KANSAS CITY, Mo., Feb. 5 /PRNewswire/ -- The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM) closed the book on the 2009 Major League Baseball season by honoring some of the games' biggest and brightest stars with awards named for Negro League legends at the 10th Annual Legacy Awards. The annual baseball celebration launched an exciting yearlong series of programs and events commemorating the Museum's 20th Anniversary.
More than 800 guests, "dressed to the nines," poured into the Grand Ballroom of the Kansas City Convention Center on Saturday, January 30, 2010 for the star-studded affair. The gala event featured a who's who celebrity line-up and an All-Star planning team led by St. Louis Cardinal Hall of Famer Lou Brock and his wife Jackie; NFL legend Gale Sayers and Judy and Jim Heeter. Seven-time Emmy Award-winning broadcaster Roy Firestone hosted the event that raised in excess of $100,000 in net proceeds in support of the NLBM.
The Legacy Awards, established by the NLBM in 2000, honors the best Major League Baseball players, managers and executives with awards in the name and spirit of Negro Leagues legends such as Buck O'Neil, Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, and Hilton Smith. Awards are presented in 13 categories and recognize both on- and off-the-field accomplishments. Baseball related awards are presented to recipients from the American League (AL) and National League (NL).
The magnitude of the evening, and a day at the NLBM, left the young Legacy Award winners humbled and honored to receive awards bearing the names of legendary players they knew little, if anything, about prior to their journey to Kansas City. All expressed heartfelt appreciation for the courage and determination displayed by those unsung baseball heroes of the Negro Leagues and how their sacrifice open the doors for African-American and Hispanic athletes to play in the Major Leagues.
"I want to thank Josh Gibson and all of those other great players of the Negro Leagues for giving me an opportunity to pursue my dream of playing baseball," said Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Carlos Pena. Pena was the recipient of the Gibson award after tying for the AL lead with 39 home runs with New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira.
Other honorees included Houston Astros outfielder Michael Bourn (Cool Papa Bell "Stolen Base" Award), Los Angeles Angels reliever Brian Fuentes (Hilton Smith "Reliever of the Year" Award), Boston Red Sox outfielder Mike Cameron (Pop Lloyd Award for "Baseball and Community Leadership"), Texas Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus (Larry Doby "Rookie of the Year" Award), Seattle Mariners General Manager Jack Zduriencik (Rube Foster "Executive of the Year" Award), ESPN editor Claire Smith (Sam Lacy "Baseball Writer of the Year" Award) and Hall of Famer Joe Morgan (Jackie Robinson "Lifetime Achievement" Award).
Morgan, an Emmy-winning ESPN baseball analyst, recalled writing his college thesis on the Negro Leagues. "It was the only 'A' I got in college," Morgan acknowledged. He also shared the incredible emotions invoked by his first visit to the NLBM a few years ago. "I knew a lot about the Negro Leagues, but as a baseball player, particularly one of African-American or Hispanic descent, you are filled with so much pride and gratitude. I was fortunate enough to have known a number of these great players and it inspired me tremendously. I'm a benefactor of their sacrifice and I'm so proud that the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is keeping legacy of the Negro Leagues alive."
Proceeds from the Legacy Awards benefit the NLBM and its education and community outreach programming. Museum officials are ecstatic about the overwhelming success of the Legacy Awards and believe the momentum built from the lead-off event will have a positive impact on the entire yearlong 20th Anniversary celebration.
"We came out of the gate flying," said a jubilant Greg Baker, president of the NLBM. "We are very excited and encouraged by the tremendous show of support we've received from the Kansas City community along with Major League Baseball and its teams," Baker said.
"The NLBM has been, and continues to be, a model cultural institution. This kind of support allows us to maintain a position of strength. Now, it is important that we continue to build on these partnerships as we move forward with our historic 20th anniversary plans. We encourage everyone to join our efforts to celebrate the impact the Negro Leagues made on the game of baseball, the civil rights movement and American history," Baker said.
To help plan this historic celebration, the NLBM has stacked the line-up with two civic power hitters by enlisting the support of Julia Irene Kauffman and Kansas City Royals Hall of Fame second baseman Frank White. Kauffman along with White and his wife Teresa are serving as honorary chairs of the overall 20th Anniversary festivities.
Other NLBM 20th Anniversary programs and events include:
- Greatness Confirmed: The NLBM will introduce a unique series of discussions focusing on the careers of noted African-American and Hispanic Major League Baseball players enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The five-part series is scheduled to begin in the spring and conclude in October (dates to be announced).
- Coming Home 2010 (September 27-28): At its height, more than 2,600 men and women played in the professional Negro Leagues. Today, less than 150 of those legendary athletes are still alive. The NLBM will bring that inspirational group together for an historic reunion, the first Kansas City gathering in a decade.
- 2010 Buck O'Neil Golf Classic (Tuesday, August 24—Shoal Creek Golf Course): Held annually in August, the Buck O'Neil Golf Classic attracts an All-Star roster of baseball and sports legends who tee-it-up in support of the NLBM in one of Kansas City's biggest celebrity golf tournaments.
- Buck O'Neil Memorial Birthday Tribute (Saturday, November 13—The Gem Theater): The NLBM will celebrate what would have been the 99th birthday of Negro Leagues legend John "Buck" O'Neil. For more than a decade, Buck used his birthday to raise money and awareness for the NLBM where he served as chairman for 16 years until his death in 2006. The 2010 birthday celebration takes place on the actual day of Buck's birth.
"In addition to the impressive roster of events being planned as part of the 2010 celebration, we've developed an aggressive and enriching education agenda that includes programming suitable for all ages," said Dr. Raymond Doswell, NLBM vice president of curatorial services. "Our 20th anniversary is a tremendous opportunity to establish the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum as the authority not only on Negro Leagues history but issues relative to race and sports in America."
In 20 whirlwind years, the NLBM has grown to become one of the most important cultural institutions in the world for the work it has done in preserving and celebrating a once forgotten but important chapter of baseball and American history that was on the verge of extinction. In 2006, the museum earned national designation distinction from the United States Congress as "America's National Negro Leagues Baseball Museum."
In 1990, behind the vision of the late Horace Peterson and Buck O'Neil, the NLBM was born in a tiny, one-room office inside the Lincoln Building at Historic 18th & Vine. O'Neil, and a passionate few others, paid the monthly rent to keep the office open, and with it, dreams of building an institution that would pay rightful tribute to America's unsung baseball heroes.
That dream was realized in 1997, when the NLBM moved into its 10,000 square-foot home as part of the Museums at 18th & Vine complex. Today, the NLBM has welcomed visitors worldwide and a who's who list of dignitaries that includes Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, Vice President Al Gore, General Colin Powell; cultural icons such as poets Maya Angelou and Nikki Giovanni; sports legends Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Oscar Robertson, actors Billy D. Williams, Edward James Olmos and musicians ranging from Rush's Geddy Lee to Paul Simon to The Temptations.
"Twenty years of operations is an incredible accomplishment for any organization but is extraordinarily significant for one with such humble origins as the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum," said Bob Kendrick, NLBM vice president of marketing. "This celebration is an opportunity to reflect on our many achievements while reaffirming with both the local and national community the value of this great institution."
About the Legacy Awards
In 2000, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM) established the Legacy Awards as a tool to connect the game's past and present by honoring Major League Baseball's best players, managers, executives and writers with awards in the name and spirit of Negro Leagues legends. Legacy Awards are given in 13 categories and celebrate baseball accomplishments on- and off-the-field. Awards are presented to recipients in both the American and National Leagues. A complete list of 2009 Legacy Award winners can be found at www.NLBM.com.
About the NLBM
Founded in 1990, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM) is a privately funded, non-profit organization dedicated to celebrating and preserving the rich history of African-American baseball and its impact on the social advancement of America. Opened in 1997, its 10,000 square foot facility features multi-media displays, a museum store, as well as a growing collection of baseball photographs and artifacts dating from the late 1800s through the 1960s. In 2006, the NLBM was designated by the United State Congress as "America's National Negro Leagues Baseball Museum." For more information, visit www.NLBM.com.
2009 Legacy Award Categories and Recipients Oscar Charleston Award-presented to the AL and NL "Most Valuable Players" 2009 Recipients: Joe Mauer, Minnesota and Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals Wilbur "Bullet" Rogan Award-presented to the AL and NL "Pitchers of the Year" 2009 Recipients: Zack Greinke, Kansas City Royals and Chris Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals Josh Gibson Award-presented to the AL and NL "Home Run" leaders 2009 Recipients: Carlos Pena, Tampa Bay Rays and Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees (tie) Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals James "Cool Papa" Bell Award-presented to the AL and NL "Stolen Base" leaders 2009 Recipients: Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox and Michael Bourn, Houston Astros Walter "Buck" Leonard Award-presented to the AL and NL "Batting Champions" 2009 Recipients: Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins and Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins Andrew "Rube" Foster Award-presented to the AL and NL "Executives of the Year" 2009 Recipients: Jack Zduriencik, Seattle Mariners and Dan O'Dowd, Colorado Rockies Charles Isham "C. I." Taylor Award-presented to the AL and NL "Managers of the Year" 2009 Recipients: Mike Scioscia, Los Angeles Angels and Jim Tracy, Colorado Rockies Larry Doby Award-presented to the AL and NL "Rookies of the Year" 2009 Recipients: Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers and Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates Hilton Smith Award-presented to the AL and NL "Relievers of the Year" 2009 Recipients: Brian Fuentes, Los Angeles Angels and Heath Bell, San Diego Padres John Henry "Pop" Lloyd Award-presented in recognition of "Baseball and Community Leadership" 2009 Recipients: Mike Cameron, Milwaukee Brewers Sam Lacy Award-presented to the "Baseball Writer of the Year" 2009 Recipient: Claire Smith, ESPN Jackie Robinson Lifetime Achievement Award-presented for "Career Excellence in the Face of Adversity" 2009 Recipient: Joe Morgan, Baseball Analyst, ESPN John "Buck" O'Neil Award-presented for "Outstanding Support of the NLBM" 2009 Recipient: Bud Selig, Commissioner, Major League Baseball
SOURCE Negro Leagues Baseball Museum