Posts Tagged ‘Houston’

Houston, Our Roster Just Got Cy Younger!

September 1, 2017

Justin Verlander
Houston Astros


Welcome to Houston, Justin Verlander!

And welcome to your best opportunity ever for a World Series ring. We Astro fans don’t have to pick up the tab on your journey here, but, now that the deal is done, count most of our Pecan Park Eagle team as grateful to owner Jim Crane and GM Jeff Luhnow for pulling the trigger on hope for a starting rotation that’s good enough to get the job done. We’ve been doing a lot of whistling in the dark during this now slumped-away August decline about getting things together by playoff time, but we were not really seeing anything to support that confidence. If we still don’t make it for our ordained destiny date with the Dodgers in the 2017 World Series, at least, it will not be laid off to the fact that the Astros didn’t do enough to acquire the final missing pieces. Now you’ve fed our hope-beast a heaping helping of the possibilities:

(1) Now we have two former Cy Youngs in the rotation, and both Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander still have the ability to produce a game of formerly routine greatness any time they each take the mound.

(2) We also have an even more rested and fresh Lance McCullers coming back soon and a Collin McHugh who’s looking more and more like Collin McHugh as he works.

(3) And we’ve got Mike Fiers, Brad Peacock, and Charlie Morton, who are all capable of having good games any given night.

If only our starters could get us 6, better yet, 7 innings per game. It would help the “W” side of life if our starters could pitch us past that early relief corps weakness that continues to haunt us too often. Get the game to Chris Devenski and Ken Giles as best you can, Justin, and maybe you can be the difference-maker.

Just remember too. The hope-beast is a wild animal whose appetite for new proof of imminent delivery is never sated. There are people who will never be happy, no matter what you do for the club. So,  just give us your best shot each time you go out there. And maybe we will all make it to the land of smiles come October.

My apologies, sir! You don’t need somebody like me explaining things. You’re Justin “Freaking” Verlander, the 2011 AL Cy Young winner after a season in which you went 24-5 with a 2.40 ERA over 34 starts and 251 innings pitched for an .828% winning percentage, and leadership also in wins, ERA, starts, innings pitched, and winning percentage that same big year. Your 250 strikeouts in 2011 also led the AL in your Year of The Cy.

Our Astro fans hope is simple. We only wish that you shall find that 2011 version of yourself again – and that you will allow that Cy model of you to now take the mound for the 2017 Houston Astros.

What did I tell you about the hope-beast?

Que sera, sera!




1 ASTROS 80 53 .602  
2 ANGELS 69 65 .515 11.5
3 RANGERS 66 67 .496 14.0
4 MARINERS 66 68 .493 14.5
5 ATHLETICS 58 75 .436 22.0





MARINERS (day off; swimming lessons on the Sea of Mediocrity)

ANGELS (day off; choir practice at the old Gene Autry ranch)

ATHLETICS 8 (day off; being fitted for Connie Mack throwback suit night, an evening in which all A’s will dress as Mack, complete with high white celluloid collars and summer straw hats while they play.)




1 JOSE ALTUVE HOU 504 179 35 4 21 .355
2 AVISAIL GARCIA CWS 411 133 22 4 13 .324
NR * CARLOS CORREA HOU 325 104 18 1 20 .320
3 ERIC HOSMER KC 500 159 24 1 22 .318
4 JONATHAN SCHOOP BAL 509 156 30 0 30 .306
5 ELVIS ANDRUS TEX 531 161 37 4 16 .303
6 JOSH REDDICK HOU 413 125 26 3 12 .303
7 JOSE RAMERIZ CLE 499 151 43 5 20 .303
8 JOSE ABREU CWS 518 156 36 4 26 .301
9 JEAN SEGURA SEA 431 129 24 1 7 .299
13 YULIE GURRIEL HOU 454 133 36 1 15 .293
17 MARWIN GONZALEZ HOU 375 109 23 0 21 .291
20 GEORGE SPRINGER HOU 448 130 25 0 29 .290
22 TIE ALEX BREGMAN HOU 453 130 31 5 16 .287




Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Dinner Bell Still Rings in Houston

June 24, 2011

The 2011 Dinner Bell Now Calls Itself a Cafe.

Almost every day since 1953, the Dinner Bell Cafe & Bakery on Lawndale at Wayside in the Houston East End has rung for hungry people. Long before Dr. Oz and his medical minions came along to spoil “good eatin'” for us old schoolers of great taste for America’s supreme comfort foods, the Dinner Bell was there to make sure that nobody went into withdrawal.

Today, in 2011, Tuesdays and Sundays are Chicken and Dumplings Days, from 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM, Monday through Friday, and from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Sunday. The delicious bakery opens early and stays open from 6:00 AM to 7:00 PM, Monday through Friday, and from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Sunday. The whole place closes on Saturday – just to give customers a taste of separation from how much they are missing due to the absence of seven-days a week service.

The general name of the place is something of a misnomer. Unless you want to get technical about it, he Dinner Bell is actually a cafeteria – one of the last such eateries in Houston, but a far-sight superior to the Luby’s chain and in quality line with the equally wonderful Cleburne Cafeteria on Bissonnet, but cheaper.

Here’s a link to the Dinner Bell’s 2011 website:

Click over and pick a day for your own comfort food meal.

The Dinner Bell is located across the street from the Villa de Matel Convent, one of the most serenely beautiful places in Houston since 1928, and about 1.5 miles west of the Lawndale/75th intersection strip mall that once housed my now demolished Saturday afternoon Avalon Theatre. It’s also a busy catty-corner away from Idylwood, one of the most mysteriously different Houston residential neighborhoods from the early 20th century, with its sloping lawns and anciently majestic trees and curving, dipping streets along the banks of the nearby bayou. Across the bayou from Idylwood to the east is Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery.

The Dinner Bell came along when I was already a sophomore in high school, but we still went there some. Back then, Sundays were the main day for families eating out – when they did eat out. People simply did not eat out as a matter of every day course back then – and Sundays were also the days that many many moms, including my own, really enjoyed cooking their own versions of those Dinner Bell specialties from ingredient scratch in their own kitchens.

How times have changed, but the Dinner Bell still tolls for us all in Houston as a comforting reminder of how food used to taste. Take your heart pills and give it a try sometime.

Avalon Theatre Building Demolished

June 4, 2011

Weekly serials at the Avalon fried our imaginations to the ongoing cliffhanger struggle between good and evil. We knew. It's why some of us had the patience to wait ten years for the final chapter on Osama bin Laden. We knew. The bad guys always get what's coming to them in the end.

The old Avalon Theatre itself died a thousand years ago. Way back in 1957, ownership closed the small, but venerable east end of Houston Grade b movie house and converted it to an unfortunately short-lived career as a house for live theater productions. I saw the late Wally Cox of TV’s “Mr. Peepers” fame starring there at the Avalon in 1958 in the featured lead role in “Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?” It was fun. I was 20 years old and now  dressing up in  coat and tie to take a date to “the theatre” in the same physical building where I grew up going barefoot on summer Saturdays to watch Roy Rogers, Bowery Boys, and Charlie Chan movies.

Sadly, the Houston East End was not ready in the late 1950s (or at any other time to this day) to support businesses based on a Broadway show model. The Avalon closed its doors by 1960 and stood dark for a while. It reopened after a while as “The Capri” and made its degrading way to doom as a porn movie house before again changing its identity to match the changes going on in the culture of the east end neighborhood. It again changed its name to “The Fiesta” and started showing Spanish language movies that the owners hoped would prove attractive to the new East End of the late 20th century. That move failed too and the old “Avalon” closed forever as a movie house.

Like many of these small neighborhood suburban theaters from the 1930s and 1940s, the Avalon survived as home to a fundamentalist/revivalist independent religious sect that appealed to new residents of the nearby geographical area. That’s what I thought it still was doing until I passed nearby on Lawndale yesterday.

I was just explaining the story of the Avalon to a traveling companion friend as we drove across the 75th Street intersection, traveling west on Lawndale only yesterday. Then I looked out the window to my right and saw that the old Avalon Theatre building was now gone. Some time in the last two years, the church that had been there went “vamanos” and left the old structure to the demolishing people.

No longer of any use to the imaginations of kids, sinners, or saints, the Avalon had met the wrecking ball – and the latter had left us not a stone-upon-a-stone remembrance of the former.

In its better days, the Avalon Theatre at 743 75th in Houston had a beautifully vertical red name banner and a dazzling (to us kids) electrically lighted movie display board.

Goodbye, old Avalon. Thanks for the memories and the early life fun we had together.

Even though your true life has been gone for years, I felt a spiritual hole in my heart yesterday when I unexpectedly saw your physical presence missing from among the ruins of those ancient East End artifacts and places that still remind me of earlier times. It’s too bad that none of us who cared about you could not have been present in time to do something that might have saved you for a gentler renewed purpose and delivered you entirely from the same impersonal fate that awaits so much of Houston’s physical cultural heritage.

You don’t kill a culture by burying the dead. You kill a culture by burying the living. And life goes on in those old physical places that remind us of our earliest roots and fondest hopes for the future. Some are creatures of universal beauty. Others exist only as beautiful in the eyes of the bonded beholder, but they are all living things. And that’s the point that seems to elude many people.

Goodbye, Avalon, but in this knowledge: The early part of you that lives on in my heart, still driving my trust in hope over despair, lives forever within people like me – and we were the Houston kids who knew you way back when.

Godspeed, Avalon. Your job here was done – a long, long time ago.

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 2011 Houston Easter Tale

April 23, 2011

NASA Had 4 Shuttles to Give Away for Easter, But the Easter Bunny Had 5 Giant Eggs for 5 Different Cities On His NASA Easter Egg Delivery List! - What Could That Possibly Mean?

Once upon a time, in the spring of 2011, the United States of America came to a point of creative, economic, and political bankruptcy in its will to carry out the exploration of outer space with all the scientific fervor it deserves. As a sad result, President Barak Obama recommended that we simply shut down further active NASA programs of space discovery and leave that task to the resources and designs of private interest groups.

As a result, plans quickly flew into motion for dismantling the active flight physical infrastructure of NASA, sort of in the way we did back in the 1920s and 1930s when we gave up as a nation on electric rail travel as a preferred medium of mass transit in favor of busses and cars that ran on the availability of cheap gasoline. There would be no going back to direct space flights either once we shredded ourselves of the materials and people who made it possible. Like the rail tracks that we dug up fast a long time ago, we had to burn our newest bridges behind us too on publicly supported space flight.

As a major celebrity event in dismantling NASA, it was announced that four American cities would be awarded one of the four historic space shuttles for public display in their communities. It was first easily assumed that Houston and Cape Canaveral would be the two no-brainer sites for two of these shuttles. After all, these were the sites of NASA’s Mission Control and Mission Launching facilities.

Not so fast, presumptuous villagers of the hinterlands! – The Obama Administration wanted NASA to take community bids on where they each should go. As twenty cities quickly joined in the hunt for landing a shuttle, it all too suddenly became  a decision that would now be decided upon political capital – and not based upon historic merit.

“Houston, we have a problem! We deserve one of those shuttles on historic merit, but this is now a political thing – and it’s being run under the waving hand of the Obama Administration – and Texas didn’t vote for Obama in 2008!”

Sure enough. Here comes the NASA-hired pre-Easter Bunny – and he’s packing a basket with five city eggs, but only four can possibly contain shuttle awards. What to do? What to do? What to do? Our Texas senators and representatives started speech-making, but they revved up way too late, said too little, and had no clout. “Red-State-Itis” has a real bad effect upon the hearing of Blue State Leadership Ears.

"I first got some bad news for you, Houston!" cried the NASA Pre-Easter Bunny.

“Crack open those first four eggs, Cape Canaveral, Suburban Washington, DC in Virginia, Los Angeles, and New York City. “said the Bunny. “Houston, don’t go anywhere. Just sit back a while. – Seattle, Dayton, Chicago, – all the rest of you – just hobble on home now and boil your own eggs. There’s nothing else here for any of you today. Better luck next time.”

The rabbit spoke deliberately. As the first four of five eggs were cracked open, here’s what we discovered:  (1) the space shuttle Atlantis will be displayed at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida; (2) the Endeavour’s home will be the California Science Center in Los Angeles; (3) the Discovery, at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia; and (4) the test shuttle, Enterprise, will reside at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York.

And what did all of these four shuttle-award states of Florida, California, Virginia, and New York have in common with the space program? They were all states who supported Barak Obama for President in 2008.

"Fagedaboutit, Houston!" - NY Senator Charles Schumer.

Senator Charles Schumer of New York, now quickly forgetting about all the support the City of Houston gave his Big Apple after the tragedy of 911 ten years ago, jumped at the opportunity to function as an a(rrogant) hole in the usually gracious veneer of Empire State empathy for the pain of others.

Houston was shocked and hurting from the NASA pre-Easter egg drop that robbed the birthplace and home of the space program and its people of the honor and respect it deserves as the half century center of everything this nation has done in space. Stunned by the NASA political rebuff, we quickly, but only momentarily displaced the reason why we had been so successful as the home of NASA’s great space endeavour.

That’s when the Easter Bunny said, “Go ahead, Houston, open your own egg and hold tight to what you find there. It’s what makes you great with anything you do – and it’s what your people are made of. God gave it to you, not the government, and no one can ever take it away from you. It’s what allowed you to steer the space program to greatness and, you gotta believe me here, no boat-floating space museum in the East River in New York City will ever take that base of your character away from you!”

The big heart of Houston popped out of the little box inside the fifth egg. It was our reminder: We ARE as a people the Heart of Houston! And you should never underestimate the heart of a champion, Senator Schumer!

Our day will come. In fact, it’s already here. It’s just a matter of time now until the rest of the world completely catches on to who we are, all we have done, and what we shall still take action to do next. And Houston’s role in anything we’ve ever accomplished in space, as with medicine, shall never be forgotten. It’s just up to Houstonians now to make sure that we honor our history with NASA as it should be honored.

As for the Easter Bunny’s faith in Houston, we gotta believe in ourselves too. As for Washington, DC, we “don’t gotta” believe. There’s another election coming up in 2012 – and any politician, of elected or appointed position, of either major party or otherwise, who deprived Houston of a shuttle for political reasons needs to feel, then and there, the total weight of all the political retribution we can also bring to bear upon him or her too with all our legal right and economic might.

Our Big Bunny Friend Says: "Houston, you're a good egg, the very best, and this looks to me like the beginning of a beautiful friendship!"

Happy Easter weekend, Houston! And Happy Easter to all our friends in other places too!

Who Was Mayor of Houston When…?

April 22, 2011

Obscuria Houstonia Quiz #2?

Today’s second Obscuria Houstonia quiz reveals another catch to the answers: Unless a reader correctly identifies the answer in the comment section that accompanies the inquiring story post, the question will remain an unanswered enigma until someone does. Whenever correct answers occur, I will acknowledge them as replies to correct answers provided in the comment section.

These little ytivia excursions are intended simply for fun and some minor educational purpose on the subject of Houston’s more arcane historical facts. I have no interest or intention of running them all the time, but, when the whim strikes, look out. Here we’ll go again.

Today’s feature is totally about the history of Houston mayors. All you have to do here, if you are interested in trying, is name the ten mayors in Houston History who were in office when these identified events occurred? In each case, the mayor variably may have had something to do with the creation of the identified event – or, more likely, simply been the person in office when the thing expressed unfolded.

Obscuria Houstonia Quiz #2: Who was Mayor of Houston when…?

(1) …Houston selected it’s first mayor ever?

(2)…Texas joined the United States of America?

(3)…the State of Texas seceded from the Union to join the Confederacy?

(4)…the original Houston Base Ball Club was founded in the city at a meeting on the second floor above J.H. Evans’ Store on Market Square?

(5)…the Civil War ended?

(6)…the city fielded its first professional “base ball” team?

(7)…the person who would hold that office longer than any other was first elected?

(8)…Houston launched both the professional football Oilers and the professional baseball Colt .45s?

(9)…Houston opened the Astrodome?

(10)…Houston opened the downtown baseball park first known as Enron Field?

... Good luck – and have a loving, blessed, and restful Easter Weekend too!

The Streets of Downtown Houston

April 16, 2011

Downtown Houston

Do you have all the one-way streets of downtown Houston memorized? Or do you simply wait for the arrows to tell you left or right? If you are lke most of us, you may know some to all the names, but you’d have to wait and see the arrow before you could tell a visitor which street goes left/right, north/south, east/west.

To be technical about it, Houston’s downtown doesn’t exactly run north/south in a way that’s solidly true to the magnetic north compass. Our north/south streets run more northeast/southwest – and our east/west avenues run more southeast/northwest. I choose to stay NSEW here for purposes of simplicity.

Looking at downtown area  strictly as the concentrated business district with all the skyscrapers that is bordered on the north by Buffalo Bayou, on the east by Chartres,  and at the south and west points of the compass points by the US 45 South and North freeway elevated bend around downtown, here is a  listing of the north/south, east/west major streets in the order of their appearance and with an easy to follow notation of the direction their traffics are set up to travel. Only two of the streets, Bagby and Main, are bi-directional.

The North/South Streets of Downtown Houston By Their Direction of Traffic (starting west and moving east)

Bagby (bi-d)

Smith (S)

Louisiana (N)

Milam (S)

Travis (N)

Main (bi-d)

Fannin (S)

San Jacinto (N)

Caroline (S)

Austin (N)

LaBranch (S)

Crawford (N)

Jackson (S)

Chenevert (N)

Hamilton (S)

(US 59 Freeway)

Chartres (N)

The East/West Streets of Downtown Houston By Their Direction of Traffic (starting north and moving south)

Commerce (W)

Franklin (E)

Congress (W)

Preston (E)

Prairie (W)

Texas (E)

Capitol (W)

Rusk (E)

Walker (W)

McKinney (E)

Lamar (W)

Dallas (E)

Polk (W)

Clay (E)

Bell (W)

Leeland (E)

Pease (W)

Jefferson (E)

St. Joseph Parkway (W)

Pierce (E)

Most of the streets are named for early Texas heroes, but how we missed out on prominent downtown streets named for Davy Crockett and James Bowie is beyond me. Even Allen Parkway, a late after-thought renaming of “Buffalo Drive” in favor of the Allen Brothers as Houston Founders loses its identity once it reaches the downtown area.

At any rate, these are the ones we have, along with the directions they travel. If you would like further information and more ongoing data on street construction effecting downtown travel, check out this website for further ongoing advisories. You know you’re not in downtown Houston unless you encounter some section of road way that’s been torn asunder for your travel inconvenience – and this place is designed to help you get advance word on routes to most avoid.

SAN JACINTO DAY CELEBRATION IS TODAY, SATURDAY, APRIL 16TH! Have a nice weekend, everybody. If you read this article early enough, don’t forget the big San Jacinto Day celebration at the San Jacinto Battlegrounds this Saturday, April 16th. April 21st is the actual 175th anniversary date in 2011 of the battle that won Texas its independence from Mexico, but that historic 18-minute  battle will be reenacted today ay the battlegrounds at 3:00 PM.

Long Live Texas!

Early Houston Buffs and Browns Connection?

March 28, 2011

West End Park, Home of the Houston Buffs, 1907-1927. Published by permission of the City of Houston Public Library, Houston, TX.

Thanks to another little article from the Houstorian, some new/old/recycled questions and answers about the Houston Buffs and West End Park are again recycled and now come at us hard as researchers, loudly begging for further exploration. As we move further into our new SABR Chapter major research project, “Houston Baseball, 1861-1961, The First One Hundred Years,” this is the sort of thing that our team will need to explore with effort that goes way beyond quick and easy, incomplete conclusions.

The Houstorian article, for example, concludes that in 1909,  “the (Houston) Buffaloes were part of the St. Louis Browns farm system,” and it seems to be a conclusion based largely on the fact that, by 1910, “the following Buffaloes were playing for the St. Louis Browns: Roy Mitchell (P), Jim Stephens (C), Frank Truesdale (2B), Patrick Newnam (1B), Hub Northen, Joe McDonald, Art Griggs, Dode Criss, Alex Malloy, and Bill Killefer.” From what I was able to confirm through the minor league data files at Baseball Reference.Com, the Houstorian’s conclusion are correct as to the joint participation of most of these players as both Buffs and Browns.

Houston may have had some kind of working agreement with the Browns in 1909. That factor needs further research. It is rash, however, to conclude that the Buffs were part of the Browns “farm system” in 1909. Back then, major league clubs did not own minor league clubs. That kind of ownerships was viewed as sinister to the idea of a level playing field among all big league clubs. Further study of the Browns-Buffs arrangement in 1909 is needed. That’s the only true and safe end we may now touch based on what we know, so far.

Here’s a link to the Houstorian article that stirs up historical information like a first scratch in the ground of artifacts:

If you are a member of SABR, the Society for American Baseball Research, or if you think you might be interested in joining us in the biggest research challenge in Houston Area Baseball History as a new member of SABR, please get in touch with me, Bill McCurdy, @

We are in the early stages of organizing our research work plan for scouring all available resources that will provide us with the best information we can find on the growth and evolution of baseball in the Houston area from the time of its first organization in 1861 as the “Houston Base Ball Club” through its last season as the minor league Houston Buffs in 1961.” If you have a passion for baseball, time for research, the patience and eyes for studying old newspaper and other public records on microfilm at the library, please consider joining our team. The final product will be a scholarly published historical work on the full history of baseball in Houston prior to the coming of the major leagues in 1962. Profits from this book will be dedicated to the support of SABR and its other programs in the Houston area – and everyone who does the research and writing that makes it possible will get their names credited to this legacy work on a major aspect of Houston and Harris County history.

If you have the time, the passion, and the patience for it, we need your help now.

The Houston Baseball History Project Wants You!

History Creates Fascinating Possibilities

March 27, 2011

Monorail, Inc. placed this demo line at Arrowhead Park in Houston in 1956.

While surf-sifting for new sources of information on local history last night, I came across this wonderful new site called “The Houstorian.”  In the little time I’ve had with it, it seems to me that it does a pretty fair job of pulling together some pretty interesting patches of Houston area history, the kind of information that’s important to all of us who care about make sense of our past for what it may also teach us about our future.

Here’s a link to the Houstorian’s WordPress website:

More pointedly to my subject this morning, here’s a link to the Houstorian’s treatment of how a four-year period of legalized parimutuel betting (1933-37) during the Great Depression led to the opening of Epsom Downs and to horse racing in Houston and an attempt to revitalize betting and liquor-gy-the-drink in the 1950s. Their summary of how that whole scenario played out it is the best I’ve ever found. Here’s the specific link to it:

My point is rather simple about two matters. Both are clearly only my retrospectives on what happened as a result of how things played out: (1) Because parimutuel betting was not returned to legal status, the new track complex built at OST and Main could not succeed as a horse-racing- for-the-fun-of-it attraction. “Arrowhead Park,” as it came to be called, converted in purpose to midget stock car racing, becoming the place where a young hot wheels Houstonian named A.J. Foyt, among others, first cut his teeth on the way to racing fame and fortune. (2) The park also became a place where a Houston company named Monorail, Inc. installed a brief demo line of their new silent and speedy product that they hoped might be the answer to Houston’s burgeoning mass transit needs.

Here’s how I see the unintended consequences of these two actions:

(1) Had parimutuel gambling been approved and the OST/Main Street track succeeded, my guess is that we never would have seen the Astrodome go up where it did. That adjacent land would have already found some other commercial commitment from R.E. “Bob” Smith to other purposes ancillary to the the successful betting track. If not, it’s possible that the success of gambling in Houston might have steered Major League Baseball away from jumping on Houston as a site for one of their first two expansion clubs in the National League. Or they would have at least found another site. It’s doubtful that MLB would have looked favorably upon plans for a new ballpark just two blocks away from a heavy gambling enterprise. (2) Monorail could have worked beautifully for mass transit in Houston, but it had no chance, not from the git-go. By the 1950s, the vested interests in freeway construction already were about to fully commit by their political and financial actions to the building of the Eastex, North, Katy, and Southwest freeways to go with their already-on-the-ground-and-stalling Gulf Freeway and their plans for all the new upscale suburbs they were also building in the distant hinterlands. And why not? Gas was cheap back then and probably would remain so forever. Right?

Progress would not be allowed to interfere with profit. Not in mid-20th century Houston.

St. Thomas High Honors Father Wilson April 5th

March 25, 2011

St. Thomas High School, 4500 Memorial Drive, Houston, Texas.

First of all, I need to clarify and apologize for any wrong impressions I may have left here about St. Thomas Baseball as a result of my March 6th column, “St. Thomas Baseball Show DisappointsThat being said, I did write then that “This was my first time out there since Craig Biggio took over as coach last year, so I really have no grounds for complaint about the way the game was presented at St. Thomas on Tuesday. For all I know, yesterday’s show-time (a March 15th game with Kingwood) was an aberration of spring break.”

My complaints were about the non-use of the public address system as anything but a music noise filler, the absence of attention to lineup changes and batting announcements, the missing pageantry of the pre-game National Anthem, and the fact that there was no concession stand service.

Yesterday I heard from Mr. Tommy Schulte, Director of St. Thomas Alumni Relations. Mr. Schulte had slipped on over to Father Wilson Field to check out my complaints at a game played this week. As it turns out, in short, the experience we had back on March 15th, indeed, was all due to spring break. With the general student population off doing their various spring break things, no one was there on campus last week to do all the little game attendant things that usually go with St. Thomas baseball as a matter of form.

Everything is back to super well done normal for St. Thomas this week.

Again, my apologies. I should have waited to check all this out with an informed source before I went to print. Although I did qualify my review issues as possibly due to spring break, I could have simply held back until the facts could be checked. As it were, I only decided to do the article after I arrived home. By then, I had been swayed by the weight of my worst critical thoughts. It’s a common affliction among those of us who spend most of our lifetimes in recovery from perfectionism.

Forgive me, St. Thomas folks. If I were not also a St. Thomas guy, and had the subject been anything but how to present a baseball game when you have in your possession all the tools to do it right, I probably could have held onto some objective restraint with my keyboard over a time frame that would have allowed for adequate fact-checking before publication. My bad, but it won’t happen again, not with St. Thomas, at least.


Father James Wilson, CSB

Now comes some long overdue happy news – and it’s news that also goes out as a special invitation to all St. Thomas alumni.


On Tuesday, April 5th, at 6:45 PM, immediately prior to a big game with district rival St. Pius X, St. Thomas will unveil and dedicate a bust of the late Father James Wilson, CSB at the campus baseball field that also bears his name. What you may not read elsewhere is the fact current Baseball Coach Craig Biggio was the driving force behind the development of this special honor to the man who put St. Thomas High School on the serious championship map in the State of Texas back in the early 1950s. After hearing stories about the impact that Father Wilson had upon the baseball program and generations of young aspiring scholar athletes, Coach Biggio wanted to see the school go a step further in honoring the good man who put so much positive energy in motion more than a half century ago.

So, the invitation is this simple. Come on out for a free look at the fine baseball team that Mr. Biggio has put together on April 5th – on a night that St. Thomas High School pays special tribute to the other man who put all this conquering energy together in the first place, the Reverend James Wilson, Community of St. Basil.

St. Thomas has won ten (10) State of Texas baseball championships at various levels of designated competition in 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1958, 1963, 1990, 2008, and 2011. The championship chain started with Father James Wilson. It goes on today with Coach Craig Biggio.

If you need an added incentive, here’s one for you: The first one hundred St. Thomas alumni who check in with Alumni Relations Director Tommy Schulte on the evening of April 5th will also receive a free alumni association t-shirt.

Who could ask for anything more?