NEW YORK -- Three legendary managers forever linked in baseball history were among the headliners celebrated on Saturday evening by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
Retiring skippers Bobby Cox, Lou Piniella and Joe Torre were presented with the 'Willie, Mickey and the Duke' Award by the New York chapter of the BBWAA, which held its 88th annual dinner in a grand ballroom of the Hilton New York.
Appropriately, Willie Mays was on hand in the audience to applaud the presentation. He wasn't alone, as Torre -- a Brooklyn product who later held managing posts both in Queens and the Bronx -- received some of the evening's loudest ovations, remarking that he was "home" once again.
"As far as my career goes, the best time of my career was because George Steinbrenner trusted me with his team," Torre said. "I will never, ever forget that and always be grateful to George and the Steinbrenner family for keeping me around so long."
Cox, Piniella and Torre combined to win six World Series, 12 pennants and 34 division championships, each bringing their own special touch to dugouts across the nation and influencing many Major League players.
"It's a special honor for me to be up here with these two great managers," said Piniella, who thanked his managerial mentor, Billy Martin, as well as all of his owners and general managers. "To be a good manager, you have to have a lot of things going your way."
It certainly also helps to have great talent at your disposal, something Cox admitted to laughter and applause. Preceded at the podium by Yankees manager Joe Girardi, Cox said that his career in baseball "has been a blur" and that he had scores of people contribute for his success.
"In my case, it's been a great run," Cox said. "I've been so fortunate. I want to thank three other people, really, for continuing my career. Their names are Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz -- all in the same rotation -- for allowing me to keep working and achieve my dream of baseball."
More than 30 of the game's personalities spoke during the three-hour program, a star-studded event attended by the who's who of the baseball world, including musical entertainment by former Yankees great and accomplished jazz guitarist Bernie Williams.
The presentation of baseball's eight national awards were made to both league's MVPs, Cy Youngs, Rookies of the Year and Managers of the Year, as well as local awards voted upon by the New York chapter of the BBWAA.
As part of the program, dubbed the "Academy Awards of ball-writing" by Bill Conlin of the Philadelphia Daily News, were:
Cy Young Award: Felix Hernandez (American League) and Roy Halladay (National League)
No team enjoyed facing either of these fearsome pitchers during the 2010 campaign, as Hernandez led the Junior Circuit with a glittering 2.27 ERA and Halladay's dominance included his mark as the only pitcher to throw a perfect game and no-hitter in the same season.
"It's extremely humbling," said Halladay, who received the award from former Phillies hurler John Denny. "It means a lot to myself and my family. I would like to thank my teammates and the city of Philadelphia. My wife says that I say it too much, but it really was a dream come true to play there this season. I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world."
Seattle's Hernandez grinned widely as he pulled a crumpled note from his suit jacket, having scribbled reminders to himself the previous evening so he wouldn't forget to thank everyone.
"There were so many great pitchers to choose from, I am honored to be selected," Hernandez said. "To be around these great people is truly an honor. My teammates were great this year, unbelievable. They not only supported me offensively, but emotionally, they were there all the time."
Most Valuable Player: Josh Hamilton (AL) and Joey Votto (NL)
Hamilton's remarkable offensive prowess helped lead the Rangers to their first World Series, leading the AL in batting and slugging despite a broken rib that cost him a month. Not only did he collect his AL MVP award, but Hamilton was also issued the Sid Mercer-Dick Young 'Player of the Year' award by the New York writers.
"I wouldn't be standing here in this moment if it weren't for my relationship with Jesus Christ," Hamilton said. "With the Rangers organization, I look forward to the great things in the future that are possible to accomplish in years to come, helping us be the players we can be."
Introduced by another one-time Reds MVP in current MLB Network analyst Barry Larkin, Votto thanked the Cincinnati organization from ownership down to the training staff, while tossing in a light-hearted NL Central quip.
"I'd especially like to thank [writer] Joe Strauss from St. Louis, who didn't vote for me," Votto quipped. "Guess who he voted for? As if Albert [Pujols] didn't have enough MVP Awards already."
Rookie of the Year: Neftali Feliz (AL) and Buster Posey (NL)
Last season marked only the third time in Major League history that the eventual Rookies of the Year have faced off in the World Series. Mays and Gil McDougald of the Yankees were opponents in 1951, and Dave Righetti of the Yankees and Fernando Valenzuela of the Dodgers went head-to-head in '81.
With the World Series trophy glittering in the lobby of the Hilton, Posey could lay claim to the winners' spoils.
"It gets more and more special, the more I think about it," Posey said. "I'd like to thank my teammates, I wouldn't be here without them, and my family -- all the road trips, time they've put in, and sacrifices."
Feliz kept his comments short and sweet, thanking his family and teammates in a seven-second address.
Managers of the Year: Ron Gardenhire (AL) and Bud Black (NL)
Glancing down the dais, Gardenhire joked that he was one of the players that helped to get Torre -- his first manager with the Mets -- dismissed for the first time way back in 1981. Gardenhire's Twins clubs have also had trouble within the city limits of late, something he made light of.
"To share an actual nice time in New York is a wonderful thing, because as you know during the baseball season, I haven't been able to do that very often," Gardenhire said, to laughter. "The Twins are a great organization. They treat you right and we try to do things as best we can."
Black, who piloted the Padres to a 90-win season and a second-place finish in the NL West, edged the Reds' Dusty Baker for the award by a single point in the writers' balloting.
"It was a tremendous season; the Padres had a great year," Black said. "I'm honored to be here -- it's a great privilege, I'm happy for the Padres and really happy to be mentioned in the same breath with these managers and players."
Joe DiMaggio Toast of the Town Award: Robinson Cano
Williams was still roaming center field for the Yankees the day in May 2005 that Cano approached him in the clubhouse, grinning widely and calling him one of his heroes growing up. Williams remembered groaning at the age difference, but he'd soon be impressed by Cano's smooth play.
"After that '05 season, we knew we had our second baseman for a long time to come, and each year, he has continued to learn and grow and improve," Williams said. "In 2010, Robbie put it all together and is now arguably the best all-around second baseman in baseball."
Cano was embraced by the New York media as the city's top player in 2010, earning him the award bearing DiMaggio's name. The Silver Slugger second baseman established career highs in homers (29), RBIs (109), on-base percentage (.381) and slugging percentage (.534).
"I want to thank my father [Jose]. He's the one that has been pushing me to be one of the best in the game. I hope to be back here again," said Cano, who also received his 2010 AL Rawlings Gold Glove Award.
Babe Ruth Award (postseason MVP): Tim Lincecum
The pitcher known as 'The Freak' rewrote the record books in October, becoming the sixth pitcher ever to hurl a 1-0 shutout in his postseason debut, allowing two hits and striking out a Giants postseason record 14 batters. In six playoff appearances (one in relief), he was 4-1 with a 2.43 ERA and a .188 opponents batting average, along with two World Series wins.
"Anytime you are associated with a player like Babe Ruth, it's a great honor," Lincecum said in a statement. "As you all know, we can't win this award without help from your teammates. Thanks to their help, we were able to bring the trophy to San Francisco for the first time. It was a great run and hopefully, I'll be back next year as well."
Casey Stengel You Could Look It Up Award: Harmon Killebrew
Acknowledging a player who had not previously been honored by the New York chapter, Killebrew certainly might have been on the dais in 1961, slugging an impressive 46 homers for the Twins. Of course, that was the year he finished third behind Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle.
Gardenhire accepted Killebrew's award in his absence, as the Hall of Fame slugger continues treatment for esophagal cancer.
"He said it was going to be the toughest pitch of his life, but he was going to hit that home run and he'll be in Spring Training with us," Gardenhire said. "Harmon is one of the nicest guys I've ever been around in my life.
"I'm blessed to have him come down during Spring Training. When you look over your shoulder and see a guy like Harmon Killebrew standing next to you, it's a pretty special moment, and he treats you like a king. We're all thinking about him."
Arthur and Milton Richman You Gotta Have Heart Award: R.A. Dickey
Few have shown more heart than the Mets pitcher, who once saw a $810,000 signing bonus vanish when it was discovered he is missing an ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching arm.
The medical marvel later reinvented himself as a knuckleball pitcher and enjoyed a surprise season with the Mets in 2010, becoming one of their most resilient and reliable starters. He called the game "a measurement of a man's will, his perseverance and his passion."
"It is a great gift to play baseball, but it's also an undeserved privilege to have a wife [Anne] that doesn't want you to live with any regrets," Dickey said.
Joan Payson Award for community service: George M. Steinbrenner
Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner spoke on behalf of his late father, who passed away last July 13 at the age of 80. Steinbrenner believed deeply in many forms of community service, but also followed the personal motto that the best form of charity is anonymity.
"He would step in and do whatever he could, anonymously, to fix the problem," Hal Steinbrenner said. "My dad believed that he and the Yankees organization had a responsibility to give back without seeking recognition from others."
William J. Slocum-Jack Lang Award for Long and Meritorious Service: Bill Shannon
He may have been known by few outside the press box, but Shannon was as much a part of New York baseball as anyone in the last five decades. A reporter, historian and uber-knowledgeable official scorer, the 69-year-old Shannon lost his life in an October house fire at his New Jersey home.
"To Bill, nobody in the ballpark was a nobody," said New York-based official scorer Jordan Sprechman. "He loved the people, he loved the game, and if you cared about the game, he cared about you."
Ben Epstein-Dan Castellano Good Guy Award: Phil Hughes
Ever-present at his Yankee Stadium locker, win or loss, Hughes was an easy selection for the chapter in deciding which New York player had been most helpful at allowing them to do their jobs in 2010. Hughes could not attend the ceremony due to a prior engagement, but sent his thanks by way of a statement.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.