Most long-time collectors will tell you that it is amazing where great sports memorabilia may still be found. Unless a person is seeking only the latest hot rookie or trying to score a deal on unopened material that is skyrocketing in price, it seems there is no shortage of finds at antique malls, flea markets, garage sales, thrift stores, and so on. Sure, many people mistakenly believe any baseball card must have inherent value and want to charge ridiculously for the cardboard treasures, but memorabilia still often is found as a hidden gem just waiting to be discovered.
Escaping the heat and humidity during a particularly sunny afternoon in the Chicago area, the friends we were visiting and my wife and I decided to enjoy the air conditioning in a local antique establishment. When in group such as this I try not to dominate what is going on by focusing only on baseball, and so I was content in just following along and making my friend laugh with off the cuff observations regarding some of the items on sale (women’s fashions from the past are an easy target). The time was relaxed, and I wasn’t concentrating on looking for anything at all.
Then, in the midst of a display of estate jewelry my wife spotted the small corner of a publication that had a ball player’s head showing. After getting some help and pulling the document out of the case, it was discovered that the man in question was Johnny Keane, a baseball “lifer” of yesteryear, and one-time manager of the St. Louis Cardinals (including their World Series Championship year of 1964). That, in itself, was a pretty neat find as we now reside in Cardinals’ country, and it was made even more interesting by discovering that the publication was a scorecard program from the 1947 Houston Buffaloes.
Not only that, but the scorecard on which the picture was found was one of five that were stacked behind the blingy estate pieces. Indeed, other than the 1947 piece already mentioned, the other four scorecards were all from the 1930s. One was an earlier piece from the Houston team, one was from the Sacramento Senators, there was a card from the 1937 Rochester Red Wings, and we were particularly intrigued to find a 1935 bi-lingual (French and English) program from the Montreal Royals. After some negotiating, the trove of scorecards became the property of MLB Memories.
Time has not allowed us to fully research all the scorecards as of yet, but we wanted to start with the piece that started our interest. Especially due to its Cardinals’ connection, that one got us going.
Although no date was printed on the cover of the “Official Score Card,” it was easy to discover the year of the program as the entire 1947 Schedule for the Houston Buffaloes was printed on the second page. There were 8 teams in the Texas League that season, and all but one of the teams had a Major League affiliation. The teams on the schedule were made up of these:
- Beaumont Exporters (Yankees)
- Dallas Rebels (Detroit)
- Fort Worth Cats (Brooklyn)
- Houston Buffaloes (St. Louis Cardinals)
- Oklahoma City Indians (Cleveland)
- San Antonio Missions (St. Louis Browns)
- Shreveport Sports
- Tulsa Oilers (Chicago Cubs)
But it was what was on the following pages that made this piece particularly interesting.
It was the normal practice for clubs on most professional levels to print the lineups on the scorecards that were sold at the stadiums. Teams were fairly set, and changes could always be made by writing on the scorecard (that was what they were for, right?). At the least, the teams playing that day would have their rosters printed inside the scorecard, and they usually included uniform numbers and positions. Scorecards at Major League ball parks followed this at least through the 1980s on a regular basis. And some still practice this for the score-keeping patrons.
When we were going through this well-kept 1947 scorecard of the Buffaloes we noted that the home team did not have their lineup printed out, but only the roster. That was a bit different, but we did not really think anything of it until we saw the visitor’s score page. None of the Texas League teams were listed there, but it did contain the name and roster of the Boston Red Sox. The names were well-known as the team of the defending American League Champions from the prior season, and many are still well-known…guys like Doerr, Cronin, Pesky, DiMaggio (Dom), Parnell, Goodman, and of course, Ted Williams. The Red Sox had just met the Buffaloes’ parent club, the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1946 World Series six months earlier.
Obviously this was not a “normal” regular season minor league score card. So, more research and digging were justified.
It was common practice several decades ago for the eight teams in each league to work their way “north” after Spring Training by going on mini-barnstorming trips. Such exhibition games against minor league teams, and even some colleges, would build local interest in the game, and also help fill the coffers of both teams involved. Our find was shaping up as a score card from one of these wonderful, historical events, and sure enough, that is what we found.
In the year of 1947, on March 31, two full weeks before the Red Sox would have their official Opening Day on April 15, an exhibition game was played between the Houston Buffaloes and Boston Red Sox at Buffalo Stadium of Houston, built in 1928. Apparently we found a program from that game.
The game itself was not anything amazing or significant in the annals of baseball history, but it did have its moments. Tex Hughson, who had been a 20-game winner for Boston the season before, pitched this game. It shows the ways in which handling pitchers has evolved when you find that Hughson went the distance that day as he struck out 10 of the Buffaloes. And even though he gave up 7 hits and 2 runs, he won the game 4-2. It is hard to imagine any club letting one of their starters go nine full innings two weeks prior to Opening Day in an exhibition game today, but it happened then.
As of yet we have not found a full box score for the game. However, The Sporting News of April 9, 1947 records that “The Red Sox counted all of their runs in the second inning on an error, four walks and a double by Johnny Pesky. Ted Williams belted a triple in the third frame, but was stranded.”
In that same issue of the one-time “bible of baseball,” a rather humorous situation from the game was also reported. Regarding the events of that day the following incident was related:
“Hit on the arm by a bat that slipped from the hands of Dom DiMaggio of the Red Sox in a game with the Texas League Buffs at Houston, March 31, H.F. Bruno received the stick as a souvenir. The Red Sox trainer went to the box, in which the fan was seated, to get the bat, but the spectators set up such a howl that Dom sent it back.”
The guy on the cover who first got our attention, Johnny Keane, would lead the 1947 Houston Buffaloes, to both the Texas League pennant and the Dixie Series championship. In another 17 years he would head the 1964 St. Louis Cardinals as they would take the World Series from the New York Yankees. But on the last day of March in that year of ’47, he would get a taste of managing against a big league club, and we found a score card to document it.