Houston Astros, Houston Texans Walk The Talk On Diversity

By Joe Booker
Updated: June 25, 2006

TEXAS—When it comes to diversity as far as hiring blacks in decision-making positions, Drayton McLane of the Houston Astros and Bob McNair of the Houston Texans are at the head of the class. If they are not head of the class, it won’t take long to call the roll. McLane and McNair don’t just talk the talk on diversity, they walk the talk. McLane and McNair made their decisions without anyone protesting that they hire blacks. They did it from their heart.


Soon after McLane bought the Houston Astros he hired Bob Watson as his general manager. Watson was the first full-time black manager in major league baseball.

It was a bold move, but McLane was all about hiring the best people to make his ball club a winner.

McLane has continued to hire blacks in decision-making positions. Several years ago he promoted Marian Harper as vice president of community development. Recently, McLane made several moves to improve his ball club. He has hired five full-time blacks in the front office. He hired Ricky Bennett as assistant general manager and director of player development. Enos Cabell is an assistant to the general manager. Cecil Cooper is the team’s bench coach—the first black to ever serve in that position for the Astros. Dave Clark is the manager of the Class AA Corpus Christi team. Glen Barker, a former Astros player is a regional pro scout and Shippio Spinks is a talent scout.

None of those are figure-head positions. Bennett and Cabell have Drayton and general manager Tim Purpura’s ear. It was Purpura, who initially brought in Bennett and Cabell with McLane’s blessing.


Houston Texans owner Bob McNair made a bold move when he hired Ricky Smith, a young 36 year old black as the Texans second general manager. The Texans have been in business only four years and it didn’t take McNair long to hire a black general manager. Prior to the hiring of Smith, the NFL had only one black general manager—Ozzie Newsome– general manager of the Baltimore Ravens, the first black GM in the NFL.

Smith brings respectability to the GM position, something that had been lacking in the team’s first four years.

When McNair bought the team he made Kirbyjon Caldwell a limited owner. He hired Tony Wyllie as the team’s vice president of commiserations. Wyllie held the highest ranking position of any black working with an NFL team in media relations. McNair also hired Bobby Grier as associate director of pro scouting. Grier is one of the most respected personnel men in the NFL. He was part of the development of the New England Patriots. Eugene Armstrong is a college scout, Kevin Cooper is media relations and Regina Woolfolk is director of community relations.

Tony Wyllie has given young blacks a start in media relations. Cooper started out as an interim. He has hired several other blacks as interims.