Astros dominate Houston Sports Awards
HOUSTON -- Houston's rich sports history was lauded in grand style on Thursday in downtown Houston, where dozens of the city's greatest sports figures, past and present, gathered in one spot in celebration of athletic excellence.
The Astros, coming off their first World Series title, received multiple awards at the inaugural Houston Sports Awards, organized by the Harris County Houston Sports Authority. At a gathering that drew well over 1,000 patrons to a spacious ballroom in the Hilton Americas hotel, the Astros dominated most categories. That included Jose Altuve, who won Athlete of the Year, and manager A.J. Hinch, who was named Coach of the Year.
The Astros also won Moment of the Year, for Alex Bregman's game-winning single in Game 5 of the World Series that put them ahead of the Dodgers in the best-of-seven series. The World Series also won the category of Event of the Year, and general manager Jeff Luhnow, the architect behind the Astros' rebuild and eventual championship title, was honored with a legacy award as Executive of the Year.
• Astros to be honored at White House in March
Luhnow credited Astros owner Jim Crane for sticking with him during the leaner years, and praised his front office and coaching staffs for their tireless efforts in bringing a championship to Houston.
"The plan was never to win one," Luhnow said. "It was to win more than one, so let's keep going."
Perhaps no Major Leaguer had a better 2017 than Altuve, who won the American League batting title, the AL Most Valuable Player Award and shared Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year honors with Texans defensive end J.J. Watt.
Altuve, who beat out Rocket James Harden, Texan DeAndre Hopkins and fellow Astro George Springer, was presented his Athlete of the Year Award by Astros Hall of Famers Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio.
"To receive this award from two Hall of Famers, it means the world to me," Altuve said. "I'm very humbled to win this award. Last year was unbelievable. This was because of the fans, and Houston is the best city in the world. I'm happy to call Houston my home."
Bregman had some stiff competition in the Moment of the Year category. He was up against the clinching Game 7 of the World Series, Jeff Bagwell's Hall of Fame induction, and Dawson High School's Clare Jeffress, who drilled a game-winning 30-yard field goal to beat Pearland, 38-35, one week after she was named homecoming queen.
In the end, Bregman's walk-off single to end a five-hour, 17-minute nail-biter over the Dodgers in Game 5 won out.
"He wanted to hit a home run," Hinch said. "And we said, 'Beat 'em with a single, Alex.' So that's what he did."
The headliners of the inaugural Houston Sports Awards were three legendary athletes, all of whom are in their respective sport's Hall of Fame and all of whom wore uniform No. 34: former Astros pitcher Nolan Ryan, former Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon and "Luv Ya Blue" Oilers running back Earl Campbell.
Ryan, a native of Alvin, Texas, pitched for the Astros from 1980-88 and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999. He compiled 324 wins and a Major League-record 5,714 strikeouts during his 27-year career that spanned four decades.
"I'm just honored that people view me in that light," Ryan said of his iconic status. "I was thrilled to play nine years here and grow up in the area and be a Houston sports fan to start with. I've been a Houston sports fan my entire life."
That means he's a fan of his fellow 34s -- Olajuwon, who led the Rockets to back-to-back NBA titles in 1994 and '95, and Campbell, who was named the NFL's Most Valuable Player, All-Pro and Rookie of the Year in his first season and won the league rushing championship with 1,450 yards on the ground.
"I think it's very special to be amongst the other two No. 34s, Olajuwon and Nolan," Campbell said. "I think it's something great that the city of Houston is doing as well."
At the end of the evening, co-emcee Bill Worrell, one of the longtime voices of the Houston Rockets' broadcasts, announced the Houston Sports Authority will build a Houston Sports Hall of Fame in downtown Houston. The first inductees will be Ryan, Olajuwon and Campbell.