1969: 9th Houston Baseball Dinner Plucks a Rose

August 10, 2014
1969: For the 9th year in a row, the Houston Baseball Dinner convened at the Shamrock Hilton Hotel and at a still affordable cost of $12.50 per ticcket.

1969: For the 9th year in a row, the Houston Baseball Dinner convened at the Shamrock Hilton Hotel and at a still affordable cost of $12.50 per ticket.

1969. Time for the 9th annual Houston Baseball Dinner. And things have changed as they always do – as time goes by.

The dinner is still operating pretty much the same. Big names in baseball are still coming in to be honored by awards that continue to change in description from year to year. And the tickets price for a table seat at the then most famous hotel in Houston south of the downtown Rice, the Shamrock-Hilton, are still a fan friendly and affordable $12.40 each. Morris Frank is now the President of the local Baseball Writers Association of America Chapter and master of ceremonies for the dinner awards event, but one noticeable change now is a splintering f interest among out-of-Houston newspapers. Whereas, in the beginning, many national papers carried news of all the awards to be given by name and purpose, 1969 is different. Now papers are focusing on the one award or another that they feel is of interest to their readers and letting the rest go with a note that “six other awards” either will be, or have been, awarded, depending on the story date’s relativity to the January 31, 1969 dinner date.

After an extensive troll through our home digital news services, we were able to identify six of the seven awards made in 1969. The only one we could not find was the name of the Texas-born player who won the 1969 minor league player of the year nod that the Houston Chapter was starting to call the Jimmy Delmar Award. He’s out there somewhere, and in the immediately unavailable Houston news library files, for certain,; it’s simply not here now.

Here is our roll call on the major winners and big speakers at the 1969 Houston Baseball Dinner:

Morris Frank

MORRIS FRANK

1) Marris Frank, Master of Ceremonies

Wilmer Mizell

WILMER MIZELL, KEYNOTE SPEAKER

2) Wilmer “Vinegar Bend” Mizell, delivered the keynote/entertainment speech on his new role in Congress in address called “The Mani in Washington.”  It was the second straight year that Mizell had been called upon to bring some down-home wit and laughter to the Houston crowd.

Judge Roy Hofheinz

JUDGE ROY HOFHEINZ, PRINCIPAL OWNER, HOUSTON ASTROS

Harry Walker

HARRY WALKER,  MANAGER, HOUSTON ASTROS

 

3) Principal MLB team owner Judge Roy Hofheinz and Houston Astros Manager Harry Walker each spoke in attempts to rev up local fervor for the team’s chances in 1969.

PETE ROSE 1919 WINNER TRIS SPEAKER AWARD

PETE ROSE
1969 WINNER
TRIS SPEAKER AWARD

4) Pete Rose was present to receive the Tris Speaker Award from Houston Post sports editor Mickey Herskowitz.

~ Baytown Sun, January 17, 1967, Page 11.

LOU BROCK 1969 WINNER EDDIE DYER AWARD

LOU BROCK
1969 WINNER
JOHNNY KEANE AWARD

5) Lou Brock was in the house to receive the Johnny Keane Award.

~ Arizona Republic, January 22, 1969, Page 67.

WILLIE MOCOVEY 1969 WINNER JOHNNY KEANE AWARD

WILLIE McCOVEY
1969 WINNER
EDDIE DYER  AWARD

6) Willie McCovey came this time to receive the Eddie Dyer Award, now described as the plaudit given to “baseball’s greatest slugger.”

~ Galveston Daily News, January 18, 1969, Page 5.

MICKEY LOLICH 1969 WINNER DICKIE KERR AWARD

MICKEY LOLICH
1969 WINNER
DICKIE KERR AWARD

7) Mickey Lolich was rewarded for 1968 and his dominance of the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series with the Dickie Kerr Award.

~ Corpus Christi Times, January 13, 1969, Page 17.

FRANK SECORY 1969 WINNER BILL KLEM AWARD

FRANK SECORY
1969 WINNER
BILL KLEM AWARD

8) Umpire Frank Seecory  came to spend a civil evening with ballplayers as he awaited his receipt of the 1969 Bill Klem Award.

~ Cedar Rapids Gazette, January 23, 1969, Page 44.

DENNIS MENKE 1969 WINNER ASTROS MVP AWARD

DENNIS MENKE
1969 WINNER
ASTROS MVP AWARD

9) Dennis Menke of the Astros received an award identified as the club’s “Most Valuable Player Award.” If they still called it the Jim Umbricht Award in 1969, the brand failed to carry forward to any of the numerous out-of-Houston Menke stories we discovered.

~ Abilene Reporter News, .January 26, 1969, Page 52.

10) And to whomever got lost in a history wall crack, but did win the 1969 Jimmy Delmar Award as the best Texas-born minor leaguer in 1968, we shall continue to search for your identity, even if we do not have it this morning.

Just a note from today’s search to all of today’s writers: Please write in whole thoughts, whenever possible. We do understand that most of you daily beat writers don’t write for history, but fifty years from now, some other poor research devils are going to be counting on what you can tell them about today’s history – and just as perplexed by what you don’t tell them. For example, if you are covering an awards banquet that is giving out seven awards, go ahead and identify them all with the names of each winner. You may think that no one cares to get the whole picture, but you would be wrong – even if took a half century to prove it.

 

 

 

1968: Crawford Shags Klem Award at HBD

August 9, 2014

 

Klem Award for Umpires winner Shag Crawford takes a close look on a safe call at home.

Klem Award for Umpires winner Shag Crawford takes a close look on a safe call at home.

______________________________

“Umps” Crawford to be Honored

Houston (Sp) – Shag Crawford, who calls balls and strike for a living, and Leon Everitt, a young man who throws balls and strikes, will both be honored at the Houston Baseball writers annual dinner at the Shamrock-Hilton (Hotel) on Jan. 23 (1968).

SHAG CRAWFORD 1968 WINNER BILL KLEM AWARD

SHAG CRAWFORD
1968 WINNER
BILL KLEM AWARD

Crawford, who has served as a National League umpire for 11 years, will receive the Bill Klem Award for meritorious service to baseball.

LEON EVERITT 1968 WINNER JIMMY DELMAR AWARD (Everitt later pitched one MLB season for the original 1969 San Diego Padres.)

LEON EVERITT
1968 WINNER
JIMMY DELMAR AWARD
(Everitt later pitched one MLB season for the original 1969 San Diego Padres.)

Everitt, a 20-year old right hand pitcher in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, will receive the Jimmy Delmar Award as “the Texas-born minor league player of the year.” Everitt, who was born in Marshall, won 15 and lost 13 with a 3.45 ERA for Albuquerque in the Texas League and is regarded as one of the most promising youngsters in baseball.

Crawford will be best remembered for his “shoving” incident this past season with San Francisco Giants manager Herman Franks.

He started umpiring in the minors in 1950 and has been in the senior circuit since 1956. He now lives in Philadelphia.

ORLANDO CEPEDA 1968 WINNER TRIS SPEAKER AWARD

ORLANDO CEPEDA
1968 WINNER
TRIS SPEAKER AWARD

JIM LONBORG 1968 WINNER DICKIE KERR AWARD

JIM LONBORG
1968 WINNER
DICKIE KERR AWARD

RUSTY STAUB 1968 WINNER JIM UMBRICHT AWARD 2ND STRAIGHT YEAR

RUSTY STAUB
1968 WINNER
JIM UMBRICHT AWARD
2ND STRAIGHT YEAR

These two join Orlando Cepeda (Tris Speaker Award), Jim Lonborg (Dickie Kerr Award), and Rusty Staub (Jim Umbricht Award for the second consecutive year) as the honorees (for their performances during the 1967 season.

Proceeds from the 1968 dinner will be donated to the American Cancer Society in memory of Jim Umbricht and to the Leukemia Society in memory of Walter Bond. The Baytown Sun has tickets.

~ Special Pre-Dinner Report, Baytown Sun, January 11, 1968, Page 16.

______________________________

Post-Digital Records Online Research Notes.

The pre and post dinner reporting on the 1968 Houston Baseball Dinner, the 8th in history, was pretty loose and spotty. We had o infer above the awards received by Cepeda and Lonborg were the same-named Speaker and Kerr awards from previous seasons. No mention was made as to whatever happened to the Hornsby or Dyer awards from previous seasons.

There was a brief report from another brief article that praised Wilmer “Vinegar Bend Mizell” for being the most entertaining speaker of the evening, but there was no mention of the basis for his talk. He could have been a keynote speaker or presenter, but if he were a recipient, there was no mention elsewhere that we could find that identified him as such. The article did mention that his recorded remarks were being replayed for the general public on radio station KTRH by sports director Dan Lovett. – This report lend hope to the idea that here is a recorded transcription history, at least in part, that exists out there in someone’s possession, if it has not been thrown out with the “trash” long ago.

More research will be needed in each of these dinner histories we manage to briefly cover in The Pecan Park Eagle.

1967: Houston Baseball Dinner Honors Dizzy

August 8, 2014
Dizzy Dean picked up the Tris Speaker Award at the 1967 Houston Baseball Dinner. Around the same time, he came to Houston for an Oldtimers Game, where he is shown here, signing a ball for Jimmy Wynn, one of his player-fans.

Dizzy Dean picked up the Tris Speaker Award at the 1967 Houston Baseball Dinner. Around the same time, he came to Houston for an Old-timers Game, where he is shown here, signing a ball for Jimmy Wynn, one of his player-fans.

At last, the news sneaks into print. The 7th Annual Houston Baseball Dinner on January 24, 1967 was still open and affordable by the general public at $12.50 a ticket and still being held at the Shamrock-Hilton Hotel on South Main in Houston. Here’s how the Baytown Sun offered us the best identifiable coverage this morning as an upcoming event in their early coverage story of January 22, 1967:

______________________________

Dizzy Dean Heads All Star List at Houston (Baseball) Dinner

Houston (Sp) – Houston becomes the baseball capital of the world Tuesday night (Jan. 24, 1967) – (at) the seventh annual major league baseball dinner at the Shamrock-Hilton Hotel.

The inimitable Dizzy Dean, one of baseball’s greats in his playing days and still one of the games most colorful personalities, will be honored by the Houston Chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America, as will six of baseball’s top performers in 1966.

Others to receive awards will be Frank Robinson, Joe Torre, Gaylord Perry, Chris Pelekoudas, and Clarence Gaston.

The dinner is open to the public and tickets still are available at the Baytown Sun. Tickets, including free cocktails, are priced at $12.50 per person.

Many of the Astros are expecting to be there too, including Manager Grady Hatton, newcomer Eddie Mathews, Joe Morgan, Larry Dierker, Jimmy Wynn, Bob Aspromonte, Bob Lillis, and Dick Farrell.

DIZZY DEAN 1967 WINNER TRIS SPEAKER AWARD

DIZZY DEAN
1967 WINNER
TRIS SPEAKER AWARD

Dean, a Hall of Famer and star pitcher of the ’30’s, is to be (given) the Tris Speaker Award for “long and meritorious service to baseball.”

FRANK ROBINSON 1967 WINNER ROGERS HORNSBY AWARD

FRANK ROBINSON
1967 WINNER
ROGERS HORNSBY AWARD

Robinson, hero f the Baltimore Orioles’ American League and World Series championships and the League’s most valuable player, will receive the Rogers Hornsby Award as “Player of the Year.”

JOE TORRE 1967 WINNER EDDIE DYER AWARD

JOE TORRE
1967 WINNER
EDDIE DYER AWARD

Joe Torre, the Atlanta Braves catcher, (and) regarded as the best in the majors today, will receive the Eddie Dyer Award for “outstanding courage and determination.”

GAYLORD PERRY 1967 WINNER DICKIE KERR AWARD

GAYLORD PERRY
1967 WINNER
DICKIE KERR AWARD

Perry, first 20-game winner in the majors last year and All Star game winner, will receive the Dickie Kerr Award as “pitcher of the year.”

RUSTY STAUB 1967 WINNER JIM UMRICHT AWARD

RUSTY STAUB
1967 WINNER
JIM UMRICHT AWARD

Staub, who led the Astros last  year with 81 runs batted in, had 13 home runs and had 13 assists in the outfield, will receive the Jim Umbricht Award as the baseball writers have named him the “Astros most valuable player in 1966.”

CHRIS PELEKOUDAS 1967 WINNER BILL  KLEM AWARD

CHRIS PELEKOUDAS
1967 WINNER
BILL KLEM AWARD

Pelekoudas, one of the hardest working, most popular umpires since he came to the majors in 1960, will get the Bill Klem Award as “Umpire of the Year” for his service to baseball.

CLARENCE GASTON 1967 WINNER JIMMY DELMAR AWARD

CLARENCE GASTON
1967 WINNER
JIMMY DELMAR AWARD

Gaston, 22, a native of San Antonio, and a rising star as an outfielder in the Atlanta Braves organization, will receive the Jimmy Delmar Award as “The Texas Born Minor League Player Most Likely to Succeed.” 

Fred Hartman, chairman of the Houston Chapter of the association, will bring greetings (at the dinner); Morris Frank will be master of ceremonies and Judge Roy Hofheinz will give the official welcome.

Special guest will be Ernie Terrell and Mohammad Ali, who are in Houston training for their world’s  heavyweight championship bout Monday, February 6, in the Astrodome.

 

~ Baytown Sun, Sunday, January 22, 1967, Page 8.

_____________________________

The awards continue to change in meaning and name. The Eddie Dyer Award disappeared this year, but Jimmy Delmar got one added in his name.

By Year 7, the ticket prices remain affordable and Hall of Fame quality inductees continue to bless the Houston Baseball Dinner with their low cost attendance and ticket-selling power. It was a different era.

1966: Houston Baseball Dinner Picks Koufax

August 7, 2014
SANDY KOUFAX 1966 WINNER DICKIE KERR AWARD

SANDY KOUFAX
1966 WINNER
DICKIE KERR AWARD

January 25, 1966: It’s still the same old story,  a fight for love and glory, a case of do or die. – The tote board on his “K”s mounts high, as time goes by.

Sandy Koufax did it again, taking the 6th annual Houston Baseball Writers’ Dinner’s Dickie Kerr Award for being their pick as the best pitcher in baseball in 1965.

Here’s how the Associated Press summarized the evening’s awards in an article that appeared all over the country on the following publication date of January 26, 1966:

______________________________

KERR AWARD IS RECEIVED BY KOUFAX

HOUSTON, TEX. (AP) – Sandy Koufax says he hopes everyone who has arthritis “has as little trouble with it as I did with mine.”

Koufax was told he had the world’s most celebrated case of arthritis Tuesday night when the Los Angeles Dodgers pitching great was honored by writers and praised by baseball men at an awards dinner.

Koufax was presented the Dickie Kerr Award by the Houston chapter of the Baseball Writers of America. It is given to the outstanding pitcher in the major leagues.

WILLIE MAYS 1966 WINNER TRIS SPEAKER AWARD

WILLIE MAYS
1966 WINNER
TRIS SPEAKER AWARD

Willie Mays, the San Francisco Giant who was presented the Tris Speaker Award for his contribution to baseball over the years called Koufax “just the greatest.”

WALT ALSTON 1966 WINNER ROGERS HORNSBY AWARD

WALT ALSTON
1966 WINNER
ROGERS HORNSBY AWARD

Walter Alston, Koufax’s manager, was given the Rogers Hornsby Award for (being) the World Series’ outstanding personality.

HARRY WALKER 1966 WINNER EDDIE DYER AWARD

HARRY WALKER
1966 WINNER
EDDIE DYER AWARD

Harry Walker, manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, was presented the Eddie Dyer Award as the comebacker of the year. He called Koufax “now the greatest in the game.”

“I hear about his bad arm all the time, but it is always well when I come around”, Walker said.

Koufax had praise for Mays and said,

“Willie always tells me how tough it is to get a hit off of me, but every time I look up, he’s on second base.”

Augie_Donatelli

Augie Donatelli received the Bill Klem Award for umpiring.

 

~ Associated Press, Petersburg Progress Index, Wednesday, January 26, 1966, Page 16.

______________________________

Without direct cyber access to the Houston newspapers of these times, we begin to lose reporting interest from AP on the report of banquet locations and ticket prices. Hopefully, we will be able to pick up on this locally interesting detail since we all know that winter baseball dinners in Houston eventually begin to out-price themselves beyond the budgets of everyday fans.

It’s also interesting to watch the absence of year to year firmness in reporting the purposes of several awards here in these newspaper report explanations. Perhaps that is the result of sloppy reporting or a simple lack of concern or appreciation by the presenting group that awards need a base of legitimate respect for purpose to be valued over time.

 

 

Bill Gilbert’s July 2014 Astros Report

August 6, 2014
Bill Gilbert is a long-time member of SABR and an analytical writer on the current monthly progress of the Houston Astros during the 2014 season as a special correspondent for The Pecan Park Eagle.on the team's record in July.

Bill Gilbert is a long-time member of SABR and an analytical writer on the current monthly progress of the Houston Astros during the 2014 season as a special correspondent for The Pecan Park Eagle.on the team’s record in July.

 

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
By Bill Gilbert
            While there were a couple of bright spots for the Houston Astros in July, the dismal record of 8-17 is only part of the story. The Astros had the first pick in the 2014 first-year player draft and they selected Brady Aiken, a highly regarded high school pitcher from California.  However, they were unable to sign him after reducing their signing bonus because of a potential elbow problem. This also reduced the allowable bonus money allocated to the team and the result was that the Astros were unable to sign two other highly regarded high school pitchers.  The only compensation that the Astros will receive for failing to sign Aiken is the second overall pick in the 2015 draft. However, they will receive no compensation for losing the other two players.  The result could be a one-year setback in the Club’s rebuilding plans.
            The poor on-field performance in July can be largely attributed to the pitching.  The team ERA in July was 5.60, ranking ahead of only the Texas Rangers.  They converted only 2 of 9 save opportunities and opposing batters hit .310 against them. Dallas Keuchel with two wins was the only pitcher with more than one win. Keuchel, along with Josh Fields and Jose Veras, were the only pitchers with an ERA under 4.00 in July.
            The Astros fared slightly better on offense, scoring 4.32 runs per game (but allowing 6.0).  They led the major leagues in home runs in July with 32.  However, the team batting average of .245 and the on-base percentage of .295 were well below the major league average.
            The top individual performance was turned in by Chris Carter with 8 home runs and 19 RBIs while batting .289.  Carter twice hit 2 home runs in a game in July.  Jose Altuve had another outstanding month, hitting .324.  George Springer and Jon Singleton continued to provide some power but Springer batted.160 in July and Singleton batted .153 and Springer went on the 15-day disabled list with a knee problem.  Kike Hernandez was promoted from the minors and made a favorable impression batting .284 while playing multiple positions but he was traded to Miami at the trading deadline.  Prospect, Domingo Santana, was also promoted from the minors early in July but went hitless in 13 at-bats with 11 strikeouts and was sent back.  He will get another opportunity in August.
            One of the bright spots in July was the series with the Texas Rangers at Arlington.  The Astros had their best series in years, sweeping 3 games from the pitching-depleted Rangers by scoring 28 runs in 27 innings.  This led to some hopes that the team may finally be turning the corner leading into a potentially big series at home with the Boston Red Sox, normally a strong draw in Houston.  However, the Red Sox won 2 of the 3 games with crowds below 30,000.  The Astros then came right back with a six-game losing streak later in the month including a 3-game sweep at the hands of the Miami Marlins. The other bright spot in July was taking 2 out of 3 from the front-running Oakland A’s at the end of the month.
            Things did not go well in the minor leagues in July.  Early in the season, the four full-season minor league clubs had winning records and were in contention.  Now the top two teams, AAA Oklahoma City and AA Corpus Christi, have fallen below .500 and are no longer contenders.  Class A Quad Cities is right at .500 and is not in contention.  Only Class A Lancaster in the California League continues to play well and appears headed to the playoffs.  Of the 3 short-season teams, Tri Cities, where many of the recent draftees are playing, is in first place, and the other two are right at .500.
            Also in the minors, last year’s top draft choice, Mark Appel, continued to struggle at Lancaster with an ERA over 9.00.  After a trip to Houston for a session with Astro pitching coach, Brett Strom, he was sent to Corpus Christi, a controversial promotion, where he was impressive in his first start.
            The Astros began the month of July with six straight losses.  In August, they are off to a much better start with three impressive home wins against Toronto.  Maybe the elusive turnaround is getting closer.

The Face, Form, and Flow of SABR 44

August 5, 2014
1950

1950

The Pecan Park Eagle

By Bill McCurdy (1993)

 

Ode To An Old Baseball Cover I Found While

Playing Catch with My 8-Year Old Son Neal

In An Abandoned School Yard.

 

 Tattered friend, I found you again,

Laying flat in a field of yesterday’s hope.

Your resting place? An abandoned schoolyard.

When parents move away, the children go too.

 

How long have you been here,

Strangling in the entanglement of your grassy grave,

Bleaching your brown-ness in the summer sun,

Freezing your frailness in the ice of winter?

 

How long, old friend, how long?

 

Your magical essence exploded from you long ago.

God only knows when.

Perhaps, it was the result of one last grand slam.

 

One last grand slam, a solitary cherishment,

Now remembered only by the doer of that distant past deed.

Only the executioner long remembers the little triumphs.

The rest of the world never knows, or else, soon forgets.

 

I recovered you today from your ancient tomb,

From your place near the crunching sound of my footsteps.

I pulled you from your enmeshment in the dying July grass,

And I wanted to take you home with me.

 

Oh, would that the warm winds of spring might call us,

One more time, awakening our souls in green renewal

To that visceral awareness of hope and possibility.

 

To soar once more in spirit, like the Pecan Park Eagle,

High above the billowing clouds of a summer morning,

In flight destiny – to all that is bright and beautiful.

 

There is a special consolation in this melancholy reunion.

Because you once held a larger world within you,

I found a larger world in me.

 

Come home with me, my friend,

Come home.

 

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All of us from the Larry Dierker and Rogers Hornsby Chapters hope you enjoyed SABR 44 in Houston – and many of us look forward to seeing you next summer in Chicago for SABR 45.

Godspeed to each of you  for a safe and happy trip home.

 

sandlot 02

SABR 44, Houston Highlights, 8/02/14-8/03/14

August 4, 2014
The Union Station entry to Minute Maid park on east side of Crawford at the corner where Texas Avenue intersects.

The Union Station entry to Minute Maid park on east side of Crawford at the corner where Texas Avenue intersects.

The weekend was great, with Saturday being crammed full of more opportunities to learn and exchange ideas and information than any single person could ever hope to fulfill at a single SABR convention. It would also be a weekend in which our local Houston Astros would play baseball as good teams normally play, taking two from the Toronto Blue Jays, 8-2 on Saturday and 6-2 on Sunday. Because of our Larry Dierker Chapter’s excellent relationship with the Astros, SABR 44 attendees had the chance Saturday to attend two panel discussions in the great hall that is the old Union Station Depot and home office building that now serves as the main entry foyer for Minute Maid Park.

Union Station, as it appeared when it opened as a train station in 1912.

Union Station, as it appeared when it opened as a train station in 1912. It  was later expanded upward by a couple of stories.

SABR friends Tom Plemons and Jan Larson enjoy a quiet discussion in between the parade of presentations.

SABR friends Tom Plemons and Jan Larson enjoy a quiet discussion in between the parade of presentations.

Saturday morning at the Royal Sonesta was packed with Texas-theme presentations and presenters. Paul Spyhalski did a 30 minute talk on the Texas Black Spiders, the State of Texas Black Barnstorming champions. Eric Robinson did another half hour on the Houston Eagles and Professional Negro League Baseball in Texas; Jim Kreuz of the Larry Dierker Chapter did another 30-minute talk on why Jackie Robinson was not the Brooklyn Dodgers’ first choice to break the color line; and Steve Steinberg took us a journey through the 1931 Dixie Series between the Houston Buffs and the Birmingham Barons.  We mention these activities in no alight to all the fine balanced Texas and Houston themed presentations of Thursday and Friday. There simply isn’t time and space to reach back that far this Monday morning, except to add, that everything local was terrifically balanced with presentations of national and international importance to the game. SABR 44 was anything but a parochial withdrawal from the big picture of baseball, but it was a chance to show more clearly how the Houston/Texas experience also influenced, and still influences, the direction of the game in 2014.

The playing field at Minute Maid Park now rests behind the back facade of old Union Station. This same area once held the tracks that brought the likes of Ruth and Gehrig to town for spring training games against the Houston Buffs.

The playing field at Minute Maid Park now rests behind the back facade of old Union Station. This same area once held the tracks that brought the likes of Ruth and Gehrig to town for spring training games against the Houston Buffs.

Following a funny and dynamic one-hour panel that featured Dr. Bobby Brown (formerly of the Yankees), Bob Watson (formerly of the Astros and Yankees), Eddie Robinson (formerly of several other clubs and the Yankees),  and moderator Paul Rogers (formerly of the Dean’s Office at SMU Law School used the time well to discuss their experiences as players who rose high into the ranks later as baseball administrators.

SABR 44 members were led by Mark Appelman into the great hall at Union Station for two panel discussions at the ballpark prior to the 6:00 PM Blue Jays @ Astros game.

SABR 44 members were led by Marc Appleman (standing, blue shirt) into the great hall at Union Station for two panel discussions at the ballpark prior to the 6:00 PM Blue Jays @ Astros game.

When Buff Stadium opened in April 1928, downtown baseball fans of the Texas League Houston Buffs could catch the Galveston Interurban line and make the four mile trip to the ballpark in time for a late afternoon game from what was then Union Station and is now Minute Maid Park. Getting  there on time became less of a problem for downtown workers once lights were installed in 1930.

In the Great Hall, Bill Brown (L) led a former players panel of Astros (L-R) that included Alan Ashby, Larry Dierker, and Art Howe.

In the Great Hall, Bill Brown (L) led a former players panel of Astros (L-R) that included Alan Ashby, Larry Dierker, and Art Howe.

The guys were funny, real, and forthcoming. Although the focus was upon how each broke in, they could have named this panel “Breaking Good” as all the former players, and two of them were also former managers, broke differently, but well, into their professional baseball careers. As Dierker was speaking, I heard him recapturing the joy of being 18 years old again and getting to play the game he loved for pay. How many of us would take getting paid well  to play and do well at a thing we passionately love for most or ll of our “working” lives? … Uh, let’s not always see the same hands, class.

Gilbert Martinez (R) of the Rogers Hornsby Chapter moderated the Astros Decision Sciences Panel 0f (R.l) GM Jeff Luhnow, David Stearns, and Sig Mejdal.

Gilbert Martinez (R) of the Rogers Hornsby Chapter moderated the Astros Decision Sciences Panel 0f (R.l) GM Jeff Luhnow, David Stearns, and Sig Mejdal.

As they all expressed in their own ways, in 2014, all clubs are far beyond the “Money Ball” play of the movie by that name. Today, all or most clubs have some kind of decision science plan in place. The key today is to be a leader in how to most effectively develop models of study that yield useful information that translates to building a winning ball club. Decision Science is not the replacement of scouting. It is the refinement of measurable information that can only enhance and serves as a check on baseball’s traditional experiential and intuitive models of scouting.

Even Orbit couldn't solve all the jitters our SABR silent auction winner had with his first pitch effort, but he got it going anyway with catcher George Springer, who also signed the ball for our stalwart SABR brother.

Even Orbit couldn’t solve all the jitters our SABR silent auction winner had with his first pitch effort, but he got it going anyway with catcher George Springer, who also signed the ball for our stalwart SABR brother.

Astros defeated the Blue Jays , 8-2,, aided by a double error score from 1st by Jose Altuve and an inside-the-park HR by Jon Singleton.

Astros defeated the Blue Jays , 8-2,, aided by a double error score from 1st by Jose Altuve and an inside-the-park HR by Jon Singleton.

On a rare cooler day in August for Houston, he roof remained open for the Saturday game.

On a rare cooler day in August for Houston, he roof remained open for the Saturday game.

Late in the game of on the next to last day of SABR 44, local Chairman Bob Dorrill finally rested - as well he should have. With all gratitude, Bob had earned it. As Reggie always liked to say about himself, we in Houston can honestly say of Bob Dorrill. - He is straw that stirred the sweet drink that was SABR 44.

Late in the game on the next to last day of SABR 44, local Chairman Bob Dorrill finally rested – as well he should have. With all our gratitude, Bob had earned it. As Reggie always liked to say about himself, we in Houston can honestly say of Bob Dorrill. – He is the straw that stirred the sweet drink that was SABR 44.Thanks too to co-chairs Marsha Franty and Gilbert Martinez, who helped provide the drink for stirring in so many big ways. We thank all of you for all you each gave to a successful run by SABR 44.!

Sunday afternoon found our Mike Vance taking another bus tour of SABR visitors into the history of our local ballparks. Mike also worked like yeoman, doing his usual excellent job of showcasing Houston in its best, but always most honest light. Thanks to you too, Mike, for all you do make our Larry Dierker Chapter as good as it can be.

Sunday afternoon found our Mike Vance taking another bus tour of SABR visitors into the history of our local ballparks. Mike also worked like a yeoman, doing his usual excellent job of showcasing Houston in its best, but always most honest light. Thanks to you too, Mike, for all you do make our Larry Dierker Chapter as good as it can be.

Thanks also to Marc Appleman, Deb Jayne, and all the crew from SABR National for all they did to make our job at the local level so much easier.

And thank you too, Father Gerald Beirne, for convening a Catholic Mass early Sunday morning for those  of us who belong to that faith. You are walking proof that "God is Love" and that the victory pf giving over the pursuit of self-interest is our ultimate triumph.. Thank you, Father. I was happy to have attended another SABR Mass celebrated by  you.

And thank you too, Father Gerald Beirne, for convening a Catholic Mass early Sunday morning for those of us who belong to that faith. You are walking proof that “God is Love” and that the victory pf giving over the pursuit of self-interest is our ultimate triumph.. Thank you, Father. I was happy to have attended another SABR Mass celebrated by you.

Father Beirne of Narragansett, Rhode Island attended his first SABR meeting in 1984 and he has been doing these Sunday Masses at SABR conventions for the past 23 years. Retired now, Father Beirne explained to me how he used to use a hand signal approach with his Mass servers as to when it was time to do all the little detail things that go into assisting a priest at a Catholic Mass. Under Father Beirne’s system,  a tug by the padre to his own ear lobe, for example, might signal a gospel reader to come up and deliver a passage selected for reading at that particular Sunday Mass. – I couldn’t help but think and share with Father Beirne that I thought it was both great and so natural that a priest who loved baseball would use hand signals to move his team around the field of play.

Father Gerald Beirne and Friends

Father Gerald Beirne and Friends

And last, but never least, thanks to Larry and Kathleen Miggins for providing Father Beirne with items he needed to say the Mass in Houston. As always, both of your story-telling talents also shown through in the name of everything that is joyously funny and often inspirational.

The Pecan Park Eagle has one more SABR 44 story to cover, but we shall save that one until tomorrow. It’s a column with a narrative too, but this time, the narrative flows through a parade of visuals. It’s working title, for now, is “The Face and Fandom of SABR.”

Have a nice Monday, everybody.

 

 

 

 

 

 

SABR 44, Friday Highlights, 8/01/14

August 2, 2014
1980 HOUSTON ASTROS PANEL: ENOS CABELL. DEACON JONES, JOSE CRUZ, TAL SMITH, & KENNY HAND

1980 HOUSTON ASTROS PANEL: ENOS CABELL. DEACON JONES, JOSE CRUZ, TAL SMITH, & KENNY HAND

The SABR national membership is getting the best we can offer of Houston: friendly people, informed baseball folks, open and receptive and forthcoming former players and front office icons, legendary Texas food and culinary hospitality, some of the best of our worst hot weather in early August, MLB and independent league baseball action, tours of our historic places and ball parks, and, oh yes, a level of universal air conditioning that makes an active productive life in the Bayou City even possible for residents and visitors alike.

Friday morning at 10:00 AM, the 1980 Houston Astros Panel convened under moderator Kenny Hand, a long-time Houston sportswriter. The panel included former 3rd baseman Enos Cabell, former batting coach Deacon Jones, former left fielder Jose CRRRRRUUUUUUZZZZZZ, and former Astros front office rebuilding wizard, Tal Smith. Tal Smith spoke for many of us Astros fans when he reasoned that Game 5 of the 1980 NLCS, a loss by the Astros to the Phillies, was both the most exciting – and most disappointing game our Houston club has ever played – even more so than the Game 6 loss we encountered, also in the Astrodome, six year later, against the 1986 New York Mets.

Larry Dierker was the primary speaker at the SABR Awards Luncheon. Dierker also  stoked baseball's need to pick up te pace of play for the sake of keeping the younger fans.

Larry Dierker was the primary speaker at the SABR Awards Luncheon. Dierker also stoked baseball’s need to pick up te pace of play for the sake of keeping the younger fans.

Keynote luncheon speaker Larry Dierker was at his Hawaiian-shirted, curmudgeonly best in urging several specific changes to speed up the pace of game before it loses both its younger and even older attention-span challenged fans. He also left us with some comments that could only have come from the Dierker Dome of Philosophical Contemplation. For example, at one point, Larry offered that baseball is the only team sport that is not played on a rectangular field. “I’m not sure what that means,” Dierker added, “But I found the thought interesting.” Everything is interesting about Larry Dierker. In my view, he is one of the brightest minds to ever find his way into the mainstream of the game. People like Dierker go through thoughts like the rectangular field oddity because they don’t throw out any observation before they decide which ones are the keepers and which ones belong in the trash. For now, we shall simply have to assume that baseball’s avoidance of the normally expected horizontal box apace is a still a thought in which the jury remains out. I like that kind of thinking. Keep it up, Larry!

AMONG THE MANY AWARDS ANNOUNCED AT THE SABR 44 LUNCH, TAL SMITH (L) RECEIVED THE ROLAND HEMOND AWARD FROM THE MAN HISMELF FOR HIS MANY CONTRIBUTIONS OVER THE YEARS TO THE GAME OF BASEBALL.

AMONG THE MANY AWARDS ANNOUNCED AT THE SABR 44 LUNCH, TAL SMITH (L) RECEIVED THE ROLAND HEMOND AWARD FROM THE MAN HIMSELF FOR HIS MANY CONTRIBUTIONS OVER THE YEARS TO THE GAME OF BASEBALL.

 

SABR 44 MEDIA PANEL: (L>R) EVAN DRELLCH, BILL BROWN, ALLYSON FOOTER, BUCK MARTINEZ, & BRETT DOLAN.

SABR 44 MEDIA PANEL: (L>R) EVAN DRELLCH, BILL BROWN, ALLYSON FOOTER, BUCK MARTINEZ, & BRETT DOLAN.

Friday afternoon at 2:30 PM, a fast moving, quick-minded media panel brought thoughtful attention to baseball’s need to maintain the attention of viewers while also satisfying the commercial need of advertisers  who pay the bills for the game’s expensive talent payroll. There’s not doubt among the media panelists that baseball needs to address the pace of play issues that will determine our sport’s ability to hold the attention of younger fans in years to come, but also no doubt that the advertising support of  sponsors will continue to be essential, but contradictory to the goal of improving pace of play.

Media panelists included Bill Brown, long-time telecaster of the Houston Astros; Evan Drellich, Astros beat writer for the Houston Chronicle; Allyson Footer, national correspondent for MLB.Com; and Buck Martinez, play-by-play guy for the Toronto Blue Jays. Former Astros broadcaster Brett Dolan served as panel moderator.

WOMEN IN BASEBALL PANEL (L>R) ALLYSON FOOTER, TO-BE NAMED LATER, MARIE "RED MAHONEY, JANA HOWSER, & LESLIE HEAPHY. MODERATOR.

WOMEN IN BASEBALL PANEL (L>R) ALLYSON FOOTER, TO-BE NAMED LATER, MARIE “RED MAHONEY, JANA HOWSER, & LESLIE HEAPHY. MODERATOR.

Friday afternoon at 4:30 PM, Marie “Red” Mahoney, a former member of the Women’s League that flourished briefly in the 1940s as the inspiration for the iconic baseball film, “A League of Their Own,” got everyone’s attention when stated that her successful transition from softball to standard hard ball was “very hard.”

“Softball’s all about pitching,” Red noted, “but baseball’s about everything else. From strategy, to where you play in the field, to how quick you are in learning and responding to the requirements of your position on the field – and on a level that allows you to win more games than you lose. Back in the day, we had to learn everything about the game – and also play it in a short skirt that most of us had never worn before in our lives. It wasn’t easy, but I just loved the game. Always have. And still do.

We’ll vouch for Red Mahoney too. She’s a proud and happy contributing member of the Larry Dierker Chapter in Houston.

Red Mahoney also had time to sign some autographs for fans at the panel's ending.

Red Mahoney also had time to sign some autographs for fans at the panel’s ending.

Former Houston Buff Larry Miggins (L) sands beside the 1951 Texas League Championship trophy hat he and his teammates won on yesterday's field of baseball glory.

Former Houston Buff Larry Miggins (L) sands beside the 1951 Texas League Championship trophy that he and his teammates won on yesterday’s field of baseball glory.

Again, our apologies for all the equally worthy SABR 44 activities we had to miss yesterday for the sake of covering the ones we had time to include. Now it’s off to Saturday’s bill, already have missed some things to this writing need, but this afternoon will make up for all loses of time. We are going as a SABR 44 group to the Toronto Blue Jays @ Houston Astros game at Minute Maid Park at 6:05 PM this evening, after attending a couple of at-the-ball-park panels presentations in the afternoon.

We shall see you again on the other side of another great day with baseball!

SABR 44, Thursday Highlights, 7/31/14

August 1, 2014

At the end of the day, SABR 44 had rolled through an upbeat, entertaining, and educational day at the Royal Sonesta Hotel on Thursday, July 31, 2014. Some of the later day and evening action even spread to Constellation Field, home of the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Independent Baseball’s Atlantic League, where quite a few convention attendees were transported by bus to see a game and experience the great hospitality of the game at the this level of play.

Here’s a quick pictorial on parts of the day and a few written memories worth recalling forever. Too much in content, it’s too bad any of it had to be lost. Hopefully, everything was recorded. From our lone experience, however, the great tales and facts came pouring forth in great abundance and The Pecan Park Eagle was not taking written assignment notes.

Astros President Reid Ryan delivered the Keynote Welcoming Address after Houston SABR Chairman Bob Dorrill read a City of Houston Proclamation that July 31-August 3 was altogether dedicated by Mayor Elise Parker as "SABR Day in Houston."

Astros President Reid Ryan delivered the Keynote Welcoming Address after Houston SABR Chairman Bob Dorrill (seated) read a City of Houston Proclamation that July 31-August 3 was altogether dedicated by Mayor Elise Parker as “SABR Day in Houston.”

My Favorite Remembered Quote from Reid Ryan: “My dad, Nolan Ryan, always loved saying that we should never allow our memories of yesterday’s failures to get in the way of the lessons we now bring to our focus on tomorrow’s successes.”

The SABR Houston Colt .45s Panel included, left to right: Jimmy Wynn, Carl Warwick, Hal Smith, Bob Aspromonte, and moderator Greg Lucas.

The SABR Houston Colt .45s Panel included, left to right: Jimmy Wynn, Carl Warwick, Mickey Herskowitz, Hal Smith, Bob Aspromonte, and moderator Greg Lucas.

Favorite Quotes:

Jimmy Wynn: “My daddy always said, ‘If you want to drive a Chevy, hit singles; if you want to drive a Cadillac, hit home runs. – I chose Caddys.”

Carl Warwick: “When young Jimmy Wynn joined the Colt .45s club in 1963, I was playing center field and Al Spangler was playing in left. Not long after we had a chance to watch Jimmy field and hit with power. Al turne to me one day and made this comment: ‘You know something, Carl? That kid is probably going to be good enough to take one of our jobs – and I think it’s going to be you – because he’s too good to play left field.’ “

And that’s exactly what happened, but the Colt .45s traded Warwick back to St. Louis where he arrived in time to help the 1964 Cardinals win the World Series in seven games over the Yankees and set a record of his own with three pinch hits in the World Series.

“Thanks for making that opportunity possible for me, Jimmy,” Carl said to Wynn this morning.

Mickey Herskowitz once observed the workers zipping in place the new sections of the  first AstroTurf infield. It inspired him to write the following in his column on the installation: “Now Houston has the only infield in baseball that contains its own built-in, infield fly.”

Hal Smith is the same guy who homered for Pittsburgh in the bottom of the 8th of Game Seven in the 1960 World Series with the Yankees that gave the Pirates a brief 9-7 lead that again collapsed when New York tied the game in the top of the 9th, setting up a fellow named Bill Mazeroski with a Series-ending walk off homer in the bottom of the 9th that helped bury the memory of Hal’s brief heroics. Hal Smith also hit the first HR in Houston’s first MLB game on Opening Day, but even that landmark quickly found the shads when teammate Roman Mejias followed him with two homers in the Colts’ first winning game.

Bob Aspromonte collected the first hit and run in Houston MLB franchise history and he did it as the very first Houston batter in history in that first Opening Day of 1962. He once twice delivered on a promise of hitting a home run for a young Louisiana kid named Billy Bradley, and each time, they were grand slams. Later on, when Aspro was having his own visual problems from an exploding car battery, little Bill Bradley decided to return the promise by dedicating a game he was due to pitch in youth baseball to the health recovery of Aspromonte. The kid three a 7-inning no-hitter in his hero’s honor.

Greg Lucas simply did a beautiful job of bringing out the best in all these icons of Houston’s earliest MLB years.

Jimmy "The Toy Cannon" Wynn poses for a photo with a fan.

Jimmy “The Toy Cannon” Wynn poses for a photo with a fan.

Jo Russell stos in the lobby for a brief visit with Larry Dierker and Jim Gilligan.

Jo Russell stands in the lobby for a brief visit with Larry Dierker and Jim Gilligan.

Convention Attendees continue to contemplate a bid or two  at the SABR 44 Silent Auction table.

Convention Attendees continue to contemplate a bid or two at the SABR 44 Silent Auction table.

Gilbert Martinez of the Rogers Hornsby Chapter introuuces the College Baseball Panel: (L>R) Roger Clemens, Mike Gustafson, Jim Gilligan, and moderator Mike Vance.

Gilbert Martinez of the Rogers Hornsby Chapter introduces the College Baseball Panel: (L>R) Roger Clemens, Mike Gustafson, Jim Gilligan, and moderator Mike Vance.

Roger Clemens is Roger Clemens; Mike Gustafson is the President of the College Baseball Hall of Fame; Jim Gilligan is the long-time baseball coach at Lamar University. and Mike Vance is the Executive Director of Houston Arts and Media. Reports from attendees all say that the panel was lively, dynamic, and entertaining – and that Roger Clemens was very giving and well received.

The College Baseball Panel drew the rapt attention of a packed SABR RR house.

The College Baseball Panel drew the rapt attention of a packed SABR RR house.

For many SABR 44 attendees, the Thursday night action poured from  a 20 minute bus trip to nearby Constellation Field in Sugar Land for a Skeeters game.

For many SABR 44 attendees, the Thursday night action poured from a 20 minute bus trip to nearby Constellation Field in Sugar Land for a Skeeters game.

Early reports from Sugar Land were all on the side of favorable from our visitors from other places in the USA. Mark Wernick later left this fine report on the night in Sugar Land as a comment, but we decided also to bring it up here as a very excellent addition to our total report on today’s covered activities – and keep in mind too, we could not cover all the fine talks and panel presentations at SABR 44 today. Any unmentioned miss on a convention program event is simply due to our human limitations. We couldn’t be everyplace at the same time.

Here’s The Mark Wernick Report on The SABR 44 Night in Sugar Land:

Bill, we received a full briefing on Skeeters history from Tal Smith, Deacon Jones, and a fellow whose name I didn’t catch when it was drowned out by the din of the PA system blasting music and a very loud announcer. But what we were able to hear was very interesting. We even were given a recap of the Jason Lane story you already had shared yesterday.

The Skeeters topped the Bridgeport Bluefish, 6-3. There was a bit of official scorer controversy when what looked clearly to be a solid line drive single to left just under the fully extended glove of the Bridgeport third baseman was called an error, thus preserving a no-hitter in the sixth inning. As a result, Clint Everts, Sugar Land’s pitcher, entered the ninth nursing a 6-0 no-hit shutout. His performance in the seventh inning suggested signs of fatigue. He hit the first batter, was tagged for a controversial line-drive foul that kicked up chalk (by some reports) along the third base line, and endured two more base runners via infield errors – one by him with an errant throw – before escaping a bases loaded, no-out jam with a strikeout and double-play. After being tagged with a blistering double into the gap for the “first” hit in the ninth inning, he ended up yielding two runs before being pulled, and was charged with a third run after his relief permitted an inherited runner to score on another hit. I wondered about his pitch count and the motivation for leaving him in the game after the seventh.

It was interesting to see former major leaguer Tomo Ohka pitching for Bridgeport. He lasted into the 8th inning, never breaking a sweat. He appeared to be lobbing the ball lazily to the plate, and the radar gun routinely clocked him in the low 50s. I think several of his pitches were under 50 mph because the radar gun didn’t pick up their speed.

Constellation Field is a terrific place to see a ball game. My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Great company, great outing.

Stay tuned for further SABR 44 feedback tomorrow.

 

SABR Convention, Thursday, July 31st

July 31, 2014
AT THE WEDNESDAY ABR MEET & GREET: Vince Gennaro, SABR Board President, Bob Dorrill, Houston Chapter Chair,Bill McCurdy, Marsha Franty, and Larry Dierker.

AT THE WEDNESDAY SABR MEET & GREET: Vince Gennaro, SABR Board President, Bob Dorrill, Houston Chapter Chair,Bill McCurdy, Marsha Franty, and Larry Dierker.

After a long day of Wednesday arrivals and registration at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in the Galleria area, a meet-and-greet party over hot dogs and hamburgers brought members from alll over the USA together last night for a little recreational fun.

Today things get away in earnest at 9:15 AM with an Opening Address by Houston Astros President Reid Ryan to the convention body.

Following the Ryan address, Greg Lucas will serve as moderator for a panel that aims to discuss and hash the life and times of the originally named new city MLB club, the Houston Colt .45s. Panel member include former Houston Colt .45 players Bob Aspromonte, Hal Smith, Carl Warwick, and Jimmy Wynn, along with iconic sportswriter Mickey Herskowitzz, the scribe who covered their every move and misstep for the old Houston Post.

ROYAL SONESTA HOTEL HOUSTON, TEXAS SABR 44 2014 SITE This photo and first by Mike McCroskey.

ROYAL SONESTA HOTEL
HOUSTON, TEXAS
SABR 44 2014 SITE
This photo and first by Mike McCroskey.

The afternoon program agenda includes panels on a wide range of subjects, including Japanese baseball, the Astrodome, Fort Worth winning the 1960 Little World Series, a history of the Houston Colt .45s/Astros in the Rule Five draft, and numerous SABR Research Committee reports on multiple subjects. Houston SABR member Joe Thompson will host a session on the history of MLB drug problems and Mike Vance will host a College Baseball Panel discussion that wil include the great Roger Clemens and Lamar University Coach Jim Gideon. Other rooms will take on a review of HOF Hank Greensberg’s time in Beaumont during the 1930s and another will look at the role of baseball as it played out in the Japanese-American internment camps of World War II. We’ve probably left something out in our rush to go this morning, but, hopefully, you’ve heard enough to get the idea. Things are going to be happy/busy for convention attendees at SABR 44 as we take our first full swing at substance.

"Buffalo Watching" Version One By Patrick Lopez

“Buffalo Watching”
Version One
By Patrick Lopez

At 4:00 PM, many of us will be getting on the bus from the hotel and traveling to Sugar Land to watch a Skeeters game.

What a day this stretches out o be – when all we have to do is celebrate the history of baseball with those who value the game too.


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