How big is this event? Last year, when Winter Storm Jonas buried New York under nearly 28 inches of snow, the dinner portion of the event was canceled but players braved the blizzard to accept their trophies, posing in their tuxedos amidst snowdrifts in Times Square for #Snowzilla pics. It is where Barry Zito congratulated fellow honorees Bryce Harper, Buster Posey and others for making his annual "All-Dreamy" team, and where Kris Bryant accepted his Rookie of the Year Award and said, "I've never seen anything like this. . . . Tuxedos and two feet of snow!"
This time, Bryant will be given the National League Most Valuable Player Award, with Trout presented the American League version. Along with a host of chapter-specific awards, league trophies also will be handed out to Scherzer and Porcello for Cy Young, Seager and Fulmer for Rookie of the Year, and Roberts and Francona for Manager of the Year.
"The dinner has always been a special event, bringing together the baseball community for a night to honor the national award winners, along with players, past and present, that the New York chapter has decided to recognize," said Mike Puma, former New York chapter chairman of the BBWAA. "It's really baseball's version of the Oscars, with everybody decked out in black tie, converging for a night to tell a few stories and celebrate the game."
For years, this was known on the event's official scorecard as the "Eating and Oratorial Contest," a nod to the irreverent and often unpredictable nature of the conversations. You never know what will happen with this many big names in one place at the same time.
It is where Willie Mays signed autographs "for kids only" at his table a couple of years ago. In 1965, it was where the same Say-Hey Kid, Mickey Mantle and Duke Snider all appeared together for the last time. Mantle confessed to the crowd that night: "I've been asked the question many times over the years, all of us have, but I have to say right here and now: Willie was probably the best of us three…just look at the stats."
Ten years ago, it was where Reggie Jackson honored the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier by saying in his speech: "What Jackie did was for everyone regardless of race. We have to be reminded that this land of opportunity is for everybody." Four years ago, it is where Stan Musial's passing was announced to attendees, and last year a poignant cover was made with a beautiful likeness of the great Yogi Berra.
It is where zany right-hander Mark "The Bird" Fidrych entertained the crowd in 1977 after winning 19 games for Detroit and accepting his American League Rookie of the Year Award -- right before a Spring Training injury and subsequent fall from grace. It is where Casey Stengel "had everyone in stitches" (according to Sparky Anderson) for a half-hour and made everyone feel sorry for the speaker who followed him to the podium.
In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt excused himself from attending the dinner but sent this message: "I am the kind of fan who wants to see plenty of action for his money . . . my idea of the best [baseball] game is one that guarantees the fans a combined score of not less than fifteen runs, divided about eight to seven." A year later, Joe DiMaggio was feted after leading the Yankees to his second world championship in as many big-league seasons.
Today, the Joe DiMaggio Toast of the Town Award is a dinner fixture, and it will go this time to Colon, the former Met/cult icon and current Braves pitcher. Other chapter awards will be presented to relievers Betances, Chapman and Miller (Willie, Mickey and the Duke Award); retired legends Ortiz and Teixeira (Slocum Award for Long and Meritorious Service); Lester (Postseason MVP); Headley (Epstein/Castellano Good Guy Award); Lopez (Casey Stengel "You Could Look It Up" Award); Syndergaard (New York Player of the Year); and Schwarber (You Gotta Have Heart Award).
The New York chapter also will honor late Mets employee Shannon Forde with the Joan Payson Humanitarian Award, which in the past has been given to such legends as Gary Carter, Derek Jeter, David Wight and Berra. At last month's Winter Meetings, MLB raised funds and announced plans to name a softball field in Little Ferry, N.J., after Forde, who died of breast cancer last March.
Tickets to the dinner are available at $225 apiece at bbwaa.com/ny-dinner.