Posts Tagged ‘Houston Sports Museum’

Houston Sports Museum: A Few Notes

June 23, 2010

80 36" steel buffalo medallions rimmed Buff/Busch Stadium from 1928 to 1961.

The Houston Sports Museum enjoyed a nice open house crowd last Saturday at their location on the site of Buff Stadium last Saturday, June 19th. According to Curator Tom Kennedy, a good time was had by all during the 12:30 PM – 1:30 PM meet and greet autograph session with baseball figures from all segments of Houston’s baseball history. Jack Schultea was there representing Houstonians who went on to play pro ball. Larry Miggins attended as a former Buff from the 1940s and 1950s, but he also played a short while with the parent St. Louis Cardinals club – and he is now a member in good standing of SABR, the Society for American Baseball Research. J.C. Hartman was on hand as a transitional figure. Hartman was one of the few last Buffs who also then played for the new major league Houston Colt .45s. – Carl Warwick, a pinch-hitting hero with the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1964 World Series, also came as a former Colt .45. And all these guys were accompanied by former Houston Astro Jose Cruz, current Houston Astro Michael Bourn, and former Buff/Colt .45/ Astro Hall of Fame announcer Gene Elston. – What a lineup! ¬†– What a crowd! – What a day! – And what an opportunity for Houston to keep its history honored and growing.

Support Fingers: Here’s the catch, folks – and hopefully all of us who love baseball history can do our part to support the program. For the museum to succeed over time, the Finger Furniture store that preserves and protects it on this most special site of our minor league heritage must succeed in the retail sales market in this singular store location on the Gulf Freeway at Cullen. I probably don’t have to tell you how competitive the furniture business is in Houston. – For now, all we can do is think first of Finger’s when we need a furniture purchase – and spread the word to our friends as well. Store owner Rodney Finger has earned at least a “first look” Mulligan from all Houston baseball fans when it comes to that next furniture purchase. Please keep Finger’s in mind.

Museum Donations: As a result of the little publicity I’ve given to the Houston Sports Museum, a woman up in Livingston has contacted me about donating her father’s scrapbook to the museum. Her dad was an outfielder named D.L. “Country” Smith and he played with the Houston Buffs for a short while back in the late 1930s. He also took the time along the way to put together a scrapbook with photos and letters from Branch Rickey and former Buffs President Fred Ankenman. I’ve put the family in touch with Tom Kennedy for further exploration.

Those Buffalo Medallions:

This profile was my earliest and most lasting image of Buff Stadium.

The buffalo medallions that once rimmed the exterior walls at Buff Stadium came up again as part of HSM Curator Tom Kennedy’s talk to our Houston Chapter of SABR earlier this month. The eighty (80) thirty-six (36) inches in diameter medallions were the jewels in the royal crown of Houston baseball’s beautiful ballpark in the East End. A couple of these beauties now reside at the Houston Sports Museum as steely strong reminders of Houston’s thick and lasting baseball heritage.

Check the top photo here and you will see the configuration of how these¬†medallions outlined the ballpark. Imagine the impression they made on the nine-year old kid that was me when I saw them for the first time in 1947. They were like magnets to me. Once in their presence, I couldn’t wait to get back. I was addicted to baseball from before I even heard the first crack of the bat.

It was an addiction from which I’ve never even tried to recover.

The Houston Sports Museum Is Back!

March 31, 2010

Rodney Finger Has Reincarnated an Improved Tribute to Houston History at his “new” store on the Gulf Freeway at the Site of Legendary Buff Stadium (1928-61).

Yesterday Bob Dorrill of SABR and I went over to meet with Tom Kennedy, the Curator of the Houston Sports Museum, and to get his tour of what is happening with the newly reopened facility at the also newly remodeled and reopened Finger furniture store at that historical location.

Words alone fail. That’s why you will be getting many photos today. Rodney Finger and Tom Kennedy are pulling out all the stops to make sure that the presentation and artifact preservation issues that plagued the “HSM” in the past are now resolved and replaced by a rotating exhibit of items that are truly unique and valuable to history.

The HSM will keep its historic name and honor its dedication to remembering the Houston Oilers and Earl Campbell as well, but this evolving version of the dream will be mostly about baseball, as was the original intention of 1960s founder and Rodney’s grandfather, Sammy Finger.

Bob Dorrill (L) and Tom Kennedy talk things over in front of a new mural version of Buff Stadium on its original Opening Day, April 11, 1928.

On display are two of the original 80 36″ diameter metal buffalo medallions that once rimmed the exterior perimeter stadium walls of Buff Stadium.

In a DVD narrated by Gene Elston, the story of Houston professional baseball from 1888 forward now plays continuously on a high-definition television set within the museum. Other digital telecasts are planned for inclusion in the future on a rotating basis.

The quiet, classy hand of Houston Astros Acquisitions Director Mike Acosta is also visible in the new HSM on several levels. Acosta has been working with Kennedy to help make the new Finger’s showcase the first order presentation it is fast becoming.

“It’s not how much space you have, but how you use the space you have that matters.” Kennedy and the HSM are dedicated to the idea that choice items, rotated for view on a frequent thematic basis, will help keep giving people reasons to return. The public will have a chance to view the world’s oldest baseball card from 1869 at some undetermined point in the near future.. Rodney Finger has asked card owner JeFF Rosenberg, the owner of Tri Star Productiions, to allow the HSM to display it sometime soon and it is expected that this will happen. Say tuned for further specific details from Tom Kennedy. Everything well done takes time. To better protect historical treasures, HSM also has installed protective lighting to help preserve artifacts and help prevent the fading of important signatures from autographed items. In case you are wondering, that’s an ancient Houston Buffs jersey on display in this photo, along with several books that are important to local baseball history.

The former exact site of home plate is still imbedded in the floor of the HSM. It will soon be joined by the return of the larger than life statue of Dickie Kerr, the late-in-life Houstonian who once pitched as the “honest man in” for the 1919 Chicago Black Sox.

The art of LeRoy Neiman’s Nolan Ryan rises above the lesser light of some dedicated less celebrated Astro heros.

The history of Houston baseball is all here. Look for word of the HSM’s Grand Re-Opening Day, but drop on by anytime now to check the progress. Tommy Kennedy says he has about sixty per cent of their Finger’s items on display and that further acquisitions are planned. It’s a show that will never end or be complete and it’s Houston baseball history in its purest form. The vision of Rodney Finger and the hard work of Tom Kennedy is out there saving the day for something that could have been lost forever. Thank you, Rodney! And you, Tom! The business of museums belongs in the hands of those people of integrity who truly care about history – and you guys are both such folks!

Many of us grew up reading our first baseball game stories from the mind and pen of former Houston Post writer Clark Nealon. It is only right and fitting that the HSM honors the late Nealon in the fine way it does.

There will always be room at the HSM for a fellow named Earl, even if he didn’t play baseball.

Rodney Finger is a man of vision. He took out a wall so that visitors to the new Finger’s store on the Gulf Freeway would have this view of the Houston Sports Museum as they entered the building. Good luck, Rodney! Based upon what we saw in a nearly three-hour meeting with Tom Kennedy yesterday, I think it’s safe to say that Bob Dorrill and I both walked away quite impressed. Know too that we will be around to help you any way we are able – and that we will spread the word to other SABR members about your plans and actions to date.

Have a nice spring day, everybody. We’ll see you at the ballpark soon.