Our Houston Baseball History Book is Here

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At last, April 30, 2014, “Houston Baseball, The Early Years: 1861-1961″ is in publication. Researched, written, and edited by certain members of the Larry Dieker Chapter of SABR, the Society for American Baseball Research, with the support of a few other independent volunteers, with sponsorship funding and the firm backing of our National SABR office, our no-longer-so-little-book-that-almost-didn’t-happen has arrived in time to be a central part of our local chapter hosting of the National Convention of SABR in Houston this summer from July 30th to August 3rd.

Now officially in publication in a beautiful first class hardback form by Bright Sky Press of Houston, our book is available for sale to the general public for the total price of $49.95, postage included. Further ordering information is available at the very end of this column.

No longer little is right in both physical and far-reaching historical terms. It is born in 2014 as a 368-page work of comprehensively researched historical information on the beginnings and growth of baseball in the Houston area over a course of time that basically covers the same span of ages in which both Houston and baseball have been around in their present, but ever changing forms. The book ties together on a quality printing of easily readable type, with an ongoing flow of new information and photographic personification of the times that even includes a previously unpublished picture of the great Ernest Hemingway with Jim Basso, a former Houston Buff, and his buddies, upon the occasion of their date for drinks and dinner  at Papa Hemingway’s Cuban hacienda in 1952.

And the pictures don’t stop with the grainy posed team photos of that late 19th century turn. Artist Patrick Lopez has reconstructed from newspaper accounts a series of watercolor images of how the first three ballparks in Houston’s professional ball life once appeared to our Houstonian ancestors.  These works have lifted the whole tone of the book’s reading experience into both a factual and spiritual journey.

"Buffalo Watching" by Patrick Lopez, zn zrtistic rendering of the Travis Street Ballpark in Houston.

“Buffalo Watching” by Patrick Lopez, an artistic rendering of the Travis Street Ballpark in Houston.- This art piece is not available in the book. Those from the book were not available at this deadline.

Hemingway, Basso, and Friends - from a private collection.

Ernest Hemingway (center), Jim Basso (facing camera, right of EH), and Friends – from a private collection.

How did this book happen?

For me, it began sixty years ago as a dream; it survived as a needful ambition; it began to take life as an individual effort in 2007; and it finally took off to completion as a volunteer group research and writing challenge to members of the Houston Larry Dierker Chapter of SABR in May 2011. From there, it has evolved into a beautiful and accurate work of local Houston history, and as I said earlier, it was one that almost didn’t happen.

Mickey Herskowitz and I talked briefly about the need for such a book on Houston baseball history back in 1988, but nothing happened. Both of us were still absorbed by other commitments of that time.

In the summer of 2007, I began research on the book at the downtown Houston Library. My title for the work is the one it carries with it into print today: “Houston Baseball, The Early Years: 1861-1961.” During this time, I acquired a number of the photos we ended up using in the book, including the great front cover image of 1947 Houston Buff manager Johnny Keane, pointing direction like a latter day Connie Mack to his players on the field.

In brief, it didn’t take me long to realize in 2007 that, at my age, I would need either nine additional serial lives or a team of help in this present time and space to get this work done the right way. Four years of steady discussion with my SABR colleagues and buddies in the kind of positive and encouraging SABR atmosphere that our chapter chair Bob Dorrill had made possible turned out to be the deal-maker. By simply being the upbeat, positive, baseball-loving  person he is, Bob Dorrill had turned the key on the door that took us all symbolically to a spiritual room where this book moved steadily from hopeful to probable to certain.

We had to make one change shortly beyond the halfway time  point from May 2011 until now, the last day of April 2014. For health reasons, I had to ask Mike Vance to take over as Editor in Chief, as I continued to complete my research and writing chapter assignments.

Thank you, Mike Vance. You did a masterful job. Our book is evidence to that fact.

West End Park was the second major home of the Houston Buffs near the presnt day Allen Center.

West End Park was the second major home of the Houston Buffs near the present day Allen Center in downtown Houston..

What else can I tell you that you will not discover for yourselves? Maybe this – Mickey Herskowitz is the only person in this world who could have knowledgeably written the afterward comments section of this book that detail the transition of Houston from a minor league town into a major league city. Micky is not only a brilliant writer, he is also the last man standing from the cast of original characters who lived through our metamorphosis of becoming the first city in the world with a domed stadium for large field area game play. I personally recruited Mickey Herskowitz for this project. I told him, “Mickey, this is probably your only easy remaining chance to set the record straight on what really happened back there in the late 1950s and early 1960s..”

And Mickey took his shot here. And he told it right, as no else could have hoped to do – and now our book slides off the shelf as something more than just another baseball book. It exists as the only comprehensive, diligently researched history of baseball in Houston from early times. It truly is – a book for the ages.

Sometimes, Houston really does do a better job of showing that it cares about its history – and this is definitively one of those moments.

We can only hope that you too are eager to read what we have learned.

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For more information about the book or its art work products, please visit the website at:

http://www.houstonbaseball.org/

HOW TO ORDER YOUR COPY OF OUR BOOK:

Don’t deny yourself, Order a copy today.

We do not  have credit card or PayPal payment service at this time, although we are hopeful that limitation will change in the near future.

That being said, payment should now be made by personal check, bank check, or money order only. No cash, please.

We have also determined that we cannot afford to handle all the postage on book sales. My regrets for stating originally that we could. Our new baby weighs 4 pounds

Payment should be endorsed to “Houston Baseball: The Early Years” for $49.95. Please add $5.50 for the shipping of one book – or $6.50 for the shipping of two books to any destination in the United States.

Out of the country buyers should first contact our Bob Dorrill by e-mail prior to mailing your order so that you can work out your international shipping charges. The e-mail address for Bob Dorrill is:

BDorrill@aol.com

Please mail your completed order with full payment and a clearly printed merchandise receiving address to:

Houston Baseball: The Early Years

c/o Bob Dorrill

2318 Crimson Valley Ct.

Houston TX 77345-2101

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One Response to “Our Houston Baseball History Book is Here”

  1. Rick B. Says:

    Bill,
    Congratulations on the book & thanks to you and everyone involved for putting it together. My pre-ordered copy is supposed to arrive in the mail tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to an informative read.
    I do hope to meet you at one the SABR chapter meetings eventually, now that I’m a member, but my schedule is often packed. I have packed it more by joining some SABR BioProject and Games Project efforts, and I’m enjoying that extra activity since allows me to combine my job expertise with my hobby.

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