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Awards dinner brings out baseball's stars

Awards dinner brings out baseball's stars

NEW YORK -- At a typical Baseball Writers' Association of America awards dinner, the "oohs" and "ahhs" are reserved for the most spectacular guests -- the Most Valuable Players and the Cy Young Award winners and the like.

But Saturday's dinner was no typical BBWAA dinner. Saturday's dinner was the 87th for the New York chapter, with a numerical theme and a clear tone. On a night in which the city's baseball writers celebrated the number 27 -- as in 27 World Series titles -- the fans in attendance celebrated their Yankees.

It was a New York state of mind, indeed.

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Kings of it all were the Core Four, that quartet of Yankees who were around back in 1996 and who, two and a half months after celebrating their fifth championship as teammates, showed up to the Hilton New York to accept the chapter's Willie, Mickey & the Duke Award, an annual honor for a group of players forever linked in our memories.

Bernie Williams, who could have made it a Core Five had he staved off retirement just a bit longer, presented the award to his former teammates, recalling personal stories about them all. And the Yankee fans in attendance clapped and hollered and giggled at his recollections of Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera.

Joe Girardi, a teammate back then and a manager these days, was on hand to present an award to Twins catcher Joe Mauer. And Alex Rodriguez, a Mariner back then and a Yankee these days, was also at the Hilton to accept the Babe Ruth Award for postseason MVP -- presented by none other than the late Ruth's granddaughter, Linda Ruth Tosetti.

"Postseason MVP -- wow," Rodriguez said, laughing at the unlikelihood of him winning such an award. "What's next, the Good Guy Award?"

On this night, that honor -- the Ben Epstein-Dan Castellano Good Guy Award -- went instead to Mets outfielder Jeff Francoeur, recognized for his friendliness and candor during his first three months in Queens. And there were other chapter awards, as well. Though absent from the dinner, Carlos Beltran won the Joan Payson Award for community service. Jeter won the Joe DiMaggio "Toast of the Town" Award, and Mauer won the Sid Mercer-Dick Young Player of the Year Award.

Accompanied by recollections of his role in a 19-inning game in 1985, Ron Darling won the Casey Stengel "You Could Look It Up" Award, given annually to a player not previously recognized by the New York chapter. Darling and the award's presenter, Rusty Staub, joked at length about that game of length, which ended when Darling closed it out at 3:55 in the morning.

"If you guys knew those Mets teams, they were not going to get beat around last call," Darling cracked.

The final two chapter winners were Aaron Boone, who took home the Arthur and Milton Richman "You Gotta Have Heart" Award for his comeback this season after open-heart surgery, and, in an emotional presentation, Don Zimmer, who won the William J. Slocum-Jack Lang Award for long and meritorious service.

The traditional star power was there as well, with Mauer and Albert Pujols on hand to accept their MVP Awards, Zack Greinke and Tim Lincecum present to accept their Cys, Andrew Bailey and Chris Coghlan there to nab their Rookie of the Year Awards and Mike Scioscia and Jim Tracy in attendance to pick up their trophies for American League and National League Manager of the Year.

But after Pujols was done thanking another Cardinals MVP, Orlando Cepeda, and after Mauer was done poking fun at the Seattle writer who prevented the MVP vote from being unanimous, the heavy New York theme resurfaced.

With Girardi, a newly minted No. 28, on the dais, the baseball writers celebrated No. 27, Girardi's old mission statement and the reason many of the more than 1,000 writers, fans and baseball employees came out to the 87th dinner.

Even Scioscia, in presenting the AL Rookie of the Year Award to Bailey, poked fun at the New York bias on the dais.

"When you guys are channel surfing at 1 a.m., those are actually Major League games," Scioscia joked.

And everybody laughed. And then the dinner ended, and Mauer and Pujols and Coghlan headed home, ready to report to points south in just a few short weeks.

Girardi, with closure on his former No. 27, left the dais with a mob of autograph requests in his wake. Rivera and Williams left with hundreds of adoring fans staring up. And Boone, an area hero of Octobers past, also left, though not before imparting one last piece of wisdom:

"It's always special," Boone said, "to be back in New York."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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