added 6/20/2010 by Darrell Pittman
After a year-long hiatus, the Houston Sports Museum re-opened today.
When Sammy Finger purchased the property of old Buff Stadium at auction in 1961, after it had been devastated by Hurricane Carla, he built his massive furniture store on top of the ballpark, next to what is now the Gulf Freeway. He set aside space in the basement to mark the location of home plate, and a museum gradually formed around it with Houston sports trinkets he acquired over the decades.
After Sammy passed on, his son and his grandson not only kept it up, but added to it.
The Museum now stands on the grounds of that ballpark. The original home plate is marked on the floor. Where first base once was is now bedroom sets. Hit a liner down the third base line, you'd crack an HDTV screen. A homer to the power alley would land in living room ensembles.
The artifacts the Museum houses are legion, but I'll name a few: A baseball signed by Babe Ruth, a game-worn, autographed Nolan Ryan jersey, Dizzy Dean's cleats, Roger Clemens' syringe... The list goes on and on.
Seriously though, the new Museum is nicely done. Wood flooring replaces the old concrete they had down there, and they dusted off the old exhibits. There's supposed to be an A/V center with a film of the Buff Stadium days, but I saw no evidence of it.
Many stars of Houston's baseball past, and one of its future, were in attendance today signing autographs. Together, they represented the Houston Buffs, Colt .45s, and Astros:
It harkened back to the days when the old Interurban ran along the route that is now the Gulf Freeway, and first let off a load of fans on St. Bernard Street (now Cullen Boulevard) for an afternoon of baseball at then-new Buff Stadium (1928); when up-and-comers like Dizzy Dean and Ducky Medwick walked our streets and called Houston home; when you could actually walk our streets; when the Houston Buffs were almost perennial contenders for the Texas League pennant, and were frequent winners of the Dixie Series (1957 was the last time); when an expanding Houston braved the mosquitoes and heat of Colt Stadium (1962); when the can-do spirit of a brash lumber, cotton, oil, and railroad town built the world's first domed stadium (1965), then turned its eyes toward the heavens and put a man on the Moon; and when we finally reached back for our long-forgotten, rich baseball legacy at old Union Station (2000), near where we started out, close by the shores of lazy Buffalo Bayou.
No one can argue that today's Astros are living up to either our expectations or our rich baseball heritage, but few know that there's a history of Houston professional baseball that goes back long before the Astros, before the Colt .45s, back to 1888.
If you're interested in learning about it, you can start your journey here.
Many thanks to Dr. Bill McCurdy, the dean of Houston baseball fans, for fact-checking this article, and providing important corrections.
Darrell Pittman is Curmudgeon-at-Large at Astros Daily. If you spot him, call the authorities but do not attempt to apprehend him yourself, as he is considered armed and clueless.