SABR-Houston is Cornucopia of Baseball Joy!

September 18, 2012

Marie “Red” Mahoney of Houston is a veteran all-star outfielder who once played ball for the Soth Bend Blue Sox and Fort Wayne Daisies in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League. Red Mahoney and deceased fellow Texans Alva Jo Fischer and Ruth Lessing were the first women inducted into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006. She was presented last nigh by SABR-Houston member and early Houston baseball researcher Marsha Franty.

The first fall meeting of the Larry Dierker SABR Chapter unfolded last night, 9/1712, at the Inn at the Ballpark in Houston, across the street from Minute Maid Park and it proved again to be the Cornucopia of Baseball Joy that our chapter consistently brings to the table. Fresh from our annual two-month summer meeting break, things returned to normal, pre-heating the hot stove season that is right around the corner.

The truth is, our baseball season in Houston never ends. Even when the Astros are not playing, we find plenty to do with our always expanding research into the early history of baseball in Houston, our active participation with the Houston Babies in the growing local vintage base ball circuit, our recruitment of new members, and our ongoing contact with the stars of Houston’s baseball community, who join us regularly as both speakers ad members.

What a deal SABR-Houston is for the hard-core baseball fan and historian – and last night was a broad blast in just about every direction our brothers and sisters in baseball do travel. Due to time and space constraints, I am only able to give you a sniff of baseball as a nostalgic aroma of variable scents, all pleasant – and mostly leathery. If you want a closer whiff, you’re just going to have to make the trip downtown to join us sometime. Our next meeting is Monday, 7:00 PM. October 8th, at The Inn at the Ballpark. Further word on the agenda will be forthcoming soon from our chapter president, Bob Dorrill.

Here’s a sample of the bases we touched last night:

Red Mahoney

 Marsha Franty introduced former AAGBBL all star and Texas Baseball Hall of Famer Marie “Red” Mahoney, who celebrates a somewhere in the 80s birthday this coming Friday, September 21st. Red answered questions in a relaxed conversational mode, making it abundantly lear that she didn’t get into women’s professional baseball back in 1940s to make any kind of “women’s lib” statement, “I went up there to play baseball because I loved the game and that was it.,” she emphasized time and again.  Red was a big star for South Bend and Fort Wayne in 1947-48, and possibly was one of the models for the center fielder that Madonna played in “League of Their Own” in the 1990s movie treatment of the women’s league.

Chris Chesnut, resplendent in a Texas Aggie knit sportshirt, then gave us a fun look at some famous complete 1-0 games, with special notice of the 1-0 no-hitter loss suffered by Houston Colt .45 pitcher Ken Johnson to the Cincinnati Reds on April 23, 1964.  As some of you may recall, Pete Rose reached 2nd base after one out in the top of the 9th on a throwing error by pitcher Johnson himself and then advanced to 3rd on a 5-3 ground out to Bob Aspromonte by Chico Ruiz. Rose then scored the only run of the game when 2nd baseman Nellie Fox booted a grounder by Vada Pinson.  Frank Robinson then flew out to Jimmy Wynn to end the inning, but the damage had been done. The Reds would retire the Colt .45s in the bottom of the 9th, handing Ken Johnson 1-0 loss in a game in which he gave up no hits. Rose tried to consoled Johnson later with the fact that his no-hitter when all the others had been forgotten because of its unique losing outcome.

Tony Cavender reviewed a new book about Gil Hodges, oe that again makes the arguable arguments for his induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame, citing this year’s inclusion of Ron Santo as compelling data for the same treatment of Hodges in the near future. The struggle will continue. As long as there is a guy named Rabbit Maranville in the House, the arguments in support of players with marginal stats will no doubt age on, with the charges for Gil Hodges stirring up the most dust.

New local member Paul Giesler delivered an entertaining talk on his involvement in the SABR biographical article project, stressing that the SABR goal is to build a 10,000 word or so bio on all former major leaguers. Giesler has done several, including a detailed one on one of the great characters of the game’s past, Billy Sturges. According to Giesler, Sturges was playing shortstop for the Cubs in Game Three of the 1932 World Series when his friend, Babe Ruth of the Yankees, allegedly called his shot. According to Sturges, Ruth had been jawing with the Cubs bench all day. Immediately prior to his “called shot,” Ruth apparently had raised his finger to point at the Cubs as he said something like “it only takes one” to hit a ball out of here. Again, as so often happens in baseball, and none more so elsewhere than here,  the hand moving allusion to possibility was viewed was viewed from afar as an outright prediction. And, Babe Ruth being Babe Ruth, after all, the choice between settling for fact or fiction in the matter was easy. Legends build on fiction. Facts have the same effect upon legend as soap does to dirt. Babe let it ride for whatever people wanted to make of what they saw and heard about.

Early Houston Baseball Researcher Mike Vance gave us a great sweeping look at the early presence of major league clubs that both trained in and barnstormed through Houston. According to Mike, over two-thirds of all Hall of Famers have either had a direct playing, managing, or coaching experience at a Houston based ballpark. The list of confirmed names was awesome in the truest sense of that word.

Larry Miggins and Red Mahoney were both honored for recent and upcoming birthdays. Both are local icons and national treasures and we are delighted to be blessed with their company. Red is one of the surviving members of the AAGPBBL and Larry may be the only survivor of both the 1951 Texas League Champion Houston Buffs and the 1946 Jersey City club that played against Jackie Robinson’s Montreal Royals in Robinson organized baseball debut in 1946. We are checking to confirm where Larry stands on the list of survivors at both Houston and Jersey City.

A great night was had by all.

Larry Miggins hit 28 home runs for the 1951 Texas League champion Houston Buffs. Here he stands by the 1951 pennant trophy that was awarded to the Buffs, but was en route from Jo Russell to Mike McCroskey last night night for storage.

Red Mahoney and SABR researcher and friend Marsha Franty. Marsha Franty and Mike Vance have interviewed Red Mahoney extensively for the Early Houston Baseball Project.

Come join us in October. If you really love baseball, we think you will be glad that you did.