Posts Tagged ‘Lloyd Gregory’

The Hot Stove League

February 24, 2012

Lloyd Gregory and a Houston female fan were responsible for hanging the nickname of "Ducky" on early 30's Buff Joe Medwick.

Things seem to have hit a deeper lull than usual in the Houston media these days. With Richard Justice now suddenly gone from the only print rag in town, the Houston Chronicle now leans most heavily upon columnist Jerome Solomon and beat writer Zach Levine to fill in the blanks on the wipe’s coverage of baseball without soon filling the rather large hole that remains from the disappearance of Houston’s writing pyre.

Don’t get me wrong. I like both Solomon and Levine. I just don’t think that either fit the mold of the nitpicking, fiery, and irritating man who is now inexplicably gone from the Houston print media scene. Justice used do a public job review of Astros owner Drayton McLane about three times a week, at least. Solomon is also capable of the acerbic critique, but he’s more of a cobra to Justice’s wolverine. We’ll have to simply wait to see who receives his first poisonous bite.

Back in the 1920’s, on the date that the Houston Buffs opened Buff Stadium for the first time, April 11, 1928, Lloyd Gregory of the Houston Post-Dispatch, Kern Tips of the Houston Chronicle, and Andy Anderson of the Houston Press were all over the coverage of this major new step in the city’s growth into first class as a minor league baseball operation.

Gregory, and first Buff Stadium game broadcaster Bruce Layer of KPRC were even still around twenty years later when I was a kid and television was a baby in Houston. By this time, Gregory, Layer, and a younger hot baseball writer named Clark Nealon were all doing the new double take as print-electronic journalists, covering baseball in print and broadcast airways, principally on TV after 1949, when the medium first came to Houston.

This time of year, “The Hot Stove League” was a weekly half hour show on Channel 2, starting for a while in the early 1950s. Hosted by Lloyd Gregory, it was sort of the early version Channel 13’s Saturday, 6:30 PM show with Tim Melton. Gregory led Layer and Nealon and a rotating group of other local journalist on an annual discussion of the upcoming season chances of the Houston Buffs in the Texas League.

The show’s prop was a literal black hot stove that had been moved into the Channel Two broadcasting studios for the guys to sit around as they talked, whether they actually needed the heat or not. And this was still Houston back then. Most of the time, extra heat was not needed and, even if it were, it wasn’t coming from the hot stove. Had they fired up that thing, the trapped studio smoke would have driven everyone outside before their half hour air time was up.

Mostly, the guys did some great storytelling about times past. They had to. And they wanted to. The season prospect talk was always limited to qualifiers like “if the Cardinals send us so-and-so at the end of spring training.” – The Buffs were a Cardinals farm team back in the day. Their whole season ahead of them hinged largely upon which Cardinal major farm club city was going to get the best talent over the upcoming season. Would it be Houston, Texas? – Columbus, Ohio? – Or Rochester, New York?

It’s too bad we didn’t have videotape during the era of the TV show, “The Hot Stove League.” The now largely lost storytelling by some of Houston’s greatest early storytellers could have been preserved.

Houston Fan Tagged Medwick with “Ducky”

February 17, 2012

Joe Medwick Had a "Ducky" Time in Houston Back in 1931-32.

Future Hall of Famer Joe Medwick was little more than a 19-year old kid when he arrived in Houston for his first season as an outfielder for the Houston Buffs back in 1931. Together with future Hall of Fame teammate Dizzy Dean, Medwick would help guide the young Buffs to the 1931 Texas League pennant in a 108-51 runaway sweep into first place and a full 14 game-lead finish over the second place Beaumont Exporters.

Medwick his .305 for the ’31 Buffs, leading the Texas League in home runs with 19 and runs batted in with 126. Even then, Medwick played with a turbocharged ferocity that sometimes spilled over into ferocious violence against friend and foe alike before it sank back into a face of sultry unhappiness with the world around him. – WIth a personality bordering on the anti-social at times, you have to be good to make up for it.

Medwick was. Good. To very good. To excellent. And finally to great. The stuff that fills the Baseball Hall of Fame. Medwick was.

As a teammate, you simply had to hope to do that unpredictable thing that would put you on Joe Medwick’s good side and out of harm’s way. The 1931 Buffs managed to get that done and come together for a great run, in spite of their disappointing loss in seven games to the Birmingham Barons in the 1931 Dixie Series.

Baseball historians Bill Weiss and Marshall Wright ranked the 1931 Buffs as the 42nd greatest minor league club of all time.

 Medwick remained with the Buffs in 1932, but the talent that Dizzy Dean took with him up to the Cardinals that same year left Houston to languish in 3rd place at 88-66 on the season. This descent cam about in spite of the fact that the 20-year old version Joe Medwick had now exploded against Texas League pitching, Medwick hit .354 with 26 home runs in 1932, but he lost the batting title to Ervin Fox of Beaumont at .357 and to Hank Greenberg of Beaumont and his 39 home runs.
Medwick wasn’t a cactus prick in the eyes of all Houston fans back in the day. The girls loved his rugged good looks and sometimes they even wrote of their various attractions in letters to Houston sportswriters. One such female fan even wrote a comment to Houston Post sportswriter Lloyd Gregory that would hang around Medwick’s neck for life.
After admitting her attractions to Medwick in the same tempered language of those times, this young lady mentioned that she had built her own special nickname for the Buffs hitting star because of the way he walks.
“I’ve watched Medwick coming in from the outfield until he slows from a trot to a walk near the dugout. Joe walks like a duck,” the young lady wrote to Gregory in words that I can only paraphrase here, “and because he walks like a duck, I’ve taken in own mind to calling him ‘Ducky.'”
“Ducky, eh?” Writer Gregory mulled the observation.
“Come to think about it,” Lloyd Gregory considered, “he does walk like a duck.”
At some risk to life and limb, Lloyd Gregory started making reference to the story and using the descriptive “Ducky Medwick” identity tag as a way of describing the young outfielder’s play in his “Looking ‘Em Over” column in the Houston Post.
The nickname stuck. By the time Joe “Ducky” Medwick ascended to St. Louis, he went there quacking all the way, eventually flying his way into history as a member of the Gashouse Gang in St. Louis and the Daffiness Boys in Brooklyn on his way to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
After completing a 17-season MLB career (.324 BA, 205 HR) from 1933 to 1948, Ducky rejoined the Houston Buffs on the wind down the old career spiral staircase, hitting .276 with 2 homers in 35 games. I will always feel privileged that I came along in time to see Medwick play before he hung ’em up, even if there wasn’t much quack left in the bat back in 1948.
Joe Medwick was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1968. He passed away in 1975 at the age of 63.