01/26/09 12:00 AM EST
BBWAA hands out annual awards
Game's top honors bestowed during event in Manhattan
By Anthony DiComo / MLB.com
Consider this geniality, just one of many: David Wright, approaching the podium to accept an award honoring his commitment to charity work, first took a moment to shoot a glance in either direction. On his right sat Cole Hamels, and on his left sat Brad Lidge, two of the greatest reasons why the Phillies are the reigning World Series champions.
"I'd like to personally welcome Cole and Brad to New York," Wright said, drawing a roar from both the crowd and the Phillies. "It's always nice to see you guys."
Wright's award, the Joan Payson Award for community service, was one of nine the New York chapter gave out at its 86th dinner in Manhattan, in addition to the BBWAA's eight national awards.
Dustin Pedroia and Albert Pujols accepted their American and National League MVP Awards, Cliff Lee and Tim Lincecum accepted their respective Cy Young Awards, Evan Longoria and Geovany Soto accepted their Rookie of the Year trophies, and Lou Piniella -- after one of the night's loudest ovations -- accepted his award for NL Manager of the Year.
The only one of the eight major award winners who wasn't present was AL Manager of the Year Joe Maddon, who addressed the crowd with a prerecorded video. Maddon earned some press this season for his mantra of "9=8," representing the fact that nine teammates playing nine hard innings of baseball every night could become one of the league's eight playoff teams -- which the Rays ultimately did.
And in an unwitting nod to that, as the only one of the eight major award winners absent, Maddon on this night made 8=7.
Yet he wasn't the only absentee. Yankees outfielder Johnny Damon, who delivered an emotional speech at last year's dinner after winning the Payson Award, this year gave a video address to accept his Ben Epstein-Dan Castellano "Good Guy" Award. And Johan Santana, the city's most high-profile baseball newcomer of the past year, accepted the Joe DiMaggio "Toast of the Town" Award from afar.
All others were in attendance. Mike Mussina -- whose introduction spurred chants of "one more year!" -- thanked writers after winning the Casey Stengel "You Could Look It Up" Award, bestowed upon a player not previously recognized by the chapter. Greg Maddux took home the William J. Slocum-Jack Lang Award for long and meritorious service. And Bob Klapisch, a sportswriter who partially lost his vision after being hit with a comebacker in a semi-professional game, won the Milton Richman "You Gotta Have Heart" Award.
Wright's new buddies Lidge and Hamels presented awards to each other -- Lidge gave Hamels the Babe Ruth Award for World Series MVP, and Hamels gave Lidge the Sid Mercer-Dick Young "Player of the Year" Award. And both Bernie Williams and Ed Kranepool won the "Willie, Mickey and the Duke" Award for playing the most games at the refurbished Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium, respectively.
For Williams -- yet another crowd favorite -- the award wasn't his only appearance at the podium. An accomplished guitarist, he played an original version of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" before serenading the crowd -- a mix of sportswriters, baseball dignitaries and fans -- with a more traditional version of the same song.
Throughout the night, the BBWAA also recognized some of its esteemed guests, none more prominent than Kay Murcer. Her husband, former Yankees center fielder and broadcaster Bobby Murcer, provided last year's dinner with its most poignant moment, addressing the crowd with an inspirational speech less than six months before passing away due to complications of his brain cancer.
There were no such moments at this year's dinner, perhaps because no one in attendance had touched as many lives as Murcer. But his presence, through Kay, was palpable, and almost certainly will be for countless dinners to come.
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.