Archive for December, 2013

Our Teams

If you are a ‘Stros fan like Commentary you most definitely want to forget about 2013. We lost 111 games including the last 15. The only head-to-head series we won were against the Angels and White Sox. We won on opening night and escaped a perfect game on the second night. I really can’t say that it is going to be much better at The Yard in 2014.

Name the ‘Stros player that broke up Yu Darvish’s perfecto with two outs in the bottom of the ninth back in April?

Back in August and early September we were all thinking that today we would be all hyped up and getting ready for the NFL playoffs. Some were even thinking that we would be enjoying a bye week off. Instead we’re looking for a coach, a QB, and a number one draft pick. It was a horrible season. This was not supposed to happen.

The Rockets so far appear to be playing like a playoff contender. With our luck they will make the playoffs and excite the fans then exit in the first round. Oh, the pain of being an H-Town pro sports fan these days.

The 2014 election will get in gear next week. I am thinking that the race for Harris County DA in the Dem Primary has to be the most important. We need to make sure we elect a candidate that we can support in the fall if you know what I mean. I have not seen any yard signs.

Marwin Gonzalez of course busted up the Darvish bid for perfection.

I forgot. We still don’t have a TV deal.

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On HCC Again

The Chron E-Board made a pretty good statement yesterday on an investigation over at the Houston Community College (HCC). They are following up on an article by Ericka Mellon. I am thinking that the Chron is not going to let up on this. That is a good thing. With new trustees coming in, HCC is not likely to sweep this under the rug. Here is the E-Board take:

Once again, a cloud of suspicion hangs over a trustee of the Houston Community College System.

In the past, individual members of the HCC board have been tarnished by ethical improprieties.

We had hoped those troubles were behind us as the college assumes a pivotal position in training the skilled work force that makes our regional economy hum. Now, we’re not so sure.

This time, questions are being raised about the role trustee Carroll Robinson may have played helping a personal friend try to secure a $1.4 million contract with Jacobs Project Management, a major HCC contractor. Robinson’s friend is Laolu Davies-Yemitan, whose firm is Five Woods. Five Woods’ specialty, according to its website, is real estate consulting and facilities work such as landscaping and cleaning; Jacobs was proposing that Five Woods would conduct community outreach for a $1.4 million fee. Ultimately, Five Woods was not retained (“HCC probe: Did trustee steer work to friend?,” Page A1, Dec. 22).

In last Sunday’s story, education writer Ericka Mellon reported that the proposed subcontractor drew questions from Michelle Morris, an attorney HCC retained to monitor procurement.

In a lengthy e-mail to the college Morris voiced several concerns noted by a team of HCC employees working with Jacobs on the $425 million bond issue approved by HCC voters last November. Among them:
A large dollar amount ($1.4 million) would have been carved out for Five Woods. “No one had ever heard of the company,” Morris wrote, “and Jacobs has not ever used this firm before.”

When pressed about the proposal of Five Woods, “the Jacobs representatives revealed that the Five Woods representative was ‘sent’ to them by Trustee [Carroll] Robinson,” Morris wrote.

Morris described the response to her questions about Jacobs’ selection as “a nervous one,” and added, “they outright told me that they are in a ‘precarious position’ (their words not mine).”

Under HCC board ethics rules, trustees are specifically prohibited from suggesting subcontractors to vendors. Robinson denies any involvement in the process that led Jacobs to propose hiring Five Woods and his close friend Davies-Yemitan, and told Mellon, “I don’t appreciate anybody dragging my good name through the mud.” Davies-Yemitan said he never asked Robinson to speak with Jacobs on his behalf.

We have a larger concern. Our community needs HCC to succeed, and it cannot if the conduct of Board members drags HCC’s good name through the mud.

HCC has retained the Gardere Law Firm to do an investigation. We expect the full results of that investigation will be released to the public, hopefully with statements taken under oath.For $1.4 million, taxpayers deserve a better explanation than the cursory claim that the proposed

choice was based on merit in an effort to employ minority-owned small businesses, as Jacobs has stated.

Houston has many outstanding minority-owned communications firms, some of whom Jacobs has previously used. Why was Five Woods proposed by Jacobs?

We believe investigators should ask Jacobs to detail all the minority chambers of commerce it has contacted for referrals, all the minority-owned firms interviewed and the basis for the selection of an unknown landscaping firm over all others for this work and at this price. That is the kind of data we will want to see to be convinced that “merit,” not cronyism, was involved here.

After the e-mail from attorney Morris, Carroll Robinson promptly proposed a change in HCC policy to terminate contracts with vendors if allegations of impropriety are proven true.

We believe Robinson’s idea would have merit if it were better targeted. How about this: Robinson pledging publicly to resign his own position if the investigation concludes he violated the Board’s ethics rules.

Now that’s an ethics policy.

Stay tuned for sure.

In 1972 this Hall of Fame great became the youngest player ever elected to the MLB Hall of Fame – name him?

The MLB Hall of Fame voting is underway. I am keeping my fingers crossed.

I don’t know what you can say about the Texans and their 2-14 record. Nobody saw it coming.

On “Today” this morning Meredith Viera who turned 60 today called in to wish Matt Lauer a happy birthday who turned 56 today. Jane Pauley’s twins who turned 30 today wheeled out a cake for Matt – cool.

Sandy Koufax of course at age 36 was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1972. Koufax is celebrating his 78th birthday today.

I don’t have anything from The Yard.

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And Justice for All

I got a nice holiday robo call from The Dean yesterday. He left me his phone number and address in case I needed something. Thanks, Dean! Oh yeah, I forgot, The Dean has a primary opponent.

The Chron has a front page story about the Mayor looking to move forward with a new police and municipal courthouse project all in one location. That’s probably a good thing. I have never figured out why HPD Headquarters is in a skyscraper in Downtown H-Town. The 61 Riesner site is kind of run down. The Chron does not get into where the new complex would be located. I am thinking maybe just east or north of Downtown.

Who led the MLB in stolen bases this past season?

Kuffer mentions today that developers are looking to put new apartments and maybe a grocery store and maybe a movie house on I-10 and Studemont right across from the Kroger. Great! That’s all we need – more freaking traffic congestion at an intersection with a lot of freaking congestion. I don’t see how this can be considered a good thing.

MariGirl gave me Dynamo, Texans, ‘Stros, and Rockets gear – plus a “Big Bang Theory” calendar – cool.

New Yankee Jacoby Ellbury of course had 52 stolen bases last year as a Red Sox of course.

There is absolutely nothing from The Yard today.

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Not Today

Commentary is closed today for the Christmas Holidays and will return on Friday.

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On Christmas

The Campos family gathers in Baytown on Christmas Day. We open our gifts and eat a bunch of tamales on Christmas Day. Some folks of course open their gifts on Christmas Eve. Everybody has their own traditions.

Commentary had a nice dinner last night with MariGirl. She will be starting a new political gig at the beginning of the New Year so stay tuned.

As of today, over 123 million folks live in states (plus the District of Columbia) that allow same sex marriage. That’s up from zero at the beginning of 2003. Trending! Winning!

What MLB club had the highest attendance this past season?

Former HISD Superintendent Abe Saavedra is now the interim superintendent of the South San Antonio ISD.

Yesterday Commentary went with Dr. Adriana Tamez to the HCC Board of Trustees meeting to canvass the votes. I ran into Dave Wilson and said hello.

The Dodgers of course had 3,743,527 fans attend their games.

Their still isn’t anything from The Yard and I don’t have very much else to say except Merry Christmas!

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Christmas Eve Eve

Commentary is thinking that Houston Community College (HCC) Trustee Carroll Robinson wasn’t too happy to be the lead story in yesterday’s Chron on being the subject of an HCC internal investigation. Here is how the Chron story by Ericka Mellon starts out:

Houston Community College has hired a law firm to investigate an accusation that trustee Carroll Robinson tried to steer part of a multimillion dollar construction contract to a company owned by a close friend, according to HCC records and interviews.

HCC, one of the largest community colleges in the nation, has been plagued in recent years by concerns that board members improperly meddled in contracts. The latest issue comes after the board tightened its ethics rules and voters entrusted the college last year with a $425 million bond issue for construction projects.

The company that HCC hired to oversee its bond program, Jacobs Project Management, proposed paying a little-known firm called Five Woods as a subcontractor to handle public outreach. Five Woods – owned by Robinson’s friend, Laolu Davies-Yemitan – could have earned up to $1.4 million over several years, according to Davies-Yemitan and HCC records.

But the plan drew concerns from Michelle Morris, an attorney the college had retained to monitor procurement.

Commentary is glad to see that there is an investigation. Hope it is thorough. Here is more from the Chron:

“If the behavior that was suggested occurred, it is improper behavior for a board member,” said Bruce Austin, the board’s chairman.

I am thinking Trustee Austin is still smarting over Trustee Robinson meddling in his race – ouch!

More from the Chron:

“There are a lot of people at HCC playing politics,” Robinson said, “and because I don’t play ball with them and I’m very independent and I speak my mind, some people feel that it ought to be their business to knock trustees down a peg.”

Well why don’t you name some names? Who are your foes?

And finally from the Chron:

Morris, in her email about Jacobs, also said she had heard that architects were being told which subcontractors to hire. She did not provide details such as who was making the demands. “Her memo suggests it may only be the tip of the iceberg,” said Austin.

Commentary can pretty much guess who else is involved. I am glad to see the Chron on this so stay tuned?

This MLB Hall of Fame great is in the top five category for career games played, runs scored, walks, and stolen bases. He turns 55 on Christmas Day. Name the player?

This fella sent this over to get posted on the website:

You well know his political career is OVER. So is yours; you keep getting beat time-and-time again!

He is talking about CM James Rodriguez. I don’t know and James doesn’t know what is next in terms of his politics. I do know that some folks wanted him to run in 2014 and James politely declined. I do know that James isn’t one of those that has to stay in office.

Sure I lost the council race a week or so ago but I also won an HCC race over an incumbent. Last month my client HISD Trustee Anna Eastman had a 78% vote total. My obit has been written up before and there have been those that have suggested for years that I’m washed up. Oh, well.

Here is what I don’t get. If I don’t care for someone that puts out takes, I don’t go visit their takes. I may not agree at times with folks like Kuffer or Two Cents but I respect them so I check out what they have to say.

There are a couple of folks that clearly can’t stand Commentary but they keep visiting and sending me their comments. Stop torturing yourself.

Commentary went with My Best Friend to the Texans game yesterday and saw Peyton Manning set a NFL record for most TD passes in a season – 51.

Hall of Fame great Rickey Henderson of course turns 55 on Christmas Day.

Nothing from The Yard today.

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A couple of weeks or so ago a good friend of mine sent me a poll conducted by Public Policy Polling on the H-Town Mayoral contest in 2015. I guess they sent it to me because they wanted me to put it online. The poll was conducted last month, November 20 – 21. I asked for the crosstabs but have yet to receive. I will go on and put out the horserace. Here:

Public Policy Polling

Chris Bell ……………………………………………….. 24%
C.O. Brad Bradford ………………………………….. 12%
Steve Costello…………………………………………. 4%
Adrian Garcia………………………………………….. 11%
Sue Lovell ………………………………………………. 3%
Orlando Sanchez …………………………………….. 9%
Sylvester Turner……………………………………… 15%
Someone else/Not sure ……………………………. 22%

I am sure folks have their favorites for Mayor in 2015 so if you have your own poll, come on down.

It is kind of a light day so what else am I supposed to do?

Commentary won’t be able to make the Alison and Chris Bell party tomorrow evening but I am sure they will have a lot of supporters, err, friends there.

What was Babe Ruth’s real name?

Quack, quack, quack, quacked the Duck fans. The Governor of Louisiana even complained that Miley Cyrus got a pass – huh. I am sorry Governor but twerking isn’t hating.

Let’s see! We voted on extending the light rail in November of 2003 and we are finally getting a line open just over ten years later. Go North/Red Line. I wonder if former Mayor Lee Brown is invited to the festivities tomorrow since it was put on the ballot under his watch.

Here is the last word from CEWDEM to Commentary:

Thank you for telling it like it is about James and Giovanni. How amateurish and yes,”bush league” for a reputable media outlet to try and make something out of a decades long genuine friendship. As for me, James Rodriguez has done his community, young Hispanics and himself proud with his service on City COuncil and I, for one, hope that down the line he will re-enter the fray. As for Gio, what can you say, but a genuine American success story who is himself genuine. I am proud to call both of these men my friends and I just say shame on the Chronicle, their staffer and the paid political hack who attempted to besmirch them. As for the brickbat thrown at you Mr. Campos….you have had far worse said and you are still here….just consider the source.

He said it not me.

Everybody knows that the Babe was born George Herman Ruth, Jr. of course.

I might drop by The Yard today for Christmas shopping.

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Of Course Credit

Commentary made a full disclosure earlier in the week.

Commentary is all for folks wanting to put out their takes even if some are a bit silly.

The City of H-Town payday lending issue first hit City Hall in late 2011. There was an initial draft, then another draft, then a compromise draft that was laid out in late 2012.

A months or so ago the compromise draft was snatched off of the table and a new ordinance was laid out.

It wasn’t until CM James Rodriguez missed last week’s meeting that folks jumped out of their hammocks and said what the heck.

Lisa Falkenberg of the Chron finally weighed in on the payday loan ordinance on the day of the vote and a number of folks tweeted to give her props when the measure passed at City Council. “Here she comes to save the day!”

Those twitter folks totally disregarded the two years the Mayor, her staff, and other groups put into the effort …tsk, tsk, tsk.

I like Lisa Falkenberg and I have probably given her more props than most folks that tweeted and commented yesterday.

I think yesterday’s piece would have been Ok if she had not published a passed on rumor involving CM Rodriguez and Giovanni Garibay. She could have made her point by just saying she had talked to customers and James had not.

Like I said yesterday, that’s not how James and Gio roll. What I most like about the two is the time they give mentoring young men and women that are interested in a public service or political career. I don’t think anyone out there in the business gives as much of their time. They genuinely care about bringing young folks into this business. Of course, nobody gives a tweet about that.

The “Sandy” in Sandy Koufax is short or nickname for what?

Commentary is looking for a new president of my fan club. The current president isn’t showing me any respect. Here is what he put on my website:

I just don’t think you — of all the people walking this Earth — have any business WHATSOEVER calling anybody else chickenshit. From pdiddie.

Of course, if he paid attention he would know that I didn’t call anyone chicken s__t, I called the column chicken s__t. Oh, well.

I have never watched “Duck Dynasty” and do not know what it is all about. One of the Ducks said something that has gotten him indefinitely suspended. Hey Ducks, change is in the air and unless you create your own hate network, you are not going to get aired.

Sandy stands for Sanford Koufax of course.

Here is from the ‘Stros website:

The Astros continued to fortify their Major League roster on Wednesday, acquiring first baseman/outfielder Jesus Guzman from the San Diego Padres in exchange for infielder Ryan Jackson.


“He’s a right-handed hitter and [Brett] Wallace is a left-handed hitter,” general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “They can platoon at first or one can win the job with a good spring.”


“He has a chance to have an impact,” Luhnow said. “He should get plenty of at-bats.”

Guzman played in 126 games for the Padres in 2013, collecting 17 doubles, nine home runs and 35 RBIs while batting .226.


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Chickens__t Drive-By Column

I made my full disclosure yesterday.

The Lisa Falkenberg column today on CM James Rodriguez is a chickens__t drive-by if you ask me. Falkenberg spent an hour or so in a parking lot of one of those payday lending storefronts and decided what James was all about. She has that right but she is also dead wrong.

It would have been nice if she would have spent an hour at the union hall on Freeman and asked the first responders what they thought of James’ six years of service. Maybe spend an hour on a soccer field in the East End and ask the youth soccer league leaders what they thought about James’ involvement in helping them survive budget cuts and then grow. How about spending an hour visiting with civic club leaders throughout the district. She could also spend an hour with the Dynamo to discuss how James has helped the Dynamo build positive relationships in District I. I could go on and on and provide Falkenberg with District I locales where she could spend an hour.

Falkenberg also hints that James relationship with his friend Giovanni Garibay is behind James’ position on this issue. I am proud to say that I gave James and Gio their first political gigs. I know them well and that is not how they roll. James and Gio have never been near a political scandal or ethical violation and for Falkenberg to wonder aloud about this is on the day James attends his last council meeting is BS and a disservice.

At yesterday’s city council meeting James called out local consultant/lobbyist Mustafa Tameez. A few members of the media told James that Tameez told them that James had been bought and paid for by the payday lending industry. I am going to guess that Tameez was Falkenberg’s source.

Tameez doesn’t know James, Gio, their politics, their values, and their personal relationship. For Tameez to spread those mischaracterizations about these two speaks volumes about his own values – which do not amount to much.

I really don’t know where Falkenberg or Tameez have been hanging out the last couple of years when this issue first visited City Hall. James’ position has been consistent from Day 1. He just doesn’t think it is a city service function. Just because you don’t agree that doesn’t mean James has sold out. That’s bush league on Falkenberg’s part. I really expected better.

I will say this. Tameez did his job. He put out garbage and it got picked up in a Chron column this morning. Congratulations!

Name the ‘Stro pitcher that started their first ever MLB playoff game.

Empower Texas has decided to visit Texas House District 145. They sent a mailer asking folks to call State Rep. Carol Alvarado, the Co-Chair of the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations.

The committee is holding hearings on the possible impeachment of UT Regent Wallace Hall. Empower Texas wants District 145 voters to call Alvarado and give her their two cents.

I am thinking there is more to this than one mailer. I wonder how many other committee members were targeted.

I am also thinking that other folks may be involved.

I am sure this doesn’t sit well with Megyn Kelly with Fox News. This is from an AP story:

A Houston hotel has created a half-ton dark chocolate sculpture of Santa Claus in a chair, complete with elves.

Pastry experts at the Hilton Americas in downtown Houston used dark chocolate and a special chocolate dough to fashion the exhibit, which is on display until Dec. 30.

On October 7, 1980 in Philly, Ken Forsch started Game 1 of the NLCS of course.

Nothing from The Yard today.

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Today at City Council

Full Disclosure: In the last half of 2011 and first couple of months of 2012 Cash Advance and ACE were clients of Commentary. I am on the sidelines these days.

The ‘Stros announced yesterday that reliever Matt Albers will be coming back to be part of the bullpen. Albers made his MLB pitching debut with the ‘Stros in 2006. We went 82-80. Name the ‘Stros pitcher with the most Ws in 2006?

Today Council will take up the payday lending ordinance. Personally I don’t think this should be a City of H-Town function. We need to spend our time making sure restaurant kitchens are clean, the construction of buildings are within code, Rebuild Houston is efficient and effective, our parks are clean, our drinking water is safe, and illegal trash dumpers are nabbed. It is a philosophical thing with me.

In today’s front page of the Chron that is only available to subscribers or hard copy owners there is a story about spotty enforcement of payday lending ordinances in other Texas cities. Check it out here:

If the Houston City Council passes proposed restrictions on payday and auto title lenders at its Wednesday meeting, Texas’ largest city would lag some of its peers by more than two years in
enacting rules to stop poor borrowers from getting trapped in a cycle of debt.

But, taking a lesson from Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, El Paso and several smaller cities, City Attorney David Feldman and other local officials say Houston will have a plan to enforce the ordinance up front, rather than tripping through a rollout months after the new rules become law. To varying degrees, officials in those cities accept that critique.

It’s not clear when or how council will vote; the ordinance has been the subject of intense lobbying efforts, and plots of parliamentary intrigue suggest the item could be pushed to next year.
Regardless of when or whether the rules become law, Mayor Annise Parker has acknowledged even stringently enforced city-by-city reforms will have only a modest effect given the Legislature’s failure in each of the last three sessions to pass statewide regulations.

The ordinance, which limits the size of a loan and the number of times it can be refinanced and dictates how much principal must be paid down with each installment, is meant to help borrowers like Houston’s Yvonne Norris, who got a title loan to pay for her brother’s funeral and paid almost $5,000 on the $2,100 principal.

Had the ordinance been in place, she would have been able to borrow just $263; Norris said she likely would have sought the rest of the money she needed from friends.

Norris used her rent money to pay the loan off this month, then had to get a second title loan to pay rent. She now is paying $280 a month, more than a third of her income, and fears her late brother’s car will be repossessed.

“I jumped out of the pot and got into the skillet,” Norris said. “I know I can’t pay it off. You can only do so much.”

Few court actions

Though some of the other cities’ rules have been in place for two full years, no one familiar with the issue knew of any more than a few municipal court actions among them, and say only Austin has hired an employee dedicated to enforcing the rules. The cities instead have relied chiefly on consumer complaints.

“Complaints are always going to rely on borrowers. You have to have that education component,” said Brett Merfish of nonprofit Texas Appleseed, which crafted the ordinance as a template, advocates hope, for statewide reform. “Were Houston to put in a different mechanism for enforcement, we would support that.”

Rob Norcross, a lobbyist with payday industry group Consumer Service Alliance of Texas, which has sued several of the cities over the regulations, said Dallas defended itself in court in part by arguing it wasn’t enforcing the ordinance. Businesses that are following the rules, he said, are losing customers to those that are not.

“None of the cities that have passed the Dallas ordinance are enforcing the ordinance,” Norcross said. “There are a couple of cities that have said, ‘If anybody complains, we’ll investigate the complaint.’ Nobody’s complaining if you’re violating the ordinance because it’s business as usual.”

Audits planned

Martha Hernandez, who was hired to handle enforcement of the ordinance for the city of Austin, said four complaints have been referred for prosecution in 19 months. Her staff is nearly done with an analysis showing which lenders are most likely violating the ordinance, based on the accuracy of their reports, complaints and other data. That list will guide compliance audits, she said.

“Our process, we anticipated it would be complaint-driven, but there’s just not very much demand on that. We’re constantly looking at what we can do to better inform the public about the ordinance,” Hernandez said. “The plan has always been to do audits in tandem with the complaint-based investigations.”

Dallas City Councilman Jerry Allen said more than 30 lenders were closed for violating a 2011 ordinance governing where the stores could operate, but agreed Dallas’ enforcement has been slow. The lenders’ lawsuit made the city cautious, he said, and officials paused to see if the Legislature would act.

“I wish it was quicker, but we’ve had a pretty organized approach to it. Without question, it’s now time for enforcement,” Allen said, adding audits could come in weeks. “Dallas is coming. We will find violations, it’ll be $500 a day, and we’re going to keep coming.”

San Antonio Councilman Diego Bernal said his city has hired no staff and acknowledged the first year under the new regime was quiet. However, he said, workers have begun stings, and he said there is enough public awareness that valid complaints are coming in.

“Some of the violations have been rectified: They weren’t registered and so we got them registered. Now we’re at a point where what we’re left with are bad actors that are purposefully violating the ordinance,” Bernal said. “We’re pursuing all enforcement options, one of which is full-on litigation.”

July 1 target date

Houston plans to begin enforcement on its estimated 550 such lenders July 1 to give proper time to staff up, Feldman said.

“Typically you wouldn’t expect that someone who goes in who needs the loan is going to have the wherewithal to say, ‘Wait a minute, you’re violating Houston’s city ordinance, I’m trying to extend my loan for the fifth time but you can’t let me extend my loan for the fifth time,'” Feldman said. “That’s why we’re going in with a plan to actually enforce it. It’s obviously something that requires not just manpower but skilled manpower.”

The city’s Administration & Regulatory Affairs department projects it will need to add four staff to comb through records at a rate that ensures each lender is audited at least once every three years.

The other thing is what is to prevent someone to just go outside of the City limits to get one of these loans.

There was a draft compromise on the table a year ago that the Mayor’s City Attorney drafted. Now it is off of the table. I don’t know why the Mayor snatched it off of the table. Some folks are speculating as to why. Stay tuned!

Ray Price is no longer with us. Every time Ray Price’s name is brought up I fondly remember an evening in Del Rio when I was working on a statewide campaign in the 1970s. My host Del Rio attorney Mike Gonzalez took me to a restaurant bar owned by Ray Price’s piano player Blondie Calderon. Calderon sat at his piano and played his favorite tunes for us. It was a very cool experience.

Roy O. of course won 15 games for the ‘Stros in 2006.

That’s all there is from The Yard!

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