Monday, December 14, 2009

Baseball place No. 76: National College Baseball Hall of Fame; 76A: Museum of the Gulf Coast and the short Mets career of Chuck McElroy

Chuck McElroy’s Met career didn’t amount to too much. But at least he can say he was traded for Jesse Orosco. Not that Jesse…well, we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

The point is that McElroy’s Mets career was sadly overlooked in the display of his career at the Museum of the Gulf Coast that I saw in October in Port Arthur, Texas.

Josh Pahigian takes us to a different Texas museum, the National College Baseball Hall of Fame, as place No. 76 in his “101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out.”

Actually, the museum I went to might be bigger. The college baseball hall is an exhibit in a library at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, though Josh reports there are plans to expand into a separate building.

Lubbock is a long way from Beaumont, where I spent a week helping my mother-in-law and her sister. After dropping them off at an appointment, I was happily sent to explore the area’s many museums.

The Museum of the Gulf Coast looked pretty interesting, and Port Arthur was close enough for me to get there, make a quick tour and get back in time.

I passed what I can only assume to be the world’s largest oil refinery before arriving at a costal town that looked like it had been absolutely devastated by Hurricane Rita. In fact, the museum was one of the only buildings that appeared to be standing and open in what was a downtown area.

I got the impression that the museum doesn’t get too many visitors, largely because the person collecting admission told me far, far more than I ever wanted to know. Port Arthur in a nutshell: Indians, oil and Janis Joplin.
This is a replica of Janis Joplin's car. The original is at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

I made quick work of the Indians and the oil and proceeded straight to the famous people of Port Arthur section, which was pretty big considered the town didn’t seem all that big.

The music section had a large display for Joplin – even selling bricks from her original home in the gift shop for $25 – and the Big Bopper, who died in the plane crash with Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens.

Then I moved into the sports section. Former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson gets big treatment. Former Jets DB Gus “Hound Dog” Hollomon gets to show off one of his helmets and a jersey that looks kind of like a onesy.

Then I found the baseball players. Actually, Rangers owner Tom “I over paid for a juiced ARod” Hicks gets a bust and jerseys from the Rangers and Dallas Stars.

Then I saw Angels pitcher Ben Weber’s jersey and even Xavier Hernandez’s rainbow-sleeved Astros jersey – excellent – and Yankees cap – ick. I averted my eyes when I saw that, like I did when I saw the section about the Indians being cannibals.

But sharing the display was some of McElroy’s gear, including one of his Phillies’ jerseys.

Alas, nothing with the proud orange and blue Chuck wore for 15 games in 1999.

McElroy came over in the trade with the Rockies with Darryl Hamilton for Rigo Beltran, Brian McRae and minor-leaguer Thomas Johnson.

Hamilton was a great pick-up. McElroy pitched 13.1 innings, giving up 12 hits and 8 walks, with 5 runs for a 3.38 ERA. He didn’t have any wins or saves, but no losses, either.

About the best thing you can say about his tenure is that he was traded for Jesse Orosco. Sadly, it wasn’t the young, strapping Orosco who came from the Twins and went on to pile up 107 saves, third-most in the Mets history.

Instead, it was a 43-year-old Jesse, coming over from the Orioles. Orosco never made to a second tour with the Mets, though, traded in mid-spring training for Super Joe McEwing – who was a pretty good pickup for the Mets of 2000.

That’s stuff the fine residents of Port Arthur deserved to know.