Shelby's Social Diary
Yao Ming, Nolan Ryan among sports giants partying at the Fertittas' home
It was like strolling through a forest of giants Friday night — giants of the sports world, most of whom are well over 6 feet tall, and, of course,Yao Ming who is over 7 feet. The Houston Childen's Charity "A Gathering of Champions" was a beefy crowd pleaser.
Beginning with Yao and his wife Ye Li, baby bump clearly showing, moving on through Nolan Ryan, the stars turned out in force and HCC was rewarded with $100,000 in proceeds. Not bad for a little backyard dinner party, this one hosted and completely underwritten by Paige and Tilman Fertitta. (We use the term "little" somewhat facetiously as the Fertitta backyard pool and gardens look more like a swank Vegas hotel spread than a private home amenity.)
You couldn't have asked for a more cordial group of guys and a couple of women whose names still ring true with avid sports fans. They mingled with guests throughout the River Oaks spread as if it were old home week and for many it was. What a kick to see retired Houston Oilers and true big guys Elvin Bethea and Ray Childress sitting on the outdoor hearth talking up their days on the defensive line for the then-hometown team. And there were the Astros stars — Jeff Bagwell, graciously signing a baseball even though guests were asked not to seek autographs, Craig Biggio and the towering Larry Dierker mingling at ease.
We know that Bagwell remains with the Astros staff, that Biggio coaches at St. Thomas High School but how many of us knew that Dierker is an avid supporter of Literacy Advance of Houston and volunteers regularly as a mentor, teaching reading.
Retired Houston Comets star and current Prairie View A&M women's basketball coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame last year, was beaming over her recent honor of being named to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, considered by many basketball's highest honor. Another female sports great was softball pitcher Jennie Finch, who played on Olympic-medal-winning teams in 2004 (gold) and 2008 (silver).
We spotted Robert Dale Morgan, who helped Houston organize the 2004 Super Bowl and liked the city so much that he stayed on with a strong hand in various professional sports programs. Today, he serves as president and CEO of the 2011 Houston Final Four event.
The list of notables goes on and on from Olympic gold medalist skater Chad Hedrick to the taekwando gold medalist Steven Lopez and silver medalist Mark Lopez to basketball greats Elvin Hayes and Mario Ellie.
Houston Children's Charity executive director Laura Ward was over the moon with the turnout. Guests mingling through the party scene included Chris and Don Sanders, Lacy Baird with Paul Somerville, Ileen Allen, Dave Ward, Perry and Dan D'Armond, Grant Guthrie, Edna Meyer-Nelson, Bob Allen and so many more.