J Michael Kenyon's three-dot history of the Puget Sound Sports Writers & Sports Casters' annual Mid-Winter Sports Banquet (1948-1980)

  • By J Michael Kenyon
  • Posted 7/21/2021
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 21256
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J Michael Kenyon (d. 2017) was a legendary personality in Seattle sports media. Born Michael Glover, he grew up in Seattle's Lake City neighborhood, attended Roosevelt High School and the University of Washington, and landed a sports reporting job at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in his early twenties. Soon, reportedly at the suggestion of a girlfriend, Glover changed his name to J Michael Kenyon, one of many impulsive acts during his three decades in newspapers and radio. Although he was hired and fired several times by the P-I, his editors never hesitated to give him high-profile beats, including the Mariners and Sonics, and Kenyon was a pioneer in sports-talk radio for Seattle station KVI. In these notes written by Kenyon and shared with HistoryLink by Northwest sports historian David Eskenazi, Kenyon traces the history of Seattle's annual midwinter sports banquet, a rollicking, often ribald affair held more or less annually from 1948 to 1980 by the Puget Sound Sports Writers & Sports Casters Association. 

Inspiration From a Seattle Florist

Seattle, November 1929 -- The month after the stock market crashes, Charles E. Sullivan surrenders his job at the Rosaia Bros. florists to open his own flower shop at 1902 Fourth Avenue ... Sullivan would retire to his Bainbridge Island estate in 1942 and sell the firm to his employees, chief among them Adolph Cantalini ... Sullivan and Cantalini had been regular box-seat holders at Seattle Indians and Rainiers baseball games from the 1930s on, giving a ten-dollar bill (a lot of money during the Depression) to every Seattle player who either homered or pitched a shutout ... Cantalini estimated that practice had amassed expenditures of some $12,000 over the years ... When the Puget Sound Sportswriters & Sportcasters came up with an annual award to honor those who dedicated their lives to promoting youth athletics, they named it for Sullivan ... The surprise presentation of the award, as much as anything, sparks what becomes the annual Midwinter Sports Banquet at the Olympic Hotel.

Seattle, 1947 -- Gail Fowler is one of the founders, as the Puget Sound Sports Writers & Sports Casters Association is "dreamed up" in meetings around the old Press Club ... Jack Hewins of The Associated Press will become 1948 president, succeeded by KIRO Radio's Pat Hayes in 1949, and Bill Boni of The Seattle Times in 1950 ... Among those active in the foundling years are Mike Donohoe of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Ed Scott of KOL Radio, Ted Bell of KRSC Radio, University of Washington sports publicist Bert Rose, Alex Shults of the Times, Harold Torbergson of the P-I, KMO Radio's Rod Belcher, Lloyd Rodstrom of the Everett Herald, Vincent O'Keefe of the Times ... Lenny Anderson, Emmett Watson, and Phil Taylor are probably regular attendees, too, by the end of the decade.

Seattle, July 8, 1948 -- Comedian Joe E. Brown, imported by Royal Brougham of the Post-Intelligencer as an attraction for the paper's State vs. Seattle high school baseball game, has dinner with the "Puget Sound Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association" ... The area's sports scribes will never quite know how to spell the official name of the organization – whatever it is.

Seattle, August 25, 1948 -- American-Italian Athletic Club ... H.O. (Fritz) Crisler of the University of Michigan and Oklahoma A&M basketball coach Hank Iba are featured guests at a dinner sponsored by the Puget Sound Sports Writers & Sports Casters ... KIRO Radio broadcasts a 7 p.m. Q&A with Crisler and Iba fielding questions from Mike Donohoe ... Films of the 1948 Rose Bowl game are shown ... By this time, the American-Italian Club has become the site of the group's luncheons; when the state high school coaches' association imports the likes of Crisler and Iba for its annual clinic, the foundling club seizes an opportunity to stage a special event.

Seattle, December 16, 1948 -- American-Italian Athletic Club ... Hank Luisetti and Jack Nichols of the Stewart Chevrolet AAU basketball squad are entertained at a buffet supper hosted by the Puget Sound Sportswriters & Sportscasters ... A portion of the event is again broadcast by KIRO Radio, by Pat Hayes, along with Times sportswriters Vincent O'Keefe and Bill Boni ... The next night, the Stewart five is upended, 57-56, by the University of Washington, before squaring the series, 48-43.

Seattle, March 25, 1949 -- Olympic Hotel ... A "Puget Sound Sportswriters & Sportscasters-sponsored" banquet is held in conjunction with the NCAA championship basketball game at Edmundson Pavilion between Kentucky and Oklahoma A&M ... Edward Hickox, retired coach of Springfield College in Massachusetts, is named "man of the year" by the National Association of Basketball Coaches ... This is the forerunner of the Midwinter Sports Banquet with the Olympic Hotel as the site.

The First 'Official' Banquet

Seattle, January 16, 1950 -- Olympic Hotel, attendance 300 ... The inaugural winner of the Charles E. Sullivan Award is Dorsett V. (Tubby) Graves, 28-year coach and athletic department administrator at the University of Washington, "for distinguished service to Northwest athletics through the years." ... Puget Sound Sports Writers & Sports Casters president Bill Boni makes the presentation of a commemorative wristwatch at a "Meet Your Manager" dinner for new Seattle Rainiers skipper Paul Richards ... "Bald Bill" Klepper, who sold the Seattle franchise to Emil Sick, comes up from Portland for the affair, which is attended by several major leaguers with Northwest ties (Jeff Heath, Earl Johnson, Cliff Chambers, Andy Anderson, Marv Rickert, and Clarence "Cuddles" Marshall) ... Master of ceremonies is Emmett Watson of The Seattle Times.

Seattle and Everett, late 1940s, early 1950s -- In these days, both cities had annual "Man of the Year" sports banquets on their calendars – staged, respectively, by the Seattle P-I and Everett Herald -- so there was no real agitation for anything resembling what would become the Midwinter Sports Banquet ... Plus there was the annual 101 Club banquet at the Washington Athletic Club to honor Seattle's high-school athletes.

Seattle, August 24, 1950 -- Rosellini's 410 ... Tulane football coach Henry Frnka and St. Louis University basketball coach Eddie Hickey are dinner guests of the Puget Sound Sports Writers & Sports Casters, along with the coaching staffs of the Tri-City and State high school all-star football teams ... Frnka and Hickey are featured speakers at this week's state high school coaches' clinics at the University of Washington.

Seattle, January 28, 1951 -- The Sunday papers reveal the winner of the Charles E. Sullivan Award is UW track (and erstwhile basketball) coach Hec Edmundson ... Apparently, there will be no banquet at which the award can be presented.

Seattle, March 16, 1951 -- Edmundson Pavilion ... Clarence S. (Hec) Edmundson receives the Charles E. Sullivan Award between semifinal games of the state Class A high school basketball tournament ... The occasion is fitting, for multiple reasons: The 23-year-old field house was named in honor of Edmundson, longtime University of Washington basketball and track coach, in 1948, and Edmundson is considered to be "the father" of the state tournament, which dates from 1923 ... Edmundson ceased coaching basketball in 1947 but is now involved with his 32nd consecutive year of mentoring Husky thinclads ... In June, the UW will host the NCAA track and field championships ... Lloyd Rodstrom, president of the sponsoring Puget Sound Sportswriters & Sportscasters, presents a commemorative watch to Edmundson.

Seattle, March 24, 1952 -- Olympic Hotel ... The NCAA basketball championships (not yet the Final Four) is "the raison d'etre for the Puget Sound Sportswriters & 'Casters Assn. to throw the first of its big banquets, with jab-skits & songs aimed at local targets ... Previous such bashes were of lesser magnitude when Graves & Edmundson were honored." – Rod Belcher, May 9, 2013 ... Some 150 members of the national coaches' association are guests on Monday night, the eve of the NCAA's final round of playoffs (held Tuesday and Wednesday at Hec Edmundson Pavilion, in order to fit a tight post-season schedule which included the following week's Olympic Games trials at Kansas City and New York City).

Seattle, February 16, 1953 -- Olympic Hotel, attendance 555 ... New York Yankees manager Casey Stengel is the principal speaker at the annual mid-winter banquet ... Also feted is new University of Washington football coach Johnny Cherberg, who is introduced by former longtime Husky grid coach Jimmy Phelan ... Ted Bell is master of ceremonies and the Poverty Players – Jack Gordon, Bill Sears, Rod Belcher, Larry Dion, and Bell among them -- make their debut. Writes Lenny Anderson in the Times: "It's doubtful whether the Puget Sound Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association, even if it should have an existence as long as its name, ever will top the program it presented last night in the Spanish Ballroom of the Olympic Hotel ... with its secretary, Ed Donohoe, doing the terrific behind-the-scenes work that put it over (the banquet was) the likes of which this man's town never before has seen." ... Tom Segwick, youth swimming coach, wins the Charles E. Sullivan Award.

Seattle, February 8, 1954 -- Olympic Hotel ... Notre Dame football coach Frank Leahy is the principal speaker at the (now capitalized) Mid-winter Sports Banquet, which introduces new Rainiers manager Gerry Priddy to Seattle ... Chuck Durgan is the Charles E. Sullivan Award winner.

Seattle, February 7, 1955 -- Olympic Hotel ... Billed as "Freddie Hutchinson's Homecoming" ... Earl F. (Click) Clark, for 30 years an area athletic trainer, receives the Charles E. Sullivan Award ... Boxing legend Jack (Deacon) Hurley occupies the speaker's stand until the plane-delayed arrival of the featured orator, Notre Dame football coach Terry Brennan. 

Seattle, February 13, 1956 -- Olympic Hotel, attendance 600 ... The main speaker is Vernon (Lefty) Gomez ... New Rainiers manager Luke Sewell is introduced and speaks ... Rod Belcher, now at KOL Radio, is president of the sponsoring group and serves as emcee ... "The program opened with a series of skits lampooning local athletic figures and situations, with a number centering around the University of Washington football ruckus." ... Clarence Pautzke, chief biologist of the state game department, is accorded the Charles E. Sullivan Award.

Seattle, January 28, 1957 -- Olympic Hotel, attendance 600 ... Former coach of the Chicago Cardinals, Jimmy Conzelman, is guest speaker, along with new Seattle Rainiers manager Lefty O'Doul ... Al Leader receives the Charles E. Sullivan Award ... "In what was widely regarded as the most successful of the Puget Sound Sportswriters & Sportcasters Association's eight midwinter banquets ... Conzelman distinguished himself as the best after-dinner speaker to perform here in many years." – Lenny Anderson, Times ... "In a series of skits preceding the speaking program, association members lampooned various sports figures in the Seattle area. Jack Gordon, association president, directed the show."

Seattle, February 3, 1958 -- Olympic Hotel, attendance 815 ... Former major league manager Leo Durocher is the guest speaker at the annual Midwinter Sports Banquet, which also honors new Seattle Rainiers manager Connie Ryan ... Curly Grieve, sports editor of the San Francisco Examiner, describes the campaign which lured major league baseball to his city ... Seattle University trainer Claude Norris wins the Charles E. Sullivan Award. 

Ed Donohoe: Guiding Light

Seattle, February 2, 1960 -- Olympic Hotel ... Mike Pecarovich, former Gonzaga University football coach who grew up in Seattle, is the lead speaker ... Longtime (36 years) local semipro baseball sponsor Nick Peterson is the Charles E. Sullivan Award winner ... This is the year the sponsoring group's guiding light, secretary-treasurer Ed Donohoe, will forsake alcoholic beverages for the remainder of his life ... For the rest of his life, Ed's colleagues will tell and re-tell epic stories of his tipsy misadventures and, one year in a Poverty Player's skit, Rod Belcher will sing, "You Shoulda Known Ed Donohoe When He Was Drinking Booze" (to the tune of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic") ... Donohoe labeled the send-up tune's lyrics as the best ever written for the show ("In those days he saw more bars than you could find in jails or zoos, this lush went staggering on!"), a compliment never forgotten by Belcher.

Seattle, February 15, 1960 -- Olympic Hotel, attendance 900 ... "Sleepy" Jim Crowley, one of Notre Dame's legendary "Four Horsemen," battles winter weather from Scranton, Pennsylvania, to give the main speech ... Kent Powell is president of the sponsoring Puget Sound Sportswriters & Sportscasters ... The Rev. Richard Stohr, director of the Catholic Youth Organization athletic program, wins the Charles E. Sullivan Award.

Seattle, February 6, 1961 -- Olympic Hotel ... Joe Garagiola is the main speaker at the 11th annual Midwinter Sports Banquet ... Other speakers included Ted Williams, Jack Sharkey, and Johnny Pesky, manager of the Rainiers ... The Poverty Players "will present a satire on current local events and people." ... Tacoma's longtime baseball benefactor Ben Cheney is presented the Charles E. Sullivan Award by Jack Hewins.

Seattle, February 5, 1962 -- Olympic Hotel, attendance 900 ... Jimmy Conzelman, back for an encore, is principal speaker – but doesn't get the same measure of kudos as he did first time around ... Dr. William B. Hutchinson, Fred's elder brother, is recipient of the Charles E. Sullivan Award.

Seattle, February 4, 1963 -- Olympic Hotel, attendance 950 ... Morris Frank, columnist for the Houston Chronicle, is the main speaker ... Banquet tickets for what is billed as the 14th annual affair (a different version of the math) are $12.50 ... Junior hockey director Ernie Adby is given the Charles E. Sullivan Award ... Among boosters of the event are restaurateurs Jimmy and Vito Santoro, who annually take on the task of selling a dozen, 10-man tables for the event ... Ed Donohoe, secretary of the association, is presented a special award for his "unselfish devotion" to the organization and this banquet.

Seattle, February 3, 1964 -- Olympic Hotel ... Tommy Richardson, president of baseball's Triple A International League, is the guest speaker of what is billed as the 14th (oops, there's that number again) Midwinter Sports Banquet of the Puget Sound Sportswriters & Sportcasters Association ... The Poverty Players (Ted Bell, Phil Taylor, Rod Belcher, Bill Schonely, Bill Sears, Don Wood, and Dave Kosher, et al) continue to lampoon sports and political figures and Edmund Joseph DeValera Donohoe, editor of the Washington Teamster and permanent secretary of the PSS&SA, continues with his rollicking wit ... Vic Denny, national tennis executive, gets the Charles E. Sullivan Award, presented by Johnny O'Brien.

Seattle, February 8, 1965 -- Olympic Hotel, attendance 850 ... Bill Veeck, colorful baseball executive, is the speaker ... "That Was the Year That Was" is the theme of the Poverty Players' skits ... "As usual, Ed Donohoe was the hit of the evening. Doctors, lawyers, state Supreme Court judges, politicians, labor leaders, business tycoons, educators, clergymen – even Gov. Dan Evans and Mayor Dorm Braman – laughed uproariously as Ed, with tongue in cheek, drove his oral harpoon into the hides of some of the most prominent guests at the party – including the mayor and the governor." – John J. Reddin, Seattle Times, Feb. 12, 1965 ... Friends call retired swimming coach Ray Daughters in Santa Monica, California, and tell him he's the 16th recipient of the Charles E. Sullivan Award.

Seattle, February 14, 1966 -- Olympic Hotel, attendance 900 ... Principal speaker at the Midwinter Banquet is Henry Jordan of the Green Bay Packers ... Mike Glover, neophyte sports writer for the Post-Intelligencer, is given a chair in the entryway leading from the kitchen, from which to view, for the first time, the main ballroom proceedings ... Seattle parks' department athletic director Gene Boyd wins the Charles E. Sullivan Award.

Seattle, February 13, 1967 -- Olympic Hotel, attendance 900 ... National League baseball umpire Tom Gorman is the speaker ... Percy Egtvet, longtime assistant trainer and track coach at the University of Washington, is the Charles E. Sullivan Award winner ... "A Funny Thing Happened On the Way To the Stadium" is the Poverty Players' presentation.

Seattle, February 12, 1968 -- Olympic Hotel, attendance 896 ... Blackie Sherrod, sports editor of the Dallas Times-Herald, is the headline speaker for the 18th annual Midwinter Sports Banquet ... Ron Santo is honored ... Charles Albert (Al) Jones, charity golf tournament organizer, is the 19th recipient of the Charles E. Sullivan Award ... Bill Sears and the other Poverty Player writers – Rod Belcher, Phil Taylor, and Lenny Anderson – debut the "Bummy Awards" ... The inaugural "shaft-shaped" awards go to Jim Owens, Don Richman, Dewey Soriano, James R. Ellis, Jack Hurley, and Seattle Magazine ("Pompous Writing Award").

Seattle, February 3, 1969 -- Olympic Hotel ... Morris Siegel, sports columnist of the Washington Evening Star, is the featured speaker ... In the run-up ballyhoo, Vincent O'Keefe calls this the 20th annual Midwinter Sports Banquet ... "Gail Fowler, Ed Donohoe and their gang were the leading leg men when the first Midwinter bash was organized in 1950," O'Keefe recalls ... Tacoma swim coach Don Hannula wins the Charles E. Sullivan Award ... Bummy Awards go to Charles O. Carroll, Joe Gottstein, Mayor J. D. Braman, Joseph E. Gandy, Sheriff Jack Porter, and Pilots manager Joe Schultz ... Tickets for the soiree are $15 apiece, on sale at Fidelity Lane, Vito's, Rosellini's 410 and 610, the Grove, and the Polynesian.

The Boozy '70s, and a Final Farewell

Seattle, February 2, 1970 -- Olympic Hotel ... Cooler heads prevail and, for the second year running, this is the "20th annual" Midwinter Sports Banquet ... The ticket price is hiked to $18 ... Major league baseball veteran Rocky Bridges is the chief speechmaker ... Jack Goldingay, a 56-year-old tooling engineer at Boeing, accepted the Charles E. Sullivan Award; he is saluted as the father of the area's junior soccer program which, inside of a decade, has grown to some 630 teams and 8,000 participants

Seattle, February 8, 1971 -- Olympic Hotel, attendance 900 ... Oklahoma City University basketball coach Abe Lemons and former Seattle Pilot Jim Bouton are featured speakers ... Bouton, Jim Sweeney, Ralph Williams, Jack Hurley, and Rick Silverman are targeted with Bummy Awards ... The Charles E. Sullivan Award goes to Eddie Vervynck, longtime purveyor of sporting goods ... Business partner Gene (Beaner) Walby accepts the honor for Vervynck, who is away in Chicago on business.

Seattle, February 7, 1972 -- Olympic Hotel, attendance 900 ... For $500 and expenses, Howard Cosell, ABC-TV sports commentator, is the main speaker ... "I traveled 3,000 miles to be confronted by this mediocrity," he indulges ... Seattle Times society columnist June Anderson Almquist writes that she is the only woman in the Grand Ballroom – first distaffer invited to attend in 22 years ... Ed Donohoe tells her there were a few women at the first banquet, in 1950 – wives of some dignitaries – but some "blue words" from one the speakers so embarrassed the writers & 'casters, "we banned all women from the banquet thereafter." ... Tickets are $20 per copy ... The expanded Poverty Players include Jack Morton, Jim Wert, Mark Kaufman, Chick Kaplan, Dave Kosher, Joe Sherk, Bill Knight, and Phil Taylor ... The writers have expanded, too, to include Denny MacGougan, Don Duncan, and Don Tewkesbury.

Seattle, February 5, 1973 -- Olympic Hotel ... Alonzo Smith (Jake) Gaither, athletic director at Florida A&M University, is featured speaker at the 23rd Midwinter Sports Banquet ... "Danny Evans, Super Star" is the title of the Poverty Players' show ... J.P. Patches hands the "Super Bad Taste (Bummy) Award" to Morrie Alhadeff for unleashing the "Don't Gas Spot" campaign that killed dog racing as a threat to his Longacres Race Track ... City Councilwoman Phyllis Lamphere exclaimed, "It's wonderful being the only broad in the house!" ... Tickets, which continue to include cocktails, dinner and entertainment, are priced at $20.

Seattle, February 4, 1974 -- Olympic Hotel ... Bob Uecker, baseball funny man from Milwaukee, is the featured speaker ... The Poverty Players slate "Gall In The Family" as their Bummy Award theme.

Seattle, February 3, 1975 -- Olympic Hotel ... The athletic director at Fordham University, Pete Carlesimo, is the main speaker for the silver anniversary edition of the Midwinter Sports Banquet ... For the Poverty Players, it is "Trouble In Rainy City" ... Youth baseball sponsors Milo and Glenn Stoen are presented the Charles E. Sullivan Award by Dave Kosher.

Seattle, February 2, 1976 -- Olympic Hotel ... Ex-Husky lineman Ray Mansfield, now bound for the Super Bowl with his longtime Pittsburgh Steeler teammates, is the main speaker.

Seattle, February 7, 1977 -- Olympic Hotel, attendance 950 ... Gov. Dixy Lee Ray gets the treatment from the Poverty Players ("Yes, It's True What They Say About Dixy") and UW basketball coach Marv Harshman is roasted by former Hawaii coach Dr. Al Saake, Slicks Watts, Les Habegger, and Dr. Jack Lein ... Jack Morton is master of ceremonies ... By this time, the 'Writers & 'Casters' roster includes three women – Carol Shinnick, Janine Gressel, and Chris Swanson.

Seattle, March 22, 1977 -- Arnie Aizstrauts receives the Charles E. Sullivan Award for "one who has contributed to sports in this area over the years." ... Aizstrauts, a native of Latvia, came to Seattle in 1953 and began a long association with the city parks and recreation department; he also was the first soccer coach at Seattle Pacific and president of the Northwest AAU.

Seattle, February 6, 1978 -- Olympic Hotel, attendance 907 ... Ed Donohoe's description of featured speaker Hal Hayes, sports editor from Tuscaloosa, Alabama: "An overweight Will Rogers." ... Keith Jackson of ABC TV Sports is an honored guest ... The assemblage of 900 men and 7 women (by Times columnist Rick Anderson's count) consumes 132 fifths of liquor, plus assorted beers and wine bottles ... They laugh uproariously when Hayes quips, "The reason ol' Billy Carter always has that stupid look on his face is ... 'cause he's stupid."

Seattle, February 5, 1979 -- Olympic Hotel, attendance 808 ... American League umpire Ron Luciano is the principal speaker ... Bob Lemon, New York Yankees manager, is another featured guest ... Times columnist Rick Anderson the next day totes up the attendees as "800 men and 8 women listening to the debauchery that has gone on for 29 years ... putting away a ton of booze and long hours of jokes that either fall on the floor or have to be delivered in a plain brown wrapper." ... Ageless soccer scribe Pep Peery is among those playing a "Sugar Plum Fairy" in a Povery Players skit ... The Mariners' Kip Horsburgh scores the Bummy Award.

Seattle, February 4, 1980 -- Olympic Hotel ... Sen. Bill Bradley (D-New Jersey) is the featured speaker at the 30th, and last, Midwinter Sports Banquet presented by the tottering Puget Sound Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association ... The ticket price remains at $35 ... The Poverty Players offer up another Bummy Award ... As Times sports editor Georg Meyers would put it, "Grand Ballroom celebrators are shunted through the adjoining Spanish Ballroom for preprandial lubrication at bars set up in all corners" – and for the final time.

Seattle, September 1980 -- The Olympic Hotel closes for what will be two years' worth of remodeling efforts ... As much as anything, this gives the perpetrators of the Midwinter Sports Banquet cause to reconsider their annual crime – and cease to conduct it.

Seattle, December 1981 -- Ed Donohoe, in his Washington Teamster column, pens an ode to the Puget Sound Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association – "Last Rites for a Good Club."

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