Astros, Sox linked despite droughts
Teams share history even with nearly 90 years of setbacks
HOUSTON -- On the day Major League Baseball arrived in the Great Southwest, on April 10, 1962, in that deathless moment before the first pitch is thrown, Paul Richards made a light-hearted request.
"Boys," he said, standing in the center of the press box, "someday, when they're raising the flag in center field and Houston is playing in the World Series, I hope someone will think to offer 60 seconds of silence for ol' Richards."
The team then known as the Colt .45s went on to win the first big league game it ever played, over the Cubs, the other Chicago team. That touching plea was Paul's way of letting us know that his was a thankless job, building an expansion team, one that could be started but not finished by the same general manager. Expansion teams are like that.
It was a touching line. We had reason to recall it a few years later when the Baltimore Orioles appeared in the World Series. After the opening game, a Baltimore writer sidled up and said, "Tell Paul we gave him his 60 seconds."
Seems he used the same line in Baltimore, when he started his previous construction job.
In all of Houston's history, no one brought a greater variety of experience to the franchise. Richards had been an ambidextrous pitcher in his early years, a big league catcher who caught Hal Newhouser in the Game 7 of the 1945 World Series, against the Cubs, and twice doubled with the bases loaded. As a player-manager in Waxahachie, Texas, his hometown, Paul also owned an interest in the local paper and would climb to the press box in his spikes and write the game story -- every manager's dream.
The paper had what Paul called the greatest masthead slogan in publishing annals: "We are against the locust and for an early spring."
There is no record of anyone remembering to honor Richards' wish this week, when the Astros ended 44 years of frustration. Paul had managed the team on the South Side of Chicago in the mid '50s, the start of the Go-Go Sox era, and he returned to the scene in 1975, teaming up with his fellow maverick, Bill Veeck.
Richards remains today one of three colorful links between the Houston franchise and the White Sox, who this week returned to the Fall Classic after an absence of 46 years. This means that the two teams shared a total of 90 years of nothingness.
The oldest connection dates back to that infamous year, 1919, when a native Houstonian, Wee Dickie Kerr, won two games for a team that was trying to lose. The 5-foot-7 left-hander towered above his inches as the forgotten hero of the Black Sox scandal.
Kerr later managed a Class D club in Daytona Beach, Fla., and resisted when the parent team, the Cardinals, wanted to cut a sore-armed pitcher. Kerr insisted the lad could hit and persuaded the big bosses to let him convert him into an outfielder. He did, and the player he salvaged eventually made it to the Hall of Fame. His name was, and still is, Stan Musial.
Finally, there was little Nellie Fox, a Richards favorite, who finished his career in Houston and groomed his own successor at second base, Joe Morgan. In a neat twist of irony, Morgan made it to Cooperstown before Fox.
So, as the 2005 World Series moves to Houston, it can be said that while they may not be pals, the Astros and the White Sox are not exactly strangers.
Mickey Herskowitz is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.