LOCAL Houston | The City Guide March 2017 - Page 63

FOOD | ARTS | COMMUNITY | STYLE+LEISURE Named for Buffalo Bayou, the Houston Buffaloes enjoyed great success during their inaugural season in 1896 THE STORY OF HOUSTON HOUSTON BUFFALOES By Margaret Oberlechner Images courtesy of Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries The Houston Buffaloes (1896–1961) were an early minor league baseball team in the Texas League. Named for Buffalo Bayou, the Houston Buffaloes enjoyed great success during their inaugural season in 1896, winning the championship. In 1909 the Buffaloes took the pennant again, and in 1910 they shared a co-pennant win with Dallas. In 1912 and 1913 the Buffaloes won their first back-to-back titles. World War I took many men away from the game in 1917 and 1918, but the team continued. The 1920s ushered in a new era in baseball history. Before the 1920s, league rules prohibited a major league team from having a controlling interest in a minor league team to prevent the establishment of “farming” teams. Early in the decade, however, a blind eye was turned upon this rule, and the Buffs, as they were lovingly known, became the first minor league team to be affiliated with a major league team—the St. Louis Cardinals. Over the course of the team’s long history, the Buffaloes played at several ballparks, beginning at Houston Baseball Park on Travis Street. The 1904 sale of the park caused the Buffs to move to a new venue, West End Park. Buffalo Stadium, the next new home of the Buffs, was built in 1928 near the current intersection of the Gulf Freeway and Cullen Boulevard and sat more than 12,000 people—triple that of West End Park. The stadium was designed so that the batter would face east toward a huge expanse of field. The pitcher had the wind at his back, and the stadium quickly became known as a “pitcher’s park.” Lights were added to the stadium in 1930, and after 1946 air-conditioning was added to the ladies restrooms to provide more comfort to female baseball fans coming out to a summer game. AUGUST BUSCH, the St. Louis Cardinals owner, changed the name of Buffalo Stadium to Busch Stadium in 1952 and relocated the fences in 20 feet in an attempt to make the game more equally advantageous for the batter as it had been for the pitcher at Buff Stadium—which fans still called it in spite of its new name. Reprinted from the Texas State Historical Association’s Handbook of Houston, a project in cooperation with the Houston History Alliance. For more information, visit www.HoustonHistoryAlliance.org. In 1961, the team’s final year of operation, the Buffs were purchased by the Houston Sports Association in order to gain the right for Houston to have its own major league team, the Colt .45s who would become the Houston Astros. Busch Stadium was purchased in 1963 by SAMMY FINGER, owner of Finger’s Furniture. For a time the furniture store stood on the site and housed a small museum, which showcased the old Buff Stadium home plate along with other memorabilia. The store closed in 2013, and the property was sold in 2014 to a Houston developer, FRANK LIU. march 17 | LOCAL 63