Cover Story: Houston's Ancient Baseball History Comes Alive

For most local sports fans, baseball history begins with the Astrodome. Mention the old exploding scoreboard, beer-hawkers and their cries of "Coldest foam in the dome!" and Jose Cruuuuuuuuuuz and you're sure to bring a tear of nostalgia to many a forty- and fiftysomething.

And there are those crotchety old-timers who remember the Colt .45s and that mosquito-infested stadium where they played. Many of those people also remember the Houston Buffs and how thanks to that team's long affiliation with the St. Louis Cardinals, local baseball blood ran Cardinal red for several decades.

Only a few dedicated local baseball historians knew much about baseball here before World War II and how the site of Allen Center near the former Enron building was home for many decades to West End Park, the city's top-of-the-line baseball field. And how there was a downtown/Midtown park here before that, one whose location had been lost until earlier this year, and that a night baseball game had been played here in the 19th Century, and that Houston baseball got its start just as the Civil War was beginning, that Houston once fielded pro teams called the Mudcats, Magnolia, Lambs and even one called the Houston Babies.

Local baseball historians Mike Vance and Bill McCurdy are digging up fresh gems of local diamond lore on a daily basis (Vance spends hours in local archives, reading every local baseball newspaper article written since 1861), with some of the results ending up on McCurdy's wildly entertaining and engrossingly informative blog The Pecan Park Eagle.

And now there is a new Houston Babies baseball club, one that plays hardball by 1860s rules and in 1880s uniforms with a roster that runs the gamut of ages from 16 to 73 and occasionally includes Holstein cows in the outfield.

And the Houston Babies even let this writer have a time or two at bat. Read more in our cover story, "Houston's Babies Play Vintage Baseball."

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