How could such a grand annual pre-season celebration by the hard core Houston baseball community, the Annual Houston Winter Baseball Dinner, have been allowed to disappear without notice a couple of years ago? The simplest explanation unwinds from our ability to understand the workings of time’s hands on so many best laid plans in life. It began with a major push of support from the new MLB ownership of Houston baseball in the National League. It died from the apathy of new Houston club ownership in either 2011 or 2012. I’ve even now forgotten the exact year, but it just stopped, without fanfare or notice. The apathy of a new Astros club president, fortunately now departed, apparently had a lot to do with it. The man failed to understand that any need for change in the way the club was run did not include killing a major lifeline of fan support.
The moral of the story is simple for other baseball club administrative aspirants: We don’t care if you went to Harvard and earned an MBA from there, if you don’t understand how baseball fan allegiance to a baseball club works over time, get the hell away from trying to run our baseball club. Your self-absorbed ambitions are better served in politics.
On a more temperate note, here’s a story from the Baytown Sun about plans for the first Houston Baseball Banquet in 1961. Two notes are important here: (1) with all due respects to the front line efforts of Jimmy Delmar, and although although he isn’t mentioned in the article by name, former Houston Buff President Allen Russell was the behind-the-scenes other prime mover in getting the annual banquets started according to all the persons from that era that I’ve consulted about the event’s beginning; and (2) the group would quickly establish the Dickie Kerr Award as the prize they would annually give to the MLB outstanding pitcher from the previous season. From what we have been able to learn, it appears that Warren Spahn of the Braves took the first one at the second winter banquet in 1962 for his 21-13, 3.02 ERA record in 1961. It is possible that the Kerr Award may have begun in 1961, but we were unable to find an out-of-Houston resource that carried a post-banquet report on the specific awards of that evening. A check of the Houston news files from one of our brick and mortar local news repositories is needed.
Now here’s the article from back in time:
First Time for Houston –
BASEBALL DINNER SET
HOUSTON (12/20/60) – Houston’s first annual major league baseball dinner will be held.at the Shamrock-Hilton Hotel Tuesday, Jan. 10 (1961) celebrating this city’s entry into the National League in 1962, the Houston Sports Association announced Saturday.
Jimmy Delmar, one of Houston’s staunchest baseball boosters and long-time player, manager, and semi-pro baseball leader, will be general chairman of the dinner. Morris Frank, newspaper columnist and sage of East Texas, will be master of ceremonies.
Warren C. Giles, president of the National League, has formally accepted an invitation to be the principal speaker.
All seven managers of the National League have been invited to be the guests of the HSA and Danny Murtaugh, manager of the world champion Pittsburgh Pirates, was the first to wire his acceptance.
The Chicago Cubs have not yet named their manager and as soon as he is announced he will be added to te guest list.
Several other outstanding baseball players, past and present, have been invited to attend, including a member of the Pittsburgh club and one of the World Series stars.
One of the high spots of the dinner will be the establishment of an annual award to be given each winter to a baseball player or official for an outstanding contribution to the game.
George Kirksey, executive vice-president of the Houston National League club, said that the HSA hopes to make the Houston dinner one of the highlights of the Winter baseball banquet circuit each year. Most of the major league cities hold dinners during the winter with the Baseball Writers Association in each city sponsoring the affair.
“We will introduce the Houston National League front office organization to the fans at our dinner,” said Kirksey, “as well as introduce the National League president and many of the National managers and stars to the fans at the same time.”
Among the Houston National League club’s personnel which will be formally introduced to Houston fandom will be General Manager Gabe Paul; Bobby Bragan, director of player personnel and farm clubs; Tal Smith, assistant farm director; Bill Giles, administrative assistant; Paul Florence, veteran scout; Grady Hatton, minor league manager and scout; Red Murff, scout; and others.
General Chairman Delmar, who started out in baseball in 1920 as batboy for Kid Elberfield, the original “Tabasco Kid” and then manager of the Little Rock club in the Southern Association, has been closely identified with baseball in Houston for a quarter of a century.
He headed up the Pro-Amateur Baseball Federation for five years, was President of the Gulf Coast Victory League during World War II, was manager of the Grand Prize semi-pro baseball team which won many state titles and finished third in the national tournament in Wichita, Kansas in 1940, and is the past president of the Athletic Committee of the Chamber of Commerce. As a player he was a pitcher.
The dinner will be held in the Emerald Room. Tickets will be priced at $10.00. Committees and other details of the dinner will be announced later.
~ Baytown Sun, December 20, 1960, Page 9.