Houston, Texas may be the home of the St. Louis Cardinals’ weekend opponent and NL Central Division rival, the Astros (formerly known as the Colt .45’s), but the city also has a rich heritage as one of, if not the most important minor league club in the Cardinals system.
With the trail blazed by future Hall of Fame executive Branch Rickey, the Buffaloes were a Cards affiliate from 1921 through 1958. Countless future major league stars such as Dizzy Dean (pictured in a Houston uniform), Ducky Medwick and Ken Boyer played there. As a result, many Houstonians and Texans for that matter, have a soft spot in their heart for the organization, having been long-time members of the Cardinal Nation.
As a precursor to the Major League club’s three World Series appearances (and two wins) from 1942 through 1945, the Buffs took three straight Texas League regular–season crowns in 1939, 1940 and 1941, winning 97, 105 and 103 regular-season games respectively. In 1941, future Cardinals star left-hander Howie Pollet paced the league with 151 strikeouts, a 1.16 ERA and tossed a no-hitter.
The Buffs took a total of eight league titles under the Cardinals umbrella, including four during the 1950’s – 1951, 1954, 1956 and 1957. Jerry Witte led the Texas League with 38 home runs in 1951 while Bob Mabe paced the circuit with 21 wins and 195 strikeouts in 1956.
Over the past few days, my friend, historian and Houston blogger Bill McCurdy has penned two excellent articles about the Buffs. One highlights players from his formative years, focusing on the period 1947-1953, while the other lists a broad cross-section of future major leaguers that once wore the Houston uniform. It is a very, very impressive list and both offer some great reading for Cardinals history buffs (pun intended).
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