Posts Tagged ‘Texas’

Yes, Athletic Ability Has Expiration Date….

February 18, 2017
Carlos Beltran is Back! Hopefully, he will retire as a Houston Astros in a Blaze of Glory that spreads like an incurable infection of the clubs great talent base.

Carlos Beltran is Back!
Hopefully, he will retire as a Houston Astro in a Blaze of Glory that spreads like an incurable wisdom and positive attitude infection of the club’s younger great talent base.

Yes, athletic ability comes with an individually variable expiration date, but the great ones – the ones with the hearts of champions – often fail to see it. You just have to hope that some to all of the lessons of the elders pass on to the younger players on their last teams during the brief open window of opportunity that exists in that precious nanosecond of contact through those same elders with the baseball gods. In life, we can’t all be great in all things, but we can sure learn from greatness, when we have the humility to recognize those moments we are in its presence.

It is our impression that the great Carlos Beltran realizes how happy most of us in Astros Nation are to see him back in Houston after 13 years – and this time – we welcome him as both a great player – as well as a strong teaching influence upon our Astros’ many talented younger players.

From the very top of them all, some of our greatest former players had a little trouble seeing or accepting that their playing days were done before they actually stopped. We don’t see Carlos Beltran. He’s still quite talented at age 39 just may be one of those guys with 3 to 5 five seasons left in the tank. And let’s hope so. For his sake and the Astros club as well. Our younger guys could learn much from him.

I’ve always been interested too in the guys who played past their primes when it came to playing too long. Three of my favorite tough retirement stories are summarized here. Another is Willie Mays. I simply did not write him up this time:

Babe Ruth (1914-1935) hit .342 over the course of those 22 seasons he banged out that iconic total of 714 career home runs. He probably would have done well to have retired at age 37, following his last great season of 1932, and perhaps immediately after his last as a New York Yankee World Series champion – and maybe right after he hit that so-called homer shot off Charlie Root of the Cubs at Wrigley Field. What an eloquent last statement that time at bat would have imprinted upon his already illustrious trip to Chicago that year. – It simply didn’t happen. Babe still hit .301 and 34 homers in 1933 and .228 with 22 homers in 1934. Good numbers, but not Ruthian figures. The Yankees knew it and found a way to deal Ruth off to the Boston Braves for an illusion in Ruth that his short playing career there would next lead to his appointment there as their manager. Didn’t happen. Never was going to happen. And at age 40, the Babe’s career was almost totally dead. He quit by the start of summer with a final season batting average of .181 with only 6 homers in 28 games. Too bad the Babe could not have retired himself the way his 1948 bio-picture did. The movie version of Babe went out on top – 0n the same afternoon he hit the 3 last hurrah homers off the Pirates in Pittsburgh. What a way to go.

Stan Musial (1941-1944, 1946-1963) never under .300 through his first 17 MLB seasons. Then came 1959 and “The Man’s” BA dropped to .255 and his HR total shrank to 17. His power gun was already gone. He hit only 14 in 1958. After four last seasons (1960-1963) in which Musial hit under .300 for 3 more times, Musial finally hung them up for good. In so doing, he missed being a playing part of the 1964 Cardinals club that rallied past the famous faltering Phillies and went on to take the World Series from the New York Yankees. Had Musial continued one more season, it would have been his first World Series participation since the Cardinals defeated the Boston Red Sox in 1946. Musial did have one more great batting for average year. In 1962, he hit .330 in 505 plate appearances as he also registered a .924 OPS on the season.

Mickey Mantle (1951-1968) Too bad Mickey Mantle needed the money from those last four seasons he played beyond the 1964 World Series Yankees loss to the Cardinals. Mantle’s batting average nose-dived in those four seasons, pushing him below .300 to a career .298 level. His failure to hit .300 over his entire career was Mantle’s biggest regret about his final MLB stats. What stings the most is that Mantle already had done enough in 14 seasons to qualify for the Hall of Fame. Four last little power seasons (1965-1968), with BA’s of .255, .288, .245, and .237 only served to distract how great Mantle  had been – and how much greater he might have been – had he played his entire Yankee career in a state of healthier mind and body.

So many other examples abound, but they represent more of a book research challenge than does this happy weekend dance column.

All I know for sure is that Ted Williams is my favorite retirement stylist. He quit after finishing the 1960 season with a home run at Fenway. Then he passed on a final weekend road trip to New York for a meaningless series with the Yankees. Ted wanted that last home run to stand up as his final goodbye as a player who would neither acknowledge, nor accept in gratitude, what he long suspected was only the gratuitous applause of him by otherwise critical Red Sox fans. Ted didn’t know it at the time – we don’t think – but the great New England writer John Updike just happened to be at the park that day and ended up writing an iconic column on the whole occasion and its outcome.


 Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

Professional Baseball in Beeville, Texas

June 26, 2012

Beeville Orange Growers, 1910.

Like their original team name of the 1910-11 Beeville Orange Growers of the Southwest Texas League, professional baseball in the little ranch and farm community about fifty miles north of Corpus Christi where I was born was short-lived. “Orange Growers” fell as an appropriate mascot for Beeville once it was quickly discovered that the winters in these parts froze too often for a really good citrus crop to survive. Serious growers had to head much further south to the Rio Grande Valley to find the milder temperatures that mad commercial citrus farming practical.

Beeville loved the game of baseball, but its community worked the fields and ranges of the mesquite-land hard during the daylight hours of the long work week in the days prior to electricity and night baseball. There was no time to take off and go pay to watch a baseball game during the work week and Saturday was market day, when people shopped for their weekly home and work supply needs. The Saturday games face a stiff level of competition from practicality. And Beeville people always were – very practical – if nothing else.

That left Sunday. The Lord’s Day. Sorry, Baseball. You lose again on the professional level. “No Game Today” was the silent sign of those times.

Nonetheless, the games went on.

Beeville winters proved to be too cold for commercial orange growing.

The 1910 Beeville Orange Growers were managed by Harry “Trapper” Longley, followed by J.C. Woessner. They finished the Southwest Texas League season with a 52-64 record, good enough for 5th place in the six-team group and some 19.5 game behind 1st place Victoria Rose Buds.

The 1911 Beeville Orange Growers took on the patina of a future Texas Longhorn legend when Billy Disch came to town to manage the club and to also kick in a little extra help on production as a 38-year old outfielder. The ’11 club also included the first of Beeville’s four native major league stars in the presence of 19-year old Melvin “Bert” Gallia. The 1911 Orange Growers posted a 63-54 record, good enough for 3rd place and a 3.5 games behind finish back of the 1st place Bay City Rice Eaters. Beeville was awarded the pennant when Bay City inexplicably refused to play them  in a post-season championship series.

Victory wasn’t enough. Beeville’s longest successful run in professional team baseball was done. Beeville returned as the Bees in 1926 as a member of the Class D Gulf Coast League, but, after a 4-9 start, they moved to Laredo and were renamed the Oilers, going on from there to finish first and win the pennant, but not for the homeland which hatched them.

Joe Hunter Field, Home of the Beeville Bees, 1976-77.

Beeville’s last reprise in professional baseball came a half century later as a member of the independent  Gulf States (1976) and Gulf Coast League (1977). The club was known as the Bees in 1976 and I’m fairly certain they  used that same moniker in 1977. They didn’t win anything or produce any future stars, but they seemed to be holding their own when both leagues fell apart serially due to payroll shortages in some of the other cities. Beeville may have had their own problems too since both of these efforts were pretty much operating on a shoe string.  The club used Joe Hunter Field on the campus of Coastal Bend College (then known as Bee County College) for their home games. It’s nice playing field, but the stands probably don’t have room for more than a thousand fans.

The City of Beeville, Texas today has a population of about 14,000 people. Coastal Bend College resumed its baseball program in 2012 after several years of austerity cutbacks and I understand the school plans to continue both their baseball and basketball programs next season, The city also promotes and supports an active organized youth baseball program that feeds talent into the high school program as well.

As mentioned earlier, Beeville, Texas has also produced four native sons who went on to successful careers as major leaguers:

(1) Melvin “Bert” Gallia, pitcher (66-69, 3.14), 1912-1920;

(2) William Curtis “Curt” Walker, outfielder (.304, 1,475 hits), 1919-1930);

(3) Lloyd “Lefty” Brown, pitcher (91-105, 4.20), 1925, 1928-1937, 1940;

(4) Eddie Taubensee, catcher (.273, 784 hits), 1991-2001.

Beeville also produced a 5th native son and outfielder-1st baseman Rudy Jaramillo for the Texas Longhorns and later service as a batting coach for both the Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers. Rudy never got any big league AB’s on his own, but he grew into a teacher who knew how to get a point of view across on hitting that helped many others to reach the heights he missed himself as a player.

Next spring I’m planning to trek down to Beeville and my original home town to watcher the Coastal Bend Cougars bring old Joe Hunter back to life again. It actually hasn’t been dormant. Beeville’s A.C. Jones High School has been using it for years and it is also a pretty popular venue for all of the high school playoff games that take place each spring.

Joe Hunter Field, Beeville, Texas.
What is the seating capacity?

That’s about it, for now. If you know, or if you have a logical guess about the seating capacity at Joe Hunter Field, please feel invited to either drop me a line by e-mail or else, just post a comment at the end of this column where everyone can read what you have to say. I’d like to hear from you.

Have a nice Tuesday, everybody!


San Jacinto Reenactment: Sam Wins Again.

April 17, 2011

On April 21, 1836, the original Battle of Jacinto delivered Texas independent of Mexico in less than eighteen minutes. On April 16, 2011, on the 175th anniversary, Texas won again.

“Well, son,” said the obviously Hispanic father standing next to me at the reenactment battle’s end to his 8-9 year old son, “that one made it Houston 1 – Mexico 0.” Everyone enjoyed a good laugh. Unfortunately, or fortunately, the man left no scoring updates from more recent times.

Saturday’s celebration was not the commemoration of a racist Anglo/Hispanic division, which it really isn’t, but an honorable presentation of how the “Texian” residents of the Mexican Province of Texas rallied together in the early 19th century, Anglo and Hispanic alike, to free themselves from the tyrannical control of Mexico’s political dictator, General Santa Ana. Much earlier, Santa Ana had thrown out the Mexican Constitution of 1824 so that he could rule the country with a solitary and power/greed-driven iron hand and the Texians who settled this vast area to the north had rallied together under the leadership of General Sam Houston to resist that control and to avenge the losses of their comrades in arms at LaBahia in Refugio and the Alamo in San Antonio.

"I would give no thought of what the world might say of me, if I could only transmit to posterity the reputation of an honest man." - Sam Houston.

In a famous strategy called “The Runaway Scrape,” Sam Houston had lured Santa Anna’s much larger army east from San Antonio on a cut-and-run path that eventually would lead to its ultimate defeat on the plains of San Jacinto in the late afternoon battle of April 21, 1836.

Santa Ana was defeated and forced to sign a document that freed the people of Texas to form their own nation and, in the process of establishing their freedom to form the nine-year history of the Republic of Texas (1836-1945), it made Texas the only state that ever later joined the United Sates as a former nation unto itself.

All of that history was celebrated again yesterday by people of all discernibly different racial and ethnic backgrounds. On a day that also featured great Texas food, music, arts, and crafts around the base of the San Jacinto Monument, a good time was had by all.

 As most of you already know, Texas ceded away much of its land when it joined the United States of America in 1845. That extra land included portions of current states New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming. When Texas entered the Union in 1845, it retained for itself, as the then largest state by area, the right to later subdivide itself into five separate states, each with their own set of two senators.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for that one to ever happen. The strength of Texas is in its people, it size, and in its mystique of the Lone Star. You don’t throw all that away, even for the sake of particularizing special interests power through a handful of new senators.

Beautiful Texas!

Beautiful, beautiful Texas,

Where the beautiful Bluebonnets grow,

We’re proud of our forefathers,

Who fought at the Alamo.

There are some folks who still like to travel.

To see what they have over there,

But when they go look,

It’s not like the book,

And they find there is none to compare,

With beautiful, beautiful Texas.

– excerpt from “Beautiful Texas,” a song written by former Texas Governor Pappy Lee O’Daniel.

San Jacinto Monument

You can live on the plains or the mountains,

Or down where the sea breezes blow,

But you’re still in beautiful Texas,

The most beautiful place that I know.

– O’Daniel.

Joe Hunter Field, Beeville, Texas.

February 23, 2010

Joe Hunter Field, Beeville, Texas.

When Coastal Bend College first opened as Bee County College in Beeville, Texas back in 1967, funds for an athletic department of any kind did not exist beyond marginal money for basketball and baseball. The first “Cougar” teams had to share the playing facilities of A.C. Jones High School, home of the mighty Beeville Trojans.

In case you’ve never heard of it, Beeville is located about fifty-three miles west of Victoria and fifty miles north of Corpus Christi. It’s special to me as the original home of my family, the place I was born. My brother and sister live there and my parents are buried there. It’s just not all the way home for me. Home for me is Houston, the place where I grew up from age five, the place where my old bones will someday be interred. I’m still attached to Beeville as the home of my people since the 19th century.

Beeville also is the birthplace of four former major leaguers: outfielder Curt Walker (1919-30) .304 lifetime, struck out only 254 times in 4,858 times at bat, Texas Baseball Hall of Fame, 2001; pitcher Melvin “Bert” Gallia (1912-20) 66-68, 3.14 ERA; pitcher “Lefty” Lloyd Brown (1925, 1928-37, 1940) 91-105, 4.20; and Eddie Taubensee (1991-2001) .273 BA, 94 HR. Major league hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo also is a native of Beeville. That’s a pretty good baseball production record for a little cattle, oil and gas, and now penitentiary town in South Texas. Don’t you think?

Joe Hunter Field was a Ranching Widow’s Gift.

The college acquired its beautiful baseball park in the early 1970s as a construction gift on land they owned at campus site north of Beeville. The Joe Hunter family donated the funds needed to construct the stands and cultivate the playing field, but the oral history of how the gift took shape is even richer as a gift.

The story is that Mrs. Joe Hunter went to the college after her rancher husband died, saying that she wanted to make a contribution to the school in her husband’s name. Someone from the college suggested that she consider donating money for the construction of a college library, but Mrs. Hunter apparently killed that idea right off the bat and then got down to business on what she really wanted to do.

“Old Joe never read a book or went near a library in his whole life,” she supposedly said, “but he loved baseball. I’d love to build you a baseball park and put Joe’s name on it.” And that’s exactly what she did.

For years, “Bee County College” operated from one of the finest small school baseball parks in the nation. They even leased Joe Hunter Field for use by the professional Beeville Bees in the short-lived independent Gulf Coast League (1976-77) and also made it available to Jones High School and various spring high school playoff games. The place had an enclosed press box, a PA system, and seating capacity for about 1,000 fans.

Unfortunately, the first recession in the oil market of 1983 soon took its economic toll on what the college could afford and they dropped both their baseball and basketball programs. The ballpark stayed afloat as the Home of the Beeville Trojan high school team and an occasional playoff game. In spite of the missing college program, Coastal Bend College maintained the field and protected “Joe Hunter” from going to seed.

The left field line is 26 feet further than Minute Maid Park.

Joe Hunter was and is – a pitcher’s park. Facing southeast, the springtime winds from Copano Bay only have about thirty crow-fly miles to travel before they blow in over the outfield walls in center and right, and these distances aren’t cheap. The distances are about 341 down the line, 375 in the power alleys, and 400 in straight away center.

The good news is that junior college baseball may be returning soon to Joe Hunter Field. I’m not sure if that means we’re looking at a patch of blue in the gray skies of this economic recession – or if it means that Beevillians are just tired of missing their baseball. Maybe it’s a little of both.

Beeville has always been a baseball town.