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Negro Leagues
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Negro Leagues Legacy

Award winners
Pierre, Rollins two of many to win Legacy Awards
By Alan Eskew
Special to

Pat Gillick won the Rube Foster award for building the Seattle Mariners into a 116-win team in 2001.
Cool Papa Bell Award
C.I. Taylor Award
Jackie Robinson Lifetime Achievement Award
Ozzie Smith presented with a Negro Leagues Baseball Museum jacket
World Series hero Joe Carter
Former batting champ Tommy Davis

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- On a night they received the James "Cool Papa" Bell Award for sharing the the National League title with 46 stolen bases, budding stars Jimmy Rollins of the Philadelphia Phillies and Juan Pierre of the Colorado Rockies stole the show.

The dynamic duo received a standing ovation as they stepped to the stage at the second annual Legacy Awards, an event hosted by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum at the historic Midland Theater in downtown Kansas City.

"I can't wait to get to Spring Training and tell other players about this award and the Negro Leagues Museum," said Pierre, who hit .327 last season. "We need to get more players here to keep the Legacy going.


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Schedule/ Archive
Award winners
Jimmy Rollins and Juan Pierre accepted Legacy Awards last week from the employees at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. More>>

The motives
Branch Rickey had several reasons for signing Jackie Robinson to a pro contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Historian Steve Goldman has the details. More>>

Segregated Baseball: A Kaleidoscopic review
While the very existence of the Negro Leagues was necessary because of the racial divides in the United States, black baseball not only survived -- it excelled. More>

Traveling show
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"This is a great honor. This day has been tremendous. My heart is beating like it was in my first big league at-bat."

Many award winners were not present and that is something those in attendance and the Negro Leagues Museum want to rectify.

The first two Legacy Awards have been held on Feb. 13 in Kansas City to honor of the date and location of the founding of the Negro Leagues 82 years ago. But the date is just a few days before most Major Leaguers report to Spring Training and a spokesman for the museum said it might move up the date a week or two for the third annual Legacy Awards in 2003 in an effort to improve turnout among award winners.

"We need every Major League award winner here," master of ceremonies Roy Firestone said.

For Rollins, 23, it was a learning experience and "a great honor to be mentioned in the same breath as Bell.

"I know some of the Negro Leagues history, but coming here I realize there's a lot I have to learn about the struggles of the men who paved the way," he said. "In the Negro Leagues, they weren't just athletes. They were characters. They were entertainers. Everybody had a nickname and story behind them.

"When I leave the game in about 20 years, I hope I'm the same way."

Rollins said he has heard stories about Cool Papa Bell that claim he was so fast that when he turned off the lights he could get into bed before it was dark.

"I'm not as fast as him," Rollins said. "I tried it a couple of times. I always hit my foot on the bed."

Seattle Mariners general manager Pat Gillick, who was the American League recipient of the Andrew "Rube" Foster Award, also attended and accepted five awards on behalf of the Mariners, including three for Ichiro Suzuki and one for manager Lou Piniella.

"Ichiro is sorry he can't be here," Gillick said. "He's a bit shy, but that's no excuse."

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum chairman Buck O'Neil, who is 90 and played and managed in the Negro Leagues, was given a surprise award from Phillies scout Jerry Lafferty at the end of the ceremonies. O'Neil, who scouted and signed Joe Carter, Ernie Banks, Lou Brock and Lee Smith, was given a ring and told he had been elected to the baseball scouts Hall of Fame in St. Louis.

"Thank you," O'Neil said. "I know you don't want to see a grown man cry."

It was a list of Who's Who presenting the awards. Presenters included Ozzie Smith, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in August; Jim "Mudcat" Grant, the first African-American to win 20 games in the American League; Kansas City Chiefs All-Pro guard Will Shields; former National League batting champion Willie Davis; Chicago White Sox manager Jerry Manuel, who won a Legacy Award last year; former Toronto Blue Jays slugger and World Series hero Joe Carter; and Missouri governor Bob Holden and the state's first lady, Lori.

Smith, who has been called the best fielding shortstop in history, said Negro League players have told him that he was good enough to play in their league.

"That's the greatest compliment, that you could have played with us," Smith said.

Alan Eskew is a writer in Kansas City, Mo. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.