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Kicking Cancer's Ass and Other Memorable Moments from the NYC Baseball Writers Dinner

The 94th annual dinner of the New York chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America was held this past Saturday night January 21st at New York's Hilton Hotel. Last year’s dinner was canceled by a blizzard so there was a lot of pent-up enthusiasm for this year’s shindig.

The evening did not disappoint with a fine mixture of levity and serious comment.
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson twitted the writers for the awkwardness of their group’s acronym BBWAA. “Don’t you know baseball is one word?” he asked.

Sandy obviously forgot that Base Ball for a long time in its early decades was indeed two words. But on a winter’s night with still three weeks to spring training, who expects exactitude?

Alderson accepted “The Toast of the Town” award for former Mets pitcher ageless Bartolo Colon who will play for the Atlanta Braves in 2017. He relived with relish Colon’s remarkable homer in San Diego off James Shields. “In front of the #7 line army,” he recalled about the ardent traveling group of Mets fans.

Indians manager Terry Francona presented two awards. One was to his reliever Andrew Miller who pitched remarkably after his July trade from the Yankees. “If you look closely, he’s still icing his left arm,” Francona quipped.

Francona, who everybody calls Tito in honor of his father a former player, also presented Cubs pitcher Jon Lester with the Babe Ruth award for his postseason MVP. Lester not only was a key cog helping Francona’s Bosox to win the 2004 and 2007 World Series, but “he kicked cancer’s ass,” his admiring manager added.

In accepting the award for NL Manager of the Year, LA Dodger rookie skipper Dave Roberts noted that he also had “kicked cancer’s ass.” He thanked Jed Hoyer, now president of the Cubs, for giving him his first job with the Padres organization in 2010 once his treatment was over.

You can see why Roberts has drawn universal praise from every realm of baseball. He walked up to the low dais and quipped, “I am the first person tonight who doesn’t have to bend down to the microphone.”

Turning serious, he said that the game “was in a good place” and will be as long as we remember that “we’re all stewards of the game.”

Retired Dodger first baseman Steve Garvey gave a warm introduction to sportswriter Claire Smith who will be inducted at the end of July into the writer’s wing in Cooperstown. When his 1984 Padres teammates refused to let Smith into their clubhouse, Garvey came out into the hallway and answered every question she asked.

“If I can’t stand up for a friend, who can I stand up for?” he said. In her gracious remarks, Smith reflected on her first year on the baseball beat - she covered the 1982 Yankees that under impetuous George Steinbrenner ran through 3 managers, 6 general managers, and 54 players. “You had to fight for everything you got,” she said, adding it was “the best journalism school you can get.”

By Valentine’s Day the greatest phrase in the English language will ring true again: “Pitchers and catchers are reporting to spring training.” So keep the faith, dear readers, and back to you next with a report on the 52nd annual NYC Pro Baseball Scouts dinner this Friday.

Until then, always: Take it easy but take it!
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