Larry Dierker Chapter meeting recap – 5/18/2020

On the evening of Monday, May 18, 2020, SABR’s Larry Dierker Chapter in Houston met via Zoom, thanks to Joe Thompson for facilitating the technology! Forty-two baseball fans gathered in front of computers, tablets, and phones to enjoy the virtual gathering.

Chair Bob Dorrill led off by reflecting on two recent losses: Bob Watson, who had a long and distinguished career in baseball and was a supportive member of our Chapter, and Stan “The Man” Curtis, a long-time member who was active until health issues prevented his attendance. Bob noted also that Art Howe, former Astros player and manager and Chapter member, has been released from the hospital and is recovering from the COVID-19 virus at home. We wish him a complete and speedy recovery.

The lead-off presentation for this month’s meeting was offered by our own beloved Deacon Jones, a baseball “lifer” with deep ties to the Houston area. Deacon shared many stories from his life and career, from youth escapades through his days playing, coaching, managing, scouting, and advising. His recollections were often humorous, but also touching as he recounted the prejudices he and other black players encountered while playing in the Southern League in the early 1960s.

One particularly poignant memory was of a very hot day in Savannah when Deacon’s wife Virginia and Don Buford’s wife Alicia chose to sit in the covered section of seats reserved for white patrons and refused to move to the unshaded seats designated for African-Americans. Some trouble was threatened and the ballpark was picketed by activists from the local NAACP chapter; the situation was resolved when the team packed up and moved to Lynchburg, Virginia.

It was there that Deacon met Mike Morris. Mike and Deacon have been close friends ever since, and Deacon had invited Mike to join us to share his memories, from being a bat-boy to being a clubhouse assistant, to service in Vietnam, and on through his other roles in the unseen work that is needed to keep a professional ball club on the field. Their recollections spurred each other down memory lane, much to everyone’s enjoyment. Each of them left us with meaningful quotes. Deacon advised us to “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.” Mike noted that “When you are young, you grip a baseball. When you are old, baseball grips you.”

Bob McCann was the evening’s second presenter. He offered an overiew of the book A Well-Paid Slave, about Curt Flood’s fight for free agency. Writer Brad Snyder, an attorney and award-winning SABR author, covered the complicated and protracted legal battles which ensued when Flood refused a transfer. Although he lost ultimately in the United States Supreme Court, Flood’s bold attack on the owner’s control of players resulted in the ability of today’s players to have a fair say in their contracts.

The final presenter was Scott Barzilla. His long-awaited Hall of Fame Index Part II is now available on Amazon both as a Kindle download and in paperback. In this survey, Scott compares those elected to the Hall with those who are not. Copies will also be available directly from Scott when we are next able to meet in person.

Tonight’s program concluded with Scott’s Trivia Quiz which focused on statistics and records related to the Astros. This closely-contested quiz was won by Mike McCroskey.

Bob Dorrill mentioned that he would like to see our chapter produce a newsletter such as the ones published by the Baltimore chapter. Tony Cavender has volunteered to lead this group, but additional volunteers are needed. Our next meeting is scheduled for June 15. Time will tell if it’s an in-person gathering or a virtual meeting via Zoom.

For those who would like to experience tonight’s presentations, the recording on Zoom is currently being edited and will be posted on YouTube shortly.

— Marsha Franty