BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Baseball's unsung heroes were saluted Saturday night at the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation's 14th annual "In the Spirit of the Game" awards banquet, held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
Bo Jackson received the "A Scout's Dream Award," presented by former Kansas City Royals teammate and Hall of Famer George Brett, who called the two-sport star the greatest athlete he had ever seen. Brett insisted Jackson would be in the baseball Hall of Fame, if he hadn't switched to football and suffered a devastating hip injury.
"No doubt in my mind," Brett said. "God, was he talented. If ever there was a scout's dream, it was tonight's honoree."
Jackson acknowledged that "Bo Jackson was good, but the sport was great for Bo Jackson." He then delivered an emotional tribute to the late Kenny Gonzalez, the scout that convinced Kansas City executive Art Stewart to draft and sign Jackson when the sports world expected the superstar to play in the NFL.
"Scouts discover us, they sit in the wood bleachers and get splinters in their butts to find us," Jackson said. "I can honestly say that without the knowledge of Kenny Gonzalez and Art Stewart discovering my talent, I wouldn't be here."
The program opened with Hall of Fame executive Pat Gillick presenting the "Legends in Scouting Award" to Ed Creech, Jay Hankins, Marty Maier, Wayne Morgan and Scott Reid. The George Genovese "Lifetime Achievement Award in Scouting" was presented by Twins executive Rob Antony to Mike Radcliffe and by Dan Bane, CEO of Trader Joe's Markets, to his brother, Eddie Bane.
The "Bud Selig Executive Leadership Award" was presented by the Commissioner Emeritus to David Montgomery, chairman of the Phillies, after Selig cited scouts as "the lifeblood of the sport, and I hope everyone remembers that in the years to come."
Selig called Montgomery "one really special human being," while Montgomery thanked Phillies execs Bill Giles, Paul Owens, Dallas Green, Hugh Alexander and Ray Shore "for teaching me the game the way the players and scouts see it."
After a touching video tribute by Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein acknowledging the recent passing of scout Stan Zielinski, Hall of Famer Dave Winfield presented the "Humanitarian Award" named for him to Academy Award-winning actor and activist Louis Gossett Jr., who created the Eracism Foundation, dedicated to eradicating all forms of racism.
"For his insight, his energy and tremendous dedication for such a courageous cause, I'm honored to present the 2017 Dave Winfield Humanitarian Award to Louis Gossett, Jr.," Winfield said.
The "Pioneer Award" went to Rachel Robinson, marking the upcoming 70th anniversary of her late husband, Jackie Robinson, breaking the color barrier with the Dodgers. The award was presented by Brooklyn native and longtime Dodgers fan Larry King, and accepted by Ayo Robinson, one of Robinson's 15 grandchildren, who announced that a Jackie Robinson Museum would open later this year in New York.
Hall of Famer Randy Johnson received the "Player Lifetime Achievement Award," and praised Montreal scouts Bob Fontaine, Tom Hinkle and Cliff Ditto for putting their reputations on the line for a 6-foot-10, 185-pound lefty drafted out of USC.
"Without scouts, there wouldn't be players," said Johnson. "They held the Golden Globes in this [ball]room last week, and this is like the Golden Globes for scouts."
The "Tom Lasorda Managerial Achievement Award" was presented by its namesake to Dodgers Manager of the Year Dave Roberts, although Lasorda first had to whisper something to the recipient when he reached the podium.
"I just got a talking to that I better win a championship," Roberts revealed.
The Professional Scouts Foundation, launched by Chicago White Sox executive and former player agent Dennis Gilbert, was established to help baseball scouts who have fallen on hard time due to job loss, illness, retirement or other setbacks. It relies solely on donations, contributions and the success of the annual awards dinner and memorabilia auction.
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.