Posts Tagged ‘Watty Watkins’

Watkins On Houston Kid Baseball: 1950.

November 21, 2010

Back in 1950, when organized kid baseball was just getting started in Houston, former Houston Buff and 1931 World Series hero Watty Watkins stepped up to the plate as one of the first really qualified adults to work with this new wrinkle in local baseball.

Friday’s very-much-alive guest columnist, John Watkins, sent me these materials on Watty Watkins and the Town House Buffs. They are materials from a story sent to him by Mike Mulvihill, a former Houston kid baseball star and old high school classmate and friend of mine. In fact, Mike sent me these same materials awhile back. It’s just taken me this long to realize what a great column they would make for TPPE.

The headline, pictures, and article that are the work of today’s posthumous guest columnist, former Houston Press and Post writer John Hollis, now deceased, but alive forever as a hard-punching wordsmith on the local sports scene of yesteryear. I don’t have the date on this piece, but it was sometime in the late summer of 1950, the club’s first year of existence, and it was written for the long moribund Houston Press. Another old friend, classmate, and Pecan Park Eagle reader, Jack Murphy, also played for the Town House Buffs, but during a later season.

TEXAS CHAMPIONS - The eyes of Texas shone directly on the young baseball heroes pictured herein, Houston's Town House Buffs, as they captured the Texas Teen Age baseball title at Galveston last week. Front row, in the usual order, Ken Stevens, Paul Nabors, Anthony Falcone, Leighton Young, Eddie Gore, Paul Fahrenthold, Luke Cash. Back row, John Given, Ora Massey, Father Wilson (head coach), Mike Mulvihill, Joe Landy, Dick Grant, Angelo Vasos, Jim Exley, Jim Daigle, Fred Morgan, Watty Watkins & John Schuler.



By John Hollis, Houston Press Sports Staff (1950)

It looked like a crucial World Series game, the way the big man in the gray sweatshirt and Brooklyn Dodger baseball cap was “sweatin’ it out” in the third-base coaches’ box.

Watty Watkins: Sold on kid baseball.


“C’mon, get me some runs,” the big guy yelled. “Be a hitter up there.” He clapped his hands together encouragingly, shifted from one end of the box to the other, then stood with hands on hips as the third Town House Buff on the inning tapped an easy grounder to the shortstop.

“One of those days”

Walking over to the fence that encloses the Houston Teenage League’s Cougar Field, George (Watty) Watkins, always the aggressor who loves to win, grimaced painfully:

“This is just one of those days where nothing goes right. This Town House club hasn’t lost a game all season.”

“You been working with ’em long, Watty?” we asked.

“Yeah. I’ve sorta been helping Father Wilson. The Pro ball association assigned me to the club.” Watty grinned. “This Teen-Age League is just what the kids needed. And we’ve got plans for enlarging our operations for next year. Here’s what I’ve suggested…”

“Ought to Be More”

The big red-faced gent’s enthusiasm was contagious. He was a study in enthusiasm as he outlined his pet plan for helping kid baseball next year. We couldn’t help but think, “This baseball is great. Here’s a guy who spent his years in the ‘Big Show,’ won a World Series with a home run, a real good old pro who’s known all the big thrills and who’s getting probably a bigger one now out of helping kids.”

Watty finished his outline …

“… there oughta be 13 leagues like this around town. There oughta be enough so’s every kid who wanted to could have a chance to play. It’s not only good for kids, it’s good for baseball.”

That 1931 Homer

We nodded … then asked, “Say Watty … that George Watkins who hit the homer to win the 1931 World Series for the Cardinals … was that you?”

Watty grinned.  “”Yes sir! It was me all right. We beat the (Philadelphia) Athletics in that one. They’d beaten us the year before. I remember that hit. … It was the deciding game and tied up, 2-2. We went into the third inning and Andy High got on base (for us). Gabby Street, the (Cardinals) manager, told me to go go up there and hit the first pitch, if it looked good, and if it didn’t, to move up a step for the second pitch. Well, that first pitch came in there about letter-high. I hit it … a line drive to right. … i hit is so hard on a line that I didn’t think it was going to be a homer. I ran as fast as I could until I reached second base. Then I realized I’d put it outa the park.”

“That home run meant a difference of $3,230 to us each in the players’ share of the World Series gate. Gues you could call it a real ‘money hit’ at that, huh?”

“Who’d you hit it off of, Watty/”

“George Earnshaw. He threw me me a fast ball. Hit one off him in the 1930 series, too. It was my first World Series and my first time at bat. He threw me a fast one then, too.”

“”Then I had to room with the guy when we both were sold to Brooklyn a few years later,” Wally chuckled.

“Those 1931 Cardinals were the greatest there’s ever been,” Watkins recollected. “They had everything. Who’s the greatest pitcher I’ve ever seen? … Carl Hubbell … the greatest pitcher who ever picked up a baseball. He had all the stuff in the world, the good curve, screwball, fast ball, the change, and lots of control. I was in the stands that day he fanned the six batters in a row in the 934 All-Star game. I remember Charlie Gehringer doubled, then Heinie Manush walked. That brought up Babe Ruth.”

“Hubbell looked at Ruth, then backed off and loosened his belt, hitched up his pants and threw three straight pitches past him. Ruth never touched a one. Then he fanned Gehrig and Foxx. And I think Foxx was the only one to even get a piece of the ball. He fouled one back into the screen.”

“Hubbell, you’ll remember, went on to fan Al Simmons, Joe Cronin, Bill Dickey, and Lefty Gomez to record what is acknowledged (as) the greatest pitching performance in the history f the All-Star game. Still, the American Leaguers won that one, 9-7.”

Watty, who outfielded for the Dodgers after service with the Cards, was a Houston Buff in 1928 when the Buffs beat Wichita Falls for the Texas League title. A member of the Houston Professional Baseball layers Assn., with the pro baller’s immense interest in kids, Watty’s teaching ’em what he knows now.

Watty Watkins Wows ‘Em in ’31 Series!

November 19, 2010

In the above photo, Watty Watkins slides under the tag of Mickey Cochrane of the Philadelphia A’s to score a big run for the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1931 World Series.
The following article was written for The Pecan Park Eagle by John Watkins, the great-nephew of George “Watty” Watkins. Watty Watkins was an early hero for the Houston Buffs over four seasons of work (1925-26, 1928, 1937) that encompassed the beginning and end of his professional baseball career. He was an important member of the 1928 Buffs club that became the first to play in the new Buffalo Stadium on their way to victory as Texas League and Dixie Series champions. Watty also enjoyed a seven season big league career (1930-36) with the St. Louis Cardinals, New York Giants, Philadelphia Phillies. and Brooklyn Dodgers. The Pecan Park Eagle is deeply indebted to John Watkins for this personal vignette memory of an important tong ago moment in World Series history.
Bill, your post the other day with the memorable baseball photos prompted me to scan the above attached photo of Watty Watkins for you. It reminds me of the Cardinals’ Enos Slaughter’s slide into home following his “mad dash” from first base in the deciding play of the 1946 World Series.
The Watkins picture is also a big moment in World Series history. It is an Associated Press photo from the first inning of Game Seven of the 1931 World Series. The catcher is Mickey Cochrane of the Philadelphia A’s, and Watty is scoring the second St. Louis run of the game. For the era, it’s a pretty good action shot.

The play came about this way. Andy High of the Cards, playing in place of the injured Sparky Adams, led off the inning with a bloop single to left. Watty followed with a Texas Leaguer of his own, and Frankie Frisch sacrificed the two runners to second and third. With Pepper Martin at the plate, A’s righthander George Earnshaw threw a high outside pitch that bounced off catcher Mickey Cochrane’s glove and rolled to the wall. High scored on the wild pitch and Watkins took third. The flustered Earnshaw walked Martin, who promptly stole second.

Earnshaw recovered to strike out Ernie Orsatti, who was in the lineup because Chick Hafey, the N.L. batting champion, was in a terrible slump. But Cochrane could not handle the pitch and had to throw to first to retire Orsatti. Watkins immediately broke for home in what Giants manager John McGraw called “a daring play” in his newspaper column written during the Series. First baseman Jimmie Foxx “threw late and low to Cochrane,” the New York Times reported, “the ball scudding out of the tangle [at the plate] as Watkins slid into Cochrane and both went down.” Martin advanced to third as Watkins scored, but Jim Bottomley struck out to end the inning.

Two innings later, High and Watkins again got back-to-back hits. High lined Earnshaw’s first pitch to center for another single. Watkins also swung at the first pitch he saw and, as McGraw wrote, “drove it over the top of the right field grand stand against the wind.” Those two runs proved crucial, as the A’s scored twice in the ninth against a tiring Burleigh Grimes before Bill Hallahan got the last out with the tying runs on base.

The 4-2 victory resulted in the Cardinals’ second World Series championship and avenged their loss to Connie Mack’s Athletics in 1930. While Watkins, a Houston resident and former Houston Buff outfielder, had played a key role in the seventh game, two other ex-Buffs — Martin and Hallahan — were the hitting and pitching stars of the Series. Pepper hit .500 and stole five bases, and Wild Bill won two games, registering what would today be called a “save” in the finale, while allowing of only one earned run in 18-1/3 innings of work on the mound.

Watty Watkins: Houston Sandlotter Made It Big

July 1, 2010

George "Watty" Watkins, OF, BL/TR HT: 6'1" WT: 175 Lbs

Born in Freestone County, Texas on June 4, 1900, but mostly raised on the sandlots of Houston, George “Watty” Watkins turned out to be one of our local boys who really made good.

Breaking in with Marshall and Houston in 1925, Watty played for Austin, Houston, and Beaumont over the next couple of years before earning the starting job as center fielder for the 1928 Houston Buffs in that very special year. The Buffs took the Texas League pennant and Dixie Series championship in 1928 and, even more importantly, it all took place in the first season of their splendid new home in the East End – in the place we Houstonians all came to know and love as Buff Stadium.

Watkins hit .306 with 177 hits, 32 doubles, 21 triples, and 14 homers for the 1928 Buffs, as he also established himself as a killer defensive player in the large central pasture of old Buff Stadium. An even more powerful year with Rochester in 1929 (,337 BA, 20 HR) earned Watty a promotion to the 1930 parent St. Louis Cardinals.

Watkins went “lights on bright” in 1930, hitting .373 and playing  a big role in the St. Louis pennant victory. The Cards went on to a 4-2 loss to the Philadelphia A’s in the 1930 World Series, but talent would rematch the clubs in the 1931 Classic. It would be the bat of Watty Watkins, including a home run, that fired a Game Seven victory for all the marbles this time. Watty Watkins was King of the World when he came home to Houston that winter.

After hitting .312 with the 1932 Cardinals, Watty dropped to .278 in 1933 and was dealt to the New York Giants prior t the 1934 season, thus, sadly missing the cardinal emergence as the Gashouse Gang.

Faltering offensive production for  the Giants in 1934, the Phillies in 1935, and the Phillies-Dodgers in 1936 ended the big league career of Watty Watkins. In spite of the fact that his last four big league seasons played out like the post-midnight segment of Cinderella’s big evening, questions about Watty’s playing health over that period of time may possibly explain his sudden offensive drop off the cliff. It was an era of poor diagnostics and few good choices on medical corrections. Combine that state of medical science in what passed back then for sports medicine – and mix that again with a “shut-up-and-play” personality like George “Watty” Watkins – and we have a formula for an unexplained flat tire on the highway to baseball greatness.

Watty wasn’t quite ready to hang ’em up after the 1936 season. He came back to play 100 games for his hometown Houston Buffs. He batted a most respectable .273, but here’s the more telling story of his lost power ability. Of his 105 Buff hits in 1937, Watkins collected only 21 double doubles and 4 triples with 0 (nada) homers. By the time I was born on December 31, 1937, Watty Watkins was about three months past the date of his last trip to the plate as a professional baseball player.

As a kid growing up in Houston, the echo of his name from the writings and words of the men who witnessed his play as fans or covered his play as reporters reached my ears long before I ever had the presence of mind to look into this background on my own.

George Watkins stayed active in the Houston baseball community until his death in Houston on June 1, 1970, just three days short of his 70th birthday. He was buried at the Broyles Chapel Cemetery in Palestine, Texas.

The rest of the story goes on from here. The other day, I received a wonderful e-mail message from a fellow named John Watkins, who introduced himself to me as the great-nephew of George “Watty” Watkins. John also sent me a scanned copy of the original program from the opening of the initial Houston Sports Museum back in the 1960s. Watkins had learned about me from one of my Pecan Park Eagle articles on the reopening of the museum at Finger’s.

I would especially like to invite John Watkins to comment further here on his great-uncle. Watty Watkins was one of the best all-time Buffs and he had one of the hottest starts in major league history. I’m sure we could all benefit from John’s family view on this great former Buff and Cardinal.