The Texas Trailblazer Award Luncheon VIP reception in the Anatole’s Carpenter Ballroom was filled with those who love baseball and hate abuse. While featured speaker Joe Torre stood his ground with a big smile posing for photos with guests, others had a cup of coffee and a chat to catch up before the luncheon benefiting The Family Place. One of the big topics was Saturday September 27.
Pegasus Ball Honorary Chair Yvonne Crum was talking about the Autism Treatment Centers of Texas fundraiser taking place at the Fairmont, while Mission Ole Co-Chair LeeAnne Locken was promoting the Trinity River Mission funder that will be underway at the same time at One Arts Plaza…Carolyn Tillery, who departed Beverly Drive before it departed newsstands, has been busy writing a book. She was a happy camper about some recent news and has already started working on her second one…WFAA’s Dale Hansen briefly appeared and quickly disappeared…On the other hand, Annette Simmons and Amy Simmons stayed for the entire reception with Joe Crafton…Foodies Bo Pilgrim and Connie Yates were catching up.
At 11:25 the reception broke up and the herd of guests headed to the Imperial Ballroom on the third level. For many it was their first time to venture into the former Khmer Ballroom that had spent the summer getting a new look. Like a socialite with a recent “well-done refreshening,” the difference was pleasantly noticeable. First thing was the smell of new in the air. It was as if the carpenters, painters and other craftsmen had just left the place. The hallway leading to the ballroom was a bit on the dramatic side with new carpeting and lighting that spotlighted the art along the way. The reception area and ballroom were basically the same space, but the new paint, carpeting and lighting had turned the old girl into a more polished lady.
In the back of the room near the production platform, emcee Gloria Campos was being fitted with her mic. Her hair is a bit longer and she’s loving “retirement.” Her version of retiring is another person’s idea of a second career.
As she headed to her place up front, the nearly 1,000 guests kept arriving. Michal Powell on crutches arrived with Aileen Pratt…Mary Brinegar was keeping her fingers crossed that the weather would hold out for the Rory Meyer’s First Anniversary dinner scheduled the following Sunday…At front row tables were Kelli Ford, Sydney Huffines, Lana and Barry Andrews and Sharon McCutchin…Co-Chairs Stephanie and Travis Hollman, Carol Seay and Stephanie Seay were receiving congratulations for the record-busting luncheon.
At 11:42, the Booker T. Washington Jazz Combo 1 played “Proud To Be An American” with the female singer not quite sounding like Lee Greenwood. Hey, it’s not an easy song to sing, but the meaning is easy to understand. You just try singing it in front of 900 strangers.
Almost immediately the program was underway with Gloria welcoming the group. She also accidentally described Dale as “a domestic violence advocate.” Hey, it’s easy to do. No, he doesn’t advocate domestic violence, but “an advocate against domestic violence” sounds pretty convoluted. Anyhow, everybody in the room understood what she meant and many got a chuckle out of it.
Before he led the group in the invocation, Fellowship Pastor Gary Brandenburg reminded the guests that the late Harold Simmons, who was being honored at the luncheon, always ended his prayers by saying “…and, Lord, let us never forget how very blessed we are.”
Lunch was served with the menu “inspired by Harold.” Later Dale Hansen would tell the group how he got into it with his table’s server — “I’m gonna need another plate.” But she wouldn’t give it to him. So, he confessed, “I’ll look for a McDonald’s on the way out.”
As a surprise, The Family Place’s Paige Flink announced the presentation of a video on Harold would be shown. The touching tribute with scenes from his childhood, with family and even walking with his dogs emphasized Harold’s being “loyal, faithful and loving.”
Following the video, Paige revealed another surprise. The Family Place’s child development center at its Safe Campus was being renamed the Harold C. Simmons Child Development Center.
She also acknowledged those present who had been instrumental in helping combat family violence, including the late Dr. Ron Anderson, whose memorial service would take place later in the day.
Then baseball-loving Gloria introduced Joe, reminding the group that he had just been inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Then she attempted to introduce Dale by calling him “the other big white guy in my life” in reference to the first one, her husband. But before she could finish with Dale’s intro, he walked on stage, grabbed her by the shoulders and said, “Okay, that’s all.”
Dale being Dale described Mayor Mike Rawlings and his domestic violence initiatives: “I think Mayor Rawlings is one helluva visionary and one helluva mayor of Dallas. I can’t say that, though!”
He then reeled out the ugly statistics compiled by the Dallas Police Department on the number of domestic violence calls received each year — 13K! Looking out at the audience, Dale stated: “Real men, gentlemen, don’t hit women.”
Then the conversation between the sports anchor and the baseball legend commenced. It surprised a couple or three folks, who had thought it would cover Joe’s career, as well as his childhood in a family in which his father abused his mother.
Instead the focus stayed pretty straight on domestic violence and on Joe’s taking up the cause against it. Dale told how Joe had been instrumental in getting the Violence Against Women Act passed in 1994, and established the Safe at Home Foundation.
It all stemmed from his childhood. Joe was the youngest of five children. “My dad was a bully. He made his wife feel inferior.” His father threw his mother down the stairs when he discovered she was pregnant with Joe.
“I was a nervous kid” growing up, with a lack of confidence, because of his father’s violence, Joe said. When Joe saw his father’s car parked at home, Joe went elsewhere. Dale and Joe agreed that the “impact on children has been lost in conversation about domestic violence.”
Joe said, “If you save one child, that’s worth the effort.”
Joe said one of the biggest problems in the crusade against domestic abuse is lack of “awareness.” While the problem needs to be brought to the forefront, he also felt half the stories one sees in the media aren’t true, because of pressures of the Internet. Anybody can make accusations about anything, Joe said. They need to be thoroughly checked out.
When the subject of the recent NFL issues with domestic violence was brought up, Joe said, “We can all do more. Mixed message: go be violent on the field on Sunday, and then go on a date.”
But it wasn’t all domestic violence. Touching on baseball, Joe admitted, “I became smarter when I had better players.” He recalled being fired by three teams. Regarding his work with New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, he related advice provided by friend Joe Garagiola: “You take somebody’s money, you gotta take their crap, too.”
About the Texas Rangers, Joe said, “They can’t come any closer [to a world championship] than they did.” Just before Game 7 of the 2011 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, Joe told Ron Washington, “I’m pulling for you, because I pull for good people.” Joe then added, “Ron seemed to care about the players.”
And, of course, humor found its way into the discussion when Joe reported that male brains don’t fully develop until they’re 25. Dale followed up with, “Or 66.”