Yankees pay tribute to Ali
Legendary boxer presents club with hospitality award
NEW YORK -- It is rare that the rosters of the Yankees and the Red Sox can be brought together for any common event, other than nine innings of baseball on a summer night.
Before Thursday's game, the members of the classic rivalry halted their preparation to appreciate and honor something they could all agree on. Muhammad Ali is still "The Greatest."
The three-time world heavyweight champion and 1960 Olympic gold medalist was honored at Yankee Stadium, circling the warning track in a motorized cart while waving to the grandstands from behind dark sunglasses.
As he moved toward home plate, the Boston and New York players in the outfield all stopped their stretching and tossing. Johnny Damon and Jacoby Ellsbury applauded, and Jorge Posada walked over to the cart to shake Ali's hand.
"I got chill-bumps, to tell you the truth," Posada said. "I didn't know what to say. I was struck. It was a good feeling to see him at the Stadium."
Along with the president of the American Academy of Hospitality Services, Joseph Cinque, Ali presented Yankees managing general partner and co-chairperson Hal Steinbrenner with the academy's "Six Star Diamond Award" for Yankee Stadium and Legends Hospitality, LLC with the "Five Star Award."
In its inaugural season, Yankee Stadium received the Academy's highest honor, bestowed on superlative establishments that are deemed to be of pinnacle quality. Thursday marked the first time that a Stadium earned the honor for excellence in hospitality.
Ali, who compiled 56 wins and 37 knockouts in his storied career, experienced one of the most memorable evenings of his career at the original Yankee Stadium on Sept. 28, 1976, when he defeated Ken Norton in a 15-round decision to retain the heavyweight title.
As Ali was prepared for the presentation and was cheered by the early-arriving crowd, highlights of his classic bouts played on the two auxiliary video screens in left-center and right-center fields.
Yankees captain Derek Jeter also participated in the on-field ceremony, which concluded with Ali being fitted for an authentic New York cap and the entire Yankees roster coming out of the dugout to pose for a photograph.
"He's an icon," Mark Teixeira said. "I wish I actually had a chance to meet him, but I know he was busy. There were a lot of people around him. Hopefully someday."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.