The Randolph Society Foundation Board is pleased to announce that George Khoury, philanthropist and founder of the George Khoury Association of Baseball Leagues, will be inducted into the 2018 class of honorees.
The son of Lebanese immigrants, George Khoury was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1900. After a childhood spent near the city’s riverfront, George moved as a teenager with his parents and seven siblings to Coulterville, Illinois, where his parents purchased a family farm. He attended school in Coulterville and did apprentice work with a local printer.
After moving back to St. Louis and marrying Dorothy Smith in the early 1920s, George began working with various business enterprises and ventures. With three young sons to support, the Great Depression’s impact on George’s financial life was nearly ruinous, but the printing skills he had learned in Coulterville helped to sustain him and his family. As the Khourys fortunes improved, they looked to share their prosperity with their sons’ friends, starting a small baseball team of local boys. The small baseball team blossomed, and by 1936, George started the Khoury League, a baseball program for the young boys of St. Louis.
With support from the community, and encouraged by the owners of the St. Louis Cardinals and St. Louis Browns, the Khoury League grew into one of the largest youth baseball programs in the area. George was committed to keeping the program accessible to any boy who wanted to play, regardless of talent level, even waiving entry fees for those who couldn’t afford them. He was focused on giving the youth of St. Louis an outlet to channel their energy in a positive way, learning good sportsmanship, responsibility, and organizational skills. Although the Khoury League emphasized that children of all talent levels could play, the organization’s alumni include several Major League Baseball stars, including Mike Shannon, Earl Weaver, Dal Maxvill, Frank Baumann, and Homer Bush.
The Khoury League became an important community program for the youth that played on the teams as well as the volunteer adults who managed clubs and officiated at games. In the 1950s, the program expanded to include a girls’ softball program and added new sports, like soccer. In 1952, Randolph County’s first Khoury League teams were organized in Sparta, and teams quickly joined throughout the county. Five years later, George was honored during a Khoury League game in his childhood home of Coulterville with a special plaque recognizing his achievements.
Eventually, the Khoury League expanded to include programs in several states and even foreign nations. George was chosen in 1960 by the United States Committee for Baseball in Israel to travel throughout the nation, sharing information with Israelis to help them form their own baseball programs using the Khoury League as a model. George’s work at home and abroad earned him the admiration of many, including President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who wrote, “I understand that nearly a whole generation of boys has grown up in the fine program of your baseball leagues. They have been strengthened in body and spirit and you have the rich satisfaction of knowing that you have contributed much to the fitness of American youth.”
After George’s death, the Khoury League tradition was continued by his sons and numerous other committed men and women, and it remains an important youth sports program in the United States and abroad. In 1967, one St. Louis sportswriter paid tribute to George’s work, noting that the “monument to the man is in the vibrant, living program he founded and headed” – an organization that continues to thrive and to improve the lives of children today.