1962: Houston’s 2nd MLB Dinner

The most recent Houston Baseball Dinner in 2012 celebrated the city's 50 years in the big leagues.

The most recent Houston Baseball Dinner in 2012 celebrated the city’s 50 years in the big leagues. Hey! – Let’s not stop the celebration there!

Why does The Pecan Park Eagle do one more consecutive story on the history of Houston’s MLB winter baseball dinners? Because it’s history, just as we stated. If it were  important enough to make headlines all over the place years ago, it ought to be sufficiently important that we remember these events even now. Otherwise, what’s the point of honoring people of the game if it’s only to build attendance at a fancy banquet? We, the baseball community, have to be capable of honoring greatness with both class and memory of the deepest contributors to the game. And, as you read the list of people who were honored at the second Houston MLB Dinner in January 1962, please note – there seems to be no shortfall of greatness among the career performer honorees.

All the more reason to ask – why was such a successful, respected, and well-supported annual event in the ongoing life of the Houston baseball community so abjectly cancelled for want of support from the Houston Astros in 2013? The only answer that resoundingly echoes is the one we’ve already suggested: the kind of stupidity that most easily flows from self-absorbed administrators who fail to understand the fans and their investment in the local baseball culture.

Now that the Houston Astros have experienced a change at the top hired administrative level, and brought baseball culture savvy Reid Ryan into the picture as club president, it’s time to right an obvious still correctable wrong and bring back the annual winter baseball dinners this coming off-season of 2014-15. If you agree, please e-mail Mr. Ryan your support for the idea at …


Please note too that the second Houston MLB dinner was held even earlier than Houston’s first big league season as the Colt .45’s – and again it drew a crowd of one thousand fans into direct contact with the club, the baseball community, and some of the greats of the game. That is not the kind of connection that a club should ever build and then throw away, regardless of whatever other circumstances outside the team’s control may have contributed to the recent poor decision to simply fall away and say nothing publicly about the dinner’s demise. The Houston club needs to take it over and make sure it happens and still listens to the voice of the fans. who thrive and multiply on he basis of this contact.


Baytown Sun, January 10, 1962, Page 13 …

Houston Baseball Fete —


By Fred Hartman

Houston (SP) –  More than a thousand Houston baseball fans honored “The Champs” Tuesday night and recognition went to the state champion Robert E. Lee Ganders as well as the immortals of the game. 

Coach Don Treuhardt and his Ganders occupied a center table and were given a rousing ovation when presented by emcee Morris Frank, who turned in another major league performance at the second annual major league baseball dinner at the Shamrock-Hilton Hotel.

Warren Spahn, Stan Musial and Mickey Mantle received awards from Houston sportswriters, and each responded to add merriment and color to the dinner.



But it remained for Lefty Gomez, the old New York Yankee, to steal the show with a great baseball talk in ultra-Gomez fashion.

President Warren Giles of the National League made his second straight appearance at the dinner, again applauding Houston for its aggressiveness in becoming a major league city. He said “the hole in the ground” that he saw at the new stadium site was the prettiest construction he’d ever seen in Houston. 



Bart Shirley, a former Corpus Christi Ray athlete who once helped beat the Ganders in a football playoff game, was extolled as baseball’s brightest rookie of 1961. Now a shortstop in the Ls Angeles Dodger organization, young Shirley was given the award by Fred Hartman of the Baytown Sun.

Baytown again showed it was ready for major league baseball with three tables of fans joining the other hundreds to usher in the 1962 hot stove season – even though the temperature hovered around the 20-degree mark outside.

Spahn, pitcher for the Milwaukee Braves, said he’s glad to hear Musial may retire after the 1962 season.

“I just want to play one year when that guy isn’t around with his big bat,” Spahn said.

“These three men (referring to Spahn, Musial and Mantle) are tops in their profession,” Giles, president of the National League said. At the appropriate time, each will have a place at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.”



Spahn got the Dickie Kerr award for being the (1961) year’s top pitcher. Musial got the Tris Speaker award for his outstanding performance over the years. The St. Louis Cardinals outfielder holds more records than any other active player.

Mantle, the New York Yankee outfielder, got the Eddie Dyer award for being baseball’s most courageous player in 1961.

Musial said earlier he plans to make the 1962 season his last.  He made no reference to that Tuesday night, but he did say he is “probably a couple of years past my prime.” *



* As you probably know, Stan Musial would not retire until after the 1963 season, missing his chance to have been a member of the 1964 Cardinals club that took a seven game World Series from the New York Yankees. Had he been there in 1964, and if the Cardinals had still won with that change in their roster, it would have been Musial’s first participation on a World Series winning club since 1946.













2 Responses to “1962: Houston’s 2nd MLB Dinner”

  1. gregclucas Says:

    Bill, here is one–of several– problems. You have absolutely NO CHANCE of getting the big names in baseball to attend a dinner these days without laying out very big bucks. Heck, it is like pulling teeth to get players from the home team to show up! It may be that unless teams actually sponsor, take charge and put on the event it will never appear again. Do they feel it is cost efficient? Everything is based on cost in this era. Astros are actually drawing far better attendance than the level of their play probably deserves. Would staging an off season banquet appreciably help? Those are the decisions the club would have to make. I hope they get behind the effort to bring it back, but would ticket prices have to go well beyond what they were in 2012. (And I think tix were $75 then!) There is a limit.

  2. Rick B. Says:

    The ticket in the picture shows a price of $100, so assuming that Greg is correct – and most likely he is – then the cost for such a dinner would become prohibitive for most fans (except the wealthy and the diehard willing to make a financial sacrifice).

    It just makes me lament, once again, how money has ruined our national pastime, at least at the major league level. Once upon a time only the true stars of the game could make a living by playing ball alone. I remember reading how superstitious Roberto Clemente was and that it bothered him that his teammate Richie Hebner was a gravedigger in the offseason. The Texas Rangers had a backup catcher in the late ’70s – John Ellis – who was a bounty hunter in the offseason.

    I recall going to picture day at Three Rivers Stadium in 1982 when I lived in Pittsburgh. Fans were allowed on the field to take pictures of the players (all the players, even the stars – the picture I took of Willie Stargell that day is one of my prize possessions), to have their pictures taken with players, to get autographs, etc. I imagine that most clubs did something along those lines back then. Unfortunately, in these days when Joe Benchwarmer gets paid well over $1 million per year, players can’t be bothered to do anything for the fans (to quote Greg in his post above, “It is like pulling teeth to get players from the home team to show up [to a dinner]”).

    I have attended far more Sugar Land Skeeters and Round Rock Express games in recent years than Astros games. The reason for this is not because I’m a bandwagon Astros fan, but because I have a family of five. Minor league ball is far more affordable and the organizations do far more for families, especially children. My sons have autographs, pictures with players, they’ve been in on-field contests (no, I don’t expect that from MLB) – they get to be a part of the experience rather than watching it from afar (like we have to do if we take the whole family to Minute Maid Park).

    It’s ironic to me that – to quote Greg again – “Everything is based on cost in this era” as far as the clubs are concerned; however, they have no concern about the ever-rising cost to fans. I could go on and on about this topic, but there is no use in doing so. It’s just unfortunate that many fans – like me – have to forego attending MLB games as often as we’d like (or altogether, for some people) because the price is becoming more and more cost prohibitive. To compare, I can take my family of five to a Skeeters game and pay $78 for all of us to sit in box seats right up front where all of the action takes place. How many box seats could I get at MMP for the same amount of money? One. So here are my options: 1) Spend a small fortune and get to go to only one MLB game; 2) Spend the same amount and go to five minor league games; or 3) Since I called the initial amount a small fortune, spend far less and still get to go to two or three games instead of only one.

    I love the Astros and MLB, but – for the most part – I can only afford to follow them on TV (though not everyone has that option in Houston), on the internet, and in the newspaper.

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