1961: Major Award at 1st Houston MLB Dinner

Dickie Kerr Won the 1st Tris Speaker Award at the 1st Houston MLB Dinner, Jan. 10, 1961.

The smiling face in the photo is Tris Speaker. Dickie Kerr Won the 1st Tris Speaker Award at the 1st Houston MLB Dinner on Jan. 10, 1961.

As we reported yesterday, the first annual Houston Winter Baseball Dinner, indeed, was held on January 10, 1961. We have since been able to locate a story on the principal award that took place at that initial first MLB banquet in our town. Here it is:

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JOPLIN NEWS HERALD, WEDNESDAY. JANUARY 11, 1961, Section B, Page 10.

Tris Speaker Award Goes to Dickie Kerr

By Max B. Skelton

Houston, Tx. (AP) – Dickie Kerr, the honest winner of baseball’s most embarrassing World Series, is the first winner of the annual Tris Speaker award.

Dickie Kerr

Dickie Kerr

 Kerr, who pitched two victories against Cincinnati in the 1919 Black Sox World Series that some of his Chicago White Sox teammates said they tried to throw, got the award Tuesday Night as (NL) President Warren Giles and several National League managers welcomed Houston into the National League at the city’s first major league dinner.

Kerr was chosen for his contributions to baseball. One of them was seated at the head table – a onetime Class D pitcher named Stan Musial whom Kerr converted into one of the great hitters of all time.

Kerr was near tears as he faced the crowd of nearly a thousand at the banquet after he learned he won the award.

“I can hardly speak,” he said. “But I’m so happy that in 1962 we in Houston won’t have to look at television to see major league baseball.”

Kerr is now a construction office manager in Houston – a city that has a franchise for major league play in 1962.

“In baseball’s darkest hour, this man stood as a symbol of shining light,” said Clark Nealon, sports  editor of the Houston Post when he gave the award to Kerr.

Nealon, who presented the award to Kerr in behalf of the Houston Chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America, said Kerr has always refused to discuss the 1919 scandal.

“Dickie Kerr is not eligible for the Hall of Fame, but he is a man who belongs in any baseball Hall of Fame,” Nealon said.

Speaker, the first Texan to enter the baseball Hall of Fame, had a lifetime batting average of .344 after a 22-year career in the American League.

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