Posts Tagged ‘Curt Walker’

Ross Youngs vs. Curt Walker: One More Time

May 16, 2013
A new book on Ross  Youngs by David King is coming our way soon.

A new book on Ross Youngs by David King is coming our way soon.

Curt Walker started his professional career as a Houston Buff in 1919.

Curt Walker was a Houston Buff in 1919.

Curt Walker of Beeville, Texas was one of my earliest baseball idols, but it had nothing to do with seeing him play or knowing first hand how really good he was. He was my dad’s friend, one of my fatherless dad’s earliest role models from our shared birthplace of Beeville. Dad and his buddies used to go to downtown Beeville as kids of the 1920s to check on Cincinnati Reds scores because of Curt. Before I was born, Dad and Curt later played town ball together for Beeville in the 1930’s. They hunted together. They grabbed coffee together at the old American Cafe on Washington, Beeville’s “main street” business drag.

By the time I reached adolescence and started accessing published records of baseball’s past performers,  I learned that our family friend, Curt Walker, had done pretty well for himself as a big league ballplayer from 1919-1930. Then, years later, in 1972, I was astonished by the news that another deserving small town Texas contemporary named Ross Youngs had been approved for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee.

What about Curt? I wondered. I’m no stat head, and this is no knock on Ross Young’s deservedness for the honor, but I just couldn’t see what made Youngs a superior candidate for that honor than Curt Walker. From anecdotal sources, I got the idea that  Youngs may have been the faster between these two fast men, but both were great defending outfielders with great batting eyes. Physically and by age too, they were virtually Texas twins. The only really major differences were that Youngs played all of his ten-year MLB career with the New York Giants and Curt Walker played most of his twelve-year career with the Cincinnati Reds.

With the new book on Youngs by David King coming out soon, I have to take us through this basically unscientific comparison one more time:

Curt Walker was born in Beeville, Texas on July 3, 1896. Ross Youngs was born in Shiner, Texas on April 10, 1897.

Curt grew to a playing height and weight of 5’9″, 170 pounds; Ross rose to 5’*8″ and 162. Both batted left and threw right.

Ross batted .322 in a career that covered 5,336 plate appearances; Curt batted .304 over 5,575 plate trips.

Ross banged out 2BH, 3BH, & HR totals of 236-93-42; Curt closed on same with totals of 235-117-64.

Ross had R/RBI totals of 812/592. Curt finished with totals of 718/688.

Ross racked up 1,491 career hits. Curt posted 1,475 total hits.

Ross registered OBP/SA totals of .399/.441; Curt went in the same tub with .374/.440 marks.

Ross walked 550 times; Curt drew 535 bases on balls.

Ross struck out only 390 times in 5,336 plate appearances, but Curt fanned only 254 times in 5,575 plate trips.

Ross Youngs died of Bright’s Disease at age 30 on September 22, 1927 in San Antonio, Texas. Curt Walker died of a heart attack at the age of 59 on December 9, 1955 in Beeville, Texas.

My Conclusion: Ross Youngs had more friends in high places than Curt Walker. Youngs also played his career in New York and was struck down by a terrible disease at the height of his career. Lot’s of sympathy votes hatch from going out that way. Curt Walker was more of an everyday, quiet kind of guy who played out his career in a small market city, lived into his retirement years to the boondocks of little Beeville, a place that hardly a Veterans Committee member ever visited.

Sabermetric guru Bill James takes this position on the Youngs/Walker controversy: He basically concludes that it isn’t so much that Walker deserves the HOF as much as Youngs, but that Ross Youngs never should have been inducted in the first place. He believes that both men were good ballplayers, just not statistically good enough in either case for the Hall of Fame.

With their shared affinity for avoiding the “K”, I would gladly take either man for the top of my batting order in 2013.

It will be interesting to see what new light David King brings to the legacy of Ross Youngs. For some of us, he will always be connected to the disappearing act that the Veterans Committee performed on Curt Walker.

Curt Walker and the Boys of Beeville

June 2, 2010

Curt Walker, MLB, 1919-30; .304 BA; Struck Out only 254 times in 4,858 official times at bat.

When my dad was growing up in our little Texas birth town of Beeville back in the early part of the 20th century, the city population of this little farm and ranch community was only about 3,000, but they were all mostly people who loved baseball. It showed on the rough playing fields of South Texas too. Beeville sent three players to the major leagues during those early times, all of whom got there with enough staying power to carve out careers in the big time over several seasons.

Two of the these men were pitchers: (1) Melvin “Bert” Gallia, 1912-20, W 66 L 68, ERA 3.14 and (2) Lloyd “Lefty” Brown, 1925, 1928-37, 1940, W 91, L 105, ERA 4.20.

Gallia (1918-20) and Brown (1933) both spent some of their time pitching for the old St. Louis Browns. Gallia was a 17-game winner for the Washington Senators in 1916-17 consecutively. Brown leads the Lou Gehrig victim lst for having given up 4 of the Iron Horse’s career-leading 23 Grand Slam Homers.

Then there was outfielder Curt Walker, who played a major role modeling place in my dad’s life as a young ballplayer. Grandfather McCurdy published, edited, wrote for, and printed the local Beeville Bee, but he died when Dad was only two years old. One result was that Dad grew up needing some other local adult male to look up to – and it turned out to be Curt Walker, who also worked in Beeville during the off-season at his other occupation as one of the town’s leading undertakers.

By the time Dad was old enough to follow Curt Walker as he broke into the big leagues with the 1920 New York Giants, radio had yet to take over as a coast-to-coast medium of mass communication. If you wanted to follow the daily changes in baseball back in that era, you either had to have access to large daily newspapers and be able to check the sports pages for the stories, box scores, and up-to-date standings – or else, you had to do what Dad and other small town people did back then. You had to walk downtown to your weekly newspaper office, or Western Union station, and check for news and box scores as they came streaming live through every little nook and cranny of America. Some of these places, as was the practice of the Beeville Bee and Beeville Picayune, kept chalk board accounts in their Main Street windows that detailed scores, standings, and brief news on what the “Boys of Beeville” were doing on a given summer day.

Dad often described these walks downtown for scores in the late afternoon as the highlight of his summer day as a kid.

For me, Curt Walker would become the reason behind my eventual involvement in the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame. When I attended my first TBHOF induction banquet in Arlington in 1996 and learned that Walker was not a member of the state hall, I began campaigning for his induction. It took five years, but the late Curt Walker finally was inducted into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001.

Curt Walker had hung out in the shadows of Texas baseball history for too long. If you will take the time to compare his career marks with fellow Texan contemporary Ross Youngs, an inducted member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, you will not find a lot of significant difference. Both were deserving players from this state. Walker just got lost by posting his best season batting average of .337 and 196 hits with the 1922 Philadelphia Phillies and then spending most of his big league career (1924-30) in the hinterlands with the Cincinnati Reds.

Curt Walker’s lifetime MLB batting average of .304 and his limited 254 strike outs in 4,858 official times at bat pretty much speak for themselves and his batting ability over time – although he arrived in New York with a scouting tout that even Curt could not fulfill in reality.

When the Giants purchased the contract of Curt Walker from the Augusta Georgians in 1920, they paid $7,000, or ten times what the Tigers paid for Ty Cobb’s services from the same club back in 1905.  Many South Atlantic League veteran observers were saying they felt that Walker was better than Cobb at that stage of his development. Of course, that scouting report turned out to be a major oversell, one that led John McGraw to deal Curt Walker away in 1921 to the Phillies, but he was a steady good ballplayer for years to come – and much better than average. He also was a smart and speedy runner and fielder with a good arm.

Years later, catcher Eddie Taubensee would become the fourth native Beevillian to make it to the big leagues. Also, famous big league hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, a native of Dallas, but a kid who grew up in Beeville would also rise up to leave their own marks on the game.

Two other things I always note about Walker are these: (1) Curt played 41 games for the Houston Buffs in 1919, his first year in professional baseball; and (2) As a member of the 1926 Reds, Walker tied a major league record that will always be very hard to break. In a game against the Boston Braves, Curt collected two triples in the same inning.

What are the odds against anyone ever hitting three triples in the same inning? I’m guessing they are about equal to Curt Walker’s chances of ever being inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Beeville Orange Growers: Another Photo Mystery.

March 24, 2010

1910 Beeville Orange Growers: Photo Courtesy of the Randy Foltin Collection.

Research colleague Randy Foltin sent me this photo yesterday of the 1910 Beeville Orange Growers because he knew I was born in that little South Texas town and that I hold special interests in the baseball history of the area. As often is the case, the photo came with its own historical mysteries. These all mainly spin around the presence of the most famous player in the shot, number 6 on the back row, Beeville native and future major league pitcher Bert Gallia.

First let’s cover a little background on the brief history of the Beeville Orange Growers. They didn’t last very long, but then again, neither did the agricultural course of raising oranges or any other citrus fruit crop in Beeville. Located fifty miles north of Corpus Christi, the Beeville winters were simply too cold and too filled with freezing temperature days ro make the industry practical for that too-far-north region of the state. Still, playing minor league baseball and raising oranges had a parallel run in the Beeville area until both got frosted away in the second decade of the twentieth century.

The Beeville baseball-playing Orange Growers were members of the two-season, six-team Southwest Texas League in 1910-11. Other league members included the Brownsville Brownies, the Corpus Christi Pelicans, the Laredo Bermudas, the Bay City Rice Eaters, and the Victoria Rosebuds. Second Place Brownsville won the first of the league’s only two pennants in 1910 by taking a 3-2 series playoff with First Place Victoria. Third Place Beeville was awarded the other pennant in 1911 when First Place Bay City refused to participate in their scheduled championship playoff series.

After 1911, the Southwest Texas League was no more and Beeville went back to raising cattle, harvesting broom corn, and playing their amateur town ball games of baseball. Make no mistake, the failure of the Southwest Texas League was no barometer on the levels of Beeville’s interest in and talent for baseball. By 1925, this small community of a few hundred people had sent their third native son to the big leagues in the form of Lefty Lloyd Brown. Pitcher Bert Gallia went first, joining the Washington Senators in 1912. Outfielder Curt Walker was second, coming up with the New York Yankees at the tail end of the 1919 season before going on to twelve successful years with the Giants, Phillies, and Reds. Walker’s lifetime .304 batting average helped earn him an induction into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame back in 2001.

Now to the mysteries.

Bert Gallia is shown in the photo with the 1910 Beeville Orange Growers, but his Baseball Reference minor league record indicates that he did not begin his playing career until 1911, and that he then started with Laredo before shifting over to Beeville before season’s end. The next year, 1912, found Melvin “Bert” Gallia ascending all the way up to the roster of the Washington Senators.

I’ve checked the photos against the team records maintained by Baseball Reference.Com. That’s definitely the 1910 club. Except for Gallia, all of the other players in the photo are represented in the Baseball Reference database as players for the 1910 Beeville club,

The other mystery concerns the ‘S’ letter that appears on Bert Gallia’s jersey. The letter has nothing to do with Beeville – nor with the Laredo Bermudas that apparently broke him in at the start of the 1911 season.

One more incidental comment on the 1911 Beeville club: Ted Schultz began the (63-54, .538) season as the team’s manager, but he was replaced during the year by Billy Disch, a young man who would go on from Beeville to become the baseball coaching icon at the University of Texas.

Any ideas you may have on the subject’s two mystery questions are most welcome as comments here in the section below this article.

Have a nice Wednesday, everybody, and keep the spring hope watered and green. The 2010 baseball season is almost here.