Damon honored by writers group for work with wounded soldiers

NEW YORK -- Johnny Damon was trembling as he stepped to the
podium. He tried to steady himself, take a deep breath, find some
way to choke back the tears.

It was no use.

The Yankees outfielder was overwhelmed by his introduction
Sunday night at the 85th annual New York baseball writers' dinner,
where he was honored for his work with soldiers wounded in Iraq and

"Wow. I'm not that emotional of a person," Damon said after a
standing ovation. "But for the freedom that we have, we all should
pay more attention to people who go out there and fight for it."

Damon received the Joan Payson Award for community service,
named after the former New York Mets owner. In September 2006, he
became a national spokesman for the Wounded Warrior Project, which
provides various types of assistance to injured servicemen and

"This was something that really needed to be addressed," said
Damon, whose father, Jimmy, was a career Army officer and served in
Vietnam. "I'm going to keep spreading the word. We're going to
make these guys come home and live normal lives and feel like
they're a part of our country still."

Another boisterous ovation went to Damon's teammate, Alex
Rodriguez, who picked up his third AL MVP award and the Sid Mercer
Player of the Year Award.

Rodriguez, who appeared to be on his way out of town before reaching
a $275 million, 10-year contract with the Yankees this offseason,
was introduced by another three-time MVP.

"Alex, welcome to the club, buddy," Hall of Fame catcher Yogi
Berra said. "You're pretty good."

Rodriguez knew just how to respond.

"Yogi, I am pretty proud and impressed with your three MVP
awards," he said. "The 10 championships, I'm very jealous of."

The slugger also added that he was happy to stay in pinstripes.

"I'm very glad to be back here for 10 years," Rodriguez said. "I want to thank New York, for a lot of reasons. New York makes
you do a lot of things. It makes you think. It humbles you. It
makes you look in the mirror and ask yourself all the tough
questions. And if not, the reporters will ask them."

Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins received his NL
MVP award.

"I'd like to thank my parents -- my dad for taking the line
drives off the elbow and my mom for teaching me how to talk
trash," he said.

Mets closer Billy Wagner took home the Ben Epstein Good Guy
Award, and Yankees rookie sensation Joba Chamberlain won the Joe
DiMaggio Toast of the Town Award.

Recalling his infuriating bout with those tiny midges at
Cleveland's Jacobs Field in the AL playoffs, Chamberlain glanced
down the dais and found Indians manager Eric Wedge.

"Mr. Wedge, where you at? Next time we come, leave the bugs
off," the pitcher said.

Joe Torre, the new manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers after 12
years guiding the Yankees, won the William J. Slocum Award for Long
and Meritorious Service. Yankees broadcaster and former outfielder
Bobby Murcer, battling cancer, received the Milton Richman You
Gotta Have Heart Award.

Longtime Houston Astros star Craig Biggio, who recently retired,
won the Casey Stengel You Could Look It Up Award. Denny McLain and
Luis Tiant were honored with the Willie, Mickey and the Duke Award
to mark the 40th anniversary of their outstanding seasons in 1968 --
the year of the pitcher.

"Look at how many years I had to wait to get something," said
Tiant, who lost out to McLain in AL Cy Young Award voting that