This prestigious award plays tribute to Roberto Clemente's legacy, his achievements and his character by recognizing a Major League Baseball player who best represents the game through the positive contributions on and off the field, and who truly understands the value of helping others.
The Roberto Clemente Award is named for the Hall of Famer, 15‑time All‑Star who of course died in a tragic plane crash on New Year's Eve in 1972, while attempting to deliver supplies to the earthquake victims in Nicaragua. The world lost a legend and a great humanitarian that day, but our next speaker lost a husband and a friend.
Presently she has continued the work of her husband, the job of spreading Roberto's message of service and giving back as the goodwill ambassador of Major League Baseball. It is my distinct honor to introduce to you the wife of Roberto Clemente, Vera Clemente. (Applause).
VERA CLEMENTE: Good evening. Thank you to Major League Baseball and to Chevrolet for your support of the award. The Roberto Clemente Award recognizes the Major League Baseball player who best represents the game through positive contributions both on and off the field.
On December 31, 1972, my husband died the way he lived, trying to help people. This award represents everything Roberto stood for. Roberto was truly a Good Samaritan, and through the award, today's players are recognized for these same qualities.
Congratulations to Clayton Kershaw and his wife Ellen. What he has accomplished at a very young age, both on and off the field is truly amazing, and I am very happy to welcome him as an award winner who is carrying on Roberto's legacy. God bless you. (Applause).
GARY THORNE: The Roberto Clemente Award is presented by Chevrolet, the official vehicle of Major League Baseball. To speak on behalf of Chevrolet please welcome the national promotions manager at Chevrolet Phil Caruso.
PHIL CARUSO: Good evening, everyone. For the past six years Chevrolet is proud to have sponsored the Roberto Clemente Award. We are extremely honored to be able to amplify the importance of this award and to carry on Roberto's legacy. During our sponsorship we have contributed over $1.8 million to charitable organizations in communities across the country.
We'd like to thank the baseball fans that have participated in voting for this award, and are happy to say that we have engaged over 1.5 million fans, just another way that we are helping bring attention to these great athletes and their worthy causes.
Once again this year we'll make a monetary contribution to the Clemente Award winner's charity of choice. We will also donate a select 2013 Chevrolet vehicle to assist in their charity's missions.
A special thanks to Major League Baseball, the Clemente family, and congratulations to Clayton Kershaw. Thank you. (Applause).
GARY THORNE: Thanks very much. The recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award is selected based on a combination of a fan vote on MLB.com and a panel of dignitaries that include Vera, Phil Caruso, former Roberto Clemente Award winners Harold Reynolds, Al Leiter, John Smoltz and the recently inducted Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley and our next speaker.
To officially announce the winner of the 2012 Roberto Clemente Award Presented by Chevrolet, please welcome Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Thank you, Gary. I'm honored to be here tonight to present the Roberto Clemente Award Presented by Chevrolet, and I want to thank Chevrolet for their continued support of this great honor. Phil, thank you. I'd also like to thank Vera Clemente for continuing the enduring legacy of her late husband Roberto by being an outstanding goodwill ambassador for Major League Baseball, and we thank you for all your help.
Roberto Clemente was not only one of the truly gifted players in baseball history, but a true humanitarian who lost his life while trying to help those in need. This award as a unique connection to both of this year's World Series teams: The award was created in 1971 and named The Commissioner's Award. The first recipient was Willie Mays of the San Francisco Giants. Following Roberto's tragic passing, Major League Baseball renamed the award in his honor in 1973, and the recipient that year was Al Kaline. And Al, your career speaks all the things we've talked about today, so it's a pleasure to have you.
A total of 14 Hall of Famers have received this award, including Brooks Robinson, Rod Carew, Cal Ripken, Jr., and Tony Gwynn. A very impressive group of active players have also won this award, including Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols and David Ortiz, and we can now add Clayton Kershaw to that most distinguished list.
In just five years Clayton has established himself as one of baseball's most dominant pitchers and among our game's brightest young stars. His 2011 Cy Young Award‑winning season is one for the ages, as he led the majors in earned run average, the National League in wins, NL in strikeouts, all at the age of 23. A pretty good year I must say.
One year later we're proud to add another accomplishment to his mantle. In addition to helping many young people in his baseball home of LA and his hometown of Dallas, Clayton has made an extraordinary commitment to improve the lives of at‑risk youth in Africa. His foundation, Kershaw's Challenge, which he created with his wife Ellen, has worked to create Hope's Home, an orphanage for children in Zambia, Africa. In addition to providing a safe haven for orphans, the foundation has sought to create an emergency fund for the children, many of whom suffer from diseases and infections related to HIV and AIDS. Clayton and Ellen are not only a financial donor, they have made several trips to visit the children whose lives they have positively affected. Clayton's numerous accomplishments in making a difference in the lives of children in the United States and Africa is just remarkable.
So Clayton, I believe that Roberto Clemente would be pleased with your efforts. It's players like you that make me very proud to be the Commissioner of Baseball. Congratulations on being the winner of the 2012 Roberto Clemente Award Presented by Chevrolet. Many in this room have heard me say that I believe, and I believe very strongly, that baseball is a social institution with really important responsibilities. You exemplify that, and your wife I may add, in so many different ways, it really is a pleasure, and I'm proud you represent our sport the way you do. Congratulations.
CLAYTON KERSHAW: Thank you very much.
There's just a few people I have to thank: I want to thank Commissioner Selig for the award and Chevrolet, as well. The donations by both of those is going to be incredible for Kershaw's Challenge. Vera, thank you so much for honoring me, and the Clemente family, thank you so much. It's incredible. I can't even put into words what it means to be associated with somebody like Roberto Clemente, and what he stood for. Obviously what he did on the field but off the field is just incredible.
Getting to win something like this, it means more to me than individual award I could ever achieve. There's a lot of things you can do individually on the field, but that's our job, and I think off the field to get recognized for something like this is really incredible, and it's just really fulfilling. Ellen, thank you, also. She did a whole lot for this. It just means a lot. So thank you very much.
GARY THORNE: She's been mentioned a number of times. I think you ought to see her and give her a round of applause.
We will take time for a few questions, since we do have a moment to do that for anyone who's on the dais.
Q. Clayton, the average age of this award is 35, and you're 24. When Pujols won at 27 that was considered very young. What does that mean to you? Because it's usually thought of as almost like a lifetime achievement type of award.
CLAYTON KERSHAW: It means a lot. You know, I've been fortunate to get to start playing baseball professionally at the Big League level at an early age, and I'm so thankful for that. With that comes a great platform to do stuff off the field. I was just fortunate that I got a great start in LA, and could start doing staff off the field almost immediately. It's blossomed into what Ellen and I have started now, Kershaw's Challenge, and it's just truly a testament to everybody involved, the Dodgers for letting me get up there that fast, and for people letting me create a platform off the field, which is just really special.
Q. The Giants being on the verge of winning the World Series, does that mean anything to you being a Dodger?
CLAYTON KERSHAW: Yeah, it makes us look good, I guess, knowing we have to play them so much and knowing what a great team they are. If you told me they were on the verge of a sweep tonight, I probably wouldn't have believed you, but they're such a great team and got so many good players. I'm not surprised that they're here by any means.
GARY THORNE: I thank all the members of the dais. Once again, Clayton, congratulations.