1961: HSA Begins Annual Winter Baseball Dinners

July 21, 2014
Morris Frank served as Master of Ceremoniies at the first and several other Houston Winter Baseball Banquets from 1961 forward.

Morris Frank served as Master of Ceremoniies at the first and several other Houston Winter Baseball Banquets from 1961 forward.

 How could such a grand annual pre-season celebration by the hard core Houston baseball community, the Annual Houston Winter Baseball Dinner, have been allowed to disappear without notice a couple of years ago? The simplest explanation unwinds from our ability to understand the workings of time’s hands on so many best laid plans in life. It began with a major push of support from the new MLB ownership of Houston baseball in the National League. It died from the apathy of new Houston club ownership in either 2011 or 2012. I’ve even now forgotten the exact year, but it just stopped, without fanfare or notice. The apathy of a new Astros club president, fortunately now departed, apparently had a lot to do with it. The man failed to understand that any need for change in the way the club was run did not include killing a major lifeline of fan support.

The moral of the story is simple for other baseball club administrative aspirants: We don’t care if you went to Harvard and earned an MBA from there, if you don’t understand how baseball fan allegiance to a baseball club works over time, get the hell away from trying to run our baseball club. Your self-absorbed ambitions are better served in politics.

On a more temperate note, here’s a story from the Baytown Sun about plans for the first Houston Baseball Banquet in 1961. Two notes are important here: (1) with all due respects to the front line efforts of Jimmy Delmar, and although although he isn’t mentioned in the article by name, former Houston Buff President Allen Russell was the behind-the-scenes other prime mover in getting the annual banquets started according to all the persons from that era that I’ve consulted about the event’s beginning; and (2) the group would quickly establish the Dickie Kerr Award as the prize they would annually give to the MLB outstanding pitcher from the previous season. From what we have been able to learn, it appears that Warren Spahn of the Braves took the first one at the second winter banquet in 1962 for his 21-13, 3.02 ERA record in 1961. It is possible that the Kerr Award may have begun in 1961, but we were unable to find an out-of-Houston resource that carried a post-banquet report on the specific awards of that evening. A check of the Houston news files from one of our brick and mortar local news repositories is needed.

Now here’s the article from back in time:

______________________________

First Time for Houston

BASEBALL DINNER SET

HOUSTON (12/20/60) – Houston’s first annual major league baseball dinner will be held.at the Shamrock-Hilton Hotel Tuesday, Jan. 10 (1961) celebrating this city’s entry into the National League in 1962, the Houston Sports Association announced Saturday.

Jimmy Delmar, one of Houston’s staunchest baseball boosters and long-time player, manager, and semi-pro baseball leader, will be general chairman of the dinner. Morris Frank, newspaper columnist and sage of East Texas, will be master of ceremonies.

Warren C. Giles, president of the National League, has formally accepted an invitation to be the principal speaker.

All seven managers of the National League have been invited to be the guests of the HSA and Danny Murtaugh, manager of the world champion Pittsburgh Pirates, was the first to wire his acceptance.

 The Chicago Cubs have not yet named their manager and as soon as he is announced he will be added to te guest list.

Several other outstanding baseball players, past and present, have been invited to attend, including a member of the Pittsburgh club and one of the World Series stars.

One of the high spots of the dinner will be the establishment of an annual award to be given each winter to a baseball player or official for an outstanding contribution to the game.

George Kirksey of the HSA saw the winter baseball dinner as an important link between the Astros and deep core Houston fans.

George Kirksey of the HSA saw the winter baseball dinner as an important link between the Astros and deep core Houston fans.

 George Kirksey, executive vice-president of the Houston National League club, said that the HSA hopes to make the Houston dinner one of the highlights of the Winter baseball banquet circuit each year. Most of the major league cities hold dinners during the winter with the Baseball Writers Association in each city sponsoring the affair.

“We will introduce the Houston National League front office organization to the fans at our dinner,” said Kirksey, “as well as introduce the National League president and many of the National managers and stars to the fans at the same time.”

Among the Houston National League club’s personnel which will be formally introduced to Houston fandom will be General Manager Gabe Paul; Bobby Bragan, director of player personnel and farm clubs; Tal Smith, assistant farm director; Bill Giles, administrative assistant; Paul Florence, veteran scout; Grady Hatton, minor league manager and scout; Red Murff, scout; and others.

General Chairman Delmar, who started out in baseball in 1920 as batboy for Kid Elberfield, the original “Tabasco Kid” and then manager of the Little Rock club in the Southern Association, has been closely identified with baseball in Houston for a quarter of a century.

He headed up the Pro-Amateur Baseball Federation for five years, was President of the Gulf Coast Victory League during World War II, was manager of the Grand Prize semi-pro baseball team which won many state titles and finished third in the national tournament in Wichita, Kansas in 1940, and is the past president of the Athletic Committee of the Chamber of Commerce. As a player he was a pitcher.

The dinner will be held in the Emerald Room. Tickets will be priced at $10.00. Committees and other details of the dinner will be announced later.

~ Baytown Sun, December 20, 1960, Page 9.

 

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Dickie Kerr Statue: A Brief History

July 20, 2014
August 20, 1966: Stan Musial presided over the dedication of the Dickie Kerr Statue at the Astrodome in Houston.

August 20, 1966: Stan Musial presided over the dedication of the Dickie Kerr Statue at the Astrodome in Houston. – Port Arthur News, Sunday, August 21. 1966, Page 23.

The Dickie Kerr statue was dedicated as a tribute to the late and sadly alone and lamented hero of the integrity-tainted 1919 World Series Chicago White Sox on August 20, 1966 as part of the Second Annual Old-timers Game played at the Astrodome in Houston. Kerr had passed away in his Houston home only three years earlier at the age of 69 on May 4, 1963 and buried at Forest Park Lawndale, the final resting place of so many other big name Houstonians in baseball and other fields.

Because of the Kerr statue dedication of this special artwork by the donor group into the care of the Houston Astros at the Astrodome, Kerr’s great friend, Stan Musial, had agreed to participate in the Old-Timers game as part of the dedication ceremony. Wish we had a good copy of Musial and the statue as shown above, but we shall settle today for any attainable graphic of that special moment. Here above we see Musial in the moment that followed his unveiling of the Kerr statue prior to the 1966 Astrodome Old-Timers game.

Who were the donors who made the statue possible?

According to the Abilene Reporter News and the Port Arthur News, the statue had been designed and completed from funds donated by fans to a movement organized by Houston sports media after Kerr’s death from cancer. Dick Peebles of the Houston Chronicle and Clark Nealon of the Houston Post appear to have been the prime media movers of the fundraising project. We were unable to locate the name of the actual sculptor.

National League President Warren Giles was also on hand with Musial to help preside over the special occasion.

As an interesting aside, even though we have no specific information about the actual pace or score of the Old-Timers game played that day, former Cardinal pitchers Dizzy Dean and Howie Pollet had been announced as opposing starters for the two sides.

August 20, 1966: Astros star Jimmy Wynn gets an autograph from Dizzy Dean prior to the Old-Timers game.

August 20, 1966: Astros star Jimmy Wynn gets an autograph from Dizzy Dean prior to the Old-Timers game.

In a brief period of research today, The Pecan Park Eagle could find no specific documents that specified that the gift of the statue had been donated to the Astros in exchange for their protection, presentation, and preservation of this artwork at the Astrodome, and it simply may have been one of those high-spirited matters of agreement that fails to spell out the item’s future once the glow of the moment fades and other priorities arise and people who had been in charge as givers and receivers either die or move away. All we know is that, over time, and some time prior to the Astros’ move downtown to their new ballpark, the Dickie Kerr statue ended up at the Houston Sports Museum operated by the Finger Furniture family at their store that once rested on the site of old Buff/Busch Stadium.

With the Houston Sports Museum now closed, we presume that the statue is now on “loan” display from Finger’s by the Sugar Land Skeeters at Constellation Field.

Bust View of the Dickie Kerr Statue.

Bust View of the Dickie Kerr Statue.

If anything, this trace history of the Kerr statue, which, indeed, is a quite handsome likeness of Dickie Kerr, is a great argument for specifying the duties and responsibilities of ownership in written legal terms that spell out the expectations that should be attached to the job of perpetual care and presentation of important historical artifacts.

The Skeeters are taking good care of Dickie Kerr’s bronze-plated image. Dickie has been in security placement in the Constellation Field Press Box recently, but he will be back out in front of the stadium by the time our SABR convention visitors make their trip to watch a Skeeters’ game on July 31st.

If you have other information or comment about the history of the statue, please let us hear from you.

———————————-

Additional Information from Tom Hunter ….

The Musial House Gift to Dickie and Cora Kerr …

Tom Hunter has supplied us with a link to this excellent article of insight into the  relationship between Stan Musial and Dickie Kerr and how the Houston house gift came to be. The photo of Dickie and wife Cora Kerr in front of their Houston home is also available within the linked article by Andrew H. Martin by clicking onto the sub-link contained within the article shown as “blown away by gift”.

Here’s the Andrew H. Martin article link:

http://baseballhistorian.blogspot.com/2012/11/how-stan-musial-gave-dickey-kerr-of.html

And here’s a poor quality free-hand shot of the house photo contained within the previously noted sub link:

 

Dickie and Cora Ker in front of their Houston gift home from Stan Musial. Musial was upset when attempted quiet gift to old friends became public a few short years after the fact.

Dickie and Cora Ker in front of their Houston gift home from Stan Musial. Musial was upset when his attempted quiet gift to old friends became public a few short years after the fact.

 

Thank you so much, Tom Hunter, for these important additions to the Dickie Kerr story.

 

 

 

 

1930: Night Baseball Reaches Houston

July 19, 2014
Regular night baseball came to Houston in 1930. Contray to popular belief, however, the first actual night game in Houston was played much earlier.

Regular night baseball came to Houston in 1930. Contrary to popular belief, however, the first actual night game in Houston was played much earlier.

“HOUSTON TO SEE NIGHT BASEBALL

“Houston baseball fandom is assured of night baseball with the awarding of contracts for lighting Buffalo stadium to the Crouse Hinds company of Syracuse. Night baseball will be the vogue in Houston  within a month, according to Fred Ankenman, president of the Buffs.

“The Houston executive expressed the opinion (that) at least 15,000 fans would see the first night baseball game played in Houston.

“It is of interest to note (that) there will be no night baseball in Houston on Sunday nights. Sunday games will be played in the afternoon to avoid any conflict Sunday night church services.

“Although a number of Texas League clubs have been considering the installation of lighting equipment, the Houston club is the first to award a contract.”

~ Daily Court Review, May 31, 1930, Page 4.

What that 1930 story fails to know or research is the fact that, even though night baseball in Houston on a regular basis did not start until the 1930 Texas League season, the first night game in Houston actually happened much earlier – early enough to have lighted the summer night skies of Houston in an even earlier century.

That little known fact and so many others ooze from the heart of our new SABR hard cover, 368 page words and graphics history of Houston’s early baseball history.

manchester-logo

Order your copy of “Houston Baseball, The Early Years: 1861-1961 today. Please e-mail our SABR Larry Dierker chapter chair, Bob Dorrill, for pricing and ordering details at bdorrill@aol.com

Have a great weekend, everybody!

 

 

 

 

Welcome, Great-Niece of Dickie Kerr!

July 18, 2014
Tom Kennedy, Rodney Finger, and Larry Miggins ose in fron to the Dickies Kerr statue when it still remained at the old Finger Furniture Sorts Museum.

Tom Kennedy, Rodney Finger, and Larry Miggins pose in front of the Dickie Kerr statue when it still remained on exhibit at the old Finger Furniture Sports Museum.

Most of you know the story of the late Dickie Kerr. He was the young Chicago White Sox lefty who pitched his heart out honestly for the team that has come to be known as the Black Sox when eight of the men allegedly conspired to throw the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds back in 1919.  Rookie Kerr won both his starts in the 1919 World Series, but it wasn’t enough to save the Sox from falling to the Reds, 5 games to 3.

Kerr later retired in Houston as one of the most famous people in our local baseball community. He also coached college baseball at Rice in 1927.

Bust View of the Dickie Kerr Statue.

Bust View of the Dickie Kerr Statue.

The native St. Louisan was also a very close friend of Stan Musial, going back to the manager-player relationship that Kerr and Musial enjoyed together in 1940 at Class D ball Daytona Beach. As Musial’s prospects began to slip from injury in his third year, it was  manager Kerr who helped him see that his bat provided a whole other set of prospects that may even even shine brighter as a future. When Musial married as a young minor leaguer, he and his bride even moved in with Kerr and his wife to save money – and more importantly, to cement a close lifetime relationship between the two families.

Years later, when Musial’s star hung in the highest region of MLB baseball heaven, the Kerrs had fallen upon hard times in Houston. And Stan Musial did what a Stan Musial does. He bought the Kerrs a house that remained their home for life. Dickie Kerr passed away in 1963 at the age of 69. We are not informed of the date his wife died.

Dickie Kerr was one of the good guys on the 1919 White Sox Sandal team.

Dickie Kerr was one of the good guys on the 1919 White Sox Scandal team.

The point today is that The Pecan Par Eagle has now heard from Donna Tinsley, a former Houstonian who also happens to be the great-niece of the late Dickie Kerr, who just recently saw the following linked column from a while back:

http://bill37mccurdy.wordpress.com/2013/04/03/dickie-kerr-statue-goes-on-display-at-constellation-field/

Ms. Tinsley also left the following comment at the foot of that post:

“It was wonderful to read about my great-uncle. We moved from Houston 20 years ago and I never knew where his statue landed after Fingers. My mom was named after him and his wife Cora. Her parents named her Dixie Corene. She spent summers with them and got to know Stan and some of the other celebs who congregated there like Clark Gable (on occasion). They were like parents to her since her dad died when she was seven. She said their home was always full of people. I remember going to a ceremony/dedication for Uncle Dick at the old Buff Stadium when I was a kid. Guess my husband and I will have to visit Constellation Field, seeing that it was close to where we moved from.
Thank you for a great article. It filled in a few blanks for me.
Donna”

Anterior view of the Dickie Kerr staue and base, as it appeared on display at the now closed Houston Sorts Museum that Finger Furniture operated for three generations before its closing for economic reasons.

Anterior view of the Dickie Kerr staue and base, as it appeared on display at the now closed Houston Sorts Museum that Finger Furniture operated for three generations before its closing for economic reasons.

Donna, we are happy that you enjoyed the article. Whenever you and your husband do return to our area to see the statue in it’s new location, please let us know. My guess is that the Sugar Land Skeeters would like to know so that they can do everything in their power to make you comfortable and also draw new attention to what the Dickie Kerr statue represents – and that big word is “integrity”.

Also, Donna, please let me know if you feel OK about me releasing your e-mail address to the Sugar Land Skeeters or other  writers who may wish to contact you about a follow up story to your comments here. I will not release it to anyone without your expressed e-mail consent.

My e-mail address is bill.mccurdy37@gmail.com

Thanks again for writing.

God bless you and yours,

Bill McCurdy, The Pecan Park Eagle

Who’s on First?

July 16, 2014

Hu's On First e

Thanks to contributor Bob Blair for this pictorial reminder that it finally happened back on September 23, 2007. When back-up shortstop Chin-lung Hu took the field in Arizona for the Los Angeles Dodgers, he was playing in only his sixth MLB game in a brief career that only began on September 1, 2007. He entered this game with only one career hit, a solo home run in Dodger Stadium  off  Brett Tomko in the 9th inning of a 9-4 losing cause to the San Diego Padres on September 11, 2007. Hu also had been on base once previously as a pinch runner for Olmedo Saenz in a September 5, 2007, 8-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs in Wrigley Field, but that was at second base, following Saenz’s pinch hit double..

Through all five games he played through September 22, 2007, Hu never had been on first in any official capacity.

Then things changed.

On September 23, 2007, it came to be for Hu in a 7-1 romp for the Dodgers at Arizona. Chin-lung Hu went one for four, a single, with one run scored and one RBI. At last, we could all ask the famous question in the light of a fiction that now had transformed into a reality:

Hu’s on first?

 

chin-lung-hu

Happy Under-Celebrated (and, perhaps, even unrecognized) Memories of 2007 from the year 2014, Chin-lung Hu, wherever you now may be!

 

Baseball Almanac Box ScoreLos Angeles Dodgers 7, Arizona Diamondbacks 1
Los Angeles Dodgers ab   r   h rbi
Pierre cf 4 1 4 0
Abreu 2b 3 1 1 1
  Valdez 2b 2 0 0 0
Kemp rf 5 0 1 0
Loney 1b 5 2 3 2
Martin c 4 1 2 0
Ethier lf 4 0 1 1
LaRoche 3b 3 1 1 1
Hu ss 4 1 1 1
Billingsley p 3 0 0 0
  Beimel p 0 0 0 0
  Young ph 1 0 1 0
  Broxton p 0 0 0 0
  Saito p 0 0 0 0
Totals 38 7 15 6
Arizona Diamondbacks ab   r   h rbi
Young cf 4 1 1 0
Salazar rf 3 0 1 0
Byrnes lf 3 0 0 0
Clark 1b 4 0 1 0
Reynolds 3b 2 0 1 1
Snyder c 4 0 0 0
Drew ss 3 0 0 0
Ojeda 2b 4 0 1 0
Gonzalez p 0 0 0 0
  Cruz p 0 0 0 0
  Quentin ph 1 0 0 0
  Nippert p 0 0 0 0
  Murphy p 0 0 0 0
  Medders p 0 0 0 0
  Cirillo ph 1 0 0 0
  Peguero p 0 0 0 0
  Wickman p 0 0 0 0
  Petit p 0 0 0 0
Totals 29 1 5 1
Los Angeles 1 0 0 2 2 0 0 2 0 7 15 0
Arizona 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 5 1
  Los Angeles Dodgers IP H R ER BB SO
Billingsley  W (12-5) 5.2 5 1 1 4 6
  Beimel 1.1 0 0 0 0 0
  Broxton 1.0 0 0 0 0 2
  Saito 1.0 0 0 0 0 1
Totals
9.0
5
1
1
4
9
  Arizona Diamondbacks IP H R ER BB SO
Gonzalez  L (8-3) 3.1 8 3 3 0 2
  Cruz 1.2 1 2 2 1 5
  Nippert 1.0 1 0 0 0 2
  Murphy 0.1 1 0 0 0 0
  Medders 0.2 0 0 0 0 0
  Peguero 0.2 0 1 1 2 0
  Wickman 0.1 3 1 0 0 0
  Petit 1.0 1 0 0 0 1
Totals
9.0
15
7
6
3
10

E–Drew (17).  DP–Los Angeles 2. Abreu-Hu-Loney, Abreu-Hu-Loney, Arizona 1. Reynolds-Ojeda-Clark.  HR–Los Angeles Abreu (2,1st inning off Edgar Gonzalez 0 on 1 out); Loney (13,5th inning off Cruz 1 on 2 out).  SF–Ethier (8,off Edgar Gonzalez).  Team LOB–8.  SH–Edgar Gonzalez (3,off Billingsley).  HBP–Drew (3,by Saito).  Team–7.  SB–LaRoche (2,2nd base off Wickman/Snyder).  CS–Pierre (14,2nd base by Edgar Gonzalez/Snyder); Martin (9,2nd base by Peguero/Snyder).  U-HP–Paul Emmel, 1B–Dan Iassogna, 2B–Dale Scott, 3B–Ron Kulpa.  T–3:21.  A–43,372.

Baseball Almanac Box Score | Printer Friendly Box Scores

 

The Rest of the Story ...

As dear old Paul Harvey used to love saying near the conclusion of his radio tales, “now here’s the rest of the story…!”

Shortly after this story was published this morning, The Pecan Park Eagle received a private e-mail from Ira Liebman, the radio and ESPN telecaster for the Sugar Land Skeeters. Ira had a point  to make  about his own lesser known, but primary role in the “Hu’s on First?” materialization. Had I know of it previously, it would have been included in our original story copy, but I sure as heck cannot let it go – now that I do know.

Ira Liebman wrote: “When I was at Triple-A, broadcasting for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox (2006), I waited for three games for him (Hu) of the Jacksonville Suns) to get on first. He (finally) did on a force at  second and I said “who is literally on first” before Vin Scully ever saw him in the majors and did it.

The rest of the rest of the story is known to us today. If we are going to take the origin of this wonderful writers and broadcaster called shot to the minor league level, we also have to take into account that Hu broke into minor league ball with 67 hits for the Ogden Raptors even earlier back in 2003. We may not know the answer today, but we do have to allow for the probability that someone in that year or those that followed through 204-05 may even earlier had uttered, spoken, or written  the famous Abbott and Costello question into public play.

In the meanwhile, let’s give Ira Liebman his due. If he says he got there on the famous question call earlier than Vin Scully, that’s good enough for me.

…And that’s the rest of the story … for now. …… Good day!

 

A Recipe for Craig Biggio’s HOF Induction

July 16, 2014
Craig Biggio is a close 2nd place in the all time career HBP category.

Craig Biggio is a close 2nd place in the all time career HBP category.

One Recipe for Craig Biggio’s Hall of Fame Induction.

Please follow the instructions carefully:

1) Take all the active voting members of the Baseball Writers of America and boil their heads in water for three to five years.

2) At the same time, marinate Craig Biggio’s qualifications through an audio visual device that will be ready for presentation whenever the voters’ brains have been softened to a receptivity level on the matter  of Mr. Biggio’s deserved induction into the Baseball Hall f Fame.

3) After the head-boiling period, take any remaining resistance from voters with a grain of salt.

4) The brain-softening and well-marinated material presentation will come together as the perfect time for a positive vote in Mr. Biggio’s behalf.

5) Take the vote and wait three minutes for a persuasive ballot in favor of Mr. Biggio.

6) Wait for at least one of the voters to shout: “Why didn’t we think of this man three to five years ago – when he first became eligible for our vote?”

7) Place the news of Craig Biggio.s  HOF selection on social media and wait five minutes for the first one million tweets of approval.

7) Allow Mr Biggio 24 hours for a normal resumption of all bodily functions and , Voila, prepare the candidate’s plaque for installment in Cooperstown.

Too bad it’s not that simple. Last night during the 5-3 Jose Altuve-aided 5-3 American League victory, I kept up my multitasking hobby of playing with stats while I’m watching televised baseball. I decided to check on how many of the straightforward offensive career categories I could find that included Craig Biggio among the Top 100 Players of All Time. I came up 13 categories in which that were true. Only one of the main categories, strikeouts, was a negative achievement. The rest were all a combination of longevity and ability. Here’s a table that best illustrates them:

The 13 Career Categories in Which Craig Biggio is among the Top 100 Players of All Time

CATEGORY NUMBERS ALL TME RANK
PLATE APPEARANCES 12,503 10
AT BATS 10,876 13
RUNS 1,844 14
HITS 3,060 20
DOUBLES 668 5
EXTRA BASE HITS 1,014 32
GAMES PLAYED 2,850 16
HIT BY THE PITCH 285 2
STOLEN BASES 414 66
WALKS 1,160 65
STRIKE OUTS 1,753 20
SACRIFICE FLIES 81 84
TOTAL BASES 4,711 33
Craig Biggio: During his post-career St. Thomas High School caching peios in which he led the Eagles to two state championships.

Craig Biggio: During his post-career St. Thomas High School caching peios in which he led the Eagles to two state championships.

Craig Biggio could have finished first in the HBP category had he managed 3 more arm bunts off his protective sleeve. As it played out, however, he had to settle for 2nd behind Hugh Jennings of the dead ball era who had 287.

As for those who brush away any positive record that spawns from longevity, I take issue. A guy doesn’t play for 20 years and earn top dollar without being far better than good, I don’t think.If you care to labor over the way Baseball Almanac portrays the data in every category, you will find the place over run with Hall of Famers in the top 100 groups for each positive category.

Craig Biggio deserves to be n the Baseball Hall of Fame and let’s hope the BBWA members soften their heads to see it that way too in 2015. Otherwise, we may need to think about boiling over 200 plus big pots of water. Like a lot of other fans, The Pecan Park Eagle’s angst is undoubtedly going to continue experiencing these little flare-ups until the writers make it right and vote Craig Biggio into Cooperstown where he already belongs.

Have a nice hump day, everybody!

 

 

 

91-Year Old Lacy Rocks at Houston SABR Meeting

July 15, 2014
91-year old Raymond Lacy: native Texan; college graduate and educator; survivor of racism; Negro League veteran of clubs like the Homestead Grays and Houston Eagles; high school coach in baseball, football, and basketball; man of faith; role model; family man; and one of the wisest men any of us could ever hope to meet.

91-year old Raymon Lacy: native Texan; college graduate and educator; survivor of racism; Negro League veteran of clubs like the Homestead Grays and Houston Eagles; high school coach in baseball, football, and basketball; man of faith; role model; family man; and one of the wisest human beings any of us could ever hope to meet.

Wisdom and love flows through his ancient being as if it were the technicolor stream of all life-blood currents, but, when Larry Dierker SABR chapter chair Bob Dorrill introduced the diminutive veteran of the Negro Leagues to the large crowd that was privileged to hear  him speak this unforgettable night, few of us knew what to expect. All most us knew was that his name was Raymon Lacy – and most us were spelling “Raymon” as though it had the expected “d” at its end. – It did not..

Once handed the mike at the special meeting area we occupied at the Spaghetti Western Cafe on Shepherd Drive, however, the whole room quickly focused entirely upon the small and stoic face that now now took the conductor’s role as to where the mind and soul will travel when we listeners pay close notice to the words a speaker chooses to make his points.

“My brother and I were born in the country near Tyler, Texas,” Lacy said, “and we were raised by a mother who worked like a convict to keep us fed and on the right path until we finished high school.”

Lacy loved baseball from way before the time he and his brother could afford any real equipment.

“We used broomsticks and the like for bats and shucked corn to throw as balls,” Lacy explained. With a barn as our backstop, we took turns pitching and batting. Sometimes we even threw bottle caps because of the swerves they made in the air. It was good preparation for me. By the time I’m hitting against real curve balls, those real pitchers weren’t fooling me. Those bottle caps were a lot harder to hit.”

The details of Lacy’s long and winding road covered more ground than this single pair of ears could retain, but it wasn’t simply the facts of this man’s journey that  jumped off the page at us. By the words this man chose, one could almost count and name the stones on the path of this man’s life travels. It was the path of a committed seeker. It was the wisdom that this man had accumulated in his nearly 92 years that still spoke clearly from his aged frame.  And once he had finished talking, he moved in almost school teacher fashion to a “next question” searchlight focus on what the crowd wanted to ask of him.

Along the way, Raymon Lacy also earned two college degrees that lifted him down the main line of his career activity beyond baseball as a teacher, principal, coach, and school board member.

Matt Rejmaniak was among those who personally thanked Raymond Lacy for his presentation at the July 19, 2014 Houston SABR meeting.

Matt Rejmaniak was among those who personally thanked Raymon Lacy for his presentation at the July 19, 2014 Houston SABR meeting.

Here are snippets of the wisdom that poured forth from this literal and figurative “Little Big Man” speaker:

On Failure. There is no failure if we get the lessons that spring from our mistakes. If we don’t pick them up, we will just get to see them again until they either get us thrown in jail, buried early, or, finally, to learn and change our lives according to the hard knocks edge of truth.

On Kids Today. Kids need to hear from their parents and teachers that they are loved. If a child doesn’t know he or she is loved, they aren’t likely to learn much from the role model who doesn’t let them know. I knew I was loved because my mama told me she loved me. She also showed me she loved me every time she punished me for getting out of line.”

On Biggest characters he ever met. Lacy answered that question by saying, “that depends on what kind of characters you mean. If you mean good characters, it’s a short list. If it’s bad characters, we could be here all night.”

On Negro League Greats. Raymond Lacy knew them all. Playing third base and right field for or against everyone from Josh Gibson to Hank Aaron to Willie Mays to Jackie Robinson, whom Lacy credits as the greatest because of his ability to hold up under the vicious assault of racial hatred. Lacy gives great weight of value  to those who are willing to face the adversities of life with the courage that all obstacles can be overcome with the willingness of the individual to hang in there and really commit to change.

On picking a Vocation. “I always told my students – ‘You don’t want to end up as one of those people who dreads the thought of going to a job that you hate, but you do it anyway because you need the money. Ask the question that no one else can answer for you: What do I really love? What do I want to do? If it will take more education to qualify, then go back to school and get what you need to move on. It doesn’t have to be college, but it needs to be enough to get you in the door of the line of work you say want to pursue.’ – In the end, if it’s not hurting anyone else, do what makes you happy. And nothing less.”

After the meeting, a number of us made a point of coming forth to thank Mr. Raymon Lacy for being with us. This morning, The Pecan Park Eagle wants to make it clear again, as I think we did last night. We aren’t simply thanking you, Mr. Lacy, for being with us last night. Our appreciation of you extends to the nearly 92 years you have been here as an important resident of Planet Earth.

God Bless You, Raymon Lacy!

In addition to making the Raymon Lacy presentation possible, chair Bob Dorrill also led us through a successful process of filling in many of the critical work assignments with new volunteers to the SABR 44 Plan for the SABR National Convention that is coming to Houston from July 30 through August 03.

Thank You, Bob Dorrill, for all you do!

 

 

West End Park Memorialized for the Ages

July 13, 2014

 

(Photo by Greg Lucas).

(Photo by Greg Lucas).

 

Preliminary Notes and Remarks

Thank you Greg Lucas, Mark Rejmaniak, and Mike McCroskey for the photos and brief accounts of the West End Park Plaque Dedication hosted in downtown Houston today by the Harris County Historical Commission through the capable hands of emcee/historian Mike Vance. The Pecan Park Eagle could not attend directly due to healing repercussions from a home accident.

Here are some brief comments from SABR member photo contributors to this column:

“Sorry you could not be on hand. Ceremony held in the shade, the everyone moved a couple blocks to the unshaded and quite hot area where the plaque had been installed.  Sort of a back street, but accurate along what would have been the left field line.  As Mike explained (and you no doubt already know) home plate and the grandstand area would have been pretty much right where the freeway is now.” ~ Greg Lucas.

Thank you to Mike Vance, Harris County, SABR, and all who came out to support the historical marker dedication for West End Park near Antioch Baptist Church in Downtown Houston.”  ~ Mark Rejmaniak.

“The plaque unveiled on Clay street, just east of I-45. Located at what would have been the left field foul pole of the old West End Park. The foul line would have headed east, paralleling  Clay street which now dead ends into 45. Home Plate would be located somewhere in the middle of the HOV lane, adding a new element of suspense to the game.” ~ Mike McCroskey.

Wish I could have been there too, friends. The same WEP grounds that helped incubate the blooming baseball talents of Houstonians Gus and Frank Mancuso, George “Red” Munger, and so many others in baseball and football during their 1930’s high school and other amateur player growths had its moment in the sun again yesterday – and now, hopefully, that shall continue to be so forever among all of us who care about such things, once they are given this important vital notice that historic places  like West End Park actually once existed. My special thanks goes out to Mike Vance for all the hard work he put in to make this happen, and to the Harris County Historical Commission and City of Houston for making this wonderful yesterday happen by plaque and acclamation.

Let’s also try to remember that plaques only have the power to awaken notice to history. It’s still up to us, the people, to absorb and keep the lessons of history alive.

West End Park Marker Dedication July 12, 2014

by SABR Chair Bob Dorrill

SABR Chair Bob Dorrill, in Houston Babies gar, was our Pecan Park Eagle coverage reporter at West End Park.

SABR Chair Bob Dorrill, in 1888 Houston Babies gear, was our Pecan Park Eagle coverage reporter at West End Park. (Photo by Matt Rejmaniak)

On a bright sunny morning some 35 baseball fans travelled back through time to Antioch Park at Allen Center at the corner of Smith and Clay in downtown Houston to celebrate the unveiling of a marker commemorating West End Park, a ballpark that hosted Texas League baseball in Houston from 1905 to 1927 and used for multiple other activities, including professional black baseball, until 1942.

MIKE VANCE was both the program MC and the driving force behind the West End Park plaque memorial.. (Photo by Matt Rejmaniak).

MIKE VANCE was both the program MC and the driving force behind the West End Park plaque memorial.. (Photo by Matt Rejmaniak).

The marker, actually located a block from Antioch Park on Andrews, was sponsored by CenterPoint Energy. It was unveiled by Mike Vance, president and executive director of Houston Arts and Media, and Debra Sloan, Marker Dedication Chair of the Harris County Historical Commission. First pitch honors went to Minnette Boesel who represented Houston Mayor Annise Parker with Mr. Vance doing the catching duties.

Vance, who was instrumental in the design and acquisition of the marker, emceed the event starting with the Pledge of Allegiance to both the United States and Texas flags. He recognized many of the distinguished visitors on site before telling the group about key activities and fun facts that occurred at West End Park over the years. Janet Wagner, Chair of the CHCH, also spoke to the group.

The mayor's assitant throws a commerotive first pitch to Mike Vance at the site of the plaque. (Photo by Mike McCroskey).

Minnette Boesel, who represented the Mayor of Houston, Annise Parker, throws a commerotive first pitch to Mike Vance at the site of the plaque. (Photo by Mike McCroskey).

On hand were 15 members of the local Society for American Baseball Research Chapter. (SABR). Local chapter chair Bob Dorrill, dressed in an authentic reproduction uniform of Houston’s first professional Baseball Team in 1888, the Houston Babies, spoke on the many Hall of Fame baseball players who had played on this field, including Ty Cobb, Christie Mathewson, John McGraw, Connie Mack, Walter Johnson and Rube Waddell, to name a few, and then expounded on why so many people continue to have a love affair with baseball.

After the ceremony at the park we proceeded to the actual ballpark location for the marker unveiling.

Ms. M and Mr. Vance also unveiled the plaque. (Photo by Mike McCroskey).

Debra Sloan  of the Harris County Historical Commission helps Mike Vance unveil the plaque. (Photo by Mike McCroskey).

Debra Sloan of the Harris County Historical Commission displays the City of Houston Proclamation that July 12, 2014 has been dubbed as "West End Park Day" in Houston. ~ (Photo by Matt Rejmaniak).

Debra Sloan of the Harris County Historical Commission displays the City of Houston Proclamation that July 12, 2014 has been dubbed as “West End Park Day” in Houston. ~ (Photo by Matt Rejmaniak).

Janet Wagner represented the Harris County Preservation Commission. (Photo by Mark Rejmaniak).

Bernice Mistrot  also represented the Harris County Historical Commission. at the West End Park plaque dedication. (Photo by Mark Rejmaniak).

It was a great day for historic sharing, teaching, and learning. (Photo by Bob Dorrill).

It was a great day for historic sharing, teaching, and learning. (Photo by Bob Dorrill).

 

West End Park, The Early Years. (Thanks to the Houston Public Library)

West End Park, The Early Years. (Thanks to the Houston Public Library)

If you care to see a whole album of photos from the dedication ceremony, check out Matt Rejmaniak’s on-line album of the July 12th festivities:

https://www.facebook.com/matt.rejmaniak/media_set?set=a.10204507452073351.1073741841.1444220201&type=1

Why “further research” is sometimes needed

July 12, 2014
When Chick Flet' played an inning in right back in the 2008 first game of he resurrected Houston Houston Babies,  we pretty much knew what we were getting. That's why he never played again. On the other hand, what do we know about the early athletic backgrounds of others we hang out with. It's time to do some research.

When Chick Filet’ played an inning in right back in the 2008 first game of the resurrected Houston Babies, we pretty much knew what we were getting. That’s why Chick never played again. On the other hand, what do we know about the early athletic backgrounds of others we hang out with? – It’s time to do some research.

Late Friday, we decided to do some research on what some of our Pecan Park Eagle friends and colleagues may have done during their presumed early athletic careers. Here’s what we had time to learn in a once over lightly review of digital news file services:

1) “Connellsville beat host Colonial, 12-6, in Fayette County (PA) American Legion Baseball League activity yesterday. … Greg Lucas was the most troublesome Colonial batter, with a double, single, and three runs driven across.” ~ Connellsville (PA) Daily Mirror, July 15, 1976, Page 8.

2) In a state high school basketball title hopes elimination game, the Hillsboro Indians fell to the Miami Trace Panthers by a score of 65-62. “Mike Vance had an outstanding night for the Indians, hitting on 13 of 19 field goals for 26 points. It was the second half though where Vance was phenomenal as he made 9 of 11 shots including eight in a row.at one point.” ~ Hillsboro (OH) Press Gazette, February 4, 1974, Page 7.

3) “What do Ernest Wagner, Marion Crawley, Herm Keller, Ray Crowe, Bill Green, Bill Harrell, Tom May and Mike McCroskey have in common? – They are the eight individuals in the 83-years of Indiana high school boys and girls basketball to win back-to-back state championships.” ~ Kokomo (IN) Tribune, March 11, 1993, Page 33.

4) “Four tilts have been reported (but only one here) of Tuesday night action of  the city recreation women’s slow pitch softball league. – Piney Grove was a 20-5 winner over First Baptist-Garfield as Phil Holland had two home runs, Gloria Turner had three hits, and Marlene Holland and Mary Ann Gaither paired hits.” ~ Statesville (NC) Record, July 20, 1977, Page 32.

5) In a 14-6 loss to West Branch, “Clayburg got the board early in the fourth quarter, when Hileman connected with Tony Cavender for a 23-yard touchdown pass to highlight a 12-play 74 yard drive. The conversion failed, giving West Branch a 14-6 lead (that held up as the final score).” ~ Bedford (PA) Gazette, September 29, 1997, Page 4.

6) “Terrace hurdler Bill Hale set a new school record in the high hurdles event against Englemoor last Friday,  covering the distance in 15.5 seconds. Hale also took first in the low hurdle event>” - Lynnwood (WA) Enterprise, March 26, 1969, Page 15.

7) In the first round of Van Wert city tennis tournament at Jubilee Park, “Bob Stevens and Steve Keister defeated Dale Wheeler and Kirbey Brown, 7-5, 4-6, 7-5.”  ~ Van Wert (OH) Times Bulletin, September 20, 1974, Page 11.

8) Larry Hajduk kicked six extra points and also caught a 22-yard TD pass in the third quarter as his Beth-Center Bulldogs “ran wild last night as it (they) raced to a 50-12 win over Clairton.” ~ Uniontown (PA) Evening Standard, September 21, 1974, Page 10.

9) The Lamar Redskins defeated the Baytown Ganders, 5-3, in Galveston at the Ball High baseball tournament. Jimmy Disch played right field for Lamar, going 2 for 3 on the day with a single to left in the fifth that loaded the bases and spurred Lamar to the two runs that inning that supplied his club with their final margin of victory.  ~  Baytown (TX) Sun, March 22, 1964, Page 5.

Hmmm! That last one looks like it really may have been the same Jimmy Disch that now plays for our Houston Babies. As for the others, further research is needed.

 

P.S.: Mets Get Busted in ’86 Houston Bar Fight

July 11, 2014
Art Richman and his famous Browns cap with Marty Marion, St. Louis, 1953.

Art Richman and his famous Browns cap with Marty Marion, St. Louis, 2003.

The 1986 Mets Houston arrest story will make a little different impression upon you if you also know a little more about the man who was travel secretary for the club back in 1986.

The late Arthur Richman. a former New York writer, Yankee executive, and, earlier, travel secretary for the New York Mets during our heartbreaking 1986 Astros season, was quite a guy. He and his brother Milton Richman, a former Ford C. Frick Award winner, had grown up as Bronx street urchins back in the 1930’s who lived and breathed playing street ball and seeking the attention of big leaguers before and after games at Yankee Stadium. And that’s how they became Browns fans of players like 3rd baseman Harland Clift and, later, catcher Frank Mancuso of Houston.

I was fortunate to have met and become friends of Art Richman through our mutual membership in the St. Louis Browns club. His answer to how he and Milton became Browns always rolled easily off the tongue in that “Guys and Dolls” way of speaking that most Texans recognize as “you’re not from here, are you?”

“The Browns were an easy pick for Milton and me,” Arthur would say. “The Yankees walked right past us. The Browns stopped to shake hands, sign autographs, and talk with us on the way from the subway to the stadium. Sometimes they even bought us a meal from some street place, if they saw that we were hungry. It was an easy choice.”

“By the time that Milton was off in the service during WWII, and I was a teenager, the league went bad and the Browns got good enough to win the 1944 American League pennant. So, guess what? I took off on bus and hitchhike trip to St. Louis, just hoping to catch up with some of the Browns to see if they could me in to watch the Series games there. I found Frank Mancuso at home at his apartment – and why not? – I had his address all along. Frank and the guys took me in and worked it. I was able to see the Browns play in the World Series, even though they lost to the Cardinals, 4 games to 2.”

Arthur spent his early years as a young adult working as a sportswriter for the New York Daily Mirror. It was then that he finally had a chance to hob-nob with some of the Yankees – and one of those was pitcher Don Larsen, a former Brown. Arthur enjoyed his peripheral role in setting the table for the 1956 and the only perfect game in World Series history. So what was Arthur’s claim in this regard? “I was Larsen’s drinking buddy deep into the New York night before his big game. Didn’t hurt him a bit.”

Later in life, Arthur was hired by George Steinbrenner as a vice-president of media relaions for the New York Yankees. With a slight pause for appropriate modesty of expression, Arthur also enjoyed giving himself credit in the mid-1990’s that the Yankees name Joe Torre as their new manager. – Not a bad pick, Arthur. Not a bad pick.

Over the years prior to his  2009 death in his sleep at age 84, Arthur Richman still attended our annual Browns club banquets in St. Louis. He invariably came around to telling people a familiar line: “You see this cap?” He’d ask, as he removed it from his head and pointed at it. “This is a real 1944 St. Louis Browns cap ad it’s going with me in the casket whenever it’s my time to go ‘Bye, Bye Babylon!” I’ve given my wife, Martha, clear instructions to guard it with her eyes until they’ve closed and locked my casket too. I don’t want some S.O.B. souvenir hunter snatching it away from its rightful ride with me into eternity.

One banquet year, Don Larsen also came to St. Louis and, even though I no longer drink, I went out to the hotel bar with Arthur Richman to the hotel club and bar to talk some more baseball and old times. I got more bang for my Shirley Temple buck than I ever might have hoped for in my younger drinking day. Books on baseball literally drifted away in the air of hanging out with those two guys holding court. Wish I had been smart enough to get the whole thing on tape too. By the two o’clock AM closing time, Larsen was still begging the waitress to let us stay for another round. It wasn’t to be. And I was ready check in too, but not without realizing that I had just been treated to probably my greatest night in baseball of all time.

Goodbye again, Arthur. Hope you got away with your cap OK.

One more story here leads into the inclusion below of a news report on the time in 1986 that three New York Mets pitchers and second baseman Tim Teufel for a post-Astros game bar fight they got into with Houston police. In compliance with Houston’s “hit a cop/go to jail policy” the NY boys quickly found themselves locked up downtown.

Then Mets travel secretary Richman got on the phone right away and placed a middle of the night call to his old St. Louis Browns buddy, Frank Mancuso, who by that time in life had been well established in his post-baseball career as a Houston City Council member.

“Frank,” the desperate Richman pleaded. “You gotta help me out here. I can’t wait 24 hours to get these guys out and still have enough men left to handle our needs.on the field. Frank Mancuso just listened and promised to do what he could.

Early the next morning, all four Mets players were released on bail and they were made available for immediate play. I’m not sure what happened to the charges against the men, but they somehow just went away.

Now, here’s one Associated Press treatment of the incident as it played out in real time:

___________________________________________________________

Ron Darling didn't exactly live up to his name in the wee hours of July 19, 1986, but no big harm came of it.

Ron Darling didn’t exactly live up to his name in the wee hours of July 19, 1986, but no big harm came of it.

FOUR METS ARRESTED (Saturday, 19, 1986, 2:00 AM)

HOUSTON (AP) - Four New York Mets – starting pitchers Ron Darling, Bob Ojeda, and Rick Aguilera, and second baseman Tim Teufel were arrested early Saturday after a disturbance at a Houston disco.

Darling and Teufel were charged with aggravated assault on a policemen and Ojeda and Aguilera with hindering an arrest.

All were released on bond, each after spending the night in the Houston  city jail.

The incident took place at about 2 a.m. in a disco called Cooter’s after the Mets lost to the Houston Astros 3-0 Friday night. Darling was the losing pitcher for the Mets who have a 12 game lead in the National League East.

According to Houston Police Sgt. Daniel Moorman, Teufel was creating a disturbance and was asked to leave by the club’s management.

“On his way out, he attempted to carry the beer he was drinking outside,” said Moorman.Texas law prohibits the drinking of alcoholic beverages outside public establishments.

Moorman said Teufel, who appeared to be intoxicated, “was released to his friends so they could take him home,” Moorman said. Instead, Teufel went outside and started another disturbance, according to the police spokesman.

When police tried to arrest him, Moorman said Teufel started hitting the arresting police officers and Darling joined in.

“Teufel and Darling actually hit the arresting officers, Moorman said. The officers, however, were not seriously hurt.

Teufel and Darling were released on $2,000 bond each about 11:30 a.m. Saturday. Ojeda ad Aguilar were released on $800 bond each.

~ Elyria (OH) Chronicle Telegram, July 20, 1986, Page 28.

——————————————————————————————————-

Ron Darling had been the losing pitcher in the 3-0 loss by the Mets to the Astros in the Friday night game that preceded their Cooter’s bust. None of the four players got into the Saturday night game that followed their bonding out of jail. And only Tim Teufel participated in the Sunday,  July 20, 1986 game that the Astros also captured for a 9-8 win and series sweep. Teufel went 2 for 2 at 2nd base in the final game of the weekend.

 


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