Roger Williams, Dr. Bobby Brown presented with Distinguished Alumnus Awards
FORT WORTH, Texas -- It's almost as if the lives of Roger Williams and Dr. Bobby Brown couldn't help but become intertwined. Baseball has a way of doing that.
It also has a way of bringing people together to celebrate accomplishments. A packed house at the Grand Ballroom of the Renaissance Worthington Hotel was a great example Saturday night, as Williams and Brown were honored with the George H. W. Bush Distinguished Alumnus Award, presented by the National College Baseball Hall of Fame. It was a chance for family and friends to celebrate the lives of two extraordinary men who were bound together by baseball, but maybe even moreso outside the game.
"What a great honor, really an unbelievable honor to be able to accept this award with so many of you here," Williams said. "Congratulations to my friend Bobby. What an honor it is to share this award with Dr. Bobby Brown. He kept my daddy alive for 18 months so he could know his grandchildren. Thank you."
The Bush Award, named after the 41st president of the United States who led Yale to consecutive appearances in the College World Series in 1947-48, recognizes former college baseball managers or players who earned at least one letter and later achieved greatness off the diamond.
Williams, a fixture in Republican politics who represents Tarrant and Parker Counties in the U.S. House of Representatives and is a former Texas Secretary of State, and Brown, who aside from a 10-year stint as the president of the American League had practiced medicine in Fort Worth since 1958, both credited their time playing baseball for setting them on the path to success.
"You wonder when you hear all this stuff how your head stays the same size," Brown said. "This flattery can get to you. But I had to hit fifth behind Joe DiMaggio, and if there was a big crowd at Yankee Stadium, they were glued to their seats when Joe hit. Then when I would come up to hit after Joe, there would be a mass exodus to the bathrooms. Try going through life knowing that 15,000-20,000 people when you came up to hit would rather be in the bathroom than watching you!"
In his speech, Williams recounted all the ways he and Brown were connected through baseball, even though they played in two different eras. After becoming one of the best players in TCU baseball history, earning All-American honors as a freshman, Williams played just a few years in the Atlanta Braves organization before retiring due to injury. He later became the head coach at his alma mater for one season, replacing his own coach, Frank Windigger, who was one of several dignitaries in attendance.
In that short span, however, Williams encountered the likes of Ted Williams, Yogi Berra and Hank Aaron, most of whom were all-too-happy to have fun with the young player. Saturday's ceremony, Williams said, was special not only for the award but for what it allowed, recalling how DiMaggio said once he would give up all his career awards for one more shot.
"You have given me, tonight, one more turn at bat," Williams said. "And I appreciate it. You've brought me back to the big leagues."
Brown, meanwhile, enthralled the crowd with stories of how he tried to keep his baseball and medical school lives separate, explaining that medical professors didn't like students whose attentions were on anything but medicine. Eventually, however, Brown was able to merge the two, even earning his degree while going to school around playing for the Yankees, who drafted him in 1946.
Brown played for the Yankees from 1946 to 1954. In that span, the Yankees won four World Series titles, but Brown missed two of those due to his service (1952-54) as a battalion surgeon during the Korean War. After the war, baseball and his residency, he established his practice as a cardiologist in Fort Worth in 1958, and aside from a 10-year stint as president of the American League, he became a staple in the city.
"Nobody on the face of the earth has had more help than I have in doing good things once I got into practice and out into the world," Brown said. "Fort Worth is one of the greatest place in the country to live, to raise your family. This award is tremendous and one of the greatest things that has ever happened to me. I'm honored to be on the same trophy with President Bush."
Both Williams and Brown received video tributes during the ceremony from numerous friends, including former Texas Rangers general manager and current television color analyst Tom Grieve, Fort Worth mayor Betsy Price, author Talmage Boston and Lubbock congressman Randy Neugebauer, who said he looks forward to Texas Tech and TCU meeting again in the College World Series as they did in 2014, only this time Williams would have to wear a red Texas Tech shirt after the Red Raiders won.
National College Baseball Hall of Fame president and CEO Mike Gustafson also read a letter from George H. W. Bush congratulating Brown and Williams on receiving the award, and Bush's grandson, Texas land commissioner George P. Bush, spoke to the crowd as well.
"My family is all about baseball, because baseball is all about family," George P. Bush said. "It's about a father and son bonding over throwing catch in the yard. It's about dads coaching Little League and communicating those timeless values such as teamwork, effort and discipline. It's about the family spending the afternoon at the ballpark talking about life. When I think about the values of baseball, I don't think there's anyone who epitomizes that more than Roger Williams and Dr. Bobby Brown. Both are great ambassadors of the game."