Tony Clark receives Jackie Robinson Award from Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark remembered the players who paved the way for his success when he received the Jackie Robinson Lifetime Achievement Award during the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum's third annual Hall of Game event on Saturday night.

Clark, who following a 15-year Major League career became the Players Association's fourth executive director and first former player elected to the position, paid tribute to some of the veteran players he played alongside during his early years with the Tigers, including Cecil Fielder, Allen Trammell, Lou Whitaker and Tony Phillips.

"They, and a number of others, shared with me what I was a part of and that I had a responsibility to leave the game better for those who came after me -- just as they had for me," Clark told the audience at the Gem Theater in the historic 18th and Vine District in Kansas City.

The lifetime achievement award was part of a program in which Orlando Cepeda, Andre Dawson, Tony Oliva and Tim Raines were inducted into the museum's "Hall of Game" -- an honor bestowed on former stars "who competed with the same passion, determination, skill and flair exhibited by the heroes of the Negro Leagues."

Clark said those early lessons in the game from veteran players "taught me that I stood then and stand now on the backs of many strong and principled men … men like those being honored here today."

Those former greats join the Hall of Game's inaugural and second-year classes that included Roberto Clemente, Joe Morgan, Rickey Henderson and Ozzie Smith.

NLBM president Bob Kendrick said that Clark was being honored as a former player who continues to make an impact on behalf of his fellow players.

"Tony Clark not only was an imposing and respected player on the field, but his knowledge and respect of the game and relationship with its players carried over into his leadership … where it continues to provide benefits and protections for the players and their careers," he said.

Clark also spoke about legacy, mentioning a quote from Muhammad Ali that Dr. Harry Jacobs had recalled in the boxing champion's memorial service a day earlier: "Success is what you achieve; Your significance is what you leave."

"After I heard it I thought, 'I like that. That resonates,'" Clark said, adding that when he used his phone to make a note of it, the first thing he saw was a different but similar quote from Jackie Robinson on his screen saver: "A life is not important except for the impact it has on other lives."

"I smiled and thought, 'Of course it resonated.' That quote, those quotes," Clark said, "are largely why I am in the role I'm in today."