Thanks to Mike Acosta, Authentication Manager of the Houston Astros, The Pecan Park Eagle is now in possession of a photo and story from August 20, 1966 that makes this primary source column possible about how the Dickie Kerr statue came to be – and how it reached dedication on August 20, 1966 at the Astrodome. The event was supported by a brief All Star Game between the MLB “Stars of the Forties versus the “Houston Old Timers.”
Regardless of their team assignments, the list of participants in the Old Timers’ Game included Stan Musial, Dizzy Dean, Carl Hubbell. Bob Feller, Allie Reynolds, Johnny Mize, Ernie Lombardi, Eddie Joost, Terry Moore, Howie Pollet, Enos Slaughter, Red Munger, Joff Cross, Gus Mancuso, Frank Mancuso, Johnny Keane, Harry Gumbert, Red Murff, Johnny Keane, Hal Epps, Nellie Fox, Mike Higgins, Monty Stratton, Stan Hack, John Berly, Johnny Rizzo, Dingle Croucher, Pidge Browne, Larry Miggins, Jerry Witte, Grady Hatton, Johnny Temple, and Hal Smith. Frankie Frisch and Joe Medwick may also have been there, but the article is written in a way that allows some doubt about the attendance and participation of a few names – and it presents an equally unclear picture (to The Eagle, at least) in some cases about which players played for which team in the Old Timers’ Game. In the end of things, it didn’t matter. All these stars came to Houston that day to honor Dickie Kerr and to celebrate the history of the game of baseball.That mattered.
Wow! What a lineup any manager could form from a roster of these guys in their hay-days! And what a big Saturday Dome Date that must have been! 40,765 fans showed up to watch the dedication of the Kerr statue, the Old Timers’ Game, and the losing 1966 Astros as they defeated the Cincinnati Reds, 5-2, behind the complete game pitching of lefty Mike Cuellar. Unfortunately, I didn’t know much about this big day beyond some vague hearsay memory until now because it occurred shortly before my return to Houston from graduate studies elsewhere – and at a time in my life in which my head was pretty much buried in an academic haze of other commitments by my attention span.
If you received our normal column notice, you also received an attachment copy of the “Old Timers’ Day” story about the Old Timers Game and the Dickie Kerr statue dedication. You will have to print it out in 8X10 to read it easily. If you did not receive the attachment, just e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send it to you. The more this piece gets out there, the greater its chances for survival to the research needs of others in the future (with some caveats – as described below under NOTES.)
For the record, here’s how “Old Timers’ Day” described the Dickie Kerr Statue Dedication:
DICKIE KERR STATUE MEMORIALIZED TONIGHT
Wee Dickie Kerr, the little man who stood so tall in baseball’s most difficult hour, will be memorialized tonight.
A life-size statue of Kerr has been sculptured and will be unveiled and dedicated tonight by Stan Musial, Dick Peebles, Clark Nealon, Bob Ruhle and members of the Oldtimers lineups.
Kerr became famous in 1919 when he refused bribes by gamblers during the “Black Sox Scandal” and managed to win two games in that year’s wrld series despite the fcat that the other eight players in the lineup were deliberately trying to lose the game.
Wee Dickie passed away on on May 4, 1963, at the age of 69, and Bob Ruhle, then Sports Editor of the Houston Press, with the cooperation of Clark Nealon and Dick Peebles bean a campaign to collect money for a statue to memorialize Kerr. Fans donated mre than $3,000 that was turned over to the Houston Astros, who have recently arranged for the statue to be completed.
The Musial-Kerr relationship began in in 1940 when Kerr was managing the Cardinals Daytona Beach Farm Club. Due to a shoulder injury and Kerr’s insistence, Musial switched from the pitcher’s mound to the outfield when Musial was playing for Kerr. From there Musial went forward to become one of baseball’s greatest stars. Musial has always felt a great allegiance toward Ker and (he) purchased a home for the Kerrs when Dickie and Mrs. Kerr moved to Houston.
The Kerr statue will be permanently displayed in an appropriately in an appropriate location in the Astrodome and the names of the donors will be enraved on the base of the statue.
~ Old Timers’ Day, a Publication of the Houston Sports Association, August 20, 1966.
NOTES: The 1919 Black Sox Scandal remains as the arguably most arguable subject in baseball history. The brief description of Dickie Kerr’s role glosses over factual questions about how much he may have known about any fix in motion and it also dramatizes Kerr’s role on the field with an “eight men out” that never happened as “Dickie and his fielders.”
Just to speak briefly about some of the less solid representations about the circumstances of Dickie Kerr’s virtuous role in the Black Sox Scandal, it is probable that Kerr was never offered a role in the alleged conspiracy by eight teammates to throw the 1919 World Series in exchange for money. Those eight men who were indicted for the alleged fix – and then found not guilty in a court of law – but then banned from baseball for life by Commissioner Landis in his dedication to making examples of those involved in baseball’s biggest reputaional black eye, even if it meant punishing the innocent with the guilty. also did not fill all the other positions on the field when Kerr pitched, as this report implies. Two of them, Eddie Cicotte and Lefty Williams, were pitchers. And Catcher Ray Schalk and 2nd baseman Eddie Collins were every ounce as innocent as Dickie Kerr.
Also note that most permanent commitments in baseball, as in most of life, are temporary. The Kerr statue did not even stay in place at the Astrodome through its own reign as home of the Houston Astros. At some point prior to 1999, the Dome’s last year as an MLB venue, the Kerr statue moved to the Houston Sports Museum at Finger Furniture on the Gulf Freeway. We don’t know what happened to its plaque of sponsorship names – and the Pecan Park Eagle also remains in the dark, even now, as to the identity of its sculptor.
When the Houston Sports Museum was forced to close in 2013, because the Finger store was closing, the Kerr statue was taken over for display at Constellation Field by the Sugar Land Skeeters. Any new plans are unknown at this writing, but we are hoping that the piece will someday serve as one of the featured artifacts of a true Houston Baseball Museum.