SI Vault
Roy Terrell
March 26, 1962
After 87 years, the National League should be impervious to shock. Wait till it runs into Houston's Roy Hofheinz, the man behind the new Colt .45s
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March 26, 1962

Fast Man With A .45

After 87 years, the National League should be impervious to shock. Wait till it runs into Houston's Roy Hofheinz, the man behind the new Colt .45s

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Judge Hofheinz is so enamored of the domed stadium that he may decide to live there once it is completed, although this is hardly necessary. On a 110-acre plot just beyond diamond-studded. River Oaks and well within the Houston city limits, he owns a showplace home, equipped with a swimming pool, an indoor, steer-sized barbecue pit, a complete soda fountain, nine television sets and a kitchen in which a banquet staff could operate. Upstairs there are six bedrooms and six baths; downstairs a bewildering assortment of spectacularly decorated rooms, including a playroom with a circus theme. Old circus posters adorn the walls, a white piano with red polka dots stands alongside a gaily painted jukebox, the ceiling is striped like a circus tent. On one wall, in white wooden gingerbread frames, are large caricatures of the judge and his family in circus themes: Hofheinz, the lion-tamer; Mrs. Hofheinz, on a flying trapeze; and the three children, as clowns. Roy Jr., called Butch, is now 25; a 1956 Rhodes scholar from Rice, he speaks eight languages and is at Harvard studying for a doctorate in Chinese history and philosophy. Fred, 22, called Spud by his family, is in graduate school at the University of Texas with a fellowship in economics, and is a Rhodes scholar nominee himself. Dene, 19, is a sophomore at Texas. "She takes after her mother," says Hofheinz. "She's not brilliant, but she does all right in human relations."

On the property, which abounds with rabbits and quail and little boys carrying BB guns, there is also a guest house, a four-car garage overflowing with Cadillacs, Fords and Fiats, a kennel full of gun dogs, Labradors and pointers, a stable containing four horses, servant quarters and another garage full of trucks. Despite its size, the residence is a homey sort of place; both the Judge and Mrs. Hofheinz are cordial hosts. "We like to entertain at home," they say. "We just like folks."

Actually Hofheinz doesn't spend too much time at home anymore. In one of the long black Cadillac limousines, which he drives himself since he has never been able to find a chauffeur willing to work his hours, he ricochets between an office at the ball park, a downtown office, a remarkable beach home on Galveston Bay, two hunting camps and a farm. Each is better than a museum.

The downtown office, a former residence painted charcoal and white, is surrounded by a high stockade fence. Inside the fence, banana trees and groves of bamboo and a fountain decorate a garden path. Inside the house, Hofheinz prefers to work in what was once the kitchen, standing up, a position in which he believes he thinks better. For more formal occasions, he passes through a door that is really a sort of secret panel, into a glorious office full of towering, hand-crafted brass chairs with red and yellow velvet cushions. "French ormolu," he says. "They came from some castle." The desk is Louis XIV. Behind the desk is another panel leading into a bathroom with gold fixtures—including the toilet seat.

Downstairs is LeTrou, the pit, a basement room copied after a Parisian sidewalk cafe. Quai d'Orsay, Boulevard Montmartre, Place Pigalle, Rue de la Paix, say the signs on the walls; Parisian menus are everywhere. There is a piano from London's Great Exhibition of 1851, and an old French wood stove. An intercom TV set allows Hofheinz to watch his secretaries and receptionists, and any visitors who might appear in the offices above. There is a freezer, painted like a packing case, and a well-stocked bar; steaks, usually enough to feed the entire Colts baseball team, and enough good Scotch to entertain the Texas Senate, are never far from Hofheinz, who believes in wall-to-wall living, all the time.

There is a billiard table in the basement, but no one has shot a game of pool there in years; on top of the table sits one of the two models of the domed stadium. The other is usually on exhibition in Dallas or Corpus Christi or Monterrey, Mexico. "We built the models out back in the shop," says Hofheinz. "They come completely apart, and it would require 72 blueprints to duplicate what they can show."

One of the hunting camps, called Loose Goose Lodge, is on 550 acres west of Houston on the Katy highway; it is full of guns, decoys, fishing rods, goose calls, hunting jackets, waders, and all the absurd and humorous signs that Hofheinz, a compulsive collector, has gathered down through the years. The other camp, located on 250 acres near Danbury, south of town, is called the Kwikwack Klub and it is decorated with political mementos and memorabilia of Hofheinz' career: photographs, newsclips, cartoons, awards, plaques. The farm, on 550 acres near Houston's westerly city line, is an antique collector's paradise: old churns, a Dutch window-washer, bronze cannon off a British warship, old fowling pieces, spinning wheels and a noodle-slicer.

Hofheinz also has a great wooden chest, beautifully carved and compartmented, that belonged to a Union general; he likes to show it off but has a lot of trouble with the lock. "You can see now," he puffs, struggling to get it opened, "why the North lost the Civil War." Outside, on the farmhouse lawn, stands the bell from an old locomotive; it has a thunderous tone and the judge delights in ringing it at 2 a.m. "Just to let the neighbors know we're around," he says.

Hofheinz calls the beach home Huckster House in honor of the money that bought it, and it is a bright, garish, wonderful place. Each room has a different theme—the Old Wild West, a harem, the South Seas, a gambling casino, even a jail, with bars on the windows and steel bunks suspended from the ceiling by chains. There are television sets here, too, most of them built in, usually in the ceiling over a bed or high up on a wall. "That's the only way to watch TV," he says, "lying on your back in bed." There is a player piano and a priceless old Regina music box. Outside, the pool and surrounding area are decorated in a circus theme, with fanciful animal statues peeping out of the bushes. One, a lion, has a drinking fountain in his mouth; all you have to do is put your head inside. Hofheinz' real pride and joy is a circus calliope. "When that thing plays," he says, "you can hear it across the bay in Galveston. Man, it really drives the neighbors wild."

The Houston Colts may not win many games in '62, for they have concentrated on building for the future, but big league baseball will be new in Texas this year and the crowds should pour in. Next year, even if the team has not progressed too far, there will be the new domed stadium, an attraction in itself. By 1964, with baseball and the stadium no longer novelties, Houston hopes to produce a contender. But should they fail, the Colts still have one more attraction to offer: Roy Hofheinz. Most people would be glad to pay money to watch a man like that.

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