Posts Tagged ‘St. Louis Cardinals’

World Series Histories: Red Sox and Cardinals

October 31, 2013
Congratulations to the World Champion Red Sox! - "B" STRONG - YOU ARE!

Congratulations to the World Champion Red Sox! – “B” STRONG – YOU ARE!

What a World Series! With Big Papi seeing the ball as if it were a grapefruit, the passionate talented Boston Red Sox took the World Series in six games – and winning one at home for the first time in 95 years. Any last vestige of the Bambino Curse is now removed. These guys played like the best team in baseball’s two great cities and deserved to take home the gold. I loved Big Papi’s post-game remarks, especially his dedication of the MVP award he took hands down to the people of Boston.

The following is just a little quick thumbnail I did overnight (with the help of Baseball Almanac) on the result records in the World Series for both the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals.  I hope you find some things of interest in this data.In each separate team report, there are three tables for your inspection:

Table One shows the linear, year by year results record for each team, by series won and lost game totals and locations (home or away) for the start and finish of each series.

Table Two shows how each team fared in each contest by total games played.

Table Three shows how each team did when they variously started and ended at home or away.

Please feel free to comment or question. I’m hoping my words here are as clear as bottled water.

Here we go, starting with the 2013 World Series Champions, the Boston Red Sox:

TABLE 1: BOSTON RED SOX RECORD IN WORLD SERIES: 1903 – 2013:

Team WS # YEAR PLAYED WINNER OF SERIES LOSER OF SERIES GAMES W & L BEGAN WHERE? ENDED WHERE?
1 1903 RED SOX PIRATES 5-3 HOME HOME
2 1912 RED SOX GIANTS 4-3 AWAY HOME
3 1915 RED SOX PHILLIES 4-1 AWAY AWAY
4 1916 RED SOX ROBINS 4-1 HOME * HOME *
5 1918 RED SOX CUBS 4-2 AWAY HOME
6 1946 CARDINALS RED SOX 4-3 AWAY AWAY
7 1967 CARDINALS RED SOX 4-3 HOME HOME
8 1975 RED S RED SOX 4-3 HOME HOME
9 2004 RED SOX CARDINALS 4-0 HOME AWAY
10 2007 RED SOX ROCKIES 4-0 HOME AWAY
11 2013 RED SOX CARDINALS 4-2 HOME HOME
  • HOME GAME, BUT PLAYED AT BRAVES FIELD, ALSO IN BOSTON.

TABLE II: RED SOX RECORD IN WORLD SERIES BASED UPON VARIOUS MULTIPLE GAME OUTCOMES:

POSSIBLE OUTCOMES/ GAMES W OR L RED SOX SERIES WINS & LOSSES
4 WINS – 0 LOSSES 2 WINS – 0 LOSSES
4 WINS – 1 LOSS 2 WINS – 0 LOSSES
4 WINS – 2 LOSSES 2 WINS – 0 LOSSES
4 WINS – 3 LOSSES 1 WIN – 3 LOSSES
5 WINS – 3 LOSSES 1 WIN – 0 LOSSES
TOTAL WINS – LOSSES ————-> 8 WINS – 3 LOSSES

HISTORY NOTE: TO BEAT THE RED SOX IN A WORLD SERIES, A CLUB HAS TO TAKE THEM TO THE FULL 7 GAMES. – THROUGH 2013, THAT’S THE ONLY WAY THEY LOSE.

 

TABLE III: RED SOX RECORD IN WORLD SERIES BASED UPON HOME/AWAY STARTS AND FINISHES:

RED SOX BEGAN/ENDED SERIES W-L RECORD W %
HOME/HOME 3-2 .600
HOME/AWAY 2-0 1.000
AWAY/HOME 2-0 1.000
AWAY/AWAY 1-1 .500
TOTALS 1903-2013 8-3 .727

The Boston “Americans”/Red Sox appeared in 5 of the first 15 World Series played from 1903 to 1918, winning them all, but never again after 1918 until 2004. Most fans held to the belief that the “Curse of the Bambino” was respomsible for the club’s inability to win after owner Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth the New York Yankees prior to the 1920 season. More also added that the curse had been totally erased once the Red Sox repeated their victory in the 2007 World Series, but a few still held to the belief that the long shadow of the Lost Babe would not be truly, fully gone until the Red Sox again won a Series at home. Their 2004 and 2007 victories wrapped up on the road.

Last night, October 30, 2013, the Boston Red Sox won it all at Fenway Park for the first time since 1918. That last hangnail stigma has now been impressively and decidedly breached for the first time in 95 years. That low hum you may still be hearing this morning is nothing more than the last few remaining solar gurgles in the final death rattle of the “1918 Curse of the Bambino” that once kept a lid on further Red Sox victories in the World Series for 86 years (1918-2004).

“Ding! Dong! – The Witch is Dead! – And ‘Boston Strong’ is Alive and Well!”

Now let’s take a look at the same details as they apply to the St. Louis Cardinals, starting with the fact that there’s no cause for curse here that we know of:

Table I: ST. LOUIS CARDINALS RECORD IN WORLD SERIES, 1926-2013:

Team WS # YEAR PLAYED WINNER OF SERIES LOSER OF SERIES GAMES W & L BEGAN WHERE? ENDED WHERE?
1 1926 CARDINALS YANKEES 4-3 AWAY AWAY
2 1928 YANKEES CARDINALS 4-0 AWAY HOME
3 1930 ATHLETICS CARDINALS 4-2 AWAY AWAY
4 1931 CARDINALS ATHLETICS 4-3 HOME HOME
5 1934 CARDINALS TIGERS 4-3 AWAY AWAY
6 1942 CARDINALS YANKEES 4-1 HOME AWAY
7 1943 YANKEES CARDINALS 4-1 AWAY HOME
8 1944 CARDINALS BROWNS 4-2 HOME * HOME *
9 1946 CARDINALS RED SOX 4-3 HOME HOME
10 1964 CARDINALS YANKEES 4-3 HOME HOME
11 1967 CARDINALS RED SOX 4-3 AWAY AWAY
12 1968 TIGERS CARDINALS 4-3 HOME HOME
13 1982 CARDINALS BREWERS 4-3 HOME HOME
14 1985 ROYALS CARDINALS 4-3 AWAY AWAY
15 1987 TWINS CARDINALS 4-3 AWAY AWAY
16 2004 RED SOX CARDINALS 4-0 AWAY HOME
17 2006 CARDINALS TIGERS 4-1 AWAY HOME
18 2011 CARDINALS RANGERS 4-3 HOME HOME
19 2013 RED SOX CARDINALS 4-2 AWAY AWAY
  • THERE WERE NO “AWAY” GAMES IN 1944. BOTH CLUBS WERE FROM ST. LOUIS, PLAYING IN THE SAME BALLPARK THEY SHARED AS HOME DURING THE REGULAR SEASON.

 

TABLE II: CARDINALS RECORD IN WORLD SERIES, BASED UPON VARIOUS MULTIPLE GAME OUTCOMES:

POSSIBLE OUTCOMES/ GAMES W OR L CARDINALS SERIES WINS & LOSSES
4 WINS – 0 LOSSES 0 WINS – 2 LOSSES
4 WINS – 1 LOSS 2 WINS – 1 LOSSES
4 WINS – 2 LOSSES 1 WINS – 2 LOSSES
4 WINS – 3 LOSSES 8 WIN – 3 LOSSES
TOTAL WINS – LOSSES ————-> 11 WINS – 8 LOSSES

 

TABLE III. CARDINALS RECORD IN WORLD SERIES BASED UPON HOME/AWAY STARTS AND FINISHES:

CARDS BEGAN/ENDED SERIES W-L RECORD W %
HOME/HOME 6-1 .857
HOME/AWAY 1-0 1.000
AWAY/HOME 1-3 .250
AWAY/AWAY 3-4 .429
TOTALS 1903-2013 11-8 .579

A few facts jump off the page. For one, look at the Cardinals’ history of seven game World Series. 11 of their 19 Series trips have gone to seven – and the Cards have won 8 and lost 3 – totals alone that match the whole record for the Boston Red Sox in all 11 of their World Series appearances. – Also, watch out when the Cards get to start and finish a Series at home. They are 6 wins and only 1 loss in that column.

Both the Red Sox and the Cardinals will be back to The Show. They are each too well-organized and dedicated to winning to stay away long, but I did get the feeling last night that the Cardinals may be starting to play old. Beltran, Molina, and Holiday are no spring chickens. Age and dead spots in the batting order will need to be addressed. As for the Red Sox, I really loved David Ortiz’s post-game declaration, “I’M BACK!” Also, that Dustin Pedroia is great – a real old school firecracker. The Red Sox need to rattle his family tree and childhood neighborhood for the possibility of more like him.

Finally, I would really like to see the Red Sox stage a very special throwback uniform night at Fenway in 2014. – Just call it “House of David Memorial Night.”

It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over

October 25, 2011

Is Lance's chance for a World Series ring slipping away?

Let’s go straight to the easy part first. On eighteen separate occasions in the World Series, teams have comeback back from a 3-2 deficit to win the whole thing with victroies in Games Six and Seven. Here’s the legendary list of those who’ve done it, according to MLB.COM:

Year Team Opponent
1924 Senators Giants
1925 Pirates Senators
1926 Cardinals Yankees
1934 Cardinals Tigers
1940 Reds Tigers
1946 Cardinals Red Sox
1952 Yankees Dodgers
1958 Yankees Braves
1968 Tigers Cardinals
1973 A’s Mets
1979 Pirates Orioles
1982 Cardinals Brewers
1985 Royals Cardinals
1986 Mets Red Sox
1987 Twins Cardinals
1991 Twins Braves
2001 D-backs Yankees
2002 Angels Giants

Also according to MLB.COM, we must note that the 2-3-2 home game format yields this further data from past results: In the 28 times that a club has gone home with 3-2 deficit in games won on their shoulders, 12 have rallied to win both Games 6 and 7 to take the World Series. That works out to be a 42.9 per cent success rate. On the other hand, the Texas Rangers have not lost two games in a row to anyone since late August.Now it’s “something’s got to give” time.

One thing that needs to give is how things are communicated from the manager to the bullpen. Either update the technology on the phones or get all the bullpen coach communicators tested on their hearing. It came out after the game that LaRussa had called down to the pen to have Motte ready to pitch to Napoli in the eighth, but that message got heard as “Lynn” and Tony’s choice wasn’t available when the time came. As a result, the Cardinals had to leave the lefty Rzepczynski in there to pitch to Napoli, who, of course, then delivered the two-rbi double that decided the game at 4-2.

How could “Motte” have sounded like “Lynn” over the phone? Was there something wrong with the hand crank on the dugout line? Who was taking the call in the Cardinal pen, Helen Keller? Why don’t they either use high-tech phones or visual HD screens that show the manager’s lips moving as he speaks the names of those he wants or even shows color coded cards for different choices? Hearing “I thought you wanted Lynn” could not have set well with Tony LaRussa once he learned that Jason Motte would not be ready for his rendezvous with destiny.

All those ducks left on the pond killed the cardinals in Game Five. And they sure weren’t helped by those two abortive hit and run plays late in the game either. As Tim McCarver kept explaining on TV, ad nauseum, sending Craig from first to second on either a hit and run or steal attempt with Albert Pujols batting was really unnecessary. With Pujols batting, the runner is already in scoring position at first. If the guy runs and is thrown out, that out may kill the rally or end the inning. If he makes it in safely, he simply takes the bat out of Albert’s hands, allowing the other club to walk Pujols and play for a force out.

Add all the 11 ducks left on the pond last night by St. Louis and the whole thing totals up to a deserved loss by the Cardinals. Now it’s back to Missouri to see if one more blink at home cooking makes any difference in Game Six and, hopefully, Game Seven. If not, then it will be the Texas Rangers, not the Houston Astros, that shall be forever remembered as the first club to bring baseball’s biggest prize back to the Lone Star State.

OK, Houston temporary Ranger fans, are you ready for all those Dallas egos blinking at us down here in MLB’s tent city of hope over the next decade or so? Because that’s exactly what’s coming our way from the Metroplex Area, if the Rangers win the World Series. To that possibility, I say, give the Rangers credit for finishing the job as champions. Nolan Ryan and his crew just did a much better job of building their team and getting the job done better than the Astros. If the Rangers win out, what other conclusion could we possibly draw?

If the Rangers win it all, luck and destiny will figure into the final outcome as well. And, as per usual, we will not be able to explain the presence of either. Just be ready for whatever is about to happen. That’s all we can ever do – in baseball in particular – or in life in general.

Handy Reference: Series Team Records

October 19, 2011

UPDATED FOR THIS COLUMN THROUGH THE START OF 2011 WORLD SERIES!

One of my pet peeves is the absence of handy reference material for historic occasions when you need them – and no situation is more irritating in that regard than World Series time when we have a club like the New York Yankees or the St. Louis Cardinals playing and all the blah-blah talk starts about their numerous previous appearances with only oblique or incomplete mention of their earlier records in same.

To remedy that missing feature in 2011, here are the bare bones records of the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers in their prior times on the World Series docket through 2010:

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS: 17 World Series Appearances; 10 World Series Championships.

DATES, FOES, & RESULTS IN GAMES WON & LOST (WITH SERIES WINS IN BOLD TYPE):

1926 vs. New York Yankees, Won, 4-3.

1928 vs. New York Yankees, Lost, 4-0.

1930 vs. Philadelphia Athletics, Lost, 4-2.

1931 vs. Philadelphia Athletics, Won, 4-3.

1934 vs. Detroit Tigers, Won, 4-3.

1942 vs. New York Yankees, Won, 4-1.

1943 vs. New York Yankees, Lost, 4-1.

1944 vs. St. Louis Browns, Won, 4-2.

1946 vs. Boston Red Sox, Won, 4-3.

1964 vs. New York Yankees, Won, 4-3.

1967 vs. Boston Red Sox, Won, 4-3.

1968 vs. Detroit Tigers, Lost, 4-3.

1982 vs. Milwaukee Brewers, Won, 4-3.

1985 vs. Kansas City Royals, Lost, 4-3.

1987 vs. Minnesota Twins, Lost 4-3.

2004 vs. Boston Red Sox, Lost, 4-0.

2006 vs. Detroit Tigers, Won, 4-1.

TEXAS RANGERS: 1 World Series Appearance; 0 World Series Championships.

2010 vs. San Francisco Giants, Lost, 4-1.

2011 represents the 18th World Series appearance by the St. Louis Cardinals and the 2nd by the Texas Rangers. It should be duly noted, as baseball historian Cliff Blau points out in his comment upon this column, that this particular “Cardinal” franchise was known as the Browns during the 19th century and that they were involved in four pre-moder era world championship series as such from 1855 to 1888, winning the first two, although the 1885 victory was disputed. My reporting begins with the Modern Era (1900) and only covers the period of the modern World Series games played between the National and American Leagues, most often annually, from 1903 through the present time.

Historical Note Two: The original St. Louis Browns were members of the American Association from 1883-1891 before moving to the National League in 1892 and continuing their original identity as the Browns through 1897. After two full seasons of play as the St. Louis Perfectos (1898-1899), the franchise changed its name to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1900 and the rest is history. They’ve been the Cardinals ever since.

What about those American League Brown? Easy. When the original Milwaukee Brewers of the new American League moved their franchise into the hands of competitive St. Louis interests in 1902, they also changed their mascot identity to Browns as an act of taunting competition with the National League Cardinals. The Cardinals and Browns were St. Louis competitors from 1902 through 1953 when economics finally won out in favor of the National League red birds. The Browns moved east in 1954, becoming the Baltimore Orioles that they have remained through this day.

As for the 2011 World Series, I say, “Go Cardinals! Go Rangers!” For the next week or so, you two clubs have the undivided attention of our large little baseball world. Please give us a Series that we will hate to say goodbye to when it’s done. The winter is a long time to spend staring out windows and waiting for spring as your first World Series manager, Rogers Hornsby, once described his personal formula for getting through the off-season. The time passes easier when we have a few thrilling plays and performances from a dramatic World Series to reflect upon during the long gray cold days of winter.

Prodigy Pollet, Impossible to Forget

June 10, 2011

Howie Pollet

The kinship ideas of seasoning and player development hardly ever applied to young lefty Howie Pollet of New Orleans. The kid signee of the St. Louis Cardinals began his pitching career at the age of 18, going 14-5 for New Iberia of the Evangeline League before moving up to Houston of the Texas League to add a 1-1 mark to his rookie season totals. At age 19, Pollet went 20-7, with a 2.88 ERA for the 1940 Houston Buffs. He returned to the Buffs at age 20 to go an amazing 20-3 with a 1.16 ERA for the 1941 Houston club. Pollet did turn age 21 on June 26, 1941. By the time he had finished the season at that tender age of new adult status, hie had registered a minor league record of 55 wins against only 16 defeats and a minor league career ERA of 2.28.

Cardinals General Manager Branch Rickey watched Pollet win his 20th game of the 1941 Buffs season and then called him up to help the Cardinals in their close near-miss pennant race with the Brooklyn Dodgers.  The loss of Howie Pollet unquestionably cost the 103-win first place Buffs the 1941 pennant as they went on from there to lose to fourth place Dallas, 3 games to 1, in the first round of the post-season playoffs, but that’s the way things still work in professional baseball. In a pinch, the needs of the major league club always come first.

Pollet finished the 1941 season with a 5-2, 1.93 ERA. He reported to spring training with the 1942 Cardinals with a sore arm. That would be the start of an arm injury history that would haunt and deaden the final results of his total career. More serious shoulder issues were yet to come a few years down the road.

Howie went into the army after posting a 7-5 record and an 8-4 mark for the 1942 and 1943 Cardinals. Pollet didn’t have the greatest fastball in the world, but he had great location ability on his pitches and an uncanny, hard-to-discern capacity for changing the speed at three leels on the pitches he did deliver.

After the war, Howie Pollet pitched the 1946 Cardinals to a World Series championship, posting a season record of 21-10 with an amazing 2.10 ERA. Pollet enjoyed one more 20-win season in 1949, going 20-9 with a 2.77 ERA for yet another near-miss Cardinals club, but painful shoulder trouble would continue to haunt his 14-season MLB career with the Cardinals, Pirates, Cubs, and White Sox through his last season of 1956.

Howie Pollet finished his MLB career with a record of 131 wins against 116 defeats and an ERA of 3.81.

After baseball, Pollet retired to his adopted home town of Houston to enter the insurance business in partnership with his former Buffs and Cardinals manager, Eddie Dyer. Pollet also kept an active connection with major league baseball, serving as pitching coach for the Houston Astros in 1965  Sadly, Howie Pollet passed away only nine years later in 1974 at the age of 53.

How many potential Hall of Fame pitchers have lost their way to greatness due to arm injury? Probably more than we shall ever know, but we have to place the name of Howie Pollet high on that list. Were Pollet’s arm and shoulder problems the result of genetics, a freak injury, or the product of too much pitching work too early? I doubt we’ll ever know.

On the other hand, there seems to be no doubt where Howie’s talent was taking him, had he not been injured. It’s also too bad that his family had to lose him so early, but that’s the way life works. We don’t always get what we want, but there are a number of lessons wrapped up in that reality too, starting with my favorite:

Every morning we wake up on the sunny side of the grass is reason enough to celebrate our gratitude by making the most of our day.

The Man Who Named Medwick “Ducky”

May 2, 2011

  Long before Richard Justice and the Houston Chronicle there was another major newspaper in this town known as the Houston Post. A third one was the Houston Press, which perished from print even earlier, but none of the local rags covered sports quite like the Post. The great Mickey Herskowitz carried the sportswriting banner for the Post through their abrupt business-shark-kill death in 1996 and before Mickey was the incomparable Clark Nealon, leaning all the way back to the 1930s with both the Press and the Post. Along the way, writers like Morris Frank, John Hollis and Tom Kennedy made their own marks with the wonderful Dame News Girl, the morning Houston Post, along with others too numerous to mention. Does the names Bruce Layer and Clyde LaMotte ring any bells with any of you back-in-the-day Houston sports readers?

Go back far enough and you will run into one name that stands out as the godfather of all who came after him. That would be the one and only Lloyd Gregory, a native Texan and the first great sports writer in Houston publishing history. Gregory got to Houston in time to take over his duties here shortly after Ross Sterling bought both the original Post and also the Dispatch in 1924 and put them into the administrative hands of William P. Hobby as the new Houston Post-Dispatch. Hobby would eventually acquire the newspaper from Sterling and drop the “Dispatch” part of the identity, but the 1930s were a period for dragging Houston full-bore into the marketplace of early 20th century journalism.

With radio in its infancy during the 1920s, and with no TV, Internet, or low-cost telephone access, Houstonians were like all Americans in their growing dependency upon newspapers for up-to-date news. The 1920s were the era of the “special edition” paper that came out when big news couldn’t wait for tomorrow’s edition and there was money to be made is from a special edition run.

Most of the time, the morning Post-Dispatch and the afternoon Houston Chronicle and Press had the time field covered, but big news breaking after 4:00 PM opened the gate on special edition possibility.

Lloyd Gregory was there for the growth of the Houston Buffs as the face of farm team baseball for Branch Rickey and the S. Louis Cardinals back in the 1920s. Gregory was there to greet Rickey and Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis when the two men came to Houston for the original opening of buff Stadium on April 11, 1928. He covered the arrival of lights and night baseball at Buff Stadium in the early 1930s, and saw Houston Buffs baseball through the Great Depression of that decade and into the 1942 stoppage of the Texas League in 1942 due to World War II.

Somewhere in that World War II and post war period, Lloyd Gregory retired from everyday reporting at about the same time I was awakening to baseball with the 1947 Houston Buffs club as a nine-year old. Eventually, his place at the Post writing mentor table would be taken over by Clark Nealon and the others who followed in both their footsteps.

My memories of Lloyd Gregory are of the man who hosted “The Hot Stove League” weekly half-hour TV program every winter into the spring training season from about 1950 to 1952. Gregory would gather other writers around a prop hot stove to discuss the Buffs chances for the coming year with team President Allen Russell and others. By that time, I was a fully-invested baseball nerd and a devourer of statistical data on our prospects for the coming season. That made for some great anticipation of each new weekly show. If memory serves, Morris Frank, Clark Nealon, and Bruce Layer all worked with Gregory on the show, but all seemed to defer to Lloyd as the leader of the pack. I can still here that calm drawling Texas voice of Lloyd Gregory playing out in my memory. He was a good baseball man, the kind of guy that innately left his audience crying for more.

Ducky Medwick

One time writer Lloyd Gregory left a player crying for less, most probably. The issue came up with Joe Medwick, back when Joe was playing outfield for the great 1931 Houston Buffs. Medwick and the terrific Dizzy Dean, of course, went on from Houston to become hinge-pin players for the 1934 Gashouse Gang World Champion St. Louis Cardinals, with both later making it into the Hall of Fame. While he was in Houston, however, Medwick acquired a nickname he never requested as the result of a female fan letter written to Post-Dispatch writer Lloyd Gregory for his “Lookin’ Em Over” sports column.

A female fan wrote Gregory that she loved Medwick, but added that she felt he walked like a duck. She even admitted to growing into the thought  of her favorite Buff as “Ducky” Medwick whenever she saw him walking around the field at Buff Stadium.

Well, columnists have space to fill on a daily basis. Lloyd Gregory protected the identity of his writer, but he divulged the story in one of his 1931 daily columns, He then started referring to the player as “Ducky” Medwick in his game coverage stories.

“Ducky” stuck. Soon everyone else was calling him “Ducky” too. By the time Medwick moved on up to St. Louis, that “Ducky” nickname needed no special packing. It was stuck all over him.

Somewhere out there, most probably in a Houston cemetery by this late date, is the never identified Houston girl who gave Joe Medwick his famous nickname with the help of sportswriter Lloyd Gregory. Too bad Joe never met or maybe married that girl. Any woman who can lay a nickname like “Ducky” on a guy is bound to have held other gifts of good fortune for the man who once caught the light as the object of her affections.

Thank you, Lloyd Gregory, for all the good and fun things you did for Houston baseball.

Return of Fat Elvis: What I Say?

April 29, 2011

Lance Berkman Hit .571 with 2 Homers and a Double in 3 Days Home.

Berkman awaits the incoming pitch from Figueroa,

What I say? What I say about my nightmares over the return of former Houston Astro Lance “Fat Elvis” Berkman to Minute Maid Park as a member of the rival St. Louis Cardinals? Sometimes dreams come true, whether you want the fragrance or their full blossom or not. The first trip home for dear old Puma, the Rice Owl graduate and fellow Houstonian Berkman was definitively a dream come true.

All those premonitions I wrote about in my first column on this subject came true. They simply happened in greater frequency than even I ever imagined in the pits of my most pessimistic slips on the shores of Gloomsville.

The Cardinals took the series from the Astros, two game to one. Along the way, look at the statistical bling that Berkman ran up on his own personal credit account:

In three games here, April 26-28, Lance Berkman had 8 hits in 14 times at bat for a series batting average of .571.  The hit-fest also bumped his 2010 season batting average as an everyday starter in right field for the Cardinals to .410.

Berkman had no walks in Houston, but he also struck out only twice.

He cracked a double and banged out 2 home runs, giving him 8 long balls on the season. Over the course of three days, he also scored 3 runs and batted in 7 more Cardinal red runs.

Who could ask for anything more?

In spite of the bludgeoning his bat broke down upon the fortunes of our beleaguered Astros, and I was part of the crowd that got to witness that 9-run tumor the redbirds grafted on to our chances in the top of the 6th in Game Three, Houston fans seemed mostly amused to happy for Lance Berkman in his successful return home. The man says he came home simply with the desire to play well gain in front of family and friends – and no one around here, other than broadcaster Milo Hamilton, seems to blame Lance for his absence from the current Astros roster. After 2010, it was simply time for Lance Berkman and the Houston Astros to go in new directions.

Lance is hot, but Cardinal pitching is not.

The new direction of Lance Berkman bodes well for the 2011 Cardinals, if the birds can overcome their holes in pitching and defense. Those areas must improve for the Cards to win big. For now, they show other problems, the kinds you cannot overcome by waiting o the offense to come up with another nine-run-inning explosion.

Still, Lance Berkman is doing his part – way more than his part. And one more time, in the language of the famous Ray Charles lyric, I have to ask:

“What I say? – What I say about that Fat Elvis coming back to Houston?”

Fat Elvis Is Coming!

April 18, 2011

...and he won't be staying at the Heartbreak Hotel.

Fat Elvis is coming in eight days. He’s traveling with the St. Louis Cardinals this season and he’s due to arrive in time for the redbirds’ three-game series with the Houston Astros next week at Minute Maid Park, Tuesday through Thursday, April 26 through 28.

Oh, and if he keeps it up between now and then, he will be coming back to town carrying one of the best batting averages, home run marks, and runs batted in records in the current National League season. At this Monday morning scribble time, Lance Berkman is hitting .308 with 10 runs batted in and 6 home runs on the season as the mostly-everyday right fielder for the now 8-8 St. Louis Cardinals.

As one of his fans from his Rice University and Houston Astro days, I couldn’t be happier for the 35-year-old bright, funny, and talented man from New Braunfels at this late point in his career.  Lance Berkman’s career marks (.296 BA and 333 HR) still hover on the top side of a great career and I would love to see him finish off his remaining time, whatever that turns out to be, as productively as possible, as long as he does it against anyone but our home town Astros.

Somehow I have this image of Lance coming up late in a game at MMP with the Astros leading 2-1 with two birds on base and then watching old “Berkie” either push an opposite field fly into the Crawford Boxes, or else, lashing an uncatchable drive into the gap in right center. I hope it doesn’t happen, but come on now, if you’ve been watching baseball long enough, you’ve also sniffed this script before: Old hero comes back to victimize his former team as a member of their biggest rival club.

We’ll see. Meanwhile, I will try to find a way to ward off my worst fears about the return to Houston of Lance Berkman with this little book I’ve been reading. I’ve sworn not to reveal its title to the haggard little old lady who sold the book to me at the corner of Texas Avenue and Crawford after a game the other night, but I was also led to believe by the old girl that it’s OK for me to ask questions of you that have  arisen from my reading of this work.

That being said, do any of you know where I can find a 16-legged black spider and a three-headed chicken?

Watkins On Houston Kid Baseball: 1950.

November 21, 2010

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

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

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

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

WATTY WATKINS, WORLD SERIES HERO OF 1931,

HUSTLES HARD TEACHING TOWN HOUSE BUFFS

By John Hollis, Houston Press Sports Staff (1950)

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

Watty Watkins: Sold on kid baseball.

 

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

“One of those days”

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

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

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

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

“Ought to Be More”

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

Watty finished his outline …

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

That 1931 Homer

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

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

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

“Who’d you hit it off of, Watty/”

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

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

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

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

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

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



Watty Watkins Wows ‘Em in ’31 Series!

November 19, 2010

In the above photo, Watty Watkins slides under the tag of Mickey Cochrane of the Philadelphia A’s to score a big run for the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1931 World Series.

The following article was written for The Pecan Park Eagle by John Watkins, the great-nephew of George “Watty” Watkins. Watty Watkins was an early hero for the Houston Buffs over four seasons of work (1925-26, 1928, 1937) that encompassed the beginning and end of his professional baseball career. He was an important member of the 1928 Buffs club that became the first to play in the new Buffalo Stadium on their way to victory as Texas League and Dixie Series champions. Watty also enjoyed a seven season big league career (1930-36) with the St. Louis Cardinals, New York Giants, Philadelphia Phillies. and Brooklyn Dodgers. The Pecan Park Eagle is deeply indebted to John Watkins for this personal vignette memory of an important tong ago moment in World Series history.

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Bill, your post the other day with the memorable baseball photos prompted me to scan the above attached photo of Watty Watkins for you. It reminds me of the Cardinals’ Enos Slaughter’s slide into home following his “mad dash” from first base in the deciding play of the 1946 World Series.

The Watkins picture is also a big moment in World Series history. It is an Associated Press photo from the first inning of Game Seven of the 1931 World Series. The catcher is Mickey Cochrane of the Philadelphia A’s, and Watty is scoring the second St. Louis run of the game. For the era, it’s a pretty good action shot.

George "Watty" Watkins

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

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

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

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

Stan Musial: Great from the Git-Go

September 30, 2010

Stan Musial (L) relaxes at beach with friends during spring training 1942.

How times have changed. Back in the winter of 1940-41, a young pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals celebrated a Class D season pitching record of 18-8 and a batting average of .311 by going home to his little birthplace in the country at season’s end to stock and sack groceries at a local food store. Of course, he did. The kid was only 20 years old and much in need of that off-season job income.

That kid quickly grew to be the man – Stan “The Man” Musial, one of the greatest examples of a great pitching prospect forced by early arm injury and an even louder talking bat into make the conversion from the mound to everyday action as a position player.

From 1941 forward through 1963, the corkscrew hunching lefty would torment National League pitching with a hitting barrage that would easily carry him on a no-brainer path to the Baseball Hall of Fame. In 22 big league seasons, Musial would win 7 NL batting titles and hit .331 for his career with 3,630 total MLB hits, 725 doubles, 177 triples, 425 home runs, 1,951 runs batted in, and 6 slugging average titles. We could go on and on, but the picture on Musial is already clear. He was a great producer from the very start of his career.

Stan Musial with Chuck Schmidt at spring training 1954.

In his 22 MLB seasons, Musial hit over .300 on 17 occasions. He won 3 MVP awards. He played in 4 World Series. And he played in 24 All Star Games. His 1969 induction into the Hall of Fame was anti-climatic to a foregone conclusion. The guy belonged nowhere short of baseball’s top rung of greatest hitters – and his outfield and first base play in the field was not too shabby either.

Two factors fail to show up clearly in most straight statistical looks at the career of Stan Musial, but much of the man’s true character and early ability leaks out in the above article I received yesterday from Bill Rogers, a St. Louis Browns friend in St. Louis. The little column from Springfield, Missouri back in 1941 speaks to  how good “The Man’s” hitting was from early on – and the little comment about his off-season job in Donora, PA as a grocery clerk speaks humbly for his lack of ego about these God-given abilities. The man just got up each morning and went out and did what he needed to do – and what he was capable of doing – and that included stocking grocery shelves because he needed the money as well as knocking the covers off baseballs because he had the ability to do so.

Stan Musial and Yours Truly, St. Louis, 2002.

I was privileged to meet Stan Musial back in 1996 when I attended an annual banquet in St. Louis honoring former members of the old St. Louis Browns. I’ve since seen him several additional times at these same functions, although they are no longer being planned on the same level. Time and the loss in great numbers of the old Browns has changed everything except for the inevitable conclusion that finally falls upon all human endeavor. But it was fun while it lasted.

That first time I met Musial was dumbfounding. I was alone on an elevator in the banquet hotel, heading for a fan afternoon reception for the old Browns. All of a sudden, the door opens on a floor and a man enters to join me as the only other rider.

Here I am. Little Billy McCurdy from the Houston End. A guy who lives to find a rare Stan Musial baseball card. Now. Here I am again. Grown up and older Bill McCurdy. Riding alone on an elevator with my greatest baseball childhood hero – and I can’t even speak. I don’t want to put “The Man” through one of those Goofy-like, “Gawrsh, you’re Stan Musial, aren’t you?” moments that I’m sure he’s been through a gazillion times. But I also don’t want to seem stupid or disrespectful by ignoring him totally.

As the elevator door opens on our reception floor destination, I settle for a smiling nod and eye contact statement of “Hi, Stan!” It felt OK. And I later got a photo with him, plus his autograph on a baseball. By this time, everybody was doing it.

Over the years that followed, I learned that Stan Musial was as nice and down-to-earth friendly as anyone could be. Whether he actually remembered me from year to year, I can’t say, but he always behaved as though he did. He was as friendly toward me as my old Polish-ancestry baseball coach at St. Christopher’s back in the early 1950s. I will always remember his kindness as much as I do his greatness.

If you pray, keep Stan Musial in your prayers from here on. He turns 88 on November 21st, but he’s in frail health these days. When we lose him, we’re not getting another like him. They aren’t making any more Stan Musials in the 21st century.

Have a nice day too. It’s good to be back. I can’t guarantee I’ll be writing another daily blog for a while, but I will give what I do write here my best shot, as time and energy allows.


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