Saturday’s May Meeting at Minute Maid Park in Houston was a blast, indeed, and one of the highlights was the introduction of the panorama photo of the Houston Buffs and the visiting Galveston Sand Crabs as they prepared to square off at West End Park on Opening Day of the 1921 Texas League baseball season. The presentation was mad by Billy Behler of LaGrange, Texas, whose great-grandfather, Billy Buscha, was a pitcher for the ’21 Buffs. His family owns the negative to this previously unpublicized excellent picture of West End Park and Behler is now busy producing a limited edition print of the work for the sake of raising money for a memorial to his great-grandfather.
Another claim is made for the photo, but that claim must go unaddressed here until The Pecan Park Eagle receives the further documentation we have requested that could either verify, or come closer to banishing reasonable doubt. It’s nothing personal here in this request for evidence that goes beyond testimonial or pictorial reference alone.. It’s simply a statement of our SABR commitment to establishing hard proof for all historical claims.
Regardless of how the pending point turns out, the photo is valuable in itself. It also raised questions Saturday as to what players may have come from that 1921 Buffs team who either came to, or went on from, that club to bigger names in baseball. With great assistance from SABR’s Mark Wernick on our first entry, here are three names from the 1921 Houston Buffs that stretched a little broader than the boundaries of that single Texas League season:
George Whiteman was 38 years old by the time he stood in that line as an outfielder for the 1921 Buffs. He would play a full season for the Buffs in 1921 and then return in 1922 to repeat his performance as an everyday player for the entire run. Whiteman, in fact, would go on to play in the minor leagues for other clubs for several years hence, finally retiring at the end of the 1929 season at the age of 46.
Prior to Opening Day 1921, Whiteman appeared in 86 games for the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox over the three spread out seasons of 1907, 1913, and 1918. He batted a respectable .271 for his big league time and, as Mark Wernick pointed out on his note to my column yesterday, Whiteman also started every game of the 1918 World Series for the Boston Red Sox.
George Whiteman apparently made Houston his home in retirement too. He died here in 1947 at the age of 64.
Ray Blades was only 24 and a season away from his 10-year big league career (1922-28, 1930-32) with the parent club St. Louis Cardinals on Opening Day 1921. Blades would go on to play for the first Cardinals World Series championship club of 1926 and again on their 1931 championship club. He would also player for two World Series losing Cardinal clubs in 1928 and 1930, but, my gosh, there really isn’t any losing to a ten season big league career that includes four World Series stops in the baseball world spotlight.
Ray Blades batted .301 for his major league career.
Jim Bottomley was best known for his sunny personality and the jaunty way he wore his baseball cap and smiled at everyone. At the age of 21 for the ’21 Buffs, “Sunny Jim” was also only a season away from his long career with the St. Louis Cardinals and some shorter finishing time with the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Browns (1922-1937).
Bottomley also would play for the Cardinals’ first two World Series champions of 1926 and 1931 and also be there for two World Series losing years of 1928 and 1930.
After hitting .310 lifetime in the big leagues, Bottomley was selected for the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1974. And that’s some pretty tall cotton for the spikes of a young man who was only 21 when he took the field at West End Park for the Houston Buffs back in 1921.
Congratulations again to yo too, Billy Buscha. – You played with some pretty solid baseball guys back in 1921. These guys, and others among you, were not bad at all.