J.R. Richard Has New Book Coming Out Soon

March 5, 2015


“Still Throwing Heat: Strikeouts, the Streets, and a Second Chance”, an autobiography by J.R. Richard and veteran sports book author Lew Freedman, with a forward by Nolan Ryan is due for release on Amazon, June 1, 2015.

Having only today learned of its coming publication, all we know of its contents are summarized in this marketing blurb from the following link:


“A flame-throwing star with the Houston Astros, J. R. Richard was at the top of his profession when he inexplicably began complaining of arm weakness in 1980. Initially scoffed at because he continued approaching 100 mph on the radar gun, everything changed when Richard collapsed while playing catch with a teammate—later diagnosed as a life-threatening stroke. The shocking development ended Richard’s major league career and set off a chain of events that led to the former All-Star being homeless by the mid-1990s. This rapid rise and sudden, tragic fall define the unusual, moving, and inspirational life of a Houston icon who has endured many hardships but has become an admired figure in his adopted hometown. J. R. Richard tells that story now in his own words, including the highs and the lows of his brilliant athletic career, the difficulties that befell him on and off the field, abandonment by those he counted on after his stroke, the despair of losing everything, and his ultimate redemption and giving back to the community.”

(L-R) Bill McCurdy, Johnny Storenski, and J.R. Richard Josephine's Ristorante 2002

(L-R) Bill McCurdy, Johnny Storenski, and J.R. Richard
Josephine’s Ristorante

The Pecan Park Eagle wishes J.R. Richard well for all the success that is possible for his book. We may only hope that his memory of all the factors that contributed to his rise, fall and redemption are as wholly covered as they needed to be. When one has been down a tough road in life, it isn’t ever easy to embrace, own – and then write and publish all that needs to be said. All we can know for sure as readers, old friend, is that you covered the whole truth to the best of your ability – and that none of us will ever know the whole truth of yours – or any other’s life. We are only capable of perceiving what appears to be the truth of another from our direct experience with them – and even that perception is subjective and possibly not true at all.

All I know for sure is that you were one of the greatest and, hands down, certainly the scariest pitchers I ever saw work the mound – and that you most probably could have been another Hall of Fame pitcher in time, had you not encountered the 1980 career-ending, and almost life-ending stroke. As a friend from many years ago, I know you sometimes mistook urges for decisions – and entitlement with love. We just wrote those things off as warts. Everybody’s got some rough spots, right? And today it sounds as though a lot of healing has taken place with your marriage and new calling to the ministry. That’s great. Norma and I are happy for you.

J.R. Richard At a Houston Celebration Of his 2002 Induction Into The Texas Baseball Hall of Fame

J.R. Richard
At a Houston Celebration
Of his 2002 Induction Into
The Texas Baseball Hall of Fame

Oh yeah, two more things I see as true – and I’m reasonably sure that first is not in your book, even though I saw it happen as one of the most jaw-dropping basketball shots I ever saw. Do you remember the time you came over to our house with your son for the oxtails that Norma cooked for you? During the dinner waiting period, we all went out to the driveway to shoot some hoops. Then you quickly tired of making close up shots and took the ball through the back gate down the right side of the house and took a side shot from about 50 feet away. It was a high arching shot that had to disappear briefly over an eave in the roof before it came down. – BUT – when it came down, it was nothing but net.

Then you made a decision that was no response to urge. You quit shooting any more baskets. And that was cool. – You did – what Babe Ruth should have done in Pittsburgh back in 1935 when he hit those three home runs. – He should have never picked up another bat again for the rest of his life and retired on the spot. – And I will only hope that you have never taken another basketball shot since 2002.

Yeah, we know that basketball shot story didn’t get in your book, but this perception – one that I share with thousands of Astros fans – surely should have made it, in some way:

In spite of the new Walk of Honor at Minute Maid Park, the Houston Astros still should retire # 50 as a jersey number in your honor!


Who Is the Guy Misidentified as Bob Aspromonte?

March 4, 2015


The Pecan Park Eagle received the following photo and note from our friend, Darrell Pittman of Astros Daily two days ago, 3.02.2015::

Who is the guy on the left with the "W" on his cap? It is NOT Bob Aspromonte!

Who is the guy on the left with the “W” on his cap? It is NOT Bob Aspromonte!


I believe this picture was first posted on Twitter by Mike Acosta a year or so back.

 On October 10, 1961, one of the Houston papers posted pictures of Houston’s first two choices in the expansion draft, Eddie Bressoud and Bob Aspromonte, except it showed a different player than Aspro. I’m wondering whose picture it was.

 Of course, Bressoud never appeared in a Houston uniform. The Colt .45s flipped him to Boston for SS Don Buddin on 11.26.1961. Buddin went on to hit the first grand slam in Colt .45s history on 6.10.1962.

~ Darrell Pittman


In case you don’t know, or need a reminder, here’s a close-up of the real Bob Aspromonte that was taken early in his Houston baseball career:

The REAL Bob Aspromonte ~Early in his Houston Career.

The REAL Bob Aspromonte
~Early in his Houston Career.

So, what do you think? Did the guy with the “W” on his cap that AP tagged as “Bob Aspromonte” really play for the Washington Senators? And did someone at AP or the local Houston newspaper that posted the photo simply get the mystery player confused with Bob Aspromonte because of his dark, less handsome Mediterranean look? Is it that simple?

The real Aspro hailed from Brooklyn and from an Italian-American family.

Please submit your convictions or guesses as material for the Comment Section which follows this column. This is one stone of mystery that we should be able to overturn quickly in our relentless search for the truth.

Please don’t send your responses to The Pecan Park Eagle as e-mails. We want every reader to have the public benefit of what you choose to offer.


The Pecan Park Eagle




The misidentified player is NOT Bob Aspromonte … it is…

“It’s his brother KEN Aspromonte.” …. (Reader) OLBERMANN




For a better comparison to the miidentified Apromonte brother, here's one of Ken as a Cleveland Indian earlier in his career. - We ar convinced.

For a better comparison to the misidentified Apromonte brother, here’s one of Ken as a Cleveland Indian earlier in his career. – We are convinced.

Chuck Connors: Bullet Notes on “The Rifleman”

March 3, 2015



* Technical Point: We know. – Hand guns hold bullets; rifles hold shells. It’s just that “Shell Points on ‘The Rifleman’ ” lacked a certain ring to it as a column title.

Addendum Note: My collegial contributor, Cliff Blau, already has corrected my brain-freeze error on this one point. – See his comment and my response in the Comment section which follows the column. – I do know that shells are for shotguns, not rifles. I simply misspoke. Forgive me as you now read through the rigorously researched points below on the fascinating career trail of former ballplayer and actor Chuck Connors:

* Kevin “Chuck” Connors was born in Brooklyn New York on 04/10/1921.

* Kevin was the second of two children and the only son of Allan and Marcella Connors, immigrants from the Dominion of Newfoundland, now a Canadian province.

* Kevin Connors was raised Roman Catholic and served as an altar boy at the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Brooklyn.



* At full growth, left-handed Kevin had grown into a bright 6’5”, 200 lb. very athlete baseball and basketball player.

* He attended Adelphi Academy on an athletic scholarship. At high school graduation, he had no fewer than 27 college athletic scholarship offers.

* Chuck chose Seton Hall, the future alma mater of Craig Biggio, where he played both basketball and baseball for two years.

* At Seton Hall, Chuck revealed a clue to his ultimate future by winning an elocution contest reciting Vachel Lindsay’s “The Congo”.

* As a Seton Hall first baseman, Connors adopted his nickname “Chuck” from his redundant calls to teammates with the ball to “chuck it to me” because he preferred the nickname to his legal first name Kevin.



* After Chuck Connors left Seton Hall, it is also variously reported that he was drafted by the Chicago Bears of the NFL, but, if he was, it obviously never materialized into anything.

* Baseball Reference notes that Connors first signed to play baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1940. Except for brief stints of minor league ball in 1940 and 1942, WWII pretty much placed those plans on hold.

* Chuck enlisted in the Army at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and spent most of the war as a tank-warfare instructor at Fort Campbell, Kentucky and later at West Point, New York.

* During his Army service, Connors moonlighted as a professional basketball player, joining the Rochester Royals, helping lead them to the 1946 National Basketball League championship.


MAY 1, 1949

* In 1942, Chuck Connors made his very unofficial movie debut as one of the unaccredited real soldiers used in a backdrop scene shot for the Brian Donlevy war movie, “Wake Island”.

* Following his military discharge in 1946, Chuck joined the newly formed Boston Celtics of the Basketball Association of America as one of their original players.

* Shortly thereafter, Connors left the Celtics for spring training with Major League Baseball’s Brooklyn Dodgers in 1946, but after a minor league baseball assignment in 1946, he was back with the Celtics and basketball in the fall.

* On 11/05/1946, prior to the very first game in Celtics history, Chuck Connors became the first NBA player to shatter a backboard during warm ups prior to the Celtics first game at Boston Arena. His hard dunk shot attempt caught the front of the rim, shattering the wooden backboard that was hardly ready for that kind of violent action. As a result, Connors also gets the credit and blame for causing the first game in Celtics history also to become the first game in NBA history whose starting time had to be delayed about an hour due to his player-inflicted damage to the court of play.


.239 BA, 2 HR, IN 66 GAMES

* In 1947, Connors played first base for the Dodger AA farm club, the Mobile Bears, and helped the team win the Southern Association pennant.

* In the 1947 Dixie Series, Chuck Connors homered for Mobile at Buff Stadium in Houston in Game One, but the Texas League Champion Houston Buffaloes won the opener, 8-2, and went on to defeat Chuck’s Bears in six.

* After three seasons (1948-50) at AAA Montreal, a span in which Connors averaged over .300 as a full-season batter, he only managed to get in one “0 for 1” late season MLB plate appearance in 1949 with Brooklyn. The Dodgers had a fellow named Gil Hodges entrenched at first base.

* Chuck requested and the Dodgers obliged him with a trade to the Chicago Cubs on 10/10/1950.


HIT .321, 22 HR IN 1951

* The Cubs trade proved to be a life-changing event for the multi-talented, always open to testing some new skill guy that was Chuck Connors. The Cubs assigned him to their AAA farm club, the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League.

* Connors hit .321 with 22 HR for the Angels in 98 games, earning him a call up to the Cubs in 1951, where he hit only .239 and 2 HR in 66 games.

* Now 31, Chuck hit only .259 with 6 HR in 113 games for the 1952 Angels. Age and performance “suddenly” had moved the baseball future of Kevin “Chuck” Connors from the “prospect list” to the “suspect pile”. It was time to go.



* Leaving baseball was no big income loss problem for Chuck Connors. In his two years of hobnobbing in the LA/Hollywood movie culture, his rugged good looks and affable personality had made him a favorite among the Hollywood crowd, starting with the Hollywood baseball fans, but quickly expanding to a much larger social/business circle.

* 1952 would be Connor’s time for the life lesson best known today as “when one door closes, another opens”. It was the end of baseball and the beginning of movie/TV star status for Chuck Connors. He began his official movie career with a bit part in the Spencer Tracy/Kathryn Hepburn classic, “Pat and Mike”.

* From 1952 to 1958, Chuck Connors made 57 movie and TV appearances on the way to a five-season ride as Lucas McCain in the iconic TV western “The Rifleman” (1958-63).



* Beyond “The Rifleman”, Chuck Connors made, at least, another sixty movie/TV appearances on his way to a financially comfortable old age, but on that surely came with some rough emotional times along the way.

* As he achieved success, Connors hosted the annual Chuck Connors Charitable Invitational Golf Tournament, through the Chuck Connors Charitable Foundation, at the Canyon Country Club in Palm Springs, California. Proceeds went directly to the Angel View Crippled Children’s Foundation and over $400,000.00 was raised

* Connors was married and divorced three times. He and his first wife had four sons together. He spent the last twelve years as a divorced father, but we have no information on his relationship status with the four adult sons. He did have a significant other woman in his life at the time of his death, Her name was Rose Mary Grumley.



* Kevin “Chuck” Connors died at the age of 71 in Los Angeles, California on November 10. 1991. He died of pneumonia that had been helped along by lung cancer. Chuck had been a three-packs-a-day Camel smoker from 1940 into the mid-1970s, but he never quit smoking completely because of sporadic binge periods.

* Chuck was interred in the San Fernando Mission Cemetery in Los Angeles.

* Frivolous Chuck Connors “What’s Your Guess” Trivia Question to bring this wagon train of facts to an end: Chuck Connors supposedly was a big fan of Spencer Tracy, the star of the former ballplayers first official movie. BUT … We still must ask: Had Kevin Connors’ first name also been “Spencer”, do you think he might have sought an even earlier change to “Chuck” than he had with “Kevin”?






Goodbye, Minnie, Goodbye

March 2, 2015
ORESTES “MINNIE” MINOSO Born: November 29, 1925 Died: March 1, 2015

Born: November 29, 1925
Died: March 1, 2015


Sunday, March 1, 2015. Minnie Minoso died today in Chicago at the age of 89 – thus, putting a final end to the wildly playful rumor that Minoso might be able to persuade the new commissioner to allow him another “one time at bat” token appearance with the Chicago White Sox this coming season that would expand his career MLB record to a total of six (6) decades as an active big league player. Minnie previously played for five consecutive decades (1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s), but only the first three of those units were  serious part of his career. Minoso played three games with the White Sox in 1976 and two games again with the Chicago American Leaguers in 1980 – simply to keep the decade streak going. He was 1 for 8 total at the plate in those two extended decades, with the lone single he collected coming in 1976. When he tried to keep it going in 1990, he was refused permission by then MLB Commissioner Fay Vincent, who rebuked the continuation of this practice as a stunt that detracted from the integrity of serious play.

We don’t think that decision by Vincent was a major setback for Minnie Minoso. He wasn’t the kind of guy who would willfully do anything to hurt the reputation of the game. He was just a fiery indomitable spirit from pre-Castro Cuba who nurtured his love for the game in the heart of all those Latin American countries that breed little boys to grow up fire-breathing baseball as either their ultimate – or only – sports dream worth chasing.

Look out for the landslide of career stories that will now be forthcoming as columns in memoriam in the immediate days ahead. If you are looking to reflect on what Minoso actually did in the 15 serious (1949, 1951-64) and 2 not-so-serious (1976, 1980) years of his MLB career, check out the impressive stats he put together over time on his way to a .298 MLB career batting average. If not everything there is to his story, which they are not, the numbers will serve to help remind you, as it has me, why we have not forgotten the great (BR/TR) left fielder and third baseman. For some of us, he was another premium baseball card hero from our sandlot days – and never one of the cards that ended up as a noise maker in our bicycle spokes.

We shall conclude here with a poem dedicated to both Minnie Minoso and the rest of us. Earlier today, I had a more personal reason to send the same poem to a dying friend, but I have since been informed that he has now slipped into a coma and may never be able to see or hear of it. I almost left it out of this column because of the personal emotions that tie me to the other situation and how they got stirred by the news of his coma. We may almost certainly will never speak again. In fact, even as I write, he may be gone.

That recognition did it for me. The lesson of everyone’s life and death, and that includes Minnie Minoso and my old classmate, who may have left this world on the same day, but their life lessons are also ours. Unless we too already have slipped into comas today, “The Clock of Life” is a poem for all people and all seasons. The sooner we get its meaning, and move on in greater appreciation for each moment we are here to breathe life into today as the only time we ever own, the better.

This one’s  especially for you, Minnie Minoso, and for all we may learn from your life!

Rest in Peace ~ with Love and Peace, Orestes “Minnie” Minoso! And thank you for, once upon a time, making our sandlot dreams as blue as the Houston summer skies once were – when yesterday  was today. These days, we choose to find the even deeper blue skies of our realization that everything that is beautiful, loving, and possible for us is within reach of us in dependence upon the choices we make each day that we are blessed to be here – and without us waiting for the first obstacle-free day to get started with anything we say is important to us. – You understood that truth, Minnie. Otherwise, you never could have made the career mark you left on baseball.

God Bless you too, as in – Now and Forever!


The Clock of Life

By Robert H. Smith


The Clock of life is wound but once,

And no man has the power,

To tell just when the hands will stop,

At late or early hour.


To lose one’s wealth is sad indeed,

To lose one’s health is more,

To lose one’s soul is such a loss,

That no man can restore.


The present only is our own,

So live, love, toil with a will,

Place no faith in “Tomorrow”

For the Clock may then be still.




Larry Dluhy Closes Houston “House of Cards”

March 1, 2015
Larry Dluhy Larry isn't retiring! There's no retiring in baseball collectibles! ~Larry's just taking his talents to the Internet!

Larry Dluhy
Larry isn’t retiring!
There’s no retiring in baseball collectibles!
~Larry’s just taking his talents to the Internet!


Don’t miss the article by David Barron at Chron.Com about the store-closing of Sports Collectibles in Houston. That business has been a staple in Houston for the past thirty-five years as one of our premier brick and mortar locations for the purchase of old baseball cards and an endless categorical list of other collectible sports artifacts that people seek, both in the name of sentiment and business trading. An old friend and baseball colleague, Larry Dluhy, is the owner, and a nicer fellow hardly ever walked the earth, as far as I’m concerned. Another Houston memorabilia dealer who falls into this same admiration category with me is Tom Kennedy, the baseball-loving guy who almost singlehandedly kept the Houston Sports Museum alive for years at the old Finger Furniture Store location at Cullen and the Gulf Freeway, but we are talking about Larry Dluhy today – and what his Texas store closings mean and do not mean, as we see them – from our catbird seat at The Pecan Park Eagle.

We considered headlines for this column – like the one we used – just to be cute. The reality, as we see it, is not that Larry Dluhy is folding his tent and going away. He’s just going where the collectibles market now lives today – and that’s on E-Bay – or some other cyber-marketing variants of that site. Like almost all other niche market areas of the USA shopper’s frenzy – and maybe the big items are working more this way too – people aren’t wandering around the congested streets of Houston looking for deals in the same old ways. Many of them now are digitally shopping for almost everything.  A guy that opens a “card shop” today is going to die of boredom or bad business waiting on the attack of the old piranha-mentality card shoppers of the past.

It’s a new day. For all of us. For everything.

I will always consider Larry Dluhy to be a friend, a collegial soul in our shared love for the game of baseball and the stuff of its history – and, very importantly, a fellow who, in my dealings with him during the time we both served on the Board of the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame as volunteer members, I remember well.  – Larry Dluhy’s right-spirited, unselfish effort will never be forgotten. – Not by me.

During most of the time he operated his storefront business, Larry’s late wife, Betsy, worked side-by-side with him to make sure their dream of success by working at something they felt passionately about was not just possible, but probable. And so it was to be for these two honest and likeable people – with the right mixture of love, spirit, common sense, energy, and dedication – succeed was what they did – and on so many levels.

When Becky died about five years ago, her services took place in this little chapel down in Fort Bend County. And when it was all over, it was a mixture of every day and very famous people who filed out the little center aisle. Nolan Ryan and J.R. Richard were both there that day, among other notables. As they departed down the chapel aisle, and in no disrespect for Becky, I couldn’t help but gravitate to an invading thought: “When healthy, and younger, walking plainly down this little church aisle at this very moment – comes what is probably the hardest One-Two throwing punch in the history of all baseball starting rotations – and I mean all time – and today – in this simple place –  they and their families are all here to pay a departing tribute – with everyone else – to Betsy Dluhy! – That is love and respect at a very high, but most humble level, dear friends.

Here’s the link to David Barron’s wonderful story:


Congratulations and Good Luck, Larry Dluhy!

A few thoughts on our sandlot days baseball card collecting rush to mind. In Pecan Park (1949-1953, esp.) my buddies and I were completely imbedded, or lost,  in the endless, fascinating, and always madly compulsive pursuit of those little cardboard proofs of our delicious childhood memories we all once new as baseball cards – the kind you got almost free – five to a pack – with a nickle purchase of a bubble gum stick whose sugary flavor hardly lasted all of thirty seconds. The cards were life – or bicycle spoke jazz – depending upon our greater needs of the day and who was on the card.

Let me put that last thought more plainly. – The always available cards of the O’Brien brothers, who once almost anonymously played for the Pirates, were the stuff that made our cycle noisemakers perpetually active in the bike spokes. The hardly ever seen cards of Stan Musial, Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle were the Holy Trinity back in the day. We were driven by the crazed spiritual pursuit of them, sometimes even vainly pursuing insider advance information on – how often and when these rarest of figures were set for projected release, by percentage of production per rare card – and by store delivery time and date schedule.

We never learned anything.

Buying all the cards we could get – with all the nickles we could hustle – and always hoping that our purchase would be on the first day on the store shelf of a new shipment – and not the last day of an old stock batch. – We never knew for sure, but that was all we had going for as a strategy. – That was our little version of the roulette wheel. We would have killed for the Internet, the social network and Google back then.

At first, it was all Bowman, with their great artistic facial close-ups. I always preferred Bowman. – They gave life and identity to our Mutual Game of the Day radio heroes that most of us only had seen in one of those heavily pixelated newspaper photos – or in the newsprint styled Sporting News – the kind of photo that showed a player swinging with his eyes closed – regardless of whether he knocked it out of the park or struck out.

Topps, of course, came along and introduced us to action shots. They were cool too. – Every time Yankee shortstop Phil Rizzuto had to leap catch a line drive to keep it from becoming a hit over the radio Game of the Day, he looked in our individual mind’s eye just liked he did on his Topps card. – How cool was that?

The memory of everything – from the taste of the gum itself – to the lingering aroma that found a longtime home within the fibers of the cardboard that supported the images and player information on opposite sides – is all – like yesterday –  even though – for many of us – it was long ago – if not so faraway – that baseball cards were the currency of our once young and much more innocent lives.

The only card that remains from my sandlot days collection is now preserved in a nice looking small frame. It isn’t Musial. It isn’t Williams. And it sure isn’t Mantle. – Truth is – of all the baseball cards I owned back then, I’m not even sure how this one is the one that survived – other than the fact that it somehow got misplaced in another box of my non-baseball related school materials that we found in a storage container years ago. Maybe I had a potential trade going at school that never worked out.

By chance, the surviving from my sandlot days collection is...  CLYDE VOLLMER.

By chance, the surviving card from my sandlot days collection is…

Maybe, too, this is the lesson:

What is acquired by chance – only remains by chance.

And, unless I missed an important wisdom stop somewhere, and, in my case, that’s quite possible, I rather think that the just now expressed lesson about chance occurrences is a little bit larger than baseball cards alone.

Have a peaceful Sunday, everybody!


Who Are the Astros’ Top Minor League Prospects?

February 28, 2015
Bill Gilbert is a veteran member of SABR, a respected and exceptional baseball data analyst, and a free lance reporter for The Pecan Park Eagle.

Bill Gilbert is a veteran member of SABR, a respected and exceptional baseball data analyst, and a free lance reporter for The Pecan Park Eagle.

Who Are the 2015 Astros’ Top Minor League Prospects?

By Bill Gilbert

This is the time of year when various organizations involved in scouting develop lists of minor league prospects. Four such projections are from Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, ESPN and John Sickels. Their lists of the top 10 prospects in the Astros organization are shown below:


1 Carlos Correa 20 SS
2 Mark Appel 23 RHP
3 Vince Velasquez 23 RHP
4 Michael Feliz 22 RHP
5 Brett Phillips 21 OF
6 Colin Moran 22 3B
7 Teoscar Hernandez 22 OF
8 Josh Hader 21 LHP
9 Lance McCullers 21 RHP
10 Domingo Santana 21 OF



1 Carlos Correa 20 SS
2 Mark Appel 23 RHP
3 Vince Velasquez 23 RHP
4 Brett Phillips 21 OF
5 Derek Fisher 23 OF
6 Michael Feliz 22 RHP
7 Lance McCullers 21 RHP
8 Domingo Santana 21 OF
9 Colin Moran 22 3B
10 TeoscarHernandez 22 OF



1 Carlos Correa 20 SS
2 Mark Appel 23 RHP
3 Vince Velasquez 23 RHP
4 Colin Moran 22 3B
5 Brett Phillips 21 OF
6 Lance McCullers 21 RHP
7 Michael Feliz 22 RHP
8 Derek Fisher 23 OF
9 Josh Hader 21 LHP
10 J.D. Davis 22 3B



1 Carlos Correa 20 SS
2 Mark Appel 23 RHP
3 Michael Feliz 22 RHP
4 Vince Velasquez 23 RHP
5 Domingo Santana 21 OF
6 Brett Phillips 21 OF
7 Josh Hader 21 LHP
8 Lance McCullers 21 RHP
9 Derek Fisher 23 OF
10 Teoscar Hernandez 22 OF


Carlos Correa and Mark Appel are clearly the top two Astro prospects. Both were No. 1 overall draft picks. Correa has steadily advanced through the minors, with a batting average of .308, but suffered a broken leg last year and missed half the season. He is reported to be fully recovered now. He should be at Double A in 2015.

Appel’s path has been a little rockier. He was hit hard, playing at Lancaster, in the High Class-A California League last year before doing much better at Double A Corpus Christi and in the Arizona Fall League. In fairness to Appel, Lancaster is considered by many to be the most difficult park in the minors for pitchers because of the constant wind and dry desert air. Appel should get some experience at Triple A in 2015.

Baseball America’s list of the top 100 minor league prospects contains only two Astros, Correa, (No. 4) and Appel (No. 31). Last year there were six. George Springer and Jon Singleton were promoted to the majors, Mike Foltynewicz was traded to Atlanta in the trade for Evan Gattis and Lance McCullers dropped off the top 100 list.

Velasquez is the consensus No. 3 prospect in the Astro organization. He was picked by the Astros in the 2nd round in 2010. However he has struggled with injuries and has pitched only 265 innings in the 5 years he has been in the organization. However, he has been effective when healthy, striking out 10.55 batters per 9 innings in his career. He should be at AA Corpus Christi this year.

Feliz has an arm that has impressed scouts since he signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2009. However, he has reached only the Low Class-A level and needs a breakout season.

Phillips had his breakout season in 2014, batting .310 with 17 home runs and 23 stolen bases in a season divided between Houston’s two Class-A teams. He was Houston’s 6th round draft choice out of high school in 2012. He should reach the Double A level in 2015.

Moran was the 6th player taken overall by the Florida Marlins in 2013. He was traded to the Astros in 2014 and finished the season at Double A Corpus Christi. He has a .297 batting average over 3 stops in his brief career but has not shown much power.

Hernandez has made steady progress through the Astros farm system in his four years since being signed out of the Dominican Republic. He had a strong 2014 season mostly at Lancaster, batting .292 with 21 home runs and 33 stolen bases.

Hader was drafted by Baltimore in the 19th round in 2012 and came to the Astros in the trade for Bud Norris. In 2014, he showed that it was possible for a pitcher to excel at Lancaster with a 9-2 record and an ERA of 2.92 and 9.68 strikeouts per 9 innings. He was named the top pitching prospect in the California League. He should be at Double A Corpus Christi in 2015.

McCullers struggled at Lancaster in 2014 with a 3-6 record and an ERA of 5.47. However, he struck out 10.32 batters per 9 innings.

Santana, the third Dominican on the top 10 list, signed with the Phillies at the age of 16 and was traded to the Astros in the Hunter Pence trade in 2011. His star lost a little luster in 2014 when he was promoted to Houston at mid-season and struck out in 14 0f his 18 plate appearances. However, he had a good year at Triple A batting .296 with 16 home runs despite an alarming total of strikeouts.

The only two players from the 2014 draft that made any of the lists were Derek Fisher, a supplemental first round pick that played in the College World Series for Virginia, and J.D. Davis, a third round pick from Cal State Fullerton. Both played well in short-season leagues. Fisher batted .310 with 17 stolen bases and Davis batted .293 with 13 home runs.

The Astros top prospects are all in the 20-23 age range and Santana is the only one who has played at Triple A. As a result, they are not likely to have an impact in 2015. Appel is the most likely to provide some help in this season. However, if their development continues, several should be ready to contribute in 2016.

If you want to check out these and other prospects, I have a deal for you. For over 20 years, I have spent a week or two checking out the Astros at Spring Training in Kissimmee, Florida both at the games and on the back fields where I first watched players like Jeff Bagwell, Morgan Ensberg and Hunter Pence. However, I won’t be going this year and our Villa at the Sheraton Vistana Resort is available for rent the weeks of March 14-21 and March 22-29 at a discounted price of $1100 per week. It is next door to Disney World and very convenient for attending Astros and Braves home games. The resort has numerous swimming pools and hot tubs, a miniature golf course and two restaurants. The Villa is well-furnished with two bedrooms, two baths, flat screen TVs and a complete kitchen. You can check it out at:


Let me know if you are interested.

Bill Gilbert


E-Mail:   bgilbert35@yahoo.com

Doc Tally: A House of David Great

February 27, 2015

HOUSE OF DAVID, 1914-1950

Jesse Lee “Doc” Tally of Sumner, Mississippi was a BL/TR pitcher/outfielder for the famously bearded House of David barnstorming baseball club, incredibly in itself,  from 1914 until 1950. As the back of the later shown card here says, Tally quickly found himself billed as “The Bearded Babe Ruth” – a clear “knock off” attempt to steal some gate thunder from The Bambino, but also apparently pretty well earned at his level of play. As the same card says, Tally hit 29 home runs in the 44 games that the House of David played during the 1922 season.

29 HR in a 44 game season works out to a percentage HR rate of .659 over the club’s much shorter season. Still, transposition of statistical performance for the same result at the big league level is always fun, even if flawed by too many intervening variables to even list in a brief column. The gross result is still a mind spinner. Had Babe Ruth homered in 65.9% of the 154 games of his American League season, he would have had 102 homers on the season, if we round off the last one to help him make that reach.

Clearly, there’s little to no chance that a player with that kind of potential would have been left to get lost on the back roads of America for thirty-six years, if he actually possessed that kind of insane talent.

Tally-Scan 3

Left handed slugger Doc Tally is also credited with being inventor of the famous House of David “Pepper Game” – and he also served his club as their ace knuckle ball pitcher. Unsurprisingly, House of David insiders for years considered Tally to have been their greatest player.


Thank you again, Bob and Daryl Blair, for the two contributing card images.

Thank you again, Bob and Daryl Blair, for the two contributing card images.

The history of the bearded ball club that grew as a sort of traveling ambassadorial baseball team extension of  the Israelite House of David in Benton Harbor, Michigan has been fairly widely documented. If you are interested in reading further about the club, you may want to search for a copy of “The House of David Baseball Team” by Joel Hawkins and Terry Bertolino (2000) as a place to start.


Here is an ancient SABR newsletter review (We do not have the date of same.) that also points to another possible supply source. I haven’t yet read this book either, so I cannot recommend it until I do and make my own decision on its merits:


“The House of David Baseball Team by Joel Hawkins and Terry Bertolino is one of the Images of America Series by Arcadia Publishing. Hawkins and Bertolino selected over 150 black & white photographs to illustrate the story of these traveling bearded ballplayers from Benton Harbor, Michigan. Also included in the 128-page book is a list of House of David and City of David ballplayers.”

The Society of American Baseball Research (SABR) newsletter


Postscript Addendum: Wow! Were those really the “good old days” when a “perfect for boys” .22 caliber pistol could be mail ordered for $17.95? Of course, we have to remember, back in the “good old days”,  people, especially immature, always angry, drug-addicted and drunk people weren’t around to use guns to kill other good people. The kids just used them for target practice, shooting squirrels out of trees, and the old lady’s cat from next door when it trespassed into their own back yards. If it didn’t want to die, the damn cat never should have invaded the kid’s territory. – Besides, it was just a cat. – Right? – And more than that, remember, it was only a single shot pistol! – If the kid was a lousy shot, the cat had a better than sporting chance of getting away before the kid could reload!

How To Give a Cat or Dog a Pill Differently

February 26, 2015

While researching old files for something else this morning, this irresistible piece from an anonymous source simply wouldn’t stay lost and buried in my digital creativity landfill any longer. Hope it contributes to the elevation of your spirit today as much as it has to mine. – Editor, The Pecan Park Eagle.


How to Give a Cat a Pill




  1. Pick up cat and cradle it in the crook of your left arm as if holding a baby. Position right forefinger and thumb on either side of cat’s mouth and gently apply pressure to cheeks while holding pill in right hand. As cat opens mouth, pop pill into mouth. Allow cat to close mouth and swallow.
  1. Retrieve pill from floor and cat from behind sofa. Cradle cat in left arm and repeat process.
  1. Retrieve cat from bedroom, and throw soggy pill away.
  1. Take new pill from foil wrap, cradle cat in left arm, holding rear paws tightly with left hand. Force jaws open and push pill to back of mouth with right forefinger. Hold mouth shut for a count of ten.
  1. Retrieve pill from goldfish bowl and cat from top of wardrobe. Call spouse from garden.
  1. Kneel on floor with cat wedged firmly between knees, hold front and rear paws. Ignore low growls emitted by cat. Get spouse to hold cat’s head firmly with one hand while forcing wooden ruler into mouth. Drop pill down ruler and rub cat’s throat vigorously.
  1. Retrieve cat from curtain rail, get another pill from foil wrap. Make note to buy new ruler and repair curtains. Carefully sweep shattered figurines and vases from hearth and set to one side for gluing later.
  1. Wrap cat in large towel and get spouse to lie on cat with head just visible from below armpit. Put pill in end of drinking straw, force mouth open with pencil and blow down drinking straw.
  1. Check label to make sure pill not harmful to humans, drink 1 beer to take taste away. Apply Band-Aid to spouse’s forearm and remove blood from carpet with cold water and soap.
  1. Retrieve cat from neighbor’s shed. Get another pill. Open another beer. Place cat in cupboard, and close door on to neck, to leave head showing. Force mouth open with dessert-spoon. Flick pill down throat with elastic band.
  1. Fetch screwdriver from garage and put cupboard door back on hinges. Drink beer. Fetch bottle of scotch. Pour shot, drink. Apply cold compress to cheek and check records for date of last tetanus shot. Apply whiskey compress to cheek to disinfect. Toss back another shot. Throw Tee shirt away and fetch new one from bedroom.
  1. Call fire department to retrieve the damn cat from across the road. Apologize to neighbor who crashed into fence while swerving to avoid cat. Take last pill from foil wrap.
  1. Tie the little ‘so-and-so’s’ front paws to rear paws with garden twine and bind tightly to leg of dining table, find heavy-duty pruning gloves from shed. Push pill into mouth followed by large piece of filet steak. Be rough about it. Hold head vertically and pour 2 pints of water down throat to wash pill down.
  1. Consume remainder of Scotch. Get spouse to drive you to the emergency room, sit quietly while doctor stitches fingers and forearm and removes pill remnants from right eye. Call furniture shop on way home to order new table.
  1. Arrange for SPCA to collect mutant cat from hell and call local pet shop to see if they have any hamsters.






1. Wrap the pill in bacon.

2. Toss it in the air anywhere near the dog.


Always works at the same percentage rate the sun achieves in  rising from the east each morning.

Plain and simple. It’s dogs over cats every time.




The Ballad of Billy Sunday

February 26, 2015

Sunday-Scan 1



“Chicago” (Sung to the tune of …. well …. “Chicago”)

Chicago – Chicago – that toddling town
Chicago – Chicago – I will show you around
I love it – bet your bottom dollar – you’ll lose – the blues in – Chicago – Chicago
The town that Billy Sunday – couldn’t shut down

On State Street – that great street – I just want to say
They do things – that they don’t do – on Broadway
They have the time – the time of their life
I saw a man – he danced with his wife in – Chicago – Chicago – my home town

Chicago – Chicago – that toddling town
Chicago – Chicago – I’ll show you around
I love it – bet your bottom dollar – you’ll lose – the blues – in Chicago – Chicago
The town that Billy Sunday – could not shut down

On State Street – that great street – I just want to say
They do things – that they never do – on Broadway – say
They have the time – the time of their life
I saw a man –  and he danced with his wife – in Chicago
Chicago – Chicago – my – home – town



“The Ballad of Billy Sunday” to these ancient ears always has been the great Frank Sinatra version of “Chicago” by Writer(s): Nowak, Fisher, Roy Hawkins, Lorenz Hart, Samuel L. Nestico, Rick R. Darnell, Sammy Cahn, Francois Joseph Charles Salabert, Fred Fisher and Richard Rodgers. – Some of their names read immediately like a membership list from the Songwriters Hall of Fame. The others live on more anonymously in their endless ride with the famous on the way from here to eternity.

In case you want more. ….

The Frank Sinatra You-Tube version of “Chicago” —->  


The Evangelical Life of Billy Sunday —->


The Baseball Record of Billy Sunday —-> 


The Pecan Park Eagle again wishes to thank the Brothers Blair, Robert and Daryl, for their contribution of the card image that inspired the happy creation of this fun-to-put-together memoir of another great character from the early history of  baseball, the dead ball era predecessor or even a possible inspiration for a later born fictional character named “Elmer Gantry”, The Reverend Billy Sunday.


Mulvihill: Kid BP Pitcher for the ’51 Buffs

February 25, 2015


We are never too old to learn something new. Mike Mulvihill, my old friend and former classmate from St. Thomas High School (Class of 1956), is one of the most modest, down-to-earth people I’ve ever known. He never talks about his athletic accomplishments unless he is asked – and even then – it’s like pulling teeth. Mike always is guarded against the fear that someone may hear him and think that he is bragging.

Mike Mulvihill doesn’t have to brag. He was good. Dadgum good.

As one of the kids playing in our parochial school league, he was a terrific force as a pitcher in baseball and a running back in football. At St. Thomas, he teamed up with our also great Richard Quesada to lead the Eagles to three state TCIL titles in varsity baseball (1953, 1955, & 1956), also playing as a force for the St. Thomas American Legion team as it made its way to a state title in baseball during the summer of 1953. St. Thomas also won a state TCIL title during Mike’s 1952 freshman season and Mulvihill’s play in both baseball and football during high school were great enough to earn him a dual sport scholarship to Oklahoma State University starting in the fall of 1956.

As a pitcher for Oklahoma State, Mike played for the Cowboys team that took the 1959 NCAA Division One Baseball Championship at Omaha in 1959. This accomplishment established Mike Mulvihill in rarified company as the only student athlete from Houston St. Thomas who ever played for both a three-time state champion in baseball and a Division One National Champion in collegiate baseball, as well. We are hard-pressed to think of any other Houston high school to have performed that feat in baseball. Even in one exists, the accomplishment itself is spiritually singular.

Unfortunately for Mike Mulvihill, he stubbed his toe on the much later Bo Jackson cliche while playing football at OSU: “Because of an injury suffered in football, Mike’s future in either sport was taken from him.”

Post his life-changing injury, Mike Mulvihill proved that he was not the kind of guy to be derailed from a full life by adversity. He finished his degree at OSU, married Katie, a girl from Kansas and the love of his life, and then spent a professional career working in the oil field industry and raising a family. Mike is retired now – and living as a widower in a small town in north central Texas. Sadly, he lost Katie about three years ago. Although no one can replace her, Mike stays busy and in contact with his grown children, his grandchildren, and numerous good friends.

Now – here’s the proof of Mike’s modesty. A couple of days ago, Mike and I were discussing old times when, for the first time ever, he let it slip that he had once pitched batting practice against the Houston Buffs as a 13-year old youth baseball player.

“WHAT????” …. raced the thought through my head. …. “WHAT???” ….. I finally asked. – “How come you never told me about this until now?”

I got the almost expected Mulvihill answer: “I didn’t want to say anything that might sound like I was blowing my own horn or make you think I was bragging.”

As Mike relaxed and took the time to share this story with me, it proved to be one of the most awesome stories of kid achievement, old ties, serendipity, and a father’s love for his son that I’ve heard – and, believe me, I’ve heard some pretty amazing stories in my time.

The Houston Buff Story

Mike Mulvihill, Age 13 Pitcher Town House Buffs

Mike Mulvihill, Age 13
Town House Buffs

It was the summer of 1951. Al Hollingsworth, a native of St. Louis, was managing the Houston Buffs on their way to the Texas League Championship. Jack Mulvihill, the father of Mike Mulvihill, and also a much earlier “Kid from St. Louis”, was long-time settled and working in Houston. He was as proud as a only a father can sometimes be of his 13-year old son, Mike Mulvihill. Mike pitched for the Town House Buffs, a youth team managed by Father James Wilson, the longtime architect of the very powerful St. Thomas High School baseball program. Wilson also benefited from the presence of former Houston Buff and St. Louis Cardinal player Watty Watkins, a great baseball mentor who voluntarily helped coach and teach the young players of the Town House Buffs club. Mike Mulvihill was coming along at an astonishing rate of development as a pitcher and was also getting quite a bit of attention in Houston’s newspapers for his achievements in youth baseball.

One day, Manager Hollingsworth of the Buffs read one of these stories about the youth Buffs and noticed the name “Mulvihill”. He wondered if the kid might be related to another Mulvihill he had known back in St. Louis. He called Father Wilson at St. Thomas and learned that, yes, it was true. Mike Mulvihill was the son of his childhood friend Jack Mulvihill back in Missouri.

Hollingsworth called Jack Mulvihill, but let’s allow Mike Mulvihill to take it from here:


Mike Mulvill, Age 21 Oklahoma State Cowboys 1958

Mike Mulvihill, Age 20
Oklahoma State Cowboys

“Boots Hollingsworth grew up in St. Louis, as did my father and uncle, and they knew each other as kids. All attended Beaumont High School, I believe, which was a producer of lots of famous ballplayers like Earl Weaver, Pete Reiser and Dick Williams. They also spent lots of time on the sandlots of a neighborhood area in St. Louis  known as ‘The Hill”. This was a largely Italian-Catholic area. This is where Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola were neighbors.

 “Jack Mulvihill, my dad, hurt his knee badly in high school and that injury cut short his sports play. My Uncle Lee Mulvihill was a really good high school player. Lee gave up any hope of going to college due to finances and WWII. He joined the Navy and served in the Submarine fleet. He retired as a Lt Commander. 

“Dad was so thrilled to hear from Mr. Hollingsworth, maybe even more so than me. Dad’s excitement was my dismay. Mr. Hollingsworth had invited me to come out to Buff Stadium in my Town House Buffs uniform and pitch batting practice for the Houston Buffs.”

(It’s me again. Put yourself in Mike’s shoes. How would you have felt as a 13-year old pitcher who had just been invited to come pitch batting practice for your home town heroes at a time when they were tearing up the AA Texas League?)

“Dad really enjoyed our first BP trip to Buff Stadium. He got to visit with an old friend and, as Dad was prone to do, get in a little too much bragging to suit me. I always hated it when he did that whenever I heard it, and it was hard not to hear it when he was talking while I was pitching.”

Mike Mulvihill, age 21 Pitcher Oklahoma State Cowboys

Mike Mulvihill, age 21
Pitcher, 1959
Oklahoma State Cowboys National Champions

 “I was in awe just being on the field that day in Buff Stadium. It was huge in comparison to the kinds of fields where I normally played. I remember throwing behind a screen for the first time. As  memory serves, I only threw to 4 or 5 hitters. In the back of my mind, I believe I pitched to Jerry Witte, Rip Replulski, Billy Costa and Dick Landis. I recall Landis for a special reason. Many years later, when we lived on West Galveston Island, a man came up to me and said, ‘I know you’. He explained that he used to play for the Houston Buffs and remembers this kid (me, of course) who pitched to him in batting practice. As it turned out, I remembered him also. It was Dick Landis, who was a catcher for several seasons.  

“Later I again pitched against Jerry Witte, Gerry Burmeister, Frank Mancuso and some other ex-Buffs while playing on a summer league team that Father Wilson coached. It was the St. Thomas American Legion team he entered in the summer league to play against older players. Our club was sponsored by Stuart’s Drive Inn. The competition against real professionals also gave us a real edge against players of our own age. I recall that one of the ex-Buff  pitchers was the knuckle baller, Al Papai. That was the one and only time most of us would ever have to bat against that particular pitch. Thank goodness.

“I did pitch a second short round of BP for the Buffs, but don’t remember much about the second trip. I do remember that both times I pitched the Buff hitters were not out there to show me mercy. They were swinging for the fences. As best I remember, none of them ever made it.

“My time in baseball and football are both filled with many fond memories. I still am most thankful for all the life lessons that came to me from playing team sports, and, of course, all the life long friends I’ve met as a result of this part of my life. When all  is said and done, I am simply most grateful to all the many people who helped me along the way.” – Mike Mulvihill.

The Pecan Park Eagle thanks you today for a most wonderful story, Mike Mulvihill, and I must say this to you also as an ancient friend and classmate: I know of no one from our graduating St. Thomas Class of 1956 who is more deserving of honor and respect, both for your accomplishments in sports and your genuine goodness as a most decent and giving human being. And guess what too? I am just one member of your St. Thomas legion of respectful friends and fans. You truly are – the embodiment of everything that St. Thomas High School is all about.




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