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Matthew Leach

BBWAA dinner allows a look back, forward

Stories of perseverance honored on emotional night in New York

BBWAA dinner allows a look back, forward
NEW YORK -- They can't all be like this one. It's just not possible. But there still ought to be more of them.

Saturday night's dinner for the New York chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, one of three such annual events remaining, served as a reminder of why annual writers' dinners are so valuable and so treasured in the cities where they still exist. In a completely different way, so did the St. Louis dinner one night later. The third, in Boston, is set for Thursday night and surely will provide its own set of memories.

Even in the face of one of the saddest days in the game's recent memory, the New York dinner celebrated a great season gone by and signaled the countdown to the one about to begin. The game learned of Earl Weaver's death on Saturday morning. Not long after the event got under way in the evening, those in attendance were informed that another all-time great, Stan Musial, had died.

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It was unavoidable, then, that the shadow of those two great losses would loom over the dinner. But instead of being crushed by them, the night rose. It was highlighted by co-winners of the "You Gotta Have Heart" Award, three impressive people who have made it a way of life to persevere in the face of bad news.

Michael Weiner, the head of the MLB Players Association, received the award for his grace in his ongoing battle with a brain tumor. Weiner has remained at his post even in the midst of his treatment. He's maintained his good humor, evidenced by a joke at his own expense.

"I kind of scratch my head -- it's much easier for me to do these days -- at the attention paid to how I'm trying to fight my illness," said Weiner, who has lost much of his hair in the course of treatment. "All I've tried to do is live my life the way I've always lived it. All I've tried to do is to do my job as I've always tried to do it."

Weiner shared the award with Jim and Lindsey Duquette, recognizing Duquette's donation of a kidney to his daughter. The younger Duquette battled a serious kidney ailment for eight years, but the transplant has worked wonders for 10-year-old Lindsey.

Jim Duquette, a former Major League general manager who now works for MLB.com and SiriusXM radio, gave a heartfelt speech, but it was Lindsey's address that may have been the night's most memorable moment. She showed a sly wit and owned the grand ballroom of the New York Hilton.

"You guys made me a rock star with my classmates and teachers," Lindsey said, referring to the stories about her and her father that appeared around the time of the operation.

"I want to congratulate my dad's friend, Mr. Weiner, for sharing this award with us," she added before quipping, "and if you ever need any advice when you're in the hospital, I'm available."

It wasn't just heartstring moments, of course. Many of the fans who bought tickets did so in hopes of seeing some of the game's brightest stars, and in that regard, the New York dinner does not disappoint. Major BBWAA award winners, including Cy Young recipients David Price and R.A. Dickey and MVP honorees Miguel Cabrera and Buster Posey, accepted their hardware and addressed the gathering.

Price's award was presented by a previous winner, Yankees star CC Sabathia. Dickey, meanwhile, presented Weiner with his award, flashing the casual shoes that he was wearing as a tribute to the union leader.

It was the kind of gathering of stars that simply can't happen in every city, at every dinner. That's why the New York event stands out -- everyone makes the trip to be there. But it was also emblematic of why these dinners are so special. It's a chance for people in the game to get together, look back one last time and begin looking ahead. And that's something that's worth doing in every city around the Majors.

Matthew Leach is a writer for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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