Colt .45s: Anniversary celebration planned

Paul Bohannon, owner of Cranks, Rooters and Fans in Oak Ridge North, stands with an impressive display of baseball memorabilia. A special collection of Colt .45s memorabilia will be dedicated Aug. 5 on the team’s anniversary. Photo by Kim Richardson
The Colt .45s are coming back.
To celebrate the 45th anniversary of the birth of the fabled team, Oak Ridge North-based Cranks, Rooters and Fans at 26710 Interstate 45 will honor the area's first Major League squad at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 5 by dedicating a shrine of team artifacts.
Colt .45 players, executives, historians and Houston Astros have loaned items for the display at Cranks, which will be housed there through Sept. 3.
Paul Bohannon, a 56-year-old resident of The Woodlands and owner of Cranks, also has arranged for several former Colt .45 players, team personnel and broadcasters to appear at the dedication. The event is being put on in conjunction with the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame and is free and open to the public.
A lifelong baseball fan, Bohannon said he wanted Cranks to be a part of the commemoration of the team that paved the way for the modern-day Houston Astros.
After all, Bohannon reasoned, without the Colt .45s there may never have been Roger Clemens and the Killer B's here; the Astrodome and then Minute Maid Park might never had been built; and a National League pennant might never have waved over Houston.
"The success of this particular display is that the items by and large are on loan. So this is an accumulation of materials from various sources that might never happen again. We called on all these different resources and managed to cobble this stuff together," Bohannon said.
Some of the more notable pieces in the Colt .45 display include the original National League franchise agreement document, the game jersey worn by the team's first manager Harry Craft, a Nellie Fox game-used bat, original Colt stadium signs, balls, gloves and team microphones, the Jimmy Wynn home run seat and personal photographs and scrapbooks.
The exhibit is free and open to the public 5 - 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. Saturdays and 1 p.m. - 6 p.m. Sundays, or by private viewings which can be arranged by calling Cranks, Rooters and Fans at (281) 419-3363.
Gene Elston, the original Colt .45 broadcaster who was recently inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., loaned his 1962 team traveling uniform to the display. Elston will be on hand for the Aug. 5 dedication.
Elston, who was born in Iowa, began his broadcasting career at a small radio station in his hometown in Iowa. He held several minor league baseball broadcasting gigs, before eventually landing with the Chicago Cubs in 1954. Then, in 1961, he took a broadcasting job in Cincinnati, only to watch it fall through. The general manager who had hired him had taken a job with the Colt .45s in preparation for the 1962 season.
The general manager told Elston he still had a job, only he would have to pack his bags and move south.
"I came down here in 1961 and have been (in Houston) ever since," Elston said.
The Colt .45 display is an offshoot of what Bohannon is trying to do with the business, he said, which is provide Houston-area baseball fans a one-of-a-kind place where they can soak up stories and view memorabilia from a bygone era.
With a gallery of baseball treasures, Cranks is part museum, part business. Although Bohannon's massive memorabilia collection is valued at an estimated $500,000, the baseball purist and practicing attorney never opened Cranks purely for profit.
Some of the hundreds of items housed at Cranks are for sale, others are not. Part of the overall collection always is kept elsewhere, so that the Cranks display is constantly evolving, with items swapped out at staggered intervals to avoid a stale presentation. The business also is touted as a place where baseball lovers can stop by and talk about the game, or rent out the large conference room and kitchen area for corporate gatherings.
Whether it's antiquated baseball cards, signed Babe Ruth baseballs, a Shoeless Joe Jackson autograph, weathered bats from the 19th century or a glove worn by Hall of Famer Cy Young, there's plenty at which to marvel. The meat of the collection is Bohannon's more than 8,000 autographs, which he said represent the signatures of more than 90 percent of the players in the Hall of Fame.
Bohannon said he is glad to bring a storied baseball exhibit with hometown ties to local fans.
"You know, I opened this place so people could learn about baseball lore, and the history of the Colt .45s should interest a lot of fans in the area," Bohannon said.


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