of kindness.

Thank you, Jimmy Wynn, for simply being the man that you are.

Kudos to St. Thomas HS and Coach Biggio!

May 14, 2011

St. Thomas Coach Craig Biggio

Congratulations to Coach Craig Biggio and my old alma mater, the St. Thomas Eagles!

For the second straight year, the Eagles have taken home the State of Texas TAPPS Class 5A state championship. They did it Friday afternoon at Waco ISD’s Veterans Field with a 4-3 win over Bishop Lynch of Dallas. It was a victory that saw the Eagles battling through a windy day and a 4-3 edge from the third inning forward.  After the coach’s younger of two player sons, Cavan Biggio, launched a deep drive in the bottom of the third that bounced off the glove of Bishop Lynch left fielder Lucas Wearden and over the fence for a 4-3 lead, the Eagles protected that early lead for the final score of their big championship haul.

In irony, or simply in tribute to the St. Thomas Biggio family edge, it had been Craig Biggio’s other son, Conor Biggio, that homered a day earlier to give the Eagles a preceding 4-3 semi-final win over Argyle Liberty Christian that placed them in the championship match.

St. Thomas played the final game as the home team, getting off to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first. After Harrison Ayala and Conor Biggio drew game-opening walks, shortstop Patrick Leonard, a transfer student from Florida playing his first year in Houston, then plated everyone with a blast to left field. The Bishop Lynch Friars then jumped on St. Thomas starter Michael Rodgers for three runs on four hits in the top of the third. Cavan Biggio’s decisive blow then came about in the bottom of the same frame.

Eric Jensen took over on the mound for St. Thomas in the sixth after Rodgers gave up back to back hits. Jensen shut down the Friars the rest of the way on only one hit, chalking up four strikeouts in the process.

The St. Thomas Eagles state title was their 22nd since they started keeping records of same in 1953. It was the second straight title under Head Coach Craig Biggio and the second one in his three seasons as “The Hall of Fame Mentor on Memorial Drive.”

Our hats off to you, Coach Biggio, as well as to the 2011 state champion St. Thomas Eagles!

Eagle alums especially are quite proud of what you guys have done over the three years of your tenure with the Toms – and we wish to thank you, Coach Biggio, for full-bore embracing and embodying the St. Thomas High School motto: “Teach me goodness, discipline, and knowledge.” Once again, you have been just the right teacher and role model for a situation that both required and anticipated that kind of outcome.

The Biggio blessing is a plural one. – St. Thomas High School, the Houston Astros, the Sunshine Kids, and the entire Houston community are the beneficiaries of the presence of you and your entire family in our town. Thanks for being one of us at a high level of aspiration for everyone else. Many of us Houstonians also look forward to the some-year-soon summer afternoon we get to hear you speak in person on the lawn of that little rustic place of baseball dreams up there in Cooperstown, New York. What a grand day that will be.

The Dixie Series

May 13, 2011

The Houston Buffs flew their team pennant as four times winners of the Dixie Series.

As professional baseball rolled into the 1920s, the desire among fans for achieving the greatest recognition available for the accomplishments of their local clubs grew with it. The major leagues had the World Series to settle the “who’s best?” in the universe question, but the minor leagues wanted that kind of opportunity also for their (unspoken word to follow here) “lesser” championships in lower levels leagues.

At the highest minor league level, the “Little World Series” was formed by the clubs in the American Association and International League to determine the best club in minor league professional baseball, but that did not stop leagues at even lower levels of competition from coming up with their own end-of-season ultimate prizes. There was money to be made in the stir of post-year drama and the club owners and leagues hated to miss out on any extra opportunities to pack the houses of their champions four to seven more times.

Beneath the American Association and International League, the Texas League and the Southern Association jumped on the championship series idea like regional frogs on regional June Bugs. They got together and formed the Dixie Series as the annual settlement match between their two annual champs, starting in 1920.

The Dixie Series became an inter-league minor league postseason series that pitted the playoff champions of the Southern Association and the Texas League in a best of seven in games won match from 1928 to 1958. The series was revived for a single time in 1967, placing the Southern League champion Birmingham A’s into a match with the Albuquerque Dodgers of the Texas League. The A’s won that one, four games to two, but the appeal of a permanent rival of the series died on the vine. The Dixie Series finally was put to bed for good.

Here are the results of the Dixie Series from 1920 to 1958. Naturally, the eight trips to the Series by the Houston Buffs are expressed here in bold type. The Buffs won their first trip to “the big south show” in 1928, the first year of Buff Stadium, but the great 1931 club of Dizzy Dean and Ducky Medwick lost to Birmingham in a local shocker. In the end, the Houston Buffs split their eight Dixie Series trips, winning four and losing four. My personal favorite was their 1947 win over Nashville. My personally greatest disappointments came in 1951 and 1954, by the time I was old enough to better appreciate the meaning of their losses in 1951 and 1954.

For your information, here are the results of all Dixie Series matches played from 1920 to 1958:

1920 Texas League Fort Worth Panthers Little Rock Travelers 4 games to 2
1921 Texas League Fort Worth Panthers Memphis Chicks 4 games to 2
1922 Southern Association Mobile Bears Fort Worth Panthers 4 games to 2
1923 Texas League Fort Worth Panthers New Orleans Pelicans 4 games to 2
1924 Texas League Fort Worth Panthers Memphis Chicks 4 games to 3
1925 Texas League Fort Worth Panthers Atlanta Crackers 4 games to 2
1926 Texas League Dallas Steers New Orleans Pelicans 4 games to 2
1927 Texas League Wichita Falls Spudders New Orleans Pelicans 4 games to 0
1928 Texas League Houston Buffaloes Birmingham Barons 4 games to 2
1929 Southern Association Birmingham Barons Dallas Steers 4 games to 2
1930 Texas League Fort Worth Panthers Memphis Chicks 4 games to 1
1931 Southern Association Birmingham Barons Houston Buffaloes 4 games to 3
1932 Southern Association Chattanooga Lookouts Beaumont Exporters 4 games to 1
1933 Southern Association New Orleans Pelicans San Antonio Missions 4 games to 2
1934 Southern Association New Orleans Pelicans Galveston Buccaneers 4 games to 2
1935 Texas League Oklahoma City Indians Atlanta Crackers 4 games to 2
1936 Texas League Tulsa Oilers Birmingham Barons 4 games to 0
1937 Texas League Fort Worth Cats Little Rock Travelers 4 games to 1
1938 Southern Association Atlanta Crackers Beaumont Exporters 4 games to 0
1939 Texas League Fort Worth Cats Nashville Vols 4 games to 3
1940 Southern Association Nashville Vols Houston Buffaloes 4 games to 1
1941 Southern Association Nashville Vols Dallas Rebels 4 games to 0
1942 Southern Association Nashville Vols Shreveport Sports 4 games to 2
1943 No Series WWII
1944 No Series WWII
1945 No Series WWII
1946 Texas League Dallas Rebels Atlanta Crackers 4 games to 0
1947 Texas League Houston Buffaloes Mobile Bears 4 games to 2
1948 Southern Association Birmingham Barons Fort Worth Cats 4 games to 1
1949 Southern Association Nashville Vols Tulsa Oilers 4 games to 3
1950 Texas League San Antonio Missions Nashville Vols 4 games to 3
1951 Southern Association Birmingham Barons Houston Buffaloes 4 games to 2
1952 Southern Association Memphis Chicks Shreveport Sports 4 games to 2
1953 Texas League Dallas Eagles Nashville Vols 4 games to 2
1954 Southern Association Atlanta Crackers Houston Buffaloes 4 games to 3
1955 Southern Association Mobile Bears Shreveport Sports 4 games to 0
1956 Texas League Houston Buffaloes Atlanta Crackers 4 games to 2
1957 Texas League Houston Buffaloes Atlanta Crackers 4 games to 2
1958 Southern Association Birmingham Barons Corpus Christi Giants 4 games to 2

1958 was the last encounter in the Dixie Series between the Southern Association and Texas League. Beginning in 1959 it was replaced by the Pan-Am Series, the Texas League vs. the Mexican League.

The Early Houston Baseball Research Project

May 12, 2011

Was West End Park built on the same site as the 1888 Houston Base Ball Park? The Early Houston Baseball Research Project aims to find out.

SABR research team ready to take on the early 1861-1961 history of Houston baseball.

As Houston Baseball History prepares to turn the page into the future with the sale of the Astros by Drayton McLane, Jr. to local businessman James Crane, a smaller, less financially heeled, but equally dedicated group of researchers and writers prepares to turn equal attention and passion to a  project involving the ungathered, unanalyzed, unclassified, unclarified, and, to date, unpublished  pages of Houston’s first one hundred years of baseball history – the period from 1861 to 1961, from the formation of the first Houston Baseball Club in town, just weeks after Texas seceded from the Union prior to the Civil War through the last season of Houston’s fabled minor league club, the Houston Buffs.

About ten members of SABR, the Society for American Baseball Research, Larry Dierker Chapter, are taking on “The Early Houston Baseball History Project: The Early Years, 1861-1961” in both the hope and expectation of clarifying certain mysteries and points about the history of baseball in this area. Our first meeting of the team is set for Saturday, May 21st,  at 10:00 AM in the downtown Central Houston Public Library. That’s one week from this coming Saturday at the time of this column writing date of Thursday, May 12th – or nine days from today when we set sail.

Most of the major cogent answers we seek are contained somewhere in the files and public records housed at the library. These simply have not been attacked previously with enough qualified research power until now.

We shall also have the backing of the Houston Library Research Staff. In our meeting plan discussions with Ms. Hiawatha Henry of the professional library staff, Ms. Henry noted with this puckish challenge: “If it’s about Houston, we most likely have all the answers your SABR team is looking for right here in some form. Unless you’re looking for the Lost City of Atlantis, we will be here to help your staff accomplish its goals.”

There are no guarantees in life, but I feel good about our chances of pulling together a sound body of work that has been needed for some time in one central comprehensive publication. Our goal is to research, collate our data, write our work, and go into publication with our findings by 2013. All of us on the team are volunteers with no financial investment in the profits of this endeavor. Any profitability that results from the publication of our work will be used to support our local SABR chapter and its other preservationists activities in the Houston area.

In general, we shall be examining any records that help us trace the growth of baseball from its earliest amateur roots in the mid 19th century through the formation of Houston’s first professional club in 1888 and on into the well-chronicled history of the club known in minor league circles as the Houston Buffs consistently from 1907 through 1961, the year before the coming of major league baseball to this area. We will also try learn all we are able about the growth and development of school, amateur, semiprofessional, and black baseball in the Houston area back in the unfortunate days of segregation, We already have some significant, albeit sketchy information about the black baseball clubs that played here in the early to mid 20th century s the Monarch, Black Buffs, and Eagles.

Some major questions cry out for resolution: (1) What was exact location of J.H. Evans’ Store on Market Square? It was in a room on the second floor above Evans’ business that the first Houston Base Ball Club was formed on April 16, 1861. (2) Was the site of the Houston Base Ball Park, where, so far, we think that Houston played its first professional game in downtown Houston on March 6, 1888 located in the same place that the later-titled  West End Park was built in 1907? Or was it constructed on a distinctly separate location?

We need to know the answers to both those questions so that all sites of historical importance to history can be duly noted with commemorative plaques and recognition in print.

Printing words does not make them true.

The earliest lesson hammered at me years ago about research from my mentors is still the most important guide I use. Most of you probably know what it is. If you ever wrote a term paper, and you did, someone hit you with it too. It’s this big one: In research, always use primary sources of information, whenever possible, and always document your resources of support for any conclusion you may reach. 

Well, that’s all well and good – until you wade into historical social research and quickly find that most of your primary resources, your recorded eye witnesses to history, are now dead and definitively unavailable for further comment. Then you quickly find that historians did not usually sit around and record what people in the pre-high tech days of the 19th and early 20th century had to say for later examination by historians of the future.

In effect, newspaper stories and public records, plus the individual diaries and privately recorded correspondence of historic figures become about as close to primary sources as we shall find. The first problem here is that newspaper reporters may write us the only history of record we can find, but that was not their original intent. Newspaper people don’t write for history. They write to sell newspapers with what they hope will be interesting enough to sell that day’s copy.

Newspapers don’t write for history, but they are often the only history we can find.

Sometimes, as in the case of the Houston Post’s non-by lined coverage of Houston’s first 1888 professional game, the writer simply assumes that all his contemporary readers know the location of the “Houston Base Ball Park.” As a result, the whole first game gets reported without a single reference to the park’s location. The writer simply assumes that listing the game site address would  be unnecessary information. He’s not writing for history.

If you have anything you wish to contribute to the effort, please let us hear from you. As project director and editor-in-chief, I’m confident we can find a good balance between carrying out a known work plan that also leaves the door open to new information and new avenues of research. I can be reached with a comment on this column that includes your e-mail address – or you may simply write me directly at

Houston knew baseball before the Civil War – not because of it.

Finally, and I need to say this here, we start our research project with a piece of information from the HPL newspaper files that first framed “100 years” as the minimal period of time that baseball has been important in Houston. Obviously, if the first Houston Base Ball Club was formed in April 1861, and in the wake of secession, that local interest in the game most likely existed much earlier. I think it did, but we need evidence to back up that conclusion. The fact that Houston was started in 1836 by a couple of real estate speculators from New York suggest that early recruitment efforts attracted some northeastern state settlers who already knew about base ball prior to their arrival on the sunny downtown banks of Buffalo Bayou. We simply need to see further corroborating proof, if it can be found worthy of elevation from the theory category to factual confirmation.

The discovery of the 1861 first founding date in Houston already blows away one of the most popular generalizations about how baseball spread in popularity to the Old South. That theory was the one that had baseball spreading to Confederate soldiers in POW camps from their Union soldier teachers – and from Confederate soldiers spreading knowledge of the game to other in their home communities once the Civil War ended.

I’m not suggesting that none of that POW education didn’t happen with some Houston Confederates. I’m just saying that we now have objective proof that Houston knew the game even before the start of the war. And that serves as my best example of the attitude we all take into this project from the start.

At best, history is the connection of documentable facts in a meaningful way about what actually happened. No assumptions need apply. And no treatment of written opinions shall be held up as facts. We are dedicated to giving this work our best, most objective effort for the sake of bringing the truth to as much light as we can find about the early history of baseball in Houston.

Thanks for your time and indulgence. Class dismissed.

A Simple Explanation of Baseball

May 11, 2011

Baseball has been a game of "ins" and "outs" since before its earliest sandlot days.

Yesterday a friend of mine sent me a creative little piece on the game of baseball. Although this friend  is not a baseball fan, he passed it on to me because he knows my interests so well. Someone had sent it to him and he thought I might get a kick out of it, which I certainly did. I’d never read it prior to Tuesday. As per usual, it also perplexed and frustrated me a little that the little work came with anonymous authorship mention. I would have enjoyed giving credit to whomever wrote it.

Sans author identity, here it is:

A Simple Explanation of Baseball

Baseball is a game played by two teams, one out, the other in.
The one that’s in sends players out, one at a time,
To see if they can get in – before they get out.
If they get out before they get in, they come in, but it doesn’t count. 
If they get in before they get out, they also come in, and it does count.
When the ones who are out get three outs from the ones who are in 
Before they get in without being out, the team that’s out comes in,
And the team that was in goes out to get those going in out 
Before they get in – without being out. ….. Got that? Good! Let’s move on!
When both teams have been in and out nine times, the game is over. 
The team with the most in without being out before coming in wins,
Unless the ones in are equal on both sides. 
In these cases, the last ones in go out to get the ones now in out – before they get in without being out.
The game will end when each team has the same number of ins and outs,
But one team has more in without being out before coming in.

Thank you, humble anonymous writer. You’ve left us with a nice crunch moment in mental gymnastics about a subject that most readers of these columns and this writer hold dear. Say, anonymous author, you don’t happen to know who played right field behind Who at fist base, do you? Yeah, we know what you’re probably going to say – something like, “Who’s on first. ‘You-don’t happen-to-know’ is in right!” – Have a nice Wednesday, folks.
Availability Note: Because of a major loss of faith in Comcast, I am going through a major change of my television channels, Internet, and phone service from cable to DirectTV and AT&T over the next five days. TV is set to change by installation today; New Internet and phone service comes in next Monday, May 16th.
I’m sharing this news only because I’m not sure if the TV installation today is going to somehow knock out my Comcast Internet and phone service until next Monday. I hope it doesn’t, but if it does, that will be the reason I disappear for a few days. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

The Future of Baseball

May 10, 2011

Minute Maid Park, Houston, 2010.

Will today’s generation of young kids feel as sentimental over Minute Maid Park in twenty years as some of us do now about the Astrodome, Colt Stadium, and Buff Stadium?  It’s hard to say, but I like to hope that they probably will. It all depends upon how much emotional investment they now make in baseball from around age 8 to about 12 in going to the ballpark for a baseball game – and how connected they are to baseball as a big part of their everyday childhood experience.

As kid sandlot and early Little League players, our post WWII generation lived, breathed, ate, and drank baseball. I’m not sure today’s kids have that kind of experiences because of their high-tech distractions and the extra controls they get from many families that basically sleep in their houses without forming any attachment to neighborhood. Back then, a house was a home, and homes connected in neighborhoods to form communities, and Houston Buffs baseball was a big part of our shared communal experience. Today that doesn’t seem to be quite the same case.

Some of us back then read the sports pages daily and The Sporting News weekly. We knew the daily lineups for all sixteen major league teams, plus their pitching rotations. Of course, those of us who lived in minor league cities, as Houston was then, also knew our local club’s stats and those of our league rivals. Then again, our interests were not in competition with Play Station, Game Boy, The Internet, and cell phones. Man! When I think of what we could have done with the Internet to stay abreast of all the baseball news, it makes my head swim.

So, when we older ones look back, we can see the saturation of our investment in baseball as kids. Is there any reason to think that we are raising a generation of kids who will also want to follow the game daily and also go to the ballpark on a regular basis? What do you think? In my view, anything short of affirmative answers here means big problems to come for baseball over the next two decades.

Who knows? Maybe we’re just raising kids who sort of watch baseball with us on HDTV while they are moving around the house, multi-tasking other things.

Your opinion counts here. Please share it. Are we raising baseball fans – or not?

The First and Last Hurrahs of Babe Ruth

May 9, 2011

The One and Only

When I think of baseball, which is fairly often, my thoughts run inevitably to Babe Ruth, the man whose long shadow still lingered upon the sandlots of my later kid generation in the years that immediately followed World War II. How could we not remember the Babe after that 1948 movie with William Bendix? Why, the Babe was practically Superman in a Yankee uniform, hitting home runs for sick kids everywhere, taking care of an injured dog that caught a foul ball off his own club at batting practice, even if it meant getting into trouble for missing his game, and finally finishing things off in his last game ever by crashing three monster home runs as he hammered out his last ounce of power as an old man playing for the Braves against the Pirates at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh in 1935.

Breathtaking, except for one thing. It wasn’t all exactly true. We dumb kids of the Houston East End simply didn’t know or even want to hear of such nonsense. The Babe may have paid attention to sick kids, and promised a few homers, here and there, but he never hit a dog at BP with a hard foul ball and then rushed the dog off to be treated at a hospital for humans. And he didn’t hit those last three home runs in his final game at Pittsburgh and then humbly turn over his place as a runner at first on a fourth hit to a young rookie who had been riding him as a washed up has-been, In fact, Babe Ruth played on for two more road series as a member of the Boston Braves at Cincinnati and Philadelphia, going 0 for 9 in his final official times at bat to put the hammer on his illustrious career as The Sultan of Swat.

So, today I just felt the need to hit the highlights of some landmark home runs in the history of Babe Ruth. These start in 1915, when Babe Ruth was only 20-year-old fresh second MLB season pitcher – and they don’t stop until Pittsburgh in 1935, when the Bambino was then a tired old outfielder at age 41.

Landmark Ruthian HR # 1:  May 6. 1915 @ the Polo Grounds in New York. Ruth is pitching for the Red Sox against the home club Yankees. Ruth comes to bat in the 3rd inning and hits the first pitch from Jack Warhop out of the park for his first home run in the big leagues. Boston and Ruth go on to lose to the New York Yankees by a score of 4-3 in 13 innings. Ruth had been up to plate a handful of times in his brief 1914 rookie season, going 2 for 10 with no homers.

Landmark Ruthian HR # 2: September 27, 1919 @ Griffith Stadium in Washington. Ruth is playing left field for the Boston Red Sox when he hits a record-setting 29th HR off Rip Jordan of the Senators with one on in the 3rd inning. The home club Senators go on to defeat Ruth and the Red Sox, 7-5. The home run is Ruth’s 49th career blow and his last as a member of the Red Sox.

Landmark Ruthian HR # 3: May 1, 1920 @ the Polo Grounds in New York. Ruth is again in left field for the Yankees, facing his old club, the visiting Boston Red Sox. Ruth hit his first home run of the season and as a Yankee in the 6th inning with no runners on off Herb Pennock.It is the 12th game of the season in which Ruth will shatter his own old record of 29 season homers by blasting 59. The first eleven games were spent trying too hard or sitting on the bench. Yankees win the game, 6-0.

Landmark Ruthian HR # 4: September 30, 1927 @ Yankee Stadium in New York, Washington @ New York. Ruth blasts HR # 60 off Tom Zachary of the Senators in the 8th inning with one on base. The Yankees win 4-2. And Ruth’s new season record of 60 HR stands for 34 years before Roger Maris of the 1961 Yankees breaks it with his also famous 61* homers.

Landmark Ruthian HR # 5: September 29, 1934 @ Griffith Stadium in Washington. The Yankees lose the home club Senators, but Ruth hits his last home run as a Yankee ,and as an American Leaguer. 1934 season HR # 22 comes off Syd Cohen of the Sens in the 7th with 2 on, but it’s too little too late for the Yanks as they fall, three runs short. Final Score: Senators 8 – New York 5.

Landmark Ruthian HR # 6: April 16, 1935, with Ruth now playing right field for the Boston Braves, it’s Boston @ the New York Giants in the Polo Grounds. Ruth hits his first National League and Braves home run in the 5th inning off the great Carl Hubbell with one on. The first smack for the NL Boston club provides the winning difference in a 4-2 Braves win.

Landmark Ruthian HR #7: May 25, 1935, Braves @ Pirates at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. The Babe gets the last four hits of his career and three of them are home runs # 712, 713, and 714. The first HR of the day comes off starter Red Lucas in the first with 1 on. The second comes off Guy Bush in the 3rd with one on. And the thrid and last also comes off Guy Bush in the 7th with none on. Pittsburgh still wins the game, 11-7, but Ruth goes 4 for 4 with 3 homers, 3 runs scored, and 6 runs batted in.

As in the 1948 movie, it would have been the perfect time to retire, but that’s not how it played out in reality. Ruth’s incredible last hurrah somehow encouraged him to keep playing through two more road series for the Braves at Cincinnati and Philadelphia. After going 0 for 9 in both places total, Ruth finally hung ’em up, finishing his career with that number “714” that all kid fans grew up with back in the day as the mark of home run excellence.

In summary, Babe Ruth hit 49 home runs for the Boston Red Sox, 659 home runs for the New York Yankees, and 6 for the Boston Braves. That adds up to “714” on your fingers, or an abacus, or a computer. Unless Babe Ruth knew a chemist who was decades ahead of his time, every home run  hit by the great overgrown kid from Baltimore was steroid, but not necessarily alcohol, free.

Babe Ruth is a good way to start out Monday. I need to put that realization into the old memory bank. Have a great week, everybody. And don’t do anything the Babe wouldn’t do.