January 14, 2003

Reprinted with permission

January 14, 2003 - The Kansas City Star

Players must honor the past

Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa have been invited.

I hope they understand the significance.

Now Negro Leagues Baseball Museum officials are waiting to see just how many professional baseball players will pick up their Legacy Awards in person next month.

The museum's Legacy Awards will be presented Feb. 7 at the Folly Theater. The event honors the top major league baseball players with special awards named after Negro Leagues legends.

Tickets to the dinner and awards ceremony range from $40 to $150.

Comedian Tommy Davidson will serve as master of ceremonies. John Schuerholz, general manager of the Atlanta Braves, has agreed to participate.

But, so far, none of the players honored with an award has agreed to attend. The first year, only one professional baseball player showed up. The second year, three players showed up.

How many players will attend the third-annual event? Their agents might be the only ones to know for sure.

Players from both the National League and the American League are honored in each category. Here are this year's winners:

    • The Satchel Paige Award, presented to the pitchers of the year: Randy Johnson, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Barry Zito, Oakland A's.

    • Josh Gibson Award, presented to the home run leaders: Sammy Sosa, Chicago Cubs, and Alex Rodriguez, Texas Rangers.

    • Cool Papa Bell Award, presented to the stolen base leaders: Luis Castillo, Florida Marlins, and Alfonso Soriano, New York Yankees.

    • Buck Leonard Award, presented to the batting champions: Barry Bonds, San Francisco Giants, and Manny Ramirez, Boston Red Sox.

    • Oscar Charleston Award, presented to the most valuable players: Barry Bonds, San Francisco Giants, and Alex Rodriguez, Texas Rangers.

    • Andrew "Rube" Foster Award, presented to the executives of the year: John Schuerholz, Atlanta Braves, and Bill Stoneman, Anaheim Angels.

    • C.I. Taylor Award, presented to the managers of the year: Tony La Russa, St. Louis Cardinals, and Mike Scioscia, Anaheim Angels.

    • Larry Doby Award, presented the rookies of the year: Jason Jennings, Colorado Rockies, and Eric Hinske, Toronoto Blue Jays.

    • Hilton Smith Award, presented to the relievers of the year: John Smoltz, Atlanta Braves, and Eddie Guardado, Minnesota Twins.

    • Jackie Robinson Lifetime Achievement Award, presented to an individual for career excellence in the face of adversity: Frank Robinson, manager of the Montreal Expos and the first African-American manager in the major leagues.

    • John "Buck" O'Neil Award, presented to a local or national corporate/private philanthropist for outstanding support of the museum: Bruce Boeger, regional director for Lincoln-Mercury; and Joe Sorrentino, senior account executive for Pepsi.

Each year, the museum tries to increase the number of professional baseball players who participate, said Bobby Kendrick, the museum's director of marketing.

"It's always going to be difficult to get them all to participate," Kendrick said. "Our goal is to have a representative group and show an increase in participation year-to-year."

I understand the players have families and commitments. But those excuses don't fly every year.

Just once, I want a superstar chosen for a distinction to tell the public that the Legacy Awards were just too important not to participate in. Just once, I want a millionaire-ballplayer to say he wouldn't dare disgrace the memory of Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard or Cool Papa Bell by not attending.