For Friday the 13th: Five of the Unluckiest Texans Ever
Beginning with LaSalle, the French explorer who survived shipwrecks and cannibal Karankawa Indian attacks only to perish at the hands of his own men near Navasota, some people in Texas have had some pretty damned hard luck.
You might lay some or all of the blame at their feet. Greed played a part for some, and maybe simple ineptitude played more of a role for others, but all have been bit by the proverbial snake to some degree.
And without further ado, away we go down the road of broken dreams...
5. Enron investors: It seemed like such a sure thing. Fawning coverage in the media, both locally and nationally, made the Crooked E seem invincible, even after CEO Jeff Skilling abruptly resigned "to spend more time with his family."
In November of 2001, many Wall Street analysts still called Enron, then the nation's seventh-strongest corporation, a strong buy, mere weeks before its downfall. Almost 14,000 of the company's employees were in the company 401k plan, 60 percent of which was composed of Enron stock. And then, over the course of a few white-knuckle days at the end of 2001, thousands of investors saw their paper fortunes curl at the edges, brown, burst into flames and go up in smoke.
Glenn McCarthy, before the fall
If you had $500,000 worth of Enron stock in mid-2001, it was worth less than $5,000 by January of the next year. And then you found out how the top company brass had been dumping their stock for months leading up to the downfall that took the world by surprise. Meanwhile, at the same time of precipitous decline, the company's bosses had strapped the 401k plan to their underlings like a suicide-bomb vest. The Enron of Good Feelings was no more.
4. Glenn McCarthy: The hard-drinking, two-fisted Beaumont-born Irishman hit it rich in the oil patch, built the Shamrock Hotel, hosted what is still probably Houston's most glamorous party to open it, and then went bust. But not before he inspired James Dean's Jett Rink in Giant. "The King of the Wildcatters" faded from the headlines in the early 1960s and lived out his days in LaPorte, surviving just long enough to see the Shamrock, his most prominent legacy, demolished in 1988.
3. Every Astros hitter before the move downtown, every Astros pitcher since: Bill James, king of the sabermetricians and now an executive with the Boston Red Sox, once likened baseball in the Astrodome to that of the dead ball era, and the cavernous old Dome swallowed many a batter's career.
Just look at what guys like Rusty Staub, Joe Morgan and even Jimmy Wynn, who led the league in RBIs in his late 30s, did after abandoning its air-conditioned, tomb-like embrace. Cesar Cedeno might well have built Hall of Fame stats had he played somewhere like Wrigley Field; instead, he's gone into the record books as a mild disappointment and a head case.
On the other hand, certain mediocre pitchers thrived there, and then saw their careers implode on moving to cozy Enron Field. Case in point: Jose Lima. While the salsa-loving Dominican did salvage a respectable career with other teams after the move to Enron, it took his confidence years to recover from some of the shellackings he suffered there in April and May of the 'Stros' first season downtown.
2. Bud Adams: Hate him or, well, hate him, but few owners with as long a track record as old Bud have been half as snake-bit, and we're not talking Kenny Stabler either. There was the Mike Renfro bobble, the Buffalo meltdown, and his inability to convince the city to replace what was, in retrospect, a stadium that needed replacing. And the hits kept coming after he took his team to Tennessee, where the renamed Titans suffered defeat in the most agonizingly close Super Bowl ever.
1. Guy V. Lewis: Lewis helped integrate big-time college sports in the Old South through recruiting guys like Don Chaney and Elvin Hayes. He helped popularize and legitimize the dunk as a high-percentage shot, rather than a cheap act of showmanship, as it was once perceived. His Hayes-led Cougars beat Lew Alcindor's heavily favored UCLA squad in the Astrodome in the first nationally televised NCAA basketball game, one that is still called "the Game of the Century." And he took his teams to five Final Fours and failed to win a single one. Among the losses was the most agonizing, punch-in-the-gut defeat in Houston (and all of American) sports history, when his vastly superior Phi Slama Jama dynasty...well, we won't even type the rest. Perhaps that explains why he is not in the Basketball Hall of Fame, but it shouldn't. Guy V should be in there.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.