Hall of Famers on hand as Gold Glove Award winners receive hardware in NY
By Mark Newman
NEW YORK -- Catcher Yadier Molina of the Cardinals and center fielder Kevin Kiermaier of the Rays were presented with the Rawlings Platinum Glove Awards as Major League Baseball's best overall defensive players in each league during the star-studded Gold Glove Award Ceremony on Friday night at The Plaza in Manhattan.
It was Molina's record fourth Platinum Glove in the last five years and Kiermaier's first after a highlight-filled season. Molina could not attend as he recovers from surgery to repair a ligament injury in his left hand.
Whitey Ford, the winningest pitcher in World Series history, was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award by 16-time Gold Glove Award winner Jim Kaat. Ken Griffey Jr. was inducted into the Gold Glove Hall of Fame in a presentation by Ozzie Smith. New Marlins manager Don Mattingly presented his mentor, MLB executive vice president of baseball operations Joe Torre, with the Rawlings Heart of Gold Award for Torre's Safe at Home Foundation work.
Speaking of outstanding defense, Friday was the last day to vote at MLB.com/awards to help decide the MLB Esurance Awards, which include such categories as Best Defensive Player and Best Defensive Play. Awards season covers everything this time, even the Best Fan Catch. Those awards will be announced on Nov. 20 at MLB.com.
The Platinum Glove Award is based on a combination of fan voting and the Society of Baseball Research's SABR Defensive Index.
Ford, 89, started Game 1 in eight World Series for the Yankees -- unfathomable today. He was given his award right before a touching video tribute to the late Yogi Berra, a gripping moment for the 550 or so attendees. Kaat, who was taught by Ford in 1962 how to properly grip a fastball, stood at the podium with the Chairman of the Board and asked if there was any highlight that stood out most from all those glory years.
"I had a lot of them," Ford said. "My biggest thrill was, Ted Williams used to kill me. I struck him out twice in a game and I went out and celebrated."
Smith, a 13-time Gold Glove winner, was probably welcoming Griffey to a Hall of Fame for the first of two times within a year. Griffey is a first-timer on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot that just went to voters, and he is considered a likely first-ballot selection.
This time, it was all about defense, and especially memories of center field in Seattle, as Griffey won 10 straight Gold Gloves -- every year in the 1990s.
"As a little kid, my dad always said, 'Play defense. Anybody can go up there and hit, but it's what you're doing when you're not hitting that's important,'" Griffey said of his father and former Mariners teammate. "I had no idea that it would be like this. I just wanted to be like my dad.
"I wore my hat backwards because he had a 'fro, and his head was like 7 5/8, and mine was a 6, and any time I wore his hat it would get in my face, so I turned it around. That's how that started. So if you hear anything else about me and my baseball hat, it's not true. I just wanted to be like my dad."
Mattingly had attended Torre's 13th annual Safe at Home Foundation Gala a night earlier downtown, helping raise about $1 million for that foundation in its ongoing mission to help youth who are impacted by violence in their homes and communities. On this night, they were together again.
"This means a great deal to me, and being presented by Don Mattingly makes it special in its own right," Torre said. "When we started our foundation, I'd call around and get a response: That's a women's issue. It is so much more than that. It's a children's issue. They fall through the cracks.
"We don't want any gold medals hanging; we just want to reach more children. And that is what this is all about."
Berra, whose surviving sons were on hand, was honored in a tribute video. Torre, after sharing many stories, said what all were thinking: "Yogi was such a dear friend, and he left a void in our lives."
The average age of Gold Glove winners was under 26, typical of a 2015 season known for the best young crop of talent in MLB history.
"We go out there and play every day; we lay it out there on the field every day," Machado said as the Gold Glovers mingled in the cocktail reception before dinner. "Just for the coaches who see what we do out there on the field, it just shows that they are paying attention. It's an honor."
Perez was one of three Royals to receive Gold Gloves, and he said he and Escobar watched the live announcement show on ESPN this week together as Esky won his first.
Perez's Gold Glove was presented to him by his own manager, a former catcher -- Ned Yost. This was another feather in Perez's amazing 2015 cap, one that included a World Series MVP trophy.
"Unbelievable year," Perez said. "Seriously, the first thing, thank you, God, for everything. It was an amazing year. We will never forget 2015, and we are enjoying the moment."
Don Henley, comedian George Lopez, "Tonight Show" house band The Roots and emcee Joe Piscopo provided the entertainment. As always, legends including many Hall of Famers presented the hardware, in this case along with Yost.
One of the funniest lines of the night came from the great Reggie Jackson, who presented the right fielders' Gold Gloves. He said "they wanted to humble me because I never won a Gold Glove" by seating him next to Greg Maddux (18 Gold Gloves), Brooks Robinson (16) and Smith (13).
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.