Current stars, past greats honored at awards dinner
"The last two times I've been up here my two favorite players of all-time have introduced me, Mr. Keith Hernandez and Mr. Cal Ripken," Rodriguez told the crowd at the 83rd annual New York baseball dinner. "To the New York fans, thank you very much for making me feel very welcome."
The New York Yankees' third baseman, who also won the 2003 AL MVP with Texas, then took a moment to congratulate manager Ozzie Guillen and three other members of the World Series champion Chicago White Sox who were seated with him on the dais.
"You guys showed the whole world from April 1 to the last game of the season that you truly were the best team in baseball," A-Rod said.
An emotional El Duque received the "You Gotta Have Heart" award from the New York chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, while Hemond was honored for his 54 years of meritorious service in baseball.
"If Johnny Cash was the face of America, ladies and gentlemen, then Roland Hemond is the face of baseball," said Mike Veeck, the son of former White Sox owner Bill Veeck.
Hall of Fame pitcher Juan Marichal proudly presented fellow Dominican Bartolo Colon of the Los Angeles Angels with the AL Cy Young Award, and former St. Louis ace Bob Gibson introduced two winners from the Cardinals: Albert Pujols (NL MVP) and Chris Carpenter (NL Cy Young).
"He walked 1.9 men per nine innings, that's pretty good," Gibson said, referring to Carpenter. "I used to average about three or four -- I'd hit six or seven."
Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda presented Philadelphia slugger Ryan Howard with his NL Rookie of the Year Award.
"I was a first baseman, he's a first baseman -- and we can hit," Cepeda said. "I saw you play, and you're going to be another Hall of Famer."
All-Star catcher Mike Piazza, who agreed to a deal with the San Diego Padres earlier Sunday, won the "Toast of the Town" award, though he didn't attend the dinner because it was his first wedding anniversary.
Mets outfielder Cliff Floyd took home the "Good Guy" award, while Mookie Wilson and Bill Buckner -- forever linked by that famous groundball in the 1986 World Series -- received the "Willie, Mickey and The Duke" award.
Wilson, one of the most popular players in Mets history, spoke at the podium about the former Boston first baseman.
"Billy and I are really good friends now and we see each other quite a lot. He is a true friend and he is a true professional," Wilson said. "As great as that moment was for myself and New York City, I don't think that defines Bill Buckner's life or career."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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