WSJ: Are The Kids Abandoning Baseball in 2015?

May 22, 2015

ppebaseball7

Carole Boyd and I are old friends from the late 1940s and early 1950s who never actually met.

We discovered each other when I was doing the research on “A Kid From St. Louis”,  the autobiography of Jerry Witte that I wrote with the late and great 1950-52 Houston Buffs right-handed slugging first baseman who also played for the 1949 Dallas Eagles and led the Texas League with 50 home runs, winning kid-fan Carole Boyd’s heart a year prior to capturing mine. So, I wasn’t surprised today when Carole sent me a link to an article by Brian Costa in the May 20, 2015 edition of The Wall Street Journal, entitled “Why Children Are Abandoning Baseball.”

http://www.wsj.com/articles/why-baseball-is-losing-children-1432136172

“So sad,” was Carole’s only comment.

After reading Costa’s article, I wrote back to Carole as follows: “Thanks for sending this material, Carole, even if these are disheartening facts and words that most people close to the game have realized for years. Like all essences of love, our loyalty and affection for the game has to grow from our organic fun and caring for the game (as this author puts it) playing the game since we were eighteen months old. – The other thing that’s killing baseball with the kids, and the pure joy of childhood (period) is the absence of safety for free play without the great presence of adults and organized activity in all that happens.”

We’ve lost a lot to the vagaries of an ever more threatening world of danger to unprotected children. As a result, the kind of baseball experience that kids have today is pretty much 180 degrees away from what we enjoyed sixty-five years ago. Today’s world has taken into account everyone’s needs for uniforms, equipment, rules, league structuring and schedules, and coaching. And let’s not forget the venue improvements. These fields are well marked and often quite manicured – complete with grandstands and concessions sales during games.

Why would the kids of today want to abandon such a gravy train? Well, back to what I was trying to say to Carole, but now put another way: “It’s not their game. It belongs to their parents and a set schedule. There is no freedom to play and improvise – or to figure out how the game will go on – once you’ve cracked the only bat you had – and you’re out of nails for making the sole injured war stick make it through another single day of hard-embraced free play with your friends – on a summer day when – as almost always happens,  everyone got to hit, at least, fifty times in the morning segment of play alone. – And there’s no one around trying to lure you into playing “kick ball” (soccer? what’s that) or la crosse (what the double hell is la crosse?)

Nobody told us as kids to become fans of the Dallas Eagles, the Houston Buffs, or Jerry Witte? We found those teams and heroes like Jerry Witte on our own – back in the day that it was still safe for kids to explore their own reasons for passionate caring. – That freely found discovery of baseball joy was the real cover on the baseball that equipped us for discovery – and nobody ever gave it to us. – We freely found it.

I had another thought along these lines when our chapter attended the Sugar Land Skeeters game three nights ago. I’m sitting there – looking around t this beautiful little park and remindful it was in some ways of old Buff Stadium in Houston. Even the sights and sounds chorused the same associations, when I suddenly found myself thinking something that I will share with all of you now for the first time.

I thought: “You know what? Everything about this place is cumulatively like the bell on the old ice cream trucks that used to cruise the streets of Pecan Park when I was a kid. When you hear the bell, you just have to go there – because that’s the man with the ice cream goodies we all craved on those hot Houston summer afternoons. – But here’s where the challenge comes in. – For people to keep coming to Constellation Field over time, they must grow in their caring for what happens to the Skeeters in competition. – That’s the ice cream that the ambient bell must lead into as its payoff for fans being there at these games. Long term, it will not be enough to simply enjoy the ball park. Fans have to invest in caring about what happens to the Skeeters.

The Skeeters’ situation could be helped with the addition of some other Texas teams to the Atlantic League in the near future, but they should also stay open to becoming, perhaps, a Class A affiliate of the Houston Astros. The attraction of Astros fans to see their future talent playing with the Skeeters could be an awesome gulp of ice cream at the gate – while giving the fans a more genuinely organic reason for supporting this excellent package of baseball opportunity in Sugar Land.

For kids, or grown ups, being a baseball fan is like love itself. It goes where it wants to go. And it does not go forever to places that only smell like ice cream. The deep blue baseball fans go to places where they know they can expect to find a triple scoop of the real thing.

And, if kids are abandoning baseball today, it is also because they are no longer free to even crave ice cream. Craving ice cream today will only get a kid referred into psychotherapy and probably placed on some kind of ADD medication.

GoodHumorMan

Houston Sports Association Staff, 1965, A Tribute

May 21, 2015

HSA STAFF 65 - 01b

HSA STAFF 65 - 01f

The Astrodome exists because of the greater Houston and Harris County citizenship and power structure willingness to get behind the visionary leadership of Judge Roy Hofheinz and the other strong members of the original (HSA) Houston Sports Association from George Kirksey to Craig Cullinan to R.E. “Bob” Smith. It also helped that their attempts to lure short-timer Gabe Paul to Houston brought about the serendipity that turned out to be Tal Smith.

In the late 1950s and with some considerable help from the writing talents of a young cub sports reporter named Mickey Herskowitz, the indefatigable relentless force that was George Kirksey led the marketing charge for Houston's successful graduation into big league baseball.

In the late 1950s, and with some considerable help from the writing talents of a young cub sports reporter named Mickey Herskowitz, the indefatigable relentless force that was George Kirksey led the marketing charge for Houston’s successful graduation into big league baseball.

Spec Richardson was a former General Manger for the Houston Buffs who also made his way into the big leagues with the new Houston NL entry, the Colt .45s, in 1962. By 1965, the club was ready to take on their new identity in their new home as the Houston Astros.

Spec Richardson was a former General Manger for the minor league Houston Buffs who also made his way into the big leagues with the new Houston NL entry, the Colt .45s, in 1962. By 1965, the club was ready to take on their new identity in their new home as the Houston Astros.

Art Routzong also had executiveexperience with the Houston Buffs and the St. Louis Cardinals before joining the HSA staff.

Art Routzong had executive staff experience with the Houston Buffs and the St. Louis Cardinals before joining the HSA staff.

AAAA HSA 02

AAAA HSA 05

AAAA HSA 06

AAAA HSA 07

AAAA HSA 08

HSA STAFF 65 - 01e

These photos of some of the many HSA staff people who made Houston’s dream of major league baseball played in the world’s first indoor air-conditioned venue are little more – but nothing less – than a tribute to the smart, resourceful and dedicated human beings who invested their brains, their hearts, and their organizational courage into the goal of making the Houston Astros and the Astrodome a dream that worked in reality. It is now our generation’s responsibility to see that the Houston icon that our Astrodome has become in the eyes of the world does not end in the face of failed intelligence, feint heart, and the absence of courageous commitment by our community and political leaders.

The faces and names in this column all were derived from pages 106-107 of the 1965 first dome program magazine, “Inside The Astrodome: Eighth Wonder of the World”. They should all live forever in our memories as just a few of the people from that earlier generation who did their part in giving the awesome Astrodome its game-changing introduction to large venue sports, entertainment and convention hosting in a way that has altered and redirected all serious venue construction over the past fifty years of its history.

HSA STAFF 65 - 01g

HSA STAFF - 02b

I had the honor and pleasure of working with Eddie Robinson as a board member during my tenure as Chairman of the Board for the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame a few years ago, but my first memories of him came in the form of his heroic picture on a baseball card, when I was still a kid back in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Eddie Robinson is one of those people who lives up to the image he projected as a great player.

HSA STAFF - 02d

HSA STAFF - 02e

HSA STAFF - 02f

HSA STAFF - 02g

HSA STAFF - 02h

I first met Judy Vieno in the summer of 1963, when I think she had just started working for Tal Smith. That turned out to be job she held with Tal for something close to fifty years. – Wow! – Great as Tal Smith was as a talent evaluator, Judy Vieno may have been his strongest work-related talent call in Tal Smith history – and she happened at the start of his Houston career.

They are both great people.

HSA STAFF - 02i

HSA STAFF - 02j

There were hundreds of others, of course, but these few here represent the others well. Had they all not been there, making the magic of the Astrodome move incredibly and in beautiful rainbow technicolor, even the grandest sports dream in world history would have failed. Thanks to all of you who did your part and gave it your all!

Lesser Known Dome Facts: The Weep Holes

May 20, 2015
Excerpt from

Excerpt from “Inside the Astrodome” – Page 78
(1965)

Not all of us are architects and engineers, but the planners of the first year Astrodome program magazine took that fact into account. The little treasure publication includes more lesser known facts about the Astrodome than one could ever imagine and we will be sprinkling them out here as columns in The Pecan Park Eagle over time – and, hopefully, for the enjoyment and dome-fact-education of everyone who cares about the history and future of Houston’s greatest world known architectural icon.

What follows is a larger, more easily readable version of the script to today’s information:

Astrodome Weepholes 04

Have a great Wednesday, everybody!

SABR in Skeetersland Is Fun Evening, As Per Usual

May 19, 2015
The view of the game between the visiting York Revolution and the home Sugar Land Skeeters from our SABR suite was the best.

The view of the game between the visiting York Revolution and the home Sugar Land Skeeters from our SABR suite was the best.

For 31 members of SABR’s Houston-based  Larry Dierker Chapter, the May 18, 2015 “meeting” at Constellation Field in Sugar Land, Texas was the usual fun evening of baseball, good company, great food, comfortable accommodations, and 5-Star Class hospitality as guests of the Independent Atlantic league home club, the Sugar Land Skeeters. The Skeeters fell to the York Revolution, but, as the old hospital story goes, other then the death of the patient, the operation, otherwise, was a complete success.

Oldest locl SABR member Larry Dierker, 89, was on hand last night to greet first time SABR function attendee Rick Bush and help our new guy get a taste of what the SABR camaraderie buzz is all about.

Oldest locl SABR member Larry Miggins, 89, was on hand last night to greet first time SABR function attendee Rick Bush and help our new guy get a taste of what the SABR camaraderie buzz is all about.

Speaking of age, 33-year old former Astro Willie Taveras was in the game, playing center field for the Skeeters. We apologize for the lack of a clearer picture, but this is what sometimes happens to pictures of players when their baseball futures reach beyond the

Speaking of age, 33-year old former Astro Willie Taveras was in the game, playing center field for the Skeeters. We apologize for the lack of a clearer picture, but this is what sometimes happens to pictures of players when their baseball futures reach beyond the “partly cloudy” phase of their prospective careers

In fairness to Willie Taveras, he looked a lot like the Willie-of-Old in the bottom of the first, leading off with a line single to left-center, an easy steal of second, a trot to third on a sac fly to right, and a close to sauntering-speed walk home to score the first of the Skeeters’ two runs on the evening on a mighty blast over the right field wall by teammate Dustin Martin. Sadly, that would be it for Sugar Land scoring last night as York came back to win the game, 5-2.

Wilson Valdez led of the top of the 4th with a triple to right and then scored the Revolution's first run on a single to left by  Andres Perez.

Wilson Valdez led of the top of the 4th with a triple to right and then scored the Revolution’s first run on a single to left by Andres Perez.

As Bob Stevens noted during the game, Skeeters shortstop

As Bob Stevens noted during the game, Skeeters shortstop “Beamer Weams” has the kind of name that one should never forget. Yes, Bob, it is straight out of the same mold of baseball fiction books we used to read as kids.

The

The “Father and Son” Bob and Matt Stevens SABR Family team was present, of course, to pay close attention to all of the game action. Matt designed the beautiful SABR Chapter logo we used for the SABR 44 National Convention in Houston in 2014. Matt’s older brother, Robbie Stevens,  could not be with us last night because of parental duty to his three younger generation little girl members of the Stevens family, one of whom has an eight o’clock bed time.

THE SABR 44 Larry Dierker Chapter LOGO Designed By Robbie Stevens For the 2014 Houston Convention of SABR

THE SABR 44 Larry Dierker Chapter Logo
Designed By Matt Stevens
For the 2014 Houston Convention of SABR

Much to our delight, the Staue of Dickie Kerr was there near the entrance to bid us both hello and goodbye to another terrific evening with baseball, friends, and the sweet spot of good times. - And speaking of such, those pork rib plates, with corn on the cob, baked beans, salad, and ice cream dessert must have been ordered in from the kitchen beyond the Pearly Gate. God, they were good - and we thank You too - and first!

Much to our delight, the Statue of Dickie Kerr was there near the entrance to bid us both hello and goodbye to another terrific evening with baseball, friends, and the sweet spot of good times. – And speaking of such, those pork rib plates, with corn on the cob, baked beans, salad, and ice cream dessert must have been ordered in from the kitchen beyond the Pearly Gates. God, they were good – and we thank You too – and first!

More on Beamer Weems!

Former freelance photographer Lance Carter, who once did a lot of work for the Sugar Land Skeeters, is now doing something like that for the Oklahoma City Red Hawks at the AAA level. His personal comments to me about Beamer Weems, after reading this column, The Pecan Park Eagle felt felt were worthy of entry here as a footnote on this player’s earlier recognition for his almost fictionally sounding baseball name:

“An interesting note on Beamer Weems, he won the Moniker Madness in Minor League Baseball when he played for the San Antonio Missions. Moniker Madness is a tournament of sorts of the players / coaches with the strangest names This year’s top contender to win it would be Tulsa Drillers (Dodgers affiliate) Manager Razor Shines.” – Lance Carter.

Razor Shines? … Really? …. That’s almost good enough to make Beamer Weems read like John Smith!

The Jim Wynn 1965 Program Page

May 18, 2015

Jim-Wynn-Page 11

The Jim Wynn page of the 1965 “Inside the Astrodome” fan magazine-program is page 150 of the 260 total pages in this fact-chocked historical piece. As you will easily see from Jimmy’s sparse stats from his early career, he had yet to do most of the things he would go on to do as one the greatest compact-sized power hitters in the history of the game. His 37 HR in 1967, a great total for any player of any size playing all of his home games in the new Grand Canyon of MLB baseball venues would soon enough earn him the accolade-nickname from Houston Chronicle writer John Wilson that would last forever. – Jimmy Wynn really was – “The Toy Cannon”!

Jim-Wynn-Page 08

Jimmy Wynn’s early descriptions in the 1965 first Astrodome expanded program magazine were pretty much the kinds of demographic material we expect to get on young, as of yet, unproven, but promising prospects.

Jim-Wynn-Page 07

No matter how early it was, the above included photo of Jimmy Wynn would prove in time to be far deeper than a cheap publicity shot of Jimmy Wynn giving his attention to the youngest fans. It depicted true picture of who Jimmy Wynn the man always was, and always will be. – The fans come first. – And the kids come first among the fans.

Jim-Wynn-Page 12

Jimmy Wynn’s MLB career stats going into the opening of the Astrodome in 1965 included only limited action with Houston from 1964. In case you’ve forgotten, here’s a link to all the homers that followed ver the curse of his total MLB career:

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/w/wynnji01.shtml

Jim-Wynn-Page 10

Even in these days of PhotoShop reality adjustments, sometimes, pictures from the past still don’t lie. Picture like this one say so much: Little man. Big bat. Big bat. Bigger heart. And huge fans among the kids of the baseball world.

Jim-Wynn-Page 06

In case you have trouble reading the script from the above orange rectangle that was included at the bottom of Jimmy’s 1965 page, it reads as follows:

THE ASTRODOME/FIRST GLIMPSE OF THE FAMOUS

HORACE SUTTON, Syndicated Columnist: “Texas has just discovered a new frontier – The Great Indoors … The ASTRODOME is a phenomenon something like the Eiffel Tower …”

Wow! Does that comparison sound recently familiar? In the recent struggle to gain support for re-purposing the now idle Astrodome because of its much deserved status as an architectural icon that depicts Houston to the rest of the world, how many us have used the Eiffel Tower comparison in support of that same point. After reading Sutton’s 1965 comment, one might conclude that the hand of destiny has been behind that iconic comparison to the Eiffel Tower has been there forever. – And they just happen to place this particular quote at the bottom of Jimmy Wynn’s 1965 page 150 of the original program magazine.

History Lesson: It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over

May 17, 2015

“I didn’t come here (to do this car commercial) for a history lesson!           – I came here to WIN!””
~ Blake Griffin
Los Angeles Clippers

Blake Griffin and the Los Angeles Clippers didn’t get the “win” today, but they will have to try really, really hard to miss the history lesson.

Our Pecan Eagle Address to 2015 Graduates

May 17, 2015
Matthew McConaughey Address UH Commencement Exercises May 15, 2015

Matthew McConaughey Address
UH Commencement Exercises
May 15, 2015

From what I’ve been able to sample from reports, UH commencement speaker Matthew McConaughey did better than “All right! All right! All right!” at the Friday night, May 15, 2015 graduation exercise for 4,958 students who ranged in age from 18 to 78. Wow! All those demographics mean to me is that UH had at least one student who graduated from college at the same age that I finished high school in 1956, and, at least, one graduate who is currently older than me at the present time. My matriculation date was the fairly normal age 22 when I took my BS in psychology from UH in 1960, on my to graduate school at Tulane and Texas.

The chances that a whole lot of these 2015 UH graduates  are a whole lot smarter than I was on my Graduation Day are way up there.

I loved what I read of Matthew’s remarks:

* “Where you are not is as important as where you are.”

* “An honest man’s pillow is his piece of mind.”

* “The truth’s all around us all the time. Put yourself in place to receive the truth.”

* “Let’s make it (the world, our lives, etc) a place where we break a sweat, where we believe, where enjoy the process of succeeding in the places and ways e are fashioned to. Where we don’t have to look over our shoulder we’re too busy  doing what we’re good at, traveling toward immortal finish lines. We write our own book, overcoming our fears. We make friends with ourselves. And that is the place that I’m talking about.”

All I could add are the following:

Tom Jefferson did not promise us happiness in his immortal message. He wrote that we are entitled to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. What Jefferson didn’t say was so important here. And Jefferson seemed to understood that we all simply had to grow in our individual wisdom of what those things he left our truly are:

(1) Pick a career that matches your passions and abilities and you have chosen a good shot at what passes for the often uneven flow of human happiness in one’s life work. Happiness does not come from doing what your parents think you should do, or from a career area you’ve picked because employment demand is good in that area, or in becoming the richest, most powerful kid on the block by the time you are age thirty, on your way to running for President at age thirty-five. As Shakespeare said best: “Do thine own self be true.”

(2) Whenever possible, find out what you really most want to do with your work life and your ongoing education before you create a life style that requires you to pay the bills in support of a family. Of course, if marriage and family is your goal above all else, don’t blame your spouse and children later may feel like you missing out on other choices in life.

(3) Pray or meditate that you are blessed to awaken early to the realization that happiness is giving to life – not taking from it.

(4) Pray or wish too that you then quickly make the next connection in the chain – that happiness is loving – and loving is giving – not taking.

(5) Hope for early wisdom too to the fact that taking responsibility for the lessons of our pain and disappointment in life is the channel to life-altering change, whereas, making pain and disappointment the rationale for blaming others or ourselves is little more than a ticket to ride in a cycle that repeats the same dire result until we either learn from it responsibly, and move on, or get sick and die.

(6) Your future is not the same one we elders once faced. You are in charge of a world in which technology itself is changing the way we relate to others and ourselves – and in ways that we are only beginning to imagine. All we elders ask is that you act in some ways also to protect our libraries, our historical preservation efforts, and the beautiful expression of whole thoughts in complete sentences and published works.

Thank you, Class of 2015! Now Go Get “Em! And don’t worry about our bill. The Pecan Park Eagle does not charge for commencement thoughts.

“Inside The Astrodome” from 1965 is Gold Mine

May 16, 2015

Astrodome-Book-01

Here’s the short version: This past weekend, on a visit to my birth hometown of Beeville, Texas, my younger brother, John McCurdy, gave me this copy of “Inside The Astrodome: Eighth Wonder of the World” from 1965.

Whoa!!!

It is an historical  treasure trove of little known facts and some long forgotten and never generally known information about the same iconic structure that now faces a future that hangs in the balance on our community’s ability to justify its continuation in a world that first demands that it be “re-purposed” into some kind of new attractive venue for commercial profit and/or public attraction – and at a price that “someone” is willing to pay and the rest of us are willing to support. Back in 1965, nobody saw this day coming.

Astrdome-Book-02

Above is a picture from the 260 page program that features (L->R) pitcher Dick “Turk” Farrell, Manager Luman Harris, and pitcher Don Nottebart. Nottebart was in his third and final season with Houston (1963-65) when the club was renamed the “Astros” but the The Pecan Park Eagle did not recognize him until he was identified for us by two readers, saint89brb and Olbermann.  Thanks, friends!

Astrodome-Book-04

In our third and final glimpse of the day (but with more to come in the near future), that’s handsome third baseman Bob Aspromonte of the newly re-christened in 1965 Houston Astros giving a little batting instruction to Dome guest and first pitch celebrant at a press luncheon, singer Anita Bryant on the receiving end of that instruction. What a teacher young “Aspro” was back in the day. Notice the way Bob uses the left hand to precisely instruct Miss Bryant on the best way she should position her body in preparation for what’s about to come.

Have a nice weekend, everybody! And try to stay dry!

Our Top Ten Thoughts Inspired By Baby Face

May 15, 2015
Wisdom is not Microwavable

Wisdom is not Microwavable

A 20-year old Texas man has tattooed the face of his baby on his own face to celebrate the infant’s near “brush with death”.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/04/26/why-a-texas-man-had-his-baby-tattooed-onto-his-face/

There’s nothing in the Bill of Rights that says a young man cannot do this sort of thing and a lot there to protect his free will to do exactly what he has now done. Same here. We have the equivalent right here at The Pecan Park Eagle to present our list of the Top Ten Thoughts that rushed to mind as soon as the featured photo and story became public:

Our Top Ten Thoughts Inspired By Baby Face

10) Yuk!

9) Dumb and Dumber Rides Again!

8) Who says our American culture is in trouble?

7) That’s great “Dad” – but can you change a diaper?

6) Sooner or later, every parent gets to hear: “Don’t show anybody my baby pictures!” What then?

5) “You don’t have to take me to school, Dad. I can walk five miles easy!”

4) “Why can’t I follow in the footsteps of TV sportscasters like Greg Lucas and Bill Brown?”

3) “Are you sure your real last name isn’t ‘Nelson’?”

2) Wisdom is not microwavable – and some regrets are like tattoos. They are forever.

1) Maury Povich Show Conclusion: “Thanks for appearing on our show today, Baby Face. – There’s no easy way to break this news here, but we have to tell you. – The blood tests are in. And we have been able to determine that you are NOT the father of that child on your face!”

Two Hall of Fame Member Facts

May 15, 2015
Craig Biggip Art by Opie Otterstad (2004) HOF, 2015

Craig Biggio
Art by Opie Otterstad (2004)
HOF, 2015

The 2015 Baseball Hall of Fame Yearbook is a ready source for coming up with your own list of “fun facts” about the membership. Of course, I do have to start with one that most of us already know about our very first 100% pure and fully declared Houston Astros inductee, Craig Biggio:

(1) Craig Biggio is a Houston Astro in the same sense that Stan Musial was a St. Louis Cardinal, Joe DiMaggio was a New York Yankee, Ernie Banks was a Chicago Cub, Johnny Bench was a Cincinnati Red and Ted Williams was a member of the Boston Red Sox. They were all one-team guys. There were others like them, but today’s game and the financial considerations facing both players and clubs in this 21st century huge money big business culture make “loyalty and mutual contentment” less powerful as the factors keeping athletes on the same team for all of a double-digit years career. In light of the fact, we say, “Hail, Biggio, one of the last of a vanishing breed of MLB players!” Not only that, your 668 doubles were the 5th most, all-time, and the most ever compiled by a right-handed batter in baseball history.

(2) With Yogi Berra turning 90 two days ago, we now have four living members of the Hall of Fame still with us – and apparently too healthy and happy with their current missions in life to leave the rest of us short-handed for proof that love is forever – and that nice guys either finish last or go home first. All of these four men are a handful of the nicest people ever documented by the legion of baseball writers who still cover their tracks.

Bobby Doerr Age 97 HOF, 1986

Bobby Doerr
Age 97
HOF, 1986

Bobby Doerr, 97 years (DOB: April 7, 1918)  is the oldest. As a second baseman and another of those one-team-only fellows is described by his late former manager ad fellow Hall of Famer Joe Cronin as “fine a man who ever wore a spike shoe.” He also played a pretty darn good second base for the Boston Red Sox for 14 years (1937-44, 1946-51). Doerr’s best hitting year was 1944, when he batted .325 and led the AL in slugging with a percentage of .528.

Monte Irvin Age 96 HOF, 1973

Monte Irvin
Age 96
HOF, 1973

Monte Irvin, 96 years (DOB: February 25, 1919) is right behind Doerr as the second oldest. As a primarily left fielder, this current Houston resident of several years played all but one of his eight big league seasons with the New York Giants before a last season with the Chicago Cubs topped things off (1949-56). Monte’s big league career had been shortened by the old racial color line and he spent most of east productive early years as one of the most feared hitters in the Negro League. In fact, he came very close to playing the role that Jackie Robinson then so ably filled in breaking the color line with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

Monte Irvin didn’t believe in leaving those ducks on the pond. In 1951, he batted .312  with 24 HR for the Giants while also leading the NL in RBI with 121.  He also batted .329 with 97 RBI in 1953.

Irvin is beloved today as one of baseball’s great ambassadors and one of the nicest gentlemen you could ever hope to meet. I still highly value the day he rode with me to a SABR meeting in Houston back in 2010. I was totally smitten by his generous sharing of great baseball stories, but I was mindful also to do the best job of driving possible as we talked and navigated the freeways of Houston. After all, I was transporting a national treasure. – Thanks for that special day memory, Monte Irvin!

Red Schoendienst Age 92 HOF 1989

Red Schoendienst
Age 92
HOF 1989

Red Schoendienst, 92 years (DOB: February 2, 1923) 2nd Baseman Red Schoendienst is one of those nice guys who should have been a career St. Louis Cardinal, but he wasn’t able to escape the needs of Cardinal General Manager “Trader Frank” Lane to trade players the way some people need to rearrange the home furniture on a frequent basis. As a result, one of the greatest, nicest infielders of all time, and a tenacious guy who would still beat the hell out of you, if you were on the other side, got shuttled away during his 12th season as a Cardinal for a brief stay with the New York Giants in 1956 before being traded away again to the Milwaukee Braves in 1957 and a four-year run (1957-60) with a serious contender and champion. Red then returned to the Cardinals for limited service over three seasons (1961-63) to complete his 19-season (1945-63) total MLB career. He also did well in a couple of terms as Cardinals manager and he remains active in his support of the Cards and the City of St. Louis. – Keep it going, Red!

Yogi Berra Age 90 HOF 1972

Yogi Berra
Age 90
HOF 1972

Yogi Berra, 90 years (DOB: May 15, 1925) Like Craig Biggio of the Astros, Yogi Berra, of course, was a a pure-blood career member of the New York Yankees, even though he was always a native St. Louisan that Cardinals misjudged as a potential MLB talent. *  Rumor was that Frank Lane also tried to trade Stan Musial to the Yankees for Yogi Berra at one point, but that the Busch ownership put quash of sanity on that deal before the trigger could be pulled. What a bloated error that would have been – and what a blight that would have been upon the “Baseball Spirit of St. Louis.”

My favorite Yogi story is still the one about the time he attended a day lunch function sponsored by Mayor Wagner of New York, wearing a spring-colored line suit and bright accent tie. Mrs. Wagner greeted Berra with much approval for his choice of dress. “Good Morning, Yogi,” the mayor’s wife exclaimed. “You really look cool today!”

“Thank you, Madam Mrs. Mayor,” Yogi responded. “You don’t look so hot yourself!”

* Footnote Correction: See how easy it is to make an “E” in the reporting of baseball history. As Jim Stokes points out in his comment on this column, he and I were both wrong about Yogi Berra being a Yankee one-team career lifer, even though I do think we both did know somewhere in the murky files of memory that Yogi spoiled that pedigree for all time when, as manager of the 1965 New York Mets, he went 2 for 9 in 4 games as a hitter for his club and spoiled the purity of his previously secured all-Yankee career. – Way to go, Yogi!


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